Romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

Self Catering accommodation in Derbyshire map
Call us on
01335 390 519
Toms Barn on Facebook Toms Barn on Twitter

Can Work be Happiness…?

Gyles Brandreth revealing "The Seven Secrets of Happiness" after his talk at the Buxton Festival 19 July 2014

The Seven Secrets of Happiness Revealed

As always, our days are very full, and very varied, with part work and part pleasure (and the two are very intertwined).

The ‘work’ is all to do with our two holiday cottages, Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns, which very much are at the centre of our lives but we would be hard pushed to identify what aspect of that is work in the accepted sense, as nearly all of it (except accounts and inspections) is pure pleasure as well.

Talking of pleasure, there has been a birthday, and our two Emgland-based ‘young’ have been home for the weekend. And as you may have guessed, with Buxton Festival on, we have been zipping back and forth to Buxton daily. On the other hand I also have attended a full-day workshop on websites, as you know (the delayed second half is on Wednesday) and two days ago I was learning about Search Engine Optimisation and incidentally how Google is running our lives these days, but maybe more about that another day – we’re concentrating on happiness right now…

We went yesterday to a most entertaining Buxton Festival talk by Gyles Brandreth, on ‘The Seven Secrets of Happiness’. He had no props, no notes and he had the full Buxton Opera House audience absolutely riveted. It was by turns very witty, hilarious slapstick and serious; his research to identify the sources of happiness is genuine and serious.

So we all laughed and we learned. It was no surprise to us to learn that one of the seven secret of happiness is to be found in work, and yet another in having a ‘passion’.

There can’t be many people whose ‘work’ happens to be as pleasurable and gratifying as we find ours. Who wouldn’t be happy ‘working’ to ensure we provide an experience which is possibly unique but certainly pretty special for lovely people who really appreciate everything 110%.

And another is that warm sense of being at one with one’s surroundings and companion/s. And by a happy combination of luck – living as we do in such a beautiful area with so much to do and see and enjoy – and the fact that people seem so to appreciate the quality and comfort and setting of the holiday accommodation we provide, we unwittingly provide our guests with at least two source of true happiness, and ourselves with at least three.

That does make us feel genuinely happy!

A Local Travel Tip – Cromford Canal

Tom’s Barn Travel Tips…

The Cromford Canal Restored Narrowboat

Birdswood, the Restored ‘Vintage Narrowboat’

A 2-hour trip up and down the canal

Gliding Peacefully down the Cromford Canal


It was the Cam a few dates ago, today it is the Cromford Canal – rather closer to home and certainly a more practical recommendation for our guests and local friends eager to learn of yet more things to do locally.

It is particularly interesting as the canal is part of the Derwent valley Mills World Heritage Site

A group of us from Parwich had the most lovely outing in the sunshine today, one which we really do recommend for a gently happy day out. We booked on a 2-hour trip in the Birdswood, a ‘vintage’ narrowboat lovingly restored, and run, by volunteers from the Friends of Cromford Canal. We were lucky that it was a beautifully warm and sunny day, so every aspect of the outing was relaxed.

The engine is silent, so no throbs or diesel fumes: we just glided along silently amongst the moorhen, ducks and dabchicks. One of their volunteers gave a very interesting commentary about the canal and its history, and also about the wildlife.

There were drinks and snacks on sale but as we planned a nice lunch afterwards i don’t think any of our lot bothered. It was all very peaceful and relaxing, even when we ran aground twice (apparently the canal is quite (too) shallow in one or two places). It is a lovely feeling when something like that is not not one’s own responsibility!

Lunch at the Wharfeside Cafe is to be recommended. You can sit indoors, or outside but under cover or in the sunshine, as we did. The light lunches – sleds, quiches, baked potatoes and paninis all looked very fresh and the portions generous. John and I had soup and hot rolls – lovely! (Standards vary – one day I will write the definitive guide to local soup and a roll lunches!)

There is so much else to do, once you are here. Across the road is the mill. There are shops and tearooms there now, and not much remains of the original mill, but one can go on a fascinating tour to see and hear what it was like.

We have done the tour in the past, so on this occasion after lunch we had a brisk walk along the canal, hoping to see a water vole or perhaps a Kingfisher, but no such luck. The walk was lovely, and although we only did a short stretch. I believe you can walk as far as Derby although these days the canal itself does not.

