Category Archives: Blog

Take a Trip to the Theatre this Christmas/Put Your Hands Together for Panto!

Nothing says Christmas like panto – and, if you’re wondering where to see a good one but can’t face London prices and queues, there’s plenty to choose from in the East Midlands.

So, if you’re coming to stay with us in December, or thinking of a festive break (we still have some availability) why not get properly into the Christmas spirit and check out some of the wonderful pantomime on offer in this region?

Nearby Nottingham is famous for its panto, and this year will be no different with two shows in town. Who wouldn’t want to get tickets for this year’s performance of Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, starring none other than Christopher Biggins as Widow Twankey? Joining him on stage will be Simon Webbe, from boyband Blue, and Nottingham favourite Ben Nickless.

This year is an extra special one for the Theatre Royal, as it celebrates 150 years. Visitors will also get the chance to enjoy a special interactive exhibition, 150 Years of Pantomime, which is on in the Upper Circle Foyer from December 5, 2015, to January 10, 2016, including dressing up for the kids!

Meanwhile, talented actors down the road will be performing another traditional panto on the festive calendar: Dick Whittington. On at the Nottingham Playhouse, the show is directed by Kenneth Taylor, and promises to deliver all you could want in drama and laughter, not to mention fabulous scenery and frocks http://www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on/family/dick-whittington/ Tickets are still available, but you’ll need to hurry to catch them.

Slightly closer to home, there is also a fine panto tradition in the city of Derby, and this year’s show is a rival production of Aladdin, featuring Natasha Hamilton from girlband Atomic Kitten, Dan Osborne from The Only Way is Essex, and Ritchie Neville from 5ive http://www.derbylive.co.uk/whats-on/aladdin-2015

Younger audience members may also recognise the characters Ping and Pong, none other than Richard David-Caine and Joseph Elliott from CBeebies’ Swashbuckle!

So let’s hear it for panto … all together now …. “He’s behind you…!”

So much to do in the Summer Sun!

The summer’s shaping up to be a scorcher and we know that if you join us at Oaklands Country Lodges, you’ll be in the best place to make the most of the wonderful weather and the great British outdoors with the Peak District on our doorstep.

There’s no shortage of fantastic activities to take part in – from leisurely cycling, walking and boating to the more daring tree top adventures at Go Ape (http://goape.co.uk/days-out/buxton), 80 feet of abseiling at Millers Dale Bridge (www.abseilingderbyshire.co.uk) or caving and a myriad of other activities with www.twinpeaksoutdooractivities.com/home.html– all in the beautiful surroundings of the Peak District, and just a hop, skip and a jump away from Oaklands!

So you don’t believe there’s that much to do? Or you’re not sure exactly what you want to do? Then why not check out the best activities on offer on one of the specialist Peak District visitor information sites at www.visitpeakdistrict.com/ or www.peakdistrictinformation.com/visits/

If you’d like to know what top tips others have got for you, then take a look at what The Guardian said about the Peak District earlier this year at www.theguardian.com/travel/peakdistrict, Lonely Planet’s recommendations for what to do while you’re here (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/england/the-midlands/peak-district/things-to-do) or The Independent’s review of walking the Pennine Way www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/the-pennine-way-at-50-walking-the-cumbrian-leg-from-langdon-beck-to-alston-10193247.html?origin=internalSearch

And if the great British climate does fail you and the rain closes in, then just take another look at the visitor information sites – they’ve got plenty to do whether it’s rain or shine!

Whether you’re a dare devil, history buff, leisurely lifestyle lover or wildlife enthusiast, we’ve got something perfect for you. And if you’re not all about the outdoors, then why not visit an indoor attraction, swot up on historical facts at one of the county’s museums or visitor centres or have a blast on our social scene?

There’s always the classics like Chatsworth House, Alton Towers and many well established National Trust properties like Sudbury House or Keddleston Hall – or if you’re feeling less traditional you could always try fabulous family attraction Conkers (www.visitconkers.com) or recently rejuvenated Twycross Zoo (www.twycrosszoo.org)

Well, well, well – are you dressed yet?

Have you ever heard of Well Dressing? If you’re not originally from Derbyshire, it’s quite possible that this ancient custom has passed you by completely. However, if you’re visiting us, we’d love you to take the time to experience these lovely traditional events and find out more about what Well Dressing is, and what it means to us.

The origins of well dressing – the decoration of wells with flowers taking place from Whitsuntide and throughout the summer months – is a little bit of a mystery. Historians believe that the tradition developed from a pagan custom to appease the gods and ensure a continued supply of water, and that the custom was later adopted by Christians. As to why this tradition developed in Derbyshire (almost alone) and why the custom in this county is so much more elaborate in its celebration of wells and water than the rest of the UK, is a question that remains unanswered.

