Latest News

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.

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.

Read More

June 2021 at No.fifty6.

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

June 2021 at No.fifty6. As we write this, 1st July is upon us, a date synonymous with The Somme, the date on which the 1916 battle commenced. For us it is a day for reflection and looking forward, a date bound up with so many reasons why we now call The Somme our home.
This year, like last, Somme commemorations are different due to Covid and so many not able to travel. There are some small Covid compliant ceremonies but the essence of The Somme is not to be found in any ceremony. It is to be found looking over the now beautiful fields, the skyline, the dips and curves which caress The Somme. Then of course the Cemeteries and Memorials dotted across the landscape like silent witnesses. Come here and you truly connect with the land and its history. There is no place in the world like it. Come and remember, come and reflect. Come on a personal journey, as we did many years ago, a journey for us which continues still. The boys who were here, those who still lie, those who went home who have now all passed. We believe they would have appreciated being remembered in quiet, personal ways, more 105 years later. So do take a moment for personal reflection.
A favourite poem of ours which sums up...

Read More

May 2021  - Where is Spring? After a Cold, Wet, May, Sunshine is Finally Here!

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

May 2021  - Where is Spring? After a Cold, Wet, May, Sunshine is Finally Here! After changeable  weather in April, it is as if a “low” has sat over Northern France  for the whole of May. Day after day of chill winds, low temperatures and rain, more rain. Persistent rain, long showers, short sharp showers, drizzle, we have had them all. We have seen rainbows, different skies, stormy beauty, but it seems every day, rain. We know we are not alone with this weather across Europe. Just the last 3 days early summer has arrived with wall-to-wall sunshine and warmth, hurrah!

However, there is always beauty. A stormy Somme sky is beautiful. Rainbows falling on Cemeteries bringing a particular poignancy. The fields have now turned to vivid green as the new growth has responded to the life-giving rain. Everywhere now looks lush, renewed, we now need the warmth, which has started this past weekend.

Despite the weather there has been plenty to keep us busy this month, we have continued walking, and we have some stories to tell here.

But all this rain of course makes us think of how this affected the soldiers who were here in all weathers. After a walk, we come back to a warm house, hot tea and dry clothes - not so easy in the trenches.

Rain too, has its own poetic rhythm as we hear it on our windows. It is no better used in poetry than by Edward Thomas in his poem simply called “Rain.” Written while he was in a hut on the battlefields.

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain

On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me

Remembering again that I shall die

And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks

For washing me cleaner than I have been

Since I was born into this solitude.

Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:

But here I pray that none whom once I loved

Is dying tonight or lying still awake

Solitary, listening to the rain,

Either in pain or thus in sympathy

Helpless among the living and the dead,

Like a cold water among broken reeds,

Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,

Like me who have no love which this wild rain

Has not dissolved except the love of death,

If love it be towards what is perfect and

Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.

Read More

April 2021 - Chill Winds, Spring Arrives, Anzacs and Roadmap Announcements.

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

April 2021  - Chill Winds, Spring Arrives, Anzacs and Roadmap Announcements. If March was contrary, weather wise, April has continued the theme, the first half of the month very cold with hard frosts which have caused problems for vineyards and fruit growers throughout France. The sun has been there by day to fool you into thinking it is warmer than it is, but too cold to work in the garden and a need to wrap up warm for walks. The last week however has seen the wind change direction, the sun seems to shine brighter and the Spring warmth has returned. So now is the time to get rid of winter from the garden and of course explore the landscape here as we love to do.

The farmers are busy, tractors rolling up and down the large fields, potatoes going in, distinguishable by their neatly peaked ridge rows, wheat growing, colza/rape/canola now tinging some fields with a brilliant yellow. Blossom everywhere on trees and the birds nesting in our eaves as they usually do.
Great blue skies for photography so David has been in his element, capturing moments and images which catch his eye, as we walk this hallowed landscape.

A place we go to frequently on our walks is Caterpillar Valley Cemetery. It is a beautiful place, surrounded by fields and with stunning views. Buried within its walls is Captain Hugh Stewart Smith, of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. An only son, he was killed near High Wood in August 1916. He is not a well-known poet, but among his possessions, in his diary was found this poem. He captures among the death surrounding him, the ordinariness he longed for:
On the Plains of Picardy
Lay a soldier, dying
Gallantly, with soul still free
Spite the rough worlds' trying.
Came the Angel who keeps guard
When the fight has drifted,
"What would you for your reward
When the clouds have lifted?"
Then the soldier through the mist
Heard the voice and rested
As a man who sees his home
When the hill is breasted –
This his answer and I vow
Nothing could be fitter –
Give me peace, a dog, a friend
And a glass of bitter!

Read More

March 2021 - Spring Has Come to The Somme.

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

March 2021  - Spring Has Come to The Somme. March, a contrary month – not winter but not always spring either, however it is usually a favourite month of ours as it promises so much of the year to come…this March however continues to be difficult due to Covid, though we hope things will get better quickly, just as the sun lengthens the days.
Weather-wise it has been a mixed bag, sometimes cold, windy, wet, misty, other times blue sky and mild. The month has ended on a high with blue skies and very warm temperatures. So, no surprise the fields and gardens around us are springing into life, new crops growing, buds and blossom, birds nesting and chirping. The sun warming our faces on our walks reminds us life is good.

It brings to mind this poem by Sara Teasdale. As new life bursts through it contrasts so much with the death and destruction of war…”Spring in Wartime.”

Read More