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A Too Rare Trip into Neighbouring Staffordshire

Considering Parwich is almost in Staffordshire, in a manner of speaking, it is amazing how rarely we venture any further afield than crossing the Dove at Dovedale, lunching/dining at the George at Alstonefield and occasional walks up the Manifold valley.

All that was about to change. We have long had it in the diary for today to pay a visit to the Farmers’ Market in Leek, which takes place on the third Saturday of every month.To add to the lure, Nita and Darren of Ringehay Farm, fellow Premier Cottage owners, had suggested we pop in on our way back, to see them at Ringehaye, three miles this side of Leek. Most fortuitously, we discovered later that their farm is very close to the local RSPB Coombes Valley Nature Reserve…

Everything conspired to make it a very happy day. The sun shone, we managed to find a parking spot quite near the market in spite of all the road works and hold ups, and – more than we could possibly have asked for – our very favourite Bill Bailey jazz group was playing in the market square as we arrived. The image is meant to be a video, but isn’t – and I don’t know why.

We sampled and bought homemade breads, scotch eggs (including a black pudding one), local beer, Staffordshire Cheese Co. cheese and Polish cakes (Poles who have settled in Leek). ‘Purchased out’ we then stopped for a coffee sitting outside in the sun while some Morris Dancers danced, and then wandered back to the car getting a feel of what Leek has to offer in the way of shops. The architecture and the history are/must be extremely fascinating but that must be for a google search or perhaps another blog, another day.

There seemed to be the usual national stores like Boots (we saw two branches) but lots also of little ‘Totally Locally’ one-off shops, many looking very attractive. The overall atmosphere seemed cheerful and purposeful, although at the moment somewhat hampered by rather extensive roadworks but once out of the car it doesn’t really matter. And by sheer good luck we managed to get out of Leek extremely quickly.

Our next port of call was the RSPB Coombes Valley Nature Reserve, in a beautiful wooded steep valley setting this side of Leek. We only had time for a quick walk and a couple of chats with two of the very helpful volunteers there but we shall certainly return and feel that many of our guests who are interested in birds and ‘nature’ would enjoy a visit, so we came back armed with pamphlets for our barns.

Then, next stop: Nita and Darren at Ringehay Farm. We were so impressed. Their setting is superb and their stone buildings very attractive: not a pale grey limestone like ours but wonderfully muted shades of grey, pinks and olive greens.

We didn’t take any photos, strangely, but if you look on their website you will see what we mean. They have at least five rather beautiful dogs (see Jess, just one of them, on the left) and two holiday cottages, one sleeping six and one four and although we couldn’t see inside as both were occupied we came away feeling we would love to stay there. We do not always feel that!

We had a good day. if this blog post sounds too cosily enthusiastic, I hasten to assure you it comes from the heart, no money or promises have been exchanged with anyone, not even Jess!

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