Category Archives: Blog

Top Events in Derbyshire in 2017

Staying at one of our luxury lodges in Derbyshire will guarantee you a fabulous relaxing holiday, and while you’re here it’s well worth knowing what’s on offer in the beautiful county of Derbyshire so that you can get the most out of your trip.

One oddity of the county is its ancient tradition of well dressings – a series of community events taking place between May and September in which art ‘tableaux’ are created using a range of natural materials. It happens nowhere else so if you want to pop in on one of these occasions, check out https://www.visitpeakdistrict.com/whats-on/well-dressings for dates.

Gourmands will adore Derbyshire with its huge range of wonderful food, and if you’re here in May we highly recommend a trip to the famous Derbyshire Food and Drink Fair, which is taking place in the expansive grounds of The National Trust’s Kedleston Hall in May. The website http://www.derbyshirefoodanddrinkfair.co.uk/ has details.

If you’re visiting in the autumn, there are quite a few tempting outdoor events which should provide a day out to remember. You can of course explore the spectacular grounds and interiors of the magnificent Chatsworth House at any time but the house also plays host to its own country fair in September which is a glorious celebration of the finest in English countryside traditions. (https://www.chatsworthcountryfair.co.uk/). Taking place from September 1st to 3rd this year, expect cookery and riding demonstrations, plus shopping and much more.

On a more quirky note, you won’t get much more uniquely Derbyshire than the brilliantly odd Matlock Bath Illuminations, which incredibly first started in the 19th century! The illuminations take place in September and involve beautifully lit boats floating down the river Derwent at dusk, in Venetian style. There is a small charge for entry but under-16s go free. (http://www.derbyshireguide.co.uk/travel/matlock-bath.htm)

Finally, if the arts are your thing, there is plenty of world-class art going on in Derbyshire. The pretty towns of Wirksworth and Melbourne are both around half an hour’s drive away and well worth a visit at any time, but you might particularly enjoy the arts festivals featuring the now highly popular format of the “arts trail” – in which visitors can view art works in people’s homes and in other interesting buildings. See http://www.wirksworthfestival.co.uk/ for more.

Discovering the Peak District

With its spectacular countryside made famous by movies such as Pride & Prejudice, beautiful hillside market towns and fascinating mills heritage, The Peak District is famous the world over and a magnet for visitors.

The good news is that by staying at one of our lodges you are but a stone’s throw from some of the most stunning countryside that Britain has to offer at just a 25-minute drive to Ashbourne, the gateway town to the peaks.

peak district log cabinIf it’s peak district log cabins you’re after, you can’t go wrong with a stay at Oaklands. So if you’re here for a short while, where are the best places to go to discover the Peak District?

If you want to plan ahead before your stay, then do log on to https://www.visitpeakdistrict.com/ which has comprehensive information on the very best that the Peaks have to offer. If you enjoy strolling around bustling market towns with great shops, eateries and a bit of history to them, then we heartily recommend a trip to lovely Ashbourne (http://www.ashbournelife.co.uk/). Further afield you’ll find beautiful Bakewell (http://bakewellonline.co.uk/) and slightly further still is Buxton. Come here and families will be fascinated by the limestone caves at Poole’s Cavern, (http://poolescavern.co.uk/) while music lovers should definitely pay a visit to the remarkable Buxton Opera House.

The Peaks are famous for their stunning scenery so walkers and cyclists – and all lovers of the outdoors – will be in heaven with the array of wonderful countryside to admire. The Tissington Trail is a 13-mile route that’s great for cycling and walking, with many entrance points so you can just explore a bit of it. The lovely valley of Dovedale with its famous historic stepping stones has some truly sensational walking and is well worth a visit.

No blog about the Peak District would be complete without mention of the amazing stately homes dotted around the place. Did we mention Pride & Prejudice? The famous setting in the 2005 movie was of course Chatsworth which is spectacular and always worth a trip https://www.chatsworth.org/.

