Peak Escapes Luxury Holiday Cottage Renovation

Emma and her husband Martin along with their two small children and pets Cookie the dog and Jindy the cat have been the proud owners of their gorgeous farmhouse in the Peak District since 2018.

Emma tells us “There’s always some project going on and someone walking in the door – it’s a busy and totally bonkers household, which I absolutely love. Martin works in large-scale construction, and I run our holiday letting business ‘Peak Escapes’ here in Glossop, the gateway to the Peak District National Park.”

Keep reading to find out how they renovated their old farmhouse and outbuildings into a gorgeous family home and 3 stunning holiday lets.

When did you move to Woodcock farm and what made you want to take on a complete home renovation?

We moved into our old farmhouse in the summer of 2018. It was a massive renovation project – the previous owners were a lovely elderly couple who had raised their family here so, while the house was well-loved, it was also very well-used and terribly tired. It needed gutting and a full overhaul. Rather than put us off though, this was an exciting prospect!

We’d done some small-scale renovations before and Martin grew up around building work, as his dad owns a building firm (and is a serial renovator himself) so that, plus Martin’s career in construction, meant we could come at this project with confidence.

What made you want to set up holiday lets?

Setting up a holiday letting business was never something we had planned to do, but the property really lent itself to it with the location, beautiful views, and, most importantly, the huge, empty barn on the plot.

Our son arrived shortly after moving in here, so it worked really well for me to head out of maternity leave from my previous job in television, to renovating, setting up the business, and then running the holiday lets. It’s certainly much more conducive to family life than the hours I’d been working in TV.

How long did it take to renovate your home and your 2 existing holiday cottages?

We’ve been in our home for over 4 years now and we still haven’t finished renovating. It’s a case of save, renovate, repeat around here! But we are much closer to the end than the beginning now, and the main living spaces are complete, so we’re finally living in the home that we envisioned when we first viewed it almost 5 years ago.

I reckon, being totally realistic, that we’ll have completed all works on the property by Christmas 2023… and, of course, by then the first room we renovated will probably need redoing again!!

Can you tell us a little about your experience with George Clark on Old House, New Home?

Taking part in Channel 4’s Old House New Home, with George Clarke was an amazing experience but I’ll share a secret with you – the extravagant plans for our bedroom, with its double-height ceiling and statement roll-top tub, were actually conceived the day before filming started… by my Father In Law! George turned up the next day, shook his hand, and told him he would have suggested the same thing.

Despite this, it was incredible talking through, not just our plans for the bedroom, but also for the whole property with George and the team of interior designers who work with him on the show.

They’re an insanely talented bunch of people and it was so helpful being able to discuss the spaces with them as we went through the process. We ended up with the bedroom of our dreams! Although, it’s kind of hard booking a night away anymore because nothing lives up to our bedroom anymore!

Were you living in your home whilst work was taking place?

We have lived in all the properties we have renovated so far, but embarking on the massive renovations here with two very young children in tow has been quite the experience! At one point we were all living, eating, and washing in one bedroom!

Renovating any property can be a really stressful and emotionally charged situation, but we’ve done our absolute best to keep things positive (which we have succeeded in, mostly) and treat the whole thing like an exciting adventure. Which I guess it is really!

How much of the work did you carry out yourself or with help from your family?

At the start, we took on a lot of the work ourselves. Martin is very handy and can do most basic building work, electrics, and plumbing and I’m the in-house decorator.

But we have always used building firms (predominantly Martin’s dad’s) for the main structural works and, as we’ve got further into the renovation of this property, and deeper into our ‘reno fatigue’ we’ve also been subbing jobs out to contractors a lot more. I am proud to say, though, that I have single-handedly painted this entire house!

What made you decide to fit out your home and holiday cottages with Plumbworld radiators?

We have spent a lot of time trawling the shops, online and in person, looking for the best quality and best deals for us to use on this house – for heating, Plumbworld are yet to be beaten!

We have bought their traditional column radiators for our home and more modern radiators for the holiday cottages here and are so impressed with them as a company.

The choice online is great, prices are reasonable, delivery times are quick, service is bang on and, most importantly, the products are top-notch quality. I always recommend Plumbworld to anyone who is looking for radiators without a doubt!

How do you feel now your home and initial holiday cottages are complete? Did the finished rooms live up to your expectations?

