The Big Stretch

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We are recommended on Queen of Retreats - read the review here

Time to Change 2012 - Chosen Again by The Times' Spa Expert

"In the past year alone this brilliant life coaching holiday has seen people change career from finance to photographic art, extricate themselves from a negative relationship, accept a seat in the House of Lords and move from london to Scotland. When I attended a few years ago it helped me get back to my own creative writing, while others left ready to stand up to a bully, renegociate a working partnership and to create a better balance of work and play."

(The Times)

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NZ Herald - "sitting indoors would never have created this physical and mental space for growth"

"I realised selling more cars or soap powder wasn't ultimately meaningful or purposeful for me....

The one-day Stretch on Waiheke is about looking outwards and seeing how one can move forward in a way that's positive and rewarding. Rosie and I walk down to the beach where we sit under a tree. Rosie gently stretches my thought patterns: What do I see happening in society locally, globally? What do I care about?...With poignant questioning and encouragement the mental blockages i've been feeling for so long unfurl. Possibilities for change within my world seem as endless as the ocean that stretched out in front of me"

Rather than suggesting radically changing your life - though some are inspired to throw in their job, retrain, go travelling - it's about looking at the skills and position you have now and building on that intentionally. We brainstorm practical ideas I can't wait to put into action..."

(Amanda Linnell, Viva magazine, NZ Herald)

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Psychologies Magazine — "Self-belief...a sense of purpose and possibility."

"While therapy tends to look back at unresolved issues, life coaching looks forward with a view to taking action. How and why you got here is less important than how you are going to get where you want to be.  I'd tried therapy and while it had given my some insights, it hadn't made me feel much better. The Big Stretch however, had a magical effect..turning the voice that scratched away at my self belief into a puff of smoke and sending me into the future with a sense of purpose and possibility.

There's a lot to be said for removing yourself from your everyday surroundings and reviewing your life in a place of beauty. One day we had a coastal walk to a deserted sandy cove, a swim in the sea, a running race and a bottle of champagne on the beach.

We've all been on trips that introduced us to new habits, only to slip back into the old. The Big Stretch ensures you won't..ending with two days of action planning and anchoring committment to change."

(Lisa Johnson, Psychologies Magazine)

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The Guardian Weekend magazine – "...a supercharge for the fully functional"

"The Big Stretch is not the Big Shrink: it's not counselling for the dysfunctional, it's supercharging for the fully functional. The group were all highly articulate, successful people (and me) who were stepping back slightly so they could jump higher. I roughly calculated their professional rates, and worked out that 14 minutes' input from the group was alone worth the price of the trip. A week would have covered my mortgage. In fact, what we all did was pay off some heavy mental and emotional mortgages. Imagine how good that feels."

(Guy Browning, The Guardian Weekend magazine)

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Marie Claire — "...confident to make real changes to my life"

"Like many people i fell into a job, decided it would do nicely, and fifteen years later, I'm still doing the same thing. I book onto renowned career retreat, The Big Stretch.

Day 3: I'm surprised to uncover my dream scenario is writing a book, because it feels unfeasible right now. The afternoon brings a 3 hour hike through the dramatic, beautiful Cares gorge. Striding out, my dream life starts to feel strangely, intoxicatingly possible.

Day 4: the coach has uncanny ability to probe aspects of my life I'd rather not explore. We're into the nitty gritty - why do i dismiss any fiction i write? What stops me making space to be creative? The answers are personal, ugly...I fear failure deeply. I hate the possibility that I'm just ordinary at writing.

Final Day: I'm amazed how this week has changed me. I feel confident about how to make real changes to my life... Epilogue: My first week home, I quit one of my journalistic columns, request the prospectus of a writing course." 

(Hero Brown, Marie Claire)

1 Download full article (PDF, 330 KB)

Financial Times, How to Spend It magazine – "decide what to do about your issues..."

"No doubt, once in a while, everybody should ask themselves the questions lifecoaches put to you. I pinned my issue down, dissected and reconstructed it, threw it up in the air , set it aside and came back to it from a tangent. The clutter of daily life subsided in the face of fantastic views and holiday time...

The Big Stretch helps you decide what to do about your issues and then take the answers home. So if you find yourself surrounded with all the things you thought you'd ever want, but are still somehow adrift, The Big Stretch will guide you to calmer waters and anchor the dreams."

(James Henderson, Weekend Financial Times)

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The Sunday Times – "I'm taking control of my life and things seems very clear.."

"I'd been working in the same organisation for 20 years and had arrived at a crossroads in my life, fed up with living in London. I needed help thinking through my future...

