One of the unexpected pleasures of running our holiday cottage has been rediscovering many of the fantastic places there are to visit in Northumberland. I’m sure we are all very familiar with often visiting attractions in other areas but not actually taking the time to remember and enjoy just what is on our very doorstep. We are now thoroughly enjoying some day trips very close to home and a recent visit to nearby Blanchland reminded me without doubt how lucky we are to have so many superb places to enjoy.
Blanchland is the prettiest of villages, and it is almost like stepping back in time, a quaint and peaceful village in the most tranquil of settings. Blanchland straddles the border between Northumberland and Durham and sits within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Built from the remains of a 12th century abbey the village and the surrounding countryside are truly beautiful.
The drive from St Oswald’s Farm takes about 35 minutes and is a really lovely scenic route that crosses the fells to this tiny village. Once there parking is easy as there signposting to a large car park which relies on donations of £1 in an honesty box, this is definitely a clue to the laid back and relaxed atmosphere you will find here.
Blanchland (White land) got its name from the white habits worn by monks of the Premonstratensian order who founded Blanchland Abbey in 1165. Although the whole of the abbey doesn’t remain, the pretty parish church which is a Grade 1 listed building is well worth a visit.
The Lord Crewe Arms sits prominently in the ‘Square’ and is one of the oldest hostelries in the country dating back to the 12th century. It is a charming building steeped in history and with lots of features giving clues to its history and boasts the most magnificent fireplaces. This award winning hotel and restaurant are a definite must see, but it’s worth booking in advance if you wish to dine there.
We visited a lovely craft and gift shop, Jaspah Crewe, and were very tempted by the large range of handcrafted gifts, Blanchland isn’t the place for retail therapy as the only other shop is the pretty little post office which sits untouched by time.
If you’re looking for morning coffee or perhaps afternoon tea and are tempted by very large pieces of cake definitely head to The White Monk Tearooms. The tearooms are in the very grand old school building, there’s loads of tables inside and if you visit on a warm sunny day there is space outside to sit as well.
Blanchland today is entirely owned by The Lord Crewe Trustees, a charity established in 1721. The village was previously owned by the family of the Bishop’s wife, Dorothy Forster, whose nephew was General Tom Forster and co-leader of the English Jacobite army of 1715. The ghost of Tom Forster’s sister, also called Dorothy is said to haunt the Lord Crewe Arms as she waits in vain for her brother’s return from exile. Eeek!
The houses in the Square all with dark red painted doors looks uniform and neat and very pretty and so well kept. The village has been used as a set many times for films and TV series…you never know you might just bump into a famous face!
The surrounding countryside just makes you want to see more and there are many short walks, circular walks, the Blanchland Geotrail and plenty more to enjoy. Details of all the walks in the area can be found on the North Pennines AONB website. Alternatively the post office has lots of leaflets about the area and details of the walking routes.
Nearby is Derwent Reservoir which is the second largest reservoir in Northumberland. The reservoir is a popular place to fish for trout and you will also find a picnic area, bird hides and an easy access path.
In Northumberland we really are spoilt with some of the best places to visit and as we rediscover our favourites we look forward to sharing them with you. Or of course you could book a stay in Heavenfield Cottage and discover all Northumberland has to offer for yourself, we promise you won’t be disappointed! All our prices and availability can be found here.
St Oswald’s Farm is so well placed for days out and we’ve recently enjoyed putting together our guide to 60 Dazzling Day Trips all within just a 60 minute drive of Heavenfield Cottage. So whether you stay for a weekend, a week or two weeks you won’t be short of places to visit and enjoy. In fact we’re pretty sure we could list enough to keep you busy for at least a couple of months! When it comes to days out, gardens are one of our favourites and we have some absolute beauties in Northumberland, some historic, some newly created, some formal, some wild and some even show off our artistic side.
Here’s our top 5 gardens to visit!
No.1 – Alnwick Garden is magnificent at any time of year and is always developing and changing, every time we visit there is something new to enjoy! Each season is beautiful and any time of year is a joy but a visit in April brings an extra treat as Alnwick Garden boasts the largest collection of “Tai-hauku” cherry blossom outside Japan. It only blossoms for two weeks, but my goodness does it blossom and is 100% worth seeing…keep an eye on their facebook for their up to date ‘blossom watch’!
