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NEWSLETTER ISSUE 90 / December 2017

Dear Friend,

Painting by Andrew Geeson and Sketchbook by Mike Willdridge at the watermill in Tuscany

Lois and I have been taking a breather after a busy season at the Watermill -- and we have managed a few days off, including a break in magical Venice for Lois’ birthday in early November. But there’s always plenty to do in Florence, where we live in the Winter months, and at the Watermill, where this is the season for restoration and refurbishment.

As well as general maintenance and upgrading everywhere, we are undertaking major works in the Communal Kitchen and in The Vasari Suite, which are going to look spectacular. Add to that, Lois is deep in the throes of her musicological PhD and Bill is writing the odd article for The Florentine and working on a series of essays on Italian towns called Just in Time for an Aperitivo, plus writing blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets (and newsletters) for the Watermill, so you can see we are not exactly idle! But we love it and with all the support we have from our Watermill guests and the enthusiasm of our talented tutors, we enjoy our busy days.

What’s new this month, apart from renovation work and marketing? Well, we are delighted to welcome Andrew Geeson to the international team of talented and inspiring tutors at the Watermill. We really like his loose and colourful watercolour style. Andrew will be with us from Saturday 23 to Saturday 30 June 2018 and there’s more about him below.

Bookings are continuing to flow in, many from people who have been with us before and want to come again (thank you, thank you). We already have more than 150 firm bookings for 2018 so, if you’ve a favourite tutor, a particular week, or a special bedroom that you like, please get in touch as soon as you can, and we’ll set aside a place for you. Just visit our website, select the type of course you are interested in (painting, knitting, writing, Oomph!, yoga and/or language), find out more about your tutor, then go to the Booking Enquiry form, fill in as appropriate and send it to us. And don’t forget the Early Bird offer: see below.

The pictures above show Andrew Geeson’s lovely loose watercolour of flowers and a kettle (see story below: Welcome to a ‘fast and loose’...) and some of Mike Willdridge's sketchbooks (see story below: Swift impressions...), while below left is a battered souvenir of Jo Parfitt’s Writing your Life Stories week here five years ago (see story below: An old picture...) and to the right, the vibrant colours of boxes of pastels (see story below: The beauty of pastels...)

Old picture and pastels

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner
Two early birds discuss
which Watermill course to take

An attractive offer for Early Birds

Why not join the Early Birds and spend the Autumn, Winter and Spring dreaming of your Watermill holiday!

Our Early Bird offer: if you book before 31 December 2017 there’s a £GBP 75 per person discount on all our 2018 creative courses. 

To enquire about availability and/or to reserve your place, please go to, select your course and bedroom, then click on Booking Enquiry. Or call us (UK no.) +44 20 7193 6246.

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
Which way to the
Watermill, Audrey?

Bring a partner: there’s plenty for them to do

Why not bring your friend or partner? They don’t have to participate in the course, but they will be able to enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the mill and, whenever they want, to come out with you to our beautiful locations. We also offer a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our 2018 courses, as well as a generous £GBP 250 discount if they share a room with you.

Swift impressions of timeless Venice by Mike Willdridge

As we said, we went to Venice for Lois’ birthday treat and although we’ve been many times before,we never tire of the extraordinary buildings – and the light. something which also inspired Watermill painting tutor Mike Willdridge on his recent trip there to see the Biennale.

Mike likes to capture light, and emotions, in his sketchbook and recently he sent me a few Venetian impressions, some very abstract. (It must be difficult for an artist to find something new to say about the serene city.)

Mike Willdridge's Sketch book

Mike says:“These were all completed very quickly (a few minutes each) using only a paintbrush and watercolour”. Above is the Grand Canal in early morning light, to the left, another rapid sketch of the same subject.

Mike is a great believer is carrying a sketchbook with him wherever he goes – and he wants to encourage all you budding artists to do the same. There’s a story about that below.

Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS

Welcome to a ‘fast and loose’ Andrew Geeson!

Andrew Geeson

We are delighted to welcome Andrew Geeson to the international team of talented and inspiring tutors at the Watermill. We love his loose and colourful watercolour style. Andrew will be with us from Saturday 23 to Saturday 30 June 2018. There’s a link to more details about his course below.

