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 a 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.

We have also been able to get our hair cut, so we no longer look like Conan the Barbarian and Raquel Welch in 1million years BC (we wish).

Of course we have been closed. Those booked for June have trickled through their cancellations. Some for even later in the year, it is a rolling programme.  But we know you will be back when it is safe and permitted to travel. Health is the most important thing and it is good that things are improving..

The weather has been amazing. Our local paper reports it is the driest, warmest Spring on record. Certainly, we have had many fine, blue sky days and little rain. It is as if nature is fighting back showing who is boss. The landscape never looking more beautiful. On our walks, we see hares running, one even popping up in front of us in Gordon Dump Cemetery, not sure who was more startled. Birds of Prey on the wing and on silent pickets. Hedgehogs, bees, garden birds, butterflies. Poppies, daisies and cornflowers everywhere. The crops in the field advanced – lots of potatoes, barley, maize and wheat replacing the drying Rape/Colza flower heads harvested for oil. The farmers know it is dry – irrigation has already begun. And it is only May. The farmers themselves are tanned - their tractors and the birdsong the only sounds when we are out exploring. It is lush, majestic, ever changing and we know we are lucky to be able to see it like this. As if the world has paused.

On 28 May Edouard Philippe, Prime Minister, outlined the plans for stage 2 deconfinement and things are really improving.

The key points are:

  • Infection levels are improving but there is a need for continued caution and vigilance.
  • Based on measures, no.of cases, testing, transmission rate, hospital ICU capacity all of France apart from Paris (orange) is green.
  • Green means virus is still there but manageable and need for vigilance continues.
  • The R (transmission) Rate average across France is currently .77 but lower on The Somme.
  • Groups of people must remain below 10.
  • Cafes, bars and restaurants can reopen from 2 June (22 June Paris)
    • 1m between each table
    • Masks obligatory for staff (in kitchens too) and customers (when they are not at table)
    • No standing in bars, table service only
  • Schools reopening but with 50% pupils for each half a week.
  • Museum and monuments, beaches, parks and lakes reopening.
  • Tourist Accommodation can reopen from 2 June (22 June Paris).
  • STOP COVID Tracing App from 2 June.
  • Borders remain shut until 15 June then EU will decide collectively about reopening.
  • France favourable to reopening but if a country imposes a 14 day quarantine France is likely to reciprocate.
  • 100km maximum travel lifted from 2 June.
  • Cinemas and theatres from 22 June with social distancing and masks obligatory.
  • No big gatherings of people ( 1 July Somme ceremonies have been cancelled for example).
  • No contact sports.
  • Shield the vulnerable.

 So, from our point of view, we will be taking it cautiously but we have more freedoms.

We envisage a time from mid-June when we will be able to take guests but travelling from outside of France will depend on the situation regarding quarantine requirements. And once you are here there are plenty of open spaces to avoid people!

Certainly, we will have hygiene measures and social distancing in place here at No.fifty6. Our dining area is large enough to allow this.  David has some jaunty masks to wear. Jokes aside, we take our own health and that of our guests as the Number 1 priority. No ifs or buts. We will be following as a minimum French Government Guidelines. Baby steps at the moment…

Ongoing Remembrance

While we have been out and about we have recorded some virtual walk throughs of Cemeteries and some stories of the men who lie therein and posting these via Facebook Live.  Among those visited are Louvencourt, Norfolk, Sucrerie, Bagneux and next week we will be visiting Adanac Cemetery. A sample of the videos are shown below.

We enjoy doing them and it is a way for you to share special moments on The Somme from a distance.  We have had some great feedback on the videos which humbles us. If there is a particular cemetery or memorial on The Somme you would like us to visit, let us know.

Sad News

We were saddened to hear of the death this month of one of our regular guests Ray Doe. Ray would travel from Devon each year with his friends John, Howard and Bob and when Bob became unable to travel, Ray’s son Jem made up the foursome.

Ray always had a twinkle in his eye and a story to tell. He loved travel, photography, history, his garden, good food and he had a lust for life. We would sit with him over a glass of something and he would reminisce about his travels with his dear wife Peggy who sadly died a few years ago. He will be buried with her in North Torrington.

His friends Howard and John paid this tribute: “He was a life long Reading  supporter a WW1 enthusiast a very funny and gentle man to be with. He will be greatly missed by us all." John has planted a rose called Remember Me to honour his friend.

We will miss your visits Ray, Rest in Peace lovely man. The photo shows cheeky Ray at Yorkshire Trench.


Ovillers La Boisselle Council

Municipal elections were held throughout France in early March, just before lockdown. Last weekend our newly elected local council met for the first time to appoint the managing team (social distancing meeting of course). We are pleased to report that Christian Bernard has been re-elected as our Mayor with Thierry Le Grand as 1st adjoint and Eric Sztubel 2nd Adjoint and newly appointed Patricia Demoulin as 3rd Adjoint. We wish them and the rest of the elected council much success as they manage our commune. Certainly, the Council’s role during lockdown has been wonderful, supporting the elderly and vulnerable and distributing masks for everyone. Vive La France!

 Animal Postscript

Our garden birds – so many breeds – are eating us out of house and home with seed feeders filled daily. Sparrows, tits and collared doves nest here.

The chickens are wonderful. They enjoy our company but miss our guests  - no special treats such as grapes appearing from thoughtful guests, they make do with our veggie scraps alongside their chicken feed.

Shere the cat is making the most of the good weather. He spends all his time outdoors, finding different sun spots, and only ventures back for food.

