The most famous tree of all!

It’s thought to be several hundred years old and is one of the most photographed trees in the country, Sycamore Gap is undoubtedly a instantly recognisable landmark and is one of the most iconic places to visit whilst in Hadrian’s Wall Country.

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This famous Sycamore tree or Acer Pseudophatanus to give it’s official name, was catapulted to fame in 1991 when it appeared in the blockbuster film ‘Robin Hood Price of Thieves’ and is only a 20 minute drive west from St Oswald’s Farm and a considerably longer way from those White Cliffs of Dover! Don’t let Kevin Costner fool you!

The tree itself, which was crowned ‘Tree of the Year’ in 2016 by the Woodland Trust, is set a dramatic dip in the landscape with Hadrian’s Wall stretching up both sides away from it and is near to Milecastle 39 otherwise know as Castle Nick.

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Sycamore Gap can be reached on foot and is only a 15 minute walk from Steel Rigg car park and with Housesteads and Vindolanda both only a short 5 minute drive away it’s the perfect destination for those perhaps on a shorter stay or for who would like to only spend a day seeing some of the highlights of Hadrian’s Wall!

The landmark is cared for by The National Trust and Northumberland National Park and although there was a young replacement sapling sycamore tree planted nearby this no longer remains, perhaps it succumbed to the locals (sheep) nibbling it!

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This is a spectacular walk and a stunning destination with dramatic views and whatever time of year you visit the surrounding countryside is rugged yet wildly romantic! If you can plan to be there on an early autumn evening as the sun starts to go down then you will be lucky enough to see something that resembles the whole of Northumberland bathed in a golden glow!

Of course no walk is complete without refreshment and if all our lovely Northumbrian air leaves leaves you with an appetite for either a light bite, dinner or just a quiet drink by a warming fire then The Twice Brewed Inn is perfectly situated just a stones throw away from Sycamore Gap. Here you will find seasonal menus of hearty home-cooked meals and their own superb selection of ales, brewed on site in the Brew House. There is also the opportunity to see how these ales are created with a tour of the Brew House itself. Full details of opening times and tours can be found here

Book your stay in Northumberland and at St Oswald’s Farm and discover the true beauty of England’s most northern county. We can’t promise you Kevin Costner but we can promise you a relaxing, peaceful, scenic, breathtaking and the most memorable of stays! We look forward to welcoming you here.

We love where we live

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.

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St Oswald’s Farm

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!

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Hadrian’s Wall National Trail at St Oswald’s Farm

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!

Our Heritage, Traditions & Culture

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!

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Northumberland flag

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!

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Proud of our Northumberland tartan

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

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Northumbrian Small Pipes

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!

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  • 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
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Our daughter proudly demonstrating plodging in the clarts

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!’

Rediscovering Blanchland

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.

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The quaintest of villages

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.

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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.

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Stepping back in time at the village Post Office

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.

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The White Monk Tearooms

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!

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Moorland & Derwent Reservoir

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.

Look out for Mallard, Tufted Duck, Greylag Goose, Teal, Goosander and Grey Heron

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.

Gorgeous Gardens

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.

Books, books and more books!

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!

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Forum books nestled in the heart of Corbridge

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!

Read the story of Barter Books here

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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

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Durham city hosts a Book Festival in October each year

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.

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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!

We look forward to welcoming here!