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Jane Eyre – the Film and Behind the Scenes

A little gap, explained by a quick trip to London, where two of our young and many friends live. It is always lovely to go down; to enjoy the buzz and fit as much as possible into the time, but how lovely it always is to get back to the sweet air of Parwich and the Peak District. I always swear that even if I were blindfolded I would always know when I’d reached home.

Anyway, back to the buzz…and amongst other mild excitements I went with Ruthie and a friend to see the new Jane Eyre at the new Westfield Centre. Nick joined us for a delicious Vietnamese meal from one of the nearby eating places (a first for me) and then we reclined  in luxurious comfort in enormous leather (?) seats in the very plush cinema at the very top of the White City shopping centre to watch the film.

Having very recently re-read the book I found it quite puzzling to start at the moment when Jane runs away after a ‘just cause and due impediment’ to Rochester marrying her is declared in church. Thereafter the action darts back and forth, potentially confusingly for anyone whose memory of the story is there but only faintly – possibly better if one didn’t know the story at all.

Mr Rochester (Michael Fassbender – apparently a German born Irish actor) is better looking than he should be although he tries rather unconvincingly to look ugly and brooding; Mia Wasikowska (Australian) and Mrs Fairfax (Judi Dench) were all excellent if slightly unconvincing at times. That’s the trouble when one has both read the book and seen different films in the past., but I thoroughly enjoyed the film and look forward to seeing it again soon.

Knowing Haddon Hall so well made the film doubly fun. I had been wondering afterwards how on earth a film can be shot with all the actors, crew and equipment in a busy hall, which is usually filled with visitors, when to my delight an email popped up on my screen advertising a ‘Jane Eyre Behind the Scenes Tour’ at Haddon on Saturday 8th October at 10.30. You really have to ferret around on the Haddon website to find out any info so here is the link to Haddon Special Events or you can ring 01629  810 912 to book a place (£11.50 per person).

Some Dog-Friendly News from Tom’s Barn

Here is a photo taken this afternoon of a very handsome Smudge who did not want to be hosed down after a boggy walk in the High Peak today. And just for good measure one of Boots our much-loved 14-year old cat inherited from my father Douglas, taken yesterday.

We warmly  welcome dogs (and the occasional cat) and their owners to Tom’s Barn and it is evident from what our guests tell us  and all the forward bookings (and the  disappointed scores we have to turn away all the time) that this feeling is mutual..What does this mean to the dogless?

Tom’s Barn welcomes dogs but Douglas is Dogless

Please  be reassured,  you don’t have to have a dog to stay in Tom’s Barn! All our guests  are just as warmly welcome, with or without a dog. We have never done a count up to see what the percentage of dog-owner visitors is but I would guess at more than half, possibly more like three quarters. The dogless have the advantage that they can make the choice between Tom’s Barn or Douglas’s Barn.

Douglas’s Barn, which also has its own loyal band of followers, is always dog-free. Many choose it for its peaceful colour scheme and quirky design, the spacious bedroom and the power shower (not to forget the slightly bigger-longer bed…). However it is particularly attractive to those who fear (we trust totally unnecessarily) that where there have been dogs there will be evidence of doggy smell or hair.

A lot of dog friendly accommodation really isn’t of a good standard, and having spent time at Tom’s Barn it really is a hard act to follow!” wrote a happy dog-owner who stayed here in july for her second visit.

Another guest comments on Tripadvisor that dog-owners can often find themselves being given a  raw deal,  “If you’re worried about staying at Tom’s Barn don’t (worry), this as a dog owner is the best place I have ever stayed in, clean and really comfortable.”

Finally, here is a link to a local website, Dog Friendly Peak District, (you may find you have to register first) which has some useful information including a list of dog-friendly pubs, which however doesn’t include our two favourites, the George at Alstonefield and the Gate at Brassington. By the way, with all of them we do recommend always that you ring beforehand to check; pub owners can change their policy after one too many tricky canine incidents (not all dogs or owners are so well-mannered as ours invariably are!).