Just a drive through the Peaks and such towns as Belper and Matlock will reward you with amazing views of dark, satanic mills – now modern shopping centres and other venues – and you can always find out more about how Sir Richard Arkwright ran the real thing with a visit to Cromford https://www.cromfordmills.org.uk/.

Discover the Wonders of Willington

There’s nothing quite like messing about in boats, as Rat from The Wind in the Willows said, and here at Oaklands we think the literary rodent had a point. With that in mind, while planning days out during your stay with us, we have a suggestion to make: why not wander along to nearby Willington?

At just a quarter of an hour away, the village of Willington boasts the world class Mercia Marina, with room for some 600 boats whose owners have chosen to moor here because of the unbeatable attractions the site has to offer.

Despite having only set up in 2008, the Marina is already the largest inland facility of its type in Europe and well worth a trip. Those after the full waterways experience can hire “Milly” or “Tilly”, two of the marina’s tame narrowboats, and enjoy a beautiful tranquil journey along the picturesque Trent & Mersey Canal. Or, if you don’t fancy taking to the tiller yourself, you can also book a cruise.

But the marina is also a great place to visit on foot. Dubbed a “wildlife wonderland which is bursting with biodiversity” by renowned naturalist David Bellamy, lovers of the natural world will be very happy here.

Bring your binoculars, sit quietly, and see if you spot a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Redwing, Greenfinch or a Coot, all of which have been seen on site. Butterflies and dragonflies are also a regular treat, and a special holt has been made to try to attract otters too.

There are plenty of more material pleasures at the marina thanks to the Boardwalk, with its shops and cafes. Here you’ll find ladies’ fashions at Bluewater Clothing – which stocks the popular Sandwich and Masai brands –interiors at Zing Furniture and beautiful accessories at Molly & Co.

Hungry? The Butcher, Baker…Farm Shop and Coffee House and the large Boardwalk café should offer plenty to whet your appetite.

After lunch take a gentle stroll or a bike ride round one of the delightful paths around the site. Three new nature trails have recently been drawn up with the nearby Findern Footpaths Group, especially designed for families to enjoy together.

Or if that seems too much like hard work, just sit awhile and enjoy the gentle sight of the colourful narrowboats bobbing on the water.

Take a Trip to the Theatre this Christmas

There’s nothing that gets you in the mood for Christmas quite like the theatre, and, as we’ve written about the wonderful array of panto available in this area before, this time we thought we’d tell you about other amazing shows you can catch in venues near Oaklands Country Lodges.

Within an hour’s drive of here you can get to the big cities of Birmingham, Nottingham and Derby, as well as some wonderful rural venues, so there’s plenty of culture for you to choose from, should you wish.

A true jewel in Derbyshire’s crown has to be the fabulous Buxton Opera House which is about an hour away from us. Worth the trip to admire the exquisite architecture of the building alone, the experience of catching a performance inside really is memorable. On December 3 you can see the much loved “Christmas Spectacular of Brass and Comedy” performed by the well-known Brighouse and Rastrick Band, while later in the month “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” promises to be a show to be enjoyed by the whole family. (http://buxtonoperahouse.org.uk/)

Over at Derby Theatre a strange and wonderful new production of “Alice in Wonderland” should provide some quirky family entertainment from December 2 to January 7, while at the famous Theatre Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham you can sit and laugh with famous comedy duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer for one night only on Friday December 2 for their “25 years of Reeves and Mortimer” (http://www.trch.co.uk/). Over at the equally celebrated Nottingham Playhouse families will love the production of “The Princess and The Frog”, on from December 8. (http://www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/)

Meanwhile, you might be surprised to learn that the city of Birmingham, with its famous theatres and orchestra, is also only an hour away. There’ll you find several large theatres including Birmingham Rep – where many stars of the British stage started out – and the New Alexandra Theatre. Depending on what you enjoy, highlights could include the ribald-sounding “Faulty Towers, the Dining Experience”, which is on at the Birmingham Rep from December 13-17, or you could also see the long-running hit musical Chicago at the New Alexandra Theatre for much of December.

