“ Hermitage Working Farm / Froghall, Nr Cheadle, Staffordshire / Moorlands, ST10 2HQ / Tel: 01538 266515 / Fax: 01538 266155 „
Well, hotel reviews seem the thing to do at the moment, so I thought I'd review a B&B me and Phil stayed during the May Bank holiday weekend: Hermitage Working Farm.
Phil decided to treat me to the weekend away as we'd get 4 full days of rest and relaxation, not to mention fry-ups and lay-ins! So after deciding that we should use up our Tussaud's annual passes before they expire we chose the beautiful region of Staffordshire so we could visit Alton Towers for the last time in a good few years.
After scouring every single decent looking place and them telling us they were completely booked we stumbled upon Hermitage Farm. Phil phoned to make the booking and fortunately they had a B&B room spare! So after waiting what seemed like the longest week, we packed our bags and made our way up North!
______ Finding Hermitage Farm ______
Now to those of you that are a little afraid of heights and steep, narrow, winding country roads then this probably isn't the place for you!
We came up from Romford so it was pretty much M25 then M1 all the way. It's located near a small village called Ipstone and another called Froghall equidistant between the towns of Leek, Cheadle and Ashbourne. Just head if you can for the B5053 on either the A52 or A523 and that road will take you there, but you'll definitely need a map. Fortunately our Peugeot can handle the dirt tracks so things weren't too bad. We did get a little afraid when we saw an emergency lay-by where out of control, runaway cars could slam into a gravel pit though!
The farm is about ½ a mile up on a quite steep hill.
Alternatively you can catch the train there, the nearest mainline station is Stoke-on-Trent which is 15 miles away otherwise Blythe Bridge station is 6 miles away, it's served by Central Trains and runs from Crewe to Derby.
______ Arrival & Check In ______
We arrived at about 5pm thanks to road works on the M1 and M25. Figures. We made our way to the top of the hill and pulled into the gravel road. This then led us into a pretty courtyard style parking area. Looking out from the entrance the gardens are situated on the left, the main house is situated straight ahead to the left, some smaller bungalows directly ahead, a barn style conversion into apartments on the right and the entrance to the farm and tractors on the right and up a small hill.
In front of the parking bays is a lovely field complete with cows (watch the wind, you don't wanna be downwind of those things! Pew!) and the beautiful views of the Staffordshire Hills and Moors. It is a very country-style garden with a tyre swing for the kiddies and there are plenty of what I expect are rat-catching cats looming around. There is also a dog tied up with his own cave-like kennel in the wall.
Reception is located in the main house with signs clearly pointing which way to go. As we approached the main house the dog noticed us and started to bark like mad.
"It's ok," I said to Phil, "Look, he's got a rope on."
When the dog started to come closer I realised the rope was probably more of a fashion statement than a restraint! I did start to worry but it seemed quite slow on it's feet and then just sat down, watching us as we walked into the house.
There were lots of cats around at this point, I counted about 4 running up to the door. This didn't bother me in the slightest but made Phil feel slightly unnerved. On arrival at the reception, which was just a hallway, we met up with a lady who got our key. She informed us that we were the only people staying at the farm that night. That made me wonder:
a. why, when all the other places we'd tried had been fully booked and
b. what did it say about the place? That on one of the busiest times in the year next to the UK's biggest theme park the place was empty?
I quickly put these thoughts out of my mind. The lady then requested that we pay the final remainder of the fee now, which we both thought was strange. But anyway, Phil paid and we were shown to our room. As we walked across the gravel that lady said breakfast would be served at 8:30. 8:30?!? Who gets up that early on holiday? Phil and I exchanged doubtful glances but as the lady had had her back turned to us the whole time she didn't see. We agreed to the breakfast and thought at least we'd get a full day at Alton Towers.
______ The Room _______
We were shown our room which was on the ground floor in the entrance way. As we walked in we were shown the place. The room was quite large, bigger than most Travelodge's and Holiday Inn's and could comfortably fit a double bed, bunk beds and a large sofa. The lady turned one radiator of the three on and said the rooms get very hot. She recommended a few good pubs and Waterworld. She then left.
The decoration wasn't to my taste save for the lovely dark wooden beams periodically placed above the vanity unit and windows. It was very much country, floral patterns with lots of greens, blues and pinks. The floor was carpeted and the ceiling and walls were artexted. Phil and I did question whether this was meant to reflect the character of the Grade II listed building or whether the plasterers just did a bad job. But it wasn't too bad for what it was.
