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.

  

Despite the drop in temperature over the past few days, the sun is shining and the promise of summer hangs in the air. The swallows have returned to nest in the outhouses and the pied wagtails have again decided that it is a good idea to nest underneath Kev’s car, so journeys are kept short and to an absolute minimum! The evening light is beautiful and if you are lucky you may see our resident Northumberland Hare and it’s young – spotted over the past few evenings in close proximity to the vegetable patch.

For a “breakfast special” for May we have introduced a breakfast quiche, using local Bardon Mill free-range eggs, Cumberland sausage, smoked bacon and mushrooms, and finished with Northumberland cheese. Freshly baked to order and served warm from the Aga, this tasty addition to the breakfast menu combines all the elements of a traditional cooked breakfast in one, delivered to your door. Enjoy!

It is always a lovely sight to see spring lambs in the fields surrounding Layside. The weather has improved and these new arrivals are enjoying some long awaited sunshine.

We took our first walk yesterday without Archie at our side. A ten minute walk up the road took us to The Sill, and it was a glorious day to enjoy a cup of tea and a snack on the living roof, with fantastic sun-drenched views of the Whin Sill and Hadrian’s Wall. Planted to replicate the unique natural grasslands of the surrounding area, The Sill’s fully accessible living roof sweeps gently upwards, giving visitors a bird’s eye vantage point across one of the UK’s most magnificent landscapes and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall. Sad to be without our loyal companion, but uplifted by the sheer beauty of Northumberland on a sunny day.

  

 

It is with great sorrow that we had to say goodbye to our black labrador Archibald yesterday. He was not only a loyal companion, best friend (and of course “hairy brother” to Eddie), but he was our inspiration. We all fell in love with this part of Northumberland together with long walks along Hadrian’s Wall, and his enthusiasm and energy was boundless. He was instrumental in our dream of setting up a B&B which was dog-friendly, and Layside will not be the same without him. Gone, but never forgotten.

  

Greenhead is a small village in the heart of Hadrian’s Wall Country. A village market is held at the Greenhead Village Hall on the second Sunday of every month from 10 am to 2 pm (in April it will be held on Sunday 8th)! It is a great opportunity to meet local producers with a wide range of locally produced foods and crafts on sale.

Greenhead itself is well worth a visit – the area was mined for coal from the 18th century and supported a large population of miners and quarraymen. Today this friendly village offers welcoming hostelries and tearooms and easy walks can be taken beside the river at Thirlwall. A short distance away is the Roman Army Museum and Walltown Quarry, Birdoswold Roman Fort and Thirlwall Castle.

 

 

 

We are currently snowed in at Layside with 3-4ft of drifting snow in places, however Northumberland National Park still looks stunning. On the menu tonight is one of our featured “stew for two” evening meals – a pigs cheek and chorizo casserole, hot from the aga, served with warm crusty bread. It’s not all doom and gloom!!

Steel Rigg car park is a short distance from Layside, and a great place to start and finish a circular walk. Whereas most choose to head east following Hadrian’s Wall towards Sycamore Gap and Housesteads, this morning we chose to head west. Following the road from the car park, walking west takes you past Melkridge Common with Winshields Crags and Hadrian’s Wall to your left. The paved surface of this little-used road makes this part of the walk easy going and relatively flat with wide verges for well behaved dogs to roam off the lead. On reaching the T junction, turn left, and after a short distance the road meets the Pennine Way. Turning left will take you back towards Steel Rigg following the Roman wall, and although this part of the walk is moderate with the odd strenuous (but short) climb, you are rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of Hadrian’s Wall Country and beyond. We allow 1.5-2 hours for this circular walk, which gives us plenty of time to stop and enjoy the dramatic and picturesque landscape!

    

    

Following on from the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch over the last weekend in January, farmers, land managers and gamekeepers are being urged to count birds between Friday February 9th and Sunday February 18th, hoping to record much loved birds such as the barn owl, bull finch, lapwing, grey partridge, tree sparrow and yellowhammer. We will be taking part at Layside where we enjoy seeing a variety of birdlife, as well as Roe Deer and the odd Northumberland Hare.