The Well Dressing story says that Derbyshire’s Tissington is the true heart of Well Dressing. The village has spearheaded the custom since a foray of activity during the 17th Century, due to (allegedly) giving a great deal of thanks through the practice of Well Dressings for the village surviving the plague, that was rampant at the time.

Beginning with simple flower arrangements around a well in early practices, the line of Derbyshire celebration progressed to making elaborate pictures crafted from petals pressed onto clay by the time the Victorians were around. And the well dressing enthusiasts didn’t stop at wells! Frankly, we’re keen to decorate all sorts of water-related items! Water pumps, taps or fountains are all recipients of this fantastic, gentle custom.

It also seems that when Derbyshire residents moved counties, they often took the tradition with them, so the Well Dressing phenomena can now be found into Staffordshire and beyond – although at Oaklands, being a Derbyshire family, we’d still argue that our Well Dressings are most certainly the best!

To find out more about Well Dressing and Well Dressing events in Derbyshire, log on to http://welldressing.com

Calling all culture fans!

You might know Derbyshire for its stunning countryside, wonderful walks and famous historic houses, however, Derbyshire’s also home to some of the UK’s most fantastic cultural attractions, events and creations – so much so in fact, that Derbyshire’s even got its own Cultural Prospectus! So if you’re a fan of culture, what can we recommend?

Derwent Valley Mills (www.derwentvalleymills.org) should certainly be on your ‘to do’ list! Registered as a World Heritage site in 2001, it’s the birthplace of the factory system and stretching 15 miles down the river valley from Matlock Bath to Derby it contains a fascinating series of historic mill complexes, including some of the world’s first ‘modern’ factories.

If you’re looking for a fun-packed family time at then there’s no better time than each year during the October half-term school break. This nine day period is crammed with over 100 activities which allow people to enjoy the World Heritage Site in unusual, entertaining and informative ways so if you’re visiting Oaklands in October, it’s certainly worth a trip!

If you’re after tailoring a trip just for you, then why not take your pick of the best of Derbyshire by checking out the Made in Derbyshire website (www.madeinderbyshire.org)? Made in Derbyshire illustrates the wonderful diversity of Derbyshire and profiles some really interesting artists, inspiring exhibits and creative culture. Here you’ll find that the Arts Derbyshire-supported initiative hosts a wealth of information on independent artists as well as organised cultural events.

If you’re staying with us in September, then there are two key cultural events that you’ll not want to miss – the Wirksworth Arts Festival (www.wirksworthfestival.co.uk) and the Melbourne Festival of the Creative and Performing Arts (http://melbournefestival.co.uk). Both festivals are long standing events that attract thousands of visitors to the county each September and enable even the most local of artists to exhibit their work alongside award winning professionals.

And we wouldn’t want to forget Derby’s historic and attractive Cathedral Quarter that houses the Derby Museum and Art Gallery (www.derbymuseums.org/museumartgallery) – both the Cathedral Quarter and the Museum & Art Gallery are certainly worth a visit. Our suggestions are just the tip of Derbyshire’s cultural iceberg, so why not log on to www.visitpeakdistrict.com for some more ideas – or ask us when you book your stay at Oaklands?

Fun and fitness at St George’s Park!

When you’re on holiday, we all like to relax, however, as relaxing means different things to different people, we know that some of you will want to stay active during your stay with us at Oaklands. For some of you this will mean enjoying one of the many countryside walking or cycling routes, or even bridleways that are close by, but some of you will want to take a different approach. If you’re looking for a fully equipped gym and swimming pool to use while you’re staying with us, then just down the road we have the stunning St George’s Park that you can visit.

St George’s Park is the English Football Association’s national football centre on a 330-acre site at Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire (about 15 minutes drive from us) and was officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in October 2012. Conveniently St George’s Park has a Health Club & Spa (www.healthclubandspasgp.com) and for just £49 a day, you can have access to the Health Club and Spa, a light lunch for one as well as one of the following 45 minute treatments; Comfort Touch Back Massage, Repair and Protect Facial, Spa Day Pedicure or Spa Day Manicure.

We can recommend the Health Club from personal experience too, as we’re monthly members! I know you’d think we’d get enough exercise with all our work on the farm, but sometimes it’s lovely making time for a break and taking a dip in the swimming pool at St George’s to get away from the hard graft of the farm. You may fancy a leisurely dip in the pool or more intensive exercise at the gym but, either way, we suggest that if you’d like a slice of fitness fun during your stay with Oaklands, then take some time to try St George’s, it’s a lovely environment and we think it’s super value!

