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Posts tagged ‘Cumbria’

3
Aug

Moving to the Country

However much you think you’re ready for it, the prospect of retirement and a gradual slowing down of activity hits you hard. I’ve always been an active, busy person and I knew dozing in an armchair was not how I wanted to spend my last couple of decades.

Instead, I wanted a life full of possibilities, full of new challenges and experiences.

And, sadly, I didn’t think that was going to happen in Welwyn Garden City, much as my husband John and I had loved our time in the centre of town, with our beloved garden.

Finding our ideal spot took some time – about a year, in fact – but the search was great fun as we explored the UK from Somerset to Dumfries looking for the property that excited us and offered a new life to us both. Eventually we found it, surrounded by beautiful views and without a neighbouring house in sight. After urban living, that was perhaps the biggest change for us!

The view that bowled us over

The view that bowled us over

So that’s why we now live in The Coach House in Cumbria and we couldn’t be happier! Why Cumbria? Why Cumbria – John spent many holidays walking in the north in Cumbria, the Yorkshire Moors and the Lake District. We both love the countryside and, with open land all around us, it’s like living in a park with surrounding meadows and, in the distance through very old and large oak, ash and sycamore trees we can see How Gill and other distant hills. With the wonderful light the view changes, sometimes dramatically quite suddenly. We’re by sheep, cattle and horses in the various meadows and, delightfully, our position on a bridleway means there is no disruption from traffic. A Roman road passes the property, only used by local farmers.

Cumbria is one of the most sparsely populated counties in the UK, with less than 75 people per square kilometer. The air is filled with the sounds of nature and we look back and wonder how we coped with the noise of Welwyn’s town centre for so many years. We both love it here and settled in very quickly, making friends with both locals and so-called outcomers – like us! Everyone we’ve met has been friendly and helpful, plus my work as a volunteer in the Visitor Centre in Kirkby Stephen brings me in touch with lots of people and helps me learn more about our new home.

The link between the two buildings

The link between the two buildings

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Coach house from the church steps

So shall I tell you about The Coach House? It is, in fact, two buildings, linked by a glazed area similar to a conservatory where I keep precious indoor plants. John and I live in the old stables and the coach house is a one up, one down building that was used by the rector’s coachman and his family, coaches were stored below. The early Norman church is just behind us.

The coach house is singularly individual – stone built with a curved wall on two sides. Initially, we thought we’d use it for friends and family, then it became clear it lent itself to becoming self contained holiday accommodation. On the ground floor there was enough room for a fitted kitchen with dining and sitting space, on the first floor a double bedroom with an en suite shower room.

So we embarked on a journey of property improvement and discovery in the land of letting! If you’d like to join us for a holiday stay, we’d love to share our new home and its peaceful surroundings with you. Want to know more? It’s all here.

Val Reynolds

19
May

A Fantastic Overnight Stay – Cumbrian Hospitality

thIt’s not often an overnight stay  in a hotel or bed and breakfast is anywhere near as comfortable or pleasant as being at home.

The offending sugar bowl

The offending sugar bowl at a five star hotel

All too often  beds are uncomfortable, or the bathroom has mould in the grouting, or the carpets need a real clean in the corners, or the windows rattle, or worse they don’t open. Or there are just not enough towels, or the heating won’t turn down, or the air conditioning needs attention – too noisy!  The breakfast is fine but the seats are uncomfortable, or the cutlery needs a polish, or there are fingermarks on the sugar bowl plus a ring of coffee on the base – that happened in a  five star hotel in Birmingham. I passed a photograph to the manager. He promised to post it on the staff noticeboard! Which all reflected badly on the establishment which was a shame because the eggs benedict was scrumptious.

As you probably gather I have stayed overnight a lot as a travel writer in mostly top quality hotels in many different countries and I am so pleased to say we were very impressed with our night’s stay at  Swanson House in Brough, Cumbria. Booked without recommendation or from a list of where to stay, just a search on the web for somewhere to stay in the nearest town to where we had a meeting.

We found the room welcoming, the beds comfortable, the decor pleasing, the en suite a good comfortable size and beautifully clean. In fact everything was clean and appealing, not in the least pretentious. The complimentary beverages were high quality. Fresh ground coffee in a well sealed container, crockery was clean and shiny as was the cutlery. There was a sitting room next door we could use with complimentary fresh baked cake to sample and for those who wanted to, there was a microwave to heat up anything required.

After a good night’s sleep – the  room was at the back of the building, away from traffic and street noise – we went down for our breakfast. We can’t face a full English first thing in the morning and we had requested a continental breakfast. It was just right. Not too much, not too little. Appetisingly presented,  great to taste, the table laid out with crisp white tablecloths, sparkling cutlery, glass and crockery, fresh coffee, beautiful curled butter pats, prepared fresh fruit in bite sized pieces. The effort Pat Jones, the owner, put into presentation made it a memorable breakfast and how many times have I ever written that? I think this is the first!

brough_po

The picture was taken from Brough Castle, courtesy of The Westmorland Gazette.

