Tuesday 28 July 2015

North East Staycation: Beamish, the Living Museum of the North

If you grew up in the North East chances are you went on a few school trips to Beamish and have many fond memories of charging round the open air museum with a clip board in hand.   For people like me who are new to the area, seeing Beamish for the very first time as an adult is pretty special.

I will admit, when it comes to museums I'm a bit of a kid.  I find it hard to get enthusiastic about traipsing round miles of corridors reading facts and figures from a board and I'm usually rushing ahead to see if there's some buttons to push.   Beamish is a museum with a difference, it's a living museum that tells the story of life in the North of England during the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s - it's a walking, talking, smelling, touching experience that truly brings history to life.

Beamish is a huge 300 acres so there's a hefty bit of walking involved for those wanting some exercise.  For those enjoying life at a more leisurely pace, there are vintage trams and buses to take you round the museum.   As this was our first visit and we wanted to get a feel for the whole site we decided to do a full loop on a tram.

It was a very hot day when we visited so we appreciated the nice cool air as we rode the tram.  We managed to get a seat on the top deck for some wonderful views and although it was a little squished it was nice to chat to our fellow passengers.

Once we were back at the entrance we decided to head to the Colliery to learn about life for miners in the 1900s.   Sporting some rather fetching hard hats we ventured down the Mahogany Drift Mine for a tour that was far more authentic than we anticipated.  

Crouching down through the tunnels I realised pretty quickly how essential the hard hats were!   We splashed our way through the damp tunnels, avoided spiders and even got to experience the mines with the lights out to see what it would have been liked to work there.  I emerged with slightly soggy feet, coal smudges on my face and a rather large grin! 

Our next stop was the Pit Village where we headed back to School.  The School was slightly more familiar to me than it may be to other people my age.  I went to Primary School in a Grade II listed building built in 1845 and a lot of its original features were still in use during my time there in the 1980s.  

I hadn't thought about my old school for years but the school at Beamish was in parts almost identical and I found memories came flooding back to me which was quite a special moment.

Thoughts of our packed lunch were forgotten as the most delicious smells filled the air around the Village.  Davy's Fried Fish and Chip Shop had started serving dinner and suddenly our cheese sandwiches just weren't going to cut it!   Serving Fish and Chips cooked using beef dripping in coal-fired ranges they looked too delicious to resist.

The queue for food was pretty lengthy (I've heard at weekends you can be waiting for over an hour) but our lunch was worth the wait and I'd queue again without hesitation.   We ordered dab (half a portion of fish) and chips to share and they were absolutely delicious!  Usually we'd cover fish and chips in ketchup but our lunch from Davy's was perfection on its own.

Bellies full of a delicious lunch we made our way to the 1940s farm to learn about life on the Home Front in the rural North East during the Second World War.

Once inside the Farmhouse we cosied up by the Aga and learnt about food rationing and how the War effected those left at home.

Then it was back outside to visit the animals and learn about farming on a 1940s farm.    We were particularly fond of the pigs who were happily snoozing in the sunshine.

Just down the road from the Farm we stumbled across Rowley Station, an Edwardian railway station complete with signal box and steam trains.   During peak season you can take a ride on a steam train, unfortunately it wasn't running during our trip but it looks pretty amazing.

A quick walk over the footbridge and we found ourselves at the Fairground, complete with carousel and coconut shy.   Simon partook in some pretty enthusiastic ball throwing but unfortunately missed all of the coconuts.

Of course no day trip for us is complete without a naughty afternoon treat and we were happy to discover that there was a tea room at Beamish.  Forgetting about our cheeky fish and chip lunch we ordered a scone each.  A cheese scone smothered in butter for me, and a fruit scone covered in jam and cream for him.

