Welcome 2017. The year has begun quietly with frost covering the paths and plants. The years is full of blank days waiting to be written on creating our story for the future. I have hopes for this year, the last two years have been full of health and other issues striking the family. 2017 has an optimistic feel about it. Although frosty the sun is out doing it’s best to warm the air. Birds have been flocking to the garden to enjoy the seed on the bird table providing me endless amusement. I have been hibernating over Christmas, taking the chance to relax and recharge my batteries. It has been a chance to be quiet, catch up with family and work out what I want to do next year. Sometimes a rest is all that is needed to allow you to move into a new year, taking on new challenges.
Before moving on into the New Year it is a good idea to sit back and look at the year that has passed. It is a chance to remember the good moments, achievements and family adventures. We have done a lot this year, some of it still to be written about. I am taking the chance to look back and smile before moving forward. I am not sure where forward will lead but know the year ahead will bring adventures and challenges. The story will unfold as I go. So lets look at what I got up to in 2016.
We started the year with a visit to Kirkley Hall Zoological gardens in Northumberland which is a small zoo containing over 200 animals. There is a mixture of familiar species like rabbits and goats to more exotic animals. As well as being able to see the animals there are sessions where you can get up close to pet them and learn more about them. Kirkley Hall is more than just a zoo, there is also an activity centre with a zip wire. If you prefer something more leisurely you can walk around the hall gardens enjoying the four hectares and stop for a leisurely lunch in the tea rooms
Washington Old Hall is one of those places that I had never been to but had been meaning to for ages. We finally made a visit this year to discover a truly hidden gem. The hall is situated in the old part of Washington which is a picturesque little village in its own right. Washington Old Hall is where the family of George Washington, the American president were from. It is a lovely building which has had a turbulent past and was nearly destroyed. Fortunately it has survived and it is well worth a visit. Walking into the hall is like walking back in time and you can almost hear the echoes of footsteps from the people long ago.
One of my favourite places to visit is Northumberland National Park. The park itself is vast and has so much to see from castles, to Kiedler Water and Forest Park to moors and coast. This year we were lucky enough to be taken on a whirlwind day exploring the some of the places that Northumberland National Park has to offer. We packed a lot into the day, starting in Rothbury which is the gateway to the National Park and discovering Tomlinson’s Cafe and Bunkhouse. If you want to explore the Sandstone Way, the mountain bike trail though the park, this is a great place to stay. In the Simonside Hills and Lordenshaws we discovered an iron age fort and cup and ring markings made by our ancestors. Heading though Otterburn and the Grassless valley we then stopped for a lovely lunch at the Holly Bush Inn in Greenhaugh. We then discovered the Hesleyside Mestival, a 10K obstacle run and outside event before finishing the day at Battlesteads Hotel and Observatory. Here we learnt more about why Northumberland National Park is a dark sky park as well as learning to use binoculars correctly. It was a fascinating day and showed how much there is to discover in Northumberland National Park.
In the summer we also took a boat trip on Kielder water to try and see the ospreys that nest in the area. The breeding programme has been a success over the years with more ospreys returning to nest each year. We did manage to catch sight of one in the sky as well as seeing the fascinating art that is placed around the shores of the lake from the boat.
One thing you may not realise about Northumberland is that it has a stone circle at Duddo. Whilst it is not as big as stonehenge it is somewhere I have wanted to visit for a while. This year we made the trip to find it. The stone circle at Duddo is actually in the middle of a farmer’s field and when we visited the corn had been cropped. The stone circle itself is a mysterious and imposing place and worth a trip if you are passing.
Exhibitions and Events
This year we went to a couple of events at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle. The first one was the Maker Faire which is a celebration of science and invention. Makers from all over the world gather together to show off their inventions and explain them to others. You never know what you are going to see round each corner, it truly is a place for innovation.
The second event we went to was the Body Worlds Animals Inside Out Exhibition which is on until the 8th January. The exhibition is truly fascinating, it allows you to see under the skin of animals which have been preserved using a technique called plastination. It gives you a real insight into how the bodies of animals work. I did think it might be a bit odd before I went but it is truly an amazing way to see animals from large to small. The work that has gone into presenting the animals in a natural way is amazing. It really is a must see.
