North East Family Fun

A UK Family Travel & Lifestyle Blog

Thursday, 17 August 2017

What's On in the North East - Summer Holiday Special | 19th - 25th August 2017

Welcome back to my weekly 'what's on' guide. If you'd like to receive this guide via email every week (it's much easier to refer back to that way), please sign up to my weekly newsletter here.

It's the weekend......

18 - 20 August | Wings & Wheels Festival | Eshott Airfield, Felton

Watch hundreds of aircraft perform stunts in the sky, marvel at classic and super cars and enjoy lots of family fun. Tickets are available from £5.  Find out more here

19 August | Paw Patrol Live | Newcastle Arena

Catch Paw Patrol live on stage this weekend in their "Race to the Rescue' show. Find out more here

19 August | Cardboard Wizardry with Lottie Smith (Space Travel) | Discovery Museum

Head to the Discovery Museum and invent gadgets that will help transport you into space! Tickets should be pre-booked. Find out more here

19 August | Circus Fun | Laing Art Gallery

Join Marty for circus themed challenges and lots of silliness in these special workshops. Tickets cost £6 per child and should be pre-booked. Find out more here

19 August | Peter Pan | Souter Lighthouse 

Chapterhouse Theatre Company will be performing a very special version of Peter Pan in this outdoor theatre at Souter Lighthouse. Tickets should be pre-booked. Find out more here

19 August | Craft Fair | National Glass Centre - FREE ENTRY

The National Glass Centre is hosting a free local craft fair with children's entertainment today. Find out more here

19 August | Our Milo Summer Fun Day | The Parks, North Shields - FREE ENTRY

Expect bouncy castles, inflatable assault courses, face painters, character visits and more in this big family fun day.  Find out more here

19 - 20 August | Arbeia Festival | Arbeia Roman Fort - FREE ENTRY

Arbeia Roman Fort and Time & Tide Events are hosting a special festival dedicated to all things Roman. There will be artisan stalls, have-a-go crafts, demonstrations and re-enactments throughout the weekend. Find out more here

19 - 20 August | Hadrian's Cavalry Live | Great North Museum - FREE EVENT

Visit the Great North Museum across the weekend (11am - 3pm) and you'll be greeted by Hadrian's Cavalry on the front lawn. Find out more here

19 - 20 August | Return of the Romans | Chesters Roman Fort

The Roman's return to Chesters Roman Fort this weekend. Expect demonstrations, re-enactments and lots of Roman-based fun. Find out more here

20 August | The Lost World | Preston Park

Pack a picnic and head down to Preston Park for this outdoor showing. Recommended for older children and their families. Tickets should be pre-booked. Find out more here

20 August | Fairytale & Superheroes day | Ramside Hall

Meet your favourite Princess and Superhero at Ramside Hall Hotel in this special event featuring lots of activities, games and meet and greets. Tickets should be pre-booked. Find out more here

Mid-week fun.......

21 August | Felty Faces | Gateshead Library

Drop into this 'pay as you feel' event and have fun creating some crazy felt faces with The Culture Vulture. All materials are provided. Find out more here

21 - 24 August | Free West Park Summer Play Scheme | West Park, South Shields - FREE EVENT

This event is suitable for children aged 8-14. Enjoy field games and outdoor activities. Find out more here

21 August | Wild Parks - Totally Tree-mendous | Saltwell Park - FREE EVENT

Drop in to this event and take part in free activities including tree ID, tree rubbing and tree hugging. Find out more here

21 August | Fingerprint Bees | Cherryburn

This chance to get crafty is included with normal National Trust admission. Find out more here

21 August | Create a birdhouse | intu Eldon Square - FREE EVENT

intu Eldon Sqaure's 'funner summer' continues today with the chance for children to create their own birdhouse. Find out more here

22 August | Barefoot Mud Painting | Cherryburn

Take off your shoes, get muddy and walk across a giant piece of paper to create your own unique piece of art. Find out more here

22 August | Create a windmill | intu Eldon Square - FREE EVENT

Get creative at intu Eldon Square today and create a colourful paper windmill. All materials are provided. Find out more here

