Category: St Oswald’s Farm

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.

Our Farming Year

So many of our guests ask about our farming life and are interested to know what we’re doing, what we do each month or season and why. So here it is, our year in brief at St Oswald’s Farm.

A farming year could probably be described as none stop, each month brings new tasks and inevitably new challenges and with the annual to do list on top of the usual daily farming routine. Each day begins with all stock being checked and fed, any that aren’t well are attended to or if there are any animals not accounted for then they need to be found. Sheep and cattle love to find out if the grass really is greener on the other side of a fence or wall! We ensure there is a water supply for all animals and if in the winter troughs are frozen they need to be defrosted. From October to May when cattle are housed indoors then they require clean bedding every couple of days and that in turn means mucking out the sheds too.

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Checking and feeding the stock every day

The year begins in earnest and January sees the start of calving time, the cows and heifers are checked continually each day and we’re always looking for those who we think will calve today. Some deliver on their own and others will need assistance, day or night, and then like any newborn we are checking to ensure they are feeding and Mum is happy with her baby. If not it could mean bottle feeding and trying to keep them warm until Mum steps up.

During January our flock of sheep are scanned to let us know how many lambs each one is having and throughout the month we are also selling the last of the lambs from the previous year and buying store cattle. Through February calving and buying store cattle continues and we begin vaccinating the sheep in preparation for lambing. Fields are ploughed for Spring crops and we’re starting to prep the sheds for lambing time.

March and April is all about lambing which is the busiest time of year with the livestock, lambing time is hectic and depending on the weather can be particularly stressful, and I’ve dedicated a whole blog post to this important event in the farming calendar. Fertilizer and muck are spread in March and April and Spring crops are sown. Any cattle we have bought are wormed and the bulls go out to the cows and heifers.

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Cute lambs…around 1900 of them!

During May we hope that cattle can be turned out, and it’s always fabulous to see them kicking their heels in the fields after being indoors all winter. As the grass begins to grow so do the weeds and that means treating the fields to eliminate them. Our arable fields are ploughed and sown for our forage crops whilst other fields may be topped (cutting off rough grass to promote new growth) and if possible our first cut of silage is made.

Summer is mainly about silage and hay making, we have to ensure we have enough fodder to feed our animals through the coming winter. In July our sheep are clipped and we’re still topping fields and then during August we’re beginning to wean the lambs from their mothers, to enable us to begin selling our new season lamb at the local mart which we continue to do right through until January. If you’re wondering how we know when to sell them, they are weighed each week to ensure we sell them at the correct weight. Winter barley is also harvested, grain stored and straw baled.

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Hay time

In September we’re spreading muck, weaning the calves and harvesting our Spring barley and it’s this time of year when we buy any replacement sheep that we need, buy any new tups and we begin to prepare all 1000 of our ewes for tupping time. We’re ploughing and sowing our next crops and buying in the additional straw that we’ll need for winter bedding.

Our calves are sold during October and our tups are put out with the ewes, cattle are clipped in preparation for being sold in November and the cows are brought in for the winter months. During December we continue to sell our lambs and our store cattle are sold and we’re looking after our heavily pregnant cows and heifers who will begin to calve in January.

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Our calves at 8 months old

After all that is done and dusted then the maintenance of sheds, fixing fences, repairing stone walls, clearing fallen trees, digging ditches, vermin control, paperwork, movement licences, registration of animals, passports, book-keeping, Countryside Stewardship and SFI applications, medicine records and mandatory records for Red Tractor Assurance are all done too.

Farming life is so dependent on weather and very often the annual timetable is stopped, paused or even destroyed by what the weather throws at us, each year brings different challenges and as farmers we have to be adaptable and be ready for whatever the weather decides to do. Farmers are eternal optimists as we always think next year will be better or as John says “next year will be different”. Farming life is all consuming, it’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year, it’s about loving your animals, being a caretaker of your land and taking pride in what you produce. We get to live in a beautiful place working alongside nature and get to enjoy the most amazing views every day. We could say that’s it’s the best job in the world but farming isn’t a job, it’s a way of life and I have to say it’s a way of life that we love!

Christmas in Northumberland

December may not be the obvious month to visit Northumberland but there are so many reasons to put England’s most Northern County on your Christmas go to list. Whether you’re looking for a pre Christmas break, a festive shopping trip, a place to relax and unwind or somewhere to spend a truly special Christmas or New Year then look no further.

