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A Walk to The Drakestone

1 Sep

On the hunt for a picnic in the heather, we headed to Harbottle in search of The Drakestone.

A good old yarn always helps sell one of mum’s “walks” to the kids, in addition to the promise of a picnic – so they were intrigued by the tales of druids and healing powers that this ancient rock is said to possess.


A great guide to the walk can be found here:

Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion David Wilson guides you on a two-hour walk


Alnmouth Beach

28 Feb

Check out the kite skills:

We are pretty spoilt for beaches here in the North East. From the vast expanse of Druridge Bay, to secluded spots like Sugar Sands or the all-action Tynemouth Longsands.

But one of my favourite all-rounders is Alnmouth. Parking practically on the beach almost feels like cheating, and is especially handy when it’s just me and the kids. I can keep nipping back to the car for the kite, ball, blanket, buckets, spades, rug, picnic, change of clothes, and the rest of the paraphernalia you bring to set up camp for the day.

Gazing out across the white sand and sea, you get that desert island feeling – but just a few minutes walk and you are in Alnmouth – with ice cream parlours, pubs, fish and chips and the glamourous but handy toilet facilities!

The walk round to the village takes you past fishing boats and keep going you will come to a lovely play park.

Or walk to the left and there is a great walk along the beach, up over the sand dunes and back to the car park.

Visit Alnmouth

Random fact: not one for the kids perhaps but Alnmouth is home to the UK’s most haunted hotel…

Read about The Schooner Hotel and its resident spirits here





Geocaching with kids: treasure hunting in a digital age

5 Feb


I had heard of the term geocaching but had no idea what it involved. So I was intrigued when a friend told me they had tried it with their kids and were hooked.

Once I “googled it,” I couldn’t understand why I had not discovered this before. I am constantly trying to come up with ways to bribe/trick my kids into “going for a walk.” I learned long ago that this was one phrase you never said. Instead, there has to be a purpose, eg. “let’s go collect shells on the beach,” “let’s go and see if there is any snow at the top of this hill,” or usually “look at this massive cookie you can have once we get to the top.” But now I had geocaching up my sleeve.

Treasure hunting in the digital age, the term originates from an original “stash” that was placed in a wood in 2000 by Dave Ulmer, an IT expert from Oregon, who then posted the coordinates on the internet.

The public GPS signals we have today were limited due to security fears until May 2000, when Bill Clinton decided that GPS could be made more useful to people and organisations across the globe.

The Ordnance Survey explain the basics:

What is Geocaching? 

Geocaching can be described in simple terms as treasure hunting for the digital generation. Instead of using the conventional compasses and printed maps more commonly associated with orienteering, participants rely on global positioning system (GPS) technology to find their way to certain points around the globe. These spots are found using coordinates published online by other forum members who have hidden boxes or containers (caches) there.

These boxes – often airtight Tupperware-style containers – can contain pretty much anything. In their most basic form, they’ll usually have a log book for hunters to record their names and the dates on which they find the stash. Much of the excitement, however, lies in seeing what other trinkets and souvenirs have been left. If the finder decides to take anything away, they’re required to leave something of equal or greater value for the next person to discover – and the chain begins!

– read all about it from the experts here

Geocaching to the test: 

We went to where you can sign in for free or log in with facebook.

We then put in our postcode and it brought up a surprisingly high number nearby.

They are rated by difficulty and this being our first time we went for the easiest.

Even though you have the coordinates, there is still quite a bit of searching involved and I wasn’t even really sure what I was trying to find.

Thankfully there are extra hints to help. Ours was this:

Face the roundabout and choose the seat on the right. Sit on the left-hand side and look down to the left. This will crack you up!

As we wandered round and round and fumbled through leaves, I was starting to think this was a bad idea – if I couldn’t produce a winning result on our first attempt – this plan of mine was doomed.

Thankfully, in the spirit of all things digital, previous treasure hunters can leave further hints and tips to help you on your way and soon I spotted the green tube in a crack in the wall and jackpot – relief all round.

The girls enjoyed unravelling the log roll and writing in our name – there was no trinket left behind, which was a bit disappointing, but as we hadn’t come prepared with our own gift to leave behind it was probably for the best.

Sign up for geocaching and you also enter into a worldwide community, which is centred around sharing information and also respect for the environment  – our clue urged us to pick up any litter we found lying around too.

Gaining in confidence, we headed on a second mission. This one completely brought out my inner geek, combining a mini history lesson and code breaking…


In memory of Emily Wilding Davison, a prominent member of the Suffragette Movement, who died a few days after she walked in front of the King’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby. This incident was one of the first sports disasters caught on film and shows the horrific impact and aftermath of the collision.