Andrew, from Leicester in the UK, has been a professional watercolourist for more than 20 years. He says:“I love the simplicity and joy of watercolours and my passion and aim is inspire and encourage students to paint in a loose a free manner. The joy it brings is unmatched and everyone should try it. I am keen to share my excitement with others.” He has taught hundreds of students on holidays and in workshops and, increasingly, on-line were he enjoys a large following. As one of his students says:“Superb work. Beautiful loose style, this is how watercolours should be!”

Paintings by Andrew Geeson at the watermill in Italy

Andrew specialises in a wet-into-wet style of watercolours:“This quick, fun and rewarding approach to watercolour painting allows you to capture your subject, whatever it may be, in the most atmospheric way without the constraints of over-detailing. Being spontaneous, immediate and atmospheric, it allows you to express more than the subject of the painting Come along and give it a try. I think you may find a new world of painting.”

Take your sketchbook everywhere, says Mike Willdridge

Our enthusiastic and inspiring watercolour painting tutor Mike Willdridge always carries a sketchbook with him wherever he goes and considers it a vital part of his artistic life. He’d like you to do the same.

Mike’s so keen on the idea that he’s prepared three illustrated blogs, to persuade you of the inestimable value of a sketchbook: first as a visual diary and for gathering information; secondly, for problem solving and experimentation and finally, what he calls personal and obsessive use!

We liked the blogs so much that we have put them up on our Friends of the Watermill website. Why not sign up as a Friend (it’s free) and see them for yourself? Just click here and follow the instructions to Register as a Friend and then Log In to enjoy special privileges, with lots of other painting, writing and yoga tips and Watermill recipes.

Mike Willdridge Sketch Books

Before you read those blogs, Mike has three questions:

  • Do you have a garage/spare room/drawers full of finished and unfinished work?
  • Do you often ‘chuck-away’ work?
  • Do you have lots of framed works, possibly crowding up your walls/stashed away in a corner?

Mike says:“If the answer to any or all these questions is “YES” then why not consider an alternative working practice — One that a) doesn’t take up a great deal of space, b) you won’t want to throw away and x) you don’t need to frame and store? Yes, the sketchbook!

Read more on our Friends of the Watermill page.

Painting holidays: the inspiring 2018 line-up

We are proud to announce the full line-up of our talented and inspiring painting tutors for 2018.

Paul Talbot-Greaves

Paul Talbot-Greaves
28 April to 5 May 2018 - course full, waiting list open
Watercolours (and acrylics)
To learn more about Paul, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page

Maggie Renner Hellmann

Maggie Renner Hellmann
19 May to 26 May 2018
‘Courageous Color Workshop’
To learn more about Maggie, her course at the mill and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page

Sandra Strohschein

Sandra Strohschein
26 May to 2 June 2018 and
2 June to 9 June 2018

To learn more about Sandra, her course at the mill and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page

Sarah Yeoman

Sarah Yeoman
9 June to 16 June 2018 and
16 June to 23 June 2018

To learn more about Sarah, her course at the mill and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page

Andrew Geeson

Andrew Geeson
23 June to 30 June 2018
To learn more about Andrew, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page

Terry Jarvis

Terry Jarvis
7 July to 14 July 2018
Watercolours (and oils, pastels and acrylics)
To learn more about Terry, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page

Nel Whatmore & Rebecca de Mendonça

Rebecca de Mendonça & Nel Whatmore
1 September to 8 September 2018
To learn more about Rebecca & Nel, their course and to see more of their pictures, please visit their Profile Page

Mike Willdridge

Mike Willdridge
8 September to 15 September 2018
Watercolours and drawing (also gouache and acrylics with an emphasis on sketching and drawing on location)
To learn more about Mike, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page

Claire Warner

Claire Warner- course full, waiting list open
15 September to 22 September 2018
Watercolours (and oils and acrylics)
To learn more about Claire, her course and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page

Vicki Norman

Vicki Norman
6 October to 13 October 2018
Oils en plein air
To learn more about Vicki, her course at the mill and to see more of her pictures, please visit her Profile Page

Tim Wilmot

Tim Wilmot
13 October to 20 October 2018
To learn more about Tim, his course at the mill and to see more of his pictures, please visit his Profile Page

Come and join us and enjoy the magic at the mill!