St Oswald’s Farm is the perfect base to enjoy the wonderful Christmas markets and events that take place across the North East each year. Living North takes place each year in Newcastle which is a huge 4 day event and with others closer to home such as Brocksbushes Fair, the Tynedale Gift Fair and The Sill Christmas Fair to name just a few. The local town of Hexham holds it’s annual Christmas Market on the 2nd Saturday of December each year with over 50 seasonal stalls laden with gifts, locally produced food, festive wreaths and much more, all dotted around the historic Market Place and throughout Hexham Abbey. Enjoy mince pies, mulled wine and with carol singers and live music ensuring the event is all a Christmas market should be.

Corbridge Late Night Christmas Shopping evening and Christmas Tree Festival takes place at the end of November each year and is such a special event that the whole village participates in. St Andrew’s Church in the Market Place is packed with ‘trees’ from so many local groups, shops and organisations. As anyone who has visited Corbridge before will know the shop windows are always lovely and at this time of year they step it up to another league, there can be no better place to get into the Christmas spirit.

Of course Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be all about the markets and high streets, you could always opt to escape to the comfort of your own festive cottage and spend a day in your PJ’s in front of a log burner with a warming drink in one hand whilst the other hand shops online for the those perfect gifts. We’ll even supply you with a list of some of our local makers and businesses.

If shopping just isn’t your thing then the winter months are the perfect time for getting wrapped up and heading out for a walk in the beautiful Northumberland countryside and with the trees stripped of their summer foliage the views take on a whole new appearance. The winter landscape that stretches for miles and miles is stunning and if you catch them wearing a hoar frost then you’re in for a real treat.

If you’re looking to escape over the Christmas holidays then Heavenfield Cottage is the place for you with every luxury you’d come to expect from a 5 star property but yet with all the comforts of home so your Christmastime can be truly relaxing. You’ll arrive to find the cottage decorated and looking beautifully festive so all you need to do is unpack your bags, pop your presents under the tree and relax. On Christmas Eve there is even the opportunity to walk over Heavenfield to St Oswald’s Church for a candlelit service and let’s be honest you can’t get much more magical than that!

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St Oswald’s Church holds a candlelit Christmas Eve service (image Ian Wylie)

We offer a 7 night stay over Christmas so you can spend a whole week of leisurely days in front of the log burning stove, binge watch TV, indulge in a bookfest or take long soaks in the deep double ended bath before wrapping up in a fluffy bathrobe. Or if Christmas for you means getting outside we have that covered too with lovely walks from the doorstep and as evening falls with our amazing dark skies overhead there’s nothing nicer than simply heading out onto the patio and looking up for a star studded show.

Maybe it’s time to put the magic of Northumberland on your Christmas list!

EV Charging

If you’re thinking of holidaying in Northumberland but are unsure as you have an electric vehicle then worry not. We’ve made sure that you can travel to Northumberland and enjoy a great holiday using your electric vehicle with total confidence when you stay with us here at St Oswald’s Farm. You can rest assured that you can charge your vehicle at any time, day or night as Heavenfield Cottage has it’s own dedicated Type 2 EV Charger right beside the cottage and within a short and easy reach of the parking area.

Unlike some holiday homes we don’t restrict you to specific charging times and the charger is for your sole use for the duration of your stay with us. We don’t charge an upfront payment and you will only pay for the electric that you use and we will always only charge you at our current standard tariff. The EV Charger has a meter attached to it which you are free to check, however for added convenience it is also linked to an App on our mobile phones which makes it really easy to calculate your electricity usage. At the end of your stay we will let you know what you have used and provide you with a detailed print out of the units used each day should you wish. Payment can just be made at the end of your stay by either cash or by card using our handy card reader.

Booking to use the charger during your stay is easy too, just tick the box on the form when you book online and that’s it, all you then have to do is remember to bring your own charging cable. There are also charge points located around Northumberland should you need to ‘top-up’ during your days out and locations of these points can be found here.

You will enjoy a great holiday in Northumberland with the reassurance of knowing you car is always fully charged and we’ll do the rest to ensure you go home from your stay fully recharged! We look forward to welcoming you and your car here very soon.

