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Willow sculpture in the heart of nature

I was lucky enough to attend a willow sculpture course at Zantium studios during my stay at Darley House and wanted to write about it for the Darley House blog as I was so impressed with the location and the course and I would really recommend it for anyone staying in the Peak District.

Zantium Studios is a 15-minute drive from Darley House, hidden away in the village of Godfrey Hole, near the market town of Wirksworth. It’s a beautiful old building with glorious chicken-filled gardens overlooking fields of sheep. On arrival, owner and mosaic artist Alison greeted us with a smile and a mug of coffee and biscuits and then willow weaver and sculptor Eddie Glew (who has worked with Grand Designs) gave us the introduction to the day and showed us to our workstations on the dewy grass in the autumn sunshine. He learned willow weaving from his father who still weaves and was infectiously passionate about the material and the craft!

Zantium Studios is a 15-minute drive from Darley House, hidden away in the village of Godfrey Hole, near the market town of Wirksworth. It’s a beautiful old building with glorious chicken-filled gardens overlooking fields of sheep. On arrival, owner and mosaic artist Alison greeted us with a smile and a mug of coffee and biscuits and then willow weaver and sculptor Eddie Glew (who has worked with Grand Designs) gave us the introduction to the day and showed us to our workstations on the dewy grass in the autumn sunshine. He learned willow weaving from his father who still weaves and was infectiously passionate about the material and the craft!
Darley House Willow Sculptures

Within minutes, the 8 of us on the course (all ages, some local residents, a mother and daughter from Gatwick and me from Bristol) were busily weaving willow around the base of our plant support in concentrated silence. Eddie spent time with each of us helping us get the hang of the pattern, which I kept losing on several occasions and before I knew it, I had something resembling the structures I had seen and admired in the garden upon arrival! We were all quite proud of our end results and stepped back to admire them with another coffee and some more biscuits. It was already nearing lunchtime by then, so we stopped to eat a lovely buffet lunch of sandwiches, fruits, and yoghourts in the garden and chat about why we had all chosen the course and what we would all like to do with our new found willow skills.

Then it was on to the bit I’d been waiting for – willow dragonflies! I’d hunted around for willow weaving courses in the past but they were always hens or deer and I wanted to do something smaller and more decorative like butterflies or dragonflies. I loved making them so much I decided to make 2 instead of moving on to try some of the other twizzler and bird feeder designs that Eddie also went on to demonstrate.

Darley House Willow Sculpture Dragonfly
Darley House Willow Sculpture Eddie Glew

Another brief break to sample Alison’s homemade nutella cake with a cuppa and it was already time to head home with a car full of willow dragonflies and a large willow plant support strapped to the car roof! Make sure you have plenty of space in your car to take home your creations!

Darley House Willow Sculpture Tea Break

Alison and her husband Peter have been running Zantium Studios for nearly 20 years and teaching mosaic artistry. They met at art college in London and originally rented studio space at Banks Mill in Derby but their dream was always to move to the countryside and have both home and studio on one site. They discovered Godfrey Hole Cottage, an old farmhouse full of character with a bright airy studio extension, in 2002 and have been there ever since. The setting is perfect for our outdoor courses with its huge spacious garden and glorious views across the fields to Carsington Water.

I left Zantium Studios with a huge smile feeling more relaxed than I have in a long time and very proud of my creations! The day flew by which is always a good sign! I can’t recommend them highly enough – if you want to learn a new skill while you’re on holiday, book yourself on to one of their craft workshops!  They currently offer courses in Mosaic, Stained Glass, Willow, Jewellery, Paper Crafts and Textiles, with more new courses coming next year and they can also arrange bespoke workshops for private groups. They also do gift vouchers so it could be a great gift for someone!

1-day courses cost £95 including lunch and refreshments (materials are extra – normally £10-15 on top). All classes are 8 people maximum and very relaxed in structure. Visit their studio website for more information www.zantiumstudios.co.uk

Zantium Craft Courses

A few of our favourite things – RHS Chatsworth 2017

We are very proud of our Victorian gardens at Darley House, designed by Joseph Paxton. Since we are always looking for further ideas and inspiration, we love visiting other gardens and shows. So, we were eager indeed to be at the first RHS Chatsworth Show, partnered by Wedgwood.  

