Tuesday @ Beamish Open Air Museum

I recently sat down with the kids and asked what kind of places they would like to visit on day trips. Although museums were not high on their list, Beamish Open Air Museum was mentioned by everyone.

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Upon reflection, it must be at least 30 years since I was last there and I have wanted to go and have a look round for quite some time. (scandalous that I haven’t been really as its only 20 mins up the road) Surely it must have changed in that time?

The plan was to get up and go on Monday morning, as we all know I am not a fan of getting anywhere late. Well, when we got up on Monday morning to say it was pouring down is an understatement. We had a chat and changed our plans, deciding instead to go on Tuesday.

We woke up to drizzle but the weather lady promised that it was going to brighten up by lunch time and as the morning progressed it looked like this may well happen.

Car filled with children, water proof coats in the car and off we went. The drive took us about twenty minutes as predicted and we arrived to the sun peeping through the clouds.

Beamish is located in the North East of England, to get here you must follow the A1M to Junction 63 (Chester-le-Street exit), then the A693 towards Stanley for 4 miles, following the signs. Beamish is well sign posted and easy to find once you get here.

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There was ample parking and we, with us getting there for 10 am, got parked in the first part of the car park without a problem. We unpacked the car of children, coats and the bag of treats I had packed for lunch and snacks. (I did this as Libby and Penny are grazers, there is however a Cafe at the entrance, one in the town section and several places along the way to stop of for various drinks, treats and nibbles).

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The Beamish Unlimited Ticket and Admission price is reasonable. Considering you can use it whenever your like with the exception of special events. It so very worth it, this will become more clear to you as I tell our story.

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One thing I will say to anyone who is going,  make use of the cash machine at the main entrance or call at one before you go. I didn’t think about this and there was so much more we would have bought along the way had I have paid a visit too one (Of course there was no cash machines in the 1900’s….DOH, my bad)

We entered and immediately began our journey in to the past…..

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You have the option of walking around the site, riding a tram to various stops along the way or if you prefer you can catch a bus.

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We climbed on the tram and travelled to the 1820’s Pockerley Wagon Way.

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The kids loved the tram ride and were fascinated with the period dress that the museum attendants were all wearing.

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There are plenty of information points that explain the history of what you are about to see. Also, many attendants that are there too ask any questions you may have and guide you along your way.

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Penny was in her element splashing in muddy puddles but was rather disgruntled that this big girl didn’t want to talk to her, or acknowledge her for that matter. She was far too interested in munching her way through the food.

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Inside you are instantly welcomed with the heat from an open fire and the authenticity of the workshop. Full of fascinating information about George Stephenson and exhibits that include his actual lathe. There are several replicas of early steam engines and it also houses the carriages for the Steam Ride that you can have around the site (Unfortunately we timed this completely wrong and didn’t get a chance but we will do next time).

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We came outside again and Mark took some time looking around the old truck that was parked up, taking in it’s every inch.

Staying on foot we wandered down to St Helen’s Church. I have only just read the story about the church, well worth a read. What a fantastic job in rebuilding it they have done. It is quaint, pretty and in such a lovely setting within the museum. Everyone bar me climbed up the very narrow staircase to the balcony in the church and viewed the bell.

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After explaining a few things to the kids, like what the steps outside the church grounds were for and that we had walked the wrong way, we were on our way to Pockerley Hall.

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The landscape is so authentic, with the fences and gates looking like they would have done, the fields have been ploughed as they would have been with huge mounds in the ground and also the waterwheel that would have been used by the railway. Everywhere you look there is something to draw your eyes in.

We entered Pockerley Hall Grounds and the children instantly found the pigs and much too their disappointment they were fast asleep in their enclosure. (Penny was determined to wake them up, but they weren’t having any of it).

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The house is very authentic and wandering around you quickly realise how much harder people had it way back when. With animals hanging to dry, a room set up for smoking meat, a bedroom full of grain and beds crammed in everywhere. Downstairs there was a gentleman making biscuits in front of an open fire (which on a hot day must be a nightmare, it was hot enough without the sun). The kids each got one and we had a look at the dining room.

During the summer holidays Beamish have had a Summer Fun Event running and on Tuesday one of these events was making pots in Pockerley Hall Gardens, It was very busy so the Children didn’t get a chance to have a go but they were watching very closely.

