Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Storm Desmond

Generally the 2015 season in the Lake District has been good, busy at times, a bit chilly in summer, warm and sunny in autumn and wet in November, so nothing new there!
Just as we start to think about snow topped fells and crisp frosty mornings along comes Storm Desmond, Eskdale was lucky the bulk of the rain fell 10 miles north and a little East. We received about 2 inches in 24 hours, much the same as normal at this time of year. Honister, not far away as the crow flies saw the rain gauges receive more rain than ever recorded in the UK with a swamping 13 inches (341mm). This has caused devastation across the North and East of the Lakes and Cumbria, well documented throughout all forms of media.

The clean up operation is already underway in many places, Cumbrians are hardworking folk and will crack on until the job is done. BUT investment and incentive will be required, The government should play its part, and I sincerely hope it does. Cumbria sees over 16 million visitors a year, spending over £2 billion. ( lots of tax comes from that Mr Cameron) Most of this money stays in the country.

Cumbria is full of small businesses all paying tax in this country so please get your next short break or main holiday booked in the Lake District, brighten up the day for some of the hotels and holiday homes affected by the floods. Talk to them, find out when the right time to come will be, as some areas are still inaccessible.

When booking hotels and BB's please book direct, most places now have online facilities and smaller places will be happier to take bookings by phone than through a booking agent.

Booking agents take at least 15% of the entire booking, that is £15 in every £100 that will not be re-invested in the Lake District and probably not taxed in the UK.

Holiday cottages often choose to use an agent as it makes life easier, so don't feel bad about this third party element. There are even a few local  agents in Lake District including Sally's Cottages which started life with one cottage to let in Eskdale and now handles hundreds of cottages throughout the Lakes
Esk View Holiday Let

Another great way to book a holiday in the Lakes is to book a walking tour through an agent such as Alan Heppenstall. Alan has been arranging self guided walking tours for many years, and we at Brook House Inn have had the pleasure of guests from as far afield as Tasmania trekking through the Lakes on one of his walks.

If you would like to help directly, an appeal fund has been set up to help individuals and businesses affected by the floods please visit The Cumbria Community Foundation just giving page, every little helps.

The Lake District Open For Business All Year

book your next visit now

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Summer 2014

This has been one of the best summers since we arrived in Boot,  we have had 10 weeks of dry weather with hardly a drop of rain, so little in fact that the spring at home ran dry! Normal service has now resumed and there is a bit of a deluge going on as I type, a bit windy too, but not a hurricane thankfully.
So whats new? Well we won CAMRA pub of the year for the second time, great for all the family and staff to be rewarded for all the long hours and happy smiles that keep all the customers coming back, not to mention all the superb beer being produced within Cumbria at the moment. There can't be anywhere else with such a small population with some many breweries.
In a direct cross border assault we now also have a distillery within the Lake District National Park, how good is that! Well it will be in a few years time, but in the meantime they have produced a blend of whisky made up of malts from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales called "The One" It is available at Brook House Inn and as a blend hits the spot very nicely. The Lakes Distillery have just installed their copper stills so it wont be long before the first spirit is distilled along with some Lakes Gin and perhaps Vodka. We now have over 180 malt whiskies at Brook House so it is a great place to come and do some sampling, but if you are up near the top of Bassenthwaite call into the distillery for a short tour of the site and a free dram of The One, say hello to Katie @katiemust  and co from me, it wont get you another dram but if everyone buys a bottle, eventually I might get a free one!

In the kitchen we have been having a busy old time, averaging well over 100 meals a day and upto 250 on some busy weekends. We have gained two new suppliers this year,, with Bewleys butchers now only producing sausage we have started using Wilsons in Egremont and have been very pleased so far, with good steaks and very tasty pork, all coming from the local area. On the sea front we now get a regular supply of fresh fish from Steve @ravenglassfish Tonight we had some lovely Monkfish with thai spiced coconut curry sauce, breadcrumbs, lightly spiced vegetables and basmati rice. very well received along with the seared Hake with scallop sauce which is becoming a specials board regular.

