Romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

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HAPPY EASTER!

Easter Sunday has dawned with bright sunshine despite the fact we are an hour ahead of ourselves since yesterday, with British Summer Time.

Things have perked up a lot since this time last week, when blizzards were raging and Parwich was cut off. One can’t keep Parwich from the real world for long and thanks to some amazing work by Derbyshire County Council and lots of lovely local people the vital link was restored pretty quickly. Our little lane up from the grassy triangle, usually the final fatal slippery slope for all concerned was, thanks again to tireless and entirely voluntary efforts from our next door neighbours, the clearest road in town!

Many of us went to church this morning at 9.30, which was quite a triumph given that yesterday it would only have been 8.30. With lots of children present the vicar’s theme was, not surprisingly, eggs: Easter, new life, the unexpected. He had brought several bowls of eggs which he asked different children in the congregation to smash. To everyone’s amazement, and not just the children’s, only one egg had proper ‘eggy stuff’ inside. Inside the others were things like a bunch of feathers, some purple gooey stuff which looked like cherry jam. (In case you’re wondering, apparently he made two tiny holes at either end of each egg, blew out the contents and then with the help of a farmer friend, the surprise contents were pushed in very carefully with an injection needle!)

Anyway, the message was clear: new life, new hope, but it may not bring the expected. The surprises may be good. Now, hopefully we look ahead to better weather and just possibly, the good summer we have been promised for several years now but which has never materialised. Who knows what lies ahead, weather wise, but we can but hope.

But we do know that despite the weather, despite the recession – or perhaps even partly because of it – wonderful guests continue to flock to Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns for that very much special and much needed relaxing, peaceful retreat, in a beautiful part of the world. It means so much to John and me that we are lucky enough to be living here and to be able to help provide that for you. Our lives are enriched by meeting you all – such lovely, interesting people! It is our great privilege, and we are thankful for that.

Monday 25th March WEATHER REPORT

Conditions are not good at the moment! Parwich is cut off from the rest of the world for the time being.

It has stopped snowing but there is no sign of a thaw yet and because of the wind there is a lot of drifting; this means even some of the local main roads get blocked from time to time. If you are planning to come here today or even on Friday do check with us first, and also for up to the minute reports on our village blog parwich.org.

Two other excellent but inevitably less immediately local weather and traffic conditions sites to consult are for local weather conditions for BBC reports for Ashbourne and Local road conditions for BBC local Travel News

If you get here okay, your final problem may be the last slope up to our house. 4x4s are managing fine but probably not much else, and our drive and yard are covered with snow so it would be best to park below, well before the snow-covered grassy triangle with the Road Narrows sign.

How to Make Your Holiday in Tom’s & Douglas’s Barns Last Longer

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Parwich, with Orchard Farm at the top straight ahead

Just because you can’t clock into your barn of choice until 3pm on the day of your arrival doesn’t mean your holiday in the Peak District can’t start well before then… Similarly, just because we have to ask you to leave by 10am on the morning of your departure, it doesn’t mean you can’t linger longer in the area. (And yes, it really does take every bit of the five hours between 10am and 3pm to get the holiday cottages thoroughly thoroughly ‘bottomed’ as it is rather inelegantly called when a place is reallycleaned, from top to toe.)

We’ll concentrate on your first day, assuming that by the time you leave you will have got a good idea of what you’d prefer to spend your last day doing and you won’t need any ideas from us.

Let’s also establish that you won’t spend your precious time shopping for essentials. We provide all the basics and ‘little extras’ and a very good idea is to have preordered what you think you’ll need from Riverford or Waitrose, to be delivered, checked and put away for you before your arrive. We will have sent you the links and how to do this before you come.

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The Famous Dovedale Stepping Stones

So, no shopping unless your idea of bliss is scouring Ashbourne for antiques or visit the numerous excellent bookshops in the area. For a full choice of what there is available to do in the area have a look at our ‘Out and About’ page on our website. We have had some great reports from guests who have spent the best part of the day at Chatsworth, or Haddon Hall (do check, neither is open in the beginning of the year until March/Easter time. Others have planned a long walk and when they arrive the first thing they do is tumble into a hot bath before they sit by the fire and eat their welcome tray cake. Depending on where they’re coming from guests have stopped off at Sudbury where the National Trust Museum of Childhood is very fascinating for all ages, Lyme Park in Cheshire, Hardwick Hallcoming from the north.

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A Heron, patiently waiting for that fish

However, coming as you are to such beautiful walking countryside, with great pubs, this is what we would choose to do ideally… We’d aim to arrive in Ashbourne as early as possible we’d check in to Bramhalls’ Deli and Cafe on the market place for a sustaining – and delicious – breakfast (8am – 11 am) and maybe grab the chance to buy a gourmet delicacy or two to keep cool in the car until you arrive here. There is a convenient car park opposite.