Painting by Tim Wilmot - The watermill riverside

*** Why not bring your non-painting partner as well?

There’s a generous £250 discount for him/her if they share a room with you - and there’s plenty for them to do. Have a look at our Partner’s Activities Page for suggestions.

Use the 2018 programme link below to view the full list of our inspiring 2018 painting tutors

Watermill in Italy's Knitting NewsKNITTING NEWS

Life after Tuscany and why I can’t wait to go back! A note from knitting tutor, Sarah Hazell

Sarah Hazell tutoring her class in 2017 at the watermill in Tuscany
Picture by: Phil Wright

We had a delightful knitting week this year with our lovely knitting tutor Sarah Hazell and we’re looking forward to seeing her for another fun-filled inspiring course next year. Sarah’s relishing her return, too. In a recent blog post she wrote:“Life has been extremely busy since I returned from Tuscany in September.When I received an email from Bill last week, it made me stop and reflect on the glorious week I had spent at the Watermill and how much I am looking forward to returning next May”.

Sarah adds:“A knitting holiday at The Watermill offers so much – splendid location, delicious food and opportunities to explore some of the local region. There is also a real sense of community, with Bill and Lois employing and supporting lots of local people. And then there is the knitting of course!"

Sarah Hazell tutoring her class in 2017 at the watermill in Tuscany
Picture by: Phil Wright

Sarah says:“You will have lots of opportunities to work on two different projects throughout the week. Workshop sessions tend to start with a technique focus linked to the projects and then a chance to work at your own pace with me on hand to offer support or advice if you need it. I am always happy to help with any other projects that you might bring with you.”

Sarah’s projects for her week here are both inspired by the Watermill location. She says:“The first is a cabled scarf/cowl reflecting all the twist and turns that you will encounter during your stay – from the winding landscape through to the vines at the Watermill.

“The second project will be a more experimental piece, inspired by the roof tiles on the buildings. We will combine colour work and sequence knitting to evoke colour and texture as a starting point, leaving you free to decide on the final form of this piece, e.g., a bag/cushion or framed sample.”

Sarah Hazell

Sarah Hazell is a designer in knit and crochet, and author of several books. Her workshop at the mill will show you to elevate your knits from homemade to handmade She says,“I have a passion for beautiful yarn and textiles and am endlessly fascinated by colour, pattern and texture.” She loves to teach new techniques and inspire confidence in others. Sarah will be joining us again for another Knitting and La Bella Vita week next year, from Saturday 5 May to Saturday 12 May 2018. We have nine bookings for this course, so there’s room for three or so more.

Here’s what one of our guests had to say about this year’s course:“Thank you for the invigorating knitting experience last week. The weather cooperated beautifully and the food at the Watermill and the other locations was excellent and varied. It is a plus for you that Sarah will return next May. She is prepared and organized; flexible and patient with attendees of all capabilities, with a good sense of humour.”

Our Early Bird offer:If you book before 31 December 2017 there’s a £GBP 75 per person discount on this fabulous 2018 knitting course.


Here’s the current 2018 knitting line-up:

Sarah Hazell

Sarah Hazell - three or four places remaining
5 May to 12 May 2018
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Sarah and her courses at the mill, please visit her Profile Page

Marie Wallin

Marie Wallin - course full, waiting list open
14 July to 21 July 2018
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Marie and her course at the mill, please visit her Profile Page

Lisa Richardson

Lisa Richardson - two places remaining
29 September to 6 October 2018
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Lisa and her course at the mill, please visit her Profile Page

Knitting group at the watermill in Italy

Don't forget your partner!

And don’t forget that your friend or partner doesn’t need to participate in the creative course, whether it’s painting, language, knitting or yoga.

We offer them a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our 2018 courses, as well as a generous £GBP 250 discount if they share a room with you.

