Excitement made my heart beat faster. As we drove down the long winding drive to Trelowarren Retreat, Christian Resource Centre and Chapel, it reminded me of Daphne Du Maurier’s description of Manderley as the second Mrs de Winter arrives at her new home in her novel ‘Rebecca’. The fact that the best-selling author had visited this Cornish mansion, was no surprise. But instead of the dour Mrs Danvers, Mike Clarke, who runs the retreat with his wife, Elaine, greeted me cheerfully. It was like a warm welcome home.
The Clarke’s felt guided by God to take over the mantle at Trelowarren in 2011 and their hard work is paying off. It is reflected in the new refurbishments, gilding the faded majestic grandeur of the place.
I was given a guided tour and vast expanses of rooms stretched out before me around every door. It was easy to imagine myself to be one of the landed gentry.
As a princess of the Most High God, I felt even more at home later in the long chapel, which is blessed with a tangible presence of the Lord. The Clarkes’ heavenly worship transported me ever closer, behind the veil. A rough wooden cross stands firmly in the nave of the chapel, a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and our inheritance that we can claim as we accept Him as the Risen Lord who has ‘defeated the world.’
As we chatted over delicious homemade food, I felt as though I had known the Clarkes, and their visitors, for ages. Their friendly banter helped me relax in their hospitable kitchen and feel part of their company. Mike and Elaine have a calling to minister to those looking for help or direction. People who arrive spiritually hungry, leave feeling blessed and closer to God.
Elaine later showed me to my cosy room overlooking the front lawn. I quickly drifted off under a beautiful sea of white cotton duvet and had the best night’s sleep I have had in ages. I awoke with my heart singing like a dawn chorus, as it did the whole time I was there.
Having arrived by train, I didn’t have my own transport but Elaine offered to show me around Lizard peninsula where the bluest sky greeted us. I was amazed by the variety of flowers and fauna that clothed the rugged cliffs and a lone seal surfed the blinking waves. As gulls cried above, wagtails bobbed about below on the magna that has escaped the depths to break through the Earth’s crust at this point. It was easy to see what once drew Druids to this area.
Later, we tested the suntrap of tourists at Coverack where families frolicked in the receding froth. Exotic palms in the gardens remind you Cornwell is blessed by a more temperate climate than most other areas of the British Isles. No wonder surfers and sun seekers love it and so do I.
The time passed too quickly at Trelowarren. My two-night stay at this nearly 40-year-old retreat, Christian Resource Centre and chapel was soon over and before I knew it, I was on the station at Redruth after Elaine dropped me off. I felt happier and lighter hearted than I had arrived. It was a welcome break from business and my usual routine and I can’t wait to return to Trelowarren some day.