A Picnic at Ingram Valley, Northumberland National Park

Ingram Valley in Northumberland National Park is somewhere I have fond memories of visiting as a child. We used to visit every summer and spend the day with friends and family. I loved it. 

A Picnic at Ingram Valley, Northumberland National Park

It's one of those places I've been meaning to take my own children for so long but have never got around to it. I predict it has been around 20-25 years since my last visit and decided we couldn't put it off any longer. We set off on a sunny Saturday in hope of finding this spot I remember so fondly. 


Sambuca Cramlington Happy Hour Menu Review | Will it be a success?

There has been a lot of buzz around Sambuca Cramlington opening up in my hometown. I was planning on visiting on opening night but managed to contain myself and waited a few weeks until they had 'bedded in' to their new surroundings. We turned up on a sunny Monday lunchtime without a reservation and it's fair to say we received exactly what we were expecting - a cheap and cheerful and speedy lunch in nice surroundings. My experience was 100000% better than anything I ever experienced in the Glasshouse and I would say this restaurant certainly has its place in our town.

Sambuca Cramlington Happy Hour Review | Will it be a success?

It's a shame the Glasshouse failed

Like most of Cramlington, I was so excited about the Glasshouse opening in Cramlington. A decent cocktail bar was just what we needed. The refurbishment was gorgeous and the bar and restaurant looked fantastic - it was clear a lot of money had been spent. Which is why it baffles me that higher management and the owners just seemed to abandon the place once it had opened. I visited on three occasions and experienced extremely bad service and a clear lack of leadership including a rather embarrassing 2 hour wait for a sausage and mash when there were only 5 other tables in the restaurant. If the Glasshouse was my baby, I know I'd be running front of house 99% of the time until the staff were up to speed and constantly checking the standards were there. It baffles me that this didn't happen. My experience mirrored most of Cramlington and it all ended in tears with rumours of bailiffs removing stock, services like card payments being withdrawn and staff not being paid and making a big public fuss including putting handwritten notes on the restaurant's windows. Yikes! The whole thing just seems like one huge waste of time and investment which is a shame as it could have been so good and had huge potential.

I waited 2 hours for this dish at The Glasshouse

Sambuca opening in Cramlington is a good thing

I will be honest - I used to be a complete Sambuca snob and turn my nose up at the chain but after I visited the Blyth branch with my mam during her foster carer meet-ups a few years ago, I changed my mind. I'm not exactly a regular customer, nor will I say they serve a decent pizza BUT there is a clear gap in the market for cheap and cheerful happy hour pizzas and pastas for families who are on a budget but still want to go out and enjoy a lively restaurant experience. Cramlington doesn't really have a restaurant like this so I think opening a Sambuca here really will fill a gap and I do think it will be a success.

Sambuca Cramlington Happy Hour Review

I visited at 12noon on a Monday lunchtime. Monday lunchtimes are notoriously quiet in the restaurant trade and I know if we'd have walked past nearby Prezzo, there wouldn't have been a soul inside. Yet Sambuca seemed to fill up pretty quickly and by the time we left at 1:15pm, pretty much every table had been taken. I have to say, we were in shock! How do they fill every seat on a Monday lunchtime?? The clientele seemed to be young couples, older couples, families and friends meeting up. I am guessing the reason Sambuca is so popular is their £5.95 for 3 courses lunchtime special which on the surface, seems like a fantastic deal and I agree, is very tempting.

The restaurant had a very good atmosphere, it was nice and livley with the front of house sporadically shouting out random words in Italian (I think??). The staff were majorly on the ball and our drinks order was taken within a minute of us sitting down and our food arrived quickly. I've heard a few people mention the restaurant can get a little noisy but even when it was full it was fine for us - sometimes there is a live singer performing which judging by a few Facebook comments I've read can be a bit much! I think with Sambuca, you get what you pay for. We were expecting something cheap and cheerful with good service and that's what we received.

The Sambuca happy hour runs from 12noon - 5pm Monday-Friday and 12noon-3pm on Saturdays. For this you can choose potato skins or soup of the day, pizza or pasta (excluding premium toppings) and then coffee or ice cream. Panuccis in Smithy Square serves this same offer for £7.45 so there's no denying Sambuca is cheap as chips.

