Dear Diary : Christmas in England during a Pandemic

A little bit of a different post but I wanted to record normal family life and our Christmas during the Coronavirus Pandemic in 2020. At this point in time, Steve and I are in our late 30s living in Cramlington, Northumberland with our children Harry (14), Heidi (11) and Jack (9). We have been living with Coronavirus restrictions for 8 months now. 

I am usually super busy from mid-November to mid-December attending various Christmas events, pantos and markets. This year is going to be pretty different for us. I will be updating this post and re-sharing regularly with little snippets of what we've been up to. 

Lost Found and Told : Modern Fairy Tales for Northumberland

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You may remember that last year, we watched November Club perform 'A Night of New Fairytales' in a community centre in Blyth. It was a brilliant evening with traditional fairy tales being given a modern (and Northumberland) twist. It was nice to watch a theatrical performance and recognise the places mentioned, the accents spoken and to have the North East at the very centre of the story (you can read my full review from that evening here). 

Lost Found and Told : Modern Fairy Tales for Northumberland

Times have been tough for local theatre during the pandemic and November Club are no different. They are a registered charity with their prime purpose being to engage local communities and create original performances about people and places. 

They really are fantastic and have won awards for their work so I am delighted that they have been able to pivot (apologies for using the cliché word of the moment) and have been able bring their work and creativity into our homes instead. 


30+ FREE & Fun Walking Trails for Kids across North East England

Walking with kids is always easier with an incentive or something for them to do along the way so today I thought I would share 30+ free and fun walking trails across North East England. They all involve sculptures to find / a route to follow with things to find and are completely free. 

30+ FREE & Fun Walking Trails for Kids across North East England

The Snowman™ and The Snowdog Trail (North Tyneside) : All You Need To Know

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The Snowman™ and The Snowdog Trail (North Tyneside)

The Snowman™and The Snowdog Trail takes place across North Tyneside from 14 November 2020 - the end of January 2021. These trails are always super popular, a brilliant way to get some fresh air and exercise with the kids and raise some money for St Oswalds and support local businesses in the process. 

The trail is completely free to take part and you can enjoy at your leisure. There are 20 life-size sculptures dotted across North Tyneside. 

Although the trail is free, I highly recommend downloading The Snowman™and The Snowdog app to help you with your quest. It is 99p with funds raised going directly to St Oswalds - a charitable hospice based in the North East who provide outstanding, expert and specialist care to children and adults with life limiting conditions. 

The app features an interactive map and sculpture locations, a checklist where you can keep an eye on how many sculptures you have found and other interactive features. 

At the moment, you can download  
The Snowman™and The Snowdog app from the Apple Store or the Google Play store. 

The Snowman™sculpture designs are based around the 12 days of Christmas which is a lovely festive twist.

The Snowman™and The Snowdog - Safety First

Please remember to follow current Government guidelines, especially regarding travel and follow social distancing. Selfies are of course allowed, but this year, it is more important than ever that you don't touch the sculptures. I expect the trail will be popular, especially during November, and if you are planning on visiting a sculpture (within guidelines), I would recommend picking a quieter time of day to start off with. 

Remember there is plenty of time and the trail will be here until the end of January. My personal plan is to tick a few from our list if we are already in the area for something essential and then spend a few days visiting the sculptures in December and January if restrictions allow as part of a wider day out. There is no rush. The trail is fully outdoors so make sure you dress for the weather. 

I recommend downloading the app now so you can see where the sculptures are and start making plans. I know lots of families are looking for things to do around the festive period and it feels like this trail is perfect timing and will give lots of families a much needed lift and focus at the end of the year. 

The Snowman™ and The Snowdog Trail App 

As mentioned earlier, I highly recommend downloading The Snowman™and The Snowdog app. It is available now from the app/play store. It costs 99p will funds raised going directly to support St Oswalds and their important work in the community.  

The app is brilliant and has worked well for us with no glitches. There are various features but the main element is the interactive map which shows you the exact location of each sculpture and can provide directions. Our closest is 'Six Geese a Laying' and less than 4 miles away. Remember, the trail officially begins on 14 November. 

Once you have found a sculpture, you can click to find out more and that you have seen it - the app will keep track of how many sculptures you have left to find for you. 

You can also browse by sculpture and click on each image to learn more and discover their location. 

