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Champagne & Chocolate for lucky Douglas’s Barn guests

Way back last January the local Peak District Premier Cottages owners (there are eighteen of us, all with Five and top-level Four Star Holiday cottages) arranged an email campaign to about 6,000 of our joint contacts reminding everyone of the joys of visiting our cottages in the spring.  A prize of chocolates and champagne was offered to the first people to book a holiday in any one of our cottages (over 50 between us all).

And we are delighted to say that the first people to book were Michael and Julie, who booked a weekend here in Douglas’s Barn; rather than opting for a spring break, they decided to come here in the late autumn and are staying here now! We didn’t tell them of their prize – so having purchased a box of Belgian chocolates and laid some very nice champagne on ice in Douglas’s Barn we awaited their arrival with some excitement.

Of course they were fairly amazed, and very delighted. They admitted that they, like probably most of us, usually mistrusted tempting promises of prizes such as this, so they were delighted to discover that when Premier promises things they do happen!

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for Tom’s & Douglas’s Barns

Through the post the other day came this most impressive certificate from TripAdvisor, accompanied by a letter congratulating us on achieving “one of the most powerful recommendations – the endorsement of other guests“.

John has photocopied the certificate (we were only sent one) and we have proudly put one in each of our two holiday cottages. We are really delighted to have received such nice reviews and are very grateful to those guests who have submitted them. Mostly we have no idea who you are, so please accept our genuinely humble thanks.

However delighted we are, we are well aware that one can never sit back on any laurels that might come one’s way. We do genuinely want to provide the ‘best holiday ever’ to quote a certain recent video and are always trying to think of what next we can do to make your holiday even more satisfying/relaxing/memorable etc. On the whole, unless we are responding to a specific suggestion our philosophy is rather self-indulgent – we are always trying to think of what we ourselves would love to find in the holiday cottage of our dreams (haven’t found it yet…).

Fortunately so far we all seem to be on more or less the same sort of wave-length. Please tell us if/when we start to lose it.

Autumn at Orchard Farm

All around us the leaves are just beginning to turn and everywhere is looking very beautiful.

John took this photo this morning and I couldn’t resist sharing it here although it does look better on the big screen and even better in real life!

We’ve picked the last of our damsons, are doing our best to cope with the apples and have a massive harvest of grossly overgrown courgettes.

Orchard Farm Updates

This will be a rather bitty little piece, with odds and ends of news tying up ends.

Firstly, the DRCS Shopping Fair mentioned a couple of weeks ago was a great success, raising an amazing £5,000 for the Derwent Rural Counselling Service that we, the Friends of DRCS, support. It was hard work, but great fun and there is many a household locally where the Christmas shopping has been at least started very painlessly; as many more households it must be said where the inhabitants are suddenly sporting some rather fetching new garments.

And now to the DRCS Comic Revue, to be held on Saturday 13th November at the Medway in Bakewell and then again on Friday 26th November at the Ashover  Parish Hall. It should be excellent although it must be said John’s and my sketch is in slight doubt unless I get get my moves and words finer tuned! Even the rehearsals are great fun which must be a good sign.

And finally, we have just returned from the Premier Cottages AGM which proved to be an excellent two day stint (with a very pleasant candlelit dinner on the Sunday night. It is a great opportunity to meet up with local colleagues who have all become friends and holiday cottage owners from all over the British Isles. Lots of exciting ideas emerged during the meetings and we all came away feeling very enthused. Let’s hope Cameron’s cuts don’t prevent everyone from going away for a few special days of rest and relaxation in the Peak District (there’s not much sign yet!).

Bloomsbury meets Krakow

It is nearly a month now since we returned from our amazing introduction to Poland, and Krakow in particular, where we went to attend the opening of the exhibition British Bohemia: The Bloomsbury Circle of Virginia Woolf in the International Cultural Centre, arranged by our friend Tony Bradshaw of the Bloomsbury Workshop.

Tony ia specialist in the work of the Bloomsbury Group and has many friends and contacts in that world, so there were over 80 works of art and books, many in private ownership and not normally available to the general public, from Canada ant d the USA as well as Britain. Everything was beautifully exhibited, with the rooms at Charleston, the home and country meeting place for many members of the Bloomsbury carefully created so that for those that knew the house, it was extremely powerful.

