Romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

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Can you help identify these yellow flowers?

Harebells and a pretty yellow flower!We have been asked to help identify the yellow flower in this photo. These were seen on Wolfscotedale by Graham and Margaret but are to be seen in profusion at the moment, nearly always it seems in the midst of harebells. The yellow and blue looks so pretty together.

John and I couldn’t help, being more admirers than experts on wild flowers (in other words, pretty hopeless!) and there seemed to be so many similar looking speciments in our wild flower books so thought we would throw the question open and hope someone will put us out of our misery!

Some Guests’ Comments from Dog-Friendly Tom’s Barn

Orchard Farm suntrap

Basking in the sunshine outside Tom's & Douglas's Barns

You don’t have to have a dog to enjoy a wonderful holiday in Tom’s Barn. Many but by no means all of our Tom’s Barn guests do come with a dog, or two, but we do our very best to ensure, especially for non- dog owners that you wouldn’t ever guess that we did accept dogs. That is why we charge a bit extra for dogs because it takes real effort, time and dedication (ask Janet!) to erase all doggy traces however well behaved and well-groomed the dog, however careful the owners…

“The best equipped, stocked and presented cottage we have ever stayed in, thank you! So many great walks, both from Parwich and also within easy reach – the walks folder was so helpful. Great food and atmosphere at the George, Alstonefield; Chatsworth lives up to its reputation. So much more to see and do – we hope to return some time.” Aug 2011

“Thank you, both, we had a lovely holiday and what lovely weather we had: sunshine every day! Tom’s Barn is so relaxing, everything is perfect. I loved the flowers and Simon the jam and coconut tart and the marmalade. Great location for visiting all the lovely villages… Ashbourne Park great for the dog – it was Samson’s favourite place.” Aug 2011

“2nd visit and just as lovely as the first! Nice to relax in a wonderful barn after long walks with Benny. So many people return year after year which says volumes for how lovely it really is. We too will come back for another great holiday.” Aug 2011

“ The best equipped, stocked and presented cottage we have ever stayed in, thank you! So many great walks, both from Parwich and also within easy reach – the walks folder was so helpful. Great food and atmosphere at the George, Alstonefield; Chatsworth lives up to its reputation. So much more to see and do – we hope to return some time.” Aug 2011

“Thank you, both, we had a lovely holiday and what lovely weather we had: sunshine every day! Tom’s Barn is so relaxing, everything is perfect. I loved the flowers and Simon the jam and coconut tart and the marmalade. Great location for visiting all the lovely villages… Ashbourne Park great for the dog – it was Samson’s favourite place.” Aug 2011

‘We loved every minute – a week with no rain, too. Not our first visit, nor will it be our last.’ July 2011

Shimmy visited recently

Many thanks, Marion and John, for a lovely stay. The cake was a lovely treat on arrival, and you have thought of everything to make our stay as comfortable as possible! We can recommend a lovely dog-friendly pub – the Packhorse in Crowdecote – great food and ale and a very warm welcome. Thank you again!’ July 2011

“Another lovely stay at Tom’s Barn. We visited in December when everything was covered in snow – lovely to see here in summertime. Chatsworth is a great place to visit – dog friendly, excellent walks. Relaxing and very comfortable and peaceful as ever. Thank you.’ July 2011

‘As usual, we didn’t want to leave.’ June 2011

Rachel and Greg's Poppy

Finally, as far as the dog-friendly business goes, we are so lucky in the village because there is a lovely young woman called Delia Pegg who for a fee which will depend on the dog/s and what you want doing. She will dog sit/walk/groom which can be very convenient if you want a dog-free spell for any reason. Phone her on 01335 390 758 or 07773 487 882 – she is very busy so you’d need to give her lots of warning.


Tom’s Barn Blog – Spare Our Blushes!

Bird's-eye view of Tom's and Douglas's Barns

Tom's & Douglas's Barns and our guests - the heart of it all

There I was early this morning at Derby’s Pride Park stadium overlooking the football pitch, all ears, concentrating intently. No, I wasn’t watching a football match although one day I perhaps should; rather, I was hoping fervently to pick up some tips from Liam Lally, today’s E-Business club trainer at their Breakfast Briefing for today, ‘Blogging for Business’.

The briefing was as predictably helpful and stimulating as these seminars always are and I did indeed pick up many tips (and many ‘don’t dos’) which I won’t list here but would happily share with any colleagues or friends interested. One warning though was to avoid wriitng a blog if one didn’t like writing and didn’t feel a ‘passion’ for the subject. I came away realising how lucky I am: I have always enjoyed writing so that is no problem and I can take no credit for it, and John and I absolutely love our ‘job’ running Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns, and all the happy links and memories with our guests and friends that we have been privileged to enjoy over the years. You seem to love coming here, and we love having you. So writing as it were to all of you on the blog has always felt very natural and right, rather like an extended correspondence with a really good friend, about simply anything that comes to mind that might just conceivably interest them but loosely at the heart of it all, is the shared link with Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns.