Booking agents

As the last few years have been so much quieter than pre recession we made the plunge and finally put our rooms up for grabs on booking.com. Apparently over 50% of all online online hotel bookings in Europe are made through this one agent which gleefully takes 20% commission from the hard working hotelier. Ok so we have had some bookings that we would not have otherwise got, but for every 10 bookings 2 have either not turned up, cancelled at the last minute or got lost and arrived in the middle of the night! If a booking comes through booking.com we take full payment for the stay at the time of booking, if you do not come you will loose this money unless you can claim on your holiday insurance.
It seems that people that book direct are more likely to come even though we only take a £50 deposit per room.
After all we are in the middle of nowhere so it helps to be a little bit independent, be able to read a map as well as use gps which will blithely direct you over Hardknott Pass, which is apparently impassable at night ( it is a hard drive but the surface has been repaired and is used daily by the Mountain goat bus company +Mountain Goat Tours & Holidays)

Tripadvisor now charge £800 per year for a business listing, just so you can link to your own site and not have bookings directed to guess where? booking.com. Even if you pay up they still charge on a cost per click basis for any booking requests that are passed onto your own site. We are lucky to live in an  area with little competition, but I feel sorry for all the small hotels in cities and towns fighting for market share against big chains with lower overheads and more control over booking agents. It feels to me that it is time to take back our industry from the middlemen, wish I new how! But you can help, book direct whenever you book a hotel, if you a have seen it advertised on a booking site tell the hotel the price, most will match it because they will not have to pay the commission to the agent.

Finally lets have a bit more positively in the world, stop reading and writing negative reviews they don't help anyone. Find your independence, go and try it out for yourself.  If you have a problem with your hotel or restaurant or plumber, tell them, not the rest of the world. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Lovely Year


As always my blog starts with a weather update and an apology for not writing anything since last September, when I was hoping for an Indian summer, which finally arrived 12 months later!  A patch of snow stayed on Harter fell until the 14th May but from then until now we have had more than our normal share of warm sunny weather, which has made for a lovely season with happy visitors.
As a consequence of the late start to the spring following such a hard winter, it is now noticeable that the leaves have stayed green much longer than usual, so as we come to the end of October the autumn colours are shaping up for a spectacular display. I shall be out with my camera soon!
This was a quick snap whilst cooking breakfasts yesterday, which shows just how green everything is, still waiting for the first frost.

Wine Festival

Over the last couple of years Paddington and Harry Berger at the Woolpack have been holding a wine festival, this year it has been suggested that we take part along with the Boot Inn.
The Dates are November 21st-24th. At Brook House we are going to offer all our wines by the glass, along with some from our suppliers and possibly a supermarket or two.
On Friday 22nd Nov we will have a 6 course set meal with a specially chosen wine with each course, booking is required as numbers will be limited. Our normal menu will be available throughout the festival.
Entry is free although some events at the Woolpack will be chargeable.
The wines are available in standard measures, but also 50ml wine tokens will be available at 3 for £5 or 8 for £10.
2 nights dinner bed and breakfast including the Friday night 6 course meal and wine is just £135 per person.

Winter rates

 Through the winter season rates start at £75 per room for bed and breakfast. Book by phone on 019467 23288 or online from our own website at www.brookhouseinn.co.uk to get the best rates.

Suppliers old and new

We have a new fish supplier this month, Steve @Ravenglassfish, bringing beautiful fresh fish when we want it. The Hake with asparagus and a scallop sauce is selling well, and getting great comments. Fresh crab salad for tomorrow.
Our meat suppliers have stepped up there game with most of the beef, lamb and pork coming from the Lakes or North Lancashire. Claire one of the local farmers brought in some lovely lamb today, which grazed the field pictured above, shame it has to go all the way to High Newton and back to be slaughtered!

 Over the summer we hatched out some duck eggs under a willing but later confused banty hen! The resulting ducks now out number the hens due to loses to mr fox. Only two female ducks out of the six hatched so it looks like duck could be back on the menu for a short while. For reference the sexing of ducks is based on which ones quack, the males apparently have no quack.

New Year still has rooms available at £250 per person for 3 nights dinner bed and breakfast.

Don't forget the Boot Beer Festival 5-8th June 2014.

Thinking about a small whisky festival for next year.

