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Review of Church Farm Holiday Cottages, Alsop en-le Dale, Peak District

Posted by Liz Granirer at 02:38 on Wednesday 02 July 2014

At Church Farm Holiday Cottages, Liz Granirer discovers that being green has always been a way of life for Christine and Chris. 

Garden view of the Church Farm Holiday Cottages photo: LIz GranirerGarden view of the Church Farm Holiday Cottages photo: LIz GranirerThe Setting
There you are, tootling along the A515, admiring the far-reaching views of rolling dales and quintessential English farmland, when the sign for Alsop en-le Dale points you off to a little lane. As soon as you turn down – and it is down, into a dip in the landscape past a field of grazing sheep – it immediately feels as if you’ve jumped hundreds of miles away in both time and distance, into a gentler, if possible, even more bucolic place. Around the next bend and you’re in Alsop en-le Dale: a renovated 12th-century Norman church, the Old Hall opposite, a few farms and everything constructed from stone, so it looks apiece.

Church Farm Holiday Cottages are, as you’d imagine, right next to the church. Go through the gate and into the cobbled farmyard where you’ll find, on your right, the old stables, which will house the biomass boiler from June 2014. To your left are the cottages, Pinster and Winnets, and, next to them, the main farmhouse. Most of this grade II-listed Georgian house, including the handsome front, dates from 1780, another bit from 1880 and another bit is older still. Looking at it, you can see why Christine and Chris Duffell fell in love with the place back in 1984, when Chris’s relocation brought them back from Papau New Guinea, where they had spent several years.The greenhouse at Church Farm Holiday Cottages, greenhouse photo: Liz GranirerThe greenhouse at Church Farm Holiday Cottages, greenhouse photo: Liz Granirer

Opposite the stables is another stone building that now houses Chris’s workshop and makes up the back wall of the greenhouse, in which Christine starts off her vegetables and grows soft fruit.

In front of you, though, is the ‘the view’: the rolling Derbyshire dales. It’s incredibly peaceful, the only noise coming from birds and – if you can’t resist throwing a stick for them – the excited barking of Mollie, an Australian kelpie who came from a shepherd on the Chatsworth Estate, and Ellie, who looks remarkably like Molly but is no relation. There are also three farm cats, chickens and, when we visited, three orphaned lambs who were being hand-reared by the Duffell’s grandson. The Duffells also keep a small herd of Gloucestershire Cattle, a once-dying-out ancient breed that has seen something of a resurgence (though they’re still on the at-risk register as there are only about 700 in the country) and their daughter keeps a horse.

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Church Farm Holiday Cottages

The courtyard at Church Farm Holiday Cottages photo: Liz GranirerThe courtyard at Church Farm Holiday Cottages photo: Liz Granirer

The Accommodation
Both cottages are converted from old stabling and are upside-down, in that the bedrooms are primarily on the ground floor and the living space is upstairs with exposed beams across the roof space.

In Pinster, which sleeps up to three, there is a double bedroom at the front and a single bedroom and bathroom with bathtub and shower to the back, though this single has space enough for a double bed. Upstairs, there is an open-plan space with skylight and well-thought-out kitchen area that has everything you need to make a full-blown family meal, including refrigerator, hob, oven and microwave; table and chairs; sofa and armchairs, plus DVD player, TV, games, walking maps and guidebooks of the local area.

Winnets, which is the larger cottage and sleeps up to four, has a single bedroom and bathroom with bath and shower downstairs, and a further two bedrooms upstairs, one double and one single that can take a double bed. The open-plan living area is also upstairs, with well-thought-out kitchen as in Pinster; table and chairs; sofa, TV and DVD player, as well as games, maps and guidebooks.

Christine uses flowers from her garden to decorate both properties, there is central heating, carpeting and wi-fi throughout and, although they have been run as self-catering cottages since 1988, everything looks brand new and is finished to a very high standard.Church Farm Holiday Cottages flowers photo: Liz GranirerChurch Farm Holiday Cottages flowers photo: Liz Granirer

The Activities
Just 10 or so minutes walk away is the former train station for Alsop en-le Dale, which has been turned into a parking area for the Tissington Trail, which follows 13 miles of the former railway line. Or you can walk or cycle (bicycles can be hired at Ashbourne, 7 miles away) from the property into the glorious White Peak area. It’s also close to historic Tissington Hall (6 miles) and Dovedale National Nature Reserve (2.8 miles), with its pretty stepping stones, as well as being the starting point for a number of circular walks (see the maps and guidebooks in the cottages if you’re looking for ideas). This is fascinating countryside if you’re interested in stone circles and ancient monuments. Nine Ladies (10 miles), for instance, a bronze-age stone circle, and Arbor Low Stone Circle and Gib Hill Barrow (8 miles), considered the areas most important prehistoric sites, are also close to hand.

The Green
Church Farm Holiday Cottages hold the Peak District Environmental Quality Mark, which means they have met various requirements, including supporting the local economy, enhancing the local environment and protecting the global environment. The properties are well insulated to cut down on heating and low-wattage bulbs are in use everywhere. With their on-going renovation, wherever possible, the owners have restored and reused building materials and accessories, including all the roof tiles and door hinges, which were taken off, sandblasted and put back on. Lime mortar has been used between the old stones, the new stable doors are made out of sustainable oak and covered in linseed paint. Barn doors are left open in summer so swallows can reach nests inside. Local tradesmen are used to carry out work (for instance, the man who made the doors lives a mile away, which keeps down petrol use). Equipment is bought from local auctions, then Chris – who has a knack for this kind of work ­– rebuilds it so it can be in use again.

Rainwater is collected and stored in underground tanks, then used to water both the greenhouse and the garden, and for flushing the toilets in the main house.

Solar panels on the roof of the new cow barn mean Church Farm can be ‘off grid’ on sunny days, so whenever possible, this is when the washing machine and tumble dryer get used, though Christine line dries whenever possible.

A new biomass boiler will be operational from June 2014, which will cut down heating and electricity use considerably.

The gate entrance to the Church Farm Holiday Cottages photo: Liz GranirerThe gate entrance to the Church Farm Holiday Cottages photo: Liz Granirer

How to get there
The nearest mainline train station is Derby. Trentbarton (www.trenbarton.co.uk) runs the Swift bus line from Derby to Ashbourne once an hour during the day, Monday-Saturday, with a reduced service on Sundays. The Duffells will collect guests from Ashbourne (7 miles away, from where bicycles can be hired: visit www.peakdistrict.gov.uk or ring Ashbourne Cycle Hire direct on 01335 343156).

Top Tip
Although it is possible to get almost all the way to the farm by public transport, it is fairly remote and if you want to fully explore all the Peak District has to offer, you may find it more convenient to have a car. However, if you’re looking for a beautiful, peaceful setting, that’s family friendly and close to all the Peak District has to offer, this is your spot.

At Church Farm Holiday Cottages, the 
upside-down arrangements – bedrooms downstairs, living areas upstairs ­­– mean you get to enjoy the farmyard views by day. The well-appointed, open-plan kitchens have everything you need to cook full-blown family meals, there’s plenty of comfortable seating, wi-fi, a DVD player and TV, and highchair and cot available. Dogs welcome (but do let them know first!).  Being green has obviously always been a way of life for Christine and Chris.  

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Church Farm Holiday CottagesThe fields of Church Farm Holiday CottagesThe fields of Church Farm Holiday Cottages


Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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