A family of 5 with a zest for life

What's On in the North East for Kids | March 2018

I am SO excited for the arrival of March! We have a couple of plans so far including a trip to Manchester Legoland Discovery and Museum of Science & Industry to see the capsule Tim Peake travelled back from space in. It's just over 2 hours to Manchester on the train from Newcastle and I've never taken the kids for a day out so I'm really looking forward to it. We're also taking a trip to Scarborough with our friends The Hoopers. We have no real plans yet apart from a treasure trail and fish and chips. Please cross your fingers for sunshine! As always, this guide is written in advance - dates and times change so please always double check details are correct before booking or heading out. I will pin this post at the top of my Facebook page and create Facebook events for the weekends in March and add the link there - you can subscribe to my events here. The Groupon and Living Social links in this post are affiliate links. Let me know what you're up to this March!

What's On in the North East for Kids | March 2018

6 Days Out Ideas for March

March Discounts & Deals

  • Buy five Odeon tickets for £20 - buy here
  • 25% off Pirate Escape Rooms in Whitley Bay - buy here
  • 25% off Jump 360 in Newcastle - buy here 
  • 41% off The Netherlands National Circus (Hartlepool) - buy here
  • £10 for Bowling & Food at The Dunes South Shields - buy here
  • 30% off The Family Activity Centre at Royal Quays - buy here 
  • Family entry to Kirkley Hall Zoo for £10 - buy here

Did you know I also write a money-saving blog? North East Family Fun Deals features everything from FREE days out to advice on the best annual pass to buy and how to apply for a Blue Peter Badge and receive free entry to lots of North East Attractions. Give my new Facebook page a like if you'd like to be kept in the loop.

3 & 4 March

Please note - many events this weekend will have been post-poned or cancelled due to bad weather. Please check details before travelling. 

3 March | The Biggest Book Show on Earth at Theatre Royal
3 March | Gateshead Raspberry Jam Coding
3 March | Silly Science at Birtley Library
3 March | Charlie & The Chocolate Factory themed Techy Tots at The Word
3 & 4 March | World Book Day at RSPB Saltholme 
3 & 4 March | Little Inventors at Discovery Museum
3 & 4 March | World Book Weekend at Souter Lighthouse 
3 & 4 March | Make a  Mother's Day Card at Cherryburn
3 & 4 March | Kielder Birds of Prey at Alnwick Garden 
3 & 4 March | Mother's Day Unicorn Letter Making at Katie's Garden 
4 March | The Owl & The Pussycat at The Exchange
4 March | The Gingerbread Man at Washington Arts Centre
4 March | The Jungle Book at Whitley Bay Playhouse
4 March | Forensic DNA Science Sessions at Life
4 March | Make Snake Mobiles at Seaton Delaval Hall

10 & 11 March 

10 March | Wee Red and Her Wolf at Jarrow Hall 
10 March | Baby Social at Tyne Bank Brewery
10 March | Silly Science at Leam Lane Library 
10 March | International Women's Day at Beamish 
10 March | Be Creative at Baltic 
10 March | Build Mum a Bear at Katie's Garden
10 March | Minions themed Techy Tots at The Word
10 March | Science Buddies Slime Making Workshop at Whitehouse Farm
10 March | Superhero Saturday at Crawcrook Library
10 & 11 March | Kielder Birds of Prey at Alnwick Garden 
10 & 11 March | Little Inventors at Discovery Museum 
11 March | Wee Red and her Wolf at Customs House 
11 March | Mother's Day at Kirkley Hall Zoo (mums go free)
11 March | Mother's Day at Whitehouse Farm (mums go free)
11 March | Mothering Sunday Cake Train at Tanfield Railway
11 March | Make Mother's Day Seed Pictures at Seaton Delaval Hall
11 March | Make a Mother's Day Paper Flower Bouquet at Cherryburn
11 March | Kids Comedy Club at The Stand

