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'Innovation in The Wild' Business Networking Stay at Cabilla Cornwall

glamping at cabilla cornwall wellbeing retreat

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the University of Exeter 'Evolve Futures' overnight event at the beautiful Cabilla retreat venue. I only saw the trip advertised the week before and I got the last space, but having been to previous 'Innovation in the Wild' events in 2022 I knew this was not one to miss!

It was one of those moments when everything falls nicely into place (and I find it important to recognise and celebrate these, as we all know there are plenty of times it goes the other way...) I had been to Cabilla previously for a book launch event, but only seen the main indoor space. I jumped at the chance to explore the full site and stay overnight in one of the koyts!

Our little group of business owners from Cornwall gathered together on a sunny morning in May, ready for a day of walking, talking and listening. Cabilla is an upland hill farm on Bodmin Moor, which the current owners have breathed new life into by transforming it into an eco retreat venue, but also an environmental re-wilding project. The 'Thousand Year Project' is about 'learning from the land' and restoring 200 acres of woodland, which brings far richer biodiversity than most land management practices that are currently popular in the UK. As the name suggests, this is a long-term game. The focus is on recognising the interconnectedness of environmental health and human health, and aiming to restore some balance where the symbiosis has slipped. The couple behind Cabilla, Merlin and Lizzie Hanbury-Tenison, see themselves as custodians of the land for future generations, and they plan to harness the support of nature's ecosystem engineers – such as beavers, bison, wild boar, Eurasian wood cats and pine Martens.

We were there to hear about their story, experience unique the landscape, start thoughtful conversations with likeminded strangers, and perhaps spark some innovation within our own businesses too.

The event was led by Allen Alexander from the University of Exeter, who researches how different environments contribute to business innovation. We started the day talking about levels and formats of innovation. It is radical or incremental? Are you innovating in product, process, position or a paradigm shift?

With these thoughts in mind, we set out across the moor and allowed natural conversations to bubble as we walked. We paused at old mining sites, lakeside AirBnBs, hilltops and bluebell fields to hear specific 'stories' of business innovation that Allen had paired with the landscape. Finally, we walked through the area of Temperate Rainforest that's hidden within the Cabilla Estate.

Stepping into this area of ancient woodland has a distinctly different feeling to the 'younger' woods that are around 300 years old. The 1000 year old woodland - temperate rainforest - is moist and atmospheric, and the plants are more luscious. Even the relatively untrained eye can see the richness on the forest floor compared to your average leaf mould. With the River Bedalder stream cascading across waterfalls down the rainforest valley, the water was calling us loudly after a warm day of walking!

After a quick cup of tea, our group ventured to the wood-fired sauna situated deep in the rainforest at the water's edge. Taking turns we dipped and warmed, dipped and warmed; there is nothing quite like wild swimming and sauna sessions to connect a group of perfect strangers.

cornwall bluebells

Walking back to the main retreat centre - an old cow shed beautifully styled and decorated as a yoga studio-come kitchen-come bar-come sitting area - we had beautiful food from Jade and conversations that carried on into the night.

cabilla cornwall wellbeing retreat food

In the morning, I woke early in my beautiful koyt with branches of oak dappling light onto the architectural triangular windows. The accommodation at Cabilla is rustic luxury and every detail has been considered. Rather than inserting a generic glamping unit, the 12 koyt cabins were inspired by Cornish ‘Quoits’ which were historically 'a type of portal or spiritual chamber that date from the Neolithic period.' A stroke of branding genius, because people will now be able to see a picture of one anywhere and know 'that's at Cabilla'.

After breakfast, we each pitched a potential new business innovation that had been inspired by our overnight stay and the walk across Bodmin Moor. My idea came from reading one of the books on my koyt bedside table. It was called 'You Are A Rainbow' and I was instantly drawn to it when I arrived in the room. Thinking about the colour scapes of green and blue, and their spiritual associations with the heart (love) and the throat (communication) my cogs started turning.

I'm going to start working on a new concept around heart-centred communication: for business content creation, personal conversations with those we love, and developing the skill of being able to truly listen to yourself. More to come on this idea as it develops, it could become a retreat, coaching programme, or perhaps a book! If this excites you too, drop me a message to let me know...

Thank you so much to Evolve Futures and Cabilla Cornwall for facilitating this time away in a uniquely creative environment. I feel renewed excitement for the retreat side of my business, as well as topped up and nourished by new connections and budding friendships. One of my favourite parts of any event like this is meeting fellow small business owners and freelancers working locally.

The next Innovation in the Wild event is a similar concept held at a hotel on Dartmoor at the end of June, and Cornish businesses are eligible to apply. The link for that is here and I can't recommend it enough! I'm going to find out if we're allowed to go a second time...


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