The idea was that, while we were walking, we would mull over all the ideas we'd discussed and things would become clear in our minds. And it worked. We were so busy climbing that we weren't consciously thinking about our issues, but at the end of the day, I found that ideas were flooding out...

On day three, we spent four hours in kayaks. I fell into the river and went into panic mode. That episode was instructive; it made me think about how I deal with obstacles in my life. And, apart from falling in, the day was great fun. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much...

One month on: I took a sabbatical from work and went travelling. Now I'm back and I'm putting all my plans into action. I'm taking control of my life and things seem very clear to me now. I feel great."

(Marina Royles, Sunday Times)

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The Tatler - Guide to the Top Spas that Really Work

"Don't worry - there's nothing kookie about the coaching..and afternoons are spent hiking through gorges and wilderness - a great way to blow away the cobwebs. It's not all hard graft. Feast on wonderful picnics in the mountains and spend the evenings sampling good local wine, fresh fish or the country's famous meats and manchego. The hotel is incredibly charming...sleep deep after the masseuse has got her hands on you"

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Condé Nast Traveller — The World's 100 Best Spas

"Book now for this year's 12 hottest adventure and spa retreats around the world. If you're restless at work or in love, find out what to do about it on The Big Stretch. Go beyond just relaxation and indulgence.... here's the opportunity for permanent self-improvement."

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Harpers and Queen –"did more for me than eight months of counselling.."

"My coach helped me identify the spiral of guilt and blame in which I'd become stuck: That session was held outside on the grass, gazing at misty mountains, sun on our faces and cowbells the only sound - it certainly beat a windowless therapists' office. It did more for me than eight months of counselling had managed...

While we were hiking, Rosie had me list the cost and the pay-offs of my dithering - and what I was going to do about it. That's what I like about life-coaching. You start from where you're at, and move forward. It's like walking: directional, practical, motivational...

We shared jokes, joys and sorrows as we kayaked, picnicked, and had ideas together. We had fantastic meals and plentiful wine. I swam in an icy sea, and the colour was back in my cheeks.

I had a six month strategy planned to motivate my work and relationships. The Big Stretch really did change my way of thinking. In that respect, you could say it changed my life, too."

(LV, Harpers and Queen)

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She – 5 best Life Changing Holidays

"If you're thinking of starting your own business or becoming self-employed, The Big Stretch is the way forward. Physical activity triggers ideas, insights and solutions. After you've had your light-bulb moment, you'll be set to work forming concrete plans for your future."

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The Times – "unjudgemental atmosphere and jolly wine-fuelled dinners"

"Everyone’s shy to begin with, uncertain as to what we’ve let ourselves in for and expecting to be hit with things that will make us cry, or to be forced into a public confession, or to be hectored into following a plan.

Instead, we’ve had games and visualisations and jolly wine-fuelled dinners. We have explored our values and come up with wild wish-lists for a perfect world. I’ve wallowed in a Jacuzzi bath and slept with my windows open, lulled by the sounds of cicadas and cow bells in a kind, unjudgmental atmosphere of swift decompression.

Gradually, as everyone relaxes, we bring our own perspective to each other’s lives. There’s no sense that any one set of issues is of greater import than another. This, I think, is the particular genius of the Big Stretch: that it’s not only the coaches who have something to teach. I’ve been sloshing about in my own self-doubt for so long that it hasn’t occurred to me that I could just take another tack. But the others I’m with can see it. And they’re right. But it’s easier to take when a director of a multinational tells you you are working too hard. Especially when you’ve capsized together in a kayak and come up laughing."

(Serena Mackesy, The Times)

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The Observer – "be ready to question your long-held habits"

"There is something about mountains. The world does feel different when you are up in that quiet, thin air. What looked so troublesome down on the flat, inside those buildings, starts slowly to diminish towards molehill status...

The coaches provide a fine double act - whenever one waxes lyrical, the other maintains feet firmly on the ground. Wise, caring and devoting their experience exclusively to your benefit, they don't like the term 'therapy' because of its backward-looking connotations. But you do have to be ready to question your long-held habits...

I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed realising some of my most entrenched assumptions, and then getting lateral about new approaches I could take. 'Creative life planning' can give a satisfaction not easy to come across elsewhere - and insights capable of sustaining positive changes back home."

(Dan Whitaker, The Observer)

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The Observer – 20 Journeys To Change Your Life

“Travel can mean a quickly forgotten fortnight on the beach, or a memorable one-off experience that could live with you for ever. If you're searching for the latter, Nigel Tisdall has a few suggestions...

