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.

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Weather Changes, Autumn comes Knocking, No Guests but Always something Going On

Posted on 30th September 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Weather Changes, Autumn comes Knocking, No Guests but Always something Going On Last week we were walking on the beach at the Somme coast in 27 degrees then 2 days later the thermometer plunged to 11 degrees and wet and windy weather. At month end it has settled to a drizzly but mild , certainly autumnal weather front. So, the landscape is changing, softening. Leaves changing colour. Fields once plump with crop have given up their treasure to feed a nation, but never empty as ploughing and reseeding continue the cycle of agriculture. The light is more golden, there have been some dramatic skies and sunsets. Autumn has its own soft beauty. And we love it.

It brings to mind this poem by Ernest Rhys written in 1918 – The Leaf Burners, which ends:
Much I thought then
of men that went forth,
Or dropt like the leaves,
to die and to live;
While the leaf burners
with their long brooms
Drew them together
on the day of their death.
I wondered at that,
walking the fell —
Feeling the wind
that wafted the leaves
And set their souls
free of the smoke,
Free of the dead,
speeding the flame
To spire on the air —
a spark that should spring
In me, man of men;
last of the leaves.



With quarantine in place for UK visitors returning home from France, borders closed in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, we have had no guests this month. It is hard, we miss everyone, but nevertheless we keep busy and there has been plenty to keep us occupied this September.

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Heatwave, UK Quarantine, A Month of Extremes – August 2020 at No.fifty6

Posted on 31st August 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Heatwave, UK Quarantine, A Month of Extremes – August 2020 at No.fifty6 Well, August has been a month of ups and downs. The month started with so much promise, a pretty full diary, interesting guests due throughout the month, things to do, lovely summer weather, then wham! We and our guests were hit with a UK quarantine, a heatwave, storms, diary emptying…but we are still here and always make the best of things, as there is always something going on. So plenty to share this month.

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July News - Commemorations Despite Covid, Harvests and Life on The Somme

Posted on 31st July 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

July News - Commemorations Despite Covid, Harvests and Life on The Somme 104 years ago The battle of The Somme was raging on. Thoughts of swift success on the eve of 1st July were soon pushed aside as the casualties mounted and progress was bloody and slow. By the end of July, the front line had moved just a kilometer or so past our front door with the Army engaged in Pozieres, Longueval and High Wood to name just a few places. It was to be a hot, long, difficult summer.

The weather this year continues to be dry and hot. Talk to the farmers and “La Secheresse” is the problem. Dryness/drought. But still they toil as it is harvest time, more on that later.

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Deconfinement, Ongoing Remembrance, Heatwaves and Big Skies - June at No.fifty6

Posted on 30th June 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Deconfinement, Ongoing Remembrance, Heatwaves and Big Skies - June 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 of course, Somme commemorations are different due to Covid. There are no big organised 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. 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, they maybe would like pomp and ceremony with the great and the good at Thiepval, but we also believe they would have appreciated being remembered in quiet, personal ways, more than 100 years later.
So while we would have been happy to stand in a favourite spot this morning, we are inextricably bound and connected to The Lochnagar Crater. For the first time in 41 years, Richard Dunning has not been here for a 1 July. So we were more than happy to lead, on his behalf, an intimate, short, symbolic service at Lochnagar this morning at 07.28hrs, the time the Battle commenced. Julie led the proceedings with words read from Richard, one wreath and one French gerbe were laid by Mayor Christian Bernard, and our friend Cyrille Delplanque played the bagpipes to start and finish, and we blew our whistles just as the men did to encourage their comrades over the top. We stood in silence to honour them.
We can never say thank you in person to the men who walked this hallowed ground 104 years ago today, but we can remember, we can reflect and we can pledge to be good people, live good lives, and embrace our fragile, hard won freedoms to do good. Thank you to that gallant generation who gave so much. We will remember them.

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Nature, Lockdown Easements, Staying Safe, Ongoing Remembrance - May at No.fifty

Posted on 31st May 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Nature, Lockdown Easements, Staying Safe, Ongoing Remembrance  - May at No.fifty After 60+ days of full, strict lockdown, there was a slight easing of lockdown here from 11th May. Since then we have been able to go out within 100km radius of our home, while maintaining social distancing. So this has meant we have been able to do what we love to do – going out and exploring the wonderful Somme, visiting cemeteries and memorials, being mesmerized by nature and paying respects to the fallen. That first day we took a simple picnic and went to a favourite spot of ours, up on the bank behind the red dragon at Mametz. Just us, nature and the boys who remain there. It was chilly with a bracing wind, but there was something life affirming about it. We walked across the valley to the outskirts of the wood and watched the wind create rhythmic waves in the barley growing in Death Valley. That was the start of several journeys out for us. Not a problem social distancing, just us and those who lie in these green fields of France.

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