The Birdswood Skipper Today

Herbert’s very fine Fine English Tea Rooms

Rather late in the day, I spotted on Facebook this morning that Herbert’s Fine English Tea Rooms had opened in Tissington on March 1st. Being both late and slow, it took me a second or two to realise that this was not a new tea rooms at all but the Old Coach House transformed. Never slow to research new food experiences – and how convenient, on a Saturday, with my brother John staying for the weekend…

Off we set almost immediately as soon as we’d finished breakfast. The walk over the hills to Tissington never fails to charm, but it was a rather muddy charm today, and although the weather was dry we did not have the blazing sun we’d all been led to expect.

As soon as we reached Tissington, apart from stopping off to buy a pound of sausages and some black pudding from the butcher’s, we went straight to Herbert’s. Not surprisingly, the actual building doesn’t look any different from how it did in its past life but the minute you go in the feel is very different, with ‘its quirky decor and array of vintage china’, waitress service and a new and most attractive menu.

We were charmingly greeted and served. Anticipating a large dinner tonight we only had a drink each, and a (large) bowl of quite delicious cherry tomato and basil soup, with a very fresh roll and butter. At £4.25 this was cheaper than most places round here, and the soup quite delicious by any standard.

The place was bustling, and one can see why. It is open every day from now until 31st October, from 10.30 to 5. Meals are served from 10.30 to 3 (breakfast 10.30 to 12, lunch from 12 to 3 and presumably afternoon tea doesn’t count as a meal and can be had all day).

We liked the old Coach House, but like this even more and can recommend it thoroughly as a lovely place for friends and guests to go. We shall go a lot, I can see. I rather fancy their breakfast ‘Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Egg Muffin’ and their Sparkling English Cream tea for Two. The latter sounds perfect for our Tom’s and Douglas’s Barn guests!

‘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

Top Tips from Tom’s Barn Guests: How to have a Truly Wonderful Week of Walking, Reading, (Eating) and Rest

A dozen subjects for blog posts is queuing up in my inactive brain, but – right to the top of the queue – I must stand aside for Mark and Nikki, who left Tom’s Barn today having written a wonderfully helpful resume of their week in the Visitors’ Book.

Mark and Nikki, like all our guests, were amazed by the wealth of things they found there was to do while they were here, and mostly right on the doorstep; they echoed Sue and Nick who left Douglas’s Barn last week after a packed fortnight without using their car at all. In fact Sue and Nick were so impressed by how much more they still wanted to do that – apparently most uncharacteristically – they plan to return. They usually prefer to try pastures new each time they go away, feeling they have exhausted local possibilities.

Mark and Nikki’s report will be so helpful to other guests wondering what to do, so I am repeating it more or less word for word, other than censoring one or two personal comments which modesty does not permit…

“A truly wonderful week of walking, reading and rest! (The walk from) Dovedale to Alstonefield by far the best, breaking off at the excellent George for good food, wine and service – four hours needed. Other walks undertaken: Alstonefield to Milldale and back to the George! (2 hours) and Parwich to Tissington and back (3 hours).

Ilam 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 to have a mooch round the shops.

Everything is accessible from this truly delightful base! The 8 1/2 mile walk round Carsington Water is a challenge (not as pretty as the Dovedale walk) but the coffee at the Visitor Centre is also excellent unlike the horrible stuff they served us at Tissington, strangely enough. (Editor’s note: I hasten to say that everything at the Tissington Tearoom is usually delicious, in our experience…!

By the way, the views from Ilam grounds were superb. John and Marion excellent hosts.

No rational human being could fail to have a beautiful experience here. PS In case we forgot to mention it, do go to the George!

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.

A Great Local Walk in the Sunday Times

From Hartington to the George and back IMG_1618Two local pubs hit the headlines today. The Sycamore, our Parwich pub, has been declared winner of the rural pub of the year category by The Ashbourne sub-branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). While the Sycamore does not pretend to major on food it is praised highly for ‘an excellently well-kept range of Robinson’s ales.

The George at Alstonefield is featured nationally today in the first of a new series on ‘country trails with a pint en route’ in the Sunday Times Travel section, page 19 (10th February 2013). The author, Vincent Crump, speaks admiringly of the two pints of Jennings Cockle Warmer he drinks there (this is obviously a double dose ‘pint en route’ walk). He does not mention any other names, but the George is widely admired for its ‘well kept real ales, carefully selected wine list and real pub food’. Horses for course: this is more expensive, ‘finessed food’, not by any description the more affordable standard pub grub such as people enjoy at the Sycamore.

But I am not meant to be writing about food, or beer, but about the circular walk from Hartington that is described in this piece. Because we don’t have a Times subscription we couldn’t access the link to it, which would have been by far the best option. Instead, I shall massacre Vincent Crump’s charmingly written article to extract the bare bones of the walk he describes so evocatively, in order that friends and guests can try it for themselves. (We shall put a photocopy of the article in the walk file in each barn as well so if you’re actually staying here you can use that.)