Creative writing News at the watermill in ItalyCREATIVE WRITING NEWS

An old picture evokes fond memories of a life-changing week

Reprise old photo

The battered photograph above was sent to me by Mary Mae Lewis, who came on Jo Parfitt’s first ‘writing your life stories’ course here five years ago. We’re still in touch with many of the participants and have been following their writing paths. Mary, for example, has just published her first novel, which she began working on when she was here. It’s called Where There’s a Will, There’s a Woman and you can buy it on Amazon.

Someone else who has been rummaging in her box of memories is Kathy Roper, who tells me:“Tonight I was looking for something in my files and came across my photographic record of a wonderful week in September 2012 at the Posara Watermill. I didn’t become a writer, but it was probably my first step into something daring and different, and I still feel proud of that. I met some wonderful people and felt truly connected by the end of the week. The company, the learning and sharing, the food, the atmosphere, the laughs, the landscape all added up to an unforgettable experience.”

And Terry Anne Wilson, who leads a fascinating ex-pat life and now lives in India, has blossomed as a travel writer and a blogger with a worldwide audience comments:“A borrowed book led me to the writer’s retreat in Tuscany led by Jo Parfitt. Serendipity is not luck, it is the art of placing oneself in new situations which might just bear fruit, revealing something new about yourself. For me that was Tuscany. Was it frightening and challenging...yes! Instructive and inspiring...yes again! Life Changing...absolutely. I had taken a chance, found my voice and the belief that just perhaps, I could share my passions through my writing.”

We’re so pleased Jo’s students all those years ago found so much inspiration in her course and we are looking to do the same again this year. Why not take the plunge and join Jo here? It could change your life! We already have eight people booked in (including two of the people who came five years ago!) so we’ve room for only four or so more.

Jo Parfitt at the watermill in Tuscany

Jo Parfitt has published more than 30 books herself, has helped more than 100 authors get into print and more than 1,000 people to begin writing. She’s an inspiring, compassionate and encouraging teacher: her motto is‘sharing what I know to help others to grow’.

Jo’s Write Your Life Story creative writing course is designed to help you produce your best work, to find your true writer’s ‘voice’ and to write authentically. Among other things, you’ll discover the secret of SPICE, the seven steps to writing life stories, and put this into practice right away. The course will run from 22 to 29 September 2018. We now have eight people signed up, so now is the time to book!

Writing at the watermill in Italy

Jo says:“The course at the watermill will provide a safe haven in which to unlock your creativity, write from your heart and hone your writing craft. It will also help to remove blocks to your writing. Sessions at the mill will empower students to write in a compelling way that makes real experiences come to life.”

Jo adds:“The class will include several methods and genres and is perfect for anyone wanting to write about their own lives for an effective journal, memoir or blog. If you would enjoy an injection of inspiration in a safe and supportive environment this course is for you. It is appropriate for students of any level.”

Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt
22 September to 29 September 2018
Write Your Life Stories
To learn more about Jo and her course at The Watermill, please visit her Profile Page



Our language course is bellissimo said Good Housekeeping

We already have eight people booked into our unique Italian language course next Summer and I have just been talking to two other people who are thinking of coming.

That got me thinking of previous courses and the excellent article published earlier this year in Britain’s prestigious Good Housekeeping magazine, written by the magazine’s Travel Editor David Wickers.

Good Houskeeping

David was full of praise for our course, not just the teaching at the Watermill, but the ability to practice the language and savour the true Italian lifestyle. He said:“Wherever we went, we had encounters with real Italians in the hopes of making ourselves understood in the real world as well as in class.

With all those bookings, we only have room for a few more people, so now is the time to reserve your place, especially since we also have an Early Bird discount offer. We’d love you to join us. It’ll be rocambolesco:You’ll learn more of the beautiful language from the Italians themselves and also savour la bella vita italiana.

There will not only be formal lessons under the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but we’ll also be making trips and excursions to enjoy the natural beauty of Lunigiana, the area surrounding the mill, to explore its history and culture, to sample its traditional foods – and above all, to meet the people, speaking Italian, practising what we’ve learned.