The room was in an L-shape, with the main room featuring the beds and the TV. The TV was suspended from the far wall opposite the bed and the signal was terrible, the best channel being Channel 5 (now that says something!) When lying in bed watching TV the size of the screen was about as big as a postage stamp. Never mind though, we weren't there to watch television, we were there for the thrills and rides of Alton Towers!
Turning the corner on the left was the vanity table/tea making facilities. There was a kettle that when full would give 2 people a decent sized cuppa. As far as the complimentary drinks go there was packets of hot chocolate, teabags, Nescafe and the like. There were also some tiny biscotti which were lovely, a nice change from the usual digestive and bourbon creams. The vanity table was quite small, yet big enough for my hairdryer and hair straightener along with the kettle and drinks tray. The mirror was low considering there was no seat.
Facing opposite the vanity table was another cupboard with a rail to hang clothes and extra blankets. This cupboard was under the stairs.
Next to these was the bathroom. It was quite simple, a loo, shower and sink with mirror. There was also a radiator too, which is always a good thing, especially in those cold winter nights! The shower had laminated instructions on how to operate. It was very sensitive and I had to shower in boiling hot water. The one problem I had with this room is that the floor was carpeted. Who puts carpet in a bathroom? It's very unhygienic and although looked clean I couldn't help but wonder how many germs were lurking about in the fibres. I mean, it's (kinda) ok if it's your own home, you know whose been using the bathroom, but in a b&b? It could be anyone! Gross!
So all in all it was a nice place, the view from the window was lovely and it was so peaceful and quiet, just what Phil and I needed! So, we unpacked out clothes (meaning we threw the suitcase on the sofa while getting out the essentials for the nights entertainment) and headed out to the nearest pub.
We had a lovely meal, sampled some delicious house wine and played cards (I lost!). When we got home, we crashed into bed, put the TV on and squinted at Jonathan Ross for half an hour before falling asleep.
______ What Happened Next ______
As I was drifting asleep, I kept on seeing lights flick on and off. It wasn't coming from inside, it was outside. I was a little unnerved at first, thinking someone was shining a torch into our room, and had a peek outside. Every minute or so the floodlight would turn on and off again. I couldn't see anyone outside triggering the motion sensor so I crawled into bed and shut my eyes tightly. About half an hour later it was still flickering. One minute it was dark, the next was as bright as daylight and with only very thin curtains it wasn't going to stop.
So I grabbed one of the duvets off the bunk beds and hung it over the curtain rail. It still shone through a little but it was dark and I didn't care. I cuddled Phil and finally managed to drift into a peaceful sleep
only to be woken at 6:15 in the morning! I couldn't believe it, it sounded as if someone was hitting or hammering pipes! It was so loud and it seemed like it was coming from the wall behind us. This lasted for about half an hour and then stopped. Then came the worst. A sound so loud it woke Phil up. It sounded like a whirring sound, getting louder then quieter then louder again. Then, as if that wasn't enough another noise started louder than the first. The only way I can describe it is like heavy rain or hail on a conservatory roof. It was so loud I had to check outside to see if it was actually raining as the weathermen had predicted a bout of foul weather.
After about an hour and a half of listening to this noise, Phil, being the gentleman he is, called the lady to find out what was going on. A man answered the phone and Phil explained what we were experiencing. He said he'd be right over to see what was going on. As quick as lightning we got dressed, hid all our dirty clothes and sat waiting. 5 minutes passed. Then 15. 20 minutes. Finally, after about 35 minutes we heard a knock at the door. It was the lady. Of course, by this time, the noise had stopped. We explained to her what was happening and mentioned that the noise had had only just stopped. She retorted that she'd checked every single room in the building and no one had any water on. I asked her what the noise was that came from the wall and she stayed silent, finally saying that no pipes ran through that wall, so I couldn't have heard it from there.
I was dumbstruck. Here I was on the first holiday I'd had in half a year, I'd been woken up at 6:15 and been kept awake for about three hours, then I get a lady telling me that a noise that woke me up couldn't have come from the area I said it had. It was atrocious. The lady then left saying there was nothing she could do and that she had bigger problems getting our breakfast ready, she mumbled something about the electricity in the main house having problems.
