Romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

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If Carlsberg made holiday cottages

it would be Douglas’s Barn

Not being great telly advert addicts we didn’t quite get the gist of this comment left by a guest today but
– judging by his warm appreciation of everything – guessed it was complimentary.

Janet and Carol, being more up in the world in these things, assure us that it was a lovely compliment, so thank you, Jeff! (Only, Janet says, it might have been Tom’s Barn…)

Facelift for our barns

We really try hard to keep our looks, as far as the barns are concerned. (The humans are much more relaxed, or perhaps merely fatalistic.)

Every year Jason and Stuart touch up the paintwork in the barns, usually doing the kitchens and bathrooms, sometimes a ceiling or transforming some of the pine woodwork – whatever needs doing. Every four of five years is the big do and we have kept the second week/midweek period in February free for the 2010 ‘facelift’.

Don’t expect dramatic changes in colour schemes: Douglas’s Barn we will probably use the same colours as we rather like them; in Tom’s Barn we are thinking of changing at least the kitchen units (again) as we feel the Hay we used last time wasn’t as effective as we’d hoped; we may also choose a subtle variation on the wall colour…

All will be revealed on 12th February! (Just in time, unintentionally, for St Valentine’s weekend/week!)

Green Inspection: How Green Are We?

I always remember my sister retorting to a perceived put down ‘You know, I’m not as cabbage-looking as I’m green!’.

We’ll, I don’t know about cabbage looking but let’s hope the Inspector for the Green Tourism in Business thinks we’re at least a bit greenish.

As you know, we don’t want to become green bores and we are perfectly at ease with guests who don’t want to complicate their few days of peace and relaxation by having to worry about using green cones and compost bins. However, we have done what we can to make things work reasonably ‘greenly’ without too much effort on anyone’s part like low-energy bulbs, eco-kettles (will boil just one mug of water) and slow-cookers…

Son Nick digging out the hole for the green cone

Son Nick digging out the hole for the green cone

That’s all quite fun, in its way. the really tedious bit for us is some fairly demanding paperwork, providing records for the inspector of (weekly, I think!) water and power consumption.

Anyway, the big day is Friday 12th Feb. This is the very day Jason and Stuart, our faithful decorators, leave having redecorated both barns from top to toe (fortunately in Farrow & Ball paint, which is pretty acceptable, green-wise).

Leg and Weather update

The weather is grey, cold and this evening threatening to hail. But all is not lost: the clumps of snowdrops in front of the house are out, and our daffodil stalks shooting up daily.

Leg-wise, things are improving even more dramatically. The bright blue ‘Scotch-cast’ is off, the crutches (almost) hurled away and I am back to walking, tentatively, on two feet again, in shoes… Not sure if we’ll be going skiing in the immediate future though.

An unforgetable experience

We love dogs, and dog owners, and really love to welcome them to Tom’s Barn. For ten years we have had the privilege of welcoming model dog owners, with well-behaved and well-controlled dogs.

We could never understand why many other holiday cottage owners shuddered at the thought of accepting dogs. We now know why.

We are still recovering from a nightmare experience (just deserts for being smug, possibly). After a short break with two apparently uncaring owners and one lively and untrained boxer we have had to scrub and disinfect under the stairs, wash all the bedding three times, take the sofa covers and the duvet to the cleaners, clean mud out of the bath and get an electrician in to replace both smoke detectors (don’t ask!).

There’s no excuse. We do ask that dogs don’t go upstairs or sit on the furniture; knowing that life isn’t always ideal we provide dust sheets just in case and we can always provide a stair gate on request.

Anyway, after much time and effort on Janet’s part, helped by Carol, John and me, Tom’s Barn is sparklingly clean again – almost cleaner than ever if that is possible – with no evidence at all of the earlier mayhem!

And I don’t know why I am writing this, really, as I know one will be preaching to the converted, but I just had to get it off my chest. We have all found the experience quite unsettling. Let’s hope it is another ten years before we have a repeat nightmare, if we have to have one at all.

Sunshine after all the snow

Just a brief, sunny, update.

At last, after over a month we have warm (?) sunshine and not a bit of snow to be seen apart from the rather sad relics of our igloo. The igloo picture by the way actually made the Ashbourne News Telegraph this week see Nick on Parwich.org.

The fresh burst of snow forecast did not affect us here, but after the last month one would be naive to think we had seen the last of winter conditions. But in spite of that, our snowdrops are full of enthusiasm and promise…

Our first snowdrops

Mary’s Meals

All this talk and thought of food…

We have just made a minuscule Gift Aid Donation of £10.11 to Mary’s Meals.

