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.

 Point 110, Fricourt.

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.

 Geoffrey Bache Smith 

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

Travel/Covid Update

The Covid caseload in mainland France is stable at the moment, averaging about 20,000 per day for the last few weeks. Vaccination rates have really taken off with 60% of the population over the age of 12 now fully vaccinated which is an incredible vaccination rate after a slow start.

We thought it might be useful to update on current regulations for Covid in France and the fast-changing travel requirements if you are coming from overseas. Particularly as the UK Government removed the need to quarantine if coming from France from 8 August 2021. This means it is now easier to travel back from France and therefore we have had our first British guests for quite a while and more about to travel throughout September. You will all be very welcome. We know Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA etc. have their own Covid regulations, so if you need any advice about those countries, just let us know. 

Helen and Michael were our first British guests to go through the new procedures and we are delighted to report they had no problems getting here, while they were here, or going back. Michael said it was all far easier than he had thought. They had all the correct paperwork which helps. Sometimes the fear of what it is going to be like is worse than actually doing it. Michael and Helen are so pleased they made their trip and intend to come back in the autumn.

So what did they have to do and how did we help them?

We will base our advice on the fact that travelers will be fully vaccinated. There are different rules if you are not, in which case contact us to find out more.

To enter France you need proof you are fully vaccinated. Our recommendation is that you carry paper copies of your Vaccination Certificate with you and ideally have the certificates uploaded to the French government Covid App which is called Tous Anti Covid.

This then becomes your health pass “Pass Sanitaire” while in France to get in restaurants, museums etc. It is now law in France to show your Pass Sanitaire to get in any bar, café, restaurant, cultural place such as museum or event. No pass, no entry. It all works no problem and does not delay anything as it is a simple zap and go on entry. Masks too, are obligatory in any closed space such as a shop, museum or public transport.

To prepare the Tous Anti Covid App for your trip to France: Scan in the QR code of your NHS vaccine certificates.

The app has an English language option.. 

1. From within the NHS App (not the NHS Covid App) download a copy of your Pass and print it off. It will show 2 QR codes

2. Download and install the French "TousAntiCovid" App from the Google or Apple Play Store: don't worry it will open in English! (If this doesn't work download the one ending Verif)

3. open the section under Health Pass which says Open my Wallet.  Click the Certificate Button at the bottom.  Using the App scan the two QR codes in the order of vaccination.

The App will accept them and confirm your vaccination status has been verified and you will be able to show that status through the App to any enquirer. 

While the App is French Government, it is accepted throughout the EU.

So now you are here and enjoying your holiday. What do you need to do before travelling back to the UK?

1. You will need proof of a negative covid test taken in the 3 days before departure for home. This can be a PCR or an antigen test from an approved source. We are arranging this for all our guests who would like our help. We have a great relationship with our registered pharmacist in Albert and we arrange for the Covid antigen tests there. This is what Michael and Helen did. We make the appointments for you and accompany you if you wish. The test is a simple nasal swab that takes seconds, administered by the pharmacist in a private room. There is then a 10-minute wait for the test result. The result comes though as an email, SMS with pdf link and by hard copy, all certified by the French state while you wait in the pharmacy.

Cost is €25 per person payable on the day by cash or card to the pharmacy. Very simple and straightforward, in and out in 15 minutes. We do recommend we book your tests ahead of time though as they get booked up and nowhere is open on a Sunday.

There are options other than the pharmacy route, such as our local nurse doing the test, or a PCR test in a lab, which we are happy to advice on, so please do contact us if you have any queries, but the pharmacy is a very easy, efficient route to go down.

2. You will also need to complete the UK Government Passenger Locator Form. On this you upload your negative test confirmation and also show proof that you have booked a Day 2 PCR test for when you are back in the UK.

3. Day 2 PCR Test is a UK requirement. There are a range of providers. The cheapest we have found is £28 (Expert Medicals) through to £100.

There is a good list of providers here:


So with your passenger locator form uploaded with these details before you leave us, that is it. We can help with any form filling.

Now the UK has left the EU, bear in mind if you are driving, you will require your driving licence to be valid and with you and you must have your vehicle insurance documents with you and a GB sticker on the car.  

You also need a valid passport not more than 10 years old.

This attached link has all the UK Government travel advice:


So, while it seems complicated, when you break it down it isn’t really and none of it should impact on the joy of coming away and escaping to our corner of rural, historical France. If you have any queries about these regulations, we will be happy to help. We mean it. We are used to it, know all the regs and how to deal with them and we are with you every step of the way.

 Bees and allium in Ovillers

Monet’s House and Garden at Giverny

We have wanted to visit the painter Monet’s garden and house at Giverny for some time, but we know it is usually always busy with international tourists. So while tourism is still relatively quiet, we spent a wonderful day out exploring Giverny this August. We absolutely loved our time there. The gardens, including the water garden where Monet painted his famous Waterlilies and Japanese bridge, were a riot of form and colour. No wonder they inspired the father of Art Impressionism. His house too is full of colour, art and history. It was not busy the day we went, very easy with tickets booked in advance and a show of our Pass Sanitaire to gain entry. Entry is €12. It is about a 2-hour drive from us and well worth a visit – we did it in a day and intend to go back to see the gardens in a different season.

A walk through Giverny village takes you to the church and graveyard where Monet and his family are buried. Also buried in the graveyard are the 7-man crew of a Lancaster which came down in the village in June 1944. There is a memorial to the crew too.

History and art always inspire us and Giverny is a special place.

