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As passionate hosts and historians, we’ll be writing regular articles about the past, present and future events at No.fifty6 and the Somme.

If you would like to know our latest news, as well as our insights into WW1, make sure you bookmark this page or sign up to our newsletter.

Remember, Remember, November on The Somme

Posted on 30th November 2021 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Remember, Remember, November on The Somme November, November, where did you go? The month has past by here in a blur of activity. It has been a month of making new acquaintances and reconnecting with established ones – and we have loved every moment of having guests through our door. It has been a month of special events, remembrance and commemoration and we have been able to do what we love doing best – looking after people whilst they explore The Somme, or indeed while they work on The Somme.
So, what has inspired us this November?

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October 2021 News From no.fifty6.

Posted on 31st October 2021 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

October 2021 News From no.fifty6. Another month whizzes past here at no.fifty6. We are into Autumn now and nature's palette of colours takes on an earthy golden hue, just beautiful. The farmers are still very busy, the weather has been changeable and there has been so much to keep us inspired this month. Most of all, it has been wonderful having a steady flow of guests, old friends and new, through our door which means we are doing what we love best.

So, what has inspired us this month?

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September at No.fifty6 - Stories and News from The Somme

Posted on 30th September 2021 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

September at No.fifty6 - Stories and News from The Somme September – what an interesting month it has been. As well as some amazing September weather and lots of things going on here, most of all we have had the joy of guests walking through our doors again. We feel so privileged to have our guests come back to visit us again after such a long gap due to Covid. As the saying goes, it is as if you have never been away. We are grateful to everyone for making the journey and dealing with the necessary travel administration.
So, what has inspired us this month?

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Harvest, Art, Travel, Craftsmanship - Things to Inspire our August at No.56

Posted on 31st August 2021 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Harvest, Art, Travel, Craftsmanship  - Things to Inspire our August at No.56 Where did August go? No sooner it seems we were welcoming August in with its promise of warm days and golden fields and now it’s over!

There have been some golden, sunny days, but there has also been rain, wind, grey skies and a chill in the evening air. We had rain in early August like we have never seen before in summer. Rain that flowed in muddy rivers through the fields and along the tracks of the Somme. This delayed the peak harvest time for our friends the farmers. La Moisson – The Harvest of wheat finished just this week, 20 days later than last year. The farmers say the quality of wheat is not as good because of all the late rain and to expect the price of bread to go up in the autumn as wheat is in such demand. You cannot live here and not connect to the cycle of nature and how the climate affects everything so much. This area of France produces more wheat than any other in France, the land playing such an important role in providing for a nation.
So thank you to the farmers for toiling day and night to bring in the harvest. We would watch the headlights of the harvesters as they toiled up and down Mash Valley in the dark to get it done. Our bread will never taste better than in harvest month.

There is something mesmeric about watching he harvest take place. The unison of man, land and nature. The land giving up its treasures to feed us. So different to 105 years ago when the land was ragged, torn, and blood soaked, absorbing such loss. Now the peace and beauty of this landscape dotted with its scars and memorials has the ability to heal and nurture.

As we ourselves have walked the tracks of the Somme this month, our footsteps took us many times to The Sunken Lane. The rain had turned the Lane to a gravelly river bed in places. We remember the men who sat on its banks awaiting their destiny. Think of The Lancashire Fusiliers and your mind takes you to that shadowy lane where they are fixed in time.

So it seemed appropriate that the poet who inspired us this month is not well known, but he served with The 19th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. Geoffrey Bache Smith, born in 1894 was a good friend of JRR Tolkien, both pupils at King Edward’s School, Birmingham. Their friendship endured. During the war, Geoffrey corresponded with Tolkien, describing the situation in France as an “orgy of death and cruelty”. He arrived at Bouzincourt, where Tolkien was stationed, on 6th July 1916. The friends talked frequently, discussing poetry, the war and the future. In mid-November, Geoffrey’s Battalion was shelled and he was mortally wounded by shrapnel. He died, on 3rd December 1916, aged 22. He is buried in Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery. Tolkien never forgot his old friend. In 1918, Tolkien arranged for the publication of an anthology of Geoffrey’s poetry, “A Spring Harvest”. In addition, he wrote two poems in memory of Geoffrey, entitled “GBS” and “Companions of the Rose”.

This by Geoffrey himself:
“Let us tell Quiet Stories of Kind Eyes”

Let us tell quiet stories of kind eyes
And placid brows where peace and learning sate:
Of misty gardens under evening skies
Where four would walk of old, with steps sedate.
Let’s have no word of all the sweat and blood,
Of all the noise and strife and dust and smoke
(We who have seen Death surging like a flood,
Wave upon wave, that leaped and raced and broke).
Or let’s sit silently, we three together,
Around a wide hearth-fire that’s glowing red,
Giving no thought to all the stormy weather
That flies above the roof-tree overhead.
And he, the fourth, that lies all silently
In some far-distant and untended grave,
Under the shadow of a shattered tree,
Shall leave the company of the hapless brave,
And draw nigh unto us for memory’s sake,
Because a look, a word, a deed, a friend,
Are bound with cords that never a man may break,
Unto his heart for ever, until the end.

So, what else is new or has inspired us this month?

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July at No.fifty6, Music, Maoris and Remembrance

Posted on 31st July 2021 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

July at No.fifty6, Music, Maoris and Remembrance Another month passes here at No.fifty6 and though we have been quiet, guest-wise, due to travel restrictions, there has been plenty going on. We are often asked “Do you get bored?” and the answer to that is a resounding “no!” There is so much to keep us mentally and physically occupied and July seems to have been busier than ever with things to keep us inspired.

We feel we are on the cusp of once again welcoming guests and friends through our door, but as we write this, the travel restrictions have not yet been lifted. More on that later.

July has been a mixed bag weather-wise. We had 10 days of glorious hot summer days, blue skies and fabulous sunsets, but the second half has been mixed with some heavy rain and cooler temperatures. We were not affected by the flooding over parts of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and our thoughts go out to those who have seen the terrible side of what nature can inflict.

Farmers here have started the harvest of wheat and there is a steady flow of machinery traversing the fields, which are turning golden after months of verdant green. A different kind of bronzed beauty meets our eyes as we look across Mash Valley now.

And always in July, our thoughts turn to the Battle of The Somme, raging throughout the summer months of 1916, 105 years ago. The lead photo shows our life-size Tommy who sits on our terrace, his shadow on the wall and the Mash Valley sunset reflected off his chest.

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Thiepval before sunrise this morning. Workers already busy restoring the glory under powerful lights piercing the p… https://t.co/VjTUncrpAJ

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