Enjoy the coming festive season, drink sensibly, stay within budget, but don't compromise on quality.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Awaiting Indian Summer

It's a long time since my last post, sorry if you were waiting. I have just read back my last post and note that I was complaining about the rain, so I will just say that it has not rained at all today! Yet.
We have had quite a relaxed summer at Brook House, not as busy as we might like but still lots of lovely customers both old and new. We have been a touch conservative with our beer selection this year, but it is hard to get away from the fact that Cumbria Legendary Ales and Hawkshead  produce probably the best ales in the country, ranging from Windermere Pale at 3.5% to American Invasion at 5% with Brodies Prime keeping the dark hunters happy. Having said that The Boot Beer Festival was its usual successful self, inspite of a touch of rain, we had over 45 real ales on over the weekend at Brook House, with about the same at the Woolpack, and about 30 at the  Boot Inn, which is going through a time of change, still no long term tenants/managers, but we hope it will be fully involved again next year.
We have a new sign out side the front at Brook House, featuring Holly as our new poster girl, yet another entry on her growing list of job titles!

On the penultimate day of the School holidays the sun finally shone for a while so Emma and I set of up the valley to find somewhere to swim. Emma likes water and does not seem to be overly affected by the cold, in fact there has been a roll reversal where I now get cajoled into going swimming. It was well worth the walk to find stunning clear green water and white cascades far past the last home in the valley, this is wild swimming at its wildest, in England at any rate!
The Upper Esk has a selection of large pools and waterfalls culminating in a classic gorge, providing a grade 3 scramble in dry weather, it would have been a more challenging undertaking in these conditions. I love living in this valley!
Talking about the valley, the Tourist board have commissioned a photographic event called Lives in the Landscape which involves a number of photographers exhibiting in the valley and a selection of outdoor installations. I am proud to say Brook House Inn is hosting a collection of my photos, arranged by the curator of Kendal Brewery Arts Centre. The Exhibition is to run from now until the end of October and there are various displays throughout the valley so come and have a nosey. Autumn sunshine is on order, get it while stocks last!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

A touch of winter at last.
It feels like it has been raining for months..... wait a moment it has been raining for months, 3 dry days since October. This is the wettest winter we have had in the last 14 years and local farmers say the ground has never been so wet, so a chill in the air and a little snow on the tops is a welcome change. I dug my camera out as a pair of sundogs had appeared in the sky and the sun was shaping up for a fine sunset. I hot footed it up Little Barrow to catch the sun setting, which it did - behind a thick bank of cloud! At least the snow on Scafell looked good and to sit on the little hill as the sun went down was very peaceful but note to self, put a torch in the camera bag, you'd think I would know better!
Despite the weather we had a good Christmas and New Year with a saved loin of Soxy going down very well. As usual it is pretty quiet up here at the moment so until the 5th of Feb we are offering rooms at £30 per person for BB quote fb30 and phone to book, also keep an eye on our facebook page for more special offers.
Beer Tasting
On the 29th of December  Brook House arranged a tasting to determine the golden ales representative from the North West which will go forward to the Great British Beer Festival.
Ideally eight beers should have been present but one did not turn up, lost in the Christmas post maybe!

The competitors this year where as follows, 3 from Marble Brewery in Manchester, Bitter, Pint and Lagonda IPA, Bowland Brewery Hen Harrier, CLA Langdale, Hawkshead WPA and Ulverston Flying Elephant.Amongst the judges were two men of the cloth, two chefs and a select group of CAMRA members with taste buds honed to beer sampling perfection.

The task was difficult - honest! The beers where all in great condition with many fruity flavours swilling about amongst the hops. As we tasted we had no idea which beer was which although everyone thought they recognised at least one, but not all the same one! I was sure I had spotted the grapefruit notes of Windermere Pale Ale right up until I tried the next ale which tasted just as fruity and equally as good.

Ably guided by Chris de Cordova we came to appreciate what we were looking for ­ the best overall taste with fruit yes but not dominated by a single  flavour, plenty of character, not too dry or bitter but with enough bite to refresh a weary walker on a hot summers day. The winning beer should appeal to a broad range odrinkers and have that drinkability which brings you back for more.

Suddenly out of the great range of ales a knight in shinning golden armour arose, distinct in its flavours but balanced and refreshing, fruity but with no danger of thinking it is made from some exotic fruit instead of  hops. Finally a long lasting finish and a return to the bar.