We hope this gives you a good flavour of all the wonderful culture available in the Midlands over Christmas – enjoy!

Tremendous National Trust Treasures

Our location in the heart of the beautiful English countryside means that we are just a stone’s throw away from some amazing places you can visit during your stay with us.

In this blog we wanted to share with you some of the great National Trust attractions that are right on our doorstep here at Oaklands.

First up, the National Trust’s Museum of Childhood at Sudbury is only fifteen minutes’ drive away and we thoroughly recommend a visit. (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sudbury-hall-and-the-national-trust-museum-of-childhood)

You can visit both Sudbury Hall and the Museum of Childhood; fans of the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice may recognise some of the Hall interiors, while families will adore the Museum of Childhood with its interesting displays of toys and children’s life through the ages. Expect to have to tear them away from the games room at the top! There’s also a great tea room.

Some of the National Trust’s great estates are also very near, such as the magnificent Kedleston Hall under half an hour away (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kedleston-hall) and the equally stunning Hardwick Hall (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardwick-hall) near Chesterfield.

One of the National Trust’s more unusual properties is Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, about half an hour from us. (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/calke-abbey). The abbey was in such a state of dilapidation when it was taken over that a decision was made to preserve it in its state of disrepair. Expect rotting panels, lots of stuffed animals and peeling wallpaper – yet, for all that, an air of melancholy grandeur. But many come not to visit the house but to explore the glorious grounds at Calke with their famous ancient trees and lovely natural ponds.

The children will be very happy building dens and you might well spot some of the estate’s own herd of deer as you walk, plus there’s a kids’ play park and two excellent cafés too. You can also take the path leading up to the gardens, making sure you stop off to inspect the estate’s original brick ice house on your way down. Fascinating!

But let’s not forget that the National Trust isn’t only about historic houses and great estates, it also looks after some of England’s prettiest countryside. A visit to the trust’s Ilam Park (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ilam-park-dovedale-and-the-white-peak) will take you through some lush sweeping scenery and a walk at the National Trust-managed Dovedale with its rushing river and famous stepping stones is an absolute must.

 

 

 

Dig into Derbyshire: Foodie Fun and Frolics!

If Kent is the garden of England and London the capital – Derbyshire might lay a claim to being its kitchen. So while you’re staying in one of our lodges, why not take the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the gourmet delights that await you in this most foodie of counties?

One of Derbyshire’s most famous eatery tourist hot stops must surely be the gorgeous Derbyshire town of Bakewell. Just under an hour’s drive away through beautiful countryside, just take a warning from us: whatever you do, don’t ask for a Bakewell tart. As people here will tell you, what Bakewell is in fact famous for is its Bakewell pudding – of which you’ll find some perfect examples at the appropriately named The Old Original Bakewell pudding Shop (http://www.bakewellpuddingshop.co.uk/), a classic British institution which is not to be missed.

And, in the spirit of fairness, you really need to visit the other famous Bakewell pudding place while you’re in the town, Bloomers of Bakewell (http://www.bloomersofbakewell.co.uk/). Whose pudding is the best? You decide.

If you’re visiting us around spring time, we heartily recommend a visit to Tideswell, also in the Peak District. Tideswell was the subject of a BBC programme, Village SOS, after winning lottery funding for a unique project which aimed to sustain the village’s fortunes through its food. Several years on, and the Taste Tideswell project still continues, with an annual food fair to be held in 2016 on Saturday, April 30 (http://tastetideswell.co.uk/cook-it/tideswell-food-festival-2016-save-the-date/).

But even if you’re not staying with this at that time, it’s well worth stopping at Tideswell where you’ll be able to visit the deli Tindalls (http://tastetideswell.co.uk/tideswell-made/tindalls-bakers-and-delicatessen/) and sample one of its famous pies and breads (baked fresh every morning), before popping down to the Peak District Dairy shop on Queen Street (http://www.letsgo-tideswell.co.uk/peak-district-dairy-i17.html) to indulge in an ice cream made from the dairy’s own cows which graze upon the fields above Tideswell.

