Romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

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From Orchard Farm to the Gate in Brassington in 90 seconds

A quick 90 second flit over the hills to Brassington to one of our very favourite pubs, The Olde Gate in Brassington. Now, there’s a challenge – can you do it in less? See below…

In fact the walk takes an hour at a reasonably vigorous rate but this speeded up video will show you the route in a minute and a half. Many of our Tom’s and Douglas’s Barn guests – like we ourselves – love nothing better than to walk over the hills for lunch at the Gate, and then back again (only don’t go on a Monday or a Tuesday because they won’t be open!). Before they go for the first time our lovely guests usually – trustingly – ask us for the best route; we then go into elaborate detail and after the first ‘turn right then immediately left over a stile’ their eyes glaze over and you can tell you there are already lost even before they have set off. They consult maps and always get there in the end, but sometimes by a less than obvious route.

This August Bank Holiday our son Nick and (English) daughter Ruth (as against our Australian daughter, Sara) came home for the weekend. Nick arrived a day earlier than his sister and we confided to him our problem and he immediately offered to do a video. Needless to say we accepted with alacrity, so much so that I did not think of changing into more elegant walking gear than my unironed ‘work’ trousers and an old cotton top.

Off we set, without any to-do and certainly no time to think of a more fetching outfit. It soon turned out that his idea was that I should be filmed from behind, as I stride purposefully out, clearly negotiating each turning in the route. I fancied pointing out the beautiful views and the particularly attractive farm one passes, but Nick felt this would be nothing but a distraction when the whole aim of the exercise was to get to the pub, order a pint of Pedigree and decide what to eat from the list of Specials.

I was allowed a sneaky ‘cuckoo’ at the Cuckoo Gate not far from our house for which I am grateful. We love that echo!

This is very much a first, tentative attempt to provide a visual route map. We would receive any suggestions and advice gratefully, and above all, please let us know if it gets you to the Gate without a hitch, even if not in 90 seconds.

Coping without a Car

One of Parwich’s many charms is its idyllic rural location. The fact we are not on the route anywhere is a wonderful attraction: the only traffic is local and we don’t have speeding cars hurtling through on their way somewhere else.

There is another side to the coin, however, for the carless! We have had several guests recently who have decided for various good reasons to abandon all thought of driving here. Getting here without a car is quite doable if slightly longwinded but for some that is part of the charm and we try to supply these wise souls with helpful suggestions. We have some more people coming under their own steam soon so I thought it might be helpful for them and us all if we gathered some useful ideas and links together and had them all in one place for reference.

Firstly, getting here: The nearest mainline stations are Derby and Chesterfield (both roughly 20 miles away. There are others, slightly further away, including Sheffield, Stafford and Uttoxeter and Macclesfield, best researched via National Rail but unless there was a pressing reason to approach us any other way East Midland Trains to Derby is the obvious choice.

Thereafter, apart from a couple of existing branch lines (see below), to get here one more or less has to rely on buses or taxis, unless one fancies cycling or even walking, both possible but not for the faint-hearted. We would always help out too if we could but hesitate to lay too much stress on this because we may well be busy and unable to help, so don’t include this in your thinking.

We are short on local branch lines. In the olden days my grandparents used to come up here all the way from Lichfield to Alsop-en-le-dale by train. Now we have the Tissington and High Peak Trails instead. However, there are still two little East Midland Trains railway lines which may be useful: firstly, one can take a leisurely journey from Derby to Matlock via various rather picturesque stops, roughly 10 or 11 miles from here. Also, from Manchester via Macclesfield, and Sheffield one can get to Buxton from where it is possible with High Peak Bus bus connections to get to Parwich, I suspect via Ashbourne so it won’t be speedy!

Once you have reached the peace and seclusion of Orchard Farm you will I am sure appreciate finding your kitchen cupboards and fridge well stocked with a pre-ordered delivery from Waitrose or Riverford. So, as part of the pleasure of planning for your holiday we suggest you think about what you’d like to find waiting for you, maybe including a few little luxuries because after all you are saving the environment! For this, refer to the Carless Catering post and also perhaps have a look at Forward Planning for Effortless Catering in the More Info Section of our website.

