There’s just something uniquely wholesome about the British Countryside, a holistic quality that renders it incomparable to anywhere else. The Peak District is one of our many treasured expanses, originally England’s first ever National Park thanks to its awe-inspiring raw beauty.
Amongst the ever-green hills and willowy trees lies centuries of history. Starting with the mesolithic era and remaining evidence of the bronze and iron ages, growing into the agricultural usage of the Romans, being spun into the cotton mills at the start of the Industrial revolution, until mining and finally tourism – creating the spa and market towns of today.
The quaint landscape cradles cosy country houses and impressive heritage sites made for a sleepy weekends away, scenic walks along the public footpaths, peddling along the cycle trails, rock climbing and even caving.
Around four hours after stocking up on plenty of nourishment for the road trip up from London, we made our way through the mystical November fog that shrouded the peak of our destination. Rolling across the gravel into a magical, dimly lit hideaway, we were given a warm welcome at reception by the lovely Jo, who handed us the keys to our nest for the weekend.
Haddon Grove Farm Cottages is an award-winning hamlet of luxury cottage accommodation situated just outside the historic market town of Bakewell, in the heart of the beautiful Peak District National park.
Sleeping anywhere between 2-10 people, you have the choice of either escaping the entire crowd, or escaping with them. Opting for the former, we were booked into the Love Nest – an intimate 1 bedroom cottage for 2, complete with log fire burner, kitchenette and a glittering en suite.
Having made our way up the pebbled path in the candle-lit, chilly outdoors, we opened the door to find a heavenly abode hung with fairy lights, soft throws and homely furnishings. The attention to detail does not go unnoticed, from the sparkling reflective tiles in the bathroom with its heated wooden floors, to the delicate feathers adorning a divinely feminine dressing table, plenty of plump pillows and snug sheepskin rugs by the fireplace. Everything you need for tuning out and tuning in.
Food should be ordered around 7 days in advance, as everything is home-cooked. The award-winning hand-baked pies are a must, with every one of the ingredients being sourced locally. We opted for two of the chicken pastries, which melt in your mouth when combined with a thick, flavoursome gravy and ‘Northern mushy peas’. As if that wasn’t enough, each pie and pea supper also comes with afters, from gooey salted caramel chocolate brownies, to a syrupy sticky toffee with countryside clotted cream and of course, provincial Cherry Bakewell slices – authentically crafted following the original recipe. By far the biggest selling point of all, is that their Mince Pies are available to order all year round, apt seeing as the cottages retain the magical glow and festive feel of Christmas, in what could be an otherwise bleak midwinter.
I recommend spending the rest of the evening sinking into the bath in a post-prandial heap of relaxation, complete with bubbles, a good book and some of their Derbyshire, hand-blended Frankincense & Myrrh facial oil. Available on request, this little bottle of luxury is lovingly concocted by mother and daughter, who sought something naturally rich and free from all parabens and preservatives.
Frankincense has astringent properties, making it ideal for the face. It dries out acne, reduces the appearance of fine lines by tightening the skin and is incredibly nourishing, whilst drying without any shiny residue. Myrrh oil has wonderful antioxidant properties, making it great for healing small wounds or chapped lips, whilst protecting from the cold and rejuvenating the skin, giving it that healthy glow.
Combined together, this power couple smell divine and are the perfect face-food for winter. Rub a few drops in your hands, inhale, then gently pat all over the face, with some circular motions around the lymphatic glands to encourage drainage and reduce puffiness. Having researched the best essential oils, Jo and Chloe’s family and friends were soon asking for them and they are now coming to London! You can find them stocked in the Tart London concept store, in Eccleston Yards.
Waking up from one of the best night’s sleep all month, I had plenty of vivid visions to share with my daily Dream Diary. Savouring a few brownies and cups of tea for breakfast, we set off down the hill to the nearby Bakewell Christmas Market. Hot mulled wine, northern Oatcakes, local crafts and two and four-legged animals full of glee at the sight of candy canes, crisp cut trees and handmade fudge; if anywhere were to epitomise the spirit of Christmas in November this would be it.
One stall caught my eye in particular – ‘Dad’s’. Manned by a sweet, local connoisseur of preserved goods, a venerable face proudly displayed an array of his finest selection of spiked jams and condiments, including a whiskey mint jelly and mild brandy mustard. Stocking up on pretty much everything I lay eyes on, I came across a bottle of the ‘Dad’s Bee’s’ honey apple cider vinegar. If you’ve ever tasted apple cider vinegar on its own, you’ll empathise as to why I usually prefer it’s topical qualities (makes for an easy, complexion-enhancing toner), to the ingestible ones.
At the bottom of the glass bottle was a faint brown residue known as ‘The Mother’ – a bacteria produced by mixing raw, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar with raw unpasteurised honey. It’s important that both ingredients are raw and left to sit in order to cultivate this special lady. She helps with joint pains and issues of digestion. We are genetically more bacteria than man after all – and this is better than any dead, freeze-dried probiotic supplement you’ll find. I bought one for myself as I often get pain in my foot joint after exercising (middle-class, bunion woes), as well as one for a friend suffering from stomach ulcers. With a requirement of 1-2 teaspoons a day for effective results, I’d be lying if I said it tasted as palatable as apple cider, but the spoonful of honey does help the medicine go down.
Buxton is another attraction, just 10 miles away from Haddon Grove. Formerly a Victorian spa, it’s home to the famous Buxton bottled water – not quite the Cherry Tart fame of Bakewell, but a slightly more substantial town nevertheless. Other temptations include Gullivers Kingdom and the Heights of Abraham in Matlock, as well as the antiques market and vintage tea shops in Ashbourne.
Returning to Haddon Grove, which was akin to something out of Beatrix Potter in the dusky evening light, we watched the sun set from the comfort of the indoor, heated pool on site. It was quiet and we had the place to ourselves, only breaking the tranquility with some music and a competitive half hour of ping pong upstairs.
Evenings are best spent on the porch, wrapped up in warm blankets with mugs of marshmallow hot chocolate and a cinematic view of the cosmos. With the door shut, you’re hard-pressed even to hear the roar of the fire or the hum of the TV indoors, just complete stillness. It’s a beautiful existential moment, both visually and sensually. Bringing into awareness the funny side of life in London, as we hurry from meditation studio to yoga class to Reiki session in an attempt to find an hour of healing peacefulness; when here, in the Derbyshire countryside, it’s as simple as sitting on the front porch and engaging with nature for a moment. Feeling present never felt so effortless, compared to the hours of podcasts, chanting and candle-lit sweat sessions back home!
Sunday came around all too soon and it was time to venture back into the mayhem. After our revitalising retreat, I felt more than ready to take it on. Haddon Grove will always be there, as an incentivising and luxurious little treat. Perhaps a few routine trips back up to god’s pastures is all that’s required for an adequate reset and healthy dose of perspective, after all.