Prize-Winning Biscuit Recipe

My cake may not have been rated by the Parwich Horticultural Show judge (apparently a genuine Home Economics teacher) nor my jam, but I take heart from the fact my biscuits were given FIRST PRIZE! I must admit it is a very good recipe so I can’t take all that much credit; they do always taste pretty special although you must be careful not to burn them…

Before I begin, you must forgive a cook ‘d’un certain age’ who still uses imperial measurements. I will leave any translation into metrics to you. The recipe – possibly South African – was given to my sister and me when we were still at school (in what is now Zimbabwe) and we have both made them pretty consistently ever since so the recipe (imperial measurements and all) has withstood the passage of time and in my case continents.

Ingredients

6 oz butter              2oz icing sugar              5oz flour            2 level teaspoons baking powder             3oz custard powder

Method

Cream the butter and icing sugar until well mixed and soft. Sift in the dry ingredients and knead (by hand or in a processor) until everything is completely mixed in and smooth.

Roll small pieces of the dough into walnut sized balls. Place them – not too close together – on a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper. Flatten them with a fork.

Bake in a moderate oven, or on the grid shelf of the floor of the roasting oven in an Aga, with the cold plain shelf slid along the second set of rungs from the top.

They will probably take about 20-25 minutes to cook, depending on how big you make them, but start looking after about 15, because they burn quite easily.  When ready they are yellowish and firm.

Water, Water, Everywhere? Or Just for Elephants?

I was amused to see that the next film to be shown at the Parwich cinema (otherwise known as the Memorial Hall) is ‘Water for Elephants’.  There are not too many elephants round here, and not too much water at the moment either. When did it last rain?

It can’t be that long ago, but it can’t have been up to much either (must consult the weather gurus on Parwich blog). Overall, we must have had rather little recently. These photos will bear me out.

The first one is of my  brother-in-law and Aileen his wife, on the stepping stones at Dovedale. Admittedly they all have their new topknot now, but still – look how proud they stand out of the water! We happily crossed from one side to the other with no risk of slipping because they were so dry and the Dove so invitingly shallow had we missed our footing.

I don’t remember ever seeing so relatively little water at Carsington, either. I took some photos as I passed today  and here is one – not very good (taken with my phone) but which I hope give an indication of the low level. Then I stopped at the ‘splash’, the ford on the way to Tissington. It was looking as attractive as ever, but the water lower than I ever remember seeing it. There may be a reasonably long stretch of wet, but – especially if you click on the photos to enlarge it – you can see that it is only a couple of inches deep. (It can be well over a foot deep and not quite so mirror-like and still!)

Next time we are tempted to complain about the rain, we must remember this.

Borneo Cruise, Ruthie’s Report

You’ve heard from Casilda Grigg, via her report in the Spectator of 21st September 2011; now you can read Ruth’s long-awaited account…

My friend Casilda offered me a wonderful opportunity, totally out of the blue – to join her as she’d been commissioned to write a travel piece about a cruise for the Spectator.  Initially I thought a cruise? No way!  Like most people I thought a cruise involved extremely overweight people increasing their problem by taking advantage of a 24 hour free buffet and probably playing bridge all day.  Casilda persisted – for which I will always thank her – and my interest was piqued, along with a sense of how rarely such an amazing opportunity lands on your lap.  Very kindly my bosses let me take a trip at short notice, and it was all a bit of a blur of trying to work out flights and packing and clearing the decks so I didn’t have very much time to find out in detail about what lay ahead.  In some ways that was part of the fun.

The journey to Borneo was not bad at all – although it was 24 hours’ travelling in all – because we flew Emirates and they very kindly upgraded us, so we took full advantage of the extremely comfortable beds in Business Class and the Veuve Reserve.  We had a night to recover in a super hotel  then embarked in Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo.  From the off I loved it all.  The Orion II was a small ship in cruise terms (50 cabins) and the people on the trip were all fun, fit and energetic (probably because they were mostly Australian; Orion is an Australian company).

Every day we were off the ship almost all day – often at the crack of dawn.  Our activities ranged from attending a very moving memorial service for those who died in the Sandakan Death Marches to exploring Buddhist Temples and Churches to visiting a modern Rungus Longhouse.  I went diving; I met Orang Utans; I swam in a mud volcano – probably one of the most fun things I’ve ever done as it met my requirement that a perfect holiday should involve some form of regression to childhood.  I went upriver on a sort of water safari and saw amazing wildlife, including snakes and monitor lizards.  And I think I danced back on the ship every night – Casilda and I saw it as our role to lead the charge onto the dance floor – and to be ready for that I had great fun experimenting with what I thought was Cruise Wear.