Here are some of the show's highlights for us:

Floral bridge by Jonathan Moseley

A collage of photos from RHS Chatsworth

Visitors could explore the show site on both banks of the river Derwent, linked by several bridges. One was a golden opportunity for Jonathan Moseley to create his floral palladian bridge. Jonathan's exquisite floral artistry lining the sides and ceiling was breathtaking. Consequently we are now looking out for Jonathan's next floral workshops at Chatsworth which apparently get booked up very quickly.

Giant dandelions!

We were mesmerised by these intricate and detailed sculptures which dominated the skyline near the floral bridge and marquees. Whilst photographing them, I randomly managed to capture a bird mid-flight imitating a loose seed head! (see photo below)

picture of the paladin bridge at RHS Chatsworth

Naturalistic planting by Jo Thompson

Chatsworth created a new FreeForm garden category to encourage sculptural designs and features without limits.  The winner was the Brewin Dophin garden by award winning designer  Jo Thompson. This combined naturalistic planting with contemporary industrial materials and a striking sculpture of cast iron railings following the curve of the river.  This was our favourite -  a glorious and colourful, sweeping mix of perennials that worked beautifully alongside the water.

:Picture of the naturalistic planting of the Brewin Dolphin garden at RHS Chatsworth 2017

Practical gardening solutions from Moveable Feast

We really liked the way that the Moveable Feast garden, designed by Tanya Batkin and sponsored by Vergette Ltd, offered a practical gardening solution for a "letting lifestyle". Designed for a couple starting out together, the modular design is transportable. Owners can reconfigure them, move them into shelter for frost protection and of course take to a new home. You can even have an edible shed roof so you can snack while you garden!

The people's choice

Chatsworth is a central pillar of the Peak District community. So it was only natural that people could vote online for their favourite show garden. And the people’s choice was… The Belmond Enchanted Garden designed by Butter Wakefield. A romantic and natural garden to let your imagination wander – amongst the wildflower planting, along woven, willow fences and up the dreamy spiral staircase.

And of course ...JP's Great Stove and banana legacy

Finally, the piece de résistance for us was the inflatable Great Stove in honour of Jospeph Paxton and the 6th Duke's pioneering plant explorations. Joseph Paxton was even there in person to explain the design of his giant glasshouse. Here he created the perfect conditions for the 'Dwarf Cavendish' banana to flower for the first time in 1835. The descendent of this original plant is still at Chatsworth and furthermore, this is the main variety that we eat today.

Chatsworth certainly added an innovative flair and put the Peak District stamp on the RHS Flower Show map - from the giant, well-dressing floral "RHS" letters by the banks of the Derwent, to the dry stone wall building demonstrations. It was a fabulous day out despite the weather which challenged both organisers and guests alike. But everyone donned their wellies and embraced the festival spirit. I couldn't stop thinking how wonderful it would have been in full sunshine ...but then there is always next year!

RHS Chatsworth 2018

RHS Chatsworth Show is back from 6th to 10th June 2018 and Darley House, with it's rich garden history and size, is the ideal base for a large group of garden lovers to come and visit. For more information, visit our website, or call Lucy on 07719 894663.  We are 20 minutes drive from Chatsworth and sleep 14.

Cycling – explore the beauty of the Peak District on two wheels

We think the Peak District is one of the best places for leisure cycling.  The unique and varied landscape offers you a range of great cycling experiences - family-friendly trails, organised group tours, and longer routes for more experienced cyclists who are seeking some challenging hill climbs.

A cyclist resting, sitting beside his bike, on the grassy banks of a river, with the river and a weeping willow in view, courtesy of Glory Days Bikes

There are over 65 miles of easy-going trails for you to explore, hundreds of miles of quiet lanes as well as varied and challenging mountain bike routes. Keen road cyclists can enjoy some of the best iconic 'cycling climbs' of the Peak District - Winnats Pass, Monsal Head, Rowsley Bar, Curbar Edge and Holme Moss.

