We arrived late Friday, and were settling in when the bells of the abbey rang, signalling that it was time for Vespers.
We sat in the beautiful church and watched the arrival of 10 Benedictine monks, cloaked and silent. There followed 30 minutes of lilting singing and chanting, in English, with at least 30 seconds of silence between each song.
Afterwards, filled with a sense of contentment, we repaired to the guesthouse restaurant for a sumptuous roast dinner followed by an early night.
I was so relaxed that I missed lauds and matins at 6am. I made mass, a totally different service with singing, readings, and communion.
Guests at Hedley Lodge are free to walk the grounds of the abbey, attend services and even have a spiritual discussion with one of the monks if so desired. I felt no pressure to participate - hospitality is flexible, in contrast to the total discipline of the abbey, which follows the rules of St Benedictine (work, study, prayer and obedience).
I would rate our stay as a five-star break, based not on the usual luxury but on making time and space for yourself.
Hedley Lodge: prices from £45 for a single room; £65 for a double/twin room.
Tel: (01432) 374747.