7th Rise is based in a secret location by the River Fal and can only be reached by boat. Stressed out guests are given a technology detox the minute they arrive - no phones, laptops or ipads. Their days are filled with fishing, kayaking, foraging for food, gutting, skinning, cooking, nights are spent round the campfire talking under the stars. Almost instantly the weekend retreats have become a sell-out success (7th Rise is booked for the year ahead), known not only for teaching survival skills but for helping people to reconnect with themselves and their innate desires. Talking to Thom, a marine biologist graduate, it becomes apparent that 7th Rise, on the face of it a wilderness adventure retreat, is also underpinned by his own back-to-basics life philosophy, an instinctive feel for how to achieve happiness and inner peace. The one thing that every visitor to his secret cottage in the woods seeks is happiness, he says. But with the 21st century stresses of 24/7 mobile and internet access, world financial meltdown, an exhaustive environment of competitive busyness, they have frequently lost the ability to find it. He says: "Space, freedom and time are the three things I try to provide. Happiness is our default setting. Naturally we know what's right for us, it's the things we are layering on top of our lives that get in the way.' His approach feels very zeitgeisty and in tune with the current trend for mindfulness - the art of enjoying the moment. According to Thom many guests go away from 7th Rise and effect change - perhaps ending a bad relationship, changing career or negative behaviour patterns. Over the winter months some have stayed longer, between 2 and 4 weeks, reconditioning themselves to lead a simpler but more rewarding life. Against a backdrop of the worst recession since the 20s and record levels of depression, Thom's instincts seem well-timed. He believes much of this 21st century malaise could be cured by simplifying our lives and getting back in touch with our natural surroundings.
A 7th Rise weekend begins at a meeting point called Smuggler's Tea Rooms (location is a closely guarded secret) then after a boat trip, you arrive at Lost Cottage, a 2 up, 2 down beside a lake, hidden in a 14 acre woodland. Comforts are basic - no central heating, outdoor showers, 2 dormitories - the luxury comes from the spectacular setting and the freedom to just be. There are day courses where you can learn to forage and fish or the more in depth weekend retreats which include kayaking, fishing, foraging, learning how to prepare and cook wild food, stalk and fire an air rifle, eating slow-cooked meals and telling stories around a camp fire. It is here, after a day in the fresh air in a setting of ultimate relaxation, that people can reconnect with what they want out of life.
For Thom, the goal is to encourage people to harness their uniqueness and cut away from expectation. Thom says: "I genuinely believe that 7th Rise is going to be at the forefront of a revolution of change that we are beginning to see in this country." One of the key issues for me is 'at what point do we become individuals who make decisions for ourselves?' Because you can make your own rules and the minute you start to make decisions for yourself it's very empowering." Weekends at 7th Rise take place over 3 days and 2 nights, day courses focus on foraging, fishing, skinning, gutting and cooking and take place from 9 to 4.30. Bespoke courses are also available find more info here