No.2 – Cragside is vast and beautiful. The many gardens, the estate drive and the house are truly incredible, we always enjoy a day at Cragside! The formal garden is laid out in three terraces and covers over three acres, it is an idyllic spot to take in the fabulous views. Within the Formal Garden you will also find The Italian Terrace and The Orchard House. The rock garden magnificent on a gigantic scale with winding paths and steps twisting and turning through the many heathers and shrubs. Cragside boasts the tallest Scots pine in the UK and at just over 131ft is the same height as ten double-decker buses stacked one on top of the other; the conifer has been confirmed as the largest of its kind by officials from the Tree Register. A trip in the Spring finds the Formal garden in full bloom and in June when the rhododendrons are flowering the Estate drive and gardens are truly staggering. Cragside doesn’t do small and understated, everything is large and oh so elegant!
No.3 – Belsay Hall Gardens are unique and span across 30 acres and lay claim to the largest collection of rhododendrons in the country. Within the Grade I listed gardens you will find the quarry garden with its very own micro-climate and therefore able to boast exotic plants. You can also enjoy the yew garden, the magnolia terrace and a Crag Wood Walk which ensure you can enjoy a visit to Belsay Hall at any time of the year.
No.4 – Bradley Gardens is a Victorian Walled Garden near Wylam, it’s small in comparison to our other favourites but perfect if you only have an hour or so to spare and are looking for a coffee and cake or a perhaps a light lunch in elegant surroundings. Bradley Gardens offers a leisurely stroll within the walled garden, a small garden shop together with a couple of boutique shops hidden within its Victorian walls. The beautiful Glasshouse Cafe is well worth a visit!
No.5 Cheeseburn Sculpture Gardens are a unique destination for contemporary art in the North East of England and we’re lucky enough to have it just 20 minutes away from us. Each summer their programme features three curated gallery exhibitions together with new sculptures, installations and performance throughout the gardens. The gardens are only open to the public a few times through the summer each year, but time it right and Cheeseburn is truly worth seeing. Check their website for open days.
We love our days out to gardens and we hope you do too! Make 2020 the year you come to Northumberland and see our gardens in all their glory!
To see details of all our 60 Dazzling Day Trips please go to our Facebook page and of course you can check all our availability and prices for a long or short stay in Heavenfield Cottage here.
National Book Lovers Day is on 9th August, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to look at what Northumberland holds for our visiting bookworms!
Even for those of us who aren’t avid readers there’s something beautiful about a book shop, something that draws you in. I’m unsure if it’s the sight of the rows of neatly stacked books, the smell of the newly printed and smooth pages, the history and story behind a pre-loved treasure or the lure of a new read just waiting to be found. Whatever it is that draws you in, a book shop is a place of fantasy, a place for your mind to wander, a place to lose yourself…for however long you want!
Northumberland has some of the best independent bookshops. So if you find you’re drawn to these treasures and love the quietness of being lost in the shelves, you won’t want to miss these literary treasure troves!
Cogito Books is an independent bookshop and is hidden along the cobbles of St Mary’s Chare in Hexham. This is a firmly established family run bookshop with a unique and carefully curated collection of titles, beautifully presented in a welcoming and relaxing environment. From the moment you step inside you know each and every book on the laden shelves are loved and just waiting to be shared. You will be guaranteed a friendly service from knowledgeable staff, or maybe you’d like to take up the chance to have a personal book consultation, you’ll come away with a bundle of books selected just for you and is the perfect treat for all book lovers! It even includes a cup of tea and some homemade biscuits! Full details can be found on their website.
Forum Books is an award winning independent bookshop situated in Corbridge in the heart of Northumberland and only a 10 minute drive from St Oswald’s Farm. The description on their own website shows without doubt their passion for their subject! “Eclectic, original and endlessly enthusiastic about the printed word, we stock a hand-picked and eye-popping range of beautiful books and host an eclectic range of author events. We’re staffed by bibliophiles happy and eager to talk books and make informed recommendations”.
I don’t think there’s anything further to say, you’ll be sure of a great service!
Barter Books in the market town of Alnwick is one of the largest second hand book shops in Britain and is located in part of a superb old Victorian railway station.
This huge bookshop is made up of several rooms, all with features from bygone days all now fitting a very different purpose, the entrance is in fact the old Station Parcels’ Room, which still has the open window through which passengers would have bought railway tickets. Further rooms mark the beginning of the outbound platform, with the buffers still remaining at one end. The old waiting room however is still just a place to sit, a place to read and in the colder months in front of an open fire. A whole room is dedicated to many of the more interesting antiquarian books and you will find the walls of this room lined with over forty glass cases full of these old gems. Of course an old railway station wouldn’t be complete without a train, which you will find running in miniature overhead. This shop has to be every book lovers dream come true!
