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The Country House Revealed – Wentworth Woodhouse

Our nephew, Tim Cragg, whom we have mentioned before, has just emailed to remind us that tonight at 9 o’clock on BBC 2 we have a chance to see a documentary (I presume) about Wentworth Woodhouse, Britain’s biggest stately home, once described as ‘the mansion of mystery and malice’.

I thought it might be worth mentioning here. We shall certainly watch it, although whether the mysteries will be solved Tim does not say (some years ago a previous owner burnt all the family papers, obviously to hide some secret he did not want revealed, but what??!).

Tim is the cameraman, Dan Cruikshank the presenter…

Comments and Local Recommendations from our Guests

Orchard Farm front doorThese comments below all come from the Visitors’ Books too, but as they have some very helpful recommendations I have extracted them and put in links to help any research (I haven’t repeated any links (e.g. the George, which doesn’t appear after the first one). I felt quite tantalised copying them out and have made several mental notes of places and walks for us to try – one would need lots of walks to balance the lovely food one’s being recommended.

“Our 4th visit to the wonderful Tom’s Barn. As always a lovely warm welcome from Marion and John, and the barn is as perfect as ever. We took a walk along the Cromford Canal – the amount of different wildlife on one walk was amazing. Had a couple of meals at the Coach and Horses at Fenny Bentley – great food, served all day. Already planning visit no. 5. Thanks again to Marion and John and their team for our perfect holiday.” May 2011

“Many thanks for a lovely stay in a splendidly equipped cottage (Tom’s Barn). We enjoyed dinner at the George in Alstonefield, a walk round Carsington Water and the teashop at Monsal Head, plus lots of lovely walks. Check out the Teashop Walk books in the bookcase. A delightful time in a beautiful part of the country.” May 2011

“Our second visit to this fabulous cottage (Douglas’s Barn)! We’ve had another fantastic holiday – very relaxing and we couldn’t have wished for better weather! Good food and service at the Devonshire Arms at Pilsley, Saracen’s Head, Shirley and the George at Alstonefield…the lemon drizzle cake was delicious!” May 2011

“A beautiful cottage (Douglas’s Barn’) with wonderful hosts and lots of walks – Dovedale is quite near and quite spectacular. Haddon, Kedleston and Sudbury Hall all repay a visit. Bakewell is really good for shops and Lathkill Dale – in the National Nature Reserve – a hidden secret. Lovely holiday!” April 2011

“We’ve all had a great time. Lots of walks – Hawksmoor, Dimmingsdale (if you go there stop for lemon meringue pie at the Ramblers’ Retreat) and Dovedale. The house (Tom’s Barn) is so cosy it’s hard to leave! We’ll be back.” March/April 2011

“Our first visit to Tom’s Barn and we are already planning a return visit. Without doubt, the most comfortable, clean and well-equipped cottage we have stayed in. Completely satisfied our book addiction at Scarthin Books and Brierlow Bar Book Store and had lovely days at Chatsworth and Kedleston Hall. However, the highlight of the weekend was Marion’s cake, heaven on a plate!” March 2011

Trying to Keep on Top…of everything

Orchard Farm front doorWe really do try to keep on top of things, as best we can… On one level that is relatively easy, trying to keep a critically objective eye on the state of the barns, decorating and replacing before necessary rather than after, so that the barns always look pristine and well-equipped, although there are areas in the rapidly developing audio-visual/electronic equipment department where we feel distinctly less confident.

Talking of which, we go to lots of wonderfully stimulating workshops and conferences on using the Internet effectively, but every time one touches the same subject again things have already moved on apace, so we just do the best we can. Since earlier this year we have a wonderful new format for our website, thanks to a lot of hard work by our web-man/guru/friend, Jeremy Brough and I must add, quite a lot of input from us this end, too, as we realised how much of the original material needed refreshing, rewording or just completely rewriting!

We now have (almost) full control of what is on the website and blog, and are still learning (HTML codes etc). There is quite a lot to do to keep the sites fresh and reasonably interesting and relevant; we love our life here and all our guests, and writing for the website always feels like writing a letter to friends, or chatting on the phone, so that aspect is no hardship at all! But sometimes one is too close to see the obvious and we do genuinely want suggestions from people about our new website – what else we should do, what is misleading, confusing, unnecessary, hard to find.

