Christian couple offer retreat in Thetford

LakeHouse32013: Rev Ken and Heather Nicholls are opening up their home and garden at Lake House, Thetford as a place of retreat for individuals and a venue for church away days or community events.

When Rev Ken and Heather Nicholls retired from ministry in Barking and Dagenham, they possessed a dream of being able to offer a place of peace for individuals facing stress.  

On the way back from a holiday in Cromer they stopped off in Thetford on a Sunday morning and started looking for a property in the area.  By accident they came across the Lake House and really liked that the property had so much space to be developed.

They moved into the Lake House 18 months ago and have since converted a double garage into a two bed self-contained apartment complete with a kitchen, wet room and a vista looking out onto the extensive grounds.  They have had a formal garden cut out, solar panels installed, a conservatory built and can erect a marquee in the grounds.

The couple offer their facilities to groups to use for away days or meetings, or to individuals for day retreats, for private study or to spend a few days away.  They can provide equipment such as a laptop, digital projector, screen, CD player, TV, books and internet access if required.

Their vision stemmed from when, as a Methodist Minister, Ken with Heather, would invite people to their home to share a meal and to talk on a Friday evening.  Through these meals, they engaged with a fellow minister who was struggling in her ministry and life.  They discovered how difficult it was for her to find somewhere to go to get a sense of peace and quiet.

Ken said: “That almost haunted us if you like. That in a sense got us thinking about providing a space for people who were under stress one way or another.

“We can offer people peace and quiet.  We don’t claim to do any counselling – we are not counsellors.  If people just want to talk that is fine.  If they want to cater for themselves and completely ignore us that is up to them as well.  If they want to come and have an evening meal with us they are welcome.  It is an open, fluid arrangement for people to come and use as they want.  If people suggest something, we will try to accommodate it.

“The essential thing is we make no charge at all.  That is a deliberate policy because we didn’t feel like we could do anything that might in any sense restrict a person who might need it but couldn’t afford it.  If people happen to make a donation we won’t actually throw it out.”

Their vision, which began as a retreat for individuals has expanded, and they now also offer their large, scenic grounds as a community venue.

Ken said: “Last year we tried something I called MOASE (Music on a Summer Evening).  Heather is part of an orchestra which played and a choir came and performed too.  We are building on that again this year.  ArtServe also host their quarterly workshops at the Lake House, with Adrian Plass coming at the end of August.  And Thetford Christians Together are hosting their Songs of Praise evening in the grounds on Sunday September 8 when people are welcome to picnic on the lawn before the programme begins”.

On a sabbatical while in Methodist Ministry Ken had investigated the Quiet Garden Movement, visiting 30 gardens around the country which each offer a place of beauty to rest and pray.  The Lake House with its 2.5 acres containing two manmade lakes and a stream, complete with a wide range of wildlife including geese, kingfishers, herons, otters and muntjac deer, is now a registered Quiet Garden.

LakeHouse2Ken has also developed a Biblical garden within the grounds based on a theme of Peace and Pilgrimage.  The flowerbeds are cut into the shape of a Celtic cross with the various sections containing plants and features which, often with wit and quirkiness, symbolise different Biblical stories or concepts.  The central feature is a Peace Pole displaying the phrase: “May peace prevail on earth”.  Ken has a series of explanatory notes that he can provide to visiting individuals and groups to aid reflective transition through the garden.

If you would like to utilise the Lake House for a group awayday, a retreat or to seek some personal space please don’t hesitate to contact Ken on 07808 066 733 or email to discuss your needs or make a booking.

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