A Haven for Wildlife

If you’re wild about wildlife then Northumberland is most definitely the place to be. Our diverse countryside of rolling hills, dales, moorlands, woodlands, forests, rivers, lakes and our coastline are teaming with wildlife and any drive or walk through Northumberland will undoubtedly mean you can easily spot some of our slightly wilder residents.

Our nature reserves are second to none, and each one with it’s own unique offering. Kielder Water & Forest Park provides a huge variety of habitats from marshy grasslands and bogs to woodland which attract an impressive amount of wildlife including badgers, roe deer, otters, red squirrels, shrews, pine martins, foxes, several species of bat, woodland birds and birds of prey, including ospreys. Of course the offering doesn’t stop at birds and animals, the insects, grasses and wildflowers come into their own at certain times of year, don’t be surprised to see the likes of yellow rattle, bird’s foot trefoil, and a variety of orchids. 

The Kielder Water website is packed full of information on all their ‘residents’, their ongoing projects, such as the ‘restoring ratty project’, their own Bakethin Nature Reserve and check out their nature calendar for what you’re most likely to spot during your visit.

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Roe Deer

In North Northumberland Hauxley Nature Reserve is right next to the beach and offers one of the best wildlife watching spots in the North East. The reserve is renowned for it’s bird life and regularly attracts 140 different species a year including tree sparrow, reed bunting and bull finch to coot, moorhen and curlew. The summer offers spectacular wild flowers including viper’s bugloss, bloody cranesbill and northern marsh orchid and of course where there’s flowers you will find variety of butterflies and the reserve attracts species such as the common blue and wall brown and you may see dragonflies and damselflies on the ponds, including the common hawker and the common darter. The reserve has a circular path leading to it’s wildlife hides and lots of information boards if you’re unsure what you might have spotted.

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Common Blue

If you’re visiting Holy Island, the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve offers 3500 hectares of dunes, saltmarsh and mudflats and is home to a fascinating array of wildlife. The Reserve can be enjoyed all year round with Winter being the best time to see the visiting waterfowl, Autumn and Spring are the best for spotting rare birds on migration and with Summer best for the stunning flowers, butterflies and insects.

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Ringed Plover

We couldn’t talk about nature in Northumberland without mentioning The Farne Islands. For any bird and wildlife enthusiast a boat trip to The Farne Islands is simply a must. The Farne Islands are home to 100,000 seabirds ranging from Eider Ducks to Artic Terns to Puffins and then if that wasn’t enough there’s the thousands of grey seals. Each Autumn hundreds of seal pups are born there and rangers are on constant ‘pup watch’ as the keep an eye on the numbers born each year! The National Trust wildlife calendar is really useful to check the best times of year to enjoy your favourite.

If you prefer something smaller that can be found while exploring the open countryside there are plenty of small reserves dotted all over Northumberland. Druridge Pools, Cresswell Pond, East Chevington, Falstone Moss, Whitelee Moor, Butterburn Flow, Greenlea Lough, Grindon Lough, Beltingham River Gravels… to name but a few. If you’re looking to pack a flask and sandwich and head on a quiet wildlife hunt then there’s lots of information on where to go and how to access them on the Northumberland Wildlife Trust website.

Even a relaxing day spent enjoying St Oswald’s Farm can bring some wonderful wild finds, heron, curlew, woodpecker, buzzards, lapwing, a huge array of garden birds and if you’re lucky you may spot a barn owl. We encourage and protect our environment however we can and in the Spring it is heartwarming to see our birdboxes being put to good use. A quick peek out of the bedroom window in Heavenfield Cottage might just bring a glimpse of a busy little wren. This year we’re hoping to create a new stumpery and look forward to seeing who’s going to join us and makes St Oswald’s their home.

Romantic Stays

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.

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Huge views from St Oswald’s Farm

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, 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 and to see all our prices and availability please click here.

Stay on a farm

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.

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Heavenfield Cottage

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 750 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, thousands 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 just ask us.

You will see our dogs hard at work. Sky, Dot & Bea 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! Although they have been known to 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.

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Our ladies enjoying summer days

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 leave 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.

January and February is calving time and during March and April a stay at St Oswald’s Farm will mean seeing lots of activity, you will undoubtedly see 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.

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Shearing time

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 that 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!