29 April 2011

In which the tomato plants continue to take over the world...

Annoyingly, M's tomato plants are still far larger than mine. Humph.

In other news, the new planter is ready, so the beans are off shortly to a new home. Bet you never knew there could be such excitement in the world of gardening...

28 April 2011

Galena galore

We've had a fantastic day out today searching for rocks in the middle of the North Pennines, miles from anywhere. The Killhope Lead Mining Museum is a bit of a drive from Newcastle - about an hour and a half - but you pass miles upon miles of moorland (complete with very cute lambs and sheep) as the A689 road wriggles higher and higher up the valley towards Alston.

Once you've arrived, there's plenty to do. We liked the little exhibition about 'spar boxes' and minerals, and loved the reconstruction of the 'mine shop' where the miners lived during the week. There's a huge water wheel which drives working machinery - and best of all, there's the washer yard where kids can have a go at looking for galena (silvery lead ore) and minerals. There was much enthusiastic washing and hammering of stones going on!

We didn't tour the mine today (I hate the dark and get claustraphobic underground, M's probably a bit small yet), but probably will at a later date - once you've bought a ticket for entry, it's valid for a whole year.

We did have a good wander round in the woodland, though, tracing the paths of the water down to the water wheel. There were no red squirrels to be seen, sadly, but there's always next time...

26 April 2011

More cycling

Today we pootled along a section of the Derwent Walk Country Park, which is about 20 minutes' drive from where we live. Two miles out of Swalwell along the Derwent Walk, there's a huge viaduct (the Nine Arches), with gorgeous views down the valley to Gibside and its Column of Liberty. You can see the Column in the picture here, nicely camouflaged by lots of twigs:

Here's the troops looking slightly restive at the halfway point, and needing their tea:

Our next challenge is to go all the way along the path to Rowlands Gill. A promise of a reward has been issued: ice cream at the National Trust tea room...

23 April 2011

Cycle trip!

It's amazing what you can fit on the back of an Audi A2. Not content with towing the folding caravan, we've now got a bike rack that goes on the towbar (we've had bikes on the roof, but sadly that's too tall for the ferry over to Denmark this summer).

We rode in Sunderland today, along the river from the National Glass Centre, which is part of the C2C. It's not a bad path - apart from the odd scattering of broken glass - which takes you past some weird and wonderful remnants of industrial architecture. We liked the giant hamster wheel:

There's some interesting stuff to look at (and a very interesting smell), but it's not as nice as the route along Newcastle's quayside. Apart from anything else, I'd feel safe trundling along the Quayside on my own, and probably wouldn't along the more deserted stretches of the Wear.

22 April 2011


It was sunny and warm today so we trundled off to Belsay again - this time for an egg hunt rather than a fairy trail, and a picnic (the second this week!). The egg hunt was fun - there were lots of letters hidden in the gardens, which then had to be made into two words (Easter-related, not surprisingly).

We had a picnic at the castle, and then climbed the winding steps to the roof. I don't remember going out there before - it's probably been too cold and windy the other times we've been! There's a great view across the valley, and some rather good turrets.

The Quarry Garden was as beautiful as ever - last time it was snowdrops, this time it was lime green ferns and pink, white and red rhododendrons:

All in all, a top day out. More like this please.

20 April 2011


We headed to the bluebell woods in Durham today, for some general larking about and a picnic.

It was beautiful - huge carpets of bluebells, and sheets of sunshine dripping through the trees.

And some small children competing to see who had the tallest stick...

18 April 2011

It's amazing what will keep small children amused in the Easter holidays...


We have gone slightly vegetable mad in the garden at the moment. I've planted what feels like nine million red onions, lots of salad/beetroot/radishes, potatoes, some sweetcorn (which may be a tad optimistic, in Gateshead) and several punnets-worth of strawberries. This year I've decided not to do the allotment, hence our new range of pots:

Excitingly, there's a new planter under construction, which is going to be perfect for the various beans (french, borlotti, runner) which are currently invading the living room.

It's rather sad to have to give up on the idea of the allotment. But I just don't have the time - hopefully it will be much easier to spend 10 minutes each evening pottering about in the garden, rather than feeling permanently guilty that I've only been to the allotment for an hour all week. I've already planted more things than I did in all of last year - not having to weed makes such a difference. Now all I need is for the slugs to steer well clear of all this food!

06 April 2011

Story time

How to keep your five-year-old amused in the back of the car on a long-distance journey - make them write you a story:

"Sparkle town is...a cat town!
This cat is a Manx cat. He is looking at a flower. The sun is out and it is shining."

Am liking the detail...