Happy New Year from No.fifty6, Here’s to 2024

Posted on 31st December 2023 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Happy New Year from No.fifty6, Here’s to 2024

1st January,  the dawn of a New Year which we hope will be filled with good times for all, and above all health and happiness. Thank you to everyone who sent us cards and festive messages and we wish everyone a Happy New Year. We may not be able to single handedly eradicate war, suffering, grief, cost of living pressures, worries and loss, but if each of us does what we can to make this a better world, then that is worth a New Year wish.  And of course we will be here to do what we love best, to see guests and friends throughout 2024  - there is nothing we love more than sharing The Somme with you. 

We took time out in December as it has been such a busy 2023 so we had a little break away to recharge our batteries and also spent Christmas with family. As much as we love what we do, we needed time for reflection and “us time” before we gear up for what looks to be a busy 2024.

So, with thoughts of Christmas we re-read this poem, On Earth - Peace.

On December 23rd, 1914, Punch published a Christmas poem for a nation at war. The anonymous poet dreamed of a return to happier times:

On Earth -- Peace

Judge of the passionate hearts of men,

God of the wintry wind and snow,

Take back the blood-stained year again,

Give us the Christmas that we know!

No stir of wings sweeps softly by;

No angel comes with blinding light;

Beneath the wild and wintry sky

No shepherds watch their flocks tonight.

In the dull thunder of the wind

We hear the cruel guns afar,

But in the glowering heavens we find

No guiding, solitary star.

But lo! on this our Lord's birthday,

Lit by the glory whence she came,

Peace, like a warrior, stands at bay,

A swift, defiant, living flame!

Full-armed she stands in shining mail,

Erect, serene, unfaltering still,

Shod with a strength that cannot fail,

Strong with a fierce o'ermastering will.

Where shattered homes and ruins be

She fights through dark and desperate days;

Beside the watchers on the sea

She guards the Channel's narrow ways.

Through iron hail and shattering shell,

Where the dull earth is stained with red,

Fearless she fronts the gates of Hell

And shields the unforgotten dead.

So stands she, with her all at stake,

And battles for her own dear life,

That by one victory she may make

For evermore an end of strife.

A wistful longing for happier Christmases of the past concludes with a dream of the most extravagant of gifts: world peace forever. It is a dream that we still have today – with the world still torn, stained with red. Peace is something we all continue to pray for and it seems as far off as it ever has been.

The Somme in December

December has been mild, wet and windy. There have been many grey sky days. The tracks and fields are muddy from much rain.

Tractors continue to dot the landscape. Hares and pheasants tear hither and thither. The fields are either seeded with new growth appearing, or deeply ploughed. Ordnance, vestiges of the War, litter the edges of fields on our walks.

The Somme is peaceful, ready for Spring’s new growth.

 The tracks of Contalmaison, iron harvest.

We ended the year with a walk to Caterpillar Valley Cemetery as the sun went down. It was incredibly windy, but the light, as always there, was exquisite. We reflected as we looked at the names of the New Zealand "Missing" on the panels, that it was already New Year in their native land.  

 New Year's Eve, Caterpillar Valley.

Frank Sumsion - A Life Well Lived

Sad news reached us via Frank's son Mike, who was with us in the summer with his nephew Sam, that Frank Sumsion passed away after a short illness. Frank was in his 98th year. Frank loved coming to the Somme and was a great cheerleader for us. He and David would talk about Concorde and Frank would regale of his flights on that iconic plane and even sent us some of his Concorde memorabilia. He loved sharing - stories, a glass of red wine, photos, a ready smile. When Frank could no longer travel Mike would Facetime his Dad during his visits here so we could have a chat. We take comfort that Frank is now at rest, and had a long life, well lived.

 Frank at No.fifty6.  At home in Lincoln. Thanks to Mike Sumsion for letting us use the photos. 

Work on The Somme

While the Somme is quiet there are several pieces of work going on in the area.

At Newfoundland Park there is refurbishment of the Visitor Centre including a new air conditioning system.

Warlencourt British Cemetery is having extensive refurbishment work to the entrance area, currently covered in scaffolding. The Cemetery is still accessible, with work due to finish in March.

  Warlencourt British Cemetery

During December some of the diseased trees in Fricourt German Cemetery and also at Grove Town Cemetery have been professionally felled. Sadly, Ash dieback is a problem in the area and more trees are likely to be taken down next year.

 Fricourt German Cemetery.   Grove Town Cemetery.

