This morning I was watching the news when I found out that Northumberland National Park and and Kielder Water and Forest Park have succeeded in their bid to become a Dark Sky Park. This is amazing news and it will make the area of Northumberland it covers the largest dark sky area in Europe.
When you gaze up at the night sky it is hard to see the stars clearly. This is due to the amount of light that is always surrounding us at night. There are street lights, house lights, car lights and these all cast a glow into the sky. In a dark sky area lighting is carefully regulated to prevent light pollution. It is only when you are in a truly dark sky area you can look up at the stars and realise just how amazing they are. You are looking at a view that your ancestors looked at millions of years ago.
The moon and stars looks so much bigger and you can easily look up and spot the constellations and try to name them.
Kielder Water and Forest Park is also home to an observatory where you can go to learn more about the night skies. If you watch Robson Green’s Tales of Northumberland you may have seen it featured there. There are many different events from learning about what causes an aurora, to family stargazing evenings. It looks an absolutely fascinating evening.
Northumberland National Park will be renamed Northumberland Dark Sky Park in honour of the award which has taken more than two years to achieve. I think it is amazing that I have such an interesting area on my doorstep and am looking forward to visiting and looking up at the skies in the near future.
You can find out more about Kielder Observatory and the events at Kielder on their website.
One thing I love about the run up to Christmas is the continental market that always visits the centre of Newcastle. It makes a nice trip to visit the market and stop and look at Fenwicks Christmas windows on the way home.
The market is always next to the monument, a selection of covered stalls under the shadow of Lord Grey atop his column. It mingles well with the old buildings and the new glass of the Eldon Square shopping centre.
Newcastle continental market is always busy, a mixture of exotic foods, clothes and ornaments from all round the world. If you are hungry there is plenty of food to eat as you wander round. You can get noodles, paella or creamy chicken cooked in huge vats or maybe you fancy a hog roast. For the more adventurous there is a range of exotic meats being cooked. Maybe you would like a kangeroo or ostrich burger? You will find it all here.
How about a hog roast?
The stalls are bright and colourful as you walk past. There is all sorts of clothing on show. I found these colourful jumpers from Peru. You can also get a wide range of head wear from trapper hats to Russian military hats, very cosy in the cold.
Maybe you are on the look out for some gourmet goodies for gifts or just to take home to eat. There is plenty to treat yourself to. French cheese, Italian biscuits, Turkish delight or other sweets.
Maybe you just fancy a selection of home made sweets or fudge. You will find something to tempt you even if you are determined not to spend.
We had great fun browsing and did not leave empty handed. I found some flavoured salt which I brought to try on salads. I also bought an incredibly clever scarf which can be used in a variety of ways from a hat to a hood to a beanie. It is a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. We also visited Newcastle Continental Market last year and hope it will be back next year.
Fenwicks Christmas Windows are a tradition in Newcastle. Every year, as long as I can remember Fenwicks have put on a magical display in the front windows of their store. It is part of Christmas to make a visit and find out what Fenwicks windows will have for their Christmas display. Every year it is different but you know you are always going to walk along the shop front and find something amazing. Music accompanies your walk along the store front and each window has a magical scene unfolding in front of your eyes. The scenes are not still, they are animated and you need to look closely to make sure that you do not miss anything.
This weekend we made a trip into town to find out what was in the windows this year. Even though we got into town early the queue for the windows was long.
The windows appeal to all ages, young and old, all were eager to see what was waiting at the end of the queue. The queue was orderly moving slowly, giving everyone a chance to gaze their fill. Finally we were nearly there and were able to look at a Lego Santa while we neared the main window.
This year the theme was Forest Fairy Tales. Each window depicted a different fairy tale including Hansel and Gretel, Jack Frost, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Sugar Plum Fairyand the Old Toymaker. Each window was set in a forest, giving you the feeling that you were walking though an enchanted forest as you went along. Sadly my photos did not come out brilliantly due to the crowds and the reflections on the windows, but these photos should give you an idea of the display.
Do you have any displays like this near you?
This is the Lightning Clock which you can find at Royal Quays shopping outlet in North Shields. If you look closely you can see that the two spheres that make up the clock are resting on a strike of lightning that is entering the ground. At the base of the clock there are a number of instruments for measuring temperature, wind speed and direction and barometric pressure. On the small sphere rests a weather man and on the side is the clock face.
All appears calm until the hour approaches. On the hour the weatherman pulls a leaver. With the sound of thunder the face of the North Wind rotates from the large sphere. It’s eyes roll and smoke puffs from the clock and the weather man is blown off his feet. The storm gradually subsides, the North Wind rotates back into the clock and all is calm again, until the next hour.
I first heard about the clock when my son was in nursery. The nursery staff had decided they would take the children on a day visit to see the clock. It wasn’t at all successful. The children had watched excited at the clock struck the hour but when they heard the thunder and saw the north wind appear they were terrified. Apparently my son refused to go anywhere near the clock the rest of the time they were there. Being a curious sort of person I had to go and see it for myself. The memory had obviously made a lingering impression on my son and my husband had to take him into a toy shop while the clock struck.
Looking back now it doesn’t seem that long ago but tomorrow my son is going to be a teenager. He has changed so much from those days when I used to read him bedtime stories and play with him Now he is more independent and wants to do his own thing. Time has passed in the blink of an eye and he seems to have grown up in seconds. I wait to see what new adventures this stage in life will bring.
When my son was small one of our favourite books to read together was The Gruffalo. It is a lovely picture book by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler which tells the story of a mouse walking though the woods. What I didn’t know was that there is another book available by the same team called Stick Man. This is another classic, Stick Man lives in the family tree with his family. He has all sorts of adventures while he is out in the world and is trying to get back to his family. The adventures all involve things that children will do with sticks which makes it all the more realistic.
Children love playing with sticks, I have seen my son make all sorts of uses from sticks as we have wandered though the country. From playing pooh sticks at the river, to throwing them for the dog to using them as a sword. Imagination sets the limit on what you can do with a stick.
Autumn is a great time to get out and visit the Forestry Commission Forests that are found around the UK. The trees are filled with colour, fungi are popping up, seeds are falling off the trees. There is plenty to explore and children love getting outdoors swishing though the leaves.
To add even more fun to the forest currently you can explore Stick Man Trails in various Forestry Commission Forests. These are a series of special adventure trails and activities inspired by the Stick Man book. They are designed to help children learn more about forests and how important woods and trees are in their daily lives. Children will be able to get creative by hunting for clues, writing poems, building dens, drawing pictures and making their own Stick Man character. So often these days children stay inside and lose the chance to take part in imaginative play. This is a great opportunity to get out and have fun as a family.
You can find more information about the Stick Man Trails as well as a host of activity sheets on the Forestry Commission website. You will also find the dates of the trails and which forests are hosting them so you can see if there is one near you. If you sign up to the Forestry Commission newsletter you also have a chance to win a Stick Man goody bag. There will be five winners. Just sign up for the e-newsletter and use the code STICKMAN to be entered.
Disclosure: I am an official Forestry Commission blogger.