Emily graduated with a first class degree and registered as a pharmacist. A severe health relapse, however, made finding paid work extremely prohibitive. Covering basic living cost was becoming overwhelming and Emily was finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
Barbara and her husband Keith visited Birdsgrove House after a severe car accident in 1997, and again in the following year to continue their recovery.
Upon our arrival – a crisp autumn afternoon – we were astounded to be greeted, in the entrance hall of the fine country home, by what appeared to be the entire staff lined up complete with Miss Evans’s black labrador! We still have no idea why we were thus honoured on that occasion but, like so much of our stays there, the memories remain sharp to this day.
The house, principally erected in 1850, had some six or seven guest bedrooms with en-suite facilities; a spacious and most comfortable lounge, dining room, tv room and billiard room completed the guest accommodation. The majority of bedrooms (all named after local branches of the RPSGB such as Wirral and Argyll whose members had themselves purchased many facilities and raised funds for the benefit of the House) enjoyed magnificent rural views across well-tended and very private pleasure grounds with the River Dove forming the eastern boundary of the estate. As well as formal flowerbeds and neat lawns, there was a croquet lawn and summer-house, while further exploration revealed large vegetable gardens and a discreet and very tidy service area.
Much was provided to entertain the guests; books for quiet hours, a large selection of jigsaws, indoor and outdoor game sets (oh, and that dauntingly full-sized billiard table!). For those with their own transport the Peak District beckoned and the unspoiled market town of Ashbourne lay but a few miles distant across the valley, while the National Trust properties of Sudbury and Kedleston Halls were themselves within easy reach. (During one of our stays the local village of Tissington was holding its annual well-dressing ceremony and many of the open spaces were garlanded with flowers denoting mainly biblical themes.)
And the food! Guests were fed substantial meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner – supplemented with tea & cakes at 11am and again at four. For anyone who was inexplicably still peckish, around bedtime, there was always cake left in the pantry to fill the yawning gap until breakfast! A popular highlight was always the amazingly thin-cut bread & butter available at tea time, and a favourite of all.
On a personal note the great advantage of a stay at Birdsgrove was the ability to step back from the problems of everyday life and to have our physical and mental wounds gently cossetted for a short but precious while: if one desired a quiet time in bed during the day, one was never disturbed, but comforted by the knowledge that prompt medical help could be summoned at any time. Such a blessing.
It is a great shame this wonderful facility is no longer available, although one must keep in mind the expense involved in maintaining the service.
We are just so glad that we could benefit so much from its existence at a time when we were both sorely in need and, for that, we shall be forever grateful.