Review of Wheeldon Trees Farm, nr Buxton, Derbyshire
Florence Fortnam visits Wheeldon Trees Farm, an old dairy farm deep in the Derbyshire countryside which has been converted into nine beautiful self-catering cottages
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Wheeldon Trees Farm lies in the north of the White Peak area of Derbyshire, an area characterised by gently undulating farmland and steep-sided dales. Hidden in its own lush green valley is Wheeldon Trees Farm, an old dairy farm whose cowsheds, hay barns and scattered outbuildings have been converted into stylish self-catering cottages. To the front, the land gently drops away into possibly some of the most stunning views in the entire county.
Clustered around a gravel courtyard are nine pretty tile-roofed cottages, the old stonework set off by fresh moss green-painted window frames, gates and low wooden picket fences which separate the terraced cottages. All are dog- and child-friendly, and sleep between 2 and 5 people; one is also accessible for wheelchair users. The cosy interiors are a mixture of modern comforts and traditional touches: exposed stone walls, slate floors, solid wooden furniture, brass bedsteads, pretty curtains framing beautiful green views. Each has its own little outside space. Martin and Deborah live in the farmhouse over the courtyard.
Those that have had quite a trek to get to Wheeldon and are gasping for a cuppa will be pleased to discover homemade cake and biscuits on arrival. And never mind if you haven’t given a thought to dinner - Martin and Deborah have already thought of this for you. In the communal food store you’ll find a freezer packed with things to eat, all homemade at the farm using local ingredients: there are hearty meals like Moroccan chicken, vegetable curry or shepherds pie, as well as local beef, lamb chops, bacon and sausages, and puddings. There’s also a larder full of essentials, such as milk, eggs (from their hens), juice and pasta.
If donning an apron whilst on holiday is not your idea of fun, there are a couple of pubs nearby. The Royal Oak is a 30-minute stroll from the farm and serves delicious homemade food, all the ingredients for which come from suppliers within a 20-mile radius. Back at the cottages, breakfast baskets can be delivered to your door in the morning, if you so wish. We woke to a wicker basket filled with home-produced butter and yoghurt, a freshly-baked loaf, homemade damson and blueberry jam, freshly-ground Fairtrade coffee and delicious granola.
There is more to Wheeldon Trees Farm’s environmental credentials than a list of green features; for the Hofmans, their approach is a way of life, one which they have woven into everything they do. From locally-sourced breakfasts and the recently-planted wildflower meadows, to the discounts for green travellers and the provisions in place for guests arriving under their own steam, not forgetting their impressive eco endeavours (the entire field to the front is given over to a ground-source heat pump, providing all their hot water and heating needs), their environmental outlook is progressive but unobtrusive, and it has won them – justly so – armfuls of awards.
A short (but steep!) climb up High Wheeldon, the distinctive cone-shaped hill to the west of the farm, gives you some of the best views in the whole of the Peak District down across the Dove and Manifold valleys. The memorial at the top commemorates the men of Staffordshire and Derbyshire who fell in the Second World War.
How to get to Wheeldon Trees Farm by public transport
Trains from London to Buxton (changing at Stockport) take roughly three hours, and then it’s a hop onto the 442 which runs from outside the train station. The local bus dips in and out of a string of valleys – it’s a beautiful ride – before depositing you at the end of the farm’s drive (just ask the driver to let you off) – it really couldn’t be easier! And if you need further incentive, Martin and Deborah will reimburse your bus fare and give you a 5% discount on your stay. And if that wasn’t enough, you can even hire their car should you want to take a spin at some point during your stay.
Given how easy it is to get here by bus and train, it would be a shame to bring the car, but if you do have kids and dogs in tow, you won’t need to touch the car all week once you’ve arrived if you don’t want to. For starters, you’ve got glorious walks right from the door and Martin and Deborah have plenty of maps, guides and suggestions if you want to stride out into the surrounding countryside. The farm is also directly on a national cycle route so bring the bike (or there’s local cycle hire if you don’t). You can pick up the High Peak or Tissington Trails (former railway lines which are perfect for cycling, especially with children) at The Royal Oak at nearby Hurdlow. And if the thought of steep inclines on two wheels fills you with dread, there are electric bikes which are free for guests’ use. For rainy days there are books, games, DVDs, a pool table and table football in the Long Room.
Behind every great place to stay are owners who work tirelessly to make it all happen. Martin and Deborah swapped the London rat race for this patch of Derbyshire six years ago and have created much more than simply a place to rest your head at night. Quietly green and incredibly relaxed, it’s a perfect place for an activity-packed family holiday or a relaxing getaway for two.