Belfast Telegraph:

The director of Elmfield Estate on getting out in nature with her dogs, why the works of Manchan Magan resonate deeply with her love of Ireland and her busy morning routines


What is the best time to get up at the weekend?

I tend to wake around 6.30am every day, but at weekends, when I’m not working, I allow myself a couple of hours of leisure time in bed to write. The time between sleep and being fully awake is my most creative time. I hate to rush, so my ideal weekend routine is wake up, write, take my dog out, run and then yoga before a very late breakfast. It can take up to four or five hours before I’m ready for breakfast.

​Breakfast or brunch?

I try to follow an intermittent fasting protocol which is supposed to have far-reaching health benefits. This means that breaking my fast mid to late morning with a brunch is better for my health.

​What does an ideal Saturday look like?

I love the Saturdays when I’m facilitating wellness retreats or running the wholefood and wellbeing market at Elmfield, but when I have a Saturday off, I love to tend to my garden. Listening to a good podcast while weeding and pruning my roses is my idea of heaven. A glass of wine outside as the sun goes down is a good way to finish the day.

What would your perfect Sunday be like?

Sundays are all about retreating from the world and turning inward. Many religions take a day each week for deep reflection, and although I don’t follow any particular traditional religion, I believe it is important to take time to be still and to reconnect.

Meditation and a long walk in the Mournes or around Elmfield with our dogs is ideal. Spending time with the dogs is definitely an important part of my perfect Sunday.

​Do you prefer to be indoors or outdoors?

I tend to have a nice balance each day of being inside and outside, but outdoors is my preference. My office is in one of the Elmfield courtyards close to my garden, so I am very lucky to be able to take a 10-minute break outside to rebalance in between clients, Zoom calls, or meetings.

​How have weekends changed as you have got older?

They’ve changed hugely. When I lived in London in my 20s, weekends were all about going to the latest trendy club. These days, in my 50s, free weekends are about spending time in nature with a few good friends.

​If you could eat out anywhere tonight in NI, where would you go and why?

The setting is as important as the food. I haven’t been there in a long time, but I would make the drive from Gilford to the Causeway Coast and go to The Salthouse Hotel restaurant in Ballycastle, overlooking the Atlantic. The combination of savouring fresh Northern Irish produce while looking out at the wild sea is my ideal meal. I might even treat myself to a beach walk afterwards!

​What would you have?

I’d share a seafood platter with my dinner companion and a glass of white wine.

​At weekends you’ll always make time to…

Garden and cook. I love to grow food and also to buy fresh wholefood at our Elmfield markets and create something delicious in the kitchen that will nourish me all week. I tend to have very busy weeks, so spending time being creative in the kitchen and my garden at weekends is essential. Stimulating my senses in the garden and kitchen allows my busy mind to slow down and connect with my creativity. It also has the side benefit of providing healthy food for the week ahead.

​Do you sometimes work at weekends?

Very often. I have to block calendar time at weekends so that I make sure to take time off. I spend a lot of time telling people the importance of self-care and slowing down, but I sometimes forget to practice what I preach. Taking time in nature, to slow down, to resource myself and take a tech break is vital for a healthy lifestyle.

Who would you most like to go for a drink with and why?

Manchan Magan and Martin Shaw. Martin Shaw is a writer and mythologist from the wilds of Dartmoor and Manchan Magan is an Irish speaker, writer, and documentary filmmaker. Together they bring the magical world of our ancestors to life in a way that helps to navigate today’s individual and collective challenges.

​Are you a weekend cook?

Yes, I love cooking. I’m not someone who follows recipes, so I’m always trying out new combinations of herbs and vegetables that a friend or I have grown. Having grown up on the farm at Elmfield, fresh local produce is absolutely key for me in any cooking. An awareness of food variety is also important as I am a big advocate of supporting gut microbiome health.

​What’s your dream Sunday dinner?

I grew up on a traditional beef cattle farm with roast beef being a regular Sunday lunch feast. While I don’t eat much meat anymore, I still enjoy Northern Irish roast beef with fresh local veg with the whole extended family as a rare treat.

​Who do you normally eat Sunday dinner with and where?

A big Sunday lunch or dinner is not on my regular weekend menu as I’d prefer to be off walking or in the garden. But I will enjoy whatever batch of healthy cooking I’ve created that weekend.

​Too tired to cook — what are you ordering from the takeaway?

I rarely order anything from a takeaway. I might order something once or twice a year. Too tired to cook means digging into my freezer for a dish I’ve cooked on a leisurely weekend.