Monday, 10 August 2015

Beamish - Living Museum of the North

A lovely visit to 'Beamish - Living Museum of the North' last week.  The museum covers several periods of north-east life from the 1820s to the 1940s.

Of course we arrived hungry and had to visit Davy's Fried Fish Shop in the 1900s Pit Village - where the fish and chips (no other options) are cooked in beef dripping and served in paper cones.  The three cooking ranges are coal-fired.
A visit to the colliery and a trip down the mine came next.  
There are many homes to visit - the more affluent properties in the town...
...and the poorer homes in the pit village where families of up to twelve would live in small two up, two down terraced cottages.  A proggy mat being made from rags was being demonstrated in this home, but would really have been a woman's task.
The 1900s town boasts a dentist, music teacher, Barclays Bank, stationer and printer, garage, stables, bakery Jubilee Confectioners, Sun Inn Public House, Masonic hall and Co-op stores.
An assortment of sweet rollers (including policemen and fish) - put to use several times throughout the day to shape traditional boiled sweets.  The sweet shop always has the longest queues outside.
All transport on site is by foot, tram, period buses or by steam train.
We also went further back in time to the 1820s to Pockerly Old Hall where we saw candles being made for use in the buildings for this era.
Pockerly Old Waggonway representing 1825 was our final port of call.  
The 6 ft weather vane illustrates a story about George Stephenson, who when asked what would happen if a cow got in front of a steam train replied that it would be 'very awkward indeed - for the coo!'

We were warned that our train journey would be bumpy - they were right!
Buth the waiting room had the most warming and charming fire that I've seen for a long time.

Saturday, 1 August 2015


It's August so we should be thinking sandy beaches, sunbathing, picnics, barbecues, ice-cream and outdoor games.
But this is the UK so in reality we're thinking log fires, steamed puddings, wellies, umbrellas and thermal underwear!  A weather forecasting stone would probably be most helpful in deciding the level of wrapping up we need!

Friday, 31 July 2015

bran loaf - a simple recipe

This recipe for Bran Loaf calls for cups of ingredients, you can use a mug as long are you are consistent and use the same 'cup' for all measurements.  If you would like to make more than one loaf then just multiply the quantities.
  • One cup of mixed dried fruit (sultanas/raisins/cherries, etc)
  • One cup of milk, semi-skimmed or full cream
  • One cup of All-Bran (or supermarket own brand)
  • Half a cup of sugar 
  • One cup of self raising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Mix the fruit, sugar, bran and milk in a large bowl and leave for six hours (or overnight).
  2. Add the flour and salt to the wet mixture and mix throughly.
  3. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a 2lb loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper.
  4. Pour the mix into the loaf tin and bake in a medium hot oven for one hour.
  5. Remove, cool, slice, butter, enjoy!
Bran loaf keeps very well for a few days, and dare I say it even improves after a few days.

Monday, 27 July 2015

National Glass Centre - Sunderland

Sunderland is home to the National Glass Centre.  This coastal town has a long history of glass making and the Glass Centre, attached to Sunderland University, is a great place to visit.  Admission to this attraction is free and within the building there are exhibitions, a museum and a restaurant.  Glass blowing demonstrations also take place several times each day. 
Glass making was introduced into Britain by Benedict Biscop near this site around 674AD when French glaziers were brought to the area to produce stained glass windows for St. Peter's Church in Monkwearmouth.  

As time passed the wealth of coal mines in the area provided vast quantities of cheap coal needed for 18th century glass making. The port of Sunderland also proved ideal for importing high quality Baltic sand needed to produce the glass and then exporting the finished product.  Sunderland was later home to Pyrex and Cornings.
Sited at the mouth of the River Wear the views from the building are outstanding.  There is also a glass roof that is able to withstand 460 people standing on it at any one time - if you feel brave enough to take a walk over it I'd recommend wearing trousers as the roof is directly over the Brasserie.
The locally sourced food in the brasserie is very good value and also extremely tasty - the seafood in particular is always my first choice at this venue - in fact I've been there a few times just for lunch as I love the 'Captain's (seafood) Platter' so much.

Friday, 24 July 2015

North Yorkshire, part three - Helmsley

Helmsley is a large and bustling market town centred around a large market square in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire.  Gorgeous stone buildings, houses and shops around the town are beautifully adorned with plants, window boxes and rose bushes. 

The ruin of Helmsley Castle can de found just moments from the market square, as can the Helmsley Brewing Co where 'summat's brewing'...I think it's beer!
On the afternoon that we visited we enjoyed a scrumptious afternoon tea at The Black Swan Hotel whilst waiting for a wedding party (a friend's family wedding) to make their stylish arrival in a London double decker bus.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

North Yorkshire, part two - Hackfall

Hackfall is a Grade l listed garden, managed by the Woodland Trust and Hackfall Trust who have cleared out dead wood, managed the trees and restored paths.  There's still a long way to go but there is plenty to see and some wonderful walks to take (although a bit steep in places).
First mentioned in the Doomsday Book (1086) Hackfall has changed hands many times and has been used for forestry, stone quarries and a watermill (for flour).

There are four listed buildings (Grade II) on the site: a Banqueting House, Fishers Hall, Mowbray Castle and a Rustic Temple.  The Banqueting House (below) has been restored and is available as a holiday cottage but the other buildings remain as ruins.
Fishers Hall (below) is a curiosity, as it's not known whether the hall takes its name from a person or from being used as a resting place by fishermen using the nearby river.  Tufa stone has been used for this building - a porous limestone found near mineral springs. 
Hackfall is free to visit and maps (also free) are placed near the entrance for visitors' use.  Walking books or sensible shoes are highly recommended for the steep banks.