Someone told us that our Policies (lurking under ‘More Info’) were difficult to locate so that is something to address. Another constructive suggestion came from Derek and Jenny – click on the link and see the comments below the post. Ensuring the comments on the various pages are kept up to date is quite time consuming and because not urgent, has tended to get left to last. So we have taken on board their suggestion that I may (probably already have) run out of steam  and will gradually remove most of the comments from the various pages, maybe leaving one or at the most two (perhaps we shouldn’t date them, then it won’t be so obvious – there’s a thought)!

So anyone who wants to see what other guests have said will have to click through the various links to posts on the blog. There are straightforward comments from the Visitors’ Books, but also sometimes we have really useful comments and recommendations about walks and places to eat via email which is slightly different. But first, I must copy in the latest batch of snippets from the Visitors’ Books…

More fun things to do while you’re here in the Peak District

As the summer season approaches, and more prosaically, probably because half term and the next Bank Holiday weekend is coming up, there seems to be a lot of information about what’s on, so I will try to distill some of it, with links so you can find out more.

The Monsal Trail: There is exciting news abut the new stretch of the the Monsal Trail from Bakewell to Millers Dale which was due to be officially opened today by the Duke of Devonshire. Previously one hadn’t been able to go through the tunnels which have now been repaired. All our local trails are great for walkers, cyclists and people on horseback – and wheelchairs and mobility scooters; they are well maintained, reasonably level and completely free from cars; the Monsal Trail goes through spectacularly beautiful country and is well worth a trip – preferably on a weekday, possibly, as you may not be the only people there, particularly at the weekend…

There are various access points en route, but the first link we give is for the one nearest Bakewell, Hassop Sation, where one can park at the Hassop Bookshop and cafe, enjoy pleasant food, buy books and hire bikes, including the electric variety. (We’ve tried the cafe and the bookshop, not the bikes!) However, you could also start from Monsal Head – some pleasant decisions to be made!

Chatsworth: There is lots planned at Chatsworth this summer – best to look at this link which will tell you much more than I can. Do be prepared for the fact that Chatsworth House itself is shrouded in scaffolding so you don’t at present get that dramatic first view we all love so well, of thr house glinting in the sunshine as you descend through the park. If you’re interested in art you may like to see their first exhibition in their New Gallery (it opens May 27th) rather enticingly entitled ‘Britain’s Most Eligible Batchelor’ –  the 6th Duke who sadly is no longer available. The 2011 Chatsworth Country Fair is on Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th September.

Sally Mosley Walks: If you rather like the idea of a guided walk, taken in a very relaxed, pleasant way by someone who knows and loves the area, it might be worth looking at this link for her forthcoming walks and contacting Sally. She will also arrange a personal walk exactly to suit your requirements if you ask her, which at least one guest recently has appreciated enormously.

The Heights of Abraham/cable cars: This is something that rather shamefully over the years we have never done but we happily pass on some info and yet another link, feeling we really must try the cable cars ourselves – manwhile we await some first hand reports from guests! Once up at the top there seems to be a lot to do, before you come down to earth again!

Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns Proud Link with the BAFTAs

A bit of a cheeky title really, but we have been watching the BAFTA awards this evening, scouring every table for views of our daughter, Ruthie who we know was there and our nephew, Tim Cragg, who should have been there but we didn’t see him either… ! Not a glimpse of either of them did we spot but to our enormous pleasure and pride,  Flying Monsters 3D with David Attenboroughthe film ‘starirng’ Sir David Attenborough that they all at Atlantic Productions have been working on with Sky3 won the specialist factual award.

Ground breaking 3D technology and David Attenborough is an unbeatable combination, and we are very proud of nephew Tim Cragg, who as the Director of Photography had already won the Bafta Specialist Factual Award for this film. Did we know? Not until I discovered by accident a minute ago while looking at the clips of the film – Tim is such a quietly talented and lovely man, so refreshingly modest about his talents – unlike his aunt and uncle, whoi would shout them from the hilltops if only they knew about them. If you look at the awards on his website you’ll see what I mean.

Tom’s Barn – Too Late Now for a Midweek Surprise Self-Indulgence…

For the first time since February last year (when we withdrew Tom’s Barn from availability for ten days while it was completely redecorated) and – oh yes – another sudden illness cancellation in March lst year (when we moved in for a break oursleves!) Tom’s Barn lies empty!! It doesn’t feel right, and of course for the guests who had been looking forward to their week booked a year ago it is very disappointing and sad that they had to cancel.

