This wonderful three-bedroom cottage is nestled on the outskirts of the picturesque village Ashford-in-the-Water. A traditional Derbyshire stone longhouse, the cottage is an exercise in local masonry traditions which have been meticulously restored by the current owners. Ashlar and rubble-laid façades are set with stone quoins and lintels, and finished with combed and boasted techniques; interior spaces are characterised by a gentle palette of oak floors and warm cream walls and joinery. Ashford-in-the-Water is nestled in the Peak District National Park, a landscape of rolling hills, open moorlands and wooded valleys, making this house perfectly positioned for rambling and cycling.
Setting the Scene
Ashford-in-the-Water is defined by its position on the River Wye; it has no fewer than three medieval stone bridges crossing its banks. The most famous of these bridges is the Sheepwash Bridge, which as its name suggests was used by farmers to drive their flocks into the water to wash them before shearing, a practice that continued into the 1960s. It is now a scheduled ancient monument and is considered the most photographed bridge in the UK. Today, it makes a great vantage point for watching rainbow trout leisurely meandering downstream. For more information, please see the History section below.
The Grand Tour
Set into the ashlar-laid stone façade is the cottage’s pale green front door, which opens directly to the kitchen and dining spaces. Here, the walls and joinery are finished in ‘Shadow White’ by Farrow & Ball; light filters through the door’s stained glass to fall on the oak floor in dappled shades of red and yellow. At one side of the room is a well-appointed DeVOL Kitchen with painted wood cabinetry and a Carrara marble quartz worktop. The kitchen is fitted with Smeg appliances, a five-ring hob, and a double butler sink is positioned neatly below a six-pane casement window. In the middle of the room, a gas stove sits within an original gritstone surround, the surface of which is delicately textured with a traditional combed finish. In the alcove next to the fireplace, built-in shelves provide a handy spot for storing crockery and glassware, and in the middle of the room there is space for a large dining table, making the space perfect for hosting dinner parties in front of the fire.
Opening from one side of the kitchen is the living room. The gentle palette of soft cream walls and oak floors continue here; light pours through a bay window at one side of the room and an eight-bay window at the other. The current owners have arranged the room around an open gas fire, which makes the room ideal for cosying up in an armchair with a book. From the living room, a door opens to a hallway where stairs rise to the first-floor landing. Underneath the stairs there is a useful storage space.
On the landing, original timber floorboards have been painted in a cream tone matching the ground floor, and arranged around the space are three double bedrooms as well as a family bathroom. The primary bedroom sits to the front of the plan, and the window here looks over the private laneway the house sits on. A sliding barn door opens to an en suite shower room with Duravit fittings, as well as white tiles laid in an offset arrangement. In the two further bedrooms there is built in storage, while painted timber panelling adds a decorative touch.
On the ground floor, a terracotta-tiled hallway links the kitchen to a generous studio with timber-panelled walls and glazed bifold doors that open to rear of the house. The room is currently used as workspace, but would also make a lovely living room or a guest bedroom. The tiled hallway has an impressive rubble stone backdrop, and there is access to a WC and a utility room, as well as an external door.
The Great Outdoors
The house takes in views over the woodland and rolling hills of the Peak District, and private leafy patios at the front and rear of the building make for wonderful spots to relax with a morning coffee.
Opening from the hallway, the front terrace is surrounded by laurel and rhododendron. Local masonry traditions continue in the rear patio, bound on one side by a dry stone wall, and on the other by a fence draped in honeysuckle. Fragrant plantings of lavender and rosemary surround the space, as do ferns and climbing ivy. Here, the current owners have arranged a table and chairs for alfresco dining in the summer months.
At the rear of the house there is parking space for two cars.
Out and About
The surrounding Peak District National Park provides an idyllic landscape for outdoor pursuits, with its exceptional vistas and elegant spa towns. There are numerous walking and cycling trails in the area, as well as nearby links with the traffic-free Monsal Trail, which is also suitable for horse riders and wheelchair users. The trail leads through some of the Peak District’s most spectacular limestone dales. From Ashford, it’s about a two-mile walk to Monsal Head for breathtaking views.