So! There you are, having got yourselves here and sorted out the food situation; you’re warm, dry and comfortable, with ample food and drink stowed away and with nothing more to worry about apart from enjoying yourself. The possibilities are endless and would take numerous posts. Fortunately the bookshelves in both barns are bursting with maps and walk books and circular walk routes starting at the front door and you will find lots of helpful comments from other guests in the Visitors’ Books.

Parwich itself warrants a good explore: already thriving by the time of the Domesday Book it is a most interesting place with its higgledy-pggledy lanes and snickets and houses which have grown up somewhat haphazardly over the centuries. It has its own (Victorian) church, primary school, tennis courts,bowling green pub and little shop-in-the-pub, and British Legion.

There are several other all very different villages within easy walking distance, such as Tissington, Alsop-en-le-Dale, Pikehall, Bradbourne and Brassington (where you’ll find The Gate a great local pub which several years ago Sawday’s described as “the best pub in Derbyshire’.

We have two bikes we are delighted to lend out – no charge but you obviously are responsible for your own safety and need to provide your own helmet and any special gear you feel necessary. There are a few buses (see here for a bus timetable) each day into Ashbourne if you feel like venturing further afield, but you may find there is more than enough to do right here in Parwich.

After all you don’t want to be so busy you leave yourselves no time to sit back in your own little world… and just relax, as you feel all the stresses and pressures melt away.

Carefree Catering for the Carfree

Whether you have walked here or come in the sleekest of limousines, you won’t want to have to pay a visit to the shops the minute you arrive, if indeed at all.

It is perfectly easy and part of the excitement building up for your holiday to organise everything that you can possibly think of beforehand, so your stay here is blissfully relaxed and luxurious. You can also plan some instant catering solutions quite apart from making full use of the local pub-within-walking-distance solutions.

You know that we provide you with a pint (no longer in a bottle!) of milk, some butter, bread and six freshly laid local eggs and things like oil, dried herbs etc but we don’t go as far as ingredients for your meals!

Ideally you’ll order what you need in advance and arrange to have everything delivered the morning of your arrival, so we can check and put away everything for you. If you would like to go completely organic, Riverford is a great favourite of ours, and we have a weekly delivery here, on Fridays (only). It is best to choose what you want and ring them beforehand on 01780 789700, explaining that you are staying here (they are well used to it!).Waitrose also has lots of great food, quite a lot but by no means solely, organic. They will deliver here, to DE6 1QB, any day.

Both barns have a fridge-freezer so another top tip we are now suggesting is to order pre-frozen meals from one of two companies we know of, Cook and Life, Fork and Spoon. We have tried Cook many times and swear by them – they are efficient, their meals are delicious and they arrive in packaging so well insulated everything is still totally frozen solid. Life, Fork and Spoon we have not tried yet, but will. Please let us know what you think.

Even with a well-stocked kitchen, you may well still feel like being catered for. Without moving out of the village you can ask our neighbour, Val Kirkham to cook a meal for you (ring her on 01335 390548 to discuss menus and prices), order a curry from Paul and Evie Burlinson (ring 01335 390488).

We have a pub in the village, the Sycamore, which serves pub meals, and there is also a British Legion, on the road going towards Alsop which welcomes guests warmly and which also does food sometimes. Within lovely walking distance for lunch is the Old Gate at Brassington and the Coach House at Tissington.

The pub also has a little shop well-stocked with all the basics so buying anything you may suddenly find you want can be part of a trip to the pub itself, or the purpose of a pleasant little expedition in the village

This post can be seen in addition to all the information we had already gathered so at the same time have a look here at the Forward Planning for Effortless Catering in the More Info Section of our website.

Where to Stay? More Tip Top Tips

Parwich in the Peak District

Is there such a thing as a perfect holiday venue? Last Saturday’s Guardian Money section dedicated three pages to the top ten place to retire to, with a special emphasis on air quality, crime rate, life expectancy, good neighbourliness, health and various other aspects that not just retirees hope for; not surprisingly, the Derbyshire Dales made the Top Ten.

It’s a lovely area to live in too! And, for much the same reasons, the Derbyshire Dales is a lovely place to visit. More and more canny souls are finding this out as they happily abandon all ideas of a foreign trip abroad in favour of a ‘staycation’ (ghastly word!) in this country. Just think, no precious holiday hours wasted in crowded airport terminals, no endlessly traipsing through this queue and that to get your luggage, your passport and yourself checked, no hours in an airless cabin with your neighbour on one side coughing over you (is he going to be sick?) no customs and no foreign currency to get to grips with at the other end…and so on.