Pretty villages, superb views, interesting history, fascinating wildlife and geology - it's all here for you to enjoy. You see, smell and hear a lot more when you're travelling slowly by bike.


Take the family on off-road trails
A Photo from Monsal Trail Bike Hire website of the viaduct at Monsal Head and lush green rolling hills in the background

Our first experiences of cycling in the Peak District were based around family days out with our children and friends. We go to nearby Monsal Trail Cycle Hire, at Hassop Station, Bakewell because they make it so easy. You can get tag-alongs and baby seats so the whole family can go and the staff can help you with any repairs to your own bikes. Turn up and ride - just bring ID. No need to book unless you fancy electric or tandem bicycles. You will ride through the spectacular tunnels and enjoy stunning views of Monsal Dale and Water cum Jolly Dale.  

We can also recommend child friendly and mainly flat, off road cycling trails further a field at Parsley Hay (Tissington Trail) and Carsington Water.  Both of these need to be booked in advance. 

A photo Carsington Water website showing children wearing helmets cycling on the paths around Carsington Water

Choose from a range of on-road cycling routes

Road cycling enthusiasts will probably wish to bring their bikes with them. Our friends Jane and Chris, seen below setting off from Darley House, are in this category.   They simply love cycling and do many annual sportifs including Mont Ventoux!  

Jane and Chris took a varied 30km route from Darley House through Chatsworth, on to Bakewell, up to Monyash and back through beautiful Winster. They definitely recommend the hot tub hire for relaxing in after this ride!

Friends of the owner of Darley House setting out on a cycle ride from Darley House

Glory Days Bikes, specialists in retro and vintage bike hire, recommend their "Journeys of Discovery" by bike - a series of circular road and trail routes.  The Peak District National Park  lists a range of itineraries on their Explorerslider, from easy to challenging, which are ideal for exploring slowly by bike.

​Darley House guests who want to plan their own cycle routes are very welcome to borrow the many maps and books of cycles routes and trails we have at the house.


Have a lightweight vintage bike delivered to your doorstep
Close up of a Glory Days Bike vintage bike (leather saddle and duck egg blue cross bars) with the Peak District scenery in the background

We know that bringing your bikes is not always practical.  Glory Days Bikes can help with bike hire and deliver direct to Darley House.  Darley House guests pay just £40 a day and can get 4 days for the price of 3 - just let them know you are staying with us.  All their vintage bikes are made from lightweight steel tubing of British manufacture. You can also hire panniers, pumps and maps free of charge so you're ready to explore. 


Or try mountain biking... 
A close up of a section of a mountain bike, with its thick tyres, with blue skies and the tops of rolling Derbyshire hills in the background

There are some fabulous mountain biking routes in the Peak District too.  Flattyres - MTB  give well laid out maps and detailed instructions for routes in both the White and the Dark Peak.

If you are a beginner or want to improve your skills, or fancy a guided session Dolomite Training runs courses at all levels.  All instructors are professionally qualified with a wealth of experience in the Peak District. Open courses are bookable online and they offer 1:1 coaching and cater for group bookings. Darley House guests get £20 off bookings for groups of 4 or more.

The poster for Eroica Brittania Festival 16 - 18 June 2017

There is two wheeled fun and exercise to be had for all and for real lovers of all things bike-related, a trip to the famous Eroica Festival is a must too. Visitors can explore the vintage stalls and watch the world famous pre-1987 bikes ridden by thousands of cyclists in vintage clothes.

If you are looking for a base for your cycling adventures in the Peak District, Darley House is perfectly situated. We understand how precious your bikes can be too so if you're bringing your own, you are most welcome to store them in the entrance hall for safe-keeping.  For more information and availability visit our website


Reasons to visit the Peak District in 2017

There are so many wonderful events happening across the Peak District summer 2017.  Here are some that we are particularly looking forward to:

RHS Chatsworth Annual Flower Show 7 - 11 June 2017

Chatsworth, the vanguard of stately homes, is host to the newest RHS flower show and promises not to disappoint. “We have been focusing on creating an exciting, life-enhancing, vibrant show that is different from any other” says Nick Mattingley, RHS Director of Shows.