17 & 18 March

17 March | Bees! at Great North Museum
17 March | South Tyneside International Magic Festival
17 March | Silly Science at Blaydon Library
17 March | Launch of Monsters! Exhibition at The Word
17 March | Lee Kyle: A Brilliant Comedy Show for Kids & Stupid Adults at Washington Art Centre
17 & 18 March | Science Busking at Seven Stories
17 & 18 March | Great War Weekend at Tanfield Railway
17 & 18 March | Kielder Birds of Prey at Alnwick Garden 
17 & 18 March | World Book Weekend at Whitehouse Farm
18 March | Great British Dog Walk at Gibside 
18 March | Haughall Farm Lambing Event
18 March | Make Animal Finger Puppets at Seaton Delaval Hall

24 & 25 March

24 March | Opera North - Under the Sea at Seven Stories
24 March | Prudhoe Easter Egg 5k
24 March | We're Going On A Bear Hunt themed Techy Tots at The Word
24 March | Marty's Madhouse at Washington Art Centre
24 March | Build an Easter Buddy, Giant Kinder Egg or Unicorn Wreath at Katie's Garden
24 & 25 March | Lambing weekend at Kirkley Hall Zoo
24 & 25 March | Pedal Power at Beamish
24 & 25 March | Peppa Pig's Adventure at Darlington Hippodrome
24 & 25 March | Kielder Birds of Prey at Alnwick Garden 
25 March | Newspaper Plant Pots and Sowing Seeds at Seaton Delaval Hall 
25 March | Dawn Chorus at Seaton Delaval Hall

It's not long until Easter - I'll be publishing a couple of guides to what's on soon.......


William De Percy Inn & Creperie - Otterburn | Children's Menu Review

I was looking for somewhere to book for Sunday lunch with Steve and the kids after our recent trip to Kielder. I did consider the Anglers Arms but we've already visited there and I fancied somewhere new. Battlesteads was another contender - especially as they were running a kids eat free offer but they stopped serving at 3pm which wasn't convenient for us. A quick look at google maps and I discovered that Otterburn was around halfway between our house and Kielder so I decided to focus our search there. Another google, and William De Percy showed up as the best Sunday Lunch in the area (although this is by their own standards - they haven't won an award or anything). I could not find a Sunday lunch menu or children's menu for this establishment anywhere online which is always frustrating - I hate going in somewhere blind and not knowing whether it's going to be £20 for a main course or £7. Their TripAdvisor reviews were mixed too but we were running out of options so I crossed my fingers, booked a table and hoped for the best.

William De Percy Inn & Creperie - Otterburn | Children's Menu Review

Sunday lunches are priced at around £13 per main course as an FYI and Steve and I thoroughly enjoyed ours - Big Stevie Cool is writing a full review of our lunch and today I'm focusing on William De Percy's children's menu which was SO good and I'm really surprised the venue doesn't shout about this more. Kids can order three courses, a drink and bambinocino for just £6.95, everything is homemade, the portions are decent and there's plenty of choice too. Our total bill was just £65 which included 2 courses for Steve and I, 3 courses for the kids, 2 milkshakes, 2 cokes and a large glass of wine. Bargain! 

First of all, William De Percy is joined onto Le Petit Chateau which is a boutique hotel and wedding venue. A wedding was taking place during our visit and as the two establishments share a car park, getting parked was a little tricky. We ended up parking in a church car park up the road - not sure if this is allowed but heigh-ho. The pub is also dog-friendly and there were a fair few dogs in attendance. They were all well-behaved but if your little one has a fear, it's something to be mindful of.

It's difficult to describe the interior - rustic, stripped back and shabby chic with a little bit of French flair comes to mind. I liked it - we were sat in a cosy booth and were very comfortable. There were plenty of families dining and I did not feel out of place bringing my kids here.

The children's menu really is a bargain and I love that pancakes are an option for both a main and dessert - this is a bit of a USP I think and I'm sure lots of children will order a double pancake feast. The menu is very well thought-out with kids in mind. Harry for example was delighted to see his favourite dessert sticky toffee pudding on the menu and Jack was over the moon to see fish and chips featuring. There aren't many healthy options - after your starter, Sunday Roast is the only chance to order fruit or veg (although meals are served with a side salad garnish) but this can be forgiven as a treat I think.

Heidi and Jack take after Steve and I and can't resist an upsell - they both ordered a milkshake with their meal for an additional £1.50 which was freshly made and a decent size too.

