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A Question Mark Hanging Over April

Orchard Farm as it was in 1983 when we purchased it

We have two significant anniversaries in April. Many of you will remember my father, Douglas, who died on April 8th 2004, nine years and  a couple of days ago. Fewer of you will know, unless we’ve already told you, that April 3rd marked the day we had owned Orchard Farm for 30 years.

I will throw in a few photos of Orchard Farm as it was then, and you will see we have made some progress since then, which is always encouraging to remember. The photo at the bottom on the right is actually of the sitting room in the Orchard Farm house. It conveys the filth of 30 years ago, what it does not convey, fortunately, is the stench!

I always think of April as one of the loveliest months;  this year it has yet to prove itself weather wise although it is getting warmer by the day and the spring flowers are bursting forth. (My personal month of all is May.)

However, this year we have a real question mark hanging over April. We have always been fully booked in April in the past but to our bemusement, we have three blank weeks in Douglas’s Barn. Why? Who can tell us?

We’ve wracked our brains: “Maybe people are worried about the weather?” That can hardly be true, when we have so many return bookings for the winter months, and anyway, both barns are so cosy and snug once you’re inside you’re as snug as the proverbial bug. “Possibly everyone is going abroad?” – that doesn’t follow, when the next four months are booked solid… “Maybe they sudden;y don’t like Douglas’s Barn?” If you look at our reviews on TripAdvisor you’ll see how very positive they all are.

We’ll probably never know but the ironic thing is, if you want a holiday in Douglas’s Barn this summer you’ll  need to move quickly. Apart from these three rogue weeks in April there is only one week left in Douglas’s Barn between the beginning of May and the end of August. If you don’t believe me, check the availability calendar now!

The barns

.The House

Social Media Networking

A Busy Orchard Farm bee

Yesterday at 7.30 am (had to get that in) I was in Chesterfield, 40 minutes’ drive away, to attend a Breakfast Briefing’ on ‘What’s New in Social Media’. It was stimulating, fast moving and very informative, presented by someone whose life-work it is: he really knows and lives for his social media. For those of us who dabble with some enjoyment but no expertise and even less time, the message is daunting.

Using ‘Social Meeja’ is a networking must for individuals and a marketing must for small business and large corporations. The large organisations have huge departments, and budgets; little people like us have nothing to call on but ourselves in a day which doesn’t grow any longer. It is very exciting, but it is also very sobering to think that we are all in thrall to the Microsoft and Google type giants who are continually competing to woo customers to their tills.

Yesterday we learnt in a fast-moving workshop that Google+ is a must, as is Pinterest, and what about LinkedIn? And Facebook has completely changed all its rules so we must learn them, and Twitter – a mass of hyperlinks and self-promotion perhaps should (or so it seems to me as a Twitter ignoramus). Everything is getting slicker, quicker, different. How quickly things change…

Twelve years ago when Tom’s Barn was first born as a ‘top of the (then) range’ luxury holiday cottage for two, we did not even have a website. At first we used a letting agency, and as one of several thousand properties we featured in their brochure. The whole process of booking was lengthy and time-consuming as all our correspondence was done by post and guests paid by cheque. The agency jealously guarded the rights to ‘their’ property and strongly discouraged returning guests or others from trying to make any independent approaches at all, even when they had not provided a booking for the dates in question.

We quite soon decided to break away from the agency. As we launched out into the scary unknown, we realised there was a price to be paid for exciting independence in terms of cash and hard work and as well as everything else we would have to provide our own publicity. We designed our first, extremely amateur leaflet ourselves (soon replaced by an extremely expensive but much more ‘grownup’ version. Then we commissioned our first website which we thought was wonderfully sophisticated but was actually rather lumbering and cumbersome and we had to rely on the very patient designer man to make every change that was necessary which could mean waiting months.

