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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

Derbyshire Open Arts Weekend – local artists

It never rains but it pours, and it’s not exactly pouring – now but two blog posts in two days…and it is certainly wet. It’s not too wet to walk, nor to plan a lovely Sunday lunch in a cosy local pub (which could include a walk) but it could be a heaven sent opportunity to view some local art, as John and I did all yesterday.

Throughout Derbyshire this weekend local artists open their studio doors to anyone who would like to see their work. You can buy, usually, but that is not essential: you will find them all very happy simply to discuss their work with you.

Gill Radclffe's Studio in Parwich

Gill Radcliffe’s Open Arts 2014

We have a number of very talented artists in our village of Parwich. Lewis Noble is a professional contemporary landscape artist, and now works from his studio in the St John Street Gallery Ashbourne. Those of you who have stayed in Douglas’s Barn may recognise his paining above the fireplace. I very much doubt we’d be able to afford one now as he is becoming very sought after.

Another successful and extremely talented artist is Esther Tyson RCA. Not surprisingly, we particularly love her bird paintings – those of you on Facebook can see some here. She exhibits all over the place but doesn’t seem to have her own website (probably far too busy painting to do that as well).

Ruby Hickmott is a very inspirational Parwich Artist

Ruby Hickmott’s Studio in Parwich

Neither Lewis nor Esther took part in the Open Arts weekend, but fortunately for us Ruby Hickmott (Church Walk – look out for the balloons by her gate) and Gill Radcliffe have both opened up their studios. We have bought pictures from both of them and if we had more walls (and a fatter purse) would happily buy more from all the Parwich contingent!

After a bowl of soup in their tea room and a chat with our friend Clare at Ilam Hallwe set off for Beechenhill Farm where Sue Prince, who lives there, was exhibiting with several Derbyshire/Staffordshire colleagues.

Artistically, Sue is a wonderfully talented ‘narrative folk artist and map maker’ but she has many other skills and accomplishments.

Derbyshire Open Arts Beechenhill Display May 2014

Derbyshire Open Arts at Beechenhill Farm

There was the work of three or four other artists on display, but when we visited the only artist – other than Sue – that was obviously present was Michela Griffiths, a ‘photographic artist’ (my expression.) Do look at her website. At first I thought her photographs were wonderfully delicate water colours but in fact they are very clever photographs, often of water – reflections and movement, which really got John thinking.

He even threatened to abandon his attempt to catch swallows as they dive into the water, and just concentrate on the water…

Anyway, that is the local Derbyshire Open Arts scene – well worth a visit if you are about: today (Sunday 25th May) and tomorrow (Monday 26th May) from 10-5.

Buy One, Get One Free?

…In Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns? Surely not…

No, we’re surely not offering free holidays…

We’re talking about giving a present you will enjoy quite as much as the recipient – two people’s happiness for the price of one – this to me seems the perfect arrangement and far better than the standard ‘BOGOF’ when you end up with unwanted baked beans or pineapples.

This Top Tip is not our idea, we’ve learnt it from some clever guests who sussed it out ages ago but we’re happy to pass it on.

Often someone’s partner/husband/wife books a holiday in Tom’s or Douglas’s Barns, as a secret surprise present for their partner/husband/wife. John and I are sworn to secrecy, furtive phone calls are made and immediately aborted if the said partner/husband/wife unexpectedly and inconveniently interrupts the conversation the other end, and emails are sent to a ‘private’ address.

Eventually, with a flurry of the proverbial trumpet, this secret surprise gesture is eventually ‘out’, and received with great delight and appreciation, and the giver warmly appreciated for their generosity and thoughtfulness.

Both parties come to holiday in either Tom’s or Douglas’s Barn, together, and both have a wonderful time. The giver feels good – don’t we all love giving a present that is really appreciated? And the ‘givee’ feels wonderfully loved, and everyone is happy.

And there you have it – two people’s happiness for the price of one. You could even try it but be sure to warn them to keep the dates clear or you could end up coming on your own.

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!

Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns: We are Authentic!

Gazing into a (non-authentic) Crystal Ball at Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns…

What are the trends and what lies ahead?

There is always a big push on holidays and travel in January, as soon as the Christmas and New Year excitements haves died down, when all the travel writers and others get out their pens and tell us what ‘everyone’ is doing, where to go and what to think.

And this year is no exception. I can’t say I pore over these articles myself, but one can’t help reading bits out of the Sunday papers, and I must admit to following Luxury Travel Blog on Facebook (for people who like the finer things in life!!), and 101 Holidays.

And we talk to lots of our guests and who better to trust than the actual punters (as John and I are ourselves, too…).

One or two bits have caught my eye. Reassuringly for us, apparently, so they say, or so we’re told, in 2014 even more people will choose self-catering holidays/holidays in rental accommodation in preference to staying in a hotel and on Christmas Day, no less, someone called Alan Hazel wrote a very interesting piece in the Luxury Travel Blog (‘for those that like the finer things in life!!) about travel trends in 2014. Apparently throughout 2013 the demand for private rentals has been rising and the rise will continue. Why?

And a reason given is one our guests have been telling us for years, that they value the privacy, seclusion and independence that staying in your ‘own place’ can give you.

One reason given is one that our guests have been telling us for years, that they value the privacy, seclusion and independence that staying in your ‘own place’ can give you. It is your holiday, to spend it as you wish, as yourselves and not as merely one of a passing, anonymous crowd. Some of you may have used Airbnb, where one can stay with ordinary people in foreign and other cities, getting a unique taste of their life as a resident rather than a tourist – enjoying a unique, ‘authentic’ local experience. This apparently has helped lead the trend.

Unique is another overworked word (there are so many!) but it does explain what most of us want these days. We don’t want to be swallowed up in an anonymous crowd, doing what everyone else is doing. We need to feel special, to be ourselves, to enjoy the type of holiday that really suits us, not a convenient format that ‘everybody’ is expected to want. So this explains another reason for the move towards small, individual holiday cottages and villas where one is greeted by name, and valued and enjoyed for oneself.

And leading on from ‘unique’ I go straight the other very overworked word, ‘authentic’. Apparently holidaymakers are looking for an ‘authentic’ experience’…
Obviously it is vital to be authentic, but it is one of those words whose meaning you think you know until you try to explain it. I tried looking it up on Google and quickly found myself being told all about ‘the raw, naked, unhindered expression of beingness of the soul’.

Being rather more down to earth I felt more at ease with Ask Jeeves, which tells us ‘The word authentic originated from the Latin word authenticus which means original or at first hand’. I think that brings us closer to understanding: not hearsay, rumours or falsehoods, but something genuine and trustworthy.

And apparently, that is what luxury travellers want. They want to get to know a place at first hand from those that live there. That way you don’t feel like a tourist, being shepherded about as a ‘foreigner’ but someone who knows themselves where to go, what to do, where to eat; it saves time ad also avoids possibly extensive and unhappy choices of venue or activity. Far more important even than that, one feels part of the new destination, within it and not outside looking on.

So we and all our Premier Cottage colleagues are already providing the authentic experience – maybe we’re even helping to lead the trend. We all know the Peak District like the back of our hand, we all can advise on places to eat, good walks to go on, places to avoid even… We’re all there, on the spot, to help our guests make the best use of their precious time away.

And so yes, Tom’s Barn and Douglas’s Barn and all our Premier Cottages colleagues can honestly claim to be authentic, and to provide a genuinely ‘unique and authentic experience’!!


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