Treat yourself to a Derbyshire Christmas – even in November!

This year at Oaklands Country Lodges we are fully booked for Christmas week itself, but we’ve still got some availability in the festive weeks running up to the big day. In Derbyshire we like to celebrate Christmas during November and December, so even if you visit us this week you’ll find that our very best festive events are running, so that you and your loved ones can enjoy them.

If you love a traditional Christmas event, you’ve got a wonderful choice. From Chatsworth House’s Christmas in the Farmyard (www.chatsworth.org), Haddon Hall’s Christmas in the Hall (www.haddonhall.co.uk) or one of Derbyshire’s Christmas Markets (www.christmasmarkets.com).

If you’ve got some little loved ones that want to see Santa, then there’s lots of events to choose from too. Just over the border in Leicestershire, Conkers’ Winter Wonderland will let you see Santa, ride a train and take part in the fabulous visitor attraction that is Conkers itself (www.visitconkers.com/events/winterwonderland). And just down the road from us, although over the border into Staffordshire, at Amerton Farm you’ll find a whole variety of festive fun from visiting Santa, painting a pot and enjoying a traditional Christmas roast (www.amertonfarm.co.uk). If you’d rather cook your own in front of a toastie log burning stove at your temporary luxury Oaklands home, then why not visit of Derbyshire’s superb farm shops to get all of the excellent quality ingredients you’ll need.

Hackwood Farm Shop near Radbourne (www.hackwoodfarm.com) has a butchery, farm shop and deli, as well as a tea room in case you need to take a break from tantalising yourself with all its yummy food! On the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border, Denstone Hall’s farm shop and café now stocks more than 500 local lines from Derbyshire and Staffordshire, and has a special Christmas Food Fair on November 20th too (www.denstonehall.co.uk). Family-run Bluebells Dairy & Farm shop (www.bluebelldairy.co.uk) will give you a different taste of Christmas as it’s a homemade ice-cream specialist, as well as a farm shop! And if you’re already attending the Chatsworth House’s Christmas in the Farmyard event, then you can pop into their renowned farm shop for some tasty locally sourced treats.

If you are looking for super-local luxuries, then don’t forget you can always ask us! We know pretty much everything that’s available on our door step, as we use most of them! And don’t forget, you don’t have to venture far if you don’t want to, you might want to spend your whole holiday tucked up in your lodge, enjoying the cosy, quality of Oaklands, and to give yourself a real break before you go home.

Get daring in Derbyshire!

If you’re not one for enjoying a sedate pace, or perhaps you just fancy a change, then why not take a tip from us and enjoy the daring side of Derbyshire?

Try taking a peak at the county from high in the sky. You can choose from para, hand or traditional gliding, or a hot air balloon flight – you could just take a spin with an instructor or you could sign up for a spot of training if you’re feeling braver! If having your eyes in the sky isn’t something that floats your boat then why not try an adventure on the water?

Canoeing is a popular pastime up in the Peaks or perhaps you’d prefer trying your hand at windsurfing? But if you’re handy with a rope then, there’s even more for you to dare to do. There’s climbing, abseiling, caving, a variety of activity centres and of course, the well-known and wonderful Go Ape experience!

If you want to take a trip to a cavern but don’t fancy caving, then you can explore several underground wonderlands all across the Peak District, both natural caves and manmade centuries ago. Enjoy stunning stalagmites and stalactites, fascinating fossils and at Speedwell Cavern you can even take a fairy tale boat ride through an 18th Century mine!

Being a dare devil doesn’t always mean doing something unusual either, there are lots of cycle tracks and walking routes that need a strong will and firm determination to conquer!

Whatever type of activity you choose to undertake, you can be sure that when you return to your Oaklands log cabin in the evening, you’ll get a warm welcome, cosy wood burning fire and a hot tub with a view. Enjoying the comfort of our four star lodges after a hard days dare devilling will make sure that you’re ready to take on the challenge of your next adventure in the morning.

Have Ewe been enjoying the sun?

We have! Even though it’s been a busy few months on the farm… In May, we watched our herd of cows give birth to lots of lovely calves – with a little help from us where it was needed of course! June was haymaking and in the last few weeks we’ve been weaning our lambs off their mums (Ewes).