Our favourite part of Beamish was the Town, set in the years leading up to the First World War.  Exploring the cobbled pavements and popping in and out of the various businesses was so much fun and we felt like we'd just stepped out of a time machine.
If you ask Simon what his favourite part of the Town was he'll enthusiastically tell you all about the sweet shop.   With jars upon jars of classics and favourites lining the shelves he was stood in front of the counter for a good few minutes with his mouth wide open before even attempting to make a decision.   I allowed him one paper bag full for good behaviour and he opted for some cherry bon bons.
A day of strolling about in the boiling hot sunshine was a bit too much for some and plenty of people were chilling out in the Town's Redman Park, seeking out shade in the bandstand.  We were happy to learn that the gorgeous bandstand originally stood in our favourite Gateshead Park, Saltwell. 
With closing time approaching we strolled back to the car park and happily stumbled across a farmer ploughing his field.  It was fascinating watching him at work with his horse and old farming equipment.
The beauty of Beamish is that there's always so much going on in different areas of the Museum every day that no two visits would ever be the same and with fun events taking place all year round there's always plenty to do.   Despite being there from opening to closing we didn't quite make our way round to everything and I can see why people return again and again.   Luckily the admission price provides you with entry for the rest of the year and we left wanting more!
The museum is always coming up with new ways to entertain its guests and the most recent plans are to build a 1950s town (so excited about this!)  Just yesterday Beamish announced that it would be taking down an old cinema in Sunderland brick by brick and rebuilding it into the 1950s town.
We were completely blown away by Beamish and had the most amazing day out, it was one of the best attractions I have ever been to and I really can't wait to return!  Just take a look at what they do over Christmas!
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  1. You certainly had a lovely day to visit - we love Beamish. Our favourite parts are riding the teams (Jack could do this all day) and the lovely traditional sweet shop.

  2. Great photos! I really love Beamish, even more on a gorgeous sunny day. Hoping to visit again this summer and will definitely be tucking in to those yummy fish and chips!

  3. Oh wow from the photos everything sure does look amazing - makes me want to visit!

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

  4. We love Beamish!! I wish it were closer as we'd go all the time - the fact that they allow dogs is amazing for us.
    I took Jake for his first ever visit (he's from Bristol so had never been) in February 2014 and he really enjoyed it too. Which is harder than you'd think to get him to enjoy something :P
    It's very different in the summer as opposed to the winter but what with me and my issue with crowds we stick to when the schools are not on holiday lol.
    Lovely photos. Glad you had a good day.


  5. I love reading about your Staycation Chloe, it really is such a brilliant and cheap alternative! Especially when you have so much beauty on your doorstep! I stayed at home in Brighton for a holiday this year and it was one of my favourite so far x

  6. Living museums are the best, glad that you had wonderful weather makes such a difference Lucy x

  7. I love Beamish! My favourite part if definitely the sweet shop especially when they're busy making the cinder toffee then hand it around to taste whilst it's still warm, yummy! I'm definitely going to have to take a trip there soon, it's been years since I've been. I love the school too, all the old toys in the yard are great fun! x

  8. I love that tram and the fact that you can actually move around on it, the whole day looks like brilliant fun

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

  9. Oh my I haven't been to Beamish in years! I used to absolutely love visiting here, it's such a cool place!!

    Megan xo
    Thumbelina Lillie | UK Beauty & Fashion Blog

  10. I've heard of Beamish plenty but I;ve never visited - looks brilliant though and will defo have to bring the young ones up for a visit!

  11. Hi Chloe! I've spent a whole rainy afternoon browsing through your fabulous blog, and have only really scratched the surface. I was born in Newcastle, moved round the world with my parents but settled there from age 18 as Mum and Dad originated from Newcastle. I'm a LOT older than you but such fun to read it all through your eyes. Your blog is an absolute joy - I've smiled at so many memories (I lived in Ponteland just before heading off alone to London and thence to Hampshire, where I now live very happily with my wonderful chap and our crazy Havanese dog called Dudley). I lived at The Coast when first back in the UK (remember Spanish City in its heyday and later on things such as Eldon Square and The Metro Centre being built) then married life in Cramlington before Ponteland. You can imagine how many memories this has stirred up.Your blog is an absolute joy Chloe! So much has indeed changed but the spirit of 'home' is still there through your blog. Thank you - now following you on IG so at least I can find you again! Pssst, I too miss stottie cakes and have been known to carry a bag of them back down on the plane to Southampton when I've flown up to visit my late stepmum. I have learned during this lockdown how to make them - very successfully as well - much to my shock. Sending grateful hugs, Di xx


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