I am most excited to find Ginger the Snowdog in Whitley Bay - he looks lovely. 

Supporting Local Businesses & For the Love of The North 

There is no denying that this year has been a tough one for our local businesses and when/if restrictions allow, combining the trail with a little bit of local Christmas shopping / buying a hot drink from a local cafe or picking up a local takeaway on the way home is a lovely way to extend your day and give back to the community. 

As an extra special treat, For the Love of the North at Spanish City will be selling limited edition prints and Christmas cards based on local artist Lisa Kirkbride Design's Partridge in a Pear Tree. You can find this Snowman™ just outside of their store on Spanish City Plaza and 25% of sales will be donated to St Oswalds. 

Credit : For the Love of the North 

If you are able to, please download the app and help support St Oswalds this Christmas whilst having fun with the family. Take a little peek at the sculptures in the app and let me know which one is your favourite. I cannot wait to see them in real life and will update this post with a few photos when we do. 

The trail is inspired by The Snowmanand The Snowdog short animated film released in 2012 and the sequel to Raymond Briggs’ worldwide and much-loved hit The Snowman. In it, a young boy builds a snowman and creates a Snowdog with the remaining snow. At midnight both of his creations come to life.

This initiative is organised by North Tyneside Council and Wild in Art and is supported by the North of Tyne Combined Authority.

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The Snowman™ and The Snowdog Trail (North Tyneside)  : All You Need To Know


How to make your own hot chocolate stirrers

Today I am sharing a super easy gift idea or treat you can prepare in advance or get the kids involved with making.

We love a warm mug of Hot Chocolate and in recent years have bought hot chocolate stirrers as a special treat. They are lovely but they are usually priced around the £2-£3.50 mark each so with 5 of us, it can work out expensive. I decided to try making my own at a fraction of the cost. 

How to make your own hot chocolate stirrers


North East Boiler Cover with Gas Angel Heating : Our Honest Review

 This is an advertisement. Prices quoted are correct as of November 2020

We have spent more time at home in 2020 than ever before. Usually we are travelling all over but this year, our priorities have been forced to change. Spending more time at home has meant we have had the time and inclination to complete those niggling jobs and actually take better care of our home. I have never been a homebird but I do think this has changed this year and for the first time in my life, I am proud of our home and actually love spending time here. 

North East Boiler Cover with Gas Angel Heating : Our Honest Review


10 Outdoor Winter Evening Walks with Lighting Across North East England

A reader asked me for suggestions for places to visit for a walk in the winter evenings which are well-lit. I didn't really have many ideas so posed the question to my Facebook followers instead. Below are their suggestions, please let me know if you have any other ideas to add to the list. 

10 Outdoor Winter Walks with Lighting Across North East England

Walking in the evening is likely to be a lot less busy than during the day and is a good time to exercise and grab some fresh air if you are worried about crowded places but please do take care. 

7 Outdoor Spaces to Enjoy in Newcastle Upon Tyne

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Newcastle Upon Tyne is a vibrant city with lots to offer both visitors and locals. When restrictions allow, it is a wonderful place to visit for families, couples and friends with lots to see and do and a lovely Northern welcome is guaranteed. 

Jesmond Dene Waterfall


Lakeland Dry Soon 3 Tier Heated Airer with Cover - Honest Review

We paid for this product ourselves. The links in this post are affiliate/referral links. 

Lakeland Dry Soon 3 Tier Heated Airer with Cover - Honest Review

Why did we buy the Lakeland Dry Soon 3 Tier Heated Airer? 

At the start of the month, our tumble dryer set on fire. There is thankfully no lasting damage but it was a big fright. The reason for the fire was 'wear and tear' at the back of the drum. Our dryer was 2-3 years old and was used daily. This could happen to us again and I am not ready to use another tumble dryer just yet. Maybe in the future, but not yet. 


30 Things to Look Forward to in November

I thought I would share a few simple things we can look forward to this month. Let me know if you have any plans. 

If you like this post, don't forget to check out my 30 Ways to Have a Magical Christmas at Home post too. 


Life Lately - October 2020

We Made it to Half Term 

By some kind of miracle, we made it to October Half Term with nobody needing to self isolate. Heidi and Harry have had 19 confirmed COVID cases amongst children in their school over 7 weeks. 

