Inspiring Business by Sharing Success

Julia and John make an award-winning start to country life after swapping suburbia for their Peak District holiday dream

Julia and John make an award-winning start to country life after swapping suburbia for their Peak District holiday dream

A couple who left their suburban family home and started a brand-new life on a Derbyshire farm are celebrating after picking up two prestigious tourism awards for their luxury holiday cottages.

John and Julia Hackett, owners of Manor House Farm Cottages in Sheldon, near Bakewell, have now been entered into the national Visit England Awards for Excellence 2022 after winning gold and silver awards of this year’s Peak District and Derbyshire tourism awards.

The couple won their awards – gold in the New Tourism Business category and silver in the Self-Catering Accommodation category - after impressing judges with the quality and finish of their holiday cottages, which comprises of four renovated stone barn conversions sleeping from two to 12 people and based on a 50-acre farm complete with a flock of sheep, pigs and chickens.

The win is the culmination of a two-year renovation project made all the more remarkable by the fact that couple have come through the COVID-19 pandemic, endured the “Beast from the East” snowstorm in 2018 and had never lived on a farm before, let alone carried out such an ambitious project or even owned or reared any animal other than a dog.

Now they have a growing clientele, a host of five-star reviews on the internet, their own livestock – which they sell as “farm to fork” pork and lamb to guests - and more plans on how they intend to increase to develop their business.

All in all it is a remarkable start to their rural life for Julia and John, who have come a long way since they upped sticks from the old home in Burton Joyce, Nottinghamshire, where they brought up their three children – Oliver, Alice and Emma - before seeking pastures new in 2017.

Julia said:

“We are so proud and delighted, and somewhat surprised, to have won these awards, especially since we are still relatively new to running a holiday cottages business and are still very much finding our feet running a farm as well.

“It is a wonderful reward after all of the hard work that we have put in and a lovely endorsement of what we are trying to do, which is to create the kind of holiday experience that we would enjoy ourselves, right down to creating the luxury feel of the barns and making the most of the beautiful views that we’re so lucky to enjoy.”

It took Julia and John two years to get the cottages ready for opening, with John designing the layouts and Julia the interiors, having started with the basic derelict structures of a former farmhouse, a milking parlour, hayloft and a cowshed, none of which had floors, fitted windows or doors or services.

Each one has been individually finished and decorated to a luxury standard, with underfloor heating and a host of unique and original features, including handmade wooden door-latches, artisan metal light fittings and reclaimed agricultural fittings complementing the original stone walls, exposed beams.

The farm also has a well-equipped games room, outdoor barbecues and seating areas, access to walking trails, a planned forest play trail and a 360-degree countryside view, with Bakewell just a five minute drive away.

John said:

“We have learned so many lessons about running a farm and operating a business like this, not least the challenges of rearing livestock, which can be both rewarding and demanding in equal measure.

“The results are worth it, though. We gave up our former lives and moved to the country because we wanted to do something different and it’s changed the way we see the world.

“It’s a real pleasure to be able to share our farm with visitors and we have lots of plans that we want to put in place for the future, which is very exciting and will certainly keep us busy.”

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