One of our chickens walked into a store and said, “got any grapes?” The storekeeper said, “no, we don’t.” The next day, the chicken went into the same store and asked the same thing and got the same anwer. The chicken kept going back every day for a week and asked the same thing and kept getting the same answer until the store keeper got so angry he said, “if you come in here and ask that again, I will hit you on the head with a hammer!” The next day, the chicken walks into the store and asks, “got a hammer?” The store keeper says, “no.” So the chicken says, “got any grapes?”

All is well at No.fifty6. Be safe. Stay well.



Comments (25)

Chris Prince says:

Hi Julie and David, Thank you again for your trips to the cemeteries that you have shared , it has been wonderful to see, sad, emotional and very moving. Listening to you tell us a little about the the soldiers who are buried there. You both stay save and well and I look forward to your next months. Take care Chris and Bill xx

Andy bond says:

Hi Julie David I was speaking to Neil recently and we hope that we might get to you in October but every thing is still up in the air but let’s hope we can nice to hear you are both well and keeping safe all the very best andy

Tim Brown says:

Good to see the quality of the joke's has not diminished during lock down

colin frederick ansell says:

very much hoping to be seeing youse at some point in the year ,...…. if the French allow the British in

Les Mepham says:

Thank you for the virtual trips to the cemeteries. They are the closest thing to being there.

Take care you two...until we meet again!

❤ from

Heather and Malcolm says:

Thanks for another great update, keeping us in the loop. I bet it is peaceful and even more of a poignant experience to be there at the moment. Lock-down has made us realise that we have many special places where it would be so much better to be restricted in ... rather than in urban North Essex ... and the Somme is one of them! Stay safe ...

Robert Payne says:

I stayed at no 56 with previous owners in 2011, I live in hope , I can visit again ,I thank you for the excellent news letters, the video in sucerie cemetery was excellent ,sad & moving,.The somme is a addictive, beautiful place.

Robert Donaldson says:

Love reading these monthly updates keeping us all up to date what,s going in No56 and the beautiful somme, so looking forward to getting back over to see you both again asap, ps thanks again for visiting Joshua down in sucuerie, both of you take care Robert Northern Ireland xo.

Jim says:

Thanks for sending out this news update. Your communications are a pleasure to read. I wish I was there right now as it sounds wonderful. Stay safe.
Best Regards
Jim Blenkhorn

Rob Kirk says:

Great to read your news, although your wonderfully-written description of your walks in the bucolic countryside in such wonderful weather just underlined what we’ve missed this year! A bientot - j’espere!

Gerry says:

Thank you Julie and David for another most interesting bulletin.
Particularly touching to listen to your tribute to Pte James Crozier - how his poor mother must have suffered RIP.

Gary James says:

Thanks for the latest newsletter. It must have been nice to have the picnic at mametz with clear skies. Last time we went in Feb 2017 you couldn't see 10 feet in front of your face due to the early morning mist. Look forward to seeing the video of Adanac and spare a thought for what happened in the field across the road in Feb 1917. Keep safe. (Got any grapes).

Sandy Biback says:

Thanks so much for this update. I'm heading to Paris for a few days in September--looks like I might even make it. Thanks so much for being so upbeat during these times.

David Ellis says:

Hi Julie and David
Lovely to receive your latest update! The weather in many areas has been fabulous. Good to hear your lockdown is easing and safely. I’m not sure our’s is going to be safe! The Somme must be a fantastic place to be now - beautifully remote and all those beautiful resting places mostly empty. Of course you’d prefer guests and I suspect we’ll be with you in the not too distant future. I’m still trying to organise dates to rebook Number56. It’s hard not knowing when I’ll be allowed to travel! I’m keeping my ears to the ground and will be over like a shot as soon as I’m able to do so safely! The videos were fantastic and while I’ve obviously been to both it was lovely to get the commentary from Julie. A shame the glamorous assistant didn’t feature in either! Not camera shy David?! Hope to see you both as soon as is safely possible and allowed. Very best wishes to you both! David

Jon Hill says:

As always, it's with great interest that I read your news. In these surreal times it reminds me of normality which seems to have deserted much of the world. Looking forward to better news and an eventual return to No 56

Ann Mckeever says:

I do enjoy your updates each month, both from the Somme and No.56. Loving your virtual walks. We will be with you again and it will be so much sweeter even if it has to be a virtual hug when we do. Enjoy your trips out and smell the flowers.

William and Elizabeth Stretton says:

Another superb series of news
Believe us you are in the right place...a land of sensibility...we long for those green fields of France...where the warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance.Stay safe stay well.
Regards W&E

Frank Sumsion says:

I look forward to your letters each month and they always bring back wonderful memories of not only the Somme but of two wonderful hosts at no fifty6 La Boisselle, health and age permitting I look forward to seeing you again next June, take care and stay safe.

Ashley Atkinson says:

Obliged for update
Best wishes

John Ellis for the Devon Boys. says:

Thank you

Pauline Symmons says:

Another fab newsletter! Love the joke as well. Can't wait to come and see you both!

Safe safe, love Pauline and Bob x

Michael Knight says:

Fabulous newsletter, I even liked the joke, stay safe and looking forward to visiting again

Sofia Brusling says:

Thank you very much for the updates, and for visiting the lads. I so long to be on the Somme again. Best wishes to you from Sweden.

Gordon&Joana (and Mary) says:

At last, a synopsis that makes sense - thank you! Opening picture - gorgeous! We seem to have ‘lost our way’ in many parts of the country - oh, for the tranquility of the Somme (and No56). We’ll keep our eyes peeled for further progress and ‘availability’ - looks like we may suffer from reciprocated quarantine. Stay safe and well you two.
Love [email protected] (and Mary)

Jeanette Stafford says:

How I love reading your monthly updates and especially at the moment. Can't wait to get back over there to visit the boys.
Stay safe x

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