12 April 1996

When maitre d

milks the cows before work…

THE glossy brochure that had lain in Farmlifes files since 1992, when The Beeches Farmhouse won an ADAS farm-based catering award, had left the impression that the Tunnicliffes enterprise at Wardley, near Doveridge, Derbys, was a hotel with farming interest.

How wrong can you be? The Beeches, where the series of ADAS/English Tourist Board farm tourism quality awareness days was launched, is a working farm without a doubt.

Its extensive red brick farmhouse adjoins the yard so that a lorry delivering maize gluten presented a further challenge to the ADAS officer directing cars. In the restaurant that is an integral part of the family home, the bow-tied maitre dhotel offering biscuits to coffee-drinking guests had milked 120 cows that morning, said his wife, and would do so again in the afternoon.

Paul and Barabara Tunnicliffe have a 65ha (160- acre) dairy farm plus a thriving bed and breakfast enterprise and restaurant. Paul encouraged Barbara to open the latter in order to fulfill a life-long wish.

She had always wanted to be a chef. Her parents had persuaded her to study and teach home economics instead but the ambition never left her. The b&b side of the enterprise was a means to an end. The planning authority would not give permission for a farm restaurant but a restaurant for guests which was also open to the public was another matter.

Attractive area

The Tunnicliffes, who are members of the Derbyshire Dales and Dovedale group of the Farm Holiday Bureau, have 10 en suite rooms to let, four in the house and six in an annexe a few steps away (brollies are provided to protect guests crossing to the restaurant).

The area has many holiday and weekend attractions (including Alton Towers) and a strong demand for business accommodation. "We maintained 60% occupancy in February," says Paul, pointing out that their restaurant draws local custom too with 60 covers on a Saturday night.

The restaurant is spread across several oak-beamed rooms, one of them divided into alcoves, which encourages the intimate atmosphere and ensures that formal and informal, business and family parties enjoy their meals without intruding upon each other.

Their ADAS award included a stand at the BBCs Good Food Show, to which Barbara still contributes. She has also demonstrated at the NFUs Food from the Countryside exhibition and is one of few chefs outside London to appear in the American Express Restaurant Showcase.

Hers is a strong voice speaking up on behalf of the farm tourism industry, which, she is quick to point out, is one of the top providers of bed nights in the country.

The Tunnicliffes accommodation has three stars and a highly commended quality grading.

Inquiries (01889-590288).

Breakfast is taken at individual tables at The Beeches (left) where inspector Christine Nicols rigged the tables. At Rectory Farm inspector Lynne Wallace discusses Mary Annes family style setting.

Junior farm minister Tim Boswell with Paul and Barbara Tunnicliffe at The Beeches where he launched the quality awareness programme.

Paul and Barbara Tunnicliffe and their three teenage daughters share The Beeches with paying guests and also run a successful restaurant.