The weather has been a treat and it has meant that our combining has been going quickly and smoothly – so often we’re scuppered by torrential rain during the UK’s summers that some proper seasonal sun this year has been a real relief – if we’re struck with bad weather it can take us so much longer, not to mention the crop can be in danger of being ruined. So we’re all in a very good mood on the farm!

And our guests have been enjoying the sunshine too. What we definitely have here is lots of green open space and outstanding visitor attractions so let me tell you about two of our guests’ favourites.

Many guests have been in awe of the amazing Chatsworth House (www.chatsworth.org) this month, a property that has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. The Chatsworth in Wartime Exhibition has been getting excellent reviews from our guests, as has its Old Masters Drawings exhibit and of course its 1000 acre park, 105 acre stunning garden and farm shop with sumptuous goodies are none too shabby either!

Not everyone wants a visitor attraction quite as majestic, and luckily there’s plenty to choose from near us! Pretty much on our doorstep and over the border in Staffordshire is the lovely village of Tutbury. A superb historic church on the hill is a tourist favourite, although it’s Tutbury Castle where Mary Queen of Scots was once imprisoned and where (it is believed) Robin Hood was married, that is the most visited. The Castle has been home to regular ghost hunts and has hosted the UK’s largest event of its kind in previous years. You can find out more about Tutbury at its delightful village website: www.tutbury.org

We’ve won a Gold Green Tourism Award!

At Oaklands Country Lodges we are really thrilled to have been presented with a Gold Green Tourism Award for our work to ensure that our three fabulous luxury lodges are as environmentally friendly as they can be. Awarded by the Green Tourism Business Scheme, it’s a tough award to get!

First of all you have submit an application and then you have to be audited – in lots of detail! The Green Tourism Business representative spent hours with us at the Lodges checking that everything we that we said we did, we actually did. It was a really thorough process, even the final audit report we received from the assessor was 16 pages long – phew!

Here is just a little bit of what they said in the report – we’re so proud!

“The business has achieved a Gold Level Green Tourist Award, a commendable achievement, reflecting the vision and determination of the owners. The properties make good use of air source heat pumps and solar PV… The environmental policy is well thought out and green matters are efficiently managed… A pond, fed by rainwater, is a notable feature and Oaklands has planted significant trees and hedges which help to support wildlife. A very good business.”

If you’d like to know more about our Environmental and Sustainability initiatives then why not take a look at our policy which summarises some of our recent eco work? See www.oaklandscountrylodges.co.uk/blog

If you’d like to know more about the Green Business Tourism Scheme then take a look at its website at: www.green-tourism.com

And if you’d like to talk to us in more detail about our environmental credentials, then please just drop us a line or pick up the phone, we’re always keen to hear your views and ideas.

Derbyshire: 10 Fun facts – How many do you know?

When our guests arrive, they often ask us about our fabulous county of Derbyshire so we thought we’d find some fun facts to share with you. How many of these do you already know?

  1. Derbyshire covers an area of 255,071 hectares (630,366 acres) – which means it makes up around nearly two per cent of England!
  2. The Peak District National Park is a… 555 square mile area (1,438 square kms) of outstanding natural beauty. It was the first national park in the United Kingdom to receive recognition in 1951.
  3. More than 763,000 people live in Derbyshire with around 40,000 people living in the Peak District National Park.
  4. The Peak District National Park accounts for more than a third of Derbyshire’s total land area and stretches beyond Derbyshire into Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.
  5. If you’re a cyclist, you won’t have to look far to find some super cycle routes. The Peak District is packed full of them and even Derby, Derbyshire’s main city, has more than 100kms of on and off road cycle routes – imagine how many cycle routes we’ve got in the whole county!
  6. More than 8.4 million people live within 30 kms of Derbyshire’s county lines and more than 80% of the UK’s population live within a four hour drive of the Peak District – so what’s stopping you paying us a visit?
  7. As a country Derbyshire is great at green! We currently compost and recycle 43.3 per cent of the county’s rubbish that’s up from 18 per cent in 2003/2004.
  8. The Peak District National Park receives more than 10 million visitors each year – but luckily our visitors don’t come all at once!
  9. Derbyshire is home to the renowned JB Kind which has been a timber specialist for more than 140 years and has been selling some of the UK’s most innovative wooden doors for more than 30 years! In fact JB Kind’s doors have just been featured in the Channel 4 Fisherman’s Church episode of Restoration Man!
  10. We’re wizards with water in Derbyshire. From the ‘cracking’ Castleton Water and Cromford Canal to the Erewash Canal and the Trent and Mersey Canal – our water’s wonderful in Derbyshire so why not explore our county by narrowboat, windsurfing or canoe?