Review of Beechenhill Farm, Derbyshire
Rhiannon Batten reviews Beechenhill Farm, a four-star, two-bedroom B&B (with two additional self-catering cottages) near Dovedale in the Peak District.
Beechenhill is as homely as can be. Guests are even welcomed with a handwritten welcome note scribbled on a blackboard in the farmyard. The two bedrooms are set at one end of owners Sue and Terry’s 16th-century farmhouse and are cosily decorated with polished pine furniture, embroidered textiles and a carefully edited collection of farmhouse flotsam and jetsam. One is a blue-tinged double, the other a gold-flecked family room with a double and single bed (a further single bed and cot are available on request) and one of Sue’s Swedish-inspired “bonad” paintings helping to set a relaxing scene.
Both rooms have en-suite shower rooms and views worth checking in for alone - down across the farm’s flower-filled garden and out over the leafy Manifold Valley. Unexpected but very welcome provisions include wind-up torches, a tea tray that comes with organic milk fresh from the farm and a handy selection of Faith In Nature bathroom products to dip into during your stay. Downstairs, there’s a guest lounge packed with books, games, magazines – and information on the area’s attractions. The self-catering cottages, which have private access at opposite ends of the farmyard, are equally inviting – and exceedingly well equipped, with log-burning stoves on hand for chillier nights.
[Note that, from March to November, there’s a minimum two-night stay policy for B&B.]
Sue and Terry’s daughter Alex is in charge of the breakfasts here and she does a grand job. This being an organic dairy farm, you can expect lashings of organic milk but also fresh fruit, creamy homemade yogurt with fruit compotes (damson or rhubarb depending on what’s in season), porridge, homemade toast and jam and, for serious breakfasters, the full farmhouse spread or specials such as scrambled egg topped with smoked trout. In the evenings, they’re licensed to serve organic fair trade wines, organic lager and delicious local ales, but it’s worth making a beeline to the nearby village of Alstonefield for dinner in The George, a civilized gastropub that has won plaudits for its slow food philosophy. If you’re a carnivore and visiting in late summer or early autumn, ask about ordering some of Beechenhill’s organic lamb to take home with you. Later this year they hope to start selling their own cheese, too.
Tucked in a Staffordshire corner of the Peak District National Park, Beechenhill sits, as the name suggests, on a beech-topped hill looking out over the Manifold Valley, and close to Dovedale gorge. The National Trust-owned Ilam Country Park and picture-perfect Dovedale are within easy striking distance – as is the farm’s own walking trail - but Beechenhill has also recently started hiring out electric bikes (£25 per day); they may not be the greenest form of transport but they’re a much more environmentally kind alternative to driving and are ideal for getting out and about among the Peak District's, um, peaks.
It’s a leisurely but very beautiful ride from Beechenhill along the Manifold Valley to Hulme End (where you can stop for homemade cakes or a lunch of Staffordshire oatcakes and local cheese at the Tea Junction café before looping back along the pretty Tissington Trail. And what better way of soothing saddle-weary muscles than booking in for an evening of soaking and star-gazing in Beechenhill’s gorgeous wood-fired hot tub and cave sauna at the bottom of the garden (from £80 extra). “I want to show that green doesn’t have to be worthy,” explains Sue, and the hot tub certainly proves her point.
“We are certainly not perfect but are on a journey towards improving what we do and how we do it,” sums up Sue. A wood boiler provides heating and hot water, the accommodation boasts high-grade insulation (some of it from sheep’s wool), a careful food-purchasing policy puts the emphasis on local, organic and Fair Trade produce (in that order), waste is sorted and, where possible, either composted or recycled, bed linen is laundered by an environmentally conscious local business, cleaning products are eco-friendly, guests are encouraged to walk and cycle and the farm holds a Gold Award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme.
Pack a picnic and set off for a picturesque walk in Dovedale. Start at the stepping stones (one of the locations used in Russell Crowe's recent Robin Hood film) and set out on a lovely three-hour round walk to Milldale and back (the friendly National Trust kiosk just by the stones will sell you a map of local walks for £2.50). If you're lucky you might see dippers, wagtails and even the odd kingfisher along the approach to the stones.
Getting there by public transport
The nearest mainline train station is in Derby, 18 miles away, from where buses run every two hours or so through to Ilam (via Ashbourne). The journey takes around an hour altogether, and Sue or Terry can arrange to pick you up from Ilam, or sometimes Ashbourne. Book train tickets on thetrainline.com here: Train ticket to Derby.
As with her paintings, Sue has the B&B business down to a fine art. For a relaxing weekend in a family-run, farmhouse setting, with access to glorious National Park scenery literally on the doorstep, Beechenhill is hard to beat. Not least because the welcome here is so heartfelt.
>> See all our Green places to stay in Derbyshire
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