By this point Little Legs was tired and ready for another adventure on the Tram or Bus. So we waited at the stop and boarded the Bus to the town.

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Out of the few bits I remember from my trip 30 years ago the town is one. Well specifically the sweet shop.

We got off the tram and made our way along looking in all the shops along the way, from pie tins, to high chairs, motor repairs to fabric, there was so many examples of things from the past. Most of the shops sell things (and accept modern currency) that are an example of items used way back that we still like to use today.

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Further along was the chemist, a shop making lemonade and cola and the bakers. The kids would have stood and watched all day if I had allowed them and I would have bought half the bakery. The smells were amazing and the produce so fresh and yummy.

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On the opposite side of the street is the Freemasons Hall. Now I know of people of the older generation that have been Freemasons but it isn’t something I have ever known much about. It was really interesting to learn more and wander around the Masonic Hall and look at the exhibits and information they have to share.

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By this point we had a very tired Penny, who was starting to complain about tired legs. So we started to consider lunch.

Next door to the Masonic Hall is Barclays Bank. In there we looked at old currency and listened to the Staff within the bank telling us about the coins of the time and then had a look in The Vault.

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So that brought us to bribery, The Sweet Shop was upon us and it was our ticket to keep the kids going around the last few spots in The Town before stopping for lunch.

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I can’t remember the last time I ordered a quarter of sweets but we got a quarter each of Jelly Beans, Dolly Mixture and Gobstoppers. Kids happy we looked at the Coach Works, The Car/Bike Sales Room, The Pub, The Terraced houses of the Music Teacher and the Solicitor.

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The weather by now was glorious so we went and sat down in the gardens opposite and Mark went a got a sandwich. The Cafe does accept card payments and I would advise to do this as when you get to the fairground you will need cash. We relaxed in the sun and had some lunch, the kids ate what I brought for them and Mark munched on a sandwich.

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Once done (which didn’t take long as Penny munched all her way round) we had a slow walk to the Railway bridge. Penny loves trains so seeing this one in action was fascinating to her. Daddy took some good photos for her too.

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We wandered over to the fairground and grabbed a bench. The rides come in at £1.50 each and the amusements at 50p each. Regan and Libby both had a go on the carousel. While they were over on that Mark and I checked the time and at 2pm and having a very tired little legs we decided that we would leave the rest for another day.

There is so much to take in, all of it fascinating, so we decided that we will see what the weather is like next weekend and have a look through then to finish the rest of the museum off. (In hope we can see some awake pigs this time).

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We broke the news to the kids and had a slow walk up to the tram stop to take us back to the main entrance.

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We jumped on the Tram and rode back up, waving along the way to all the people walking by, arriving back shortly after.

We really enjoyed our day out, I highly recommend Beamish to you enough. In our case taking a pushchair would have been a good idea. The tickets acting like an annual pass means you don’t have to miss bits, you could do half one visit and then half on another.

Another point of interest is should you wish to get the bus to Beamish, Go North East have a bus that services the Museum. Not only do they service the Museum but if you present your ticket you will be entitled to a 25% discount on your entry.

There are no complaints from us, praise go to the staff, to the First aider who saw to the little boy on our Tram that got stung and to the Museum itself. What a unique treasure it is for the North East.

See you soon

xxxxx

The Cellar Door

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Wow……

There is simply no other way I could possibly begin my review for The Cellar Door.

A date night for Mark and I is a very rare occurrence, so when we were invited to The Cellar Door it seemed a perfect opportunity for us to do just that.

I love Durham and love nothing more than being able to sit and look out over the river.

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We parked up and walked up over Elvet Bridge, taking in the view of the river and then making our way up Saddler Street. The Cellar Door is located about half way up the road to the Cathedral.

The entrance is a small door way, well signed, and access is gained down some stairs to the Restaurant.

Never have I felt such a welcoming environment in a Restaurant. The gentleman that greeted us was very polite and sat us at our table making us feel like nothing would be a problem. Introducing us to the daily special, he invited us too peruse the Menu and he would return shortly for our drinks order.