Then we’d drive to the Dovedale Car Park and walk up along the Dove to Milldale where you could buy a coffee or cool drink but possibly you’ll save yourself for the delicious lunch at the George, at Alstonefield that you have planned.

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Homemade cake to welcome you

By the time you have enjoyed this at leisure, and strolled down the route you came back to your car (look out for the heron, and lots of wild flowers usually) it will probably be way past 3pm, so with no more time to lose, come to us (left onto the A515 briefly, then right to Parwich via Alsop-en-le-Dale, a rather charming hamlet with an elegant hall on the left as you drive towards Parwich). This is a typical country lane, quite narrow and not always room for two cars to pass, so don’t rush: you may well meet sheep or a tractor or cars coming the other way.

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It’s quite an adventure getting into the bath!

Once in Parwich and following the map we’ll have already sent you, you quickly reach Tom’s and Douglas’s Barn at Orchard Farm where we’ll be waiting to welcome you. Depending on the season your fire will be lit/on and lights on, and always homemade cake on the tea tray and music playing. You’ll already feel at home, having made excellent use of your first day here, the first of many even happier ones, we hope!

By the way, this might be our first choice but it is by no means the only suggestion. You may well have even more tempting suggestions. What would yours be?

Is Tom’s Barn Dog-Friendly, or Dog-Owner Friendly?

IMG_4770This post will be a masterpiece of procrastination. Looming over me is this week’s Blogging for Photographers homework blog post but, as I discover, doing one to order is strangely inhibiting. Having tidied the desk, answered emails, made a few urgent (?) phone calls I now feel compelled to talk about dogs with some genuinely very important guidelines for dog owners in the Peak Park…

Firstly, how dog-friendly are we? I was challenged about this the other day by the very charming owner of a young greyhound who needed an enclosed paddock to race around in for several hours every day. There is no question that we could help. We have a largish garden, Tom’s Barn has its own charming self-contained little cottage garden and out of the back gate lies a whole uncultivated valley of trees and fields. But, there is nothing to contain a wildly energetic and tireless dog. There was no beating about the bush, and of course I didn’t try. The story ends happily, because I was able to recommend our friends Deborah and Martin Hofman at Wheeldon Trees Farm who do take dogs and who do have a fully enclosed paddock for dogs to race around in.

And talking about racing around, the Peak Park National Authority have just issued a plea to all dog owners living in or visiting the Peak District, to take particular care to keep their dogs under control to protect young animals and ground nesting birds during the breeding season. Alt the more reason for dogs that need to be let of the leash for long periods of time should stay somewhere where they are able to run free in an enclosed paddock. We love our dog owners and their dogs that com to Tom’s Barn and would never want to put any of you off and you all seem to manage to have a lovely time with your dogs, enjoying vigorous country works without any problems. But in reality, we are more heavily weighted in the dog-owner friendly than the pure dog-friendly category.

Is Reality More Real Viewed on a Screen?

I think I mentioned yesterday that I had rather rashly enrolled on a blogging course for photographers. We were set for homework to write a short blog post on the Format 13 Exhibition. This is my rather last minute somewhat tongue in cheek attempt. Marks out of ten? I’ll let you know what the verdict is but I am not as they say ‘holding my breath’.

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Viewing Florence on a screen


The Format 13 Festival is on in Derby at the moment, showcasing ’a selection of the best of international photography in a diverse programme of exhibitions and events’.

As a non-photographer having enrolled on a Format 13 ‘Blogging for Photographers’ course at the Derby Quad I felt at first compelled to justify my place until the truth dawned. How horribly old-fashioned! Everyone these days, from those barely out of nappies, is a photographer. You don’t even have to possess a camera. All you need is a mobile phone.

Wherever you go, people aren’t actually looking at the stately home, the match or the celebrity: the truth is that for generations of telly watchers and computer owners reality is viewed on a screen.

I followed a group of Japanese teenagers the other day as they romped through Chatsworth giggling nonstop as they photographed each other in front of every painting, sculpture or magnificent view. Chatsworth was nothing more than a backdrop for their photos.

And everyone will surely remember the 2012 Olympics parade when each country’s competitors paraded interminably (after what seemed like hours we’d still only got to Cambodia)) their iPhones aloft, photographing everyone photographing them.

And finally, where do all their photographs go? That’s quite a thought. They’ll go onto Twitter, onto Facebook, onto a memory stick and then eventually be lost or deleted.