I ordered potato skins to start. The portion was larger than I expected but the presentation left a lot to be desired. I loved the garlic mayo but was amused to also find a dollop of Marie Rose sauce on my place. Not a natural accompaniment to potato skins - I think BBQ sauce would be a better idea. The skins weren't as crispy as I like them but they were perfectly edible.

My dining companion ordered vegetable soup and again, it wasn't anything special but it wasn't the worst soup in the world either.

Onto our pizzas and I went with my favourite (and some would say boring) Margharita. It was cooked from scratch in house so that's a start and the tomato sauce was lovely. The base was very thin and I've heard rumours that Sambuca use fake cheese on their pizzas - I don't know whether this is the case but it was certainly a bland offering. Although it was bland, I did still actually think it was nice for the price point and it's the kind of pizza that my kids would wolf down in no time. Because it was so thin I expected to leave feeling unsatisfied but I was actually full up and even left a few crusts. For the price, they're never going to use the finest ingredients so don't visit if you're a pizza connoisseur but if you fancy a quick and cheap pizza lunch that will leave you feeling satisfied, it's ideal.

We ended our meals with two Americanos. Again - they weren't the best we've ever tasted but like the rest of our meal, they were adequate and did the job.

£5.95 for all of that - you can't really complain can you?

Does Sambuca Cramlington offer good value?

On the surface, you think you're getting a good deal, but that's all due to clever marketing. In reality, you're actually not getting as good a deal as you think. The mark-up on non-happy hour food is horrendous. A Sirloin Steak was on the menu for £19.99! Now Sambuca and quality don't go hand in hand so I'm guessing their steak isn't coming from an Organic farm or anywhere special. To charge this price when you can order a steak with all the trimmings from the Hungry Horse a few doors done for half this price seems ludicrous to me. I'm guessing they come from a similar standard of supplier. There is also a huge mark-up on drinks. A bottle of Prosecco is £19.99 - I wouldn't pay this price when I can buy one for £9.99 in Wetherspoons around the corner. If you ask for a coke, they'll bring you a large one which at £2.50 is an expensive add-on - unlimited soft drinks are available for £2.20 from Nandos next door.

Speaking of Nandos, I know a lot of people comment that they think it's expensive (I'm not in that school of thought - we love it). A meal there for 2 adults and 3 kids plus drinks will normally set us back £50 and we're left feeling stuffed! There's no children's menu at Sambuca Cramlington (that I could see anyway) so if the five of us ordered 5 x £5.95 happy hour plus 5 x £2.50 soft drinks at Sambuca, the cost would be £42.50 - just £7.50 (or £1.50 each) less than Nandos. When you look at it like this, it's not as good a deal as you first thought. In fact, if we dined at Sambuca outside of Happy Hour, I am pretty sure our total bill for the family would be higher than many places in Cramlington.

Sambuca Cramlington - would I return?

It may seem that this review is fairly negative but do you know what, I will return to Sambuca. Probably time and time again. I'm not likely to visit for date night any time soon but I can certainly see that it has it's place - if we fancy a pizza before the cinema on a Saturday lunchtime or if I'm looking for somewhere to take the kids after school for a treat - Sambuca will tick those boxes. They also run a few drinks promotions in their bar (I noticed an offer for a glass of Prosecco and a slice of cake for £5.75) and as the bar area is really lovely, I can imagine popping in for a drink with the girls or Steve. They also seem to have an ice cream stand with ice creams to take away which I'm sure will be nice to pop in for with the kids when we're visiting the newly refurbished Seven Oaks Park across the road.

I have a feeling it's going to do really well in Cramlington and as one of only a few local businesses in Manor Walks, I wish them every success.

You can find Sambuca Cramlington in Manor Walks next to Frankie & Benny's and Vue Cinema. Here's a link to their current menu or you can view below.

Let me know if you've visited yet and your thoughts.......

Sambuca Cramlington Happy Hour Menu Review | Will it be a success?

Sambuca Cramlington Happy Hour Menu Review | Will it be a success?


10 things that happen to every parent during a UK heatwave

*This is a collaborative post

If there's anything us Brits love doing, it's talking about the weather. With another heatwave predicted this weekend (woohoo), I thought I'd share a few funny anecdotes about what happens to every parent during a British heatwave - brace yourselves!

