Beamish Museum

Beamish Museum: October half-term 2017

Week-long musical celebration, October 21-29

Beamish Museum is a great place to take the kids this half-term – whatever the weather, there are plenty of things both indoors and out to keep them amused.

The themes this holiday are very much music and dance-based, exploring the traditional tunes and dances of North East England during various time periods.

Starting on Saturday, October 21 (and every day until Friday, October 27), join in the sing-along in The Sun Inn, in The Town, at 11am, 12.30pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.

There are also gramophone demonstrations in No.2 Ravensworth Terrace, The Town at 10.15am, 11.45am, 1.15pm, 1.45pm, 2.45pm and 4.30pm, and at 10.45am, 1.45pm, 3.45pm & 4.45pm in No.4 Ravensworth Terrace, The Town.

There is a theme each day – here’s what you can expect:

  • Monday, October 23: Musical Monday, join in with traditional songs, music and dance in Hetton Band Hall in The Pit Village.
  • Tuesday, October 24: Enjoy thrilling tales by the storyteller and enjoy 1800s music at Pockerley Old Hall.
  • Wednesday, October 25: Be part of the musical activities at Hetton Band Hall in the Pit Village.
  • Thursday, October 26: Join the Tea Dance at The 1940s Farm at 11am-noon and 1-3pm.
  • Friday, October 27: Put on your dancing shoes and take part in the ceilidh at Pockerley Old Hall at 11am-noon and 1-3pm.
  • Saturday, October 28: Here’s your chance to have a go on a brass instrument, at Blasting Brass in Hetton Band Hall, from 10am to 2pm.
  • Sunday, October 29: Musical activities for everyone in Hetton Band Hall throughout the day, including Singaround Sunday from 11am-2pm.

Half-term activities are included in admission to Beamish and are free for Unlimited Pass holders.


Address: Beamish Museum, Beamish, County Durham, DH9 0RG, call 0191 370 4000 (9am-4pm, Monday-Friday).

Opening hours: Until October 29, daily, 10am to 5pm, last admission 3pm. From October 30 to March 23, 2018, open daily, 10am to 4pm. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Mondays and Fridays from January 8 to February 9, last admission 3pm.

By road: From the North and South, follow the A1M to Junction 63 (Chester-le-Street exit), then the A693 towards Stanley for four miles, following the signs. From the west – take the A68 to Castleside, near Consett, and follow the Beamish Museum signs along the A692 and A693 via Stanley.

By bus: Go North East’s Waggonway service 28/28A runs from Newcastle, Gateshead, Birtley, Ouston and Chester-le-Street every 30 minutes Monday-Saturday daytimes, hourly in the evening and on Sundays. Connections with other bus, train or Metro services can be made in Newcastle, Gateshead, and Chester-le-Street. Coast & Country service 8 runs every 30 minutes Monday -Saturday from Sunderland Interchange, via Washington, Chester-le-Street, and Stanley. Travel to Beamish on any Go North East bus and get 25 per cent discount on a standard individual admission charge.

For further information, visit

Virginia creeper-covered lychgate, Rowntree Park, York

Cool Gardens: Rowntree Park, York

Restful park near York city centre

Another in my Cool Gardens series – and another from York. Rowntree Park is new to me and I imagine to a lot of tourists, but not to the locals. Next time you’re in the city, make a detour and get some fresh air back into your lungs. Pictures by Vanessa Sundin.

Rowntree Park, which has won a Green Flag Award every year since 2004, is just a short walk from the city centre, on the banks of the River Ouse, and was the perfect setting for an autumnal stroll.

After a £1.8million Heritage Lottery Fund-aided refurbishment, the 30-acre park was restored to its original splendour – but thanks to cuts, for how long? (We’ll get onto that later.)

The park was a gift to the City of York by Rowntree & Co in 1921 and is a memorial to the Cocoa Works staff who fell and suffered during the First World War.

A set of decorative wrought-iron gates off The Terry Avenue entrance, made circa 1715, was also presented by the firm, in 1954, as a memorial to those killed during the Second World War. The park’s centrepiece, a lychgate covered in Virginia creeper, has two bronze plaques commemorating both occasions.

Planting and wildlife

As we visited in early autumn, we were too late for the best of the borders and too early for the most vibrant tree colours but it was still a lovely place to explore.

Herbaceous perennials in abundance, bamboo and grasses, pockets of annuals, a rose pergola and a wonderful woodland walk make it a great place to chill out away from the city.

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The park is also home to the tansy beetle, the ultra-rare (and ultra-green) insect found only around 30km of the River Ouse floodplain. It’s Yorkshire’s arthropod version of China’s giant panda, existing only on tansy flowers. We may have caught one on camera – any experts out there?

As in the Museum Gardens, there were grey squirrels everywhere, stocking up for winter, along with ducks and geese aplenty.

The Friends of Rowntree Park

The group was formed in 1996 to work with City of York Council. The Young Friends and the Very Young Friends have since been formed.

I was astounded to read there were no permanent council gardeners anymore in the 30-acre park due to cuts and volunteers did the gardening work! Apart from them doing a fantastic job, parks are vital to the health and wellbeing of their neighbourhood and desperately need investment.