Just as it's namesake sits centrally in the heart of the Lake District, Cumbria Legendary Ales Langdale is now the North West Golden Ales entry to the GBBF 2012 and sits permanently on the bar at Brook House Inn.
Throughout the year we will strive to keep Cumbrias best beer on the bar at Brook House Inn, with fair prices and a smile from  our team.

Beer Festival Dates 14th-17th June 2012

New Tennents will be arriving soon at the Boot Inn, lets hope they like good beer!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Bye Bye Hamilton

Tomorrow sees the departure of one of our pigs, named Hamilton by Emma he is our first to go. I am a little bit sad but this was the plan all along. I only hope we can do him justice on the menu this weekend.
It is looking like a quiet week at Brook House Inn, with quite a few rooms available at the weekend so if you fancy a bit of Saddle back pork reared in Boot you know where we are!

Sleepy pigs, Hamilton on the left with Soxy

We have had a great time looking after the pigs, learning about all sorts of things like fencing, pig house building and  how to give injections. On the downside pigs eat constantly so financially it is not really cost effective to rear them on such a small scale, especially when the vets bill and medicine is added into the equation. Having said that, would we do it again? Yes probably!

All 3 pigs watched warily by lesley

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Beer, Art, Pigs and TA

Well I'll start with the beer, it is once more time for the Boot Beer Festival, it kicks off on Thursday the 9th June with Curry and live music at Brook House Inn, the Band this year are called Diesel and are from the Ulverston area, they sound pretty lively so looking forward to that after a night cooking curry! We have some great beers to look forward to as usual, mainly from up north but a few from far flung places around the country.

The Eskdale Art Festival has just been held at which I am pleased to say I sold a couple of Photographs, bouyed up by the sales I have been out with my camera today, searching out some hidden waterfalls. I had a lovely walk up the valley to Wha House and then up the side of a pretty stream where I took the snap below.

Our three saddleback pigs are doing well, although not quite ready for the next step. I am amazed by how much feed they go through and find it hard to understand how pork can be sold so cheaply in the supermarkets, mind you in a supermarket you dont usually get to know the name of the pig! ( Hamilton, Podge and Soxy) We have also got a fair menagerie
with 20 odd hens and 3 ducks most of which are now laying, so along with Shirley and Claire we are supplying the pub with all its egg requirements.

Trip Advisor
Has TA changed the way we think about travel? Is nothing left to chance any more and do we believe everything we read?
Now I wrote this just after Easter but decided to let it sit on my desk for a while to kind of cool off. Trip Advisor (TA)  is a website which has reviews about peoples experiences at travel destinations such as Hotels and Inns and would appear to have become quite a popular form of media.
TA seems to have altered the way we book holidays, once upon a time deciding where to go consisted of choosing a destination then checking the beer guide or similar list of places to stay like the tourist board, maybe looking at a map ( also being phased out in the coming years) Then we would chance our luck and our own ability to make the best of whatever happens and enjoy the holiday. I am sure we are all still capable of the last bit but now we have TA along with the internet in general, we can research till we know every last detail. For instance a negative review is written about a spider in the corner of  room 8 at Incy Wincies BB. Maybe only 1 person saw the spider and decided to write a review out of hundreds of visitors, when the next guest arrives there may be a spider or maybe it will be gone, but if there are no good reviews arachnophobs would be put off!
I am not saying that TA is a bad thing, on the contary we have  had some great reviews over the past few years and propably gained a fair amount of trade from it. But as happens from time to time we fail to hit the right note for a customer or group of customers as happened over the Easter holiday this year. We served over 1000 meals to happy customers but it is the 4 unhappy ones we remember and also it is those 4 not the other 1000 that decide to post  reviews on TA.

Trip Advisor is there to be used but I always take the reviews with a pinch of salt, look out for reviews from people who have never posted before, these are often the bad ones and also any which seem too good to be true, that will be the owners Mother!
So Come on if you have had a good meal at Brook House Inn or anywhere else for that matter Please Please get on TA and reset the balance.
TA is not the only review site, we are also on icomparehotels, in fact you can find a review for just about anything. I am not sure if it is a good thing but it is here to stay so the more reviews, preferable positive the better.
I would like to say a big thank you to all the people who have written lovely reviews for Brook House Inn.
The links below should take you to our pages on TA
Brook House Inn Trip Advisor
Brook House Inn Restaurant Trip Advisor
We also have a facebook page