With our special connection to Joseph Paxton we are particularly excited about the floral marquee which takes its inspiration from Joseph Paxton’s Great Conservatory.  This was also known as  the Great Stove and housed vibrant flowers, exotic palms and aquatic plants. Sadly it went in disrepair during the war and had to be demolished.  Now it will be born again! A giant 14-metre high inflatable dome will form the centrepiece the show.  From here visitors can hear the story of Paxton and his achievements - including the story of the dwarf banana (Musa cavendishii) from which most commercially grown bananas are derived.

Joseph Paxton also left a legacy at Darley House. He bought the house for his daughter in 1845 and generously landscaped the gardens. So we will be going to the show for inspiration as we continue on our journey to restore the Darley House gardens.

Eroica Britannia 16  - 18 June 2017

Eroica Britannia, the 3 day vintage family festival, has a new home at Friden Grange, near Newhaven this year. Thousands of cyclists in vintage clothes will take part in the now world famous pre-1987 bike ride 18th June. Visitors will also find vintage stalls, experiences and various forms of children's entertainment.

Buxton Festival 7 - 23rd July 

The Buxton Festival covers a range of music, opera and literature. There will be appearances from famous authors and musicians and a celebrated programme of operas and literary talks. And there is also the Buxton Fringe Festival, one of the largest in England, featuring some 500 events.

The Bakewell Show 2 - 3 August 2017

One of the oldest agricultural shows in the country. It includes a mix of entertainment, food, drink, animals and attractions.  It's a really fun day out for families with a popular children's zone featuring a climbing wall, zipwire and circus skills.  The Equestrian Day takes place on Tuesday 1st August with mostly Horse of the Year Show qualifiers. Some stands are open and free grandstand seating can be enjoyed all day.

House Style Exhibition at Chatsworth House 25 March - 22 October 2017

This exhibition of fashion over the eras, sponsored by Gucci, will gives an glimpse into the lives of some fascinating women from the Cavendish family.  These include Bess of Hardwick; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; Adele Astaire; Deborah Devonshire and Nancy Mitford, two of the Mitford sisters; model Stella Tennant and John F Kennedy’s sister ‘Kick’ Kennedy. See our Darley House review/blog of the exhibition.

More besides...

There are of course many other events besides and you can find a comprehensive list on visitpeakdistrict.com.  We also recommend some activities in the Your Stay area of our website. We have arranged some exclusive group booking offers that our guests can take advantage of.

If you would like to enquire about a stay at Darley House, a self catering holiday let sleeping 14, near Matlock, visit the Booking page of our website or call Lucy on 07719 894663. 

The featured image of the sun rising over Burbage Rocks, is by Graham Dunn, photographer.   Also see our Special Celebrations page and recent blog Capturing Memories at Darley House 

Capturing memories at Darley House with photographer Graham Dunn

We celebrated my father's 90th birthday at Darley House in October 2016.  Like most people coming to Darley House we were looking to bring family and friends together and wanted to capture the occasion.  Obviously you're not 90 everyday and one of my sister's and her family live abroad, so our opportunities to get together like this are limited.

I researched photographers in the area and was recommended Graham Dunn.  Graham's speciality is clear from his website, where I was instantly bewitched by stunning photographs of the Peak District, including some of our favourites walks and Dales.  I had been assured that he does family photo shoots too, and so gave him a call.

Our family way of celebrating always involves music and my other sister Hannah Kieldson, musician and composer, arranged a medley of my father's favourite songs which we performed in the large living room bay window.  Graham captured both formal and informal moments brilliantly.

I was so impressed that I asked Graham to come back and photograph the Darley House gardens, which are part of the Alastair Sawday's garden collection, through the seasons.

So he revisited Darley House in early November just as the heaven's opened...patience has to be a virtue for any photographer.  Then there was one of those moments, which I have been told is called the 'magic hour', just before sunset.  As the skies cleared, golden light poured on to the tree line creating a striking contrast against the turgid slate skies... and Graham tore around the garden with his tripod.