22 August | Mister Twister Magic Show | Playhouse Whitley Bay

Mister Twister returns to the Playhouse with his silly magic show. There will be tricks, balloon modelling, magic, comedy, party games and more. Find out more here

22 August | Read-a-Rama | Seven Stories

Join this unique summer camp in an afternoon event hosted by the University of Washington, USA. The event explores books and activities surrounding taking care of the earth. Free event (admission and pre-booking applies)  Find out more here

23 August | Climb a really big tree day | Cragside

A unique chance to climb some of the tallest trees in the Cragside estate. Find out more here

23 August | Family Ukelele Workshop | Washington Arts Centre

Fancy trying something a little different? How about a Ukelele workshop. Learn your first chords and play a song together. Find out more here

23 August | Build your own bug hotel | Great North Museum - FREE EVENT

Drop into the museum between 11am - 2pm and create your very own bug hotel. Find out more here

23 August | Let's Get Muddy Activity Day | West Boldon Lodge

Don't forget your wellies for this session of muddy fun. There will be the chance to try some mud painting and create your very own mud pie. Find out more here

23 August | The Wind in the Willows | Gibside

Gibside are hosting a very special outdoor performance of The Wind in the Willows in the walled garden tonight. Tickets should be pre-booked.  Find out more here

It's almost the weekend.......

24 August | Play + Invent - Transforming Transport | Discovery Museum - FREE EVENT

Drop in to this event and create your own transport themed cardboard fun. Find out more here

24 August | Digit Planting | Dalton Park - FREE EVENT

Join Dalton and his free workshop next to M&S. No need to book - simply drop-in Find out more here

24 August | Seashore Safari | Souter Lighthouse

Join a wildlife ranger and explore the creatures of the rocky shore together. Find out more here

24 August | Wonderful Wood Workshop | WWT Washington

Drop-in throughout the day and learn how to create something wonderful from wood with the help of expert Mark Crowley. This event is suitable for all ages and abilities and included in admission. Find out more here

25 August | Bug hunting and pond dipping | Cragside

Learn about the creatures that live under water and how they differ from those on land. Included with normal National Trust admission. Find out more here

25 August | Rock Pool Ramble | St Aidans Beach, Seahouses

Rangers will be on hand to help you look for crabs, star fish and maybe even lobsters. Find out more here


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Disney On Ice Weekend at Blue Reef Aquarium | Kids Go Free | 19 & 20 August 2017

*This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for details

Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure is coming to the Metro Radio Arena in October, and Blue Reef Aquarium has joined forces with Disney On Ice to celebrate in style!

For one weekend only, on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 August, 2017, Blue Reef is offering free entry to younger visitors dressed as their favourite Disney characters, and inviting them to take the Disney On Ice trail through the aquarium to enter a lucky draw to win one of five sets of family tickets to the opening night of Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure  at the Metro Radio Arena on Tuesday 3rd October. This offers a massive saving of up to £8.25 per child. 

The lucky winners will join Mickey and friends on a timeless journey, exploring the worlds of Disney’s The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan and Frozen. Plus, warm up at the Fit to Dance pre-show featuring Zootropolis! Upbeat music, lovable characters and unforgettable moments making an experience to cherish forever!

The Disney On Ice themed weekend will include free arts & crafts, story reading and bookmarks, and one mammoth prize of a pass to win free family entry for a year to Blue Reef, and VIP entry to the opening night of Disney On Ice, with pre-show hospitality, a meet and greet with two members of the cast, and goody bags for the kids! To enter, visitors will be invited to take a selfie alongside The Little Mermaid’s Ariel, upload it to Facebook and tag Blue Reef Aquarium and Disney On Ice.

If you have not visited Blue Reef Aquarium before, check out Life In Geordieland's review here. It's lots of fun for kids and perfect when teamed up with a trip to Cullercoats beach. 