We felt very privileged to be part of the gathering, being one of the few total hangers on!  We met up with a number of old friends from university days, members of Vanessa Bell’s family, librarians and owners of original works of art…

The opening and reception took up half of our three days; on the other two and a half days we packed in a great deal; we managed to explore just some of the delights of the ancient city of Krakow, we went to Auschwitz which was very sobering – we felt everyone should go there, to see what man is capable of doing to man and how a repeat must be prevented at all costs… We also went on a highly informative and entertaining ‘communist tour’ to Nova Huta, the communist showpiece town built round the famous steelworks where Lech Walesaa the great trades union and social rights activist lived and worked worked. We developed just some awareness of the changes and pressures and hardships that the Polish people have experienced over the centuries.

We stayed in a charming hotel called the Grodek (so good we actually did a rave TripAdvisor review!) and came away determined to return as soon as possible (and to take only hand luggage if we ever fly Ryanair again).

Chatsworth Attic Sale

We had a very busy week but not so busy that I couldn’t be tempted to go to this momentous sale with our very good friend (our parents and grandparents were friends) Liza, who drove here from near Oundle on Monday, armed with her £30 Chatsworth Attic Sale catalogue, weighing 4lbs and looking like an extremely glossy telephone directory.

The sale was conducted by Sotheby’s and held over three days in a series of marquees down by the river in the Park. The Duke had stressed that it was an attic sale, essentially stuff they didn’t want or could no longer spare the space for, much of it coming from Devonshire House and other Devonshire family homes. On Monday we attended the preview, and along with scores of equally enthralled viewers ogling, dozens of dealers furtively measuring and noting, and any number of Americans talking excitedly into their mobile phones – such history, such breeding…

Indeed, such grandeur and such tat, all on such a big scale. It was wonderful. Adam marble fireplaces at least ten foot tall, dinner services for 90 but with many of the plates seriously chipped, cracked and riveted; indeed. The catalogue was extremely interesting and helpful, describing the context of each article, with relatively modest guide prices.

Liza and I felt we had to go for something, so left a bid for bathroom set which was coming up on the second or third day and which we could split into two – two china jugs and large bowls, soap dishes, two very glamorous potties and a large footbath. Our top bid was £400 (well over the guide price) but it went apparently for £1,300!

The next day, Tuesday, we managed to find seats on the front row, apparently five rows beyond Jerry Hall, but we didn’t know that until we heard it on the news later. Down one side of the marquee were about 12 to 15 people with computers, landlines and mobile phones taking Internet and telephone bids; the press was ranged along the other side. Just in case, I registered as a possible bidder and was given a ‘paddle’ numbered 5176 with which to bid if the unlikely opportunity arose.

Needless to say it didn’t. The prices were vast, as were most of the articles – an enormous length of George 11 chandelier chain (no chandelier) went for £22,000; a marble George 11 fireplace went for  £470,000 and a door (higher than most ceilings) £30,000, and so on.

What an experience! I wouldn’t have missed it for the world but sadly Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns will have no marble fireplaces or chandeliers chains installed – no cherished piece of the Devonshire family history for us to brag about.

‘Champagne & Shopping’

This will only be of interest to local friends and readers of our blog but I can’t resist sharing a tip/putting in a plug for this event.

The 2010 annual DRCS Shopping Fair takes place this week at the Maynard in Grindleford (S32 2HE for those reliant on a Satnav.)

Om Wednesday between 4 – 8 pm will be the ‘preview’ with sparkling wine, canapes and the chance to have the pick of all the exciting things for sale – plus the chance of possibly winning a diamond…! Tickets £10 per person.

The fair continues all day Thursday from 10 to 4: no champagne or canapes but snacks and drinks available from the hotel itself. Tickets for the day £5 (Or £2.50 if purchased in advance – let me know via the blog or email and I can arrange it)..

The Derwent Rural Counselling Service (DRCS) is a small but well-respected charity based it Bakewell, which provides professional counselling for local people. Last year approximately 3,000 hours of counselling were provided. Clients are asked for a donation which represents roughly 25% of the cost of providing the counselling hence the constant need for funds.

The Friends of DRCS (I am one!) work hard to support the service. We have organised this event, and next month a Comic Revue which also will be an excellent event. (John and I both appear on the stage but there are also many more extremely talented genuine pros. More about that later.

The Wildest Dream is now here!

Just to let you know that The Wildest Dream is now showing in a number of cinemas (and is actually coming to Derby next week). Some of you may remember that we went to the premier in March, in London – I don’t quite know what the delay has been but we certainly will go again.

We are certainly biased, because our daughter Ruth works for Atlantic Productions and has been heavily involved in the background although not actually filming I must admit, nor going up Everest; even so – in spite of the bias – I think it a memorable film, interesting in many ways and on different levels and would urge anyone to see it who has the chance.

Let us know what you think if you do go.


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