I did not realise how much you can look forward to the rain until I had a toddler! Before he was born, I would look out the window and say ‘ugh’ before sinking into the couch with a blanket and a box set. But anyone who has been through the toddler stage knows that this is no longer an option because just as you sit down with a cup of tea they are immediately up to something! Chasing the dog around the house; unpacking pans from the kitchen drawer and enjoying the clatter as they hit the floor; taking a bite out of several pieces from the fruit bowl or chucking toys out of the window just because!
So, you buy them a decent rain suit; wellies and pack a change of clothes and out you go into the gale - But instead of feeling miserable, I am immediately lifted by my little man’s look of sheer joy and excitement as he runs towards a huge puddle, and splash! Or shaking the branch of a tree and opening his mouth to catch the drops of water. He waves enthusiastically at passers-by, woofs at dogs and does not seem to mind when he falls over or when he charges into a ford and the water comes over the top of his wellies! As I’m trying to keep up, I don’t even notice the rain or the fact that whatever scrap of make-up I put on that morning has been washed away – I’m smiling from ear to ear, loving every minute of being in nature and having the best time with my boy.
Here are some of our favourite family-friendly adventures for all weathers:
You can park for free in the car park at the bottom of Well Bank and then turn right along the river, walking for about 30 minutes to reach the Roman Ruins managed by English Heritage, before looping back into town. It’s a beautiful walk – past the ducks; past the teenagers throwing themselves into the river from the rope swing; past fields of sheep and some incredible ‘land that time forgot’ vegetation further along! At the Roman Ruins, they have no issue with my little man running and scrambling about – they welcome you to bring a picnic and have a family loo. Take away coffee, and lunch options are in abundance in the village; Mammy must have Flat White by 9am to function! I’m really looking forward to dropping into the newly opened Spokes Kitchen for brunch.
Derwent Walk, Rowlands Gill
I fondly remember being nine months pregnant with Bodhi and doing a two hour loop in the hope that he’d pop out shortly after – no such luck, instead it was climbing the steep banks and steps at Jesmond Dene ten days later that did it! I like to park at the Swalwell Visitor Centre or at Land of Oak and Iron Heritage Centre, which has a loo and Café Shrub with good options for kids, and a generous veggie brunch! We then walk along the path, passing the swans on the lake and up to the top of the big hill, crossing our fingers that we might see a Red Kite swooping down into the trees having spotted his lunch! The view is breath taking – looking across the Viaduct and onto Lady Liberty in the distance at Gibside brings a lovely feeling of calm.
It’s an easy walk from The Boat Shack café to the visitor centre, and back again. Bodhi loves to get up close and personal with the sheep roaming freely across our path, and I get a lovely feeling in my tummy when I see the reservoir lined with families fishing together.
This is right on our doorstep so we visit here a lot. I learned the hard way though, and now take Bodhi’s wellies with us because there are lots of opportunities to nip into the river for a splash! If we’re feeling particularly energetic, we park beside Tyne River View Café (chocolate crispy cake to die for!) and revamped play park, and then walk all the way to Wylam Bridge. It’s such an iconic structure to behold, and even better when you walk onto it and are rewarded with the spectacular view down river.
Formerly known as Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens – It’s contained and has lots to see indoors and outdoors – Bodhi loves the Monkeys, I think because he shares such an affinity with them! And he’s always thrilled to meet a wandering Peacock!
Northumberland National Park
We like to call into The Sill up at Once Brewed and explore Wall Town Country Park a bit further along – I feel so lucky to have the National Park close by and for it be accessible and so well looked after.
Belsay Hall and Gardens
We love it here all year round – the walk through the old quarry is magical and full of surprises when it comes to the variety of trees and plants, and many nooks for Daddy to jump out from! And then there’s the Castle and the Hall to run around – apologies to anyone who was visiting last time we were there – Bodhi discovered how satisfying it was to hear his voice at full volume echo around the Hall! Finally, no visit would be complete without a warmed through cheese pasty with a sachet of ketchup, yum.
I remember our visit to the Garden last summer as a little family, it was so special – Getting taken by surprise and full on soaked by the fountains; sitting all together on the rope swing as a parade of chicks passed underneath, and then enjoying a picnic on the huge lawn in the sunshine – bliss.