At that rate, we are doing extremely well, but we would appreciate more responses, so please start commenting even more!

There is a problem though. One hopes the friend would reply, occasionally, and occasionally and rewardingly the friend does but as I confided to Liam afterwards when I went up to reveal my identity (the blushes had started subsiding by then, keep reading…) that not as often as we had hoped. I did feel reassured when he told me that if one wrote one blog post a day for 365 days one could expect one comment a year! So there’s a challenge…

But before we get bogged down with challenges – why the blush? And if Jeremy Brough our wonderful web guru/friend had been there he should have taken nearly all the credit when what should appear on the screen as the last slide of the morning but the front page of our Tom’s Barn Blog!!! Liam presented it as a good example of a local blog. It came so totally out of the blue I felt very startled and really did find myself going a deep purple to the consternation of some of the people on my table who had absolutely no idea why. I was so overcome I don’t even remember all that he said, except that it did seem to be quite complimentary.

Gluts in the Veg Patch: Chocolate Courgette Cake

Making good use of a glut of courgettesThe ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ creeps upon us. Blackberries are ripening, courgettes are turning into marrows while one’s back is momentarily turned, the plums on our old tree are turning a beauiful golden red and are already as sweet as honey, the apple tree can hardly cope with all the apples and the damsons are darkening by the hour. We’re all going to have a busy time and it doesn’t stop with the picking. After the jam and chutneys, the apple puree and damson gin, what to do with all the courgettes?

Soup (lovely), chutneys and pickle (also lovely) chocolate and courgette cake – also sounds very lovely. Riverford Farm have the recipe which you will find the link to  here  but also in their recipe book, page. I tried it yesterday. It smelt delicious but it certainly was a tad on the heavy, somewhat squadgy side. Perhaps 1lb of grated courgete is askig a bit much, and rather more likely, I perhaps should have left it in the oven a little longer. It was compulsive eating though, I kept trying yet another bit, just to reassure myslef that it was really deliciousl. I wonder what our guests’ reaction is… – I hope they will let us know. Meanwhile, here is the link to the recipe, courtesy of Riverford. Do let me know what you think if you make it. i shall certainly try agai as my first attempt was not an unqualified success (and I usually have quite agood success rate with cakes although i say it myself).

Did You Have a Good Time?

Contemporary comfort in Douglas's BarnHere are some of the latest excerpts from comments left in the Douglas’s Barn Visitor’s Book. Occasionally (but we haven’t here) we might add a comment made in an email. We put the date but not the name but all comments are quite genuine and can be seen here. We do not sit it here making them up!

‘What a super, relaxing week. Lovely walks, stunning countryside – and a smashing place to stay with a warm welcome…The best Premier Cottage we’ve stayed in!! Thank you.’ Aug 2011

‘As ever, a lovely stay, with all the little extras. Weather was glorious so what more could we ask… Thanks again!’ H&G

‘Thank you for all the comforts provided in this lovely cottage and especially thank you…for your welcome and all the little extras provided, and fresh flowers, marmalade, good reading and the photo opportunity! We have thoroughly enjoyed this week in Parwich.’ July 2011

‘We have had an excellent stay. Even though we were well informed about what we would find at Douglas’s Barn, it still manages to exceed all of our expectations. We will be back (hopefully to also enjoy some more sunshine). Thank you very much.’ July 2011

‘Idyllic third visit. 10 walks from the barn, plus one at Ilam. Such a perfect place to relax.’ July 2011

‘Absolutely brilliant! From the moment we walked in, we loved it! So well equipped and tastefully decorated. An absolute delight. Thank you so much. Can’t wait to come back soon!’ July 2011

‘We booked our first stay in Douglas’s Barn a year ago – a long time to wait but it has far exceeded all our expectations. From the moment we were greeted by Marion and John everything has been more than perfect (including the weather!). So many extra touches – we both really loved our Bakewell tart – we will return for that alone! The week has gone far too quickly and it will be sad to leave this gorgeous cottage in the most idyllic surroundings, but we will return.’ June 2011

‘Our second stay at Douglas’s Barn and it’s still as wonderful as ever. It has been a thoroughly relaxing and welcome break.’ June 2011

The Holiday of a Lifetime

…but the amazing treat of a  luxury cruise ‘exploring’ off the northern coast of Borneo for our daughter Ruth! When she rang us only a few days ago to say that she was off, thanks to the kindness of one of her very great friends who had invited her to accompany her on this exciting trip, we were overcome with excitement for them both.

With very little time for lengthy shopping expeditions for suitable kit for the luxury side of things or indeed the marine and wildlife exploring, snorkelling and scuba diving side of things either, off they flew on Tuesday, as everyone in this country was reeling with shock and horror at the dreadful news of the the riots and destruction of the previous few days.

Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu… it sounds more poetic than their two changes of aircraft undoubtedly proved to be, before they reached Kota Kinabalu where hopefully the Orion 11 lay waiting in the harbour, having only hours previously disgorged the previous cruise passengers. Apparently the air-conditioning had gone wrong on this previous trip but one hopes they managed to get this fixed before setting off again.

We have heard nothing since they left. Ruthie had warned us that communications from her would be minimal as apparently even text messages are extremely expensive to send, so we are left in the tantalising silence just trying to imagine what amazing experiences she and her friend might be having.

Their home for ten days is the Orion11, recently purchased and refitted by the Orion Expedition Cruises who arrange expeditions to a ‘wide range of rarely visited destinations; all enjoyed in a casual ambience, with 5 star facilities and attentive service on board. No doubt there will be suitable translations for some of the items on the dinner menus – I spotted ‘steamed yabbies’ amongst other intriguing delicacies, and grilled ‘mahi mah’.

Their destination, Borneo, is the third largest Island in the world, home to the world’s oldest tropical rainforests and described as a ‘zoological paradise’; I am told the snorkelling and scuba diving in the Coral Triangle off the north Borneo coast is pretty amazing, too.

We wait, longing to hear how their ’10 Night Sabah Highlights & Sandakan Memorial’ adventure goes. We will let you know when we know!
Just for the record, this image of an exotic coastline is actully carsington!! It was the nearest thing I could find – and it does look very attractive.

Jubilee Chicken Recipe

Well over a month ago now, the Friends of DRCS Fundraising committee hosted a charity lunch for 120, and the dish we prepared was this. Fairly labour intensive for 120, as you can imagine, it should be a doddle for 4 or 8 or even 12. It really is delicious and we received so many compliments at the time and later that I thought I’d share it with you all here. We recently had some friends over for a joint summer  birthday celebration, in theory for a barbecue but because the weather outlook was  dismal we changed plans and had a cosy meal indoors, enjoying a summery Jubilee Chicken and salad. It is going to prove a good standby!

Jubilee Chicken Quantity to serve 4
4 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2tbsp olive oil
1 lime quartered, bunch of flat leaf parsley and grated nutmeg

Marinade
Half lime juiced and zest grated
3cm fresh root ginger peeled and grated
1 clove crushed garlic
1 shallot chopped
2 tbsp olive oil

Dressing
3 floz/ 100ml crème fraiche
6 tbsp mayonnaise
Half lime, juice, zest grated
5cms piece fresh root ginger

Method

Mix marinade in shallow dish. Add chicken and coat thoroughly. Refrigerate, covered for 2-3 hrs
Mix dressing. Place crème fraiche, mayo, lime juice and zest in a bowl. Peel and grate the ginger then twist in a piece of muslin or press through a sieve to extract juice. Add 2 tsp of juice to dressing.  Stir and cover and chill.
Scrape marinade from chicken, season, drizzle with olive oil and roast in preheated oven 190 c/375f for 25 mins, basting occasionally. Leave to cool completely then cut into bite size pieces and cover with dressing.

It really is delicious. I am sure one could think of all sorts of variations including adding apricots or mango or even grapes and perhaps a hint of curry, using a good quality paste. I’d welcome any suggestions!

A TripAdvisor Bouquet for Tom’s & Douglas’s Barns?

Tom's and douglas's barns are always 'full of flowers'“Be Warned!” Our latest TripAdvisor review starts off rather worryingly, as if our steady flow of guests is to be put off in a stroke … But no! Thankfully the reviewer goes on to say of Tom’s Barn “this as a dog owner is the best place I have ever stayed in!”.  Phew! We try so hard to make sure everything is just right for our guests but things can go wrong in the most ordered of households as we all know…!  (In fact we do have a  leaking kitchen tap in Tom’s Barn (a new tap is on order but typically it’s taking time.)

But no, again! Taps weren’t on the reviewer’s mind and the rest of his report is very positive after a shaky start!  The previous TripAdvisor report starts off less worryingly. Marlous writes, from the Netherlands,  ‘We had a fantastic stay last month at Douglas’s Barn. Everything was brilliant, the view, the location, the facilities,’ which is lovely for us to hear.

Interestingly our top plus point is “fresh flowers “(7)

TripAdvisor picks out what it considers the main plus points from guests’ reviews. I suppose it could be minus points- the main ones anyway.  It would be interesting to know how they work this out.