Practising italian language

We’ve teamed up again with the prestigious Florence language school, Langues Services, to design a week in which people can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way ever. With our wonderful tutor Giulia Balestri, you’ll meet Italian people and interact with their daily lives.

A couple of comments from this year’s language course:

“We would like you to know how much we appreciated our stay with you at Posara. As hosts, you made us feel most welcome; and the combination of language lessons, food and excursions was excellently balanced. We were unaware of the Apuan mountain region – it is spectacularly beautiful. Altogether a unique and delightful experience. With fond memories of your lovely home and very personal hospitality.”

“What an amazing week. Thank you, Bill, Lois and your excellent team. Giulia was great and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip. Can’t wait to do it all again...”

Giulia Balestri

Giulia Balestri - four or so places left
30 June to 7 July 2018
Italian language week
To learn more about Giulia and her course at The Watermill, please click here

Yoga News at the watermill in ItalyYOGA NEWS

Working hard so you can enjoy a relaxing, life-nourishing week

Claire Murphy has been working hard on an even more inspiring itinerary for next year’s Nourish Your Elemental Self retreat, which will include yoga, meditation, creative writing & art journaling.

We are still firming up the plans for the week but typically you will experience:

  • x 2 yoga sessions each day - the 2nd session incorporates creative activities
  • x 2 meditation sessions each day
  • Optional shiatsu treatments
  • Excursions (typically the market of Fivizzano and visiting either Lucca or Cinque Terre)

Claire says: “For a deposit of £250.00 you can secure your place on this week of nourishing activities and have the peace of mind that EVERYTHING is included in the cost of your retreat: (airport transfers, accommodation, meals, drinks, excursion and all the tuition”. She adds: “Trust me when I say you will be hard-pushed to find anything of comparative value in Italy. The Watermill is a divine location and coupled with the warmth of the Tuscan sunshine, you won't fail to feel the effects of both the itinerary and your surroundings almost immediately.”

Claire’s unique retreat will run from Saturday 25 August to Saturday 1 September 2018. You can find out more by clicking here.

Norishing yoga

We’ll nourish your soul on rural walks and visits to ancient walled towns and hilltop villages, castles and convents. You’ll also savour the relaxed atmosphere of la bella vita italiana in local cafes, shops, restaurants and markets.

We’ll venture a little journal writing and painting in The Watermill studio overlooking the river or under the shade of the vine verandah to nourish your mind.

Norish your body at the watermill in Tuscany

And we’ll nourish your body with fresh, home-cooked, nutritionally balanced meals lovingly prepared by the Watermill cooks, with many of the ingredients freshly picked from The Watermill’s own gardens. There will be a vegetarian option for every meal, of course. Private sessions with a local Shiatsu practitioner are also available, at cost, on request.

Here’s a comment from one of this year’s guests: “The yoga retreat was the perfect mix of physical postures, meditation and thoughtful contemplation in glorious mountain surroundings. I particularly appreciated how you created a gentle space for all attendees no matter where they were on their yoga journey or what physical issues they were dealing with. The journaling and art prompts offered the opportunity for creative experimentation and expansion. All in all, a fabulously revitalising week.”

Another guest said: “I went on Claire’s Yoga/Meditation Retreat with a very open mind not knowing what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, I was not persuaded to do anything I was not comfortable with, in fact gentle alternatives were given. The Meditation I found very helpful enabling me to reflect on my life, Claire was very understanding of each person’s needs e.g. hearing, knees, back etc problems, this retreat is suitable for all ages and abilities. I enjoyed myself so much I have rebooked for 2018.

Yoga, meditation and massage have been a way of life for Claire Murphy for more than 25 years and she’s passionate about teaching them. Together we’ve created a unique seven-day programme, which we’ll update and augment as time goes on.

2018 Yoga retreat

Claire Murphy

Claire Murphy
25 August to 1 September 2018
Nourish - mind, body and soul
To learn more about Claire and her course at The Watermill, please visit her Profile Page


Find your Oomph! retreat  News at the watermill in ItalyOOMPH! NEWS

Laughter is good for your Oomph! says Caroline

Personal development guru, Caroline Carr, who is running out first-ever Oomph! workshop here next year, tells us we should laugh every day.

