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Writers’ retreat set to open in East Braintree

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 05/25/2019 4:26 PM

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Margaret Feilberg displays a copy of a favourite Great Britain travel guide that inspired the Scottish theme of a cabin fashioned from a converted school bus. Bill Stevenson’s family tartan adorns the dining table.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Margaret Feilberg displays a copy of a favourite Great Britain travel guide that inspired the Scottish theme of a cabin fashioned from a converted school bus. Bill Stevenson’s family tartan adorns the dining table.

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If your book club is stuck in a rut, or your novel seems anything but, an East Braintree couple believes they have the antidote.

On June 1, Margaret Feilberg and Bill Stevenson will open Brookeville Retreat. Inspired by their shared love of travel—they’ve motored all the way to Newfoundland, and watched geysers erupt in Iceland—the retreat is designed to help authors recharge their batteries or shake off a case of writer’s block.

Located midway between Hadashville and Falcon Lake on the couple’s 19-acre property, Brookeville came together gradually over the past three years.

The retreat consists of four themed one-room cabins (one a converted school bus), plus a larger common cabin for cooking and socializing. Over the summer, the couple will also renovate a nearby trailer into a larger cabin that sleeps eight.

Strolling around the property is a little bit like globetrotting: guests can choose the "Out of Africa" cabin, named after Karen Blixen’s 1937 memoir; or the "Passage to India" cabin, a nod to E.M. Forster’s 1924 novel. Two other guest cabins feature a Caribbean and Scottish theme, respectively, with copies of well-worn travel guides on the table.

The common cabin, which houses laundry and shower facilities, has a seaside Scandinavian theme, with a cupboard devoted to each country. The couple has chosen a "Canadiana" theme for the trailer, to transport guests from coast to coast.

Feilberg, a 67-year-old remedial massage therapist who is semi-retired, said it was "a lot of fun" selecting souvenirs and photographs to decorate each cabin. Stevenson, 72, constructed the shells from kits made by Holdeman Mennonites from the Morden area. The retired helicopter mechanic then added a heater and air conditioner for all-season comfort.

The cabins are compact, to encourage guests to socialize or explore the outdoors when they’re not reading or writing.

A green space surrounded by oaks and maples can be used for croquet or lawn bowling. Across the Little Birch River, which winds through the property, are a mile of walking trails. Feilberg said the property is also located on a flight path, meaning guests might glimpse anything from a swan to a Baltimore oriole. A labyrinth and sauna are also planned, and South Moon Studio, a yoga centre, is a short drive away.

Feilberg said she hopes the tranquil setting will prove attractive to novelists, writers’ groups, book clubs, and nature lovers looking to get away for a weekend or a month.

She herself retreated to the family property years ago, when she enrolled in a difficult writing class.

"When I couldn’t concentrate, I’d come out here."

The couple permanently relocated to East Braintree five years ago, after spending 30 years in Winnipeg’s Wolseley neighbourhood.

Feilberg’s Danish grandparents purchased the property in 1926, and later passed it to their children. A portion later fell into other hands, but Feilberg and Stevenson were eventually able to buy it back. They promptly painted the house bright yellow and the front door bright red, in the Danish tradition.

The public can get a glimpse of Brookeville Retreat during an open house this Sunday, May 26, from 1-7 p.m. Feilberg and Stevenson can be contacted by phone at 204-426-5510, or by email at brookevilleretreatinebt@gmail.com.

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