1. Spend six months exploring Asia
2. Get fit in the wilds of Kenya
3. Climb K2 (well, almost)
4. Have a metrosexual makeover in Miami
5. Stretch your mind on a Spanish mountain top
6. Hike the toughest trail in Europe
7. Write a bodice-ripper in a pink Scottish castle...”

(continues... download has full descriptions)

(The Observer)

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Sunday Telegraph – "my inner cynic won't like this admission, but yes, my life has changed"

"Sparky and fashionably dressed, there is nothing ‘guru-like’ or ‘touchy feely’ about Walford. She gives seriously savvy and practical advice with focus always on plans ready to implement once the holiday buzz wears off. No woolly chats about your childhood; this is a place for doers:

Past stretchers have included a disenfranchised lawyer who decided to set up an educational trust, someone looking to move a reluctant family out of London (they now live in the Scottish highlands), a guy working on the Home Office website who now manages a Kenyan refugee program in Nairobi, and a business woman who attributes her doubled profits directly to The Big Stretch...

My inner cynic won’t like this admission, but yes, my life has changed. I feel more confident, have a better idea of what I want next and have managed to implement my ideas since my return. I’ve even got a snap of the soaring Picos in my wallet. So I don’t forget to aim high.”

(Lisa Helmanis, Sunday Telegraph)

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The Independent –"we weren't tapping our full potential"

"Every member of the group had a good job, was intelligent and dynamic but still wanted to explore new ways of looking at things... All of us had a nagging sense that we weren't tapping our full potential...

Our main coaching sessions took place in the cosy sitting room of our mountain hotel. We had an open fire that we lit...

Before lunch we would set off for the daily activity. We walked amongst the gentle slopes between the coastline and the more dramatic mountains of the Picos. Bells rang out all round us in a trance inducing rhythm. Later in the week, we graduated to steeper slopes. We followed a wiry shepherd up towards the highest peak in the middle massif. We lunched on a grassy patch with a spectacular view of this awesome mountain while fending off a band of goats, intent on sharing our food...

We had been to a very beautiful place together, eaten first rate food and taken stock. Without exception we all felt the stronger for it."

(Fiona Macleod, The Independent)

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Daily Express – "released from the insecurities which had been niggling me"

"I'd somehow been released from the insecurities that had been niggling me before.

In the office, my confidence levels shot up. I communicated with new vigour in the boardroom and with my team.

Before I went on The Big Stretch my marriage wasn't the happiest. We did love each other and I wanted to give my marriage a last shot. I'm glad I did - but we had grown apart. I'd previously been insecure about recognising our problems but my newfound confidence gave me the ability to see that our best future was apart. I left the marriage amicably, sixteen months on..."

(Noreen Barr, Daily Express)

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Zest – "open the door to satisfying change."

"Leaping from madly busy city life to a totally isolated cottage marooned in the middle of nowhere isn't the only option. Amid the passion for downsizing, a new middle way is emerging, with people starting to tap into the concept of 'medium-sizing' their lives. This means making lifestyle choices that allow you to work less but still have a fulfilling career...

How do you go about getting that balance right" Says coach Rosie Walford "I passionately believe that anyone can pare down. I've seen lots of people who have worked out how to shrink their role in to three days a week, so as to maintain mental stimulation but be with their children more, people who fund charity work with a few high-paid consultancy days in their old field." For hands-on guidance The Big Stretch takes people away from their busy lives to uncover elements that are working, clues to the ways forward, cracks in the insoluble - themes that open the door to satisfying change."

(Mimi Spencer, Zest)

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Daily Mail - "i've Doubled the Size of my Company"

"I am petrified of heights and to this day I simply don't know how I got up that mountain. It was definitely my Everest. It was truly a life-changing moment. Combined with the great life-coaching I was getting, that physical achievement made me believe that the only thing between me and an objective is my self doubt...

Subsequent coaching sessions helped me apply that experience to the problems I'd identified with work. I marched into work on the Monday a completely different person. Everyone said I looked different, and I realise now all the stress I had kept in my face had gone. That certainly blows 'you have a nice tan' right out of the water! Which holiday would you rather go on

I walked into the next board meeting full of confidence, as far as I was concerned I'd climbed a mountain: I could do anything. As a direct result of my newfound ebullience, we've expanded from one showroom and one franchise to five franchises and three showrooms in the last year. This holiday has made all the difference in the world."

(Daily Mail, Interviews by Louise Atkinson)


Big Stretch HolidaysspacerOther Ways to StretchspacerBig Life StretchspacerBig Career StretchspacerHow Journeys WorkspacerContact Us
I want to expand my horizonsspacerpic02spacerI want to get more from lifespacerpic04spacerI want to think creativelyspacerpic06spacerI want to start something newspacerpic08