Lockhaugh Farm: Fiction Writing Retreat 2023

When I was awarded the Northern Debut Award for YA Fiction at the Northern Writers’ Awards this year, I was given the opportunity to attend a weekend writing retreat with the other winners. I’ll be honest – having never been on a retreat before it was something I agreed to with a little trepidation as well as excitement! The date was set for early November and we all started wishing for some autumnal sunshine.

I picked up my retreat buddies Yvonne Reddick and Anton Rose from Central Station on the Friday afternoon and we squashed ourselves into my tiny car. Within twenty minutes, it felt like we had left the city long behind and were in a completely different world; Lockhaugh Farm is nestled in the countryside just outside Rowlands Gill, with the Column to Liberty poking out from the trees and the river Derwent babbling just a couple of minutes’ walk away. On Friday evening we were joined by Emily from New Writing North and Lockhaugh Farm host Deborah, and we all shared a meal together. As well as the superb food, it was great to hear what everybody had been up to since we met at the awards night; where people were at with their writing as well as what mentoring, workshops, and other benefits they’d taken up since their competition wins.

The three of us then spent the rest of the weekend writing in all the nooks and corners of the house. I flitted between the cosy front room, the open space of the large kitchen and the privacy of my bedroom. We had many a catch up as the kettle boiled and cakes were sliced, updating one another on word counts, editing targets and dishing out pep talks when needed! On Saturday afternoon Will Mackie from New Writing North popped in for a coffee and to see how we were getting on which was lovely.

We all made use of the beautiful scenery around us, popping out for regular walks – even runs in Yvonne’s case, which Anton and I admired greatly (not enough to join her, though!). There were tame and curious donkeys grazing in the field just next to the farm, a heron on the river, chickens, cats, dogs and even deer to be spotted at sunset. If the aim of a retreat is to have more animal than human contact, then Lockhaugh Farm got the balance spot on!

Writing is quite a solitary venture and the world of agents and publishers can feel impenetrable at times, so I’m extremely grateful to New Writing North and Deborah for the opportunity to prioritise my creative practice, meet other writers and work in such gorgeous surroundings.


Find out more about Lockhaugh Farm, which is available to rent for holidays and retreats.

This retreat was awarded as part of the Northern Writers’ Awards 2023. The 2024 awards are open until 12 February 2024. Find out more.