Costume Inspiration (affiliates)


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Primary School Uniform - Where to invest and where to save

It feels like we've only just started the school holidays but my mind has already been thinking of buying the kids' new school uniform. In fact I've already bought the majority of it (although I can guarantee I'll be buying a few things at the last minute too - that's just me). I've been buying school uniform for over 7 years now and with three children to buy for, I thought I'd share my experiences of where to save and where to spend money.

Winter Coats - SPEND

I always, always invest in a decent winter coat for the kids towards the end of September. This coat will see them throughout the winter and it must be super warm, keep them dry, have a hood and pockets. We walk to school (and it's a 25 minute walk) so it's vital that a good coat will keep them warm and dry. I usually buy their coats from Joules, Next or Marks and Spencers but I am very tempted to splash out on a Barbour coat from the outlet near us for them all this year.

Heidi's Winter Coat from Next

Spring Coats - SAVE

Spring coats don't need to be as warm and as long as they are shower proof and have a hood, that's fine with me. I spend about 1/3 on the kids' Spring coat as their summer coat and will happily pick up a spring coat from the supermarket.

School Shoes - SPEND

Again, because we walk to school, shoes are something that I definitely think you should invest in. Heidi has worn Start-rite shoes for the past couple of years and they really do last well. They are comfortable, waterproof and last for at least 6 months. Heidi has worn these Fleur shoes during the last 2 months of term and there's hardly a mark on them!

PE Kits - SAVE

There's no point in splashing out on designer trainers or sportswear when your children are in Primary School in my opinion - plenty of time for that in their teenage years! 

Trousers - SPEND

I buy the boys' school trousers from M&S or Sainsburys. I love that they don't need to be ironed and have been reinforced to withstand lots of rough and tumble. In all my years of buying from M&S / Sainsburys, I've never once had to replace trousers due to them becoming shabby. I also like that they have an adjustable waistband. 

Skirts - SAVE

Now I don't know what it is but for some reason, I can get away with buying Heidi cheaper skirts. I am not brand-loyal and will just pick a school skirt up anywhere that I see an offer!

Socks & Tights - SAVE

I buy all of the kids' socks, tights and underwear from good old Primark. A top tip is to buy different colours and PLAIN so they're easy to match. Harry has plain grey socks, Jack plain black and Heidi black tights/white socks. They are so cheap that you don't mind replacing every season if you have to. 

T-Shirts and Shirts - SPEND

Cheaper T-shirts tend to fade and thin fairly quickly in my opinion and buying something of higher quality means that you'll actually get more washes per wear. I like to buy from M&S or Sainsburys.

Summer Dresses - SAVE

A summer dress is a summer dress to me. The quality doesn't really matter as they don't get to wear them that often! I just tend to buy them whenever I see them for £2/£3 in the sale somewhere. 

School & Lunch Bags - SPEND

I wash our lunch bags at least once a week so I need them to be of good quality and aren't going to fall apart after 2 minutes. Harry is very particular and likes a bag with a shoulder strap so he can carry across his body if he cycles to school. The same goes for school bags - the kids have quite a bit of stuff to carry to school so I want a bag that is going to be comfortable and stylish for them so don't mind spending a little extra.

Hats & Gloves - SAVE

Gloves and kids are so annoying. There isn't a week goes by in the winter when one of my children will lose one! Because of this, I stock up and buy multiple of the same plain pairs from Primark at the beginning of the season. If anyone has any tips on how to stop kids losing their gloves, I'm all ears!

If you're looking for more advice on what uniform to buy this year, I highly recommend reading this post by Family Makes as various brands are put through their paces.

A huge thanks to Start-Rite for gifting Heidi her school shoes this year. I only ever promote brands that I have thoroughly tried and tested and I'm confident I can recommend. Start-Rite are definitely one of these brands and are a brand I have bought from and been very happy with in the past. Start-Rite are running an offer throughout the school holidays where you can receive 30% off a pair of trainers or plimsols when bought with a pair of school shoes. They also provide lots of advice and measuring tools on their website here and FREE next day delivery until 10 September. 

Let me know where you spend and where you save when shopping for school uniform.