But there was a reflective side to it all too; it was called an expedition cruise, and for good reason.  We were in a different spot every day, moving at night – and how brilliant it was not to have to pack, and to get back to a luxurious cabin at the end of every (extremely tiring) day.  There was an emphasis on sustainability and helping the communities we visited: we planted trees to make a small effort against palm oil plantation deforestation and visited a school that Orion supports.

It was also about learning: there were experts on hand (historian, biologist, naturalist, geologist) whose brains you could pick whenever it suited you – it usually suited me over dinner and wine.  They were all fascinating and generous with their knowledge.  The food was amazing – I loved it, and managed to have a three course breakfast on all days were time allowed, including an omelette cooked to my direction.  The thing that struck me most though was the Malaysian people we met.  Every single one was friendly, funny, and open, with a wonderful turn of phrase and naughty sense of humour along with a real sense of pride in their country and in Borneo.  I’d love to spend more time there and I would LOVE to do another cruise.  And I think I could even learn to live with a 24 hour buffet too.

North Borneo Cruise Update

Some of you may remember that our daughter Ruthie recenty returned from an amazing cruise round the north Borneo coast, thanks to a very good friend of hers, Casilda Grigg, who had been commissoned to write a piece on this Orion Expedition Cruise for the Spectator. We in turn have commsssioned a short personal account from Ruthie for our Tom’s Barn Blog but this has not yet materialised – she has not been as speedy as Casilda whose splendid article is in today’s Spectator.

Do read her piece! Their trip sounds just the sort of luxury-but-interesting cruise without the cowds that we’d really love too, in theory, not that we are ever likely to be lucky enough to go on one – the ‘starting’ price per person does not even include the flight there and back… The Peak District will happily do for us.

Casilda writes beautifully, and so evocatively; it’s enough to cause writer’s block in anyone with pen in hand (or sitting at a computer keyboard for that matter).  “Keep calm and carry on,” I tell myself as I plug on quietly, trying to remember that at least I am writing, when I do, it is for my own personal pleasure and others’ occasional mild entertainment, not as a highly respected journalist like Casilda Grigg.

John found this rather spendid photo of two Rhinecerous Hornbills, unfortunately not in the wild but in Singapore Zoo which explains the bowl rather conveniently attached to the bough!

Explanation and Apology for a Long Silence

A few of the guests enjoying the sunshine in the garden

Some party guests

We have been away, away from the seat of power – it’s as simple as that. I had fondly thought I could daily – although possibly still without photos – send posts composed laboriously with one or at the most two fingers on my mobile phone but hadn’t reckoned with the amount of general activity and socialising that kept me almost permanently from the miniature keyboard.

We started the spell away with a memorable birthday party arranged for a very good, very longstanding good friend of ours (not going to say ‘old friend’) who was celebrating a memorable birthday, so things started off well and continued in a very happy and nostalgic vein. We then travelled up to our old hunting ground of Scarborough to stay with another longstanding friend for a few days.

The Bramcote headmaster and his wife with J and MF-S

J & M with the Bramcote headmaster and his wife


This kind friend had laid on three days of interest and fun, meeting up with old friends, a super visit to Bramcote School where we had been for twenty busy, happy, fullfilled years, a quick nostalgic trip to Scarborough cricket ground and another old family friend then finally, a visit to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, where we saw Neighbourhood Watch, the (current) very last play to be written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn himself. (This is the third year running we have been lucky enough to do so; all being well he will have written yet another by this time next year.)

We have seen many of his 75 plays over the years, most of them written and first seen in Scarborough.  His plays are always an imaginative and often quite subtly disturbing mixture of belly laughs and black humour, all enhanced by the perfect timing and delivery of his Scarborough actors.

A glimpse of Scarborough Harbour

Neighbourhood Watch was extremely topical, dealing with vandalism and mayhem on the streets; it is how the neighbourhood reacts, with increasing and quite unjustifiable violence itself that is even more disturbing. We all assumed that Alan had dashed off the play since the riots but apparently he wrote it last October which is yet more disturbing; we have still to see how the affected communities do react in the long term.