One place it is worth visiting in Newcastle is Newcastle Castle, it has a fascinating history and the views from the top are amazing. One day we were passing and noticed that Medieval Mischief was on. The castle was transported back in time to the medieval days. There were shows of archery, falconry as well as food stalls featuring food from those times. The mead is well worth sampling if you get a chance.
This year the tall ships paid a visit to Blyth and we went along to see them. We had seen them previously when they came to Newcastle and Hartlepool in previous years but it is always a pleasure to see these ships. The old fashioned rigging makes an impact on the skyline although I wouldn’t like to climb it while the ship was at sea. As well as ships there was a collection of royal navy helicopters and it made an interesting day out.
At Easter we set of for a dog friendly holiday in Wemys Bay. This is on the Scottish coast about an hour from Glasgow. We stayed in a Parkdean caravan site and managed to fit a lot in on our holiday. We took a trip to the Isle of Bute, visited Largs and discovered a number of dog friendly places in the area. We really enjoyed the break and it was lovely to bring our dog, Eddie with us. I am hoping to go back one summer when the viking festival takes place in Largs.
As well as days out and holidays we have had a number of adventures this year. The first one was when we visited Jump360, an indoor trampoline park in Stockton on Tees. It was great fun and my son and his friend had a great time experiencing everything the centre had to offer.
This year was the year that the Great North Snowdogs came to the North East. 61 giant snowdog sculptures were scattered around the area and the challenge was to discover and find them all. We had great fun tracking them down and managed to find 34 of them whilst they were still in place. Sadly the trail has now ended but I did get a chance to say farewell to the snowdogs at the farewell event. It also gave me a chance to find the ones I hadn’t managed to see on the trail. The Great North Snowdogs were auctioned to raise money for St Oswald’s Hospice and more than £250,00o was achieved.
Last year was the year I managed complete a 5K run. When I was invited to take part in the MoRun which helps to raise money and awareness for men’s health I nearly said no. I didn’t and in November I was standing at the starting line in St James Park wondering if I would finish. After some walking and some running I completed the run, amazing myself. I even have the medal to prove it. Can I do a 10K this year?
This year we have been getting adventurous and have been eating out in a few different restaurants in and around Newcastle.
Viva Brazil, Newcastle
When my twitter friends visited Newcastle we met up for the first time and spent a lovely evening eating at Viva Brazil. This is a Brazilian churrasco restaurant where the emphasis is on the meat. After helping yourself at the buffet you sit down and meats are bought to you on a skewer and sliced at the table. It is a dining experience with a difference and we had a lovely night.
El Coto, Newcastle
We took advantage of NE1 restaurant week to visit El Coto, a Spanish tapas resturant near to St James Park. Whilst looking small from the outside it is giant on the inside like a tardis. The restaurant has a rustic and charming feel with good service. We enjoyed the selection of dishes sharing a little bit of them all between us. We would definitely go again.
The Boat Inn, Kielder Water and Forest Park
When we went on our boat trip on Kielder Water we stopped for Sunday lunch at The Boat Inn. The food was nice and reasonably priced and you get wonderful views across the lake. If you are in Kielder it is worth stopping for a bite to eat.
Kingslodge Inn, Durham
The Kingslodge Inn in Durham is a little hidden gem. It is worth seeking out just to experience the ambience in the inn. Warm and cosy with plenty of quirky features to catch the eye. The food is also delicious with plenty to choose from. Kingslodge Inn is not far from the train station and also offers accommodation if you need somewhere to base yourself whilst exploring the area.
Jamie’s Italian, Newcastle
For my birthday we had lunch at Jamie’s Italian in Newcastle and tried their super lunch menu which is great value. The resturant has a lovely ambience inside with plenty of attention to creating a rustic charm. The meal was nice overall, but the pasta dishes could have been more flavourful.
The round up of the year would not be complete unless I shared some of my favourite recipes from the year with you. Why not have a go at making some of these this year.
Thank you for reading my blog this year and wishing you and yours a wonderful 2017. Do you have any landmark moments to remember from 2016? Let me know below.