This is just a small taster of the many culinary delights which await you in this beautiful county. So come on, what are you waiting for? Dig in!

The National Forest on our doorstep

Here at Oaklands Country Lodges we’re very keen to do our bit to preserve our beautiful natural environment, so our guests can enjoy the countryside we’ve worked so hard to protect.

That’s why we’re very pleased to tell you about a wonderful environmental project – in fact, one of the UK’s biggest of its kind – that’s right here on our doorstep. The National Forest, which in 2015 celebrated its 20th anniversary, is the result of a bold government vision with the stated aim of transforming extensive areas of former coal-mining land across the East Midlands into flourishing woodland.

Two decades on and the whole project has been a wonderful success, and continues to be so. The statistics are impressive: in 1995 the 200 mile area across the East Midlands encompassed by the forest has gone from six per cent of woodland coverage to 20 per cent, with a whopping eight million trees planted during that time. Many of these have been by families through the forest’s tree-planting scheme, whereby individuals can buy a tree as a way of celebrating a family event or remembering a loved one.

There are plenty of places you can visit during your stay at Oaklands where you can admire the amazing work that has been done across the National Forest, to regenerate our former coal-mining countryside into a thriving natural environment that brings not only ecological but financial benefits too.

If you’ve got kids, you should definitely pay a visit to Conkers http://www.visitconkers.com/. The heart of the National Forest, there’s plenty to keep the whole family busy for the day, including play areas, a train, a maze, adventure trails, den building, not to mention lovely woodland trails and, of course, several cafes to keep those hunger pangs at bay.

We’ve mentioned them in another of our blogs, but the cycle centre at Hicks Lodge http://www.forestry.gov.uk/hickslodge is a vital part of the National Forest’s work, as is Rosliston Forestry Centre http://www.roslistonforestrycentre.co.uk/ where there’s lots for the family to do, including a lovely natural playground, woodland trails, and birds of prey to admire.

The other way to enjoy all that the National Forest has to offer is to explore all the fabulous walking available through its woodlands. Check out nearby routes on http://www.nationalforestway.co.uk/

The National Forest really is a fantastic project that has been protecting the countryside for the last two decades. Pay it a visit and see what you think.

 

Get set for cycling this Spring!

We all know the Peak District is famous for its beautiful walking country and scenery, but you might not realise that this area also has its own tradition in fantastic, family-friendly cycling.

The good news is that our cosy log cabins provide the perfect base from which to explore this area’s wide range of cycle trails, with plenty on offer for the whole family. The first port of call for cycling families should certainly be The National Forest Cycle Centre, Hicks Lodge, set in a former coal mining site just outside Ashby-de-la-Zouch. http://www.forestry.gov.uk/hickslodge

Here you’ll find bikes to hire (or you can bring your own), with kids’ trailers for little ones, a huge range of cycle paths which take you round the site’s beautiful man-made lake and, for the more adventurous, bumpy tracks through the rapidly growing forest. There’s a lovely natural play area and a café to warm up in afterwards. Also, on windy days, it’s a very good spot for kite-flying! To find out more great cycling spots in this area, check out http://www.derbyshiresport.co.uk/derbyshire-cycle-routes.

The famous Tissington Trail, near Ashbourne, is an absolutely stunning cycle ride with its 13 miles of traffic-free track running from Ashbourne to Parsley Hay. You can hire bikes and grab a warming drink at the Mapleton Lane hire centre, but check the opening hours first since it only operates in season.

For families or single cyclists fancying a more relaxing pedal, we recommend the http://www.roslistonforestrycentre.co.uk/. Also part of the National Forest, this is an all-round outdoor centre which includes bike hire (only in season) and some very pleasant cycling trails around its beautiful site.

