Hidden Newcastle: The Art at the Civic Centre

If you live in Newcastle Upon Tyne you will be familiar with the Civic Centre. Found near the Haymarket the tower with twelve seahorses is easily visible from a distance. It is the administrative centre for the city, I got my son’s birth certificate here and you can often see weddings taking place in the grounds.  Seahorses on top of the civic centreThe building was completed in 1967 and was formerly opened by King Olav of Norway in 1968. In days gone past council meetings were announced by the town crier, ringing his bell and huge barrels of tar were lit along the front of the building to bring in the crowds. The design of the Civic Centre took in this tradition with nine huge flambeaux spanning the entrance. These can be lit when required and there are bells in the tower which can be rung to mark the start of an event.  Civici CentreThe grounds are lovely with plenty of green and water where ducks paddle. It is a perfect place to sit and relax away from the rush of the city on a summer day. If you wander around the grounds you will come across a number of hidden artworks. Attached 5m up the wall on the outside of the Civic Centre is a statue of the River God Tyne. River God TyneIt is a bronze statue by David Wynne. Over the years it has changed colour from dark brown to green and brown due to running water. The figure has an outstretched hand from which water is meant to be dripping over his head and across his torso. His face is hidden from view by his wet hair, unless you stand underneath and look up. River God TyneThis reveals a wise looking face weighed down by the knowledge of ages. It is an impressive looking statue and worth taking a moment to contemplate.

Across the road from the Civic Centre is a Weatherspoons bar named The Five Swans. It has only appeared in recent times, it used to be Luckies bar when I first came to Newcastle. It is named after the five swans of the Civic Centre. If you are like me then you may start to wonder how they manage to ensure they always have five swans at the Civic Centre. How can they stop them flying away or prevent new ones appearing? If you walk around the corner all is revealed. The five swans are actually another statue, Swans in Flight by David Wynne. It depicts five swans taking off from a rectangular pool. Swans in flight Swans in flightSwans in flightEach of the swans are 2m in length and the sculpture is certainly effective. The swans are graceful and elegant and you can imagine them flying off into the sky. The sculpture is based on the poem The Swans of the North by  Hans Hartvig Seedorff Pederson. Each swan represents a Scandinavian country, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Finland and the links between these countries and Newcastle.

I have passed the Civic Centre many times and never seen these sculptures. I love discovering hidden parts of Newcastle like the Vampire Rabbit. Do you know of any hidden parts of the city? I would love to hear about them

Discover the Forest with Superworm Trails

The sun is shining, the trees are starting to get leaves and Spring flowers are making an appearance. It will soon be Easter and the school holidays. When it is sunny I love nothing better than getting outdoors with the family and the Forestry Commission has created a chance for families to do just this. Following on from the successful Gruffalo and Gruffalo child trails in the forests last year, which saw over one million visitors in the summer of 2014 discovering the wooden sculptures of the Gruffalo in the forest.  Now  you have the chance chance  to have a forest adventure with Superworm.

Superworm Forestry commission trails

Superworm is a childrens book by Juila Donaldson which tells the story of a superhero worm and his minibeast friends. They band together in an exciting story which tells how they defeat the villainous Wizard Lizard. You will be chanting along with your kids:

Superworm is super-long. Superworm is super-strong. Watch him wiggle! See him squirm! Hip, hip, hooray for SUPERWORM!

Superworm Trails in the forests

Starting on the 13th March 2015 and running until the end of October you will find Superworm trails at 20 selected forests around the country. The activity trails are designed  for children aged 3-6 and also have some elements that will appeal to children aged 6-8.  Each activity trail will have ten stops along the way where visitors will discover a panel containing activities and questions. These activities are based on the Superworm story and it’s characters and encourage children to learn more about the forest around them. Children will be asked to use their superhero senses and powers of discovery to discover the touch and smell of the forest and become nature detectives. There are also activities that have been created by the Youth Sport Trust to encourage children to get moving and become super-fit just like Superworm. Each trail will take around an hour to complete.

The superworm trails will help children develop a life long love of fresh air, countryside and exercise. All the creatures in the book like worms, ants,beetles, caterpillars, spiders, birds and reptiles can be found in the forest, which will help bring the book to life for the children taking part. We love visiting our local forest and having adventures. There are usually lots of other events happening, read about our visit to the vintage car rally at Kielder Water and Forest Park.

Superworm Activity Packs

To run alongside the Superworm activity trails you can also pick up an activity pack with extra things to do on the trail. These are available on-site and cost £3.50. Included in the pack is a sticker sheet, an activity leaflet, a limited edition Superworm mini-book and some string allowing you to make your own Superworm.

Superworm book superworm-2The activities look great fun and the mini book will provide a great keepsake of your day out in the forest.

