We had a very good friend here for the day last week, Meg, who although English by birth has lived in the States for most of her life, with an American husband and three American children.
She had escaped the stifling heat of Washington DC for a brief nostalgic visit to her homeland, visiting family and close friends. We took her for a walk round Parwich where, it being a pleasant summer’s day but very certainly not too stiflingly hot, lots of people were in their gardens or on leisurely sociable errands in our quintessentially English village.
And the first, second and third friendly ‘locals’ we bumped into were American or Canadian; we then returned home where she met two more Canadians who were holidaying here in Douglas’s Barn on leave from the Middle East…
Meg did meet several true Brits as well. She was struck, as practically all our guests also volunteer, how very genuinely friendly everyone they meet in the village is, from the children playing outside to the oldest adult.
Parwich may not really live up to Meg’s fleeting international experience but it does boast some wonderfully warm and friendly inhabitants and it’s a wonderful place to live.
Only a day later than promised. A friend of ours dropped in unexpectedly and stayed overnight so that was the end of good intentions for yesterday.
Anyway, we went with some other friends recently to the Saracen’s Head at Shirley. Now, Shirley is the other side of Ashbourne so it is not exactly in our immediate orbit but a 20-25 minute drive away; however it is well worth those extra minutes and miles if you’re after what should be a happy food experience.
The Saracen’s Head calls itself a gastro-pub; it wasn’t cheap, but one wouldn’t have expected it to be. The decor was bright and clean, the service very pleasant, we all enjoyed our respective meals very much and plan to return when waistband and purses allow.
Constantly in search of exciting new places where we can eat well ourselves and recommend with confidence to our guests, we have tried one or two new places recently with varying degrees of success but we will pass on our experiences for what they are worth.
Saving the best for tomorrow here goes today with the very definitely ‘not best’… We met up with a few friends the other day to try lunch Le Mistral, a new bistro in Bakewell. John and I had had a very atmospheric meal/evening at the one in Wirksworth- admittedly several years ago – and when the Bakewell restaurant opened a month or so ago we were sent very impressive brochures with a discount offer for our guests and ourselves. We had great hopes.
So far so good. Le Mistral looked bright and clean, the atmosphere attractive, staff were pleasant and our complimentary glass of house wine very acceptable. The let down was the food. It was pretty expensive (although we did get the promised discount taken off the bill afterwards) and quite frankly disappointing. Had it been delicious we probably we would probably have found the prices quite acceptable
Feeling nostalgic I had ordered ‘Homemade prime beef, tarragon and garlic meatballs, in a tomato and herb sauce, on a bed of rice topped with parmesan shavings.’ My five nondescript and fairly tiny meatballs were an embarrassment – I would have been ashamed to serve them for the most routine of children’s suppers; they cost £10.
We had a fun time. As I said, the atmosphere was pleasant, and we were with friends; however not one of us had actively enjoyed the food and none of us would bother to go back. What a wasted opportunity for a new restaurant trying to build up a reputation and what a shame for those of us who were hoping to have a great new venue to recommend to our friends and guests!
Leanne and Patrick, who stayed in Tom’s Barn earlier this month with their beautiful dog, Bailey, have just sent us a batch of five photos which can now be seen in the ‘Your Photos’ gallery. (I couldn’t resist sneaking in this beautiful water lily that John took this morning- it is the most lovely pink!)
Patrick and Leanne really made the very best use of their time here – including a 12 1/2 mile hike round Carsington which is steeper and more tiring and indeed feels longer than many people realise before they set out…
They loved Dovedale and she writes: “We all had a wonderful time and can’t wait to come back next May!”
Meanwhile, in their photo you can spot the newly ‘repaired’ stepping stones. The rumpus about this still rages on. Whatever the rights and wrongs the repair work has certainly been shoddily done and the poor National Trust, which does so much good work quietly and unseen to help keep the banks of the Dove safe and pleasantly walkable for us all finds itself under sustained attack.
Many of you will know that John and I support, in a very little way – including donating the tiny commission we receive at the end of the year from those of you who have taken out holiday cancellation insurance with Pavey’s – a charity called Mary’s Meals.
We think it is an inspired idea. It is a charity which sets up school feeding projects in third world communities where poverty and hunger would otherwise prevent children from gaining an education…
We have just received this email with a video link which we thought might interest others (turn off after the short video is over when something else starts!
Dear Mary’s Meals Supporter
I wanted to let you know about some very good news!
Last week I returned from America after a whirlwind visit, looking forward to a quiet spell at home, to find a film crew from CNN wanting to interview me. It turned out that a volunteer had nominated me for the CNN Heroes Show. We have just heard that the 3 minute film they made is going to be broadcast regularly on CNN today and over the weekend. You will also be able to see it online at http://bit.ly/atsjQb
I never cease to marvel at the ways doors seem to open for Mary’s Meals. I also never cease to cringe at having to do things like appear as a ‘hero’ on TV. I know lots of heroes and I am not one of them. However I realise this is the most amazing chance to tell more people than ever about Mary’s Meals.
While I was in America I was able to visit our projects in Haiti and see the wonderful progress that has been made there since my last visit just after the earthquake. It was great to see kids in temporary classrooms, tucking happily in to their plates of beans and rice while their old schools are being rebuilt and repaired. Fr Tom Hagan and Doug Campbell who lead our projects in Haiti are doing an unbelievable job there. Because most people are still sleeping under canvas, Fr Tom chooses to do the same and still sleeps on pallets (to keep him above the rain water) in a little one man tent. He is certainly a hero as are all those Haitian people who are working to rebuild their communities in Cite Soleil.
Thank you again for your generous support that enables us to do this work.