Hexham Book Festival takes place at the end of April/beginning of May each year and is becoming more well known and hugely attended as more and more well known and loved authors make their way to Northumberland to take part in this varied and dynamic 10 day festival! Speakers, authors, hands on workshops, book signings, lunches and even the odd glass of fizz makes this a truly great festival and a fabulous way to enjoy all things literary!
Durham Book Festival takes place in and around the beautiful city of Durham each October. Events are held in a range of iconic venues including the historic Durham Town Hall, Durham Cathedral and the Gala Theatre. Join the conversation at Durham Book Festival, and be inspired by a host of writers, artists and thinkers. For full programme click here
Berwick on Tweed’s Literary Festival takes part this year from 17th – 20th October and has an exciting programme of events, talks, workshops and discussions – many held in heritage buildings – and will once again showcase local, national and international contributors who will bring words to life in this small and friendly Literary Festival.
All the festivals have their own websites for full details of who’s there, what’s on and when…maybe your best loved author will be travelling to the North East or maybe you’ll find your new absolute favourite!
We still have some availability in Heavenfield Cottage during October – and are now taking bookings for 2020 – what are you waiting for….. ‘book’ yourself a break!
As a small and rural business we know the importance of shopping local and supporting our own local economy wherever we can, however I’d never given thought to whether our own business could be classed as a ‘sustainable rural tourism business’ so a recent guest review really gave me food for thought.
Can we really boast that we are a Sustainable Rural Tourism Business?
From the onset of our journey into our new venture we wanted to create something long term, something that would enhance our area, our existing farming business and support other local businesses, and obviously we needed it to be viable. To the best of our ability we looked at the area around us and researched local demand to discover where, if any, there were gaps in the accommodation market, and we wanted to develop something that we would enjoy and more importantly appeal to our target market….the concept of our luxury 5* cottage for two was born.
Throughout the whole process it was important to us that we supported local businesses and throughout the planning and construction stages we used local tradespeople & suppliers and where possible, we did a lot of the work ourselves.
We created our holiday cottage to be all we’d hoped and envisaged, to be long term, to be viable, to enhance our area and most importantly to provide an excellent guest experience and to create a business that would continue to support & develop our relationship with other local businesses.
The most obvious way we support our fellow businesses is through the produce we provide in our welcome hampers and this is where buying locally and thereby supporting our own rural economy comes into its own! I like to vary the hampers depending on what I can get, whilst still always trying to be mindful of what our guests might enjoy, the reason for their stay and the time of year.
Cheese from Northumberland Cheese Company which I collect from the local Farmers’ Market, along with any bread I might need and of course we provide locally produced milk.
Jams and chutneys are bought from Northumbria Preserves. Not only are they lovely, but the owner Brian makes them all himself at his kitchen table. His mission to create artisan preserves made as much as possible from home grown and locally sourced produce, and apart from growing a lot of his own produce in season, he also exchanges and receives from other allotment and local small business sources. I’ve learnt that it’s no good asking Brian for strawberry jam in February….. and really, I think that’s how it should be!
Brian can be found at various Farmers’ Markets and is always on hand with useful advice on what food to pair with what chutney. My favourite is undoubtedly his Chilli Jam, which he told me to pair with ice cream…I’ll let you know!
Scones, birthday cakes, mince pies, sloe gin, lemonade, lavender shortbread are all homemade, and we pick the sloes on the farm and lavender is from our own garden!
When I need Chocolates Truffles they are from Alis’ Ark in Stocksfield, they are carefully and beautifully handmade and are exquisite and the chocolate bars I provide are from North Chocolates. These businesses are both a one lady army creating at her own kitchen table.
When we first welcomed our guests to St Oswald’s Farm our free range eggs for the welcome hampers were bought from a local village but we now pleased to have our own chickens. They were rescue hens who arrived with us in a bit of a state but who are now enjoying a happy outdoor life. We’re delighted to be able to provide our guests with the freshest of our own farm eggs.
Sprays of flowers are from our own garden, and this year I’ll be growing more to try to ensure I have flowers all year round.
Logs for the wood burning stove are from fallen trees on the farm which are seasoned for use.
Each week our laundry goes to The Laundry Gallery in our local town of Hexham who provide a fantastic and professional service…I would lose my sanity if I had to iron superking bedding each week…they are my heroes!
We’re passionate about not only promoting our own business but about the whole visitor experience and actively promote and shout about the whole of Northumberland and the North East. We want our guests and all the visitors to our region to know just how much we have here, how much there is to see and do, and encourage those all important return trips!
