Posts about St Oswald’s Farm and the immediate area in and around the farm which lies on top of Hadrian’s Wall in the heart of Hadrian’s Wall country in Northumberland. Lots of information for guests on the accommodation, about Heavenfield itself and what is on offer at St Oswald’s Farm and about this livestock farm and life on a working farm together with an inside look at the people behind this small and rural family business. General posts about booking, points of interest and what you will find and what is to enjoy when you choose to stay in our luxury five star holiday cottage.
If you’re looking for a romantic escape then look no further than Northumberland and a stay at St Oswald’s Farm. Heavenfield Cottage is designed with couples in mind and is the perfect destination for a cosy break just for two!
If you can imagine yourself cuddled up in a snuggle chair in front of a log burning stove, with cushions, throws, fairy lights above and the luxury of underfloor heating under your toes then look no further. Does the idea of an undisturbed bubbly soak in an extra deep double ended bath with soft candlelight and a bottle of your favourite fizz to hand sound good? Is the thought of wrapping up in a fluffy bathrobe before sinking into a huge super king bed with the finest Egyptian cotton bedding ensuring the most comfortable sleep your idea of Heaven?
Well we have just the place for you, it is called ‘Heavenfield Cottage’ after all!
Time away should be all about not having to rush and a lazy morning with a late and relaxed breakfast using the eggs provided by our own farm chickens. You’ll even be able to see ‘the girls’ clucking around and are within sight as you enjoy your leisurely brunch.
The quiet romance continues outside with the most beautiful walks and views right on the doorstep, we even provide a picnic rug and flasks and a guide map of the farm leading you to the best viewpoints. We can’t recommend highly enough a walk to ‘our favourite spot’ on the farm and if you can be there as the sun goes down, it is beyond magical.
Heavenfield itself is a wildflower meadow and in late Spring and early summer is amass of wild flowers and grasses and tucked away in the middle of the field you will find the very pretty St Oswald’s Church, a little church only lit by candlelight and steeped in Northumbrian history and with the most impressive views. The church is only used for a few services each year including the occasional wedding and christening.
Further afield there are walks to waterfalls and there is probably nowhere more romantic than a stroll along the Northumberland coast. The stunning coastline is vast and you can almost be sure of finding your own little piece of solitude just for you.
If your romantic break is to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary we offer celebration packages which include a bouquet of local Northumbrian flowers and a gorgeous box of locally made chocolates which can be added to your stay, or if you have any requests to make your stay an extra special one, you only have to ask, we will be more than happy to try to help. We will happily arrange particular flowers, ice bucket, petals, candles, balloons, banners, cakes, you name it and if we can, we will!
We look forward to ensuring your special time away is all you want it to be.
To book your romantic stay you can find all our prices and availability here.
St Oswald’s Farm is where we live, its’s what we are and it’s what we do. But what is it like to stay on a farm, to be a guest here, to come and stay in a holiday cottage on an actual working farm?
A stay here is just what you would expect from a stay in a luxury holiday cottage, it’s welcoming, it’s relaxing, it’s ultra comfortable and it’s peaceful and most importantly it’s your special break from your everyday.
Heavenfield Cottage allows you to enjoy everything you want from your holiday, lazy mornings, day trips, visitor attractions, meals out, leisure time, long soaks and time to enjoy your book. However a stay on a farm perhaps also gives the opportunity to see the countryside in a unique way and take a glimpse into a way of life.
We have over 200 acres of ‘back garden’ to enjoy, there are stunning walks and views to die for without even leaving St Oswald’s. The scenery, the birds and the wildlife around us are fantastic and depending what time of year you visit you may be lucky enough to spot a curlew or lapwing, you may be here when the cotton grass is out or when our preserved hay meadow is in full bloom.
Any walk you take you will undoubtedly see our animals, John’s beloved sheep as they go about their daily business and during the Spring and Summer months you will see our lambs, hundreds of them as they play. You can admire our cattle grazing and visit the hens that provide you with your welcome hamper eggs! You can even collect some eggs if you wish..do just ask us.
You will see our dogs hard at work. Sky & Dot are an integral part of the day to day running of the farm and always keen to do their job. You may see them rounding up the sheep whilst out in the fields listening for John’s call, well almost always listening for John’s call. They are more than eager to please and they don’t care about the weather or the mud and can normally be found within a few yards of John! Unless of course they become distracted by the chasing Titch the farm cat or they have been known to occasionally wander off in search of a tummy tickle!
I don’t think anyone could stay here without seeing the beauty that living on a farm brings or the time and dedication that goes into farming, the love we have for our animals and for where we live. Our guests are able to see at first hand John’s comings and goings as he gets on with his everyday routine.