Definitely have an Ordnance Survey map with you so you can plot the route for yourself. Crump’s description is more poetic than scientific and after lunch it becomes even more disquietingly vague. My translation may do nothing to help but I truly am doing my best to extract the facts.

1.Start at Hartington.
2. Walk up Hall Bank towards Hartington Hall, now the Youth Hostel.
3. Opposite the hall gates turn right onto the ‘Leisure Lane to Dovedale’.
4. After a ‘swift mile the path collapses abruptly into Biggin Dale’.
5. Cross the Dove on a ‘dinky footbridge’ at Wolfscote Dale then ‘walk all the way to Alstonefield’. (Forgive me if this doesn’t sound very helpful but it’s what he says. I’d say, at this stage definitely look at your map!)
George stop for a pint or two… and lunch…then set off back to Hartington again
6. The hike back ‘arrows north on a field path, cleaving the small green bosoms of Narrowdale’.
7.Rejoin the Dove ‘as it squidges between cliffs through Beresford Dale’.
8. Then, he concludes, ‘before I know it I’m in Hartington again’.

Let’s hope you are too!

All In a Day

Once again, smitten with guilt (and disappointment because I really love what feels like a personal letter to ‘you’) I try to cover up an embarrassing week’s absence from the blog.

There seems to be a lot going on in all the different sectors of my life, more than I sometimes find easy to squeeze into the day. One way and another we have had a very full time recently, partly work, partly pleasure, the former tending to have to be squeezed in rather late into the evening when all other commitments have ended, which does nothing for the maintenance of youthful looks or joie de vivre of the next day (and so on)…

Tonight half the village, clutching cushions and bottles of wine, hurried to the village Memorial Hall for the eagerly awaited Parwich Cinema’s one-night’s showing of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Like many others we has already seen it, but enjoyed it so much we very much wanted to see it again. As John and I approached the hall we were surprised to see that dozens of people were walking away in the opposite direction. Was there some other excitement to which they scurried? No, it turns out the cinema remote control had gone missing since the last village wedding. The spare was safely locked up in the house of someone on a far-off holiday, so the film could not be shown.

So back we all trudged but at least it means I now have time to return to the blog! So it’s not all bad, and the film will be rearranged for a day when the remote control becomes available…

To think back to last weekend, we went to a very memorable 50th birthday party of a friend in Lichfield, followed by lunch with another friend, owner of the beautiful Bronte, who has just moved into a wonderful new to her but very old timbered house near Repton. We sat in the sun all afternoon, something that has not happened very often this year. There followed then a couple of days of meetings and ‘catch up’ then we had the great pleasure of seeing Lorna, a friend from childhood (our parents were friends and we never have not known each other, if you know what I mean) but who now lives in Gloucestershire so we don’t see her that often.

They came to supper on Wednesday, then yesterday, Lorna, her husband and two friends asked us to join them on a walk up the Dove from Dovedale. Having dropped us at the car park, John and Lorna’s husband were to transport the picnic to Milldale where they would meet us for lunch. This significantly meant I had no back up camera pro at my side and would have to rely on my mobile phone camera.

It was sunny and warm and peaceful, once we had passed the scores of school parties on ‘educational’ trips clutching clipboards with questions they could hardly read. One little group of very young boys who approached us for their ‘survey’ were struggling so hard to read their questions they were relieved to pass them to us to read them out to ourselves before answering!

We stopped to photograph a heron (or was it two? We weren’t sure) on the water, patiently waiting for lunch to swim his way. The Dove is so clear we could see the little minnows that he occasionally snapped up, but we could also see what looked like a trout, over a foot long, skulking in the shadow of the overhanging trees. Either the heron didn’t spot him or we were too impatient, but he suddenly flew off. So when we came across another (?) heron later we weren’t sure if it were one and the same.

In my enthusiasm I over-zoomed my mobile phone camera so all but a couple of photos are hopeless. However, to my fortune and pleasure, who should we bump into but Martin and Sue, who were staying in Douglas’s Barn! What a small world… They very kindly gave me their two photos of the heron so all was not lost!

There followed a lovely picnic in the sunshine at Milldale; having had lots of heron views, but no kingfishers. Maybe next time?

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.


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 […]

Get in touch

Call us on

01335 390 519

our contact methods

use our contact form

Toms Barn on Facebook Toms Barn on Twitter

Premier Cottages