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Review of Foxtwood Cottages, Peak District

Posted by at 11:40 on Thursday 20 November 2014

A purpose built clutch of gorgeous holiday cottages tucked between Caldon canal and a lake, on a Peak District farm awash with free range chickens and other things to entertain the kids.

View of Foxtwood Cottages across the lake. Photo: PRView of Foxtwood Cottages across the lake. Photo: PR

Carved stone Foxtwood sign, Peak District Photo: Lucy SymonsCarved stone Foxtwood sign, Peak District Photo: Lucy SymonsThe Setting
In the Peak District, at the heart of the Churnet Valley, and deep in the Staffordshire moorlands along a winding lane you will find, tucked in the woods of the hamlet Foxt, Foxtwood Cottages.  Driving in to the main courtyard, are a cluster of self-catering cottages over looking a lake. Neat and tidy and of various sizes, they sit in a serviceable row, crying out for you to pop in for a visit.  Each with their own garden backing on to the canal and overlooking a lock, they are almost in the shadows of the old lime kilns chiselled out of the nearby rock. This is the perfect little slice of heaven: picturesque, pretty, English countryside rotten with history at every turn.  Alison and Clive Worrall are deeply passionate about stewardship, running their farm and safe guarding their land (areas of which are designated as SSSI) They are busy taking the countryside back to its original state – at the time of my visit, they were rebuilding 57 metres dry stone walls, work subsidised by the stewardship scheme. This whole complex is purpose built, but so sympathetically so, you would be forgiven for thinking it had been standing here for centuries.

>> To Check availability and booking see our full listing for Foxtwood Cottages

>> For other things to do and see look at our Greentraveller Guide to the Peak District

Brass double bed at Foxtwood Cottages, Peak District, England Photo: Lucy SymonsBrass double bed at Foxtwood Cottages, Peak District, England Photo: Lucy SymonsThe Rooms
The whole self-build project started in 1995, with the first three cottages and the main house completed within four years with an additional 4 cottages constructed later on the 30 acre farm where Dexters and hilarious woolly sheep are raised. Managed as a Nature Conservation Area under the Higher Level Stewardship awarded through the Department of Natural England's Countryside Stewardship Scheme, it is pretty much a full time job keeping mother nature “natural”, but obviously a labour of love. There are 31 beds total across the cottages, with some flexibility for possible extras (and babies can be squeezed in to corners).

The Food
Nearby are the two pubs The (dog friendly and cosy) Fox and Goose and The (rather more working man’s hang out) The Railway Inn with its “award winning chef” (I am not sure who has made this award and the establishment is amusingly tight lipped about it, but the food is more than adequate and very reasonably priced plus you couldn’t ask for a more hospitable place to settle in for the evening). You can catch a trout in the lake outside your front door or have one caught for you to order and prepared for you to chow down on. Alison takes great delight in the prospect of giving your kids an impromptu biology lessons, explaining how once caught, she can gut it in situ and show how a trout’s heart will keep beating for several minutes after it is dispatched, in the plam of a tiny hand.

Local pub sign at Foxtwood, Peak District Photo: Lucy SymonsLocal pub sign at Foxtwood, Peak District Photo: Lucy SymonsA local farmer, Mark Bennion sells his own pork and beef at farmers’ markets or from his door just up the road in Foxt or you can visit the village nearby, Ipstones, and after reaching it on Shanks Pony (a “hearty walk” Alison told me with a grin – and she is no slouch) you may enjoy the local delicacy: Staffordshire oatcakes or perhaps pop in to the locally run shop or the butcher who prepares all sorts of wonderful, meaty delights.  The free-range (and ludicrously tame and possibly stupid) chickens will lay eggs for you, if they feel like it.  However, they are frequently recovering from a quick dip in the canal into which they leap to avoid passing walker’s, off-lead dogs and then have to be warmed in the kitchen.  You will find supermarkets in nearby Cheadle, Leek and Ashbourne. Ann’s Catering  will provide you with meals if you are feeling bone idle, and feel like a bit of home cooking with no effort at all (she even does the dishes for you).  There are local markets: Cheadle 4 miles (small market) - Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, always has a stall from the local brewery or Leek 9 miles (medium size market) - Wednesday,  also on the third Saturday of every month there is a fine food market or Ashbourne 11 miles - Thursdays and Saturdays. 

Canal path at Foxtwood Cottages, Peak District Photo: Lucy SymonsCanal path at Foxtwood Cottages, Peak District Photo: Lucy SymonsThe Activities
Sulky teenagers?  Alton towers!  Say no more. If you are looking for something a little less ghastly, you could do a lot worse than taking to the canal tow path which runs along the Caldon canal – perfect for walking or cycling or a canoe journey.  Alison has recently tried her hand at making a corricle (as you do) and would gleefully lend you that if you really felt inspired.  You could jump on a bus and go as far as Stoke or Handley and then walk back along the canal with (Alison assured me) at least four great pubs to check out on your way, not that'd you care or truly remember if you spent a few hours in each.  There is mountain bike hire from the nearby Fox and Goose, a giant basket of brochures and laminated os maps for the hearty all weather walker.

There are well marked Staffordshire moorlands walks, a local RSPB centre at Coombes Valley for your twitching needs. Any nascent Casey Jones can take to the rails at the nearby Rudyard Lake steam railway, which is a 3 mile scenic jaunt alongside the Rudyard lake from Rudyard to Hunt House wood. Or leap on the Churnet Valley Railway which leaves from The Railway Inn on a ten mile round trip jaunt and boasts a Victorian Tea Room.  And should the weather be a little inclement, there is a giant sized pile of board games, jigsaws and books in each of the cottages to borrow. Clive or Alison are always happy to take you on a guided walk and share their passion about the stewardship of their land if they are not up a tree or tending the animals or zooming around on their motor bikes. The courtyard is heaving with outdoor toys and a ping pong table, table football, swing ball, rope swings and a huge trampoline.  This is, in short, kiddie heaven. 

The Green
The wood burners are more atmospheric than necessary as the sympathetically new built cottages are all highly insulated. Any wood you burn is free, but donations you may choose to leave are used as bribes to get the Worrall boys to collect more firewood for the next person. There is comprehensive recycling and composting, all the obvious insulation and double glazing, solar panels and solar thermal water heating – as well as highly efficient boilers and under floor heating. 

How to get there by Public Transport
One you have reached the Stoke on Trent station, take the no 15 bus to Kingsley from there it’s a short walk.

Top Tip
It would be hard to beat the invitation to load a borrowed bbq on one of the farm’s wheelbarrows and take everything you need to your favourite spot where you can fire up and eat like an al fresco king. Or plan a hog roast, one of the butchers in Cheadle offers a brilliantly named service 
www.pig-out.co.uk which is surely reason enough to plan a party. 

If you want to enjoy typically English countryside with more walks than you can imagine leaving from your front door and comfy accommodation for all the family including Fido, this is the spot for you.  You couldn’t ask for nicer more enthusiastic hosts and everyone is welcome (just as long as they don’t chase the chickens in to the canal). 

>> To Check availability and booking see our full listing for Foxtwood Cottages

>> For other things to do and see look at our Greentraveller Guide to the Peak District

Posted by Lucy Symons

View of the Foxtwood Cottages from the gate, Peak District Photo: Lucy SymonsView of the Foxtwood Cottages from the gate, Peak District Photo: Lucy Symons


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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