Romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

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‘A Truly Wonderful Week of Walking, Reading and Rest!’

John and I are enjoying a very brief little holiday of our own, staying with my brother in Devon. We always have a lovely time staying with him, but this time good weather has not been part of the mix. It is WET! So it it in Derbyshire we’re told, and if it’s any comfort, it’s apparently wet everywhere!

So it seems a good opportunity to warm us all up with an enthusiastic ‘guest blog’ copied word for word from an entry in the Tom’s Barn visitors’ book. We do love it when guests tell us what they have done and enjoyed during their stay; we try to keep up to date ourselves so we can make helpful recommendations to our guests but if we ate continually at pubs and did long walks daily we might not get much else done, ever, fun as it might be in the short term!

So here goes…

Everything is so accessible from this truly delightful base.

“A truly wonderful week of walking, reading and rest! Dove dale to Alstonefield by far the best (walk), breaking off at the excellent George for good food, wine and service.4 hours needed.

Other walks undertaken: Alstonefield to Mildale and back to the George! (2 hours) and Parwich to Tissington (3 hours). Iam Country Park well worth visiting, if for no other reason than to sample their excellent coffee and fresh pastries.

Ashbourne and Bakewell good for a stroll around if you want a break from walking, and a mooch around the shops.

The 8 1/2 mile round Carsington Water is a challenge (not as pretty as the Dovedale walk) but the coffee at the Visitors’ Centre is also excellent. By the way, views from the Ilam Park grounds are superb.

John and Marion excellent hosts.

No rational human being could fail to have a beautiful experience here.

M and N August 2013

Kill Your Darlings, Lord Marple…

Sine of the bottled beers brewed in Bakewell by Thornbridge

Beer Brewed in Bakewell

Three guesses?

Beer afficionados may know what I am talking about but this time twelve hours ago I would have been as perplexed as anyone. Now, having just been on a visit to Thornbridge Brewery in Bakewell, I can tell you with great confidence that Lord marples is a Classic British Bitter 4.0%, ‘surprisingly smooth with light toffee and caramel characters, a mixture of floral and spicy hop notes and a bitter finish’.

‘Kill Your Darlings’ on the other hand, is a Vienna style lager 5.0% ‘characterised by a malty aroma and slight malt sweetness.’ And these are just two of a myriad of ‘craft’ beers with delicious tastes and fancy names – and a semi-naked lady on the label – being brewed very seriously in Bakewell.

Thornbridge -fluorescent jackets

Setting off purposefully to see where the beer is made

There is no limit to what goes on in Derbyshire, and even those of us who live here don’t know the half of it. Last month you may remember, we went on a tour of Renishaw Hall, home of the Sitwell family, where we learnt all about the excellent wine made there, from grapes grown on the site. Today we discovered a thriving local beer brewing industry, located on the Riverside Industrial Estate in Bakewell, yards from where I used to work in blissful ignorance of its existence, for over ten years…

One small section showing the casks piled up

The casks of beer waiting to be distributed

The tour was arranged by Visit Peak District, who arrange a series of interesting visits for accommodation and attractions providers.

Far from being a reward at the end of a talk and tour, we started off with the beer. Then Jim Harrison, who with his wife Emma owns Thornbridge Hall where the brewery started (and where the part of it still continues) gave a very helpful talk about the Thornbridge beer and the ethos of the brewery.

Then we all donned our fluorescent yellow jackets and strode off very purposefully as you can see from the photograph, to be taken in groups round the brewery, all gleaming stainless steel and electronic wizardry masterminded by enthusiastic humans.

The brewers' control

The brewer can view and control the whole process

We tasted ‘chocolate’ malt, smelt hops, peered into barrels and gawped at rather attractive computer screens. What came across more than anything was the enthusiasm of the experts, who obviously take enormous pride in being part of a small, select and very forward thinking brewery. One suddenly saw beer in a very different light, as a specialist drink that could be created and enjoyed by connoisseurs, rather than one to be quaffed thoughtlessly, for its thirst-quenching or alcoholic content.

Tours are arranged every Wednesday. To book yourselves onto a tour you need to email info@thornbridgebrewery.co.uk. To buy beer online go to their website.