 The Water Garden. Monet's House

 The Japanese Bridge  The Lancaster Crew Memorial 


George Butterworth

Every year on the nearest Sunday to his death on 5th August 1916 the village of Pozieres remembers George, a wonderful composer who died in the trenches of Pozieres and has no known grave. The small village of Pozieres does a wonderful job of remembering the events that happened in the fields around it. The August event is always well attended by locals and visitors and this year no different  on Sunday 1st August. 13 standard bearers attended, George’s music was played, French villagers gave a demonstration of Morris Dancing (George Butterworth loved folk dancing) and wreaths were laid at the little memorial to George at the end of Butterworth Trench. Then in true French style we joined together in a moment of friendship around wine and food in the apple orchard behind his memorial. Perfect. We recorded the event on Facebook Live.


Thiepval Memorial Renovation

George Butterworth’s  name is inscribed on The Thiepval Memorial. As we have reported previously, the Memorial is undergoing a large renovation and has been closed since the Spring, with the Memorial now shrouded in scaffolding and sheeting. The renovation work, which is to both the exterior and interior of the monument, will not be finished until next year.

We are delighted to say we have 2 of the skilled artisans who are working on the monument staying with us at the moment so we have heard first hand about the care and craftmanship going into the renovation. Our 2 guests, who are from Belgium, are master stonemasons. Their role is to painstakingly repair any damaged Portland stonework. Each replacement piece of stone is cut and fitted by hand, from large pieces, down to the minutest sliver of stone. They return from their day’s labors, covered in Portland stone dust, proud of what they do. They feel and know the importance of this special monument and are doing their bit to preserve it for future generations who may come and look at the name of George Butterworth or one of the other 72,000 lost souls inscribed on its walls.

We Will Remember Them.

 Thiepval from our house. Thiepval Shrouded 

Animal Postscript

Dear old Marge in Charge the chicken is doing fine, still laying fresh eggs 5 out of 7 days. We get asked if she gets lonely, but she seems very happy and she does have David to talk to and the horses who graze in the fields behind us.

We also visited our friends Sylvie and Jerome’s farm in Airaines this month. We met their newly born dairy calves, their dairy cows, their pigs and toured their crops. We came away with fresh milk and cider and calva made on the farm.  David even had a tour of the fields with Jerome on his quad bike which David is still recovering from.

Jerome and David New calf 

David’s August Joke

You really should visit Monet’s House and Garden at Giverny. It really is worth the Monet.  Sigh.

All is well at No.fifty6. Be safe. Stay well.  See you soon.



Comments (16)


Dear Julie & David

Thank you for all the news and updates on the travel very useful..

Jennifer Iles says:

Thank you so, so much for the valuable travel information.

Pauline Symmons says:

Hi Julie and David, great to read all your news from the Somme and info on travel to France which is very helpful. Giverny looks lovely and definitely worth a visit. Must be interesting having the two stonemasons staying with you. Pleased to hear you are having more guests. Take care Pauline and Bob x

John Mepham says:

Wonderful update, thank you both !
I've been a Monet fan since high school and look forward to visiting his place someday. Your post makes it even more intriguing!
Looking forward to a future journey!
As always, stay safe !!

Rob kirk says:

Fascinating - as usual - and very helpful about travel info. Hope to be with you before too long.
Rob & Elaine. X

andrew thornton says:

Hi David and Julie
Great update as ever. Can echo the thoughts about the paperwork being straightforward if a little long winded! We visited the Dordogne last week. Once the locator form and negative test were uploaded to the Tunnel we didn’t have to show any paperwork on arrival at Calais and sailed through. Getting into France was even easier! Your idea of the English version of the French Covid pass is great. We didn’t have that but the NHS app worked fine when scanned at the cafes. Hope helps and see you in February all being well!

Malcolm and Heather J. says:

Always a great way to start a new month ... reading your newsletter! Agree ... Monet’s House & Garden at Giverny was lovely on a visit made some years back now (when it must have been much less busier than it became) - glad you enjoyed a quieter time, than usual. So much information to digest ... thank you. Thanks so much for all the great travel facts, you have allayed fears that were beginning to simmer.

Frank Sumsion says:

Thanks for your wonderful news letter, you never fail to amaze me, take care and stay safe.

Gordon & Joana Sinclair (and Mary) says:

Sorry to be so late - l’ve been at the Focs to get ‘checked out’ (non-Covid …). Wonderful picture of Point 110 @ Fricourt! Good to see you’re hosting again and the info should come in useful (until it changes ..!).

Michael Knight says:

I always enjoy reading your newsletter and look forward to seeing you both on Thursday.

Mike and Kath, Bath, UK says:

Well done Helen and Michael . . . and welcome back No56! Lovely newsletter, as usual. M.

Steve Law says:

Hi Julie & David,

Thank you for your uplifting newsletter, for that moving poem by GBS & for your very reassuring, practical guide to visiting France again.

I’m delighted that UK bookings are taking off for you

Terry Whenham says:

So excited about returning on Sunday. We have missed you. And thank you for the Covid advice it would have been impossible to plan without your help!

Chris Prince says:

Great to read you have had guest that must have been great after so long. And to have two of the Stone Mason working on Thiepval Memorial and learning each day what they are working on sure an old skill they would have to be so good at what they do and sure care to detail. Like there in Australia the weather is completing changing season to season year to year. But watching the farms care and tender there crops doesn't change where ever we are. I think it while be a while before Bill & I get back to visit we often talk and remember our time with you and would do it again at the drop of a hat. So take care until next month stay safe, while our weather warms and yours starts to cool. Love Chris & Bill xx

Rob kirk says:

Fascinating - as usual - and very helpful about travel info. Hope to be with you before too long.
Rob & Elaine. X

Richard says:

Hi Julie &David, great to hear from you both and to read your news from the Somme again. The COVID update is also so useful, thank you ! Looking forward to seeing you soon. Richard

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