From October 1st, we have been offering our guests some wonderful local game, as supplied to us by Ridley’s Fish and Game merchants. Based at Acomb near Hexham, Northumberland, and recommended by Rick Stein, this family-run concern was established in 1991 and has become known for outstanding quality and service.

The pheasant season runs from 1st October to 1st February, and we like to use this lovely local produce on our evening meal menu. Locally sourced from the Chipchase Estate, Northumberland wild pheasant  has a mild taste. The meat is white, like chicken, but has a more complex and subtle flavour, and is very lean. Kevin slow-cooks the pheasant and locally sourced partridge on the bone to maximise flavour and then strips the meat, serving it in a rich game gravy with chorizo – perfect to enjoy in the comfort of your room after a day spent exploring Northumberland!



Bart enjoyed his first walk on Hadrian’s Wall – following in Archie’s footsteps on one of his (and our) favourite circular trails. Now at 5 months old, he had his first experience of this rugged and beautiful landscape, with many more to come. He did well and managed a good 2 hour walk, stopping half way for a snack (and a good bite of my pastrami and cheese sandwich) to keep up the energy levels!

Now, with the Layside breakfasts delivered to our guests, we may take a return journey but head east this time. Sycamore Gap is looking stunning this morning – following the brutal winds delivered by storm Ali, it is always a relief to see that the tree is still standing!

           

We can’t believe that it is September already, and as the evenings are growing darker earlier, we welcome the opportunity to enjoy the dark skies here at Layside. Northumberland is considered the best place in England to view the night sky with clear air and minimal light pollution, and on a clear night the planets and even many of the fainter stars of the Milky Way can be seen.

Northumberland International Dark Sky Park was unveiled in December 2013. At 572 square miles (1,483 square kilometres) it is also Europe’s largest area of protected night sky. Due to its pristine skies it was awarded gold tier designation by the International Dark Sky Association, making it officially the best place in England for people to go to enjoy the heavens” (Visit Northumberland).

to replace the seasonally brewed “Curlews Return”, we have introduced the Allendale Brewery’s “Dark Skies” strong ale. At 7% ABV this robust ale is based on an old Victorian recipe and brewed with all UK ingredients. It is well hopped and balanced with the variety of malts, hiding the strength within – even on a cloudy night, with a couple of these you may be seeing stars!

Scarecrow festivals are popular in the UK, where the use of the scarecrow as a protector of crops dates back hundreds of years. In medieval Britain, scarecrows were young boys who were tasked with the responsibility of scarring away birds, patrolling the fields with bags of stones to throw at the crows and starlings. The Great Plague of 1348, however, wiped out half the population and not enough boys could be found, so sacks were stuffed with straw and faces carved in turnips – and so was born the scarecrow as we know it today.

Every year, hundreds of villages all over Britain bring coolur, vibrancy and fun to the countryside by organising Scarecrow Festivals, where residents compete with each other to build the best scarecrow from whatever material they can lay their hands upon! Bardon Mill and Henshaw runs a scarecrow trail each year – a “scarecrow map” can be purchased from Mike’s Village shop in Bardon Mill, along with a voting form – a fun way to explore the Village and get to know the residents! For those wishing to participate, voting forms must be returned to the Village shop by 8th September, with the winners to be announced at the Presentation Night and BBQ at the Bardon Mill village hall on 15th September.

We have voted for our favourites – some of the best from past and present shown!

    

    

The summer is now well underway and with the warm weather continuing we wanted to add a fresh new breakfast special – light but tasty! Already a popular choice as we head in to the second week of August, we are serving a generous slice of toasted sourdough bread topped with an avocado and tomato smash – with a squeeze of lime for a little zing – and topped with crispy smoked bacon and a local free-range poached egg. Perfect for a summer morning!

After a good few weeks of sunshine and no rain, the landscape as seen from Layside has transformed from green to brown! The fields have now been cut and the grass made into hay bales for winter livestock fodder – much excitement felt by Eddie who has enjoyed watching the tractors at work – and we are now able to see the hares grazing again each evening. Wildlife seems to be flourishing in the warm weather too. Our second brood of swallows have just fledged and there are always voles to be seen running in and out of the dry stone walls – the tawny owls are clearly taking advantage, and can be heard close by through the night. It is a fantastic time of year with the nights never getting totally dark, but always something to see or hear!

 

It is hard to believe that a year ago today the construction of Layside B & B was just getting underway. With thanks to award-winning local architect Kevin Doonan, the team at KMC Joinery and the brilliant landscape gardener Allie Dale, Layside was created and on a day like today the views are unrivalled.

    

                     

Since losing our beloved black Labrador Archibald in April, we have felt a huge gap in our lives. We felt that with the summer season upon us, we would add another four-legged friend to the Layside team. With a huge thank you to Dreamacres Gundogs, we welcome “Bart” to the family. Arriving yesterday at eight weeks of age, he is settling in well and has already made his mark. Bart will not be without a challenge – he will take over from Archie in the role of testing out walks to then recommend to our visitors, and of course testing the “tea-tray treats” we offer to our four-legged guests. Bart has huge paws to fill, but even in the early stages we see a loyal companion who is already inseparable from Eddie, with a huge personality (and appetite) for such a small pup.

  

Not just a good read (The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith/J K Rowling), but a good listen too. We have heard a cuckoo nearby consistently over the past few days, and as per the well-known rhyme, May is the time to listen for the call. A bird to be admired, the cuckoo has been in decline in Britain over the past 20 years, possibly due to declining host birds, and due to dangers faced in migration. This is the second year in a row that we have heard a cuckoo close by – last year we even managed to capture a photo of this young bird resting on our front wall at Layside. We hope for another successful breeding season before the long and perilous return to Africa.

The cuckoo comes in April
She sings her song in May
In June she changes her tune
In July she prepares to fly
In August go she must.

We have been blessed with fine weather at Layside over the past few days, and the evening light especially is beautiful. Kevin and I have travelled to many places in the world, but I can honestly say that on a fine evening here in Northumberland, there is no other place that I would rather be. Fingers crossed for a good summer, and plentiful opportunities to sit out and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this amazing area.