Well, it was 8:30 by this time and the breakfast should have been ready, however we were so tired we fell asleep. At 8:55 we got a knock on the door from the lady again. She said that breakfast would stop being served at 9 as 'we're a working farm, you know.' Phil went over to the dining room and I stayed in bed to catch up on my sleep. Finally by this time it was quiet outside and I could catch up on some shut eye!
While Phil was having breakfast he mentioned that if this noise was going to occur at that time every morning then we didn't want to stay in this place. Phil then said that it must have been the heating kicking in or the boiler heating the water to which the lady agreed. He then asked that the boiler be turned on later, about 7:30 or 8:00 so that we could at least get a little bit of a lay-in. She snapped that her daughter-in-law (who lived next door to our room) had to get up at 6:45am and that if she did, she wouldn't have any hot water to have a shower. He asked if anywhere else was available and the lady said that the place was fully booked for the night so we couldn't change rooms. Also, according to her, all the other hotels and b&b's in the area were full as someone from the Tourist Board had called to see if they had any vacancies for people that were unfortunate enough not to have a room to stay in. Phil said this wasn't a problem and there was no point us being here if we had to get up the same time we do everyday for work. He asked that our money be refunded and we'd leave. The lady then agreed to change the time of the boiler to 8:00. She also snapped at him, saying that we'd made her wake up and search the place an hour earlier than normal and that she wasn't happy about it.
When Phil returned he filled me in on the conversation and mentioned how rude she was. He said if I wanted to we could leave now and get home before the rush hour. I didn't want to leave; we hadn't even been to Alton Towers. We agreed to stay.
That day was brilliant. It was a little ruined for me as I had a terrible headache and neck ache so I couldn't go on any of the good rides, but I didn't mind being Phil's photographer for the day, and at least he managed to get on all the good rides, and in record time on the single riders entrance! We got back to the place at about 5pm after having been soaked by the Log Flume (for a change, of all the days!) and got changed. A few other families had arrived and were getting settled in.
We slumped on the bed and before we knew it we were fast asleep! I was woken up by the people upstairs banging on the floor and saw that we'd been asleep for a good few hours. Phil woke up too and we decided to go out for a Chinese meal so we got dressed and went to Cheadle.
After returning home at about 11pm we were shattered. We put the duvet back on the curtain rail, brushed our teeth and went to bed.
BANG BANG BANG. Yes, 6:15am again, and the pipes were back at it. I don't know what annoyed me the most, the fact that I'd been woken up early again or that the woman had blatantly lied to her guests about changing the boiler time. I laid in bed and could hear someone upstairs shuffling around, come down the stairs and head over to the house. Half an hour later the noise stopped and the person returned and went back upstairs, presumably to bed.
Phil went to breakfast at 8:30 and I stayed in bed again, the thought of a full English just didn't appeal to me at that time in the morning! When he saw the lady Phil mentioned the pipes had disturbed us again and politely asked if we could have our last night refunded as we would be leaving that day to get a decent nights rest at home. She replied angrily, "I don't have time for this now, I have to cook breakfast! You already wasted my time yesterday and there is NO WAY you are getting ANY money back!" Phil couldn't believe such a rude woman could run a b&b with no respect for her guests. At least Basil Fawlty tried! She then scurried off into the kitchen and closed the door in his face.
When Phil came back he explained yet again what had happened and we were both furious. We packed our bags and left without a word. The key was placed on the vanity unit and the door closed. We drove off thankful never to see that place again. It wasn't that we got woken up at such an early time, it was the fact that the landlady was so rude, uncooperative and that she blatantly lied to us that made it such a dreadful stay.
______ Would I Recommend it? ______
In my honest opinion, I would never go back there again unless the ownership changed hands! The place in itself is beautiful and located only a 10 minute drive to Alton Towers which is very convenient. The surrounding towns are all within a 15 minute drive and are stunning places to visit. If you like English heritage and culture it's located next to many dramatic landmarks and the Peak District National Park.
I would only ever recommend this place if you like waking up when the cock crows!
______ Other Information ______
The Farm has a number of B&B and self catering rooms as well as a 4 poster bed room. It also has a self catering cottage that can be reserved, but apparently it is in great demand and needs to be booked well in advance. No Chinese food, Indian food or fish and chips are allowed in the rooms. Check in is after 4pm and check out is before 10am.
If you really want it, the address is:
Hermitage Working Farm,