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Doing the homework for our new Tom’s and Douglas’s Barn video

Our current video runs out of steam so to speak, in November. Filming in November is not the greatest time of year so we are planning to have the next one shot during the summer, possibly even in June if good weather forecasts and available ‘windows of opportunity’ in a busy video maker’s schedule allow. One has to accept that June could be as grey and miserable as November can be sunny and warm, but never mind… At least there should be leaves on the trees.

Today our task was to begin a reconnoitre of places in the immediate vicinity that are important to our guests and to us and ought to appear, however fleetingly, in the video. The idea is we take photos which we send to Simon our video man to help him plan where and what he might film on the day. We also hoped that some of John’s best could end up in our Gallery.

We decided on Carsington Water first, then Tissington, and what a pleasant time we had in spite of the skies being grey and heavy and the light hopeless for a decent photograph. We walked and explored and did some research on the side about all the things one can now do at Carsington as well as riding, walking and cycling and bird watching.

At the Water Sports Centre one can take lessons in sailing, canoeing, kayaking and wind surfing, or, with proof of  competence, hire the equipment and go out yourself. Power boating and fly fishing is also available (fly fishing only in certain areas and always from a boat, not the side). At the Sailing Club, if you have your own boat you can sail for from 60p a day, or so we understood.

After all this research and hard work we retired to the Mainsail Restaurant upstairs where we had an enormous bacon and sausage bap each as we looked over the sailing boats in the water, each bap the size of a small loaf but with a lightish,  fluffy dough which meant they went down rather embarrassingly quickly!

Finally we discovered that there is now an RSPB shop in the courtyard where one can buy nesting boxes with small cameras already installed. We have been wishing we could see what is going on in our nesting box in the garden where a pair of blue tits is raising a family behind frustratingly closed doors. But that is another story, another blog post sometime soon…

Tom’s Barn – is our ‘dog friendly holiday cottage’ really dog friendly?

We have always welcomed (well-behaved) dogs in Tom’s Barn, and are more than happy to do so. From time to time we have also had other pets, such as cats and parrots but by and large it is mainly dogs. With one or two notable exceptions our dog guests are usually beautifully behaved but even so they undoubtedly create extra work and sometimes damage.

We do ask that owners keep them off the chairs and sofa, and certainly away from upstairs. For owners whose dogs are reluctant to abide by the rules we do provide dustsheets for the furniture, and until recently a nursery gate to prevent enthusiastic dogs from going upstairs, but as we know ourselves, this was a real pain to fit and use and the odd dog sneaked his way up and one can hardly blame them. (Although some of you may remember one unforgetable experience here that we’d like to forget but can’t quite, yet, and we do blame that dog.)

However, our latest Visit Britain Inspector last month commented very critically about evidence of scratch marks from doggy claws on the wooden stairs and hinted heavily that this was a serious blot on our Five Star/Gold Award status… So David, our wonderful joiner friend, has come to the rescue; he has designed and built for us a lovely wooden gate (it still needs varnishing but there’s only so much we can do in five hours on a Friday) permanently fixed to the foot of the stairs. The next challenge is somehow to eradicate or disguise/hide those wretched scratch marks on the steps – more news on that score later.

So far so good on the dog-friendly score. But we have had pointed out to us by a recent guest – owner of a beautiful (and beautifully trained) Rhodesian Ridgeback I would happily have kidnapped – that on our website we claimed to have an enclosed garden. Well, I am afraid she is right, and we don’t. I was in fact very surprised to discover I had claimed that the Tom’s Barn garden was enclosed; my excuse is that I wasn’t thinking of it in terms of dogs particularly – what I meant was that it was self-contained.

Happily, the owner in question was tactful enough to say she was glad they had been misled, because they simply wouldn’t have booked had they known the true facts. They had had a lovely time and they – and their dog – were very charming guests, and they hope to come back (and we hope they do).

Meanwhile, we have thrashed around how we could make the area truly self-contained without going to the expense and disruption of building stone walls etc – any suggestions gratefully received. Meanwhile, please note, our garden is not enclosed.

The B5056 has reopened, and other highlights!

What joy!

The B5056, our main route from Parwich to Ashbourne (it joins the A515 at Fenny Bentley a couple of miles north of Ashbourne) is now open again, after what seems like an age of us all having to straggle through Alsop on a road never meant for – and barely able to cope with – as much traffic as it has recently.

‘They’ really have done an amazing job, as far as the eye can see, and one can only hope and assume that the problems of landslip etc really have been overcome. It is wider, smoother and an absolute joy to drive along; I never imagined one would rave at the excitement of actually have two lanes instead of a single track, but, what joy!