So – for the sake of convenience and familiarity we’ve plumped for the Derbyshire Dales as the area of choice for your holiday in this country. But where? Let’s narrow it down to the Peak National Park – not such a silly idea after all – it’s an area renowned for its beauty, plum in the middle of the country so within the easy reach of many people.

Having decided on the area, what kind of a holiday are you looking for? The Dales can accommodate you all, with a wealth of caravan parks on offer, farm holidays, luxury spas, hotels, B & Bs and even tipis. Obviously, there is no right or wrong; it will depend on personal choice, and the purse. Booking a carefully chosen holiday cottage for two, can be the perfect answer for many. You are creating a home from home, beholden to nobody: you have complete privacy, you can eat when you like, what you like, you go out and return whenever it suits you.

However, it’s not quite as simple as all that. There are holiday cottages and holiday cottages, and standards and expectations vary enormously. Research is crucial, but part of the fun. I’m assuming you want quiet and peaceful, but of course you may not and a bolthole in the middle of Chesterfield or Derby could be much more your style (but perhaps not if you’re reading this!). The perfect property for you may take some finding but near-perfect matches will exist and we would recommend starting with Premier Cottages ‘the best of the best’ and also Alastair Sawday (many properties are in both). Friends are another good source of recommendations, if you feel confident that their tastes are similar to yours. And the final test is TripAdvisor where you can see what other guests have thought; don’t forget that someone else’s criticism might flag up a plus point for you – ‘no fast food joints for miles around’ might be nuls points for some, would it be for you?

Is the cottages star rated? Does that matter to you? Do you need underfloor heating? Disabled access? Will they accept children? What about dogs? Are the owners on site? Having made a short list from your research, check out their websites, the atmosphere and the photos. Finally, check their availability – it’s no good getting excited if the cottage is fully booked for the next 18 months…

The advice up until now has been general and I hope helpful. Now I must acknowledge an interest, serious bias in fact. There are no doubt many others but I can say very confidently that either Tom’s or Douglas’s Barn can give you a whole week in peaceful, completely comforting surroundings, where for once your time is your own, to do with as you please rather than what your family/boss/business colleagues/accountant demands. (In fact, come to think of it, we could do with just that ourselves and if the weekend in Douglas’s Barn in September (21 to 24) doesn’t go we may do exactly that!)

I am getting more and more wistful as I write. How many of us have said, ‘Oh, if only we had the chance, I’d like us to go off all on our own for a few days, try canoeing, research our family history, go on some wonderful walks, finish writing my novel, plan our wedding, make a patchwork quilt, spend evenings at the opera, watch old movies, sort my photos, cook some lovely meals, spend all my time reading outside in the sunshine…’.

Guests in Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns have done all of these things, and more, but my list was getting too long. Interestingly, we have quite a lot of guests who choose to come on their own, and for many this is the ultimate luxury! For others the luxury is the chance to spend uninterrupted time with their spouse or partner, appreciating the chance to escape all the other demands that can come between you.

What to Do? Tip Top Tips for Our Guests and Others

Parwich Hall and gardens

There is so much happening always, it is hard to pick out the top top tips. However, it is really important to point out that this Saturday, 9.30 – 5.00 it is the Manifold Show at Ilam. This is our really favourite show, and conveniently very local. It is small, friendly fun and not too commercial although of course there are stalls selling everything from Barbours to pots of honey. There is also a slow tractor race, lots of vintage tractors, carriage driving and racing terriers! A couple of years ago we took Liza and Harry, some very great friends of ours, there and before we knew where we were Liza had bought two rare breed hens and a cockerel which also came to spend the weekend with us and woke all and sundry at dawn the next morning.

Fischer's, from the gardens

Next Saturday, 18th August, it is the Ashbourne Show which we also love although it is much much bigger and slicker, but not too much so. At the end of the month – the weekend beginning Friday 31st August is the Chatsworth Country Fair which is very big and slick – ‘one of England’s most spectacular annual outdoor events’, full of wonderful events from the Red Arrows to sheepdog trials, ferret racing and parachuting – very well worth a trip if the weather is good.

