Chevin Green Farm - a tea-themed bed and breakfast near Belper
PUBLISHED: 11:30 30 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:48 30 July 2014
Copyright: Butterworth Photography
Penny Baddeley visits Sarah Marley of Chevin Green Farm in the Amber Valley
Taking tea at Chevin Green Farm is a special ritual rarely missed and always savoured by visitors and guests. There are varieties of Assam, Darjeeling, green and fruit teas, alongside traditional Yorkshire blends on the menu, at this unusually-themed bed and breakfast business, based just outside the charming and historic market town of Belper.
Owner Sarah Marley pours from bone china teapots into delicate vintage cups, and proffers a selection of delicious homemade cakes, straight from the family farmhouse kitchen. It’s a heartfelt personal welcome from a Derbyshire born and bred farmer’s granddaughter, known locally and affectionately as ‘Mrs Tea’.
Tea addict and aficionado Sarah said: ‘Tea is always something to enjoy and relax with. It also denotes comfort.’
Sarah has spent most of her 43 years in and around the farm, which is set in acres of quiet green pastureland and boasts breathtaking views of the Derwent Valley. Her earliest potent memories involve sitting in its sunny, sheltered garden alongside her grandfather, George Salt, who took on the farm in 1940 from Sarah’s great grandfather. And it’s been a life punctuated by the pleasures of tea taking. As a young child whenever Sarah was taken by her mother and grandmother to visit friends and relatives, it was always time for tea!
‘All my family events were centred on tea drinking; that’s what happened when you visited people and that is what you drank with a meal.’
The ritual is so imbued with pleasure and significance for Sarah that she’s put tea – her own amber nectar – at the very heart of her bed and breakfast business in the Amber Valley district. It is a libation to family tradition, as she takes on the custodianship of the family seat and transforms the farm into a thriving, contemporary and quirky 21st century business.
Sarah with journalist husband David took over the farm in 2009 and completed purchase from Sarah’s parents in 2013. They live with their four-year-old daughter Ella in the old stone farmhouse, which adjoins the five double roomed B & B five star accommodation. Alongside are five pretty stone cottages, transformed from old calving sheds and animal holding buildings, into long term lets.
‘It all needed more than a lick of paint but it gave us the opportunity to make our mark!’ said Sarah. The couple took the farm back to its bricks, stone and mortar, creating new walls and ceilings throughout the properties, leaving the striking old timber beams exposed. Roofs were re-slated and water and gas supplies, which had originally been put in to service the farm rather than a home with attached B & B, were diverted.
Sarah, a graphic designer by trade, took on the task of choosing fixtures and fittings, including the traditional hand-painted Neptune kitchen with its Britannia range and double oven from which emerge daily an array of freshly baked cakes for guests.
The couple created a feeling of connectedness and unity between the family home and the B & B business, by decorating both in the same neutral and calm chalky cream colour palette, with pops of duck egg blue and green to reference the name of the farm.
‘The style of the B & B is just a reflection of our own home. It’s all very coherent throughout. We just wanted it to flow,’ said Sarah.
Items of traditional family furniture have been retained and blend beautifully with carefully picked contemporary pieces. Sarah’s grandpa’s grandfather clock, made in 1830 in Wirksworth, marks time in the guest lounge and his green leather-topped writing desk is a prominent presence in the B & B reception area – a fitting tribute to the visionary ancestor who saw that holiday lets were a way forward for struggling farmers.
Chevin Green Farm
Bedroom painted in Dulux Chalky Downs No.4. Painted wooden bedroom furniture by Feather and Black. Wallflower cushions, in Catkin, from John Lewis; blue printed cushion from Debenhams. Bedside lamps from B&Q
The brick-built part of Chevin Green Farm, is the main family living space and dates back to the early 1900s
Sarah pours tea in the B & B guest lounge
Tea pendant light from British based Original BTC (prices from around £109)
Tea tray in Bedroom 4
‘It’s important to me to remember the history here,’ said Sarah.
Old milk churns and milk bottles are used as décor to commemorate the building’s dairy farm roots. But it is tea which forms the most striking theme and feature of today’s Chevin Green Farm, which has been re-designed by Sarah, the former owner of a design business, aptly entitled ‘Creativi-tea’.
Whimsical and quirky bone china teapot-shaped pendant lights (sourced from Original BTC) provide an eccentric and stylish finish to several rooms including the B & B reception and family kitchen. Side tables are celebrated with novelty teacup and saucer ceramic desk lamps (found at Laura Ashley).
‘I must admit I pretty much bought Laura Ashley out of table lamps and I adore the tea pendants and try and place them wherever I can. I get asked by so many guests where I get them from and they rush out and buy them and send me pictures of them in their own homes!’
Hand-painted wooden dressers are dotted with white china tea cups and tea pots and the walls are galleries for Sarah’s own tea-themed art work, which has proved greatly popular with visitors. At Chevin Green Farm, even wicker lavender planters take on the shape of tea cups and clocks oddly resemble teapots. In the B & B each room is numbered with a tea associated pun: ‘ONE Lump or Two’
‘Tea for TWO’, ‘Afternoon THREE’ and each door key ring is recognisably tea-bag shaped. Bedroom cushions are embroidered with imperative messages such as ‘Time For A Brew’. There are green tea toiletries in sparkling en-suite bathrooms and a ‘Tea-total’ drinks menu is readily available.
Husband David, a former press officer for The Woodland Trust and former press secretary to the Chief Crown Prosecutor, helps run the business. He admitted: ‘I didn’t just marry Sarah, I married tea!’
Following a courtship characterised by gifts of boxes of Yorkshire Tea and Thornton’s chocolates, David made a surprise proposal to Sarah in 2002 in Bettys tea rooms at York. ‘After the meal the manager invited us to take tea downstairs. There was a table with a candle and a waitress came up with a tray of four fondant fancies on each was written a word, making up the sentence Will You Marry Me.’
Their wedding took place in 2003 at the family farm, where afternoon tea was served on white china in the garden marquee.
‘It was well before the current craze for afternoon tea and the caterers had to search the land for cake stands,’ said Sarah, who is currently using her graphic design skills to create leaflets, literature and signage for Chevin Green Farm.
Tea at the Ritz marked their first wedding anniversary but with daughter Ella around it’s no longer tea for two. Now each Sunday there is full afternoon tea from four to five o’clock, which includes sandwiches and cakes.
David said: ‘It is just part of our family routine and ritual and Ella has grown up with it.’
Sarah also likes to lavish the guests with old-fashioned treats which are increasingly in vogue following the success of television programmes such as The Great British Bake Off and the increasing popularity of baker Mary Berry. Visitors find small cake stands in their rooms, arranged with high tea favourites.
‘I like to make Victoria sandwich cakes, carrot cake, butterfly buns and chocolate cakes,’ she said. ‘It’s a nice welcome for people.’
Visitors come from as far as Australia and Canada – some to research their family history in Derbyshire. Other frequent groups of visitors include wedding guests as this chic boutique B & B lies close to prestigious and popular wedding reception venues such as Shottle Hall and Blackbrook House.
Increasingly Sarah and David have found themselves host to celebrities, searching for a quiet rural location to stay in between theatre performances. David said: ‘We get people coming from the theatre in Derby. We had the cast of Calendar Girls recently, and Lesley Joseph.’
Guests often leave with gifts of fruit from the garden, the perimeter of which is lined with new apple, pear, plum and damson trees, part of a project to re-establish an old orchard. They often return, ready for a brew, with gifts of homemade jam, or a tin of tea – and on one occasion a tea urn.
Chevin Green Farm is a place where, genuinely, ‘Everything Stops For Tea’.