To our dismay, but also delight, we discover that £10.11 will feed one child a nourishing meal at school for over a year and a half…

We had pledged to donate any commission we received as a result of our guests taking out holiday cancellation insurance with the Pavey Group. (We strongly recommend our guests take out insurance, so not surprisingly we felt very awkward about benefiting in any way.)

Mary’s Meals addresses the immediate needs of hungry children by giving them a daily meal which they have to be attending school to receive. So they get the nourishment plus encouragement to receive an education that can provide an escape from poverty for themselves and their communities.

Slow Cooking

We bought a slow-cooker for each barn several months ago. Partly we were being green but really it was because, loving good food ourselves, we thought that to be able to go out all day, and come home to delicious smells and a beautiful meal cooking is almost the height of luxury.

Have a soothing bath; open that bottle of wine, and sit down to a feast that you’d almost forgotten you’d prepared in the morning.

We know that lots of you have already discovered these joys and hope that maybe some of you will be kind enough to share your successful recipes and tips.

To help the process, along with our 2010 guides, we have bought some new recipe books, including ‘Slow Cooking Curries & Spice Dishes’ with some very exciting looking recipes.

Another is called encouragingly ‘Slow Cooking Properly Explained’!
Soups and casseroles one would expect, and curries. Would you have guessed you could do roasts in a slow cooker? (No roast potatoes, though…) My biggest surprise, and delight, is that you can apparently do a foolproof Steak and Kidney Pudding! Imagine coming home to that after a day’s walking in the Peaks!

I know we have many keen cooks who are returning this year. Nobody yet has risen to the challenge of using the rotisserie in Douglas’s Barn but a good bottle of wine goes to the first who tries the Steak and Kidney Pudding recipe and gives us a report and maybe just the tiniest of tastes.

Good Food and Real Ale

We have just taken delivery of a copy each for our barns’ bookshelves of the 2010 Good Food Guide, Good Pub Guide and Real Ale Pub Guide; delighted to report that nearly all of the places to eat that we recommend make one or other of the guides.

    Please let us have your reactions, and recommendations so this section of the blog can become a real resource for those of us that appreciate good food and drink.

  • Callow Hall, Fischers, Rowley’s and the Dining Room are in the Good Food Guide and also – not surprisingly but you have to look in the Staffordshire section – is the George at Alstonefield, one of our great favourites and one of the nearest to us here.
  • The Coach and Horses at Fenny Bentley is in the Real Ale Guide, as are several other local hostelries such as The Bentley Brook Inn which actually has its own Leatherbritches Brewery, the Green Man and Blacks Head Hotel in Ashbourne and many others not too far away for any keen beer connoisseur.
  • Finally, Parwich’s own Sycamore makes the Lucky Dip/Readers’ Recommendation section of the Good Pub Guide, as does the Druid that we recommend, and the Red Lion at Hognaston that we used to recommend (we must go back and check that out). The Gate at Brassington makes the ‘proper’ section, and quite right too; also The Coach and Horses at Fenny Bentley and several other others in our immediate area that makes me realise we have a busy time ahead, doing that essential market research.
    We need your help too!

If you are wondering about the weather…

Here are some useful websites for guests who are due to visit in the next few days and who may be feeling anxious about the weather and conditions on the roads:

Tom with his ice sword

Tom with his ice sword

For the first time in ten years we have had two guests finding it difficult or impossible   to negotiate the final 200 yards up the slope to Orchard Farm All is not lost!  It just means you may have to trudge up the last lap on foot; if humanly possible those of us who are mobile will come and help with wheelbarrow and sledge.

Click on the Latest Weather Report post of 7th Jan for more details.


LATEST NEWS

  • Time for a short pre Christmas break

    Time to get a bit of relaxation before the Christmas mayhem. There are still short breaks available in Douglas’s Barn. Plenty going on in the Peak District. Lots of Christmas markets selling lovely gifts that you don’t see elsewhere. Chatsworth House is also a must at this time of year. There are plenty of stories […]

  • A busy Sunday in the Peak District

    Lots of events to go to in and around Parwich today but managed to get to the Horticultural Show in Parwich and the Hartington Show. Missed out on the Antiques in Ashbourne though which is always worth going to. Izzy did better than me by getting 1st prize as the Prettiest Bitch at Hartington Show […]

  • Time to book a last minute Autumn break.

    So the sun may not be shining at the moment but we are going into one of my favorite times of year – AUTUMN. If the weather follows previous years we are in for a lovely September and October and even November can still be delightful. This time of year attracts reduced rate for some […]

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