St. Mary’s Churchyard in Morpeth is very old and its residents diverse. It has a Lychgate at the entrance from the A197 and somewhere within it is a watchtower used to protect the fresh graves from the resurrection men (yuk).

The coordinates will take you to Emily’s grave in St. Mary’s churchyard. Use the inscriptions on the grave to find the missing numbers in the coordinates to the cache.

N 55°
W001° 41.def

a = age of Ethel at death
b = numeral of month of Alfred’s death
c = second numeral of Charles’ age at death
d = half the number of fenceposts at the grave
e = number of letters in the word describing ‘princess’
f = day of the month on which Charles died


The verdict? 

Yes, so OK, perhaps the other half and I did get slightly more excited about it than the kids… and yes, I think I will still need that emergency massive cookie in my bag. But they did enjoy ‘the hunt’ and opening the little barrel, especially when there was a bit of ‘treasure’ left inside. So I am preparing our ‘geoswag’ and am looking forward to our next family geocaching adventure (and maybe even one without the kids too…)

What do you need to get started?

A GPS device or smartphone

An account with

Geoswag – trinkets to swap eg keyrings, loombands, shopkins, matchbox cars

A pen and paper for any extra note taking/code cracking

**a hand held mirror for looking under things once you get super advanced!

Find out more:

  • Read more expert advice from experienced family geocachers here
  • A list of what to take with you here
  • advice from netmums here



Cragside and the Labyrinth

30 Sep

Cragside is so vast, we are always finding new areas of the estate to explore. Spotted this good place for a breather before we got lost in the Labyrinth… enjoy the surprise if you find the middle!















Cragside House & Gardens

Family bouldering at Shaftoe

18 Jul





Northumberland has so many natural playgrounds. We headed to Shaftoe crags for a family bouldering session.
Great for parents to have a play as well as the kids for a change!

Despite being only a short drive from Newcastle, there is something about the crags of Northumberland that makes me feel I have ventured into another world or far into the past. And the children enjoyed hearing how the rocks have their own names such as Devil’s Punchbowl and Piper’s Chair.


From Belsay on the A696, head for Bolam Lake. Go past the lake car park on the right to a crossroads, turn left along an unmetalled road past a row of cottages. Park by the wall on the moor just over the cattle grid.

To the crags:

Follow the wall up the hill until you go through the gate, then turn left and follow the path along the wall that takes you down in amongst the rocks.

Bolam Lake

18 Jul





A natural playground, this easy walk round Bolam Lake has trees to climb, swans to feed and lots of places for hide & seek.
Free parking & a cafe.

Scowling dwarfs and ancient stones: a walk at Simonside

12 Jul

Despite being carted up hills and even the odd mountain since they were bairns in backpacks, mention the word “walk” to my kids (six and four) and the response is something like eurghhharrrgh and “why?”

So I have to get a bit more creative to lure them out to where I want to go and think “will be good for them really.”

And this week my creativity involved some stories about the ancient scowling dwarfs said to roam the hills of Simonside dressed in lambskin and a moss hat – and basically bribery of an amazing picnic once you got to the top…

But the odd whine and whinge from my own “scowling dwarfs” was definitely worth it as wow, there is some view and it is not every day you get to eat your lunch next to rock carvings said to be 4,000 years old.

For anyone not familiar with the history of Simonside, near Rothbury, Countryfile sums it up pretty well here:

“The fell sandstones of the Simonside Hills were deposited from a river delta some 330 million years ago. Weathering

and erosion have led to their dominant aspect, which makes them recognisable throughout the county. Their spiritual significance to the Bronze Age people, 5000 years ago, is evident in the burial tombs and rock carvings that adorn the slopes and summits.”

The main car park, just a few minutes drive from Rothbury, has a map of the  area. We followed the red route  (pictured below)  and it was very well signposted and easy to follow. But a shorter route which may be better for younger children is available here along with lots of extra info about the area.

Points of interest:

Little Church Rock This isolated outcrop of fell sandstone is hidden within the forest. Its name may be a reference to the rock’s use as a gathering place. There is a set of cup marks in the stone on the lower right side of the rock which are thought to be man-made and could be over 4,000 years old.

The Simonside Dwarfs also known as Brownmen, Bogles and Duergar are a race of ugly dwarfs. Their leader was said to be known as Roarie. They are said to mostly appear at night, when they prey on lost travellers by showing a light to draw the traveller nearer, and then tricking them into a bog or luring them over the edge of a precipice. Read more about these little critters here:













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