We were accepted to join Premier Cottages who also had a website, but also cumbersome in current terms. And now we are on our fourth website version, the majority of bookings are done online, all correspondence is done by email. And do we have more time now that everything is so slick? For all sorts of good reasons the answer seems to be less than ever…! The not so good reason is the lure of social networking – enjoying what you can do, and trying to get to grips with what you are still tackling. Facebook is the biggest time-waster, but such fun. I have started with Pinterest and Google+ and am determined to make a go of both, eventually. Of the two Google+ is thought to be potentially very important for all sorts of Google-significant reasons including featuring well on Google searches.

My current dilemma is I can’t seem to find more than about ten of our friends, colleagues and business contacts who use it yet. If any kind soul reads this who can help out, please let us join circles!!! Otherwise, just pity me.

Bert Broomhead’s View of Parwich in 1950

Idly watching  the Antiques Roadshow at Chatsworth tonight we were intrigued  when the daughter of an artist called Bert Broomhead (who up until that moment we had never heard of) produced a rather beautiful picture of Parwich painted in 1950. John had recorded the programme and was able to ‘rewind’ and take a few stills but a picture of the actual painting can be seen on the artist’s website

Momentarily we struggled to place the view until we realised it must have been painted from directly behind Orchard Farm. Interestingly there is no rusty haybarn which we had assumed to be even older than 60 years and of course no sign of any of the ‘newer’ houses along this road.

What is there in pride of place is nostalgic reminder our old two-seater privy in the foreground on the left. There was no loo and no bathroom and not much else either in the house when we bought Orchard Farm  in 1983  but needless to say we did improve the facilities somewhat before moving in. The privy sadly was demolished by a van taking the corner too fast at least twenty years ago so now all we have left is the levelled off waist-high wall.

The church is there in the background, the McCabes’ old barn, and is that Knob Hall in the right hand corner?

The History of Orchard Farm

Orchard Farm is  one of the older buildings in a village full of old buildings, with parts of it dating back probably to the 1600s, if not earlier. Since then it has been developed and ‘improved’ over the centuries;  the stonework  bears  tantalising evidence of a fascinating mixture of building styles.

The oldest part of the building is the two rooms up and down on the left as you face the house, at preasent our kitchen and sitting room (complete with chimney window) downstairs, and our study and spare room.

From  outside you can see a  small blocked up old window in the west gable end; the chimney window was an  exciting find for us when we discovered it. It originally would have lit a large inglenook fireplace parts of which are still in evidence behind a wall, and which would have beenalmost a room within the bigger sitting room/entrance.

In the 18C, when there would appear to have been a lot of development in Parwich, the roof was raised to create a third storey and new windows fitted (although some economy was shown when the original and now far too short – stone jambs were retained.

Probably at this stage  the house was also extended eastwards, and the substantial farm buildings added, although we suspect that the connecting section which is now Douglas’s Barn was yet anotherand slighlty later  development when the then owner, with convenience rather than style uppermost in his mind, connected the outbuildings to the house.

The section between what is now Douglas’s Barn and our house, when we bought the house was an extremely rough cart shed with rickety wooden steps leading up to a bothy, with no connecting doorway into the main house.  Bagshaws the estate agents rather grandly decribed this bit in their sales particulars as ‘the coach house’! It is now a lovely airy second sitting room, one of the nices rooms in the house.

As far as one can tell from village records and the censuses Orchard Farm had always been a farm, although some of the older Parwich residents can remember a Dame School being held in the upstairs bothy for a while. When we bought the house at auction in 1983 the farm land – somewhat depeleted in  area over the years was sold separately, happily to a local buyer.

The Parwich and District Local History Society http://www.parwichhistory.com  has some interesting information on our house and many others in the village.

The Story of our holiday cottages: The Reality

Marion’s father, Douglas, finally moved up to his new home in October 1999. Her settled in very quickly and happily, having already made a number of good friends in the village. His quarters were completely self-contained but we shared our dining room which could be accessed from either end.