Hopefully some of these photographers will become Photographers, taking an artistic delight and pride in their work and giving pleasure to many. Their pictures will be mounted, displayed, exhibited and no doubt even used as a backdrop…

The Latest Updates from Tom’s & Douglas’s Barns

The last week has scampered fast, busily and enjoyably but leaving very little time for quiet reflection or blog posts (let alone mundane chores like ironing…

Starting backwards, Mothering Sunday today was a very happy day for this mother but possibly more about that tomorrow. Ruthie and Nick, our two London-based young, came up for the weekend which sadly is something Sara in Australia can never do. Two other friends were here on Friday night with plenty of reminiscence and happy chat. On the Saturday Ruthie and I walked in to Ashbourne along the Tissington Trail (John dropped us off at Alsop Station (no trains for many a long year although when my father was young they used to come up by train from Lichfield). We walked briskly and reached Ashbourne in 2 hours 1 minute (according to the map it is 7 1/4 miles) which we were pleased about but were we glad to sit down in Bramhall’s cafe in Ashbourne and enjoy a cup of tea and a flapjack afterwards!

We can well recommend Bramhall’s, across the road from the Ashbourne Market Place. You can have breakfasts, lunches and teas here. The service was efficient and very friendly, our tea was hot and plentiful and the flapjacks deliciously ‘homemade’. Which leads me seamlessly on to the Macmillan Lunch that Fischer’s Baslow Hall laid on last Tuesday. Fischer’s is the only Michelin Starred restaurant in Derbyshire, and eating here is a wonderful experience whatever the occasion – whether dinner, their 2013 Lunches or a charity event like this. We all were treated to sparkling wine and nibbles when we arrived, then a three course meal with more wine and coffee; needless to say, the food was all quite delicious!

Someone from Macmillan described the sort of work that is done locally, and Nicky, someone who had benefitted by Macmillan care herself spoke very movingly about the lifeline they had provided her. Fischer’s handed over the entire proceeds of the lunch – over £1600 – to the Macmillan representative who was of course delighted. All of us attending felt we could not have found a pleasanter or more luxurious way to feel good by helping a charity.

For a so far photographless post, the last entry may seem rather surprising. There is a big photographic exhibition in Derby – a ‘festival of photography and related media’ for the next month and amongst many things on offer I spotted a 4-week (2 hours each week) course ‘Blogging for Photographers”. Well, heaven knows, I am no photographer but I do write a blog and I do have a husband whose photographic skills I hope more than make up for my lack! John was quite happy to suggest it would be extravagant for us both to attend, so I shall be cooperating with him in absentia as it were.

We have had one session so far, which was setting up a blog so I spent a fairly relaxed 2 hours. I suspect it will be a different story on Tuesday when I go for the second session. Meanwhile, horrors, we have homework! We have to write a 200 word blog post and send it in beforehand which means I have little time and should not be sitting here writing this.

Pssst – it’s Mothering Sunday this Sunday!

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Sheep grazing in a field in Parwich

Don’t worry if you have either forgotten or have been leaving it to the last moment wondering what to do? A solution – your salvation – might be at hand. You’ve only one mother, or mother of your children and she deserves the best. Mothering Sunday is on Sunday, if you need reminding and what could be a better present than a weekend in Douglas’s Barn. Check Availability or book here.

We don’t take children, and Douglas’s Barn only sleeps two so for the sake of the exercise we’ll assume either that your loving children have given their mother the weekend and she has of course chosen their father to accompany her, or it could be a grateful partner wanting to acknowledge his love for the mother of their children with a present which neither would ever forget…

However you choose to spend your time, you will return home wonderfully refreshed and revitalised. What could be a better present for anyone than that?

It would be one of those presents with almost limitless ‘added value’ (one day I am going to write a post about jargon, cliches and the like but not today…). The basic gift is three nights in a wonderfully comfortable and well-equipped holiday cottage: you could just stay put and enjoy the luxury of time on your own together, generally chilling, listening to music, reading books, watching videos, surfing the internet on the Netbook, enjoying good food and just switching off for the whole weekend.

On the other hand you could pack a lot in, with walks, sightseeing (Chatsworth reopens this weekend), trips to local pubs or restaurants to enjoy some delicious local food and real ale, mooching round excellent bookshops or antique shops and generally making the most of your precious time.

Only Douglas’s Barn is free so you can’t bring a dog. The all-inclusive price is £295 and if you can’t make this weekend, you can always celebrate Mothering Sunday in a fortnight’s time, for the weekend of March 22, at the same rate.

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One corner of the Douglas’s Barn well equipped kitchen

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LATEST NEWS

  • 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 […]

  • Time to book a last minute Autumn break.

    So the sun may not be shining at the moment but we are going into one of my favorite times of year – AUTUMN. If the weather follows previous years we are in for a lovely September and October and even November can still be delightful. This time of year attracts reduced rate for some […]

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