Photographer based in the Chilterns, Bedfordshire

The Malabar

The Malabar

It had been snowing heavily in the south of England on the first day of February and we had a long journey ahead of us to stay at The Malabar, a beautifully restored 18th Century barn nestling in between the Lake District and The Yorkshire Dales. Fiona, the owner had kept in contact throughout the week, advising of the weather conditions, in fact unusually the south of England had a much heavier snowfall than the north. As we drove up the country the snow eased in the midlands and as we neared our destination along the M6 motorway to our left the Lake District was coloured green apart from the snow high up on the fells, yet to our right The Yorkshire Dales were a winter wonderland with snow abounding everywhere turning the countryside into a photographer’s paradise.

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As we drove the short distance from junction 37 of the M6 the road opened up in front of us and we could see the village of Seburgh nestling in the valley below. I pulled over in to the lay-by to capture this beautiful scene as the late afternoon sun illuminated the dales. As I was taking my photographs, across the road a herd of sheep came bounding down the hillside to greet me at the farm gate. A friendly bunch they were too, talking to me and trying to edge ever closer to the gate.

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Back into the car and once we had crossed the single lane bridge, we spotted the sign to our weekend retreat. Up the stone walled driveway, which opened up on to a breathtaking view and we had arrived, to be greeted by the housekeeper Becky and the owner Fiona…and of course Pluto and Monty, the owner’s rescue dogs from Cyprus.

Anyone who knows Sue and myself will be well aware of our love for dogs and over the couple of days that we were at The Malabar these two became firm friends. Pluto will follow you everywhere, a beautiful black and white pointer. Monty is a little more reserved and completely understandable when you know the background to his hard start in life. We gained his confidence though and by the time we left, he was up there with Pluto meeting me in the snow when I took the sunrise photographs.

Fiona told us a lovely story that when Monty arrived from the rescue centre Pluto grabbed hold of Monty’s lead and guided him out of his container. They remain best friends.


I wanted to grab some shots before the sun set for the day and so we ventured out into the nearby countryside on to the untouched snow and looked for some interesting composition. There was plenty to find with the border walls, trees in the fields and the distant hills.

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Once we came in from the cold having spent about 40 minutes capturing the stunning surroundings, we were served afternoon tea in front of a wood burning stove. Cucumber sandwiches, scones, chocolate cake and little mousses were a welcome refreshment accompanied with chilled music in the lounge.

Graham and Fiona live with their children in the farmhouse opposite, so are always on hand if required. The once busy bank farm that houses the six beautifully converted rooms had a hay loft, cattle stalls and dairy dating right back to the 1700s.

We stayed in The Camellia, named after Camellia sinensis, the species of evergreen shrub whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. It is the largest double with a large door leading out on to a terrace, which would be lovely to sit out on during the warmer months. Stylish furnishings with touches of the east, which is where the owners spent many years before returning to Cumbria for this project. A super king Hypnos bed ensured a really comfortable sleep.

A flat screen satellite television, free Wi-Fi, state of the art heating, and ample storage offer that touch of luxury. But wait, I haven’t mentioned the bathroom yet! Each bathroom has a large sliding wooden door which opens up to a sumptuous relaxing environment with a unique roll top bath (ours had a splash of bright yellow), underfloor heating (now that is so nice to feel on your feet first thing in the morning), walk in showers, with subtle spotlights and Bath House complimentary toiletries.

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Each of the six bedrooms have been uniquely and tastefully decorated. The Ladbroke room is the family suite which can accommodate up to five people, (two adults, two children and an infant) and is also the dog friendly room.

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The bathrooms were just exquisite, here is the one in the Kundaly Room, all have large wooden doors and underfloor heating.

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Take your pick from any of the six rooms, rest assured that the same attention to detail has been applied individually to each one. I like the touch that each room is named after something significant in the lives of the owners, whether it be a tea plantation or a farm in Ireland where Fiona’s father spent his childhood (Millmount).

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Breakfast is served in the high ceilinged living dining room with large windows looking out on to the countryside. I opted for the full Cumbrian which incorporated locally produced ingredients including freshly laid eggs by the resident chickens. A vegetarian alternative is also on the menu.

There is also a well-stocked honesty bar and you can request aperitifs to be brought to your room at 6pm if you would like a drink while you are getting ready for the evening whilst relaxing in the bath!

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You get two for the price of one when it comes to iconic landscape destinations staying at The Malabar because as well as sitting at the foot of the Howgill Fells with green lush rolling countryside (when it’s not snowing of course) and only two miles away from the market town of Sedbergh, a 40 minute drive will take you to Kendal in The Lake District, which is exactly what we did on the Saturday morning. Taking in Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere and then Keswick

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Our weekend break was over far too quickly and we were back on the journey home. The memories that will stay with us from this trip to The Malabar were the lovely warm welcome and hospitality that Fiona and her staff gave us, the attention to detail that has been put into the design of the six bedrooms. The location…that’s just stunning!

The relaxing atmosphere, you could seriously just stay indoors at The Malabar, read a book, listen to some music, pamper yourself in the luxurious bathroom or just gaze out at the beautiful landscape.

Lastly but definitely not least my two new canine friends Pluto and Monty who welcomed us into their lovely home, kept me company in the snow when I was taking the photographs and then posed beautifully when I wanted to include them in the pics.

Thank you to Graham & Fiona for having us to stay at The Malabar

Our stay was complimentary. As always, all opinions are my own.

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