Now the next excitement in the village (well, exciting for the vast majority of local people although there is a vocal minority who aren’t so pleased) will be the opening of the village hall. It is due to be finished very soon, slightly behind schedule after months of snow and ice hampered work over the winter, then lots of rain earlier in the spring. From the front (a bit like our barns) it doesn’t look anything special but from the back of the building, and even more strikingly, once inside, it is amazing – full of light and surprising angles, with the best possible use made of the relatively limited space.

The final excitement of the moment is a very little one but important to John and me. We have discovered, with Jeremy’s help, why we couldn’t load photos onto the website: something to do with Flash technology and nothing to do with any human incompetence to our relief and slight surprise.

Marmalade Update

Should be more a general update really but marmalade features heavily so I’ll start with that. We have just made a batch of grapefruit, lime and lemon marmalade, not having thought ahead enough to lay in stocks of Seville oranges in the freezer. Nor – in our defense – had we realised when we started tentatively popping little jars of homemade marmalade into the barns just what we had started.

How wrong! Our guests seem to love marmalade quite as much as we do, which of course is lovely.

We thought of it as a little experiment, something we could try out discreetly, and discontinue equally discreetly…

So now I am on the lookout for interesting recipes for really good, bitter marmalade but which doesn’t rely on Sevilles. We used wonderfully fresh, organic Sevilles this Jan, from Riverford, but the grapefruit, lemon and lime is almost as good although I say it myself.

Any offers of favourite marmalade recipes that fit the bill, will be very gratefully received (and acknowledged!). Please/thank you!

We’re (briefly) in the Telegraph Weekend section!

For a couple of hours on Monday we almost felt like celebrities, with a photographer here from the Daily Telegraph snapping away at John and me and Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns from every angle. Sadly, we didn’t look quite look the celebrity picture but it was fun while it lasted and Gabriel the photographer was charming.

This followed an interview over the telephone by Claudine Beaumont, a journalist from the Daily Telegraph. I had been understandably surprised and apprehensive when the editor of the Weekend section emailed to ask if I would be agreeable, but Claudine made it all very easy and unfrightening – in fact she was so easy to talk to it was positively enjoyable.

After all this excitement, we heard nothing. Would an article appear at all? Would we and our barns be mentioned? We really didn’t know what to expect when the paper arrived this morning. Eventually we spotted something.

In today’s Weekend Section at the very end of an article by Claudine Beaumont on page 3 entitled ‘Cashing in on the Digital Age’ you might just spot, if you look hard, a column and a half about how John and I use web technology for running Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns (our self-catering holiday cottage accommodation and note, not guest house in case you were wondering!). Not a photograph to be seen, which is probably understandable and quite a relief but also in a way quite strange after all the photographic activity!

Anyway, do have a look; it makes me seem much wiser and more knowledgable than I am or feel! We will put up the link to the article when the Saturday paper goes online.

From Tissington to Dovedale to the George

Well, we’ve had a very relaxing couple of days forgetting all our responsibiities and doing happy holiday things with our friends Lorna and James. On Tuesday we walked over the hills to Tissington to catch the second last day of this year’s well dressings. The displays were up to their usual high standard, and had survived the six days of hot dry weather remarkably well. Back home for a well-earned cup of tea, stopping off at the White Peak butchery for some of their wonderful Tissington Bangers for our guests.

The next day off we set (by car) for Dovedale, and had a lovely walk up to Alstonefield, following the river (Dove) all the way until we got to Milldale. The river water looked clean and fresh and very welcoming although we resisted any – quite strong – childish temptation to paddle. River-wise it was beautiful, but we didn’t spot any interesting wildlife or birds: our sum tally was bluebells,wild garlic, butterflies and ducks (and various tree blossoms we didn’t recognise)!

A warm welcome and lovely lunch at the George and then we stocked up with some delicious goodies in their Farm Shop behind the pub (I wonder if everyone realises it is there?). And now Lorna and James have gone home and normal life resumes, not that it ever seems just normal. There is usually something interesting happening.

Orchids, Tissington Well Dressing and Chatsworth Horse Trials

A busy weekend in these parts, and the sun is shining, warmly. It makes a welcome change from the recent cold and the frosty nights.

We are giving the Horse Trials a miss this year, but plan to walk over to Tissington on Tuesday with some more very good friends, Lorna and James (Lorna was our bridesmaid) who are coming to stay.

Meanwhile, John and I walked up Parwich Hill this afternoon and came across some beautiful Parwich orchids. Sadly, for some reason we can’t upload photos onto the blog at the moment, so you’ll have to see it on our website Home Page instead by clicking on the Parwich Orchid link above.

By the way, we proudly call it the Parwich Orchid but its proper name is probably rather more mundane. John has tried to look it up and it appears to be ‘the Purple Orchid’; the Latin name to us remains a mystery – hope someone can help.

Visit Britain’s Gold Award for Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns

Another busy few days for us here since our inspection, including a flying visit to Dorset to help some  very  good friends celebrate a special birthday. Colouring everything has been all the drama of the election and subsequent speculation  and tension surrounding the political future as it unfolded.