With due warning we can pretty well guarantee that we’ll be able to relet a spell , but with only one day’s warning we weren’t so lucky. Nobody took up the offer of a week at slightly under half price although we have had a number of frustrated responses from people who would have loved to had not such a thing intervened…so now we are offering a midweek break this Monday 23rd to Friday 27th at £225 (it simply isn’t worth our while letting it for less).

If we are lucky enough to re-let the spell, we will credit the guests-that-cancelled with it, towards their next holiday here. We are able to do that as they have already paid us for it, and they fortunately had taken out insurance. We certainly don’t want to benefit by their misfortune so it would be lovely to be able to let them benefit in a little way themselves. However, at this stage it doesn’t look very promising.

Tom’s Barn suddenly available tomorrow

Tom’s Barn was booked solid until the end of October and now – all of a sudden – we have a whole week free, half price, TOMORROW Friday 20th to Fri 27th May 2011!

As long as you have no pressing engagements and can get together your walking boots and some comfy clothes you won’t need to worry about anything much else; you’ll find all you need foodwise in Tom’s Barn to keep you going at least the first night and morning, then you could stock up in the village shop or make a trip to Tissington for some unbeatable meat, then Ashbourne or one of the Farmers’ Markets or the Chatsworth Farm shop to buy some more delicious treats and you could have the holiday of your lifetime… (and they say the weather is warming up, too).

We feel very sad for the poor couple who have had to cancel. They had been looking forward to their break for nearly a year now, but their dog is so suddenly ill that they can’t travel with him, or leave him behind. If we are lucky enough to find someone sufficiently organised to jump at this great opportunity we will be delighted, and we’ll put the £295 towards their next booking here, when their dog is better.

Before I get too carried away, some ‘terms and conditions’ if anyone is able to jump in:

  • £295 plus £25 each for (up to 2) dogs
  • We’d need this amount up front, by card, please, before you arrive
  • First come first served
  • You could make it a short break, but the price would stay the same.Tom's Barn, one of our 2 romantic cottages for 2 in the Peak District

Tom’s & Douglas’s Barns’ Green Conscience

The Orchard Farm garden is home to hundreds of insects and birdsYou may well have wondered, yet again, at an uncxplained apparent absence of activity… The truth is, I have been extremely busy but not doing fun things like writing on the blog, which to me is sheer relaxation. What has been preoccupying nearly every waking moment since the Horse Trials is our application for an Environmental Quality Mark.

We already have a Silver Award from the GTBS (Green Tourism Business Scheme) so even I have been asking myself the last couple of days why I should be bothering to do this, but done it I have. One quite compelling reason is that it is very much a Peak District scheme, although I gather it may became nationwide eventually, so it is very locally based with the emphasis on how we can protect and support the Peak District, working with other sympathetic organisations and holiday accommodation owners.

It is not just been green in the purely ecological sense, but also in the wider sense of being a ‘good’ citizen, a good employer and customer and a good holiday cottage owner who will look after their guests well.

The time scale or the online application has been very short, and all last week I kept thinking that it woldn’t take that much time, having already covered a lot of the ground with the GTBS, but of course when i got down to it I was shaken to find how wrong I was.

Anyway, all finished within 2 hours of the 10pm deadline tonight, and would you believe it? When I clicked ‘Submit’ with a flourish I got an error message !! In desperation I managed to print the whole thing off and send it by email as a pdf while I await someone the other end to sort out the error and advise me what to do.

Stop Press! Success! The evaluator has just emailed to say he can access our application online so all is well! John has just found this rather lovely (green) bee to celebrate!

Chatsworth Horse Trials

Cantering with 4 horses at once, upright, barebackYou don’t have to be competing to enjoy the Horse Trials at Chatsworth, which take place in May every year; you don’t even have to be horsey although it probably helps.