Before becoming a consummate cook and most welcoming host, Pat was sub-Postmistress. She  ran Brough Post Office with her husband Philip for many years before it was closed in the Government programme of closure about 5  years ago despite tremendous resistance from the local community. A protest march was held, a local resident dressed as Queen Victoria, and told the crowd of her displeasure at the proposed closedown. Then around 130 local residents gathered to show the strength of feeling in the community by spelling  out their plea to save their village post office. All to no avail sadly.

Pat and Philip decided to renovate and convert the Post Office into a restaurant with bed and breakfast and continue living there.  Swanson House is now a popular restaurant for locals and tourists alike.

Rural business is having a hard time economically and Swanson House is an outstanding example of triumph over adversity, it was ‘Good Taste’ winner in the Upper Eden Business Awards 2012 and 2013 runner-up.

So the killer question: Would we go again?  The answer? A resounding yes, and yes again!

Swanson House restaurant

Swanson House restaurant

Next time we will be sure we allow enough time to sample the mouthwatering menu. And be sure to book in advance, giving details of our choice from the menu. This is Pat’s way of making quite sure your meal will be cooked to perfection using the highest quality local fresh produce, a hallmark of your visit to Swanson House.

The wine list was attractive too … Ooh, can’t wait to go again!

Val Reynolds Editor

7
Jan

A Break from City Life …

So, you work in London, you are used to the crowds, the crush in the Underground, the waiting for buses, yIMG_3272 - Version 3ou’re quite happy. But from time to time do you yearn to go to the country, to feel the wind on your face, take in the fresh, clean invigorating air, taste some good beer, good food, roaring fires, the smell of wood smoke, a deep sleep in a most relaxing bed, and comfortable welcoming surroundings. And it mustn’t be much trouble to reach.

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Sunset from our bedroom window

Well, we found just the place. We spent a couple of nights enjoying the quiet countryside, the stunning sunsets, the green green panorama, the rushing rivers and streams, the waterfalls, and came back home restored, refreshed and relaxed. Ready to face the demands of living and working in a city.

So where did we go? Cheskin House, Newbiggin on Lune, a jewel of a find in the Cumbrian countryside.

And how did we get there? Well on this occasion we drove up the M6 as we had other places to visit. But we could have gone by train from Euston to Oxenholme – a journey of about four hours – and Edwina, the owner of Cheskin House would have picked us up and whisked us back to her place.

Cheskin House, a 270 year old farmhouse, has been restored to its former glory, with white painted windows and internal shutters, airy rooms, antique artefacts to admire, furnishings to die for and much more besides. Our bedroom was warm, luxurious and utterly inviting. The bed, its linen, the carpet all carefully chosen and coordinated. We loved the hanging cupboard with drawers.

And the bathroom, warm, white, candles, a shower, dimmable lighting, and a raised bath in which we threw some complimentary bath salts – they had a wonderful aroma. I forgot to ask Edwina where I could purchase some, they were that good!

And what was on the menu? Our breakfast was outstanding for its deliciousness and choice. Served in the conservatory with its stephanotis plant growing all over one wall, we really enjoyed a very satisfying start to the day.

cheskin table 2IMG_6484Evening meals can be served in the dining room or conservatory. Both rooms are beautiful and very relaxing. Beautiful cutlery, glass and lighting made both memorable.

And the food? Edwina is a consummate cook. Her choice of preprandial delicious freshly made cheese sables, with nuts and olives accompanied an excellent dry sherry was admirable

Our meal started with cauliflower soup with truffle oil, she told us the secret of the soup is to create an intense stock.

Our main course was pheasant in a delicious wine sauce, red cabbage and locally grown boiled potatoes.

A beautifully flavoursome and light lemon with almond cake was offered, or plum and blackcurrant fruit compote – we were greedy and had a little of each I’m afraid!

All this followed by Appleby organic brie with local artisan bread – Edwina supports local growers especially.

And the wine to go with such a feast? Well Edwina has a wine studio containing wine from all over the world. I felt dizzy just scanning the labels.

A wine connoisseur, Edwina will match the meal with a suitable wine to get the most pleasure out of her meals. And she hit the nail on the head with her choices, for instance a 1999 Pinot Noir from Barratt, Adelaide (she had bought 150 cases at some time in the recent past) accompanied the soup, delicious with a satisfying aroma and even more pleasing piquancy.

Other delicious delights accompanied the rest of the meal and that of our evening repast the following evening which included a lamb chump chop on a bed of potato, peppery jus, black and green beans. Followed by poached pears in red wine with home made vanilla ice cream, we just couldn’t fit in another mouthful and the wonderful cheeseboard had to be admired but declined, we were so full.

Such attention to details – the decor, food, wine selection and the warm welcome – nothing was too much trouble – were the outstanding elements of our all too short stay at Cheskin House.

Next time for a weekend break we’ll take the train, using Trainline – if you book ahead, there are some good deals.

We’ll take our walking boots, warm hats, gloves and weather jackets and explore the myriad footpath network. A walking stick or two would be a wise item to take, but then Edwina will lend you one if you forget yours!

Can’t wait to visit again whether it’s this winter or the spring, even summer time, anything to be restored and refreshed in a weekend! Aaaah!

Cheskin House : www.cheskinhouse.com or email info@cheskinhouse.com

Val Reynolds, Editor

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