Archive | January, 2012

Dance City and Discovery Museum

13 Jan

Most organised toddler activities I go to leave me with a ringing in my ears and the urge to go and lie down in a darkened room. Often added to the woe is the knowledge that I’ve paid a small fortune for my children to either cower in the corner and if I’m lucky have chirped up about five minutes from the end of the 45 min session. And, guess what, we’re signed up for a whole term, so they will come back and they will enjoy it next week…
So, what an hour of bliss was Newcastle’s Dance City’s Dancing Babies. With no need to commit to every week, like you do at many pre-school classes, you are just told to get there early to make sure you get a place. We were about ten minutes early and that seemed fine.
The Dance instructor explained each week has a theme and he led us on a journey ‘e2’80ldblquote up to space this time ‘e2’80ldblquote and the children were encouraged to perform actions linked to the storytelling. The girls were captivated by his guitar playing ‘e2’80ldblquote a lovely change from loud dancing CDs of some classes. The instructor also wasn’t too strict, which is good, so if the younger ones preferred to be fascinated by looking out the window rather than what was going on inside, then that was fine. It wasn’t a class for learning dance moves, more about movement and physical expression. Although I still would have quite liked a lie down afterwards, it was more because the soothing singing and music was sending me off to sleep.

Facilities-wise, we called in to the cafe for a coffee and tea cake. With four kids and buggy it was pretty cramped and they only had two highchairs so there were none free as most of the other mums had the same idea. We didn’t try them, but they do kids lunchboxes for around ‘c2’a33.50.

Since we were in the city, we went crazy and did a dance-culture combo and crossed over the road for a quick round of the Discovery Museum. This was youngest daughter’s first visit to the water room, where they can splash in a child-size model of the River Tyne. There are aprons, but they can’t really keep them dry ‘e2’80ldblquote so bring a change of clothes.
We then headed to the under 5 soft play, just a small corner, but good for the younger ones. They spent longer at the gravity ball equipment ‘e2’80ldblquote where they spent ages placing the ball at the bottom then watching it shoot up and whizz all the way down. It’s a brilliant place for them to explore, with so many child height levers to pull and buttons to press.
If you were after a roomier cafe area, then I’d recommend saving lunch for the Discovery, as it’s much less cramped. And if you are tight (like us!) they have a new picnic area, right by the Science Maze, where you can dish out the cheese sandwiches in peace without having to be looking over your shoulder for an eagle eyed cafe attendant.
You could spend ages in the Discovery just letting them wander round, but they were running out of steam so we called it a day and headed back to the car. We parked in the Grainger Town multi-storey, which is 80p and hour and right next to Dance City.


Hamsterley forest

1 Jan

New years day bike ride

Pine forests, rushing rivers, waterfalls and mud, Hamsterley Forest is my new favourite cycling spot. OK so maybe as we arrived, in a misty light rain and the temperature dropping to 4.5oC and the road more like a stream, I was not so impressed. But after a mini domestic it was agreed we would give it a go and I am glad we did.
A well known destination for hard core mountain bikers the moderate blue route was perfect for family cycling. Katie started off in the cycle carrier, but she’d soon had enough being prodded by Charlotte and we swapped her into the back carrier on my bike, where she was much happier.
The full route has a guide time of one hour and a half but has options to make a shorter loop back, which we took, given the chilly, wet weather (my pessimism hadn’t quite worn off). It starts off on a quite narrow riverside path through the forest, but was easily manoeuvrable with the wide carrier and although uphill, even after my xmas bingeing I could manage to keep going without too much puff. The scenery is beautiful and the river and birds kept the kids entertained. The route then joins the forest drive, and you can head back two miles to the start or carry on along the tarmac and then wider footpath for a longer journey following the river. If you wanted to miss out the first part, there is car parking at The Grove, which leads straight onto the forest drive.
Parking is ‘c2’a33 and there are plenty of facilities like toilets, a baby change and when we were there a bike hire shop giving away free hot soup.

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