March News from No.fifty6 - Somme Spring Sunshine, Stories…..and Snow!!

Posted on 31st March 2022 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

March News from No.fifty6 - Somme Spring Sunshine, Stories…..and Snow!!

March, that in between month, not the end of winter, not summer but the promise of beautiful Spring days. A favourite month of ours. And not without good reason this month – the weather dominated by warm, blue-sky days and very little rain. Our guests could not believe how lovely the weather has been, day after day of constant cheer. Don’t be fooled though, says Mother Nature, there is a chilly front over us at the end of March and even a fall of snow overnight to usher in April!  So glad we haven’t planted our tender garden plants just yet.  

Our friendly farmers have been toiling – ploughing, scarifying and finally seeding, judging it just right before the rain comes. The rolling landscape is turning from its winter brown to fuzzy green as the new growth pokes through and nature’s promise of new life continues its cycle.

 Farming the Fields of Pozieres.

Spring and nature have inspired us this March, but also the history and legacy of War always around us.  We are saddened that there continues to be so much suffering and uncertainty in the world around us today. Do we never learn as a human race?

So, a wistful poem caught our eye this month – Spring in War-Time by Edith Nesbit.

Now the sprinkled blackthorn snow 
Lies along the lover’s lane 
Where last year we used to go- 
Where we shall not go again. 

In the hedge the buds are new, 
By our wood the violets peer- 
Just like last year’s violets too, 
But they have no scent this year. 

Every bird has heart to sing 
Of its nest, warmed by its breast; 
We had heart to sing last spring, 
But we never built our nest. 

Presently red roses blown 
Will make all the garden gay.. 
Not yet have the daisies grown 
On your clay.

That cycle of nature never quite the same without a loved one to share it, lost to War, Nesbit writes beautifully. It seemed appropriate for March on The Somme.

Edith Nesbit was quite a character, born 1858, she was an English writer and poet, political activist and co-founder of the Fabian Society. Her most famous book is probably The Railway Children. She died in 1924, having lived quite a life. She is buried in St Mary in The Marsh Churchyard, New Romney, Kent.

 Edith Nesbit

Our Guests Exploring The Somme

It has been a busy month, lovely having guests back regularly who have enjoyed their Spring time on The Somme. They have field walked, discovered history, connected with ancestors and above all just enjoyed this unique landscape that we are lucky enough to call our home.

All the way from Cornwall, 2 friends, both called Chris just to confuse us,   spent a week at no.fifty6. Every day was filled with walks and exploring, discovering battlefield relics and taking in the history.

Scottie came on his own and took the opportunity to visit places he never usually has the time to as he is always showing people the Battlefields as a Guide himself. He came bearing March daffodils so will always be welcome !

Terry Whenham, a regular guest, came with 2 friends Steve and Dave and we had some wonderful chats around our table, including plans for his podcast series – more on that later.

Tony Kirk has been coming to the Somme for over 20 years, but it was his first time staying with us, travelling with his son Dan and Dan’s father-in-law  Paul. Every day they walked the land and enjoyed the lovely weather – wearing shorts in March! Tony left us a lovely Tripadvisor review and we really enjoyed their company.

Jim Chapman said (jokingly) he was only coming if the weather was good and we arranged a week of wall-to-wall sunshine for him. Jim escaped from London to spend a peaceful, reflective, visit to The Somme.  He brought his bike with him in the car and spent long days in the saddle taking in the landscape. Stopping to eat his packed lunch while taking in the history.  Returning for drinks, chats and welcome food every evening. A perfect week!

Mick and Jay made the journey from Wigan and walked and walked while they were here, clocking up 15 miles some days. Mick has a birthday this week and has just retired after a long career in the armed forces. He presented us with a plaque from his Battalion that he has served so dutifully – 4th Para. The plaque will be a welcome addition to our Armed Services plaques on the wall and the 4th Para motto – “Ready for Anything”, seems very fitting.  A happy retirement Mick and thank you for your service.  Mick and Jay have already booked for next year.


The month ended in the company of Ross, another regular visitor who also brings his bike. He concentrated on the August 1918 Somme battles and let the landscape soothe his soul after a taxing few weeks.