Of course I can’t look at our business here at St Oswald’s Farm without mentioning, well…the farm! We are proud and passionate about where we live and understand the importance of retaining and enhancing what is here, our species rich ‘Heavenfield’ hay meadow, the vallum that runs alongside Hadrian’s Wall, the grasses, plants, hedgerows, trees, stone walling, it all makes St Oswald’s what it is. In 2018 we joined an Environmental Stewardship Scheme and the scheme allows us to help keep, preserve and improve those all important areas and to sustain those enhancements, and in turn allowing everyone to continue to enjoy some of our best loved habitats.
So, are we a sustainable rural tourism business?
do we strengthen and support the culture and character of our community?
do we strengthen and support our landscape and habitats?
do we help to support our rural economy?
do we run a tourism business which will be viable in the long term?
do we look to provide an outstanding holiday and guest experience?
You know what… I think we do!
If you’d like to stay with us here at St Oswald’s Farm and experience all Northumberland and the North East has to offer then please go to our website. We’d be delighted to welcome you here, we really would!
Legend has it that waterfalls can make us HAPPY so what better reason than to take a stroll to the prettiest of waterfalls which can be found at Hareshaw Linn in the Northumberland National Park and only a short half hour drive from our holiday cottage here at St Oswald’s Farm.
Hareshaw Linn lies just a couple of miles from the village of Bellingham and is the perfect destination for a morning or afternoon walk. The Linn is signposted from Bellingham and there is a free car park. The overall walk is around 3 miles and it would be best to allow 2 hours, although you may want to stay longer in this tranquil and beautiful setting!
Although now very hard to imagine Hareshaw Linn was once the site of two blast furnaces in the 1800’s and at the peak of its operation it contained 70 coke ovens, 24 roasting kilns for calcining the iron ore, a range of coal stores, a blacksmiths shop, wagon shed, stables and stores. The iron works were in continuous production until 1848. However it would seem a distant memory and nature has proved it recovers quickly and it is hard to believe that this stunning ancient woodland once raged with noise, people and smoke!
As you begin your walk some reminders remain of the history and the past story of this beautiful part of the Northumberland National Park. You will walk over mounds which are left from the spoil from the ovens and further on and once you’ve climbed the steps you will see the entrance to an old mine shaft.
The kissing gate takes you into the Linn itself, Linn being the old English for Waterfall. This fantastic ancient woodland is made up of elm, ash, oak and hazel and there are rare plants and wildlife in abundance! You may be lucky enough to see spotted woodpecker, red squirrels and wood warblers going about their daily business.
This area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has been given this designation because of the rare ferns and lichens which can be found. There are over 300 types of moss, liverworts and lichens which are at home and thrive in the perfect damp conditions that the Linn provides.
The walk criss crosses over the water and you’ll find yourself crossing no less than six little bridges on this magical walk through this dense gorge which is in stark contrast to the often sparse and open Northumberland countryside. The path eventually brings you to the waterfall itself, where you will be met with the spectacular site of this 9 metre waterfall.
Every good walk should end with cake and once you’ve meandered you’re way back to your car, a 2 minute drive will take you to Carriages Tearoom which is the perfect place to have morning coffee, a lunch or of course the ultimate afternoon tea.
This unusual and aptly named tearoom is housed within 1957 Mark I Carriages which were brought to the site in 2011 from Devon. The restoration project took a year and saw the carriages restored back to their former glory to be enjoyed once again. The Carriages still contain the original seats and many of the original fixtures and fittings from when the train was last used for public service. Anyone for tea on Platform 1?
Book your stay with us at St Oswald’s Farm and discover the beauty of Northumberland, and if you can take a trip to Hareshaw Linn. We very much hope you find it as magical as we do and discover that waterfalls really do make you happy!
One of the best parts of running our holiday cottage is undoubtedly getting to meet our guests, hearing why they’ve come to Northumberland and what they hope their visit will hold for them.
Part of the charm of Northumberland is undoubtedly the sparse and often remote countryside which can mean that towns and the picturesque villages and the visitor attractions are relatively spread out.
We know first hand that some guests are uncertain where to begin to ensure they make the most of their stay and with so much to see and do in our lovely County and with such a huge offer of places to visit it really is no wonder that choosing can be difficult.
One of our all time favourite days out has to be Wallington Hall, a National Trust beauty that we quite simply love to visit. This elegant 17th century mansion is built around the core of an earlier medieval house and pele tower and is set in acres of beautiful gardens, woodland, nature trails, ponds and even a hidden walled garden and restored Edwardian greenhouse.