The Cellar Door have a Menu that changes with the seasons, not only do they use seasonal produce but the ingredients they use are sourced locally. They also have a Lunch Menu which is equally as easy on the eye.

I personally love to know that restaurants are keeping things local and knowing that the Menu changes so frequently excites me. It highlights the passion of the Chef for me.

The Restaurant itself is open and bright, the tables are simple and clean but it all comes together to make such a welcoming atmosphere. The views are amazing and it would be amazing to sit in the garden on a sunny day and enjoy a meal, looking out over the river.

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Mark and I being us, we couldn’t decide who was designated driver so we were both on the non alcoholic lager. However, the Drinks Menu is extensive and has a good selection of Wines, Cocktails, Spirits and Soft Drinks.

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Our drinks were delivered and our order was taken.

Unexpectedly, the waitress delivered us a “Pre Starter”.

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Spicy Butternut Squash Soup, with a Bread Roll and a selection of three dips, Rapeseed Oil, Unsalted Butter and a Balsamic Glaze.

We were both blown away with the flavour and also how well the dips complemented the flavour of the soup. Simply delicious and it left us excited as to what the Starter would bring.

Massive compliments go to the waiting staff, they were very attentive and looked after us very well.

Our Starters……

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Venison Carpaccio with Pickled Blueberries and Egg Yolk Melba

Beautifully presented with the smoke filled glass, it tasted equally as beautiful. The only thing Mark would have changed was that he was too keen to eat it and would leave the smoke filled glass for another minute or so should he have it again.

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Pear Cider Belly Pork with Nduja, Scotch Egg and Beetroot Gel

After deliberating and reducing the Starters on the Menu down to a choice of two after a week of looking, I was delighted to have the choice taken away from me when we were told this was the special for the evening.

It melted in the mouth and every mouthful was a delight.

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Is it wrong to say by this point we were excited for what was coming next??

I hope not, because we had every right to be…..

Main Course

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Lamb Rump with Pistachio Crumb, Sweet Potato and Feta Pan Haggerty and a Date Jus

I wouldn’t normally go for the lamb but I am so happy I did. It, like the pork, melted in the mouth, I have never had meat so tender and succulent. Every part of the dish complemented the lamb and I wouldn’t hesitate to order this again.

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Beetroot Five Ways, Fresh, Grilled, Pickled, Crisps, Gel with Quinoa Salad, Aubergine, Bacon and Lime Dressing

Mark loves Beetroot and was so drawn to this dish from the moment he viewed the Menu. In his own words “ I have only ever had it pickled and would love to make sure it is the beetroot I like and not just the pickling”. He wasn’t disappointed. Not only did it taste good, but it was food for the eyes too, so colourful,pretty and well presented.

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Chunky Chips and Feta Bon Bons

We also ordered a side dish each to accompany the Main Course. There will be no surprise to you when I say they were simply divine.

The Waitress came and took away our plates and offered us the Dessert Menu.

It would be rude not too order at least one pudding now wouldn’t it?

Mark isn’t a pudding kind of guy and enjoyed the full feeling while finishing off his beer.

Pudding to me is a must, so of course I ordered one.

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Cherry & Chocolate Mousse, Black Cherry & Kirsch Ice Cream

WOW….

It was a Chocolate fans dream, the mousse was rich and smooth and the Cherries and Ice Cream complemented it perfectly.

To say we were blown away by what The Cellar Door has to offer is an understatement. We both came away and said that it quite simply was the best meal we had ever had. Up until a few weeks ago we had never heard of The Cellar Door, how I don’t know, but for us, it was a hidden gem. We will certainly be returning.

Upper most compliments go to the Chef’s and The Front of House Team, food and service that good are few and far between. I would recommend a visit to anyone.

A massive thank you to you all for a wonderful night and divine dining experience. See you all again soon.

xxxxx

Messy Kitchen Day (Afternoon)

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I have been taunted by both Regan and Libby since the holidays began (actually since before they started) about having a Baking Day in the six weeks holiday.

I kept my plans for the day under wraps as, like most kids I am sure, the moment you mention what you are up too, the when, what for and whys start. That in turn stresses us out and then the whole thing becomes a chore not a pleasure, anyway…..