The Premier Cottages Annual Jolly (AGM)

Premier Directors at the 2013 AGM IMG_2161As many of you know, we are proud to be members of Premier Cottages, a genuinely unique organisation. It is not an agency, it is a cooperative of top end 4 and 5 Star mutually supportive holiday cottage owners, all determined to provide the very best service for people seeking a quality self-catering holiday in the UK.

It costs quite a bit to be a member, and it is very hard to become a member. We were told at our AGM today that over 100 had applied in the past year, of which a mere 19 had been approved and invited to join Premier Cottages (so you can see one of the reasons one is proud to boast being a member of Premier Cottages!).

Once every year, in early October, we all congregate from all four corners of the United Kingdom, at a big hotel just outside Stafford for the AGM and annual get-together. Not surprisingly, Peak District and Derbyshire members are well represented always, having so short a distance to travel.

Two solid days ensue, of meetings, presentations, delicious meals and workshops. As well as all the AGM agenda wee have talks from various people, including today Pam Foden who manages the Visit England Quality in Tourism scheme who cajoled, coaxed, advised and praised the Premier Cottages members. She quoted statistics – which I did not note and cannot therefore quote – about the high proportion of Premier Cottages who have been awarded the 4 and 5 Star Gold award, and the high proportion of 100% cleanliness ratings were Premier Cottage Members.

The new 2014 Premier Cottages brochure was produced, with everyone anxious to see how their entry looked, and whether their photos looked okay. We all wondered at the cover, a provocative antidote to the conventional ‘chocolate box’ thatched cottage in an English country garden. THis year we have a view – from a veranda, complete with hookah on side table – of a somewhat oriental looking building apparently based in Norfolk! The idea is that, intrigued, one can’t resist looking inside to see what other surprises might be in store…

In the ‘old’ days, the brochure was the big excitement. Now of course, the brochure is of secondary importance to the website. And, guess what? Premier launched a new website today too! Do have a look! Our entry needs updating – another job for tomorrow…

New… Video Update

Nick, Euge and Lisa bending over the camera IMG_6651

Eugene, Lisa and Nick

The suspense is building up. After all the flurry of the weekend of filming there is absolute quiet but sooner or later the silence will be broken, and I no doubt will be cringing silently at the sound of my voice droning on speaking brightly in the background… about our barns.

Hopefully nobody else will take any notice of that, and let’s hope the video will help provide a good and honest pictue of what you can expect when you stay here in Tom’s or Douglas’s Barns. We already have three videos, taken over the years, but every year we spruce things up and change things a bit and we felt it was time to have a new video showing things as they are now. We gave the contract to our son and two colleague who are professional video makers amongst other similar skills. They came up here from London laden with kit, their own and special lights and photographic equipment hired for the shoot, including a jib so they could get some shots from (sort of) on high.

Videoing the kitchen in Douglas's Barn

Filming Douglas’s Barn kitchen

How hard the three worked! And John and I worked pretty hard too, in the background. Our brief to the crew – Nick, Lisa and Eugene, was to create a short but informative video with no frills, giving a good idea of what guests can expect. We stressed the ‘no frills’ aspect, that we did not want to create a false impression. (We have all gone to quite ordinary places that look nothing like the spacious, luxurious photos we have admired beforehand. We always feel unreasonably pleased when guests arrive and say “Gosh! It’s much better than it looks on the website!”

I fear we may possibly have overstressed this aspect, because when we cam to tidy up afterwards we found tasteful throws (always there) stowed away in cupboards, and things like the Radio Times and Derbyshire Life we always leave out had been neatly tidied up and away out of sight!

Viewing the exterior of Tom's and Douglas's Barns, in the sunshine

Videoing the exterior in the sunshine

So rather than taking things with a pinch of salt, you may have to add a pinch of salt to the views. We’ll see. Anyway, I am being a bit flippant but really we were deeply impressed by the approach of the three video makers, who worked so hard and thoroughly professionally. You begin to see why even a shortish film in the cinema costs so much, when two solid days of filming will boil down to two or three minutes of viewing. And this didn’t involve actors – apart from the dreaded cake baking shot in our kitchen – just inanimate objects in inanimate rooms but still lenses had to be adjusted, heavy lights and equipment had to be manhandled and kept out of cameraview and all within quite a tight space.

So tight that John and I, probably luckily, couldn’t squeeze in to watch or provide well-intentioned suggestions. So we await with as much suspense as the next person.


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