Tom’s Barn wasn’t really ready until the spring of 2000. We started at first with English Country Cottages, so instantly had guests, but it wasn’t long before we felt we wanted to run Tom’s Barn ourselves which we started doing in 2003. It proved a sound move…

We already had established a good reputation and a long list of loyal guests; we had  a Five Star grading and were fortunate enough to be able to join Premier Cottages, a co-operative of owners of Four and five Star holiday Cottages. We really enjoy the personal contact and fun of running our own show.

Marion’s father, Douglas, died in 2004. Eventually, by 2006 we had transformed his house into Douglas’s Barn, which had always been the long term plan, which Douglas himself knew and heartily approved.

The Story of our holiday cottages: The Birth

Transition traumas and triumphs:

Looking back on it now the process seems to have happened quite quickly, but it did not at the time. We agonised over how to achieve the best possible use of our redundant farm buildings. We needed a self-contained ‘house’ for Marion’s father, Douglas, next door to ours; next door to him on the other side would be a really super, ‘top of the range’ holiday cottage for two.

The builders started work during the wettest autumn and winter months of 1988. Outside and in became a sea of mud, they used our pride-and-joy veggie garden as their builders’ yard and it goes without saying that we had our fair share of crises and unforeseen technical hitches.

The story of our holiday cottages: The Dream

First Stage:

In April 1983, having bought Orchard Farm – a wreck (but with exciting potential) with its derelict farmhouse and almost as derelict barns and outhouses, our one and only thought was getting it habitable  – with plenty of ideas, a very limited budget, and Peak Park rigid planning restrictions.

We had the builders pull down the dreadful asbstos and breeze block piggeries and assorted sheds opposite the house – that bit was quite easy as they were falling down anyway.

It was a harder decision to demolish the milking parlour. This  sat most inconveniently right in front of the house but it was the only sound, dry building on the site! However, all that now remains is the low walled garden area with a picnic table and where now the newspapers are left.

Finally, in 1999, we embarked on the cowsheds attached the house. For a long time we had been a bit worried: the gable end wall was bowing badly and we weren’t too sure about the roof any time there was a heavy wind!

Marion’s father’s decision to accept our invitation to live up here with/beside us gave us the much needed impetus to start on the next big phase – Stage Two – of the Orchard Farm restoration project.

Why Douglas?

And Why Douglas?

Marion’s father Douglas, whom many of our ‘older’ guests will remember, used to live here. From a Lowland Scots family, he actually grew up near Lichfield, used to holiday in the Peak District and spent all his working life in Africa, where Marion grew up… Hence the Derbyshire/African mix in Douglas’s Barn and probably still in Marion!

After he retired from Africa he and Rachel, Marion’s mother, spent the next forty years in south Devon, at what the Hall family used as their home base, their lovely thatched cottage called Barnford. After Rachel died, Douglas eventually decided to move up here, with Boots the cat, to live beside – not with – us.

He quickly made a lot of friends in Parwich, and just loved his self-appointed role as guardian angel of the Tom’s Barn guests while we were at work.  Douglas died in 2004;   in 2006 we converted ‘Douglas’s Barn’ into our second holiday cottage for two.

Why Tom?

Why Tom indeed…

The previous owner of Orchard Farm was Tom, a character well liked in the village but a complete stranger to soap, hammer, paintbrush or any home improvements. He was renowned also for his pack of boss-eyed dogs which local children  apparently found rather frightening. After years of dogs and neglect the house and barns were in an unbelievably awful state although Tom had been living here happily enough, apparently.

Tom died in December 1982. We bought Orchard Farm at auction in April 1983. Most people thought we were mad, including just at first our own children then of a fairly impressionable age.  They soon rallied round but it took us months just simply getting the house and outbuildings reasonably habitable, before we were able to start on the rather more exciting and certainly very rewarding transformation process.

It was twenty years before people stopped referring to Orchard Farm as ‘Tom’s place’, hence Tom’s Barn. We now have an Australian  grandson, Tom, who at just five  assumes – from Sydney – his role to be that of absentee landlord.

He seems quite happy at present with the way we are running things for him.


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 […]

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