Pond

Gingko biloba and carpet

Woodland walkways

So we captured some wonderful memories of our three generations and friends - grandparents, grandchildren, parents, children, sisters,  in October.  And then some wonderful shots of the Victorian gardens, designed by Joseph Paxton in the 1860s, on that stormy day in November.  And there will be more of the Darley House gardens, in winter, spring and summer, which I look forward to sharing.

When you book Darley House we can help you to create the ideal stay or celebration, whatever that might be, and if you want Graham Dunn to help capture your special moments in time, then we would be only to happy to recommend him.  

A taste of the Peak District – our new welcome hamper

Continuing on our foodie trail to find some wonderful local products for our guests, I met Barry Colenso, a master chocolatier, at Darley House at the beginning of October. Barry, from nearby Belper, is the "go to" expert on chocolate and was involved with the design of  Kate and Will's chocolate wedding cake in 2011.  His chocolate truffles feature in our hamper and he is available to run courses at Darley House.  So all you chocolate lovers can plan the perfect weekend fit for a prince or princess!

If you are staying at Darley House you can discuss your specific requirements with Barry who can run anything from 2 hrs to a full day - to include a "jungle to finished product" talk, tasting of single origin chocolates and hands on creating and making for a minimum of 8 people.  Find out more about Barry here. 

Our next stop was Roper's Honey in Sutton Scarsdale, to meet Helen and Tim.  We had a great explanation of the process of collecting and extracting honey and tasted the honey directly from the comb.  This local bee farm started as a hobby in 1957 and now has around 100 colonies of honeybees around Derbyshire cared for by father, son and grandson.  There is an observation hive where you can see the bees in action in summer and a Honey Room, where you can see the honey being extracted and a shop - making for a perfect family day out.  

Our hamper includes some Ropers Summer and Lime honey and either lip balm or hand cream, made from the beeswax, which are both superbly restorative.

Finally, we went next door to meet Gareth of Spires Brewing Company.  With an eclectic and tasty selection of beers and names -  from "HOPink Mad" to "Jailbreak" - they live up to their motto "There is a beer for everyone".   Prebook a brewery tour and tasting for up to 14 people at weekends or visit the snug bar, at the brewery  (Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings) to discover the perfect beer for you.  And if you don't find one you like, they can brew one specially and label it.  Truly inspiring!

There are two bottles in our hamper to try and you can also place an order to arrive in time for your stay. As neighbours, Roper's Honey and Spire Brewing Co, effectively make a Bee and Beer (B&B) tour, which we would definitely recommend to our guests.

So, our Made in Derbyshire hamper, showcasing some of the wonderful local products and artisans in the area, is now available free, to all Darley House guests on arrival.  

Thank you to Amber Valley Wines, Brock & Morten, Spire Brewing Co, Barry Colenso and Roper's Honey for taking time to show us what they do and let us sample their products.

Local produce from Derbyshire – enjoyed by our guests

At the end of August 2016 we went on a foodie trail to discover local produce for our guest hamper. We want to give our guests a taste of the area whilst supporting the wonderful local artisans. We also recommend guests visit the vineyards and discover the varied and delicious  local produce at Bakewell Farmer's market for themselves.


Local produce from the Derbyshire vineyards

Between Wessington and Tansley, in the Amber Valley, are several vineyards visible from the road.  To us these rolling hills signify our imminent arrival in the beautiful Peak District.  In addition, they also bring a little touch of the exotic to the area.  

The vineyards of Wessington vineyards - rows of vines with blue sky and fields in the distance

We heard about Amber Valley Wines from local friends.  So we met Barry Lewis who kindly gave us a tour of the vineyard at Wessington.  He explained that with his colleague Duncan they have brought to life a dream based on a love and understanding of wines.  They have visited and tasted wines from the finest vineyards in the world.  And now they are growing Solaris and Ortega grape varieties which are best suited to the Derbyshire climate.

Lucy Arterton and Barry Lewis (of Amber Valley wine) sampling the Lindway White in a field with hedgerows and trees in the background

After the tour, in the corner of a field, with bees hives and beautiful views, we sampled their local produce - Lindway white and rose´.  Superbly light and deliciously drinkable and we have already put in our order!  