10 things that happen to every parent during a UK heatwave #heatwave #UK #Parenting

1 - We panic buy a new summer wardrobe 

After spending what seems like an eternity in jeans, jumpers and winter boots, it's a bit of a shock to the system when the sun does decide to make an appearance. I don't know about you, but my children's summer clothes seem to disappear every year and on that first day of sunshine I can be found googling the best Groupon discounts for TK Maxx and stocking up on summer essentials, panic buying summer dresses in Primark and adding multi-packs of shorts and t-shirts to my weekly shop.

2 - It takes an hour to leave the house

Leaving the house during a heatwave with kids around is like a military operation. There's sunscreen to apply 30 minutes before you leave, sunhats to locate, scooters to dig out of the garage and raincoats to pack 'just in case'. It's a wonder we actually ever make it outside.........

3 - Bring out the BBQ from Winter hibernation 

BBQs and heatwaves go hand in hand and it's not unusual for us to invite our friends and family over for a bit of an impromptu get-together. It's only then do we realise that our BBQ has been in hibernation over winter and needs a good clean so we pick up a disposable from the corner shop and use and wonder why we bothered investing hundreds of pounds in a 'proper' BBQ.

4 - We all flock to the coast and soon regret it 

I do this EVERY TIME the sun makes an appearance and instantly regret it. Heading to the beach during a heatwave is good in theory but in practice, you spend the whole time in a traffic jam, will struggle to find a parking space and then when you do get there it's absolutely freezing thanks to the lovely North East Coast breeze.  Next time I suggest a trip to the beach, please remind me that it's much easier (and nicer) to stay inland during a heatwave please.

5 - We spend ages filling the paddling pool after school

Why are paddling pools so deceiving? By the time we get home from school and manage to fill the pool with lukewarm water, the sun has gone in and the kids are no longer interested. I think there should be some kind of legislation imposed on all paddling pools that forces manufacturers to prominently display how long a pool will actually take to fill.

6 - Every meal becomes a picnic and must be eaten outside

One thing I love about heatwaves in the UK is that the kids can eat outside. Every meal is instantly more fun when it turns into an al-fresco picnic. The kids eat more, I don't need to sweep up the crumbs and everyone is happy. It's win-win.

7 - We find joy in hanging the washing on the line

Before becoming a parent, I would have laughed out loud if you'd have suggested hanging the washing on the line would bring me joy. I'm not ashamed to say that now it does and yes, I am one of those people who will probably post a photo of this rare occurrence on Facebook. Anyone else the same?

8 -  Deciding what your baby will wear at bedtime is tough

Why does nobody warn you about this dilemma when you're pregnant? Trying to decide what to dress your baby in for bed during a heatwave has to be one of the toughest parent decisions - do they wear their normal pjs and a vest, just a vest, do they need a lightweight baby sleeping bag? Or no sleeping bag? What about just a sheet? Will they be ok just sleeping in their nappy? What if they kick their blanket off during the night and end up too cold? Is it ok to leave their window open a little? Agh! The questions and worry are endless! If you're struggling with this, I've found this online checker from the Gro Company to be pretty good (although it obviously does not replace official advice).

9 - We start looking for shade after 30 minutes 

We look forward to the sun all winter but as soon as it hits, we can only last 30 minutes and then need to set up camp under a tree.

10 - It's the talk of the playground

During a heatwave, it's all we can talk about. The school gate chatter is filled with 'isn't it a lovely day', 'it's going to get up to the mid-20s later', 'have you got your paddling pool out?', 'oh where did you get those flip-flops?'. Honestly, we are weather-obsessed (but I secretly love it).

Enjoy the heatwave this weekend! We've got to make the most of it. Let me know if any of the things on my list ring true for you. 

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10 things that happen to every parent during a UK heatwave #heatwave #UK #Parenting


The Ultimate Guide to What's On in the North East | May Half Term

We were supposed to be heading to the Netherlands this Half Term but obviously, this will not be happening anymore. Steve still has a week off work and I am keen for us to make the most of it despite us being in the middle of a Global Pandemic.

The Ultimate Guide to What's On in the North East  | May Half Term

I have scoured the internet for the best virtual and stay at home activities to enjoy over May Half Term.  I hope whatever you are up to, you stay safe and are able to enjoy some fun.

Rising Sun Country Park | A Pushchair & Dog-friendly Walk in North Tyneside

Fun fact - the Rising Sun Country Park used to face onto our back garden and it's a place we used to walk through and around a lot when Harry and Heidi were little tots and we lived in Wallsend. 