Starters for the kids are  two dough balls (I would have liked to have seen 3/4 if I'm honest) plus carrot and cucumber sticks with a garlic mayo dip. All happily devoured by the three of them.

Onto mains and I was super impressed with both the quality and the portion size of the children's meals. Jack ordered fish and chips and Harry went for the children's burger. Both were served with a decent portion of homemade chips and a dressed side salad and looked delicious. I find it hard to resist a homemade chip and stole a couple from Harry and have to say they were spot on. Heidi decided to go for the pizza and again, cleared her plate.

I really wanted one of the kids to order a Nutella pancake for dessert so I could get a pic but they weren't in the mood and went for decorate your own cookie, plain ice cream and sticky toffee pudding instead. Again, all delicious and dishes that I would have actually chosen myself. Steve and I ordered an after eight crepe to share for dessert and really think the kids were missing out not ordering a pancake - ours was divine!

If you're looking for somewhere that serves lovely homemade food that will be appreciated by both kids and grown-ups, is child and dog-friendly, has a good atmosphere with attentive service in the heart of Northumberland, you'll love William De Percy in Otterburn.

Disclosure - we paid for our own meal. Total bill £65

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William De Percy Inn & Creperie - Otterburn | Children's Menu Review


Unleash your Child's Creativity with Pizza Express & World Book Day

*This is a collaboration with Pizza Express

Pizza Express is one of our go-to chain restaurants when out and about, especially when I haven't had a chance to research somewhere and we haven't booked in advance. We always know that a) our family will be made to feel very welcome at Pizza Express and b) there will be something on the menu that we'll all enjoy. There's even more reason to visit between 9 February and 25 March as Pizza Express is joining forces with World Book Day and publishers in the first collaboration of it's kind.

Unleash your Child's Creativity with Pizza Express & World Book Day

If you visit a Pizza Express restaurant from now until 25 March, you'll find their children's activity packs which are provided alongside the Piccolo menu have been given a special makeover in celebration of World Book Day. We recently visited Pizza Express at intu Metrocentre and have to say their limited edition WBD-themed Piccolo activity packs are jam-packed with creative activities and there was enough to keep my three children (aged 7, 9 and 11) occupied throughout a full three courses and more. As soon as we were seated, the kids were super keen to get started and particularly enjoyed designing their own bookmark which can be uploaded here for a chance to win a year's supply of books worth £250. Harry, Heidi and Jack worked super hard on their designs and I love how their bookmarks vary so much - super creative!

Heidi's Gruffalo and Gruffalo's Child design was inspired by our recent trip to Kielder Forest. I love all of the little details including the purple prickles and orange eyes - it looks like he's stepped right outside of a Julia Donaldson storybook.

Jack decided to create his own special book character - Super Squirrel is a regular sized squirrel with a super-sized tail. He moves around in a hurricane by spinning his tail and the purple dots are apparently magic jewels that can make him turn invisible! I love how this challenge has encouraged lots of creativity and provides the kids with an opportunity to let their imagination run wild.

Harry's design was a little different and as a certified maths geek, he decided to create a recurring pattern. He was a little frustrated when he made a mistake but as I explained to him, this means that his bookmark is completely unique which he agreed with.

The bookmark also provides a couple of easy to follow tutorials for easy World Book Day costumes - perfect for last minute parents like myself!

Onto the food...... 

The Pizza Express Piccolo Menu offers fantastic value at £6.95 per child for three courses and a bambinochinno. Service was super quick and friendly and I loved that the dough balls were brought out not long after ordering. My kids are not very patient when it comes to waiting for food and the combination of lots of activities to keep little ones occupied plus speedy service is definitely a winning one.

All three kids enjoyed their own pizza for their main course - with a side of colouring to finish off their designs. They all finished the lot and were very happy with their choices.

The kids don't often eat dessert at home so it's always a real treat when we eat out. Heidi loved her ice cream which was served with strawberries and chocolate sauce and the boys really enjoyed their chocolate brownie. I didn't order a dessert myself and tried to ask for a little taste but they wouldn't let me! The cheek.

Finally, babychinnos are included as part of the Pizza Express Piccolo Menu and my three always have to order these and insist on drinking them like a proper cup of tea - pinky and all!