A bottle of the Lindway white and rose´ chilling in a silver cooler in long green grass - August 2016 (by Lucy Arterton)

Cook with these locally produced rape seed oils

On the search for more local produce where better to visit than the Bakewell Farmer's Market. This is held on the last Saturday of each month.  Here we met Kate Brocklehurst and her colourful display of Brock & Morten rapeseed oils.

A smiling Kate, co-owner of Brock & Morten, at the Bakewell Farmer's Market August 2016 with her stall of colourful rapeseed oils

Kate and Ben Furness produce award winning rapeseed oil on their family farms in the heart of the Peak District.  They use traditional methods of cold pressing. Especially rich in vitamin E and Omega 3, 6, and 9 rapeseed oil is recommended by the British Heart Foundation.  It's high burning point makes it is ideal for roasting.  In addition, its unique flavour makes it perfect for salad dressings.  Furthermore, there are a range of delicious and colourfully flavoured oils available - garlic, lemon, rosemary and chilli.

A bowl of chicken breast marinating in Brock & Morten lemon and garlic flavoured rapeseed oils with the Brock & Morten Kitchen collection of oils on display

While preparing a BBQ for friends on a lovely warm evening, the flavoured oils came into their own.  I doused the chicken breasts in the lemon and garlic flavoured rapeseed oils, coated them in yoghurt and seasoning.  I also drenched some mushrooms on skewers in the chilli flavoured oil (possibly slightly over doing it for some guests!!!).  The food was  cooked on The Big Green Egg BBQ (below) on our newly finished walled patio area.  Naturally, we showcased the local produce further - sharing a glass or two of the Amber Valley Lindway White.

Lucy and Alex (owners of Darley House) with friends on the rear walled patio at Darley House

Coming soon - our Darley House hamper with local produce

As a consequence of our foodie trail we will be including this local produce in our Made in Derbyshire hamper.  This is a free welcome gift available to all our guests from October 2016.  

You can find out more about breaks at Darley House, local produce and activities we recommend in Derbyshire at www.darleyhouse.com

Catered breaks at Darley House from Master Chef Charlie

Charlie Ratcliffe (Master Chef of Great Britain) creates exceptional catered breaks for our guests. Most noteworthy is his bespoke menu planning,  a professional approach and a passionate enthusiasm for good food.  And, he is a lovely guy to have around and chat to about food, cycling (another passion), or anything really.

Charlie Ratcliffe in his white chef's apron , tea towel over shoulder, plating up food on the granite island unit at Darley house for our fully catered art retreats

The restaurant and bespoke menus come to you

Charlie takes care of everything whilst you leisurely change upstairs and enjoy an aperitif in the drawing room. Then you sit down, refreshed and relaxed, to a sumptuous meal with your family and friends.  Together with Tony, he will provide everything for the table, serve drinks and clear away afterwards.

Choose from 3 - 5 courses - each skillfully created around your personal preferences and dietary requirements.  Alternatively, if celebrating at lunchtime, you might like to consider a buffet or a BBQ.  You can either dine in the spacious contemporary open-plan kitchen, or in the more classically elegant Georgian dining room.

Naturally, Charlie buys local and seasonal produce and sources his fish from Cornwall.  

Charlie's starter on a white plate

Flavours galore

He describes his style of cooking as 'modern European with French and Italian influences'.  Most of all he believes it's about quality ingredients and creating fabulous and unique flavours.  

I won’t just use the one cut from the animal. The tougher cuts that have done more work often have more flavour. The more the muscle works, the more the flavour builds up."

This 'nose to tail' approach, for example, could have a piece of fillet steak served with sweetbread and a braised oxtail croquette.  Of course, this is all in accordance with each guest's personal preferences.

Most noteworthy are his home-made ice creams and sorbets, as the flavour combinations are amazing.  Another favourite is carmelised pear tart tartin with pickled walnut and blue cheese ice cream! Charlie is always looking to do something different.  At Christmas he stunned us with this fluorescent sorbet - which glowed when we dimmed the lights!!