Not until next month but I have to put it in, Robert and Alice Shields are opening their gardens at Parwich Hall in aid of the Friends of the Peak District which should be a lovely event especially if the weather is good and if you’re staying here it is only a few hundred yards away so not far to go.If all this activity has worked up a bit of an appetite, a real top top tip is to book yourself in at Fischer’s for their 20.12 Luncheon. We can vouch for this personally and cannot recommend it too highly. You can of course add another course, and wine…but you need not if you wish to keep to budget. Needless to say we did not. Afterwards you can stroll in the lovely garden and admire their organic veg patch or if the weather is obliging, just sit in the sun and feel happy that you came! The offer goes on until the end of November. We shall certainly be returning, several times.

If You Can Make the Olympics!

A new dimension to the Tom’s Barn blog… Well, you didn’t expect to get a sports report, but on the other hand, you weren’t perhaps counting on the Olympics.

To our regret when everyone was applying for tickets to the Olympics we didn’t really bother. Probably all the misery-guts who were predicting disasters left right and centre didn’t help but had we known the excitement and pleasure the games are giving everyone now we certainly would have been less apathetic. However, thanks to our friends Deborah and Martin who invited us to join them at Old Trafford for the football Brazil/South Korea semi-final, we can say we have attended an Olympic event!

Everything was wonderfully well-organised. We had terrific seats, and were also fairly near a big television screen. The football itself was unimpressive. I have watched enough football including many prep school matches to know how exciting a fast-moving and tactical game can be and this was not. Goodness knows how Brazil even managed three goals: both sides seemed to spend most of the time patting the ball back and forth between themselves generally moving toward their own goal rather than the opposition’s.

Far more interesting was the crowd – nearly 70,000. Good-natured, well-behaved and all enjoying the occasion even if not the football. There was chanting, drumming, Mexican waves and plenty of amusing costumes. The only jarring note was being aware of the fact that Team GB was beaten by South Korea, who last night looked as if they couldn’t beat a soul. So, to repeat myself, a great occasion, unimpressive football. Did the papers say the same I wonder?

A Quiet Country Walk in Derbyshire

Super Saturday it really was! Gripping television and inspiring performances by our athletes including Jessica Ennis who comes from Sheffield. We watched entranced, together with no doubt most of Britain unable to tear ourselves away even to write a blog post (sorry) but now I have successfully wrenched myself away from the tennis doubles, having had the satisfaction of seeing Andy Murray romp through to a singles Gold medal apparently easilybeating his old rival, Roger Federer apparently (they make it look so simple…).

Our daughter Ruthie came up from London, which she reports as buzzing with excitement and a real atmosphere of goodwill and happiness whilst the roads and tube stations are pleasantly quiet and crowd free! We met her at Derby station, and before we allowed ourselves to start watching the games we stopped off at the Gate in Brassington for a delightful lunch, eaten in the sunshine in the garden almost on our own (was everybody else already watching the box?). I had Goats Cheese en Croute, with Pears and Walnut and truly delicious it was. The photos here have none of John’s expertise as I simply pressed and clicked with my mobile phone camera. without much thought of anything other than capturing the moment.

Ruthie and I decided to walk back home, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine and working off just some of the large lunch we’d enjoyed. We left John to take the car back, but he had his camera with him so he was happy about that. Those of you who know the walk will recognise our route, turn left out of the pub, and turn right when if you go straight on it takes you to Bradbourne…

Having turned right and rounded the bend at the top of the hill, we saw a herd of 25 cows and heifers on the lane, munching happily on the verges. We could see no open gates so hoped that by walking gently on we might be able to encourage them to return to the field they’d obviously escaped from.However, they set resolutely off at a spanking pace and we soon realised they’d need to be intercepted before they got into the B5056. The B5056 may only be a B road but it carries a fair amount of traffic bound for Longcliffe and Bakewell, and the lane meets it between two blind corners.

We rang a local farmer, who didn’t know whose cows they were but said he’d ring around. We waited anxiously but nothing happened, and becoming seriously concerned we rang the non-emergency police number. Waiting for them we climbed over gates onto a field at the side of the road and walked briskly along hoping we’d be able to get back onto the lane in front of the cows and at least encourage them away from the main road. At this stage two men rushed up in a truck and between them (90% and us10%) we managed to get the herd into a spare field where they propped up an gate against the entrance.