 Forests taking part in the Superworm trail

You will find the Superworm trails in the following forests:

  • Moors Valley Country Park, Dorset
  • Bolderwood, Hampshire
  • Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest, Kent    
  • High Lodge, Thetford Forest, Suffolk
  • Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire 
  • Jeskyns Community Woodland, Gravesend, Kent
  • Thames Chase Forest, Essex
  • Birches Valley, Cannock Chase Forest, Staffordshire
  • Hicks Lodge, Derbyshire 
  • Sherwood Pines Forest Park, Nottinghamshire 
  • Top Lodge, Fineshade Wood, Northamptonshire
  • Beechenhurst, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire 
  • Cardinham Woods, Bodmin, Cornwall
  • Wyre Forest, Worcestershire
  • Dalby Forest, Yorkshire   
  • Guisborough Forest, North Yorkshire   
  • Whinlatter Forest, Keswick, Cumbria 
  • Hamsterley Forest, County Durham     
  • Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland
  • Grizedale Forest, Hawkshead, Cumbria


To find out more you can sign up to the Forestry Commission England’s family activity database at www.forestry.gov.uk/superworm.

Forestry Commission annual passes are also available allowing you to visit your local site as many times a year as you wish. Discovery Passes vary in price from £20-£55 for annual membership. You can find out more at www.forestry.gov.uk/pass


A Wander Around Grainger Market and Afternoon Tea

If you live in Newcastle Upon Tyne you will be familiar with the Grainger Market. Situated in the heart of the city, nestled between Grainger Street, Clayton Street,Nelson Street & Nun Street the indoor market has been part of Newcastle since 1835. Richard Grainger was the developer who was responsible for the redevelopment of 19th Century Newcastle including Grainger Market. When the market was first built it was the largest market in Newcastle. The building is now a Grade I listed building and inside you will find a wide range of stalls. There are 14 different entrances into Grainger market, all of them unassuming.

Grainger MarketI often go to the Grainger market to take advantage of the range of butchers and fruit stalls. There are also stalls selling books, CD’s, clothes and shoes and hardware items. The range of stalls is diverse and you can easily spend plenty of time browsing.

Grainger Market

There are plenty of hidden treasures within Grainger market. On alley 2 you will find the Weigh House. During the 19th Century it was a legal requirement that all markets had a weigh house. It was used by stall holders and buyers to check the weight of anything they purchased. These days you can still get your weight checked here for a small cost. Hidden inside the weigh house you will find a copy of the oil painting painted by the artist Henry Perlee Parker showing the opening of the Grainger market.

Grainger Market Weigh houseGrainger Market is also home to the Marks and Spencer Original Penny Bazaar, the world’s smallest Marks and Spencer store.

Grainer Market Marks and SpencerGrainger MarketIt is a great example of how the store started life, with the slogan “Don’t ask the price – everything’s a penny”. Looking at the signs over the store is almost a trip back in time, reminiscent of the shops in Beamish Museum.

At the far end of Grainger market is Grainger Arcade which is covered by a steel glazed roof. The original roof was wooden but was burnt down by a fire in 1901.

Grainger market roof

In recent years Grainger market has become a place for artisan food shops and deli’s. If you want somewhere to eat you will be spoiled for choice. There is a range of sandwich shops, tea shops and cafes. You will also find cake shops, bakeries and places to buy gourmet coffee.  The reason for my trip today was to pick up a boxed afternoon tea from the French Oven Bakery for Mother’s Day.

French oven bakeryThe French Oven Bakery is an independent artisan bakery who have a wide range of cakes, bread and sandwiches. They bake everything locally with 98% of their products being made or baked within 1 mile of the shop. If you are unable to get into the store they also do deliveries.

French oven bakeryI wanted to try the Mother’s Day afternoon tea box which contained a mix of sandwiches, scones, macaroons and mini cakes. I thought it would be a really nice treat. I picked up my box easily, it was all ready for me to collect.

Afternoon teaafternoon-tea-3Afternoon teaThat afternoon we enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea. There were ham and pease pudding sandwiches, chicken and bacon sandwiches, carrot cake and brownies, cheese, fruit, date and walnut and cherry scones, a frangipane and a bakewell slice. It was very nice and made a special afternoon treat. The afternoon tea box for 2 was sufficient for three of us and was good value at £12.

If you are in Newcastle the Grainger market is definitely worth a visit, especially if you are looking for somewhere for something to eat. Have you been to Grainger market recently? What are your favourite shops?

Visiting the Yorkshire Coast

A couple of weeks ago we stayed overnight at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel near Scarborough.  We drove there from Newcastle and on the way we stopped to take in a few places along the Yorkshire coast. To get there we had to pass though the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, a place of bleak beauty. Miles of scrubby moors and hills with high gradients. You can imagine the hardship of life out here in the Winter when snow covers the hills. Desolate and uninhabited, you could walk for miles without seeing a soul. The coast is another matter, picturesque towns overlooking the North sea. Fishing boats anchored in the harbours and castles and abbeys sitting on the top of vast looming cliffs. It is not a friendly sea, the mood can change from mild to lashing waves, sweeping people from the shore.


We stopped at Whitby and ate sandwiches, Whitby Abbey looming over us. The shore below was where the boat carrying Dracula was washed ashore in a wild storm, the crew all dead. A large black dog was seen to ascend the steps of Whitby abbey, one of the forms of a vampire. It is easy to see how the Gothic splendour of the abbey inspired the work of Bram Stoker, the ruined Benedictine abbey is stark against the sky.