And now we are safely back in peaceful Parwich, and slowly getting back to normal but I fear it may take several days to catch up properly. Rightly, I should end with another apology…

Using my iPhone to write a post

This is a rather alarming experiment (I know many of you will wonder what the fuss is all about but I am equally sure many of you will sympathise).

So, one finger tapping away. I won’t consider adding a photo -keep that excitement for next time! This is all I am going to say. I’m feeling fairly worn out with the tension. Will it appear?

Facing up to Facebook

I am rather proud of the fact that despite advancing years and general lack of ‘coolness’ we have been on Facebook for over three years. What isn’t quite so impressive is that in those 3 plus years I have done very, very little and have tended only to respond to others rather than initiate anything positive (rather the way I am with LinkedIn now, but I keep meaning to get to grips with that, too).

The pressure is now on. With apparently half the population of Great Britain on Facebook alone, never mind Twitter and all the others, one just has to accept that social networking is part of life already, just as email has become, and mobile phones and whatever else is in store for the future. We have been waking up to this in our little part of the world, helped enormousy by wonderfully inspirational training provided, free at the moment (thanks to European funding) by the ebusiness club which is run mainly I think by the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce for all small/medium sized businesses in the East Midlands.

Not surprisingly, the funding situation is becoming very insecure so we all tend to go to as many relevant sessions as possible while the going is good! The workshops and seminars are all designed to help what may be fairly isolated small businesses keeping up with website design and optimisation, online marketing, social media, wireless and mobile working etc. Most of the Peak District Premier Cottages owners have made full use of all that’s on offer and we have all benefitted enormously.

The emphasis on social marketing has struck home and as a group we have decided all to develop a Facebook page for our own properties, but we also have started our own Peak District Premier Cottages page which is building up slowly. Do please have a look! And while you are on Facebook, please have a look at our Tom’s Barn and Douglas’s Barn one as well and if you are that way inclined, please do ‘Like’ us as well.

Our terrific webman Jeremy Blough has worked hard in not very much time to design our Welcome page which is meant to reflect the feel of our website… Any comments, suggestions and (gently worded) citicisms will be gratefully accepted. We know we have a lot to learn.

Thumbs Up for the Druid

Good Food not too far from Tom's and Douglas's Barns

Enticed by a post in the Parwich Blog and encouraged by the fact that we had had a busy day and there didn’t seem much prospect of a decent home-cooked meal tonight from the chefs at Orchard Farm  we eagerly set off for the Druid this evening to undertake some vital research.

And how glad we are that we did! We were greeted pleasantly but not pushily when we arrived at the bar, where several people were sitting at tables eating, drinking and chatting quietly. We ordered a glass of wine, asked to look at the dinner menu and quickly decided to stay while we chatted to the new(ish) young owners and staff trying to find out a bit more about the current Druid situation.

The new owners took over in January, have a new chef who has scaled down and refined the menu,  which they descibe as ‘modern Derbyshire’ (with not a hint of the previous owners favoured black pudding as far as we could see)  and is making most of what they serve in house, from tomato ketchup up. Apparently it was his night off tonight but we both had an excellent meal. John had ‘Sheffield’ fish cake and chips which was a new one on us (and possibly not totally ‘Derbyshire’ either…). It was layers of white fish and potato, in a crisp batter and quite delicious; it came with mushy peas and the statutary  criss coss arrangement of fat chips. I had herby pancakes with ‘mushrooms in a creamy sauce, spinach and feta’, plus a salad and hot green beans and red onion. I loved every mouthful!

Just coffee and no puds for me but John had some ice cream described as vanilla but rather more interesting than that but neither of us could identify what the flavour was. It tasted home made, but we didn’t check. The whole came to £41 I think including tip and two large glasses of wine, so good value whilst certainly not not cheap.

We asked for some sample menus but they didn’t have any and suggested we looked on the website; the website however appears still to be under construction so we didn’t get very far there! However, we shall certainly recommend it to our guests and any friends that ask, and let’s hope the current owners make a go of it (there were only six of us in the dining room…). We are only too aware that owners come and go and repuations go up and down, so we’d be very grateful to be kept up to date and would welcome all comments (please!).


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