Everyone has their reason for coming to The Somme. We like to think we do our little bit to restore good spirits but really it is the Somme that is the star – its inexplicable essence of creating peace where once there was havoc and that peace  seeps into your soul.  

It’s been good to have our regulars and new guests who have become friends, to stay.

We will leave our Somme/guest reflections this month in the writing of Jim Condron who came with his friend Rich mid-month. Jim says:

I’ve just returned from an amazing weekend visiting the Somme battlefields. My friend Rich and I stayed at Number 56 B&B - the perfect base for anyone looking to explore the Somme.  It really does feel like your ‘home’ while you’re there. Julie and David could not be more welcoming. 

The main reason for our trip was to visit the grave of my Great Great Uncle, Herbert Guiver, along with Rich’s Great Uncle, Robert Bruce, who is buried in Boulogne. Herbert was in the 2nd Essex. He was killed on 17th February 1916 at what is now the Sheffield Memorial Park near Serre. He is buried at Sucrerie Military Cemetery.

Herbert was my Great Grandmother’s brother. I was five years old when she died so feel a very tangible link to him. I’ve spent the last 15 years finding out as much as I can about him, and a few years ago was lucky enough to inherit his medals and memorial plaque.

I brought the medals and plaque with me as I wanted to reunite Herbert with them. I also asked Alf and Peter, my 5 and 7 year olds sons, to write a short note each to leave on his grave. I think it’s so important that, as the two World Wars pass from living memory, children of today are brought up to understand their impact and remember the sacrifice of those generations. 

I had previously visited Sucrerie in 2016 in the week of the centenary of Herbert’s death. But I didn’t have the time then to explore the area properly. This time David and Julie were amazing at helping Rich and me understand the area and take us back a century to what was happening there then. 

It’s safe to say that I will definitely be back soon to explore further. 

Here are a few photos from my trip.  

Thanks Jim – Alf and Peter in their letters to Herbert say it all really don’t they?

Covid Update

There has been an easing of restrictions here in France from mid-March and for normal day-to-day things it is business as usual. There is no longer a requirement to show Vaccine Passes in cultural place, bars or restaurants. Masks, though recommended, are no longer obligatory in shops, museums, restaurants etc.,  with the exception of public transport and health and welfare settings. There is still a good uptake of mask wearing as Covid certainly has not gone away.

Travel to France is now very easy if you are vaccinated.  From the UK travel perspective, no testing is required in either direction of travel between the UK and France. Now all that remains is to carry proof of vaccination.  The sworn statement that previously was required was ceased on 31 March.

Returning to The UK, the Passenger Locator Form has also been dropped. The easiest it has been since Covid started 2 years ago!

Guests from further afield are also returning, we are so pleased we have future bookings from Canada, USA, South Africa and Australia as well as European friends in The Netherlands and Germany.

We are always happy to help if you need any help or advice about what is required to travel to France from wherever you are in the world. 


We have again hosted the Stonemasons in March  while they continue their work on Thiepval.  They come back tired after long days at the stone face. We understand from CWGC that it is now more likely to be late July, before the work to the Memorial is finished and public access is once again possible. Scaffolding has been removed from the South side of the Monument but the North side still requires a lot of work as it is more exposed to the elements, and remains shrouded in scaffolding. It has taken 13 months of work so far.

Thiepval progressing under March skies. 

A Good Night’s Sleep

We have begun a programme of replacing the guest beds here. We think it is really important we continue to improve what we do -  a good night’s sleep is a key element of what we want our guests to enjoy. Not that the existing beds are a problem, but our desire is to improve and invest in No.fifty6. In line with our belief to shop and source locally, we are supporting a local business for the beds. There is a family-run bed factory on the outskirts of Albert and the family live in Ovillers. A visit to the factory (amazing place) and being looked after personally by the owner, means that we can order bespoke, made to measure beds in all the colours and all the sizes! Hand made in Albert! Which is why we are not getting all the beds at once as they are bespoke orders and we also have to plan the bed changes and the upheaval it causes around our guest bookings.

First on the list is The Florentine Room where we have said goodbye to the bunk beds. Instead we have a lovely new large single bed in their place and a new king double in this room. This gives us more flexibility for guest stays and is more practical in many ways.  It nearly resulted in divorce, dismantling the old beds and getting them down the stairs but the results are worth all the hard work. Dormez bien! 