Wallington Hall is just a 30 minute drive from St Oswald’s Farm, leaving you time to indulge with a lie-in before setting off to enjoy a relaxing day out. Heading north-east on the B6342 will take you on a scenic route through some lovely rural countryside and small hamlets.
Twenty minutes into the journey you’ll spot Kirkharle Courtyard, and with a small number of craft shops, galleries, a lakeside walk and a cafe it’s the perfect stop for coffee or a late breakfast, they open at 10am and serve a delicious brunch menu.
Kirkharle is in fact the birthplace of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, an English Landscape Architect born in the early 18th century and once described as the Shakespeare of Gardening and as England’s Greatest Gardener! The courtyard at Kirkharle holds an exhibition of his life and work and you can even admire a recently created piece of Capability Brown’s design which has now been made a reality.
Following the discovery of long forgotten plan by Brown, the past 10 years have seen the creation of a serpentine lake surrounded by swathes of new planting. The project began in 2009 and visitors can now enjoy the 1km walk around the lake and there are several benches and viewpoints to sit and take in the design and landscape as once envisaged by Lancelot Brown himself.
A further 10 minute car journey takes you to Wallington Hall itself, and as the Mansion comes into view with its Ha-Ha and Griffin Heads it’s unmistakable. A visit to this impressive and once home of Sir Charles Trevelyan gives insight into this remarkable man and his unconventional family. You can explore the history of Northumberland in huge pre-Raphaelite paintings around the Central Hall or take time to admire the furniture and occasional quirky curiosities in every room.
The Trevelyan family loved being outdoors and close to nature, and the house and grounds are testament to that. The natural yet landscaped gardens are in the style of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who schooled just around in the corner in the village of Cambo, and the gardens compliment the rural Northumberland setting. There are plenty walks to enjoy, lakes, farmland and woodlands to admire, with lots of places to sit quietly and take in the abundant beauty. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for wildlife hides, as you never know what you might spot!
The path through the East Wood is a mass of towering trees, colourful shrubs and huge ponds, and is also home to red squirrels, otters, bats and great spotted woodpeckers. Whichever path you take through the East Wood, whether it’s the Serpentine Path, the Centenary Walk with views over to Paine’s Bridge or the longer path that loops around the China Pond and past the impressive Portico House, you can revel in the nature and soak up the tranquility of the landscape.
When you reach Garden Pond, a mini-lake often covered in waterlilies and home to a family of geese, you will catch a glimpse of the jewel in this very large crown, the enchanting Walled Garden. Hidden beyond Neptune’s Gate at edge of the wood, the Walled Garden is an unexpected treat. Although originally built to grow fruit and vegetables, this irregular shaped Walled Garden is now filled with colourful planting & decorative shrubs. Stone steps runs down either side of the Mary Pool, a pond of clear water which feeds the stream that continues down through the garden. Further on yew hedges hide a small nuttery with spring bulbs and ornamental trees, while the cut flower borders erupt with colour through the summer months.
As with most National Trust properties there are toilets, a cafe and gift shop. There are plenty of walks to choose from and all signed so you can pick the one suitable for you, a gentle 1 mile stroll or even a 6 mile hike if you need to burn off that indulgent brunch! With the house and grounds to explore it would be easy to spend 3 to 4 hours at Wallington Hall or you may need slightly longer if you’re going on a longer walk or looking to soak up the atmosphere with coffee and a piece of cake!
Wallington Hall is truly a joy to explore, you’ll find picnic benches and areas to pop down a rug to soak up the summer sun, the colours are something to behold during autumn but yet the displays of snowdrops and crocuses in the Spring ensure a visit to Wallington Hall is a great day out all year round. We hope you love it as much as we do!
If your day out in this breathtaking part of Northumberland has left you in need of refreshment and you’re looking for a pub, real ales, log fire and great food, make your way back but take a quick detour at Chollerton and on to Barrasford and head to the Barrasford Arms where you will find a warm welcome and superb food.
There really is no end of wonderful days out to be enjoyed in Northumberland, whether you’re planning your first visit, you’re visiting for the second or the hundredth time you’ll be sure to leave with fond memories of your time here. If you’d like to enjoy all that’s on offer in Northumberland and stay in an award winning 5* cottage here on top of Hadrian’s Wall itself you can find all prices & availability here. We look forward welcoming you to Northumberland and to St Oswald’s Farm!
It’s March and lambing time is upon us again here at St Oswald’s Farm, so what is lambing time all about and what’s it really like?