But sometimes you just can’t beat exploring the countryside on your doorstep while on your bike, and for that, it’s well worth checking out the wonderful cycle paths that criss-cross this area. In particular, the Derby Canal Path and Cloud Trail, which runs alongside some beautiful villages such as Melbourne and Wilson, are second to none. You’ll find maps here: http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/route/derby-canal-path-and-the-cloud-trail, and, if you wanted to stop for a cheeky pint or bite to eat en route, there’s The Bull’s Head at Wilson which is conveniently right on the Cloud Trail: http://www.thebullsheadatwilson.com/

Happy pedalling!

Why not visit luscious Lichfield?

Beautiful Georgian architecture, a fine cathedral – if you fancy a spot of shopping, people-watching, architecture admiring and a nice cup of coffee during your stay with us, we heartily recommend a visit to the city of Lichfield.

Just over half an hour’s drive away, Lichfield seems to be under the radar when it comes to Britain’s prettiest towns. Which is a shame, because the birthplace of Samuel Johnson deserves to be better known for the wealth of delights it has to offer.

Before planning your visit, check out http://www.visitlichfield.co.uk/ which has lots of details on this “hidden treasure” of an English cathedral city, plus lots of current special offers on meals out which are well worth a look.

The first port of call should certainly be the cathedral itself, (http://www.lichfield-cathedral.org/) which, you might be interested to know, is the only medieval cathedral in England with three spires and one of the oldest places of Christian worship in the country.

It’s an awe-inspiring building just to wander around – and there’s a special discovery trail for kids as well – but you might be even luckier and happen to visit when there’s a concert rehearsal taking place. Sitting quietly on one of the pews while you listen to music soaring up to the massive cathedral rafters is really something special. When you leave through that massive door, you can stroll around the lovely streets of the cathedral close, one of Britain’s most unspoilt of its kind.

The Minster Pool and Walk is a lovely wander by tranquil waters, and over the opposite side of the city is something completely different: the modern Garrick theatre (http://www.lichfieldgarrick.com/), named after another famous former resident, the famous 18th century actor-manager David Garrick who was a friend of Samuel Johnson. If the play is your thing, it’s well worth checking out what’s on during your stay; this theatre attracts some top-class acts including Ed Byrne and Arthur Smith.

Finally, if you are planning your visit to Lichfield during your stay with us, do note that Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are market days, with an additional farmer’s market on the first Thursday of each month (excluding January). Let’s hear it for Lichfield, Britain’s hidden gem!

Wrap up for Wintery Family Fun!

Entertaining the kids over the summer is one thing, but it can be harder work in the winter months when it’s cold outside and it takes all morning just to get everyone’s coats and hats on!

The good news is that if you’re coming to Oaklands with the family – or just as a cosy getaway for grown-ups – the East Midlands has a lot to offer when it comes to winter activities.

Over in Nottingham – just a step away thanks to the revamped tram and newly dualled A453 (http://www.thetram.net/), the National Ice Centre (https://www.national-ice-centre.com/) is well worth a visit. With its long tradition of training young skaters – a young Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean practised on its rinks before their famous win at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics – it has numerous public skating sessions for all ages and abilities (the minimum recommended age is 2). Plus there is a café to warm your cockles after a chilly session on the ice.

Slightly closer to home, families and grown-ups will certainly enjoy the Swadlincote Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre, (http://jnlswadlincote.co.uk/) which offers year-round snowboarding, tobogganing and Sno-tubing.

With plenty of runs catering from the nervous beginner to the confident teenager, it’s a good fun way to celebrate winter sports and get some exercise too. Nothing makes you hungry like the cold so you’ll be glad of the café afterwards.

Alternatively, just down the road we heartily recommend a small gem of a quirky eaterie in the form of Swadlincote’s very own 1950s American diner.

You won’t believe your car satellite navigation system when it leads you down a series of quiet roads to arrive at your destination, where you’ll be faced with an original, 1920s, silver American diner.
The history is fascinating: the diner was flown in its entirety all the way over to Britain from its original home in Massachusetts, and has been serving highly authentic American burgers, milkshakes and hotdogs in Swadlincote since 2005, and all to a proper 1950s soundtrack.