Get ready for Wellbeing by the Lakes

PUBLISHED: 11:02 13 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:02 13 September 2019

Monique and Simon Gudgeon

Monique and Simon Gudgeon


A brand new festival at Sculpture by the Lakes is taking place this month, and as Heather Sheppard has been finding out, it’s bringing some fascinating speakers to Dorset

For those in the know, Sculpture by the Lakes is a magical place which combines stunning art with the glorious Dorset countryside. Described as one of the most beautiful sculpture parks in the UK, this multi-award-winning venue, just outside Dorchester, is renowned for its peace and tranquillity which washes over every visitor.

This September, the owners of Sculpture by the Lakes, the artist Simon Gudgeon and his wife Monique, a talented gardener, are hosting Wellbeing by the Lakes: a three-day festival featuring a fascinating array of speakers, activities, music, workshops and more. Wellbeing is something that Simon has been keen to showcase for some time.

"I usually do yoga most days", Simon says, though currently his practice is somewhat limited due to a broken arm. "I also meditate. Even just taking a few minutes out of my busy day and having a quiet moment I find is hugely beneficial to me." Both Simon and Monique have learned a lot from watching Lama Chodrak, a well-regarded Buddhist teacher (who will be at the festival). He leads monthly meditation retreats at the park. "I used to walk around these lakes and not notice their beauty because I was so in my head," Simon confesses. "All that's changed since I started down the mindfulness route with Lama Chodrak, and I'm much better for it."

Learning to appreciate the park's sublime scenery sounds like enough of a benefit, but Simon goes deeper: "It's taught me about emotions, and how we frustrate ourselves by trying to handle things beyond our control. Once you start to live a bit more mindfully, it helps you to live your life in a calmer and more positive way."

One of the scultpures at the lake, photo credit - Simon GudgeonOne of the scultpures at the lake, photo credit - Simon Gudgeon

The idea for the Wellbeing Festival was, says Simon, a natural progression in the park's development. "We honestly had no idea what this place would become when we first got the land. Part of the park's evolution for us has been discovering the tranquillity that it offers. We were picking that vibe up from people who came here to see the art. We soon realised how something as simple as a peaceful and beautiful spot can be good for wellbeing." The idea for the festival did not truly take hold, however, until sparked by a casual conversation between Simon and Nasreen ('Naz') El-Mariesh, Events Consultant and Co-Founder of Tonic Retreats, now the festival organiser, who holds Tonic events at the park's Retreat facility.

"Sculpture by the Lakes has such a naturally beautiful setting, you just cannot help but succumb to it," Naz enthuses. That setting is very important to her. She's taken care to design the festival in such a way that the most is made out of not only the speakers, vendors and events on offer, but also the surrounds: "We want people to feel inspired by our experts and try new wellbeing practices, and we also want them to genuinely take time out to absorb the benefits of their experiences. Perhaps sit in the swinging chair watching the fast-flowing river, or listen to the wind chimes in the Dreaming Woods…it's the perfect place to be present." If it nourishes body or soul, you'll find it here. Art workshops, guided meditations, journaling, literature, dance, essential oils, sound bathing, meditative movement…the list goes on. Healing sessions of all kinds will be on offer (Simon recommends that these are booked well in advance to avoid disappointment). And attendees will be able to sample practical, guided sessions on everything from meditation to Pilates, Breathwork to laughter yoga, creative journaling to mindful gardening. The latter catches my eye. "My wife Monique is a great believer in the therapeutic qualities of gardening," adds Simon. "She says it's like an active meditation. It's very calming and it forces you to be in the present". Anyone interested in the therapeutic power of gardening can attend a panel discussion on gardening and wellbeing. "There'll be lots of practical tips, too!" Simon insists.

A visual treat will be traditional dance performances by Tibetan monks who are also creating an intricate sand mandala over three days. And as dusk draws in on Friday and Saturday, the park will be lit by candlelight, an enchanting sight for those staying to enjoy the live music.

So what is Simon most looking forward to? "You can't get the full experience in just one day, there's just so much to take in. And the three-day pass is such great value for money. I'd go for all of it."

Meet some of the speakers…

Liz Earle MBE

Writer, TV presenter, wellness guru, entrepreneur…Liz Earle is one of the leading lights in the UK's health and wellbeing industry and was awarded the MBE for her work in 1997. In 2013 she founded Liz Earle Wellbeing, to bring valuable wellbeing knowledge, practices, and research to the attention of the British public. Currently, she hosts a weekly wellness podcast Wellness with Liz Earle and is the founder and Editor-in-chief of Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine (published by Hearst). Liz will be sharing her experiences, tips, and thoughts on wellbeing on the main stage on Saturday.

Liz Earle, photo credit - Georgia Glynn-SmithLiz Earle, photo credit - Georgia Glynn-Smith

Lama Chodrak

Lama Chodrak was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1984. He has acted as an interpreter for many prominent Tibetan Buddhist teachers in their work and he was secretary to the Venerable Minguyr Rinpoche (author of Joyful Living and Joy of Wisdom), working with him both at the Palpung Shalaband Monastery in Northern India and on his teaching tours through the UK. Lama Chodrak is also a well-respected teacher in his own right, having run workshops in mindfulness and meditation all over the world. He will be appearing at the festival on the Thursday and Friday, teaching meditation, mindfulness, and Qi Gong.

Lama Chodrak meditating at Sculpture by the LakesLama Chodrak meditating at Sculpture by the Lakes

Claire Thompson

Claire Thompson is a best-selling author with an interest in nature and wellbeing. She has spent a decade studying and practicing mindfulness, meditation and yoga, and a decade working internationally in the field of conservation including being projects manager for the world's largest nature conservation partnership, Birdlife International. She has written two internationally acclaimed books, 'Mindfulness and the Natural World' and 'The Art of Mindful Birdwatching', and runs mindfulness retreats for people looking to reconnect with both the natural world and themselves. Claire will be talking about her work in helping people to come closer to nature through mindful living on Thursday.

Claire ThompsonClaire Thompson

Pip Taverner

Pip is an advanced practitioner of yoga and an experienced teacher, specialising in Ashtanga Vinyasa. She is the co-founder and Head of Yoga Programming at Tonic Retreats. Pip believes that yoga should be a joyful thing and encourages her students towards individualist exploration in their practice. Her approach is modern, focuses on alignment, and incorporates other forms of alignment-strengthening practice, such as Pilates, ballet, and strength training. Pip will be hosting Move and Flow yoga sessions on both the Friday and the Saturday of the festival.

Pip in a pose, photo credit - Simon GudgeonPip in a pose, photo credit - Simon Gudgeon

Gelong Thubten

Gelong Thubten was ordained as a Buddhist monk 26 years ago. Following six years spent in intense learning and meditative retreat, he decided to bring what he'd learned out of the monastery and into society. Since then he has travelled around the world, teaching mindfulness and meditation - from prisons to corporations. He collaborated with comedian Ruby Wax on her book 'How to be Human', and recently published, 'A Monk's Guide to Happiness'. Gelong will give a talk and lead a workshop based around the subjects of his book: mindfulness, meditation, and the pursuit of personal wellbeing - on both Friday and Saturday.

Gelong ThubtenGelong Thubten


Wellbeing by the Lakes runs from 19th-21st September. Three-day pass costs £85. Day passes are: £25 Thursday, £35 Friday, £40 Saturday. Full line-up, tickets and further information can be found at

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