Romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

The Sad Saga of the Douglas’s Barn Boiler

Douglas's Barn old boiler IMG_4779

Bound for the boiler scrap heap

Definitely a Friday afternoon model, the – to all intents and purposes ‘excellent’ boiler in Douglas’s Barn – has always been temperamental and it staged its final tantrum last Friday night (15th February).

Now, exactly a week later and with a new boiler installed, serenity has been restored after what has been a fraught week affecting many more than the hapless owners. These words may sound glib but the reality was several troubled nights and continuing anxiety until everything was sorted out.

Our first worry and indeed our first priority in all such drama is our guests, who have paid good money and come in good faith, needing and expecting nothing but the best. Our immediate concern was for the lovely couple who had just driven up from London with a young baby, for their first holiday away together since their baby was born. They hadn’t been here more than two or three hours when black smoke started issuing forth from the boiler…

Quick choices had to be made. We offered to pay for our guests to be ‘rehoused’ in a choice of cottages belonging to friends and colleagues who rallied around with offers of help but our couple very gamely opted to stay on in a central heating-less cottage with no hot water. We borrowed two portable electric heaters and gave them the sole use of our spare bathroom, and of course other than bathing and showering every other facility in Douglas’s Barn was still available to them. When they came to say goodbye on Monday morning we were very touched when they generously thanked us very warmly for a really lovely holiday!

Their situation was one any holiday cottage owner dreads; another dread is having to put guests off as we had to do to another very understanding and generous-mided couple who had been looking forward to a midweek break here in Douglas’s Barn. We were most fortunate that Steve Ogan of Blakelow Farm, a nearby friend and fellow-Premier Cottages member, was able to offer them his two-person cottages which happened to be empty and which most fortuitously happened to be the same price as our guests had paid us. We were very happy that our would-be guests popped in to see us on their way home and were not surprised to hear that Steve had looked after them very well and they had been most comfortable. They’d had personal reasons for choosing Douglas’s Barn, but like our firt couple, big-hearted enough to accept the change of plan forced on them in very good part.

It is the machinery which let us down; it is the people who come up trumps all round. We were blessed with two sets of guests who understood the predicament we were in, could have made it awkward but absolutely went out of their way to cooperate. We are also extremely lucky to have a most excellent self-employed boiler engineer, Phi Jennings, for whom nothing is too much trouble (unlike the local Worcester Bosch engineers who seemed to need three working days to respond to an urgent call-out).

Phil came out at 8.30 pm on the Friday night that the boiler died, hoping – as we all thought – simply to fix it (again). Like vets, I imagine boiler engineers often find themselves dealing with far more than simply practical mechanical problems. Phil managed to reassure everyone that there was no danger in spite of the lingering smell of hot oil, that he’d move heaven and earth to order and install a new boiler within the week. And he, and Andy his no 2, did what they promised.

So now, a week later, a new boiler is installed. Phil and Andy assure us it will be more powerful and more economical than its disgraced predecessor. What we fervently hope is that it is also going to be more reliable! We heard a worrying instance on Facebook of faulty Chinese circuit boards causing combi boiler problems: that is all we need! At least we know that if there are any teething problems Phil will be out in a flash to sort them. How lucky we are, living in a rural area like this and able to count on really loyal ‘human’ tradesmen.

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