As well as creating their own bookmarks to enter into the Pizza Express World Book Day Competition, the Piccolo Activity Packs contained lots of other activities to keep little ones (and older ones) entertained. From Snakes and Ladders games to word searches and even a chance to design their own doughball, there was a lot to inspire and entertain between courses.

As an added bonus, you'll also find a book token inside the activity pack which can be exchanged for a FREE book from the selection mentioned - there's quite a lot to choose from including Paddington, Claire Balding and the Avengers. We've put our vouchers in a safe place and will be exchanging for a book next time we're in town. What a lovely incentive, encouraging families to share a story like this.

Grown-ups aren't forgotten either. Jack had me creating a dough-ball version of his Uncle who had joined us for dinner and us grown-ups thoroughly enjoyed our Caeser salad, Calamari and Pizzas. Another reason I love Pizza Express is that they also offer a fantastic healthier menu featuring pizzas and salads under 600 kcals (read our review of this menu here) as well as catering for dietary requirements too (read Canny Food's review here).

My brother and I were actually able to have a decent catch-up and conversation over dinner as you can see - the kids were kept very occupied throughout.

If you'd like your children to enter the Pizza Express World Book Day Bookmark Competition, you can either visit your nearest Pizza Express and follow the instructions before 25 March OR you can download a template and enter via the Pizza Express website here - either of these options are an especially a good option on World Book Day (which is 1 March) where Pizza Express will be hosting their own fancy dress competition and customers can vote for the 'best-dressed' team member. Competition closes on 1 April 2018. 

Let me know how you're celebrating World Book Day this year and if I've inspired you to visit your local Pizza Express. 


The New Highway Rat Trail & Gruffalo Spotting at Kielder Forest in Northumberland

The new Highway Rat Trail opened at Kielder last December. We love a good trail and also love Kielder so decided to spend the afternoon there on the last day of half term. The trail is FREE to take part but you can buy a Highway Rat Trail Activity Bag from Kielder Cafe or the Bike Centre near the car park for £3. We decided to go for this option. Parking at Kielder is £5 for the full day and your car parking pass is valid across all Kielder Car Parks should you wish to explore the wider area (which I'd advise you do). 

The New Highway Rat Trail & Gruffalo Spotting at Kielder Forest in Northumberland

The optional Highway Rat Trail Activity Bags were a hit with Heidi and Jack - mostly for the Highway Rat mask which really added to the sense of occasion. The bag contains:
  • A Highway Rat mask
  • Activity leaflet
  • Activity sheet
  • Stickers
  • String
  • Pencil
  • Crayon
Personally, I think the activity bags are definitely worth the £3 and they added extra elements to our adventure. Harry (age 11) wasn't bothered about his so I think perhaps they're perhaps more suited to children aged 4-9

The Highway Rat Trail is a free self-led trail that begins at Kielder Castle/Visitor Centre. The main castle car park is close to the start and there are free toilets next to the car park or in the visitor centre. Use postcode NE48 1ER or follow the Kielder Visitor Centre signs to find your way.

There's a small playground at the beginning of the trail and a couple of picnic tables too. It's not huge but I imagine it will entertain little ones in the warmer months and could be a nice place to stop once you've completed the trail for a fuel stop.

If you've previously completed the Gruffalo, Superworm or Stickman trails, you'll be familiar with the route and will spot characters from the various Julia Donaldson books en-route. My three are well past the age of reading these stories but remember them well from their early years and were still excited to spot the wooden carvings.

The route is well signposted and you'll find 9 or 10 boards along the trail with various prompts encouraging you to complete various activities or sharing facts. These were fun for the whole family and involved everything from playing a blindfolded game of 'moths and bats' to challenging other members of our family to jump like a rabbit and collecting pine cones in the forest.

The activity trail leaflet includes extra boards to spot and tick off and there are other activities to complete as well (perfect if you're visiting the cafe later). There are brass rubbings along the trail and there is a space on the trail leaflet to use your crayon and complete these too - basically, there's lots to keep you busy!

Steve and Harry enjoyed reading the regular information signs en-route too and shared their knowledge about the history of Kielder as we walked.

We visited on a grey day in February. It wasn't raining but the trail was fairly muddy in parts. In winter (and even Spring) I'd definitely recommend wearing wellies or walking boots.

