Real Toads and Imaginary Gardens

Monday July 26th - Saturday July 31st 2021

The Hurst

This is a week of workshops and tutorials (and lots of free writing time) exploring the different ways we can write fiction through combining close observation and the free play of the imagination. In workshops we’ll be looking at getting started on fresh projects – writing beginnings that capture the reader, building believable worlds, and how writers develop a project from tentative first steps to something focused, confident and achieved. We’ll also be pulling on our boots to discover the country around the Hurst – one of the most beautiful landscapes in Britain – and bringing what we learn there, what our senses teach us, back to the house and the waiting page. Tutorials will give you a chance to get feedback on work in progress and to discuss your thoughts on writing, one to one. This is a course for writers at all levels of experience, including complete beginners. A summer week, bursting with writing, in gardens both imaginary and real.

*We have worked hard to ensure our retreats are as Covid-compliant as possible and can’t wait to welcome you to The Hurst. To learn more about the measures we have taken please click here

Single room price: £850

Add to waiting list Grants are available to help with the course fee


The Hurst front

The Hurst

The Hurst is a place you can write, far away from daily distractions. The house and gardens, surrounded by the forest-covered Shropshire Hills, were the former home of playwright John Osborne.


Writing course tutor delivering a workshop at Lumb Bank


Arrive late afternoon, settle in, enjoy dinner and the tutors’ introduction to the week in the evening.

one-to-one tutorial at Lumb Bank


Morning workshops led by tutors. Afternoons are your time for writing and one-to-one tutorials. Tutors read from their work in the evening.

Course participants writing at the workshop table at The Hurst


Morning workshops led by tutors. Afternoons are your time for writing and one-to-one tutorials. In the evening a guest speaker joins the group.

Course participant writing on a sofa in the barn at Lumb Bank


Morning workshops led by tutors. Afternoons are your time for writing and one-to-one tutorials. You are free to spend this evening as you wish.

A woman smiling and listening to a writing tutor speak at Lumb Bank


Tutors lead the final workshops in the morning. In the evening everyone gets together to share and celebrate their work.

Course participants eating at The Hurst


The week comes to a close after breakfast. Have a tissue handy to say your farewells to the group.

“I arrived at the beginning of the week wondering whether I might be a writer or even if I could write. But when I left, not only did I feel I could write, I knew that’s what I was going to do next.”

—Piers Torday

“It is invaluable to writers at an early stage to have this feedback on their work. Many people on my course said that they wished that they had received this type of input earlier in their career – that it might have borne fruit and improved their success. It also provides time to think – in an over complicated world it is hard to carve time for yourself against the requirements of work, family, and daily chores. Arvon was a breath of fresh creative air.”

—Penny Clark

“Both courses I attended have had a massive impact on my writing, and been part of the motivation and encouragement I needed to begin working professionally as a writer.”

—Course participant

What is a Tutored Retreat?

Tutored retreats are for more experienced writers, not beginners. The focus is on space to progress with your current work, plus in-depth support from two tutors available for one-to-one tutorials. Unlike our normal open courses, there are no workshops. Instead you will have four one-to-one tutorials, two with each tutor, as opposed to two on normal courses. A mid-week guest will read on Wednesday. On the last day you will all share your writing with a celebratory reading in the evening.



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