Whitby AbbeyWhen I visited years ago with some friends from school we took pictures of ourselves rising from the stone dips that resembled graves inside the abbey. We did not visit this time, we just ate our lunch watched by ponies and looked at the view.

Pony at WhitbyWhitbyWe drove along the harbour, enjoying looking at the fishing boats and the old buildings set along the side of the road. The greyness of the day added to the atmosphere, you could sense the history in the stones.

WhitbyWhitbyRobin Hoods Bay

Robin Hoods Bay is a small fishing village located between Scarbough and Whitby. I had visited years ago but my husband had never been. I wanted to revisit and we stopped on our way back home. My son was mystified as to why it was called Robin Hoods Bay, he knew Robin Hood was from Nottingham. The place is well worth a visit, it is like stepping back in time. Brooding cliffs hover over a steep hill where fishing cottages spill down to the sea.

Robin-hoods-bay-2Leave your car at the top of the hill and walk down the twisting descent, past cobbled alleyways and picturesque dwellings. You can imagine smugglers at work here, easily hiding from the customs.

Robin-hoods-bay-3The ascent is steep, take it slowly and look at the range of shops as you pass. It is well worth lingering as you never know what is round the next corner.


Scarborough is a busy seaside town with two bays overlooking the sea. We visited the north bay and drove along the seafront. Large cliffs loomed overhead and the castle was visible in the distance. Golden sands stretched out as far as the eye could see, glowing in the morning light. The last time we visited my son was four and rode on a donkey along the sand. There were no donkeys visible, it was too early in the season.


We found an interesting statue contemplating the sea. It was flat and calm today, but sand covered the road speaking of storm battered shores. I can imagine the waves crashing onto the road when it is rough.

ScarbroughNearer to the town there are more buildings and signs of fishing. Fishing boats anchored in the harbour and stacks of lobster pots. The Grand Hotel stands proudly on the hill, watching over the shore. There are echoes of the past here, you can imagine the Victorians wandering along the shore taking in the sea air and taking the tram back up to the hotel.



Robin-hoods-bay-4We were surprised to see a mention of home as we drove along the shoreline. A packet is apparently a small boat that used to carry mail and this one has been immortalised as a pub.


Out and About Linky

The out and about linky is for any places you have visited, restaurants you have eaten at or holidays you have been on. It is hosted here and also on Chez Maximka. The linky runs until the end of the month. February’s out and about round up had lots of diversity and places that I want to visit. This page has more information about the linky and links to all the previous round-ups.

Rules of the linky

1. You can add up to three posts per month to the linky below. Please make sure they are no older than three months old and feature somewhere you have visited.

2. Tweet your link using #outandabout, if you include @ali991 and @maximka25 we will retweet for you.

3. Do pop along and comment on a couple of other posts in the link up and share the love.

4. We would love it if you could add the #outandabout badge to your post so that other bloggers can find us.

Dragons and Fairy Dust

The Death of the Fields

Last week the sign appeared. It looked innocuous until you read it. It announced the death of the fields. Housing development was imminent. For me the fields were like a taste of country in the city, an ever changing landscape. A place where I could catch glimpses of beautiful sunrises.



A place where I could watch the changing crops and seasons, one year the fields were yellow from the rape seed flowers, another year they were golden from ears of corn.

FieldsA place where wildlife could be seen, butterflies dancing among the nettles, a pheasant making a break for it and running giddily across the field into the distance. Once I disturbed a heron standing in the stream, contemplating the water, before it took off with its wide wings beating the air. A place of tranquillity, where a morning walk is filled with bird song. A place with hidden secrets, where we found hidden apple trees and blackberry bushes. We picked the bounty and went home to make apple and blackberry strudel. A place filled with memories.

We went for a walk by the fields before they disappeared. Taking in the view under brooding skies that were filled with foreboding. The dog was happy to run and play along familiar paths. Happy to be off the lead and exploring. My son ran with him, they raced each other, seeing who was faster.

FieldsThe skies grew darker as we walked, the sun doing it’s best to shine though. Beams of light being filtered thought the clouds.


We reached the dipping pools, nothing stirring in the water, no pond skaters or dragonflies until the weather gets warmed. The floor was muddy as it had been raining and the dog turned from white to brown. We stopped at a bench for a while, taking in the view.


As the skies grew darker we decided to head for home. We had left it late, hail rained down, stinging our faces and turning our hands numb. We ran, trying to find cover. Heading for the woods where we might find shelter under the trees.

FieldsIt stopped before we made it, leaving a frosting of hail over the ground. A frosting that soon disappeared, as if it had never been there. Pretending it had been sunny all along.

FieldsWe got home and made hot drinks, cold but happy from our walk. Enjoying the fields for the last time. Now the diggers and bulldozers have started to appear. Orange lines mark where the houses will be built and portacabins are being put into place. The work will begin soon and the fields will die.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall