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Tom’s Barn and Douglas’s Barn join Friends of the Peak

We have recently as a business joined Friends of the Peak. This charity is run and managed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and its aim is to safeguard the landscapes of Britain’s first and most beautiful national park.
They challenge and campaign against developments that threaten the Peak District’s beauty and tranquillity.They support homes for local people, sustainable jobs and local services.
Climate change is the biggest threat to our countryside and Friends of the Peak champion suitable renewable energy, environmental building design and green transport schemes in the national park.

In support of the charity we have added an optional extra for our guests, at the time of booking, to donate £1 to support the Peak Pound Partnership which helps to raise funds for the work to protect and enhance the Peak District landscape and support rural communities. In addition there are collecting tins in the barns for people to donate small change.
More details about the Friends of The Peak and there work can be found at www.friendsofthepeak.org.uk

Foraging for Free at Fischer’s

Fischer's front door LOer IMG_1203Fischer’s is a wonderful restaurant, and one we are proud to support. It  has a Michelin Star and many other awards – but it definitely is not a place one instinctively associates with food for free…

However, on Wednesday John and I were fortunate enough to attend a foraging day there, led by Dr Patrick Harding, a renowned naturalist, being shown what a wealth of food there is to be found for free in spring. Foraging specimens 21:5:2013

We all know about nature’s wonderful autumn  harvests of damsons, sloes, mushrooms, blackberries and so on but apart from wild garlic and elderflowers we were hard pushed to think what else might be available at this time of year.

Saddle Mushroom IMG_7641Dr Harding is probably best known in his role as a ‘mycologists’ – an expert in the study of mushrooms and his delight was unfeigned when on our foraging ramble  round the beautiful Fischer’s garden we chanced upon an edible but dreadfully poisonous-looking layered saddle mushroom apparently also called Dryad’s saddle and Pheasant’s back… We were prepared to take on trust that this was edible, if slightly tough.

He is also interested in the chemicals present in plants, and the medicinal and other uses these are put to. We however concentrated on the edible, and how one can pep up a salad with chickweed or sweet cicely and brighten it up with dandelion petals. One can make soup from the young leaves of nettles in spring, and pesto from ransoms, i.e. wild garlic leaves…

Foraging Lunch at Fischer's FIMG_7670After an hour’s invigorating and enlightening ramble we returned to the hotel to enjoy a truly wonderful lunch, with every dish containing some of the wild plants we had learnt about. Fischer’s has a Michelin star so you can be sure a meal will always be delicious, attractively presented and what’s more pleasantly served. On Wednesday we all ate at one big table and the conversation and laughter flowed as well as at any successful private lunch party with friends.

Pudding - foraging lunch at Fischer'sMy only regret was that I didn’t take notes. Several wise people did, and I thought it was all so interesting I would remember every word but my confidence was sadly misplaced. Lots of interesting snippets linger tantalisingly in the back of my memory.

John and I both enjoyed it so much we are planning to go to the autumn forage at Fischer’s on October 22nd and this time I will take notes.

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.

A Gold Green Award for Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns

Do you remember that we had another Green Business (GTBS Green Tourism Business Scheme) Inspection in March? The assessor had hinted discreetly that he was pleased but obviously could say no more because he had to make his report which in turn will have had to have been assessed and – finally – approved.

Anyway, we got an email the other day, letting us know that we had reached the Gold Level golden heights. We were very pleased. We had never even thought of that as a possibility because we do not have any of the outward green trappings such as wind turbine or ground source heat pumps, and I think to anyone staying here – if they did not already know about our quiet but serious green commitment – it might not be very obvious at all. Also, there is always the anxiety about inviting comparisons or criticism if one makes too big a fuss about something.

The audit is 36pages long, helpful and encouraging. We are congratulated on a ‘well-desered gold GTBS award’ but warned lest we get too pleased with ourselves that ‘there are areas where tweaks can still be made to improve the business performance’. We will work on those but we will always place the pleasure and comfort of our guests first and do not ever want to do anything that might compromise that. Hopefully we can continue to progress greenly and continue to do all we can to make sure your stay here is the best we can possibly offer you.

The RSPB Garden Birdwatch

On January 29th this year we had some very good friends, the Cartwrights, staying with us from Yorkshire. Like so many of us they are very interested in birds and encourage them in their garden; John is very envious of them because one of their ‘garden birds’ happens to be a kingfisher which they frequently spot by the small stream which borders their garden.

Kingfishers aside, we all decided after lunch to set aside an hour, from the comfort of the Orchard Farm kitchen window (it was January after all) counting the birds that came to our garden for the RSPB Annual Garden Birdwatch. Inevitably at first there were no birds at all. Was Boots around, stalking them stealthily? Or perhaps it was an unseen sparrowhawk circling above? For a while we had visions of making a ‘nul points’ return but fortunately our feeders were soon as busy as usual when the usual ones started flocking in; unfortunately we did not keep the list we made. One enters the totals online for the RSPB and therefore we have no record of the final totals but I can confidently say that we had no wonderful surprises to record.

The faithful Orchard Farm feeders are – not necessarily in this order – Blue Tits, Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits, Robins, Dunnock, Goldfinches, Nuthatch, Tree Creepers, Blackbirds, Bullfinches, Pigeons, Pheasants. The squirrel tries his hardest to pretend he is a bird and gets up to the most amazing antics to get at the feeders, usually unsuccessfully I am glad to report. He does look horribly glossy and well-fed, though, so maybe he is clever enough now to time his maraudings when we are not watching like hawks at the window.

The first ten for Derbyshire this year were: House Sparrow, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Starling, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Great Tit, Robin. Bullfinches come in at no. 20 and overall were only recorded in 8% of the gardens in Derbyshire on January 29th so we certainly buck the trend there as we see them a lot now, to our pleasure, and I know we saw several on the birdwatch day.

The first ten for England were: House Sparrow, Starling, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Collared Dove, Robin. Interestingly, the Bullfinch doesn’t feature in the first 20 in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Next year the survey happens over the weekend of 26 and 27 January 2013 I shall make a point of keeping our personal tally, just for the amusement of seeing how we vary from the average.

Another Update as we Launch into April

April 1st has seen the usual spate of clever and amusing April Fool spoofs but this is not one of those!

We have all enjoyed such a wonderful spell of settled warm sunny weather, that would have been remarkable even in mid-summer but was truly amazing for March. Day after day we and our guests had meals outside and we watched our guests get browner and browner; the birds are all in a state of glossy excitement and every day eat their way through expensive packs of nuts and seeds. Nobody would think the dove below to be underfed; in fact they have taken to pretending they are a blue tit or chaffinch and trying unsucessfully to perch on the bird feeders so they can get directly to the nuts rather than having to scrabble for them on the ground. Leaves are unfurling everywhere, the blossom is out on the still leafless damson trees (they are under threat, but that is another story), the Spiraea is out, the Azaleas outside the barns and the Magnolia (Stellata), we have had to water the pots… What bliss – we’re not complaining!

Today has been sunny but distinctly cooler but still no rain. Tomorrow is one of our last Monday change-overs for a while and we are taking advantage of the opportunity to get some quick essential repairs/work done; the sweep is coming, our plumber – with a daunting list of leaking taps and other plumbing chores to deal with and the TV engineer to try to discover why Douglas’s Barn upstairs telly will not work.

New Garden Furniture for Douglas’s Barn Terrace

Douglas's Barn new garden table and chairs

For the last year or so we have been saying we must replace the pub type table on Douglas’s Barn terrace. It is old now, great for eating a meal at or barbecuing but not so relaxing if you just want to relax in the sunshine and read or snooze.

So last week John ordered two arm chairs and a table from Pepe Garden Furniture.  We are great Pepe fans – their stuff is reasonably priced, comfortable, well made and environmentally very acceptable,  and we have recommended them to so many friends. Every time we order something or go to their stand at shows we always suggest we are due a commission but so far the suggestion has fallen on deaf ears…

But that is by the by; meanwhile we are pleased with our new purchase and hope the weather will soon prove so summery and warm that out Douglas’s Barn guests are able to try them out. So far our guests have found lots of occasion to sit outside their barns which is such a warm and sheltered spot the minute the sun shines. And now the camellia is out and the tulips ready to burst forth; the clematis and roses are in good leafy promise. What a lovely time of year spring is!

Tom’s & Douglas’s Barns – Romantic AND green!

Orchard Farm Goldfinch

As many of you will know by now, we had our third GTBS (Green Tourism Business Scheme) inspection last Friday. If you follow the link to their website you will see what this signifies, but basically, to quote them, it means we are ‘committed to sustainable tourism and minimising its damage to the environment’ which must be an admirable goal by any standards. The inspector, who had been before, said he was impressed with what we have done to make our two cottages as environmentally sustainable as is compatible with our guests’ comfort and ease. He was impressive himself, and very constructively helpful about what more we could achieve.

So far so good. He was pleased with our ‘greenness’ but criticised our modesty!  We were always taught that it was very desirable to be modest, indeed wholly admirable never to brag or blow one’s own trumpet (too loud, anyway!). These days this restraint is probably less respected, and now we understand that far from being admirable it is totally undesirable if one has green holiday cottages, and particularly green cottages in the Peak District! (That’s another story.)

The GTBS inspector said quite rightly that our website did not “shout green” and I accept that it did not, to an unhelpful extent.

Anybody wanting to find out more than our Green Policy would have been a bit pushed apart from the odd snippet on the blog, although in the barns there are massive ‘Green Files’. All the information is to be had if you are actually here but that is no good if you are not.

Anyway, he tactfully hinted that if we got our act together, with Jeremy our wonderful web man, and gathered up all our green information together and available online in an obvious section of our website before he returned home from his tour of inspection to start upon his reports, that would help our final grading significantly. No promises… but it is worth the try. I have a full day of meetings tomorrow but all being well will be able to tackle it towards the weekend. As they say, watch this space.

Eating Well with Minimum Effort in Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns

Revamping our ‘green’ papers for the GTBS inspection on Friday I see that it is over two years since I first published this post. It has needed updating and correcting so I thought it would be useful to post the updated version for any of you planning a holiday here in the future, or even dreaming about one.

Before you arrive, we will always send you an updated list of recommended local pubs and restaurant. We also send the names of a few local butchers, farm shops and delicatessens: we are spoiled for choice in an area that boasts the Chatsworth Farm Shop, various ‘original’ Bakewell Pudding shops/delis in Bakewell, whilst in Ashbourne we have Smith’s for fine wines and good food, the Cheddar Gorge for cheeses, pies and cakes and Natural Choice for everything organic ‘green’. In the two latter shops you can now buy delicious fresh bread baked by the Dining Room on St John’s Street. You will also find a great selection of cheeses at the Hartington Cheese Shop.

Nigel’s on Compton in Ashbourne sells excellent local meat and the meat from the White Peak Butchery in Tissington is something else again – not for nothing do some of our guests walk over every day to buy their next treat!

You may find a visit to the Chatsworth Farm Shop another  essential treat…

For any basic necessities you suddenly find you need, Janet Gosling in the pub/shop, will undoubtedly be able to help you. You could have a quick drink in the pub at the same time if you felt like it or even a bar meal.

And, when you return to cook your effortless casseroles and even steak & kidney pudding, we have the slow-cookers ready and waiting for action in each barn. However all this requires at least some energy output, however pleasurable. There are several recipe books to help.

For totally relaxed forward planning, who don’t you pre-order online with Waitrose (plenty of healthy and organic choices there as well as nice wines)? They will deliver here DE6 1QB any day, free as long as you spend over £50 – which doesn’t take long these days. If you arrange delivery in the 11-1 slot for the day you are arriving we will put it all away for you before you arrive, but of course you can place an order for half way through your stay here if that seems a good idea. If you let us know that you are going to be out, we can take delivery and keep it all cool and safe in our house until your return.

You can also order organic veg, fruit, meat and dairy products – even wonderful chocolate – from the local Riverford Sacrewell Most conveniently they deliver here on Fridays; we can take your order in, keep it refrigerated and put it in your barn before you arrive as we do for Waitrose orders.

The system with Riverford for one-off orders is rather more personal than it is with the bigger Waitrose.  Look online to choose what you would like but the actual order itself needs to be made by telephone on 01780 789700. Explain you are staying here at Orchard Farm and would like your food delivered at the same time as ours on the Friday you arrive. You can pay them by card over the phone, or send a cheque.

You also now can pre-order a delicious homemade curry for the end of the week  (hottish – let them know if you don’t want it too hot!). Ring Paul and Evie Burlinson on 01335 390488; you collect it from their Cottage on the Green between 5 and 7 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Finally, we will let you into a little secret. You will find the kitchen very well equipped, with sharp knives and pretty well everything you might need, and most of our guests find they really enjoy cooking a meal after all, in spite of having vowed they would do the very minimum.


LATEST NEWS

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    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 […]

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