It has been like living in a soap without an author; nobody, not even those taking part knowing what the outcome would be. John and I found ourselves compelled almost without a break to watch or listen to the news! However, unlike in most soaps – one couldn’t help feeling impressed by the  dignity   and restraint of the main players and  the moving sight of  Gordon Brown and his little family leaving Downing Street.  Now one just hopes that Cameron and Clegg and their team will be allowed to get on with their hugely unpleasant job without the media beginning immediately to undermine them.

To quote from the Visit Britain website, “This award reflects a very high level of quality. Properties achieving the Gold Award have exceptional levels of quality, comfort and cleanliness in bedrooms and bathrooms, and outstanding levels of customer care.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have had some good news tonight: both barns easily retain their Five Star status, both now achieving a Gold Award.

We are really delighted. But don’t think for one moment that we will sit back and rest on those laurels. We are only too aware that standards increase and guests’ expectations change and we always try to keep one step ahead. This is one reason we so appreciate comments and suggestions from all our guests.

Our romantic cottages for two – what does Visit Britain think?

Well! What a day!

Changeover day with a Visit Britain inspection thrown in for good measure… we have never had that before. In the past, the inspection has taken place mid-week which is rather inconvenient for our guests but generally easier because,  when all is said and done, our first priority on a Friday is to have everything ready, sparkling fresh and welcoming  for our guests and not to have them arrive while we are showing the inspector around, as happened today. Fortunately, both lots had been before.

We had a very pleasant and extremely thorough inspector (thank goodness for our wonderful Janet and Carol!) who seemed pretty happy with things generally but less impressed with the state of the Tom’s Barn stairs which she felt showed unhappy evidence of the odd sharp-clawed dog  scrabbling up them.

We have already arranged with David, our wonderful joiner, who is going to build a wooden gate at the foot of the stairs and do what he can to iron out the worst of the gouges. The other thing we have to do, which we had already planned anyway, is to replace the easy chair and footstool in Tom’s Barn, which although actually spotlessly clean, no longer looks so.

Douglas’s Barn appeared to pass muster without comment (hope I’m not deluded). What we were hoping for, after all our refurbishments in Tom’s Barn, was for Tom’s Barn to go up that one vital point (from 91% overall to 92% ) to join Douglas’s Barn in the exclusive Gold Star ‘club’.  Last year we were told the only thing between us and a Gold Star was the cooker, and that has been replaced with one that is very definitely not old fashioned…

So all we can do now is sit and wait (and start looking for that new chair).

Douglas’s Barn Guests’ Comments – Spring 2010

And here are the comments from our recent guests in Douglas’s Barn…

“The accommodation is beautiful, the setting superb. We have really enjoyed our stay here.” April 2010

“Our stay here has been truly relaxing: lovely weather, lovely cottage, perfect hosts. What more could you ask for?” April 2010

“Losing track of how many times we have been here now – beginning to feel a little possessive! Having left a little black and white cat in Birmingham, Boots made us feel even more at home. We found her patiently waiting by the door after our lie-ins! Hope the next guests aren’t allergic…” April 2010

“Our first time in Douglas’s Barn (but sixth visit overall)…enjoyed lazy walks by the Dove, north from Milldale and south from Hartington. … Excellent weather and a very peaceful and comfortable break. Thank you for all the comforts in Douglas’s Barn.” April 2010

“Had a great week, cottage was superb, cake and marmalade delicious! The village pub and shop was very accommodating. The Bluebell Inn (Tissington) was very good, the Old Gate at Brassington – very good meal, friendly staff but a bit dark and smokey (coal fire).” April 2010

“A wonderful, relaxing anniversary break. Everything we could have wanted and more! Thank you, lovely to meet you both, and Boots.” March 2010

“More than met our expectations after reading up on TripAdvisor etc! Cake and flowers lovely, as is the cottage and Peak District. We will be back, and writing our own review on TripAdvisor. Thanks to you and Janet.” March 2010

“You really have thought of everything to make Douglas’s Barn perfect.  No wonder couples who want time away, choose here. Those extra touches really do make a difference. Thank you both of you.” March 2010

“Second visit to Douglas’s Barn, which is as wonderful as ever! We managed a couple of cycle rides – coming back from the cold to luxury and comfort. We loved every minute. Thank you!” March 2010

“Wonderful home away from home. Glorious weather for exploring hills and dales. Lived up to all expectation and beyond – many thanks.” March 2010


LATEST NEWS

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    There is still time to book a last minute Christmas get away in Douglas’s Barn. The weather may be cold but the barn is very warm and cosy. Why not treat yourselves to a get away from it all break. You can order all your supplies from one of the supermarkets, get it delivered and […]

  • 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 […]

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