We’ve been asked that question a few times. “Why did you decide to be five star”? It’s an easy question to answer.
From the time when Heavenfield Cottage was just a thought in our minds we never imagined it being anything other than five star. Firstly and logically our research showed us that there wasn’t a huge choice of quality accommodation for two people in our area and showed us that guests now prefer higher end accommodation and quite often will look for the same or more than they have in their own homes. That was the sensible researched reason.
However five star was important to me because I knew I could do it well, I felt I could provide the quality service and guest experience that five star requires. As well as a keen eye for detail and a love of all things lovely, I knew I wanted guests to feel special, for them to feel thought about and that five star is definitely about more than just high thread counts and matching crockery and not using granny’s old sofa. It is so much more than that, although clearly that is very important too and just the thought of it could bring me out in hives!
Five star to us is ensuring that we think a little deeper, we go a little further, we ensure we have our guests at the forefront of every decision, every thought, every communication and that the journey our guests go on from the minute they touch our business is friendly, thoughtful, exceptional, stand-out and memorable. Whether that is through our website, our social media channels, our emails, our newsletter or our personal contact before, during and after a guest stays, that they feel that we have put them first and that they know exactly what they are coming to and who we are.
Holidays, time away, weekend breaks, staycations or whatever you want to call them are important. They are your time to refuel, to rest, to play, to wind down, to explore, to switch off and we have that at the forefront of our minds always. We know that you trust us with your holiday, with your special time away, with your well earned break and we always remember that.
In April we were delighted to be awarded Self Catering Provider of the Year 2020 in the North East of England Tourism awards, an absolutely fantastic achievement for us, we were blown away to be awarded this for the second year running. We feel very lucky to be part of the fantastic overall tourism offer here in Northumberland. However whether its five stars or a gold award that we receive nothing beats the feeling that we get when we know our guests are enjoying their stay or when we receive a great guest review.
If you would like to stay with us, all details of our lovely Heavenfield Cottage together with prices and availability can be found on our website. If you have any queries or if there is anything we can do to make sure your stay is just what you want it to be, then please do get in touch after all it’s all part of the five star service!
You can’t visit Northumberland without realising the passion and dedication that goes into producing our local goods and products. Whether we are the ones to grow it, nurture it, care for it, rear it, produce it, harvest it, bake it or be the ones to lovingly prepare and serve it, we are dedicated to ensuring everything Produced in Northumberland is a source of pride to our County and a source of enjoyment for our visitors and residents.
Some of our local establishments have gone a step further to ensure the freshest of ingredients are used, where home grown produce is quite literally taken from garden direct to your table. Restaurant Hjem in Wall is supplied by a specialist grower in Northumberland and The Battlesteads in Wark have their own garden from which they take their own home grown fruit, vegetables, salads, flowers and herbs. What could be better than freshly home grown produce with zero food miles?
We know many of our guests like to shop local and find that their time away gives the opportunity to enjoy preparing and cooking a relaxed and special meal. A quick trip to Hexham or Corbridge and you will find local butchers, bakers and independent local farm shops. The Corbridge Larder, Halls butchers and Grants bakery in Corbridge together with The Grateful Bread bakery in Hexham, Robsons and Cranstons butchers in Hexham along with Ridley’s Fish & Game offer the finest ranges of locally sourced produce. Our local butchers strive to offer the best quality meat with the highest level of traceability, so feel free to ask where your meat is from…it might even be from St Oswald’s Farm!
‘If it’s Produced in Northumberland it’s produced with passion’
If you’re lucky enough to be staying on the 2nd or 4th Saturday of the month be sure to head to the award winning Hexham Farmers’ Market where you will be spoilt for choice, with cheeses, meats, breads, oils, chutneys, jams, fruit, vegetables, honey, fish, beer, spirits, confectionery, gifts, biscuits, pressed juices, coffee and that all important cake….well you are on holiday after all. I don’t think anyone has ever been known to leave Northumberland feeling hungry!
Hexham Farmers’ Market is on in Hexham Market Place from 9am until 12 noon on the 2nd & 4th Saturday each month. Look out for guest producers, live music, competitions and during the autumn months you can take the opportunity to press your own apple juice…you can’t get fresher than that. (images HFM). Further information on current producers can be found on their website.
Some producers across the County are part of the local Produced in Northumberland accredited scheme and it is easy to spot the associated brand and labeling with the distinctive Northumberland flag on many of these products.