Feeling pleased with our little adventure we carried on down the now cow-free lane to the B5056 where we waited for the non-emergency police person to turn up. Having given them my name we did not fancy them turning up to view a field of happily grazing cows looking quite at home albeit in a strange field – but they weren’t to know that – and would no doubt have put my name down at the top of their list of nut cases who make fake calls to the police!

They did turn up, forty minutes after we rang. The action was all over by then, but they were very appreciative, probably only realising then that there could have been real mayhem had the cows got onto the road (on the bend between two blind corners) with cars piling up against them from both directions.
thanked us and drove off up the lane to inspect.

Then the heavens opened! It is the first time in all the years we have been walking to the Gate that we have got wet, but we certainly got rained upon this time. However, it wasn’t cold and buoyed up by our adventure, the good lunch and fresh air it didn’t matter, and John was at home with warm towels on the Aga, tea and cake (and the Olympics) at the ready.

The icing on the cake, so to speak, was our friend Aida from next door, who popped in later with a tray of the most interesting looking mushrooms she’d bought as a present for us from Wirksworth Farmers’ Market. Conceding that they were photographically beautiful, John wasn’t sure about the wisdom of eating them until Ruthie concocted the most delicious and delicately flavoured pasta and mushrooms for supper from our River Cafe cookbook which he ate with the greatest of gusto and absolutely no restraint whatsoever and lives to tell the tale.

And now we settle down snugly and totally inert to watch Hussain and others stretch themselves physically. Perfection!

If You Can’t Make The Olympics

Our Friend Trevor sailing on Carsington

We’ve had a wonderful royal birthday, we’ve had the Silver Jubilee and now we have the 2012 Olympics. What a year for the British! And people who have never shown the slightest interest in sport of any sort now turn out to be secret rowers or divers who in spite of amazing natural aptitude never quite made it but are wafting lyrically and knowledgably about the various events and hint at all the what might have beens, if only….

In spite of all the dire warnings about ghastly traffic and crowd problems our ‘children’ in London say that so far the city itself seems incredibly quiet (and at least two of the people who might have swelled the crowds are staying here, in hiding, in Tom’s Barn, so maybe that explains it).

Meanwhile, for those that are fired by the current enthusiasm, we can’t exactly offer you Olympic venues here in Parwich and locally. However, in spite of this, there is plenty of scope for physical activity apart from the obvious walking and cycling. In the village itself there are two excellent tennis courts, with floodlights if you want to play at night, which can be hired for a small hourly sum. You’d need to ring Karen Wigley on 01335 390 253 to book. At the weekend they may be quite busy but there’d probably be some spare slots and lots during the week.

And talking of tennis, to digress for a moment, I have had a reminder on my online calendar for weeks to let me know that today, 1st August is the day one can order an entry form for the Public Ballot for Wimbledon next year. I have sent off for ours already and am hoping that 2013 will prove lucky for us. We have got tickets a number of times, but not recently. It is always a wonderful day out, and even if you get an early date, who knows, you may well be watching the eventual winner.

And back to our future guests, for those who may be wanting to do something more physical slightly further afield, there is a good if relatively small leisure centre in Ashbourne and you will find information on the website about all the local sport facilities – from squash and tennis courts to swimming pools and bowling greens!

At Carsington, which is about five or six miles from here one can hire bikes (ordinary and electric), go canoing, sailing, windsurfing or simply walking round the lake where there are hides for birdwatching. The Sailing Club website is here and the Carsington Water Sports centre .

Carsington is good for all ages, because those that don’t fancy being too active can potter by the water or have something to eat or drink in the restaurant overlooking the water. There are little shops there including a very good RSPB one, and an educational centre which our young grandson thinks is wonderful – it goes into childishly pleasing detail about the history and content of sewers and there is a collection of things like mobile phones and false teeth that have been flushed down local loos!

At Tissington you can go pony trekking and if you want something more demanding, try the Haddon House riding stables at Over Haddon for hacking and tuition.

If you’d like to consider fishing (an activity of a different sort). If you’ve never fished but fancy learning, how about trying a day’s fly-fishing tuition? (This is second hand information, from non-fishers so do your own research before committing!).

There’s golf, too of course – see here for a list of golf courses in the area and finally – how about an ‘extreme sport’? You could always consider hang gliding or parachuting although don’t say we recommend it.


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