Monday, 14 August 2017

The Fat Hippo | NEW Kids Menu - perfect for fussy eaters

*Collaborative post - please see my disclosure policy for details

Breaking News! The Fat Hippo launched a new kids menu today. Harry, Heidi and Jack were invited down to put the new menu through it's paces tonight. We visited The Fat Hippo Jesmond and it was busy, busy, busy so reservations are definitely recommended if you don't want to be disappointed. 

The Fat Hippo feels like a very cool place to take your kids and I know we'll be bringing the kids here in years to come - probably even into adulthood. The Jesmond restaurant was mostly made up of families with grown up children catching up but little ones don't feel out of place here either (check out this post from our visit in 2015 when the kids were aged 4, 6 and 7 if you fancy a trip down memory lane)

A lot of thought and detail has been put into the kids menu and H, H and J all loved the special Fat Hippo touches such as the box to design your own burger and the hippo swamp colouring in activity. It certainly kept them occupied.

The children's menu is £6 and suitable for under 12s. I love that it's now completely customisable and kids can pick a patty (beef, bean, breaded chicken or plain chicken), toppings, sauces, garnishes and side. If your children fancy a chicken burger with cheese, chorizo, mustard and pickles - their wish will be granted. Or if like Jack they prefer just breaded chicken and cheese with no sauce, again it's no problem. Kids can build their own burgers exactly to their own specification - perfect if they're going through a fussy phase or simply can't stand to eat anything that has so much as touched a lettuce leaf.

Heidi was also delighted to find that there are now options other than burgers on the menu now too. Heidi's not really a burger eater in general and always prefers a pasta dish where possible and she thoroughly enjoyed her mac and cheese which comes with a side and a choice of sauce too. You can also order chicken fingers if burgers aren't your thing.

The portions are huge! Harry loves burgers but Jack's not so keen on bread. They made some sort of pact where Jack promised Harry he would try a burger this time as Harry always says they are the best. Jack loves his food and he was well chuffed when a huge burger was placed down in front of him. I have no idea how he managed to eat it all (plus dessert!).

A Fat Hippo burger is one of Harry's favourite foods of all time and you can see how happy he was to be tucking in. He'd been looking forward to this visit all week - I need something new to bribe him with now!

Then for Heidi.....Mac and Cheese which she also thoroughly enjoyed.

Kids can order Hippo Juice, Cordial or Milk as part of the £6 deal or pay £2 extra to upgrade to a shake which of course my three wanted to do. I stole a sip and it was so good! In fact, I think they should serve these half portions on the adult's menu as the normal shakes always fill me up too much.

The Fat Hippo's not all about the kids. In fact, Steve has declared The Fat Hippo Underground as his number one restaurant in Newcastle. We'd already enjoyed Fat Hippo burgers earlier in the month at a local food festival but honestly, I don't think you can ever have enough. Steve brought his herd card along and of course, he had to order a secret menu item. He was going to go for a 6 x 6 until I told him not to be ridiculous so settled for a Sloppy Joe instead. He loved it and even declared it as his new favourite burger above his beloved PB&J. If you'd like access to the secret menu, simply sign up to the herd here. It's free to join! 

Me, I'm a creature of habit and 9/10 I order 'The Fat Hippo' burger. Why change something if you love it? Fat Hippo burgers are the type of burger you do get messy eating as they are so huge and juicy but it's best to just dive in and get on with it.

Despite eating at The Fat Hippo on numerous occasions, I have yet to try a dessert. After starters, mains and shakes I am always far too full. I had a game plan to make it happen this time - we skipped starters and I ordered wine rather than a shake. This meant I could just about squeeze in dessert. The kids ordered a Fat Hippo Brownie (£2 supplement) which is just the cutest brownie I have ever seen! It looks quite dry in this pic but that's just the lighting - it was actually super moist and chocolaty and served with a butterscotch sauce which reminded us of a swamp. Clever! I love the branding at The Fat Hippo - they really do have it spot on.