The first part of the trail up towards where you'll find the Gruffalo is pushchair/wheelchair friendly. Most of the paths look like the picture below with the odd patch of mud. They're also uphill. Personally, I wouldn't have considered taking my pushchair up here unless it was an all-terrain buggy. I can't comment on whether wheelchairs would manage it as I have no experience - there are no stairs to navigate during the first half of the trail but it's definitely hilly and muddy. You can read about Sprog on the Tyne's experience of completing the same route with a pushchair last year here. 

After completing the first few boards and activities, look who we found it the woods! It's the Gruffalo! There's also a fab bird hide nearby if you fancy a bit of nature spotting.

The trail continues amongst beautiful woodland and at board 5 we were asked to collect sticks to create our own spider - I think this was Jack's favourite part.

We stumbled upon the Gruffalo's Child having a little nap too - I wish I could have joined her!

After this point I noticed a sign saying the rest of the trail is not suitable for wheelchair users or pushchairs. I think with little ones, completing the trail up to this point will still be fun and a good experience - especially as they can see the Gruffalo.

We soldiered on through the woods. It was a quiet day and we seemed to be the only ones there - we didn't pass anyone else the whole time we were in the forest.

At one point there is a short steep incline, Jack moaned a little but we all managed it and were rewarded with the most spectacular forest views.

Heidi and Steve are playing the Moth and Bat game described on one of the activity boards below.....

The trail really kept it's momentum throughout and the kids were running ahead the whole time, eager to find the next board or animal. It definitely kept their interest and stopped any of the normal moaning and whinging I associate with family walks.

A bit of a spoiler alert but I was SO excited when we spotted Stickman towards the end of the trail. He's my fave!

The trail ends right at the beginning next to the Kielder visitor centre. Steve tracked the walk on his app and we walked for just over 2 miles and it took us 1 hour and 10 minutes including stopping at every board and completing the activities. I would say with toddlers or little legs, you can expect the trail to take around 1 hour 30 minutes. Steve burned almost 500 calories during the walk too - not bad.

There's a cute little cafe at the visitor centre serving homemade soups, cakes and meals. We had already booked lunch elsewhere but popped in to buy the kids a couple of snacks as they were starving! Kielder Village is just a couple of minutes walk from the castle and visitor centre and kids can enjoy a trip to the Salmon Centre which is small but free to visit or try finding their way in the Minotaur Maze (also free). The Anglers Arms pub is also a 30 second walk from the car park if you're looking for a drink or pub meal. You can read more about what there is to do in the immediate vicinity of Kielder Village here. 

Kielder or Hamsterley? 

Kielder Forest in Northumberland and Hamsterley Forest in Durham are both pretty the same distance for us to travel and they both offer the new Highway Rat Trail. We've visited both sites now and think both have positives and negatives. 

Personally, I think Kielder is better suited to families with older children. The play areas aren't anywhere near as big as the ones in Hamsterley and the trail is a little more challenging due to the hills (Hamsterley is pretty much flat). The whole trail at Kielder is not pushchair friendly where as it is at Hamsterley. There is a lot to do in Kielder for older children from bike trails to water sports, archery and clay pigeon shooting and I think this trail is perfectly suited for families with children aged 5-11 years. Parking at Kielder is only £5 and is transferable to other car parks where as car parking is priced at £6 - £10 at Hamsterley. Younger children will still really enjoy the Kielder trail and I'd still encourage you to visit, but if you're torn between the two options with under 5's, I think Hamsterley is better-suited. My top tip would be to pack a snack or take a picnic and make a day of it. As a grown-up, I really enjoyed the walk and I'd even do it without the kids as it was really pretty and nice and peaceful with some gorgeous scenery. Harry (11), Heidi (8) and Jack (7) all really enjoyed themselves too and it was one of the few family walks we've enjoyed recently with very minimal moaning. 

If you'd like to make a weekend of it, check out these places to stay nearby:
You can read more about Hamsterley Forest here - this post features The Stick Man Trail which has now changed to The Highway Rat, they are very similar though. 

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The New HIghway Rat Trail & Gruffalo Spotting at Kielder Forest in Northumberland

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