There was a lot to watch but one impressive thing for us was a man riding four at once, bareback – see the photo. His name is Jean Francois Pignon, a French ‘horse whisperer’ who attracted great and admiring crowds; people were pretty impressed with his horses too, who seemed to know by instinct or empathy rather than shouted instructions. In my ignorance I had never heard of him but he seems to be well  known for his amazing understanding of horses, and goes around  the world giving demonstrations and teaching

We went to the Trials yesterday and are going again tomorrow. We were only too delighted to go, but the official reason was because we are part of a large team of cheerfully willing friends and supporters of the DRCS (Derwent Rural Counselling Service) who have a stand there this year, as Chatsworth’s charity of choice for the event. For those who may have missed any previous explanations about the DRCS, it is a truly remarkable local (Bakewell-based) charity that provides professional counselling help to anyone, young or old, that asks for it and for whom it is going to be the appropriate help (otherwise DRCS would know and suggest a more relevant source).

DRCS was nominated their charity of choice by ChatsworthFriday is a more low-key day and it was relatively quiet; the weather was changeable and pretty windy and cold if one was essentially sitting still – probably quite warm on horseback… Fortunately there were three of us on duty at any one time so nearly always one of us was able to shoot off to watch the events and look at some of the other stalls.

We were stationed near the main ring which was good, next to a wonderful stall selling homemade fudge which was less good – in fact a serious and totally irresistible temptation that we only managed to resist for a very short while.

British Beer, Elizabethan Manor Houses and Electric Bikes

Sudbury HallThe National Trust and the National Brewery Centre… a heady mix for one day and  John and I have just spent a most enjoyable- and useful – day sampling both. Our local tourism board, Visit Peak District & Derbyshire, runs familiarisation trips to local attractions for its members; the idea is to give people an enjoyable day out, whilst learning more about the area.

It also gives the the attractions an opportunity to show off their wares, so to speak, so that accommodation providers can speak at first hand about local places, and be able to recommend helpfully and appropriately to their guests. We have just been on their most recent one: a guided tour round Sudbury Hall, including its impressive Museum of Childhood followed by another tour, round the National Brewery Centre in Burton on Trent and would happily recommend both!

Quite illogically both feel slightly outside our radar, possibly because both are in Staffordshire and we tend to look towards Chatsworth  and Haddon, and even Hardwick Hall and Lyme Park (Cheshire) which are both quite a bit further away. Sudbury is only about 30 minutes’ drive from here. It is a stunning red brick late 17th century house, built by the Vernon family, and lived in by them until it was given to the National Trust in lieu of crippling death duties. It remained more a family house than a grand or ostentatious one, although the grand staircase, cornices and ceilings and Grindling Gibbins wood carvings are hardly modest.

Incidentally, apparently it is a favourite destination of the so-called ‘set-jetters’ who like to visit the settings of films they have enjoyed. The Peak District really comes into its own for this and apparently Sudbury is a favourite haunt of all Pride and Prejudice fans. We were shown the exact settings for many scenes everyone remembered from the film, particularly d’Arcy/Colin Firth addicts.

The Victorian Schoolroom The Museum of Childhood is wonderful. Such a lot of care and imaginative thought has gone into the design and the content; while we were there there were happy groups of children being introduced to old fashioned games, watching someone in an old-fashioned kitchen ironing with a flat iron, having the chance of going up a chimney and  ‘enjoying’ a lesson in a Victorian schoolroom.

None of us were remotely of young school age, but there were constant whoops of delighted remembrance as people pounced on Hornby trains, books, games, toys and clothes they remembered from their own childhood. The Victorian school room with its rows of double wooden desk-with-lids-and -inkwells looked very familiar to a number of us who were educated long after the Victorian era I hasten to say but obviously went to schools which had seen no need to modernise!

There is a very pleasant cafe at Sudbury and a very different one also at the National Brewery Museum which provided us with a delicious buffet lunch. Much more scope for nostalgia here on this second lap of our trip, and plenty of opportunity to sample some draught beer. The only time I personally would think of drinking beer is as a reward after a long walk to a pub but it didn’t take much persuasion to try something called White Shield which slipped down very sweetly! The trouble was for the rest of the afternoon one felt rather dosy and inattentive (good thing this came after the Victorian classroom!).

A quick trip back to Carsington Water, our drop-off point, where John and I saw for the first time the brand new electric bikes which are being piloted in the Peak District and Devon (hilly counties both, where extra power uphill is a great asset!). Friends who use them say they are brilliant but we haven’t yet had a try. You can hire these at Carsington.

So, two very good recommendations at any time, but probably even more especially if the weather looks unpromising and you don’t feel like being outside; the electric bikes a fun thing to consider if the weather is good!


LATEST NEWS

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