One of the questions John is most frequently asked is “do you get a day off”? The idea of a day off to John is odd, he doesn’t think about days off, and in answer to the question, no he doesn’t not unless we actually go away and manage to employ someone to look after everything on the farm.
John would however tell you that he does get the odd day off, but what he means is he gets up earlier to do all his work before he goes away for the day and then works late when he gets home to get everything done that needs to be done. That’s John’s idea of a day off! I’ll let you decide if you think he’s right.
During March and April a stay at St Oswald’s Farm will mean seeing lots of activity, you will undoubtedly see some lambs born and can feed lambs if you would like to. It’s a busy time of year for us but we’re always more than happy to answer any questions that you may have and you are more than welcome in the lambing sheds. We love that people are interested to know about our way of life.
If you happen to be here at the start of July you might witness John shearing his own sheep, and there’s even the odd chance you might witness me wrapping fleeces, please feel free to have a go, the lanolin is great for your hands!
Of course the summer months are also about making silage and hay for the winter. The tractors, machinery, the mower, the baler, the wrapper are always great to see in action. In fact the distant sound of the bale wrapper in the fields is for me a real noise of summer and it always feels comforting to know that our fodder for the winter is being safely wrapped up for our stock.
Staying on a farm is without doubt a pleasure, it’s all a holiday should be with perhaps just a little added extra, a real experience of the countryside and a small yet real glimpse into farming life.
If you would like to experience a stay on a farm and enjoy the best of our countryside and all the Heart of Hadrian’s Wall has to offer, then we’d love to welcome you here. For all availability, prices and details of Heavenfield Cottage then please go to our website. Or if you’d like our monthly updates from life on the farm then we’d love if you signed up to our newsletter here.
We look forward to sharing St Oswald’s Farm with you!
We spend a lot of time promoting the place that we call home. St Oswald’s Farm is the place we live, the place we work, the place we have chosen to bring up our daughter and the place our grown up Sons come ‘home’ to. It’s also the place we spend more or less every waking moment and the place we feel so passionately about, that we want to share it with our guests. We love them to see what we see here at St Oswald’s Farm and in the surrounding Northumberland and to enjoy what we are lucky enough to enjoy every day.
So what is it exactly that we love? It’s all very easy to say we love something, but the why we love something is a bit more personal.
Perhaps it’s just the sheer beauty of where we live, the vast views, the open countryside and the peace and tranquility that that brings. I have lived here for over 10 years and John has lived here all his life but yet we’re continually astounded by the views, John still comes into the house from being outside checking the stock with a new photograph he’s taken, frosty, dewy, misty, snowy, sunny, clear, eerie, cloudy, starry….”look at this photo”! We never tire of it!
St Oswald’s Farm not only sits in a beautiful location but a very unique one, we are right in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, our farmhouse and cottages sit on top of Hadrian’s Wall itself, one of our fields is an old battle site and a preserved hay meadow and within that field sits a church, St Oswald’s Church. Hadrian’s Wall National Trail runs along the front of our property, we are surrounded by a vast history, and it makes where we live even more special and we love that!
Although we are in the open countryside, we are only a short drive away from so much, 10 minutes from our nearest town of Hexham and in less than hour we can be in Newcastle or Durham, the North East coast, Cumbria and even be into the Scottish Borders or on the edge of the Lake District.
Maybe we love where we live because we love watching the seasons unfold, watching them develop and change. Each season brings a new pattern, a different daily routine and each season prepares for the next, whatever that may hold.
Each season can bring challenges but the seasons also remind us very much of our connection with the land, with nature and with new beginnings. Who wouldn’t love that!
Our Sons had, and now Isla enjoys a 217 acre playground, go-kart racing, football playing, tree climbing, camp building, mud plodging, bike track building, chicken feeding, log chopping, lamb holding sort of upbringing. They also have seen new life come into the world and seen when a life leaves. They know where food comes from and the work that goes into producing it and we think that’s important.
St Oswald’s Farm was bought by John’s Mam & Dad over 50 years ago and that brings with it a huge emotional attachment and we feel privileged to have a family legacy to carry forward. Farming is without doubt challenging in many ways, it has to be one of the most difficult, all consuming, tying, stressful, emotional, unpredictable and very often lonely ways to make a living. We have no idea what the future holds for farming and that can feel scary, but when we look around St Oswald’s Farm, at our tiny little piece of Northumberland, and take in what we have right here right now, we wouldn’t have it any other way!
If you’d like to stay in Northumberland and stay in Heavenfield Cottage we’d love to welcome you here and you will see for yourself what we love about where we live!
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!