Although I’m a farmer’s daughter, I had little to no knowledge of sheep and of lambing time, dairy cows were more my area of expertise so marrying a sheep farmer also meant I had much to learn in my new role and I discovered I had little idea of what lambing was all about. I knew people said it was hard work, but farming is, so what could be so hard about sheep giving birth and all the lambs running off into the fields to frolic and skip! I really couldn’t understand what the fuss could be about. I was in for a bit of a shock!
Lambing for us symbolises a new year, new beginnings, new life and is the start of our farming year. Even long before March arrives we’re discussing when tups go out and in turn what date LAMBING will begin.
Conversation then turns to how fast the ewes have been tupped and which week will probably be the busiest when lambing time arrives, and ultimately which week I need to take off work.
The ewes are scanned in January and this tells us which ewes are carrying a single lamb, a pair or a triplet or in some cases more than that. During scanning the ewes are marked on their side, blue dot for a single lamb, red dot for a pair and an orange line for a triplet…I discovered this was something I would need to know when March arrived each year.
Ideally ewes would all give birth without any difficulties, they wouldn’t have lambs that are coming backwards, they wouldn’t have lambs not presenting with front feet first, they wouldn’t have dead lambs, they wouldn’t have lambs too big to deliver. They wouldn’t give up half way through delivery to just push a head out and decide they can’t be bothered any more. They wouldn’t give birth and then shoot off to an entirely different part of the shed and deny all knowledge that any lamb in that shed is theirs, they wouldn’t feel they only want one lamb even though they had given birth to two or even three and then for no apparent reason decide they fancy licking someone else’s lambs so that lamb ends up unwanted by their own mother. They wouldn’t think that food is more important than their offspring and trample over their lambs to get to their food bowl, they wouldn’t lie on top of their lamb and suffocate them. I had not anticipated that sheep aren’t always natural mothers and the work and torment this creates and just occasionally the heartbreak it brings….I’ve had to toughen up!
Any preconceptions I had quickly made way for reality when I learnt what lambing time entailed. My first experience of a lamb being born wasn’t a great one and it is a moment I won’t ever forget. It was before we were married and I’d called at the farm to see how it was going. John was on hands and knees lambing a ewe who was pair marked, so I was pretty sure I was going to be witness to a couple of lovely pearly white lambs being born. However despite John’s best efforts both lambs were dead, there was nothing he could do. I just watched silently. The mother stood up and turned around to greet her new offspring and John just said to her ‘I’m sorry lass’. It seems a cruel flaw in nature that some ewes with perfectly healthy lambs couldn’t give a damn about their new arrivals but some like this ewe are good mothers and she kept nudging her dead lambs and trying to get them to stand up and licked them for all her worth. I was used to death, I’d grown up on a farm but this still really affected me. The poor dead lambs who would never play in the fields, the lambless new mother and John, sorry for her but quietly accepting that these things just happen.
The one blessing of being very busy at lambing time is that there can be a lot of sheep lambing all at the same time so you are quickly taken from your current thoughts and have to move on to the next situation. A ewe in the next pen quickly spits out a pair of lambs and they need to have their navels iodined & dosed and be penned to ensure the mother and lambs are mothered up properly. Another ewe has decided she doesn’t like one of her lambs and so you’re on your hands and knees holding her to prevent her knocking the lamb so that the lamb can feed. Another ewe is about to lamb but you notice it’s a back foot or a tail coming first, so she’s going to need assistance. You spot a lamb in another pen who doesn’t look well, it may just be cold and need some time under the heat lamp or maybe the mother isn’t milking well and doesn’t have enough to support her lambs. You’re always on the look out for something.
If lambs aren’t getting the milk they need from their mothers or a mother dies and leaves her lambs , those lambs find themselves in the pet pen and need to be bottle fed every few hours, believe me when I tell you this is only fun the first few times you do it! You have the eager beavers who would glug anything down in vast quantities, you have those quiet stand at the back types who won’t suck anything, you have the ones who want to drink but can’t master the art of sucking and that we aptly call ‘donnard’, and then there’s the ones who persistently find an escape route out of the pen and you spend your day putting them back into the pen from wherever they have roamed.
The pet pen can however be a dangerous place. The lambs can often be in the pen for a good while until a new mother can be found and you find yourself talking to them and becoming attached to them, but I’ve learnt from experience not to get to attached and not to name them. My mind goes back to ‘Jeremy’ who I nurtured and fed and then when we realised he was blind it just made me love him more. But as well as blindness Jeremy had other ailments and he lived only a few weeks, needless to say, I cried! John was right best not to name them.