Three pluses tie with 3 points each very warm welcome“, “personal touchand “lovely place. It makes us so happy to see in black and white that our guests do really seem to feel relaxed and well cared for; we had an email tonight from a guest who left last week wanting to book a third holiday as soon as possible, which seems to back this up too. She says in her email’: “We had such a lovely time neither of us wanted to go home” but when they got home they “both felt so rested they can’t wait to come back!’

It works both ways. We are very aware what lovely guests we seem to have, which makes running our two holiday cottages very easy and a total pleasure for us.

Booking Some Pleasure for 2012

This rather beautiful water lily on our pond is the nearest we could get to a lotus –  a wonderful gleam of light in the dark…

With all the current gloom and financial doom it feels – it is –  all the more important to have some  some easily afforded self-indulgent treats to look forward to in the what well may be excessively dreary months ahead. And now at last you can again, on a whim, in the middle of the night, without having to make any contact with anyone…book a holiday here, the thought of which may help keep you plodding on towards 2012 with your chin up and a gleam in your eye.

We all love to go abroad (and just wait till we tell you where our daughter Ruthie is going next week). Sadly we can’t all do wonderful cruises to exotic places as somebody else’s guest, and anyway there’s not too much chance of a cruise in the land-locked Peak District but we can do our best to provide the opportunity for a wonderfully relaxing and peaceful holiday with beautiful scenery, wonderful walks, excellent pubs and restaurants – and Chatsworth and Haddon on the doorstep.

Holidaying in this country need hardly be a penance: no ghastly injections or anti-malarial pills, you are unlikely to need to use an airport, you won’t waste half your week getting over jet-lag, you are equally unlikely to get some ghastly foreign tummy-bug or have (total) difficulty making yourself understood and you may even find some of the scenery as beautiful as any (even Lord Byron said of Dovedale that one needn’t bother going to Swtzerland when such beauty was to be found here.)

Anyway, what I am building up to say is that – and not before time – I have put next year’s prices onto our 2012 booking calendar, so at long last if you are booking for next year you won’t meet with a blank wall implying we have gone out of business or are fully booked but actually only meaning that we had been extremely slow to get oursleves organised. So, all those that have already booked must be complimented for their persistence and from now on it should be easier.

Also, I should have added, that although all the 2012 prices have had to go up qiuite considerably, all holidays booked this year go at the current 2011 rate (and of course, if you have stayed here before, you get another (roughly) 5% off so it gets cheaper and cheaper.

Keeping Up With Technology

We have been so lucky in the Peak District in Derbyshire to be able to take advantage of some wonderful and completely free training that is provided for small to medium businesses many of whom operate in very rural areas, bringing employment and money into what are often deprived – if very beautiful – parts of the county.

Having taught for a lot of my adult life, I am an absolute glutton now for being on the other side of the fence, for learning rather than imparting; since John retired he has started coming to many of the sessions as well, all of which are to do with running a small business as well as possible and using all the technology available to help.  On Wednesday I went hotfoot to Buxton – on my own this time – to a workshop on ‘Social Media for Business’. As we are struggling to make something of our new Facebook Business presence this couldn’t have come at a better time. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube… we have been dabbling half-heartedly on the edges of all these for a while, Facebook for nearly 4 years now, but all rather – actually very – half-heartedly.

But now we are assured, and actually are well aware ourselves,  that this is the way things are going so there is no point in being half-hearted. We are trying to be more grownup and positive, and have decided to try seriously to develop our Social Media presence as well as we can. It is all fun and actually I am finding it very exciting but of course there are only a few hours in every day, and one thing we have discovered, you are never ever finished. In the old days one could tackle a task, identify when it was achieved and settle back with a sigh of satisfaction. Twitter and Facebook etc are never finished. They are alive! One has to be very disciplined to hold back – new messages and comments keep pinging in…

In an obscure way, it is almost like having a second website but one based on communication rather than explanation. Because of the instant communication, it is a constantly changing scene, with the ‘owner’ having much less control. To my surprise, I find I am beginning almost hooked. Our Facebook page is becoming more interesting to us and hopefully it will soon be  a bit more interesting to others. We are hoping to be able to cheer things up a bit; at the moment everything all looks a bit dull and unexciting, but we have hopes….

Dullness notwithstanding, , please have a look at – and if you would care to like – the Tom’s Barn and Douglas’s Barn page, we would still be pathetically grateful! And if you have any suggestions about what might be useful, essential or just entertaining and fun, please let us know… We are on new ground here and eager or any tips we can get!


LATEST NEWS

  • What a great place to spend Christmas!

    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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