Heavenfield Cottage is nearly one! We opened for business on 17th November 2017 after a renovation which took about 10 months, although long before then, the idea, the thought, the vision, the plan was there, rattling around in our heads, and was the hot topic of conversation over our kitchen table for a couple of years. When we started our renovation project we had a pretty good idea of what lay ahead, we knew it would be hard work, we knew there would a lot of decisions to make and we knew we would undoubtedly learn loads along the way, and we did!
We knew we’d need a lot of stuff but probably underestimated just how much it would take, particularly to get the cottage to the 5* standard we wanted, there were an awful lot of returns done! My long anticipated mood board was created….this was the exciting bit, as the dining table became a swamp of swatches, brochures, samples, price lists, and paint tester pots! There was shower gel and shampoo samples stacked up in the bathroom, all awaiting the ‘sniff test’ and the ‘lather test’! Our living room became filled with furniture, duvets, bedding, pots, pans, electricals, crockery and even patio furniture was crammed in there, as every delivery man in the area became a regular visitor. We expected it to be a challenge to get our website just right, and to find the right company to create the vision I had in my head. I wouldn’t even try to estimate how many hours I spent researching what we wanted, and how we would create our all important image. Booking systems and payment systems were totally confusing and it was massive learning curve, but again, although confusing, we had thought that it would be.
By the start of November we were finished, ready to be seen, ready to be assessed and ready for guests. The assessment brought us the 5* rating I so wanted and we couldn’t have been happier, and very relieved that our hard work had paid off. All we needed now, were those all important bookings! It happened, and we welcomed our first guests to Heavenfield Cottage in time for Christmas. That was it, we were up and running, the project was now a new business and it was beginning to work. Our first year has been, what I can only describe as amazing, we are so pleased, in fact completely thrilled with the results this year, we are so so pleased to have achieved the bookings that we have, and to have been fully booked from Spring through to…. well, now!
So, why is this titled ‘I never expected any of this’? During the past year our ‘renovation project’ has become so much more than just a business, it has become my ‘thing’, and has brought about a new passion that I find difficult to describe. It has given me so much in such a short space of time. I never expected to feel the way I do when guests tell us how amazing they think the cottage is, or that the colours are lovely, or that the furnishings are tasteful, or ask where I got a certain piece. To hear ‘it’s the best we’ve ever stayed in’ and to be told ‘you’ve thought of absolutely everything’. I will never tire of hearing these comments, ever! When we receive a 10 out of 10, or a 5 Star or 5 bubble review, I am just so immensely pleased. I expected to enjoy our new business, but I never expected to love it this much, it occupies my every thought. I continually find myself thinking about what else I could do to enhance the stay for guests, how else can I market it, how can I improve the advertising, what other little touches could I make to ensure it feels special to everyone who stays. As odd as this sounds I actually love going in there on a changeover day and cleaning it. I have to ensure it looks new every time, and then to put in the finishing touches, the little sprays of flowers, the homemade goodies, the welcome card, making sure I’ve personalised the stay to the guests that are due to arrive.
We have enjoyed meeting all of our guests, and I hadn’t really thought beforehand how much I would enjoy that part of it, just how nice is to meet people and to hear why they have come to St Oswald’s Farm and to Northumberland, to hear small snippets of their lives, and of course sharing our home and our way of life with them, albeit in a very small way for just a short time.One guest remark stands out for me, it was quite early on in our year and they arrived in the midst of a lot of snow to celebrate a weekend away for a special birthday! During their stay I asked them both if everything was OK, and this was the reply I received. ‘Oh yes it’s perfect, and that cake was amazing thank you, was it homemade?’ she then continued to say
“I was in that bath, with my glass of prosecco and eating that cake, and honest to God….. I’ve never been happier!”
I had never expected to get that sort of reaction or to have the ability to make that sort of difference to people, even if it is for only a few days. I truly enjoy making sure our guests have a great stay, and trying to think of ways to ensure their holiday or weekend break is all they want it to be, and in return they are giving me so much more than I ever imagined!
As we move into our second year, there is someone I need to thank, my husband John, who has not only trusted my judgement, but supported and helped make each decision, he’s kept me sane when I’ve wobbled and mostly he has allowed me to make it my own, he’s allowed it to be ‘my thing’, and in turn has allowed me to love what I’m doing and to feel a passion for what I’m doing, a passion to do well and to achieve the best I can…thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me this opportunity.
So, if you’re wondering whether to pursue a new venture or to diversify to something you know little about, go for it, do your research, make your plans and make it happen, you might just get back a lot more than you ever thought possible! If you’d like to find out more about staying at St Oswald’s Farm and in Heavenfield Cottage please CLICK HERE I look forward to welcoming you here…I really do!