Ewes that have lost lambs will be given others to ‘adopt’, however this isn’t as simple as it may sound. Ewes rely on smell to identify their own lambs and if a lamb doesn’t smell right she generally won’t want to know. The adoption process can take days or even weeks and ewes and lambs are left together with the ewe restrained so that she can’t harm the lamb and the lamb in turn takes on the smell of the ewe in the hope she will accept it as her own…it doesn’t always work.
A much better way if your timing is right, is that a single lamb is being born at the same time as a triplet so that the 3rd lamb can be given to ewe with the single so that both ewes end up with a pair of lambs each..another flaw in nature, ewes only have two teats and can therefore generally only provide for two lambs adequately.
A ewe and her lambs stay in an individual pen for a couple of days, during which time they are pair marked, that’s the numbers on their sides that you will see, and they are also ringed, some tup lambs are castrated and all have their tails ringed to shorten them and prevent future parasitic problems (fly strike). Mothers and offspring are then moved into a slightly larger pens of 5 or 6 ewes with lambs to ensure they are finding each other, or mothered up properly, and all still feeding adequately before being put out into the fields.
Feeding time for all the pens is twice a day and this is hugely time consuming, countless feed bowls and water buckets to fill, hay nets and hecks to replenish, clean straw for all the pens all the time and water buckets to fill again because they’ve knocked it over or decided to poo in their water!
Lambing time is undoubtedly hard work, and is hugely affected by the weather, but it gets over, although that’s probably easy for me to say because it isn’t me that it affects most. I only do days in the lambing shed and work it between school runs, my day job, changeover days in the holiday cottage and mealtimes. I ensure there’s a full fridge, meals on the table and plenty of flapjack and cake to keep energy levels up. John is out there for at least 18 hours every day and sleep is somewhat of a luxury for him, however I know he wouldn’t have it any other way, he loves what he does and that includes lambing time, with all that it may bring!
John and I are both passionate about where we live and the life we have here at St Oswald’s Farm. We love welcoming our guests here and really don’t mind answering questions, explaining what’s happening on the farm and why. We are so fortunate to live in this beautiful spot on top of Hadrian’s Wall , we love the life it allows us to have, we love the landscape, the views, the scenery and most importantly we absolutely love to share it with our guests.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this small insight into part of our farming life and please do feel free to call in anytime in late March/early April , you’ll be very welcome to feed the pet pen!
I was somewhat shocked to discover that 85% of the UK population have never seen a truly dark sky or had the chance to experience the sense of wonder a dark sky can bring, so imagine how guilty I felt that I had always taken our starry Northumberland skies for granted!
In December 2013 Northumberland International Dark Sky Park was unveiled, it has a gold tier designation and at 572 square miles is the largest Dark Sky Park in Europe. The recognition by the International Dark Skies Association means Northumberland is officially and without doubt the best place in the UK to star gaze.
The stars in the Northumberland night sky are brighter and bigger and it is astounding to think that stars and objects 2.5 million light years away can be seen with the naked eye. The best time for stargazing is during the autumn and winter months, when the nights draw in and are longer and darker. On a clear night up to 2000 stars can be seen, an experience which is quite literally out of this world.
The best place to go? Well you can just step outside and look up or there areseveral designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites perfect for viewing the stars. They offer good sightlines of the sky and have good public access, including firm ground for wheelchairs. Twenty Dark sky Discovery Sites are dotted throughout Northumberland, in village halls, car parks and picnic sites! If you prefer a little more guidance on what to look for, then book onto one of the guided evenings offered at Kielder Observatory or The Battlesteads Observatory, both offering the perfect compromise between the beautiful majestic dark skies and state of the art facilities. Both venues are accessible, and the evenings suit anyone from the absolute beginner to the professional. However, you will need to book beforehand and all details can be found on their websites.
One of the most spectacular sights has to be The Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, which are a natural phenomenon caused by charged particles colliding in the Earth’s atmosphere and are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemisphere.
They appear as large areas of colour including green, pink, shades of red, yellow, blue and violet in the direction due north. During a weak aurora, the colours are very faint and spread out whereas an intense aurora features greater numbers of and brighter colours which can be seen higher in the sky with a distinct arc. It’s nothing short of an extraordinary spectacle!
Of course a visit to the dark skies park isn’t just about looking up as the park is abundant with a variety of wildlife with the dark skies and reduced light pollution enhancing the habitat for many of the woodland species such as birds, bats, moths and insects. The Northumberland Dark Sky Park truly is a remarkable place both day and night.
The nature and dark skies at Kielder inspired a local celebrity architect to bring his TV series Amazing Spaces to Northumberland. George Clarke together with William Hardie Designs created a unique and inspirational treehouse. The installation allows budding astronomers to lie back and look up at the stars with its spectacular opening roof. Set amongst the woodland, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect place to be as darkness falls!
The International Dark Sky Park status brings a wealth of benefits to what is the most sparsely populated County in England and has in itself brought thousands of visitors to this remote, yet undeniably beautiful part of the Country. The dark skies are just one part of a whole host of gems Northumberland has to offer, all just waiting to be discovered and to be remembered fondly.
We’re delighted that St Oswald’s Farm has a Dark Sky Friendly status, which means we are dedicated to helping preserve our dark skies and minimising light pollution. We encourage and help our guests to get the most from the skies above. The holiday cottage is equipped with the basics for guests to enjoy all that’s overhead with red torches, binoculars, star gazing charts and books and guides on what to look out for. In addition to this we provide rugs in case the nights are chilly and even flasks and hot chocolate, all the ingredients for a perfect night under the stars.
The Northumberland skies are quite honestly a sight to behold, but don’t just take my word for it, come and experience the darkness and the wonder for yourself. Book your stay with us here at St Oswald’s Farm and we’ll be delighted to share our star-studded show with you!
As for me, I won’t look up and take our starry skies for granted ever again!
As a local you would
probably know, but as a visitor you’d be forgiven for wondering where the name
of Heavenfield Cottage came from.
However, when we converted our old building into a luxury self-catering
cottage, the name choice for us was obvious.
Heavenfield sits adjacent to our farm steading and is in fact our hay field. Not only does it have a lovely name but it is also special to us as we got married there! However, this pretty little field is immersed in history and was one of the most important sites in early northern Christianity.
The site is believed to be the location where King Oswald (604-642) raised a large wooden cross before the Battle of Heavenfield in AD635. The battle defeated King Cadwallon ap Cadfon of Gwynedd and Oswald took a Northumbrian victory. A walled churchyard stands within the field and is home to St Oswald’s Church.
The church itself is a haven of peace and tranquillity and, with no electricity, the church services held there a few times a year are lit by candles. The remains of a roman alter stone can be found inside the church and a large timber cross stands at the nearby roadside on the presumed site of the original cross erected by Oswald himself. Even today the church is a destination for pilgrims and there is an annual pilgrimage service from Hexham Abbey on St Oswald’s Day.
St Oswald’s Church is without doubt a special place and although the church we see now is primarily 19th century, the sense of age and history is palpable.
The rich history continues as the Hadrian’s
Wall National Trail runs across the field and therefore the church is a very
popular stop for walkers.
Heavenfield also marks the end of St Oswald’s Way which is a long-distance walking route, exploring some of the finest landscapes and fascinating history of Northumberland. The route links some of the places associated with St Oswald. From Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in the north, St Oswald’s Way follows the stunning Northumberland coast, before heading inland across beautiful countryside to Heavenfield and Hadrian’s Wall in the south, a distance of 97 miles. The route links castles, the coastline, islands, scenic river valleys, hills, attractive villages, forest and farmland.
To the rear of churchyard are the most breath-taking panoramic views looking towards the North Tyne and over to the Cheviot and Simonside Hills. There is a helpful visitor panel to ensure visitors enjoy each part of this amazing landscape.
If the history isn’t enough, Heavenfield is now also a preserved hay meadow and, with a rare mix of wildflowers and grasses, we are delighted that St Oswald’s Farm is now within a higher level stewardship scheme to ensure these species are preserved. Upland hay meadows are one of the rarest grassland habitats in the country, rich in wildlife and steeped in cultural traditions. The best time of year to see the meadow in all its glory is late May to late June.
Heavenfield is always a popular spot for photographers and with dark skies overhead there is often a tripod set up as darkness falls. On a clear night it is nothing short of stunning and certainly worth staying up for.
Heavenfield featured in Robson Green’s Further Tales of Northumberland as he followed St Oswald’s Way to its final destination and paid homage to the site and the history of this remote spot.
More recently, LJ Ross the author of the international No1 best-selling series of DCI Ryan mystery novels, which have sold nearly three million copies worldwide in the last three years, based one of her DCI Ryan books at the church and named it Heavenfield. It is therefore fitting that this series of books can be enjoyed by our guests here at St Oswald’s Farm….we’re just hoping there’s a TV detective series to follow!
Heavenfield is so much more than just a field and so much more than just a name we thought up. We hope that visitors to the church, to Heavenfield and to St Oswald’s Farm enjoy it as much as we do and feel the sense of peace and tranquillity that can be found here.
If you’d like to stay in Heavenfield Cottage you can check prices, availability and book here