They have not been close contacts / in the same classes as those infected though so have not needed to self-isolate. So far (at least in our school), one confirmed case does not seem to have caused a knock-on effect and led to multiple cases/the whole class catching COVID which is reassuring (although obviously, we should not be complacent). I actually don't think 19 cases amongst 2100+ students who are not wearing face coverings in lessons is too bad (less than 1% of the school). 

Discover your Art Crush (a fun 'at home' activity for tweens, teens & grown ups)

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Art Crush is a FREE and fun app - kind of like Tinder for art. Swipe right and left depending on if you love or loathe the artwork that appears on your screen. 

Once you hit 15 likes, your art personality will be revealed. Will you be a truth seeker like most of my family, boundary breaker like me or something else? Give it a go and let me know your results. It's a fun way to fill in a bit of time at home and completely free to enjoy. 

Discover your Art Crush (a fun 'at home' activity for tweens, teens & grown ups)


North East Days Out where Kids Eat Free

We worked with Inn Collection Group on a Social Media campaign in October 2020 but have not been asked or paid to share this blog post. I thought you would find it useful though. 

Blast Beach, Durham

The Inn Collection Group is a collection of lovely award-winning pubs with rooms in beautiful locations across North East England. We have visited a few over the years and always been really impressed by the warm welcome and delicious food. 


5 Years as a Fully Self-Employed Blogger

This weekend marks 5 years as a fully self-employed blogger. I absolutely love working for myself despite the many ups and downs and can't see me going back to employed work any time soon. I thought I would mark the occasion with a few random thoughts about how I got here and life as a full time blogger. 


Hardwick Park - Review, Dinosaur Trail & Information

This post is based on a visit in October 2020. For up to date info, please visit the Hardwick Park website here before making plans and setting off. 

Hardwick Park is a beautiful park in Sedgefield, County Durham. It is really easy to get to (not far from the A1), there is ample parking (£3 per day - cash or pay by phone), there is a bus stop 1/2 a mile away (use the signposted footpath through the arch to the Hardwick Hall Hotel from Sedgefield High Street) and there is plenty to keep the whole family occupied. 

North East Pubs, Cafes & Restaurants with Heated / Covered Outdoor Spaces

I have been asked a few times for suggestions for restaurants / pubs / cafes with covered or heated outdoor seating areas. I decided to ask my social media followers for their recommendations and was inundated with suggestions. Below are the top picks. Hope you find them useful. 

North East Pubs, Cafes & Restaurants with Heated / Covered Outdoor Spaces

Just a little disclaimer before we jump in. I have not visited all of these places personally but they have been recommended by my followers. Please always check up-to-date details with the venue direct before making plans as areas and facilities can change. Some venues may require pre-booking. Also keep in mind that venues may have to temporarily close at the last minute. 

There were a few recommendations that did not make this list and that is usually because I could find no mention of outdoor areas on the venue's Social Media or website. If you are a venue with an outdoor space, please do yourself a favour and share photos and information across your channels regularly. It is what your customers are looking for. Sharing vital info like this is FREE and takes 5 minutes! If I was in charge, I would be changing your Facebook header photo to a lovely image of your covered outdoor space. 

Anyway, rant over. You can see the full list of recommendations on Facebook here. 

I haven't been able to find an official statement re: what is actually classed as an indoor / outdoor space. I reckon a couple of the places mentioned here could actually be classed as indoor.  If in doubt, please do your own research first as I would hate to get anyone into trouble.

A few people pointed me in the direction of smoking regulations as a guide - basically, if an outdoor structure has a roof, 50% of the walls or more need to be missing in order for it to be classed as an outdoor space where you to legally smoke there. I think that's a good guide (see below for a simple guide): 

Finally, even if the law allows households to mix outdoors, some places still have a one household/bubble policy outdoors so please do check before visiting to avoid disappointment. 

Oh, one more thing, I have tried to separate the recommendations by region according to google. There may be a slight error with some of them but I have tried my best. Always use the address provided by the venue direct when making plans. 