Whilst ripping out cupboards yesterday (trying to find my missing Birth Certificate) I came across a large amount of my recipes. It seemed therefore, that today was a good day to bake.

Shopping list written we headed off to Tesco.

The kids were over the moon when we stopped in the baking aisle. Inevitably, when I had added to the basket the content of my list the girls attention was drawn to the Cupcake Mix Sets. Personally, I love these little sets. They allow the girls to help without making too much mess, they enjoy it and it keeps them amused for a few hours (whilst making and playing cafes with the end product).

Once home, I set about clearing the mess that the lads had left behind them on the morning (seems they can find the clean plates but have no idea have to restack them in the dish washer once dirty).

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First up on the baking list was Penny with her “Finding Dory” Cupcake Kit. The two kits I bought today are made by Fiddes Payne.

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Penny had such concentration on her face while sorting the cupcake cases out in to the tray. Libby was keen to take over but the stubborn Little Madam wouldn’t let her anywhere near, completing the task herself, looking very proud about it too.

Mixture in bowl, egg cracked and butter in the bowl, we got the electric mixer out and she ran a mile. (She has an issue with loud noises, she doesn’t like the hoover, mixer, hand dryers…..if its loud she shys away).

Cake mixed, they went in to the oven.

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In the meantime we did the dishes and set about the Shopkins set that Libby had picked. I have to say I was really impressed with the contents of the kit for the price. We had the cake mix, pink icing mix, sprinkles, and lolly pop sticks with stickers to pop on them. Lots to keep her busy.

We mixed her cake mix, Libby cracking the egg (no shell thank goodness) and mixing herself.

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Once Penny’s cakes had come out Libbys went straight in.

In the meantime we made Penny’s Icing causing a flurry in the kitchen with Icing Sugar covering everything.  Libby insisted in applying the icing and Penny applied the characters.

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Libby’s cakes quickly followed and the pink icing got applied while I helped with the lolly sticks and stickers.

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Girls cakes done I set about making the list of cakes that I had made this morning. My mission was to make a Banana Cake as the lads decided they fancied some bananas and they have sat there uneaten for a week. Determined not to bin them a cake seemed like a sensible option. The other recipes just fell on too my list, well that is my story and I am sticking to it.

Sticky Confetti Cake

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Sensibly, I had some forward thinking. I knew once I started baking getting Penny to bed would be a nightmare so getting her cakes made meant that while I made this one she could have her tea, watch some Cbeebies and chill out before bed and when I took her to bed the other two could decorate it.

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(I have been told I have to point out the Red plate is Libby’s and the Green plate is Regan’s)

Such a simple, moist and yummy cake to make and Regan and Libby had great fun decorating it with Smarties, Frozen Sprinkles and Hundreds and Thousands. It kept them busy for a good 45 mins before keeping them quiet for 15 mins while they ate some.

Banana Cake

To say I am gutted about this cake is an understatement. Mum always used to make one and made it look simple and to be fair it was.

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I got it in the oven and it looked, smelt, and felt perfect. Took it out of the oven and it was perfectly cooked. I let it rest as instructed and loosened the edges, turned it out on to the tray and gave it a tweek and a tap……it ripped in half. It does however taste great and next time I will invest in some of the loaf parchment inserts for the tin.

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As you can see, the disaster didn’t stop the lads from tucking in to it…

Chocolate Malt Cake

No baking day is complete without me forgetting to get an ingredient. 400g of Plain Chocolate, turned in to 400g of Milk Chocolate as my corner shop didn’t have the plain.

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Still, it worked well. The recipe I used was from one the BBC Good Food magazine supplements and for the life of me I can not find it online but the one I have linked to is very similar.

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With chocolate and butter melting, egg and sugar frothing, Ovaltine mixing, and lots of folding, the cake was put in the oven and the timer was set.

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After the Banana Cake disaster I wasn’t holding out for a miracle but OMG what a delicious cake. Firmer than a brownie but still full of chocolate goodness like a brownie. Mmmmmmm…..

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Then last but not least I may have sneaked a Brownie Mix in the basket too….

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Overall I think the Baking Afternoon was a success….very messy but thank goodness for the dishwasher it takes so much stress out of MissionCleanUp at the end. A sweeping brush round the floor and all tidy…….

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