No Hippo-shaped desserts for the grown ups (FYI Fat Hippo - you should add the hippo brownies to your secret menu) and Steve's looked rather boring in comparison. It seems like kids get all the fun! It tasted just as good though. I went for a delicious Toblerone cheesecake - a lovely treat in lieu of my normal milkshake.

The New Fat Hippo Children's menu is available from all branches as of today. Fat Hippo restaurants are perfect for an informal and fun meal out with kids that will be enjoyed by all. I would especially recommend The Fat Hippo Underground which is ideally located next to Newcastle's Theatre Royal and a perfect spot to enjoy a pre-theatre dinner with kids. Jack always loves going to what he calls 'the underground restaurant'. Let me know if you fancy it.


FREE Activities at Gibside | Summer Holidays 2017

Gibside is one of our favourite National Trust properties. We mainly love visiting because of their fantastic Strawberry Castle Play Area which has to be one of the best in the North East. Gibside is a large site and there's always lots to see and explore and over the summer holidays, there are even more activities on offer. We popped in on a whim last week after enjoying the FREE Derwent Park Sculpture Trail from the Thornely Woodland Centre. Gibside is just up the road and the sun had just popped it's head out from behind the clouds and we were keen to make the most of the sun. You just never know how long it's going to last these days! 

We decided not to visit the Strawberry Castle Play Area and instead we fancied seeing what else the estate had to offer families in the school holidays. We asked at reception and were told today was Georgian Plant Day. We were provided with a free trail around the grounds to complete that was based around Georgian Plants. If we successfully completed the trail, our children would be rewarded with a packet of cress seeds. This was all the incentive they needed - my kids love growing cress!

Aguide to what's on over the summer holidays at Gibside 

With our trail maps in hand, we managed to follow the route and successfully decipher the code. I'm really pleased we decided to try something new as despite visiting Gibsde approximately 500 times and even staying overnight in their Yurts, I had never visited the Orangery! The views of the surrounding Gateshead countryside really are stunning. 

We popped into Gibside as part of our day out with NewcastleGateshead where we spent 24 hours exploring rural Gateshead. Gibside wasn't on our itinerary for the day but we just could not resist popping in for an hour. We made a video from our day featuring Gibside, the Thornley Woodland Centre Sculpture Trail, lunch at Daniel Farm and bushcraft and wild camping at Birkhead's. You can watch what we got up to below: 

Gibside has to be one of the best places in Gateshead to enjoy a family walk. We loved the beautiful views, spending quality time together and of course, leaving with a packet of cress to grow at home too. 

Summer holiday activities at Gibside are FREE for National Trust members. Entry fee applies to non-members. Why not discover what else there is to do in Gateshead's Great Outdoors by visiting their website here. 

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Sunday, 13 August 2017

Exploring Gateshead's Great Outdoors | Wild Camping at Birkhead's Wild

*This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for further details

We're huge fans of camping and usually, I always book a pitch with electric hook up and our tent is normally a real home from home. I will choose glamping over camping if I can. Steve however, has been asking if we can go wild camping for ages so when the opportunity presented itself to experience 'almost wild camping' as part of our weekend exploring Gateshead's Great Outdoors, I just had to agree. 

About Birkheads Wild

Birkhead's Wild describes itself as a place for free range humans. They are a Social Enterprise based in rural Gateshead who aim to provide young people with the chance to discover, explore and enjoy the great outdoors. I love this description from their Facebook page: 

The site's owner Fiona provides a range of activities throughout the year ranging from an after school forest school club to health retreats and the opportunity for wild camping to be enjoyed by groups. The site is particularly popular with cubs, scouts, brownies, those completing their Duke of Edinburgh Awards & school groups who can use the site to achieve badges and learn new skills. Find out more via the Birkhead's Wild website here. 

Try Wild Camping with your family 

Birkhead's Wild also offer a couple of family camping weekends - this year they're on 1 & 8 September. Numbers are very limited and it's a rare chance for families to enjoy some off-grid living with camp fires, outdoor showers and 1.5 acres of space to enjoy in rural Gateshead. Prices are just £25 to pitch a family tent for 4-6 people or £15 to pitch a tent for 2-3 people. Keep up to date with future events by liking the Birkheads Wild Facebook page here. 