The ‘issue’ is showing little sign of slowing down yet, a week since the Stunner broke the news (so our blog readers were among the first to know – I hadn’t appreciated how up to the minute with the news we were!).
It has since apparently been in most of the national papers and Simon Hoggart of the Guardian is quoted as saying “The slabs and the cement that hold them in place now make the glorious setting look like a botched DIY job”. Too true, as the rather hazy photo in the previous post shows.
Now apparently there has been a Facebook campaign launched to restore the stones to their original state! I don’t suppose that will happen, it is only a pity that if the work had to be done it wasn’t better dealt with although a Derbyshire County Council spokesman claims to have had many positive comments about the council’s repair work, which he must be glad about.
On a lighter note, we were amused to see the local paper’s headline today claiming “Ancestor of former stepping stones owner speaks out over remedial work.” It is with relief that we can assure you with confidence that Sir Richard FitzHerbert is alive and well, and not speaking from beyond the grave.
He was referring to his uncle, Sir John FitzHerbert, from whom he inherited the Tissington Estate and who in 1973 had sold the stepping stones and the fields that surround the Dove at that point to the National Trust. He said he felt his uncle would have been very disappointed to see the stones replaced with what look like Jammie Dodgers’.
Apart from self-conscious squirming on my behalf every time my voice starts we are very pleased with it and hope that you will all like it and find it helpful.
Simon Tyler of Highlight Media, helped by his son, Mike, has worked extremely hard to show guests coming to our barns for the first time what they can hope to expect, with a glimpse or two inside the barns and a little taster of what there is to see and do outside.
There is so much else we could have shown – in fact more was cut than ever made it to the final edition – but short of showing a week-long video (and even that wouldn’t be long enough) one has to make do with a few minutes…
We do harbour a secret hope that we may be able to produce a few more short fairly informative but hopefully reasonably entertaining videos in the near future. We have yet to purchase the camcorder let alone how to do it so it won’t be happening immediately.
Meanwhile, do have a look, for nostalgia or information or both…
We wouldn’t normal accept an email from an ‘anonymous’ Hotmail type address from a member of the public without the author having the courage or confidence to supply their name (which of course we would never publish). You know who we are so it would seem to us a common courtesy to say who you are.
However, Nathan P who commented on the previous post about the Stepping Stones obviously feels very strongly that I (and the Times and various national dailies, not to forget the Stunner from where we first heard the news) have entirely missed the point.
And maybe we have. But what a luxury it is to live in a country where we can all get heated about by what has happened to some some stepping stones… In some parts of the world we’d have massacres and destruction on our minds.
Anyway, we did go to Dovedale with our friends Sheila and Mark on Saturday as promised and I took a snap with my Blackberry so you can perhaps see for yourselves what the stones look like. No doubt they will soon become nicely weathered and we will all have forgotten about the old stones under the smoothly cemented brand new slabs.
And no doubt by then we’ll have something else to get happily worked up about.
…or perhaps a conveyor belt?
We haven’t seen yet with our own eyes, but are taking some friends to walk up from Dovedale at the weekend so will be able to report back.
According to the latest Ashbourne News Telegraph, the ‘Stunner’ as it is known locally, once again Health and Safety has gone mad. The much-loved, uneven, slippery Stepping Stones over the Dove have been ‘levelled and brought up to a consistent height’ by bonding new stone on the top. It is Derbyshire limestone, which appears to make it all right…
It does seem a shame but we’ll refrain from being too quick to judge until we’ve seen for ourselves. It’s not as if the Stepping Stones are the only way to cross the river: there is a footbridge across the river earlier on, that cautious souls always use and which everyone has to when the level of water is too high or too cold to risk a soaking.
Meanwhile, the challenge of crossing the stones has been a source of constant fun and entertainment to all. It may lose some of the drama when we all have to don hard hats and safety harnesses and sign disclaimers before stepping off.
In many ways, Douglas’s Barn is the ‘dark horse’, dwelling with quiet dignity beside the older, better-known dog-friendly holiday cottage, Tom’s Barn. It has been going just four years. Its name is not reflected in our website and as you know Douglas’s Barn does not take dogs. However, it has a loyal band of followers and has an even higher occupancy rate (99% last financial year) than its older sibling! Tom’s was 95% (still excellent!)
“Our 4th visit and just as wonderful as the previous three. Our usual good weather was the icing on the cake! Thanks so much to John, Marion, Janet and Boots and see you all in 2011.” July 2010
“What a perfect way to spend out first week of marriage! This place is a gem and we definitely want to come back! The weather, place, amenities and people have all been wonderful. Thank you John and Marion!” July 2010
“It’s great to return after six years (NB they stayed last time in Tom’s Barn!) and find everything as wonderful as we remembered. We’ve had an action week of walking and cycling and have enjoyed returning to the peace and tranquillity of Orchard Farm and the comforts of Douglas’s Barn.
Thank you John and Marion for your warm hospitality and all the ‘little extras’, especially the seriously good Bakewell Tart.” June 2010
“We have had the most wonderful stay here – beautiful surroundings, fabulous cottage and warm hospitality…” June 2010
“A wonderful stay again. I can’t contribute to the suggestions book as everything is just perfect. Many many thanks to you all.” June 2010
“Excellent accommodation, extremely well-equipped, superb location!” May 2010
“The perfect place to relax and unwind. Cakes were delicious. Thanks for all you do to make this cottage so special.” May 2010
“Wonderfully relaxing holiday in the best-equipped cottage we’ve had the pleasure of staying in. Bath is a real help in easing the aches from the delightful walks which abound.” May 2010
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 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 […]
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 […]