Reservations and Tariffs for 2024

Our 2024 diary is already filling up with our lovely guests who want to visit on specific dates and know it is always a good idea to get requests in early to secure preferred dates. If you do want to visit during 2024, please do think about letting us have your dates as soon as possible as we hate disappointing anyone! Our Availability Calendar always has the up to date position but do get in touch with us to check. We are always as flexible as we can be. 


As thoughts turn to 2024 we have reviewed our tariffs. Not immune to the continual rise in the cost of living we have to make a small addition to cover increased costs. 

Room rates including breakfast are €110 per night for 2 sharing and €80 per night single occupancy.

Our dinner rate for our not to be missed home cooked meals around the No.fifty6 table, including drinks is €38 per person, for 4 courses.

 Breakfast time!

David’s New Year Cracker:

As it’s New Year I was going to have Bucks Fizz for breakfast but I’m having trouble making my mind up…

Happy New Year

As we toast absent friends, all that is left is for us to wish all our wonderful friends and guests past and future a happy, healthy, peaceful New Year. We look forward to reconnecting with old friends and new in 2024. Please stay safe. Stay healthy. Here’s to the future. Bon Annee.

 Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.


Comments (23)

Roger and Elaine says:

Happy New Year! Let's hope it's a good and peaceful one. We are looking forward to seeing you in April - can't wait!

John Mepham says:

Bon Annee!! Good to hear you both had some time to yourselves!
Looking forward to a repeat performance of David's employee of the month award !!
Take good care, Love from Canada!

Janet and Ian says:

Happy New year to you both, lovely to hear what is happening around you. Plans already being drawn for the end of July

David Ellis says:

Happy new year Julie and David. Now counting the days until the end of April! Loving the jokes David - keep them coming - please don’t get too serious! ????
Very best wishes to you both.

Jon Hill says:

Two past visits by motorcycle, I am planning a trip by car with my wife, Pam and hope to stay with you sometime in May.
Happy New Year to you both.

Mandy Aitken says:

Happy New Year to you both. We look forward to staying with you in the summer.

John M Sproul says:

Linda Sproul and I consider our time spent with you both last year one of the highlights of our Western Front excursion; we hope to see you again very soon, and may God bless you with peace, health, and a very happy new year!

sandy biback says:

Thanks as always. Every time I read your updates, I remember my time with you which now seems like forever ago. Wishing you both Healthy & Safety in 2024 & beyond.

Mike Sumsion says:

Thank you so much for my father's tribute, he truly did love his times on the Somme. Secondly, thank you David for your buck's fizz Christmas cracker . . . Dad would have loved that too! Best wishes for 2024. Mike.

Les Mepham says:

Wishing you both another prosperous year! Life is good!

With love from Canada.

Alan Howard says:

Happy New Year Julia and David and every good wish for 2024.

Gary James says:

Happy New Year and thanks for the latest newsletter. Keep the jokes coming David.

Tony & Teresa says:

Happy New Year to you both. Thanks for your hospitality during the summer of 23 when we walked in the footsteps of Bernard English.

Susan Anneveldt says:

Wishing you a Happy New Year, with many new memories. Your account of visiting Caterpillar Valley reminds me of the story of Michael Palin's great-uncle, Lance Corporal Henry William Bourne Palin who is commemorated there on the New Zealand Memorial. I enjoyed the often poignant account of Henry's life in Michael Palin's book this past year, "Great-Uncle Harry: A Tale Of War And Empire".

Michael Knight says:

Bon Annee
A great read as always, look forward to seeing you both later in the year

Wendy Stringer says:

Happy New year to you both. Look forward to seeing you in 2024.

Tim Brown says:

Happy New Year, looking forward to seeing you at the end of the month

I. and J. Smallwood says:

Wishing you both a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous and Safe 2024 !

Alan and Julia Hancock says:

Wishing you both a very Happy New Year

Heather and Malcolm J says:

Wishing you both a Happy and Very Healthy 2024. We echo hopes for a more peaceful one. Glad you had that well-deserved break - ready for another onslaught of guests who just love visiting you. Thank you for everything ????????

Richard Scott says:

What a good way to start 2024, waking up and reading your article. Thank you. Wishing you both a very happy New Year and looking forward to seeing you again soon.

Chris Smith says:

Happy New year to all, I hope 24 is good year for you, carry on with the excellent work you all do, hope see you in the future

Mark Nicholson says:

Wishing you both a happy and healthy 2024.
We're both looking forward to a week of banter around the table at breakfast and dinner in April.

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