Email to enquire and book. Places are very limited. 

Our Wild Camping Experience 

First of all, we are super lucky that we managed to experience Birkhead's Wild as such a small group. Normally the site is only let out to larger groups (although this may change next year). We telephoned Fiona on arrival (the entrance is near Birkhead's Secret Garden) and she greeted us with a couple of luggage trolleys. We parked our car by the side of the track and unloaded our gear. It's a short walk to the wild camping site and the trolleys were a life saver. There are three main areas for families to explore - a community garden.vegetable patch (you can help yourself to veg too), the main camping field and a small pond area. You are surrounded by countryside and woodland and it is definitely not what you'll picture in your head when you think of Gateshead. 

Building a Campfire

We started our experience with a taster session of the kind of thing Birkheads Wild can offer. We knew that we wanted to learn how to build a fire from scratch (after many disastrous attempts ourselves) and Fiona happily obliged. The site has it's own campfire area and we all managed to create a flame from everyday materials you could find in the woods around us. It was a challenge but great fun and fantastic for all of our self-esteem. Fiona was patient with us all and really was the perfect teacher. I feel super grateful that we've all been taught this survival skill (who knows - we might actually use it one day) and we've been inspired to start all of our campfires in future this way. 

Once we'd learned this skill, Steve and I left the kids in Fiona's capable hands to build our main fire as we put our tent up (it's a new Coleman Cabral 5 with black out bedrooms - you can read a review here).

H, H and J were super proud of their fire-building efforts and couldn't wait to show us their fire. We were impressed! After this, Fiona left us to our own devices explaining we could send her a quick text or give her a ring if needed. 

We had brought our own camping stove along but the opportunity to cook on an open fire does not present itself very often so we decided to cook sausages on the fire the kids had made. Fiona kindly said we could use her proper camping pan and OMG those sausages tasted amazing! Cooking on a campfire is something we've never experienced and it was lovely trying something new together. 

This of course had to be followed by the toasting of marshmallows. Fiona had already safety briefed us and the kids on the best way to do this - you need to sit outside of the fire square and kneel down rather than stand over the fire. 

We spent some time back at the tent where the kids invented some sort of game that involved them running around (I have no idea what it was) and Steve and I just sat back and relaxed. We shared a few stories together and it was very nice feeling like I didn't have to constantly check my phone! 

The kids started getting sleepy so it was back to the camp fire for hot chocolates. Fiona had kindly left us a tub by the fire which was much appreciated. 

Washing up, water and compost loo 

Fiona will leave a barrel of drinking water by the camp fire which can be used for washing up at the special washing up station too and the loo is a compost toilet which sounds grim but it's honestly fine and super clean.  It's actually kind of cute! 

Sleeping in a field

It was honestly so peaceful. The kids played out until sunset and we all retired to our bedrooms at around 10pm. It was lovely and quiet (and dark thanks to our tent) and we slept until 8:30am the following morning. 

Fiona provided us with a camping care package which featured everything from ear plugs to marshmallows and eye masks which the kids loved. There were also hot water bottles and even a solar charger in there too. Everything has been considered. 

Our campfire had fizzled out over night so we did use our camping stove for breakfast. We had picked up some bacon from Daniel Farm and used it to make the best bacon sandwiches we'd tasted in a while. After breakfast, we packed up our tent, collected our rubbish bags (the site has a leave no trace policy so all rubbish should be taken home) and used to trolleys to take our luggage back to our car. Fiona waved us off and we left feeling fantastic - we'd really spent some quality time together, we'd all learned new life skills and most importantly, we'd had fun! We would all give Birkheads Wild a huge 10/10 and can't believe this gem of a place is tucked away in rural Gateshead right under our noses. We are very lucky to live where we do.

Check out this video from our time exploring Gateshead's Great Outdoors and visit the Gateshead's Great Outdoor's website to plan your own adventure around rural Gateshead. 

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