Romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

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Additional attractions with Privilege Card

There are some new attractions added to the list of treats available with the Premier Cottages special privileges card. Amongst them are Renishaw Hall, Thornbridge Hall Gardens (new discounts), Hassop Station Cafe, Village Green Cafe Eyam, Carsington Water Sports and Leisure, Hartington Cheese Shop.

Bikes for our guests to use

Monsal Trail has been voted the UK’s favourite cycle route. We have 2 bikes and helmets that our guests can use. Monsal is just one of the many safe cycle routes around here.

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

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.

Naughty?? Certainly Very Very Nice

I wished I’d had my photographer with me today when – thanks to some friends who invited m to join them on a ‘business’ lunch – I discovered a quite charming place to eat in Bakewell. It is called Naughty and Nice, and is tucked away in King’s Court just off the one and only roundabout in Bakewell. I am glad to tell you about it because it is hidden away quite discreetly – I must have driven past scores of times without realising what delights lay within.

The sun shone, warmly and we sat outside in the sunshine with pink Montana petals floating lazily down around us. We felt we could have been in a little continental square somewhere – obviously, another time one might not be so lucky but apparently it is quite charming inside as well.

The menu looked very interesting and just a bit different – I found it difficult to choose what to have but my ciabatta bacon and brie melt was certainly delicious! There are also all sorts of tempting home made cakes and chocolatey things to be had – it perhaps wouldn’t be the place for a keen dieter to visit but perfect for everyone else.

As well as eating chocolate things, you can also ‘make’ chocolate. Naughty describes itself as ‘cafe bistro and chocolatier’ and their Chocolate Experience event invites you to become a chocolatier for the day which sounds fun and would be a lovely thing to plan, especially if the weather forecast isn’t great (it does happen, occasionally).

So that’s all! I was so impressed i just wanted to share it as soon as possible, while the memory was still fresh. Sorry about no photos – I’ll have to take John with me next time… He’d love it.

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 & Douglas’s Barns’ Big Extra:

Peaceful early morning mist in Parwich valley

Early morning mist in the valley

We are often thanked and praised for our ‘little extras’. Indeed we try very hard to think of every little thing possible to make sure that your stay here is very special and just last week we were very involved in setting up the most romantic scene possible for a proposal!

Don’t get the wrong idea. If you stay at Tom’s or Douglas’s Barns we can’t promise a proposal, and realise that the very thought might be enough to terrify many of you away completely.

It’s not often that you can completely escape from normal life, with all its pressures and stresses, and more than one guest has confided to us that the only place they feel really safe and able to relax is Tom’s, or Douglas’s Barns.

What we can promise for everyone is peace, quiet, calm and great comfort, and the invaluable opportunity to be somewhere where you can be yourselves: not someone’s boss or employee, not someone’s son or daughter, not someone’s mother or father. This is more precious than you might realise.

The mobile signal is not brilliant, you have a landline in both Tom’s and Douglas’s Barn but you can choose not to divulge the number. You can really escape – effectively simply disappear.

There’s no traffic noise, no sirens, no police cars: life can completely slow down to your own pace, not one forced upon you. There’s nothing else to concentrate on but yourselves. What will we do today? Where shall we walk? Where shall we eat? Or shall we just stay put and completely relax – chat, read, write, watch, listen, chill…

Talking to some returning guests today, we realise just how incredibly valuable this is. It is a very big ‘little extra’ yet it is invisible and has to be experienced rather than described. Its healing powers are immense.

And we’re just humbly grateful, that thanks to our setting, we can provide our guests with this wonderful ‘big extra’.

Will You Be My Valentine?

Will you be my Valentine?

Be My Valentine!

Happy St Valentine’s Day to you all!

That is the last concession I’ll make to what I feel (what an old cynic!) is just another special and genuinely romantic day that has been very successfully hijacked by sellers of cards, red roses and expensive meals, and hoteliers and even some holiday cottage owners (not all!). It’s big business, creating such tensions of expectations and obligations- and inevitable disappointment and humiliation for many.

Am I wrong, but used it not to be a time when shy would-be suitors sent almost anonymous messages or cards to someone they had not yet dared, or had the opportunity, to tell of their feelings? ‘Will you be my Valentine?’ It was truly exciting to receive such a card. Now one sees crowds of harassed looking people scouring the rows and rows of largely ghastly cards, all with a red rose or two and almost all with a couple of tipsily angled glasses of champagne possibly with glittery bubbles all around. Most people will be expecting one (or more) as their right, not enchanted by their arrival…

And driving through Matlock this evening I spied well more than one harassed looking men coming out of a supermarket clutching a bunch of red roses swathed in cellophane decorated – you’ve guessed it – with the obligatory red roses. Their expression spoke of fulfilled obligation, not undying love!

Why keep the romance and expressions of love for one day, say I?

Rooting Out Your Past

We are all fascinated about our origins – who and what made us the people we are now.

Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies, apparently, second in America to cooking… The TV programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ has helped spark an extra surge of interest in this country.

Do you have a Derbyshire connection, read on…


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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