Family walks

7 Apr

Want to escape the school holiday rabble? Some of my favourite free places to walk with kids. Where do you like to go?

Rising Sun Country Park

Rising Sun Country Park

Rising Sun Country Park








Bolam Lake








Saltwell Park








Alnwick and Barter Books








Bamburgh Beach












Park on The Wynding and walk along the beach


Plessey Woods

Water poking on the lakes walk at Cragside

7 Apr






I always feel like I am entering a world slightly apart from the rest of Northumberland when I cross through the gates of Cragside that the great North East engineer Lord Armstrong carved out of the rocky moorland.

We’ve visited several times before but barely ever seem to skim the surface of  this vast estate, especially walking at 3-year-old pace…

This time we followed the driveway through the archway leading to the house and carried on until we reached the Crozier car park, which is very conveniently right next to the good-sized adventure play area. After a picnic, clamber about and a zipwire or ten we headed off towards one of the artificial lakes Lord Armstrong created  to harness the power of water for the turbine at the Power House.

The children loved climbing over the bare rock faces and the lakeside walk is much flatter than many of the other walks and much easier on little legs, with lots of places to make hideaways and dens along the way. We did the loop following the signs for Nelly’s Moss North and South and the path that separates the two lakes is a beautiful spot for a picnic, with plenty of opportunities to play that amazing game of poke a stick in the water and get ourselves soaking wet since mummy hasn’t brought a chance of clothes – one of my two’s favourites…

On a practical note, there are toilets and picnic benches at the carpark/playarea and even a little van selling coffee and snacks.

More details of the walk can be found here…

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Silent Sunday: Northumberland

30 Mar

Holy Island

Holy Island

Holy Island

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Wallington Hall


Alnwick Castle


Bamburgh Castle



Belsay Hall

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Kielder Water


Warkworth Castle


Get you Northumberland Residents’ Festival voucher here

Cycling, squirrels and fairies at Kielder Water

4 Mar


You don’t head up to the far north of Northumberland in February expecting to be basking in Mediterranean sunshine. Yet when I saw a week of heavy rain forecast for our trip to Kielder Water in the half term holiday I did start to panic about the potential for “cabin fever” and being trapped in a confined space with a five and three-year-old for the duration of our four day trip, being badgered for cbeebies.
But as soon as we arrived I realised I had forgotten one basic thing about kids, they love to get mucky. And within seconds they had piled out of the car and were knee deep in a muddy squelching puddle, laughing their heads off, oblivious to the misty drizzle. (Of course a few minutes later, one of them was face down in said puddle her wails echoing around the otherwise peaceful valley. But with holidays with young children you have to think of the bigger picture and enjoy those brief blissful moments don’t you before the idyllic swiftly descends into chaos..?)
We had visited Kielder Water a number of times on day trips but had long been planning to stay over so as to have more time to explore the area and many cycle routes around the lake.
Our log cabin at Kielder Forest Park was a perfect little hideaway, like a mini alpine chalet on a hill above the lake, and from the front you could just see the water, especially beautiful in the early morning sunrise.


It was equipped to a really high standard, with a really attractive and practical layout with very comfy beds, dishwasher and even washer/dryer (very handy for muddy clothes.)

Trip 1: Walk along the Lakeside Way to the wildlife hide

From the cabin you can set off straight onto the Lakeside Way, a circular route around the water. My children tend to walk around in circles rather than in a forward motion, so we weren’t expecting to get far, and the little bird/squirrel hide in the forest was a perfect distance (about five minutes for an adult, or twenty minutes for us).
And we were lucky enough to spot a red squirrel, (it is red honest!) as well as dozens of birds at the feeding station.


The walk back through the forest takes you back past little huts and art installations which the children loved hiding in.


Trip 2: Cycling on the Lakeside Way

With my five year old on her new birthday bike and the three year old on the back of dad’s bike we set off for our first cycle, once again on the Lakeside Way, but this time on two wheels we were able to speed past the hide and continue on around the lake.
Emerging out of the forest and looking across the expanse of water, with not another soul around gives you such an amazing sense of freedom and space and my daughter loved it, tearing off into the distance.


Trip 3: Walk, cycle and the maze at Kielder village

We took the bikes to Kielder Village to try out another route earmarked as easy that starts in the car park of the Anglers Ams pub and passes through the campsite taking you onto the path of an old railway line. Unfortunately, the very rough surface made it much to hard work for my daughter and we had to come back, although for adults it would have been an easy and pleasant route.

Instead we went for a walk around the castle, where there is a maze and a playpark. From here there is also a flat walk along the river, which we were tempted to try but ended up opting for a pub lunch instead at the Angler’s Arms.


