25 November 2007

Places to go, rain to avoid

There's something about a wet, cold weekend that makes you seek out interesting stuff. If it was sunny we'd just head to the park to feed the starving (and increasingly machiavellian) geese and ducks, or go to the beach for a run around.

But, if it's piddling down, you could do worse than head to the Oriental Museum in Durham. Don't be put off by the website (more pictures desperately needed) - there's some beautiful things stuffed into the abyss (it's one of those museums built into the side of a hill, so you arrive at the top floor, and head downwards...). The best bit is the China section, with a massive Chinese dragon hanging from the ceiling, a giant camel, and a whole dressing up box of Chinese clothes. There's also the tiniest tea-set you'll ever see, some very strange animals cavorting on all sorts of ceramics, and some beautiful musical instruments.

The other recent find is the Woodhorn Colliery Museum, up at Ashington. Again, ignore the website (this time it's over-friendly and just a shade too patronising) - it's got some great pit buildings and a fantastic (and very moving) exhibition about mining (which kept a two-year-old and two 60-something ex-teachers happy). Best of all, it's free - just £2 to park the car.

In the era of the £20-odd family ticket (stand up, the Centre for Life), it's refreshing not to be fleeced for wanting to step outside your front door for the day.

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