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.
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.
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).
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.
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…..
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.
We climbed on the tram and travelled to the 1820’s Pockerley Wagon Way.
The kids loved the tram ride and were fascinated with the period dress that the museum attendants were all wearing.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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