Charlie's fluorescent sorbet  from Christmas 2015

Catered weekend breaks

In addition to a one off celebratory meal, Charlie also offers our guests a complete weekend of culinary experience and convenience.   Make the most of your stay and enjoy some amazing food whilst relaxing with your family and friends.  

Charlie can cook on the Friday and Saturday night.  Perhaps a two course meal on Friday with a more lengthy bespoke menu on Saturday.  Or the other way round, as you prefer. While there, he will deliver a nutritious breakfast for the following day.  Typically breakfast might include swiss cheese and smoked ham platter, pastries and brioche, fruit compot, yoghurts, fruit salad and mueslis.  So you are ready to explore the beautiful scenery and many attractions that the  Peak District has in store.


Further information 

For more information on these packages and prices click here or contact Charlie at The Private Chef Company.

If you would like find out more about Darley House please see our website www.darleyhouse.com

Christmas at Darley House

What a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas early in the special setting and atmosphere of Darley House!  Transport covered planes, trains and cars: with my eldest sister and family flying into Manchester airport from Switzerland; my  middle sister getting the train to Matlock and my parents, aunt and uncle and our children driving from various corners of the country.

We had already decorated the house in early December so were able to relax and spend our first night catching up round the kitchen table enjoying a lamb tagine, seasonally tweaked to include cranberries and chestnuts, followed by my mother's blackcurrant tart.

The next day, inspired by the bright blue skies and sunshine, we divided up according to our preferred levels of activity.  I took my sister (recovering from a hip replacement op!) and brother-in-law​ on an 8 km tour of Monsal Head, followed by a welcome half at the Monsal Hotel Stable Bar whilst a more leisurely party went to Bakewell for last minute Christmas shopping, conveniently bringing back Bakewell tarts from the Bakewell Tart Shop for tea.

That evening we were treated to a very special meal by Charlie Ratcliffe from the Private Chef Company. The menu was superb and even included ultra violet lit sorbet!  

Pan seared scallops, ham beignets, leek terrine and toasted hazelnut.

Roast breast of goose, potato and pancetta pressing, parsnip puree, chestnuts, red currents, sprout leaves and port jus.

Spiced poached pear, almond brittle, caramelised pear sorbet and salted caramel.

It was so special to have my family all together and with Charlie and Tony's help I was able to participate fully in the evening events including our family's our special brand of musical entertainment - The Music Master!!!  and party games involving humming well known tunes - more difficult than you would think!

If you like the idea of spending Christmas away, or want to celebrate a special occasion with family and friends, Darley House is a fabulous luxury location combining Georgian grandeur with contemporary convenience.  This house is superbly well equipped, beautifully decorated and sleeps 14.  Contact Lucy if you would like more information. 

The Joy Of Watercolour

THE JOY OF WATERCOLOUR

What do artists want?  Time and space to focus on painting?  Tutor input, support and feedback? Freedom from everyday chores and pressures?  This is what we aimed to provide at our first art retreat at Darley House in September.  Contemporary artist Ella Clocksin encouraged us to develop more fluent brush work and widen our vocabulary of visual mark-making on this retreat suitable for all levels entitled 'The Artful Scribbler".  

Guests arrived on Monday afternoon and the retreat ran until Thursday pm.  Morning sessions began at 9.30am, after a leisurely breakfast.  The tuition included structured studio work and individual sketching and development time, dispersed with tea breaks and a delicious lunch. After tea and cake in the drawing room we could continue our work, take a private tutorial with Ella, or unwind.  Evenings were spent savouring the flavours of our exquisite fine dining experience and chatting in front of the open fires.  

Charlie our chef at The Private Chef Company treated us to a constant flow of delicious food, and the perfect weather meant that we produced lots of work in and around the delightfully mature Victorian gardens of Darley House.

We are holding our next retreat, 'Painting Light, after Turner', 9 - 12 November 2016. At the time of writing we have one non-resident place left. We are planning next year's retreats in June, October and November and exact dates are to be confirmed.  There are ten places available for each retreat which can be either residential or non-residential.

If you would like to make an earlybird reservation or investigate giving this as a gift for someone please contact Ella.