There are plenty of choices for eating and drinking, as well as a renowned deli, known for its pickles, inside the well-stocked Ashford General Store. The village also has a lovely hotel and restaurant, Rafters Riverside House Hotel, newly refurbished by restaurateurs Alistair Myers and Tom Lawson. The duo are known for their three-AA Rosette restaurant Rafters in nearby Sheffield.
The village has well-regarded and historic pubs including The Bulls Head, a charming 17th-century pub with a large beer garden. There is also a traditional English tea room in town, Aisseford Tea Room, serving teas and coffees and delicious meals made with fresh local produce. Bakewell is a 20-minute walk away from the house along an idyllic riverside trail. The market town is home to an array of independent sellers for fresh bread and groceries. Craft beer can be enjoyed at the Thornbridge Taproom, which is known for hosting live music throughout the year.
Cultural attractions are plentiful. Visit the recently renovated Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, located in nearby Buxton less than a 20-minute drive away, to see incredible decorative items made from Ashford black marble and learn about the people, landscape, archaeology and geology of the Peak District. The Bakewell Old House Museum is a Tudor house from Henry VIII’s reign featuring local historical artefacts and changing exhibitions, while the Eyam Museum, just 15 minutes from Ashford by car, tells the history of the bubonic plague in the area.
The incredible 17th century Chatsworth House is only a 10-minute drive from Ashford. This historic seat of the Duke of Devonshire is positioned on the eastern bank of the River Derwent, overlooking the valleys and hills beyond. The expansive estate has belonged to the Cavendish family since 1549 and alongside a 105-acre garden, farmyard and playground, as well as acres of natural parkland to explore, the 25-room house also holds one of Europe’s most distinguished art collections. The Devonshire Arms can be found on the estate, the inn dates to the 18th century and is a wonderful stop for afternoon tea or a drink on the garden terrace. Seasonal fruits and vegetables, estate-reared meat and fresh fish can be picked up at the Chatsworth Estate farm shop.
For transport connections from Ashford, it’s a 30-minute drive to Chesterfield railway station, which offers direct services to London St Pancras in under two hours. Chesterfield also has excellent local connections, running quick 20-minute direct services to Derby and Sheffield and 40-minute direct services to Nottingham. The M1 is easily accessible by car in approximately an hour from Ashford, and Manchester is about an hour and a half away. For international connections, Manchester Airport is less than an hour’s drive from the village.
Council Tax Band: F
As its name suggests, Ashford – which derives from the Old English ‘æsc’ and ‘ford’, meaning a ford where ash trees grow – has been a historic crossing point of the River Wye for millennia. The earliest recorded archaeological evidence of habitation in the area dates to at least 5000 BCE, and Fin Cop, an Iron Age hillfort dating to 1000-500 BCE, can be found just to the northwest of the village. The earliest named references to the village are as ‘Æscforda’ in 926 AD, and as ‘Aisseford’ in the Domesday Book of 1086. The suffix “in-the-Water” was added in the late 17th century, likely to distinguish the village from several other Ashfords in Great Britain.
The Romans began mining lead in the area, and by the Middle Ages, the village was described as an estate belonging to the King with land for 22 ploughs and one lead works. In the 12th century, the estate was granted by King John to the son of a Welsh prince; it was later acquired by the powerful Neville family in 1408 until 1550 when the village passed to the Cavendish family of the Chatsworth estate. The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire also resided here before moving to Chatsworth House.
By the 18th century, Ashford had become well-known for its mills for carving and polishing the local quarried black marble to produce fine, ornamental work. In fact, while it’s known the stone has been used decoratively since prehistoric times, the first recorded customer was Bess of Hardwick (Elizabeth Cavendish) in 1580. Technically, however, the stone is not marble, but bitumen-rich limestone, giving it its dark colour, that turns a glossy black when polished and surface-treated. The soft black ‘marble’ is easy to cut and be inlaid with other decorative stones and minerals through a technique known as pietra dura. This made it the perfect background for mosaic patterns and there was a thriving trade in the manufacture of decorative items such as vases, jewellery, clocks and tables made from Ashford black marble through the early 19th century. Examples of this exquisite stonework can still be found inside the beautiful Grade II-listed Holy Trinity Church, which itself dates to the 12th century.
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