North East Pubs, Cafes & Restaurants with Heated / Covered Outdoor Spaces 


Amble Inn

Credit : The Amble Inn Facebook Page 

Seafield Ocean Club Seahouses -

Credit : Seafield Ocean Club Seahouses Facebook

Red Lion Alnmouth

Credit : Red Lion Alnmouth Facebook 

Masons Arms Warkworth

Credit : Masons Arms Warkworth Facebook 

White Swan Ovingham

Credit : White Swan Ovingham Facebook 

Tomahawk Steakhouse Ponteland

Credit : Tomahawk Steakhouse Ponteland Facebook 

The Boathouse Wylam

Credit : The Boathouse Wylam Facebook 

Blackbird Ponteland

Credit : The Blackbird Ponteland Facebook 

Three Horse Shoes Cramlington

Credit : The Three Horse Shoes Facebook 

Tyne & Wear 

Dil & Bear Whitley Bay Metro Station

Credit : Dil & Bear Whitley Bay Facebook 

Davanti Classico - Tynemouth Station

Credit : Davanti Classico Tynemouth Station 

Fox and Hounds Crawcrook 

Credit : Fox and Hounds Crawcrook Facebook 

Half Moon Ryton Village

Credit : Half Moon Ryton Facebook 

Scott and Wilson North Shields -

Credit : Scott and Wilson Facebook 

Left Luggage Monkseaton

Credit : Left Luggage Facebook 

The New Plough Inn Cox Green

Credit : New Plough Inn Facebook 

Omni Monkseaton

Credit : Omni Facebook 


Credit : Crusoes Facebook 

The Brewery Whitley Bay

Credit : The Brewery Facebook 

Woods Yard, Broadway 

Credit : Woods Coffee Shop Facebook 

Hidden Sunderland

Credit : Hidden Sunderland Facebook 

Newcastle Upon Tyne 

You can find a comprehensive guide to bars and pubs in Newcastle with outdoor terraces over on here. 

Arlo Jesmond

Credit : Arlo Jesmond Facebook 

Market Shaker

Credit : Market Shaker Facebook 

Jubilee Pub Coxlodge

Credit : Jubilee Facebook 


Credit : Kafeneon Facebook 

The Woodsmans Arms, Whickham

The Orangery, Whickham

Credit : The Orangery Facebook 

Route 72 Cafe Newburn

Credit : Route 72 Facebook 

Beach Box Jesmond

Credit : Beach Box Jesmond Facebook 

Under the Bridge, Ouseburn

Credit : Under the Bridge Facebook 

The Millstone South Gosforth

Credit : The Millstone Facebook 

Northumberland Hussar Heaton

Credit : Northumberland Hussar Facebook 

Adriano's Gosforth

Credit : Adrianos Facebook 

City Tavern

Credit : City Tavern Facebook 

The Cluny

Credit : The Cluny Facebook 

Stack Newcastle / Hadrian's Tipi

Credit : Stack Facebook 

Credit : Stack Facebook 

South Tyneside 

The Cock Crow Hebburn

Credit : The Cock Crow Facebook 

Sambucas South Shields

Credit : Sambucas Facebook 

County Durham 

Secret Garden Coffee Shop

Credit : Secret Garden Cofffee Shop

Beamish Park Hotel

Credit : Beamish Park Hotel 

Stack Seaburn

Credit : Stack Seaburn 

The Waiting Room Durham Station

Credit : The Waiting Room 

South Causey Inn

Credit : South Causey Facebook 

Credit : South Causey Facebook 

The Tuns at Sadberge

Credit : The Tuns Facebook 

The Mowden at Darlington

Credit : The Mowden Facebook 

The Farmer's Arms

Credit : The Farmer's Arms 

Redworth Hall

Credit : Redworth Hall 


The Derry

Credit : The Derry Facebook

Phew, that's some list! Make sure you bookmark this post to come back to and always remember to double check outdoor spaces, Government guidelines, venue guidelines and the specifics of the outdoor space (as they may change/differ from those pictured) before making plans and heading out. 

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, here are some ways you can say thanks and support North East Family Fun: 

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. 

2 - Join our  Days Out Facebook Group here which includes lots of ideas for things to do - you can post your own recommendations too. 

4 - Share this post with your friends 

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Thank you for your support as always. 

Please follow social distancing rules & Government guidelines , 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. 

Remember face coverings are required for indoor attractions / shops for those aged 11+ (usual exemptions apply)  

Check for local lockdowns / travel restrictions before visiting anywhere. 

Always check updated opening hours / protocols with venues direct before setting off as things may have changed after this post was published. 
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