 The Florentine Room.

 New Podcast Series

Regular guest and friend Terry Whenham has started a new series of podcasts – Tales from The Battlefields. Last week Terry interviewed Richard Dunning, owner of Lochnagar Crater. A link to the podcast is attached and is well worth a listen.

Richard visited us this month with fellow Trustee and Vice Chair of The Lochnagar Crater Foundation, Iain Fry, and we discussed plans for renovating the Lochnagar pathway and general maintenance this year. There is always something going on to keep us busy…

 Richard being interviewed by Terry (photo courtesy of Terry Whenham)

Animal Postscript

Birds are nesting, the dawn chorus is amazing and Marge is going to bed at 8.30pm now with the clocks springing forward. She is still plodding on, queen of the garden, producing a golden egg most days.

 Marge and her favourite treat. 

David’s March Jokes (don’t blame Julie):

Why is everyone so tired on April 1?
Because they've just finished a 31-day March!

What's Irish and comes out in Spring?
Paddy O'Furniture

All is well at no.fifty6. Stay safe and well and we hope to see you soon.

 Daffodils at Thiepval.





Comments (18)

Pauline and Bob Symmons says:

Another great newsletter and loved the poem. Not sure if David’s jokes are getting worse but they do make us smile

Paul Smith says:

Thanks David and Julie for the updates for the region.
All adds to the countdown to our arrival in late June
Take care
Paul and Sharon

Ann says:

You have certainly blown March out and welcomed in April especially with the Covid travel restrictions lifted. I very much liked the Edith Nesbit poem. Thank you Julie and David for your continued dedication to making our visits special.

Gary James says:

Another packed and great newsletter. Glad to hear that guests are flocking back. Those that haven't returned need to get packing. Julie and David are great hosts and now that COVID restrictions on travel are easing makes it a lot easier to hop across the Channel. Keep safe and may see you in May.

Karsten says:

Always lovely to hear what is going on on the Somme. How I miss it and cant wait to come back

Jacqui Martin says:

Love to read the newsletters!
We are getting very excited about our forth coming stay in May and the long anticipated In Their footsteps walk....seems we will also benefit from a new bed now!
Winner winner

Jim Condron says:

Great newsletter. Thanks so much again for such an amazing stay Julie and David. Already planning next year’s visit. Jim

Neil Mackenzie says:

Another great update from the best place on the Somme. It must be so beautiful there this time of year. I must be really missing No 56 as I thought David's joke this month was great! All the best.

Jay says:

Mick is overwhelmed with seeing his picture in the news letter, loved our stay, cannot wait for next year, feeling the after affects from the miles of walking, but had to as the weather was beautiful, & again Julie your cooking is 2nd to none delicious & my drinking buddy David is the hostess with the mostess xx

Michael And Aileen says:

Another wonderful read, looking forward to our next visit in May.
We hope David’s not loosing sleep thinking about next month’s joke

Rob says:

Another cracker! Looking forward to catching up in June.

Gordon & Joana Sinclair (and Mary) says:

Well, that will teach us to go to the NE for a gig … and hug everyone! We came down with one of the ‘variants’, but l’m not sure the trip back in the dead of night helped … Thiepval’s looking good and Edith’s poem is a favourite. Stay safe, y’all …

Martin Talbot says:

Excellent update and it really emphasises the hard work you are putting in. Looking forward to my visit this month.

David Ellis says:

Thanks Julie and David for another update! I am getting so excited at being back on the Somme and at Number56!! I can’t believe it’s actually going to happen - well, P&O permitting! Counting the days. Best wishes - David

Bill Lelliott says:

Very interesting, sounds like a home from home.
I look forward to meeting you next week

Sal &Chris says:

Thanks again for a great update. Looking forward to being there soon. Think David's jokes are getting worse but I think Chris will probably get his own back next week. His are just as awful !!! Loved the section on Edith Nesbit Xx

Ashley says:

Much obliged for update
Very best wishes

Richard says:

Hi Julie & David, thank you for another interesting update. Terry & I are really looking forward to spending a few days with you and being back on the Somme in a couple of weeks.

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