It feels absolutely amazing to have nearly completed the renovation works here. In fact, it’s pretty emotional!

We’ve worked towards this moment for years and worked so hard along the way – it feels incredible to be able to live in the house we always dreamed it would be. And I’d say the finished product exceeds expectations!

I am pretty good at being able to see the potential a project has, what I could never have predicted was the overwhelming feeling of joy and satisfaction at the end of that project.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

The only thing I’d change is the tiny details, like fancy light switches and sockets, but I know we can do that over time, so it doesn’t bother me.

How did you feel when the first visitors came to stay in your holiday cottages?

Oh my goodness, we opened nearly 2.5 years ago and I still get excited every time a new booking comes through for our holiday cottages! So, you can imagine what a thrill it was at the very beginning, to think that this business we had dreamed up was actually real and actually going to work!

I was probably a bit overkill with guests and customer service at the beginning though, realistically – I was just so desperate for everybody to have the best time ever.

Nowadays, I still pride myself on giving our guests the best experience possible, but I’ve definitely chilled out – not everyone wants a manically enthusiastic host skipping over for a chat during their holidays, do they? Ha!

What’s the feedback been from visitors?

I’ve never received anything less than a 5* review in our 2.5 years open. How cool is that! I genuinely love and care about running this business, and I hope our guests can see and appreciate that.

Have you got any advice for anyone thinking of taking on their own home renovation?

My advice for anyone taking on their own renovation could go on forever! Here are a few tips:

  • If you’re set on a renovation project the first thing is to do absolutely nothing! Live in the house, think about how you use the space, what works for you and your lifestyle, and how it could suit you even better, then plan from there.
  • Choose the right builder. Speak to and get quotes from at least 3, and don’t necessarily go for the cheapest. Make sure you look at their previous work and go and visit their builds in person too – your builder should be proud of their work and happily send you to see some relevant examples.
  • Set a realistic budget and know that you’re guaranteed to go over it anyway! You will almost definitely come across unexpected problems and expenses.
  • And on that note, while it’s good to try and keep the budget down, don’t compromise or settle on things, or you’ll just end up buying or doing it again.
  • Keep calm and carry on. Renovating can be a super stressful time, but just try and keep that end goal in sight and celebrate a small win along the way like knocking a wall through, a freshly plastered room, or that first lick of paint. Also, make sure you take loads of photos of the whole process – it can be very therapeutic to look back and see how far you’ve come, especially when you’re in the thick of it.

Did you set a budget, and did you manage to keep to this?

There is always a detailed budget around here because Martin is a project manager! Of course, we almost always go over it, but that’s the nature of the beast. We’ve done the works here in separate phases over the last 4.5 years to allow us to still live here, save up etc.

We started with our bedroom and baby Arlo’s room – that came to around £25,000 in total. It’s pricey, but we really went for it with our room, removing walls and the ceiling, creating a new room with space from the spare bedroom (the dressing room), and completely relocating the en suite.

The barn conversion cost around £90,000 in total, including everything from start to finish – architects and planning permission all the way to the fixtures and fittings. It’s a scarily big number but, essentially, we built two one-bedroom houses in there!

Then the family bathroom cost around £6000 in total, again that’s including absolutely everything so not too bad bearing in mind we relocated the toilet and created a brand-new walk-in shower.

Finally, the most recent leg of the reno was almost the entirety of downstairs, the stairs, and the landing, which cost a total of £86,000.

That included taking down two structural walls, digging out the floor to level it all up, installing large sliding doors, all new windows, plumbing in a new laundry room and downstairs toilet, changing the stairs and balustrade, an open plan sitting and dining space, creating a sparkly new kitchen where our dining room used to be and then all the decorating, fixtures and fittings on top of that, plus lifting and relaying all the York stone pavers out front to create a raised patio area. It was a beast of a job!

Would we do it again… at the moment I’m all reno-ed out but ask me in a few months and I’d probably say yes!!!

If you're inspired by Emma's story or want to learn more about Peak Escapes then you can follow the family's journey on Instagram - @theoldfarmhouseproject or you can visit their website - Peak Escapes.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like - Caitie and Aaron's Home Renovation - Rachel and Ben's Bathroom Renovation - Laura and David's Renovation Project.

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