We don't visit as often as we used to now but it's still a family favourite and a lovely spot for a family walk, cycle, scoot or picnic. The country park is dog-friendly too so a fab place to head out with your four-legged friend. As the park is inland and quite sheltered, it can also be a bit of a sun trap so it's perfect for a sunny day. 

If you're visiting by car, you'll find the entrance just before Asda Benton (postcode NE12 9SS). Just follow the road and you'll find a large, free car park just by the visitor centre (disabled parking is available on sie). 

You can catch the bus to Asda Benton and easily walk there too. The countryside centre and car park is open every day of the year (the area around the countryside centre is closed between Christmas and new year). The visitor centre closes at around 4:30pm on a weekend and 7/8pm on weekdays. Check opening times here. 

Rising Sun Country Park | Child & Dog-friendly Walks 

One of the reasons we love the Rising Sun Country Park is that it's home to lots of easy walking routes which are all very well signposted with maps available from the centre, maps signposted around the park and lots of colour-coded route signs. 

You can choose a walk around Swallow pond where you can admire the wildlife through bird hides, woodland walks where you can pond dip from the special viewing platform, climb up the pit heap if you're feeling energetic or if like us, you just fancy an easy stroll to the community farm from the visitor centre (this route is completely flat and around 1.5 - 2 miles in total).

The paths are covered in small pebbles in places but Heidi managed with her scooter just fine and it wouldn't be any trouble for a pushchair or bike.

The walks take you past fields of horses, flowers and other wildlife and if you're lucky, you may spot the Rising Sun stag.

Rising Sun Community Farm 

The Rising Sun Community Farm is in the centre of the country park and very easy to reach on foot from the countryside visitor centre, even for little legs. It's FREE to visit and there always seems to be something different to see every time you visit - sometimes there can be loads of animals, other times hardly any but that kind of adds to the excitement and as it's free, we can't really complain. 

During our visit in April, there were so many geese waddling around the farm. They are so funny to watch!

We also spotted calves, rabbits, chickens, donkeys, horses and Shetland ponies. There were also goats and sheep in the outer fields but we couldn't see any pigs on this occasion. The Rising Sun Farm is a working farm and a good opportunity for children to learn where their food comes from. They often run events using the produce from the farm for a feast.

You can sometimes buy vegetables and duck eggs from the farm shop or stall with honesty box but this was closed today. The current crops seem to be blooming though.

Rising Sun Country Park | Visitor Centre, Park & Cafe 

The Rising Sun Country Park Visitor Centre is the main hub of the country park and is honestly such a good spot to take the kids for a run around after school on a sunny day. There are so many facilities including: 
  • Children's sheltered play area
  • Water play area (currently out of order - no word on when this will be resolved)
  • Sandpit
  • Cafe
  • Picnic areas
  • BBQ areas
  • Toilet facilities 
  • Exhibition centre
  • Venue hire
  • Walking routes and info

The cafe is really good and serves homemade breakfasts, sandwiches, soups, cakes and tray bakes alongside snacks, ice creams and drinks. The prices are very reasonable and if you can grab a table on the outdoor terrace, there are gorgeous views of the pond and countryside from the slightly elevated position.

We spent around 2 hours at the Rising Sun Country Park during our last visit but it's the kind of place you could easily spend all day. It's a lovely spot for a day out with friends and we'll definitely be visiting many more times over the year. It's a true North Tyneside gem!

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1 - Click here to sign up to our FREE monthly guide to what's on. This monthly email will feature lots of ideas for things to do for the month ahead plus exclusive deals. 

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Thank you for your support as always. 

Please follow social distancing rules & Government guidelines , wash hands regularly and use alcohol hand gel (especially before eating), respect the local area. leave no trace, take litter home, park responsibly and if somewhere is busy on arrival, please consider leaving and returning at a later date. If you have any Coronavirus symptoms, please stay at home and follow NHS advice. 

Always check updated opening hours / protocols / parking advice and charges with venues direct before setting off as things may have changed since this post was published. 

Let me know if you love the Rising Sun Country Park as much as we do or if you're planning on visiting this summer. 

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Rising Sun Country Park | A Pushchair & Dog-friendly Walk in North Tyneside

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