Trip 4: Walk along the Lakeside Way to The Mirage

We cheated and took the car to one of the many car parks around the lake and then set off in search of The Mirage, a wooden structure deep in the forest, which my children now tell me is in fact a fairy kingdom…

The path winds around the lake and up into the trees where from a wooden platform you get a stunning view of the lake.


kiedler 5

Despite our four day stay there was still plenty more we didn’t get to do.
There is a Bird of Prey Centre on site
Stargazing at Kielder Observatory – which was unfortunately fully book, so plan well in advance
And numerous other car parks around the lake where you can head off on more walks

If I had spent the week at home, I would never have dreamed of heading out for a walk let alone a bike ride in the rain and the cold, but with so much literally on your doorstep, we just got out waterproofs on and headed out to stomp in the puddles.

One bit of advice though is to bring plenty of food, as apart from a very small and pricey shop on site selling absolute essentials (and luxury biscuits) there is no supermarket for miles around.

If you want to eat out, then the child-friendly lakeside Boat Inn restaurant serves high quality food and we had a really enjoyable meal.

If you want a shorter stay, the grandparents joined us for a one night trip stopping at the nearby Pheasant Inn, and highly recommend it.

useful links:

Ten top spots in Tyneside and Northumberland for babies and toddlers

30 Jan

A very brave friend of mine has two under two and it left me trying to remember what I did to stay sane in the winter when mine were that age? So I got thinking of my top 10. Any more tips?

1. Centre for Life: Sitting with a takeaway giant Starbucks while your littleone/s explore the under 5s area upstairs has to be the ultimate. From mini ready steady cook style kitchen to soft play and lego, they’ve got the lot.  There are also designated pre school days

2. Want to sit and chat and eat in peace without the stress of keeping your children sitting at the table? At Willow Farm pub near Cramlington you can work your way through a carvery or a slice of cake the size of your head whilst your little ones crawl around in the play area. Why spend your money on soft play when you can spend it on a roast? ;) There’s even “cakeaway” in case you don’t get time for dessert…

3. There are all kinds of music classes for children, but this was one of my favourites: relaxed, informal, live guitar music, simple and always took us on an imaginative journey. twinned with a trip round the Discovery Museum made it a winning combo. A few steps away is also the Settle Down Cafe. It’s small so may not be the best option with big buggies, but it does have a little children’s corner

4. It was largely thanks to Heighley Gate garden centre just north of Morpeth off the A1 that I made it through the early stages of having two very young children. They may have sadly introduced a £1.50 levy for the soft plays and the lovely outdoor playpark has vanished, but nevertheless it’s hard to beat. There’s still the flowers, the animals, the fish and fountains and you can sit with baby while the older child plays in the small (and now quite quiet since the charge was introduced) soft plays (there are two, the second in a further outside building)

5.  Another freebie is the under 5s area at The Laing Gallery. Wear them out in the under 5s area so they fall asleep and you can take in some culture

6. This compact soft play was a favourite when I had younger children. It’s size means you never get that moment of panic when you think you can’t find them and they have been swallowed by the ball pool and there are areas designated for bables and toddlers

7. With fish, otters, seals, rays, sharks and monkeys, a trip to the Blue Reef Aquarium has always been a few hours well spent. As a single trip it is pretty pricey, but the annual passes are quite reasonable and mean you don’t feel under pressure to “get your money’s worth” and spend too long there

8. Free to the under 4s, at least it is only your own entry you have to pay for at Seven Stories. All the very high quality exhibitions are  very hands on, perfect for little explorers and interesting for adults too. Storytime in the attic seems to entertain children of all ages and there are special sessions for babies

9. Piccolo Music. Another of my favourite classes for kids. I always preferred the sound of real instruments to just a CD and the classes cover a wide age range which is handy when you have a baby and toddler.

10. Last and by no means least is the good old-fashioned toddler group. For less than the price of a latte  you can have unlimited tea, coffee and biscuits, healthy snacks for your kids, a moan to other mums while your kids have a play and even a round of the hokey cokey  at the end. A couple I can recommend are and



Walking off the turkey at Pinchinthorpe and Guisborough Forest

30 Dec





A visit to my family in Middlesbrough for Christmas would not be complete without a wintery snap of Roseberry Topping. A motley crew of grandparents with sore knees, a dad with an injured hip and a three year old with a face like thunder at being dragged from her Christmas presents into a frosty morning, we didn’t think it wise to be too adventurous. So we headed to Guisborough Forest where there are walks and cycle routes for all abilities, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. The flat walkway along the former railway line was great for my  5 year old daughter on her bike and is pushchair friendly too.  (if only I had brought it and saved myself the trauma of coaxing, bribing, dragging and ultimately carrying my tantruming youngest…) But there are many more routes and trails through the woods,  which bring you out on top of the open moors for brilliant views.
If you really felt you had over indulged there’s a trim trail and to keep children entertained pond dipping, a playground and sculpture trail.
There is a large car park and toilet facilities at the visitors center too.


Walking by the Wansbeck at Mitford

6 Nov


North East With Kids

A few words and pictures of places we like to go in the North East of England

Great North Mum

Life, kids and health

The Alpha Parent

A few words and pictures of places we like to go in the North East of England


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