The Japanese practise something called Shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ which has palliative effects on mind and body, and certainly when you drive into the 11 acres of St Catherine’s Estate in Valencia, the peace of green descends.
As the gate is entered, you are instantly met with an extensive playing field with the white retreat house standing on an incline to the left, a pond and gazebo just to the front of it. Behind the house are more trees, and a path takes you down to two more gazebos—one at the edge of another manicured field, the second overlooking a small stream and a deeply forested area.
The sounds of the cars on the near-by main road are muffled, and on the rainy morning that the team of CAMSEL (Catholic Media Services Ltd) visited for their day retreat, the sounds of cicadas intermingled with birdsong. In the pond, the tilapia circle and circle as a warm breeze crinkles the surface of the water. The site, in truth, is the perfect retreat setting.
The hospitality of the live-in caretaker Kelvin Wickham and his wife, adds another layer to the experience. He has been caretaker of the property for the past six years under Dr Vernon Scoon who had intended that the building be used to house homeless children, according to Wickham, but he became frustrated by the break-ins which occurred and in October 2012, sold it to the Catholic Church.
Renovations have since been done, with the area below the house where the kitchen is located, being enclosed, and a wheelchair ramp installed. Downstairs, adjacent to the kitchen, is a meeting room and a smaller room next to the meeting room that can be used for meals or for smaller workshop groups. Cups, glasses, plates, pots and utensils are provided, along with a standing freezer and a combined fridge freezer.
Upstairs are five air-conditioned rooms—one en suite—and the house can accommodate at maximum 25 people. There is also a prayer room and living space that leads to a wrap-around balcony which has a gas barbecue pit.
It is a comfortable, inviting and modern space open to families, schools, or any group that needs a getaway from the humdrum of urban living. Daily rates are $25 a head; and overnight stays are $1,500 a night. For more information, contact Joanne Rodriguez at 622-2691 or email firstname.lastname@example.org