She says:“There are huge benefits as the laughter brings about chemical changes in the body, helping you to feel good and less stressed. It boosts your immune system, increases the cells that fight cancer, increases oxygen to the body and brain, and increases circulation and flushes out toxins. It gives you great aerobic exercise and, done regularly it gives you a fresh perspective and helps you to deal more easily with challenges.”

Laughter Yoga

Caroline says that a terrific way to get these benefits is to tap into Laughter Yoga, which combines deep belly laughing with deep breathing – alternating between the two.“Laughter is initiated by gentle laughter exercises, so you don’t need to rely on humour or jokes. AND – even if you don’t feel like laughing you can just pretend, because you’ll still get the same physiological and psychological benefits. It goes even deeper than this though. Laughter Yoga taps into a delightful sense of playfulness, freedom and joy, which is the very essence of Oomph!”

The Find your Oomph! Retreat is a unique opportunity to reconnect with your true self – the one who feels free to run barefoot through the grass, or dance as if nobody’s watching, or to sing from the top of a mountain! To laugh and play imaginatively and have fun. It’s GREAT to get back to that place inside yourself again, and to witness its transformative effect.

Caroline Carr

Caroline Carr has been a successful hypnotherapist and life coach for many years. She uses a variety of transformative practices to embody joy and inner freedom into your everyday life. As well as facilitated discussions and group coaching, she works with energy states, movement, voice and posture, Laughter Yoga, and deep healing relaxation – using various techniques.Come and join us and revitalise your oomph!

Caroline Carr’s life-changing week will run from Saturday 18 to Saturday 25 August 2018. If the words empowered, strong, fun, joy, delight, shine, sparkle, authentic, loving, warm, appreciative, enthusiastic, playful and sincere appeal to you (these are all Oomph! qualities by the way), then this is the week for you. Inspiring teaching and exquisite Italy all wrapped up in one!

Caroline is offering something special for early bookers too. If you book before the end of the year, she’ll provide special sessions of free Oomphwork... Caroline says:“The free coaching would be via Skype or WhatsApp, or on the phone if they don’t have those. I will speak with everyone prior to the retreat anyway, but for those who are having the free coaching, I will also use this initial call in order to get an idea of how I might work with them. They’d have some sessions – two or three – or maybe even just one longer one. I can’t be more specific because everyone’s so different! But we’ll work together to find the best way of doing it.”

2018 Oomph! retreat

Caroline Carr

Caroline Carr
18 August – 25 August 2018
Find your Oomph! retreat
To learn more about Caroline and her retreat at The Watermill, please visit her Profile Page


The watermill in Italy's newsletter specialsNEWSLETTER SPECIALS

Everything's included in your watermill painting holiday, yoga or Oomph! retreat, creative writing holiday, knitting week or Italian Language course

Don’t forget that everything is included in the cost of a painting holiday, yoga retreat, knitting, personal development or language holiday: tuition, accommodation (including all linen and towels), pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals and local transportation (including transfers to Pisa airport; an excursion by train to visit the ancient walled city of Lucca or the stunning seaside villages of the Cinque Terre). All you have to do is to get to Pisa airport and we do the rest.

Whether you're travelling alone or with a partner you can be sure of a warm welcome, and that you'll be well looked after. We have built our reputation on the comfort of the mill and the care we provide.

Become a friend of The Watermill at Posara

Visit our Friends Website (Link below). Just follow the instructions to Register as a Friend and then Log In to enjoy special privileges. If you become a ‘Friend’ (it will cost you nothing) you’ll enjoy many exclusive benefits, including dozens of practical and inspiring tips from our international painting and creative writing tutors and recipes from the watermill’s mouth-watering menus. And there will be exclusive offers for Friends to make our courses and holidays even more attractive.

Thank you for reading the watermill in Italy's newsletterTHANK YOU

We very much look forward to welcoming you to the mill next year, and for those of you who have already tasted the many delights at The Watermill at Posara, we look forward to welcoming you back.

Your hosts at the watermill, Italy

With very best wishes a tutti

Your hosts at the watermill in Tuscany

Lois and Bill Breckon