As a visitor to Northumberland you will without doubt come across some of our growers, our farmers, our farm shops, our butchers, our brewers, our restaurants, our cafes and our highly talented chefs. We very much hope you are able to sense the passion and commitment in ensuring that you are able to enjoy the very best of Produced in Northumberland.
If you’d like to discover Northumberland and enjoy all we have to offer in our amazing County we would love to welcome you here to St Oswald’s Farm. All details of our accommodation together with availability and prices can be found here.
In Northumberland we are undoubtedly proud of our history, however we are equally passionate about our heritage and our culture and you will find Northumberland is steeped in many traditions. From our own tartan to our unique small pipes, from our flag to our sword and clog dancing, and not to mention our well known accent and dialect!
Our wonderfully colourful and distinct yellow and red flag dates from the 7th century, it has a chequered history and the pattern is thought to represent the interlocking stones of Hadrian’s Wall. The flag is quite rightly, only allowed to be hung within the County of Northumberland!
A lesser known of our traditions is the Northumbrian Rapper Sword dance with the dance originally performed by miners in the pit villages of Northumberland and County Durham, however this traditional dance is now performed and can be seen worldwide. The Northumbrian traditional clog dancing was first performed by mill workers back in the 19th century and mimicked the noise of the looms going back and forth and then subsequently taken up by miners where it became a more distinctive ‘pedestal style’ dance with little upper body movement meaning that sometimes the top of a beer barrel would used as a tiny stage.
It’s smart and it’s ours! The black and white Shepherd or Border plaid is the official tartan of the Northumberland. It was actually originally woven with natural black and white sheep’s wool, before natural plant dyes were later used to produce the distinctive check we see today. The pattern itself is thought to be one of the oldest known tartans and is even thought to date back to roman times. You will find some lovely Northumberland Tartan gifts in many local shops….the perfect keepsake to take home to remind you of your visit!
The Northumbrian small pipes are a melodious bellows-blown bagpipe, and they have been an important factor in our local musical culture for more than 200 years. They are rather quiet and more softly spoken in comparison to other bagpipes and are normally played indoors. The full history to this small part of our heritage can be found in the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum
I’m born and bred Northumbrian and I have the accent and the dialect that goes with that. Officially, the Northumbrian dialect was one of Old English spoken in the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. It is today a dialect with a long tale to tell which is full of tradition and now even with it’s own Society to ensure that part of our culture doesn’t disappear.
We know that to many we’re just Geordies or Scottish and I’ve even heard it confused with Irish, we are however most definitely Northumbrian. Following a couple of confused looks from guests wondering what I meant by “you’ll need to wear your boots because the gateway is clarty”, I’ve put together a small selection of local words and phrases in the hope that they’ll help you when you visit us!
Canny – pretty, nice or good
Clarty – muddy
Howay – come on
Howay man – general term of encouragement to hurry up
Hoy – pass or throw (not to be confused with Gannin’ on the Hoy which is to going out to consume vast amounts of alcohol)
Bubble – to cry
Hinny – wife or female
Gadgie – adult male
Stott – to throw an object (not to be confused with stottie which is large flat bread used to make a large sandwich
Clamming – really hungry
Hacky – dirty
Haddaway – go away
Plodge – wade, splash or paddle (often in the clarts)
Chocker – full
Bait – food
Of course across Northumberland the dialect, the sounds and pronunciation alter, and there are four main dialects you will find across our region. Tyneside the classic ‘Geordie’, Southern which is known as Pitmatic and heard around Ashington and south-east Northumberland. There’s Northern which is North of the Coquet through Alnwick and up to Berwick, and of course our own area, Western, which is from Allendale through Hexham and up to Kielder.
Our history and heritage is rich, our culture is unique and we hope when you visit us, you enjoy all Northumberland has to offer. Each year in April, our heritage and culture are celebrated, The Morpeth Northumberland Gathering is a true gathering of people who come together to enjoy the traditional culture of Northumberland and the wider NE region. It features concerts, dance, crafts, battle re-enactments, dialect, stories, drama, workshops, sessions, singarounds, competitions, stalls, bell-ringing, orienteering, tours, walks, talks and street performances. The 2020 event will take place from 17th-19th April and will be a true Northumberland spectacle…why not join us and revel in our heritage and culture…’Howay man, BOOK NOW, it’ll be a canny good weekend!’
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!