If anyone in the York area can help, please do – this is one asset the city cannot afford to lose.
For more information, visit

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Park facilities

  • The events and entertainment space is available for hire year round
  • Woodland walk and tree trails
  • Ornamental lake, half of which is available for use by model boats
  • 6 tennis courts
  • Skatepark
  • Basketball court
  • Rowntree Park Reading Cafe
  • Toilets
  • War memorial
  • Children’s play area
  • Orienteering map, activity sheet and information leaflet are available to download
  • Dogs on lead welcome
  • Table tennis tables
  • Rowntree Park Tennis Club

Useful information

  • Address: Rowntree Park, Terry Avenue, Micklegate, York YO23 1JQ.
  • Opening hours: The park is open daily apart from Christmas Day, from 8am Monday to Friday and 9am Saturdays and Sundays, closing at dusk.
  • Accessibility: There is easy access with mostly level paths. See the DisabledGo website for information for the Rowntree Park Reading Cafe.
  • Getting there: Buses run frequently from the city centre to Bishopthorpe Road then follow signs down Butcher Terrace to the Millennium Bridge. Travel by bike or foot along the riverside or across the Millennium Bridge.
  • Parking: Car park on Terry Avenue, or on-street parking in the surrounding streets (don’t be rude and block residents in!)
  • Flooding: As the park is in the River Ouse floodplain, it is closed when river levels are high, even if water has not entered the park for safety reasons. If a flood occurs, it may take several weeks to reopen.
York Museum Gardens

Cool Gardens: York Museum Gardens

History-packed oasis in the centre of York

In another of my Cool Gardens series, I pay a visit to the York Museum Gardens, bursting with history, fine planting – and squirrels. Pictures by Vanessa Sundin

Tear yourself away from the Minster or The Shambles and make a beeline for the Museum’s Gardens. Not just the grounds of the museum, the gardens are steeped in history and well worth a visit in their own right.

The 10-acre garden is set in the medieval ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and was established in the 1830s by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, which was granted the land on condition that botanical gardens would be created. These were created by Sir John Murray Naysmith and originally contained a conservatory, a pond, and a menagerie. Since 2002, the gardens have been managed by the York Museums Trust.

The Multangular Tower, St Mary’s Abbey, and Hospitalium

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This early 3rd-century tower is the best example of standing Roman remains in York. The tower stood at the west corner of the legionary fortress, one of the two corner-towers of the huge stone wall that looked down onto the river.

The small stones in the lower half are Roman whereas the upper half was reconstructed in the medieval period.

The Benedictine abbey of St Mary’s was first built in 1088 by William the Conqueror to reinforce his hold on the north after the Norman Conquest. King Henry VIII pensioned off the monks in 1540 and the buildings were converted into a palace for the King. They fell into ruins before being excavated by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in the 1820s.

You can see the remains of the walls of the nave and crossing of the church, and the cloister. The outer walls were built in the 1260s and are the most complete set in the country.

The Hospitium was built as part of the abbey in the medieval period, used for housing guests. The stone ground floor dates to the 1300s with the watergate arch added around 1500. Now, it’s a popular wedding and entertainment venue.

The planting

York Museum Gardens won the Gold Award of Yorkshire in Bloom for three successive years. The collection is spread across themed borders.

Prairie Border: One of the newest borders, you can see plants from the North American prairies that are popular gardens plants today. Autumn is a great time to visit – watch out for Rudbeckia and grasses.

Fern Garden: Also an update, but you wouldn’t believe it. Stones from the abbey church have been used to create beds of native and non-native ferns. Trees include Gingko Biloba and the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis). There’s also a nod to the Victorian stumpery with an upside-down tree! Spot the 300-million-year-old fossils of plants from the museum.

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Observatory Border: Plants with starry flowers and contrasts of light and shade.

Rock Garden: Built in tribute to the Victorian plant hunters the Backhouse family, the area was created in the 1980s by Askham Bryan College students using alpines and dwarf conifers among blocks of limestone.

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Butterfly Border: A mix of trees, shrubs, and perennials to provide nectar for pollinators.

Oriental Border: Elements of Chinese and Japanese garden culture. Plants, rocks, and water are chosen and positioned to have a symbolic meaning.

Storytelling: Planted with herbs, shrubs and cottage plants, this sheltered spot is a tranquil meeting space for schools, families, and children. You can sit on the Roman column and tell your children a story.

Garden wildlife

The garden is awash with grey squirrels, quite unafraid of visitors and far too busy gathering nuts to bury for the winter! Hedgehogs and foxes can be found, as well as more than 40 species of birds, including treecreepers, coal tits and sparrowhawks.

Numerous species of moths and butterflies are found here, including the White Spotted Black micro-moth.

The endangered bright green Tansy Beetle also can be found, which live only in a 30km stretch of the banks of the River Ouse.

In 2012, 30 beetles were introduced to specially planted beds, to increase the range of the beetle.

Opening times, tours, accessibility

  • Address: York Museum Gardens, Marygate, York, North Yorkshire YO30 7DR.
  • Garden opening: October 1-March 24, 2018: 7.30am-6pm. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve: 7.30am-4pm.
  • Accessibility: The gardens have a series of wheelchair-friendly paths.
  • Free garden tours: Every Sunday, 1-2pm. Meet inside the Museum Street gates, no need to book.

Beamish Museum Harvest Festival and Harvest Home 2017

Festival of Agriculture finale, Saturday, September 30 & Sunday, October 1

The County Durham museum’s month-long festival celebrating the agricultural and rural heritage of North East England ends this weekend with Harvest Festival and Harvest Home.

There will be displays in The Pit Village chapel with choir performances as well as harvest displays at Pockerley Old Hall and the 1940s Farm.

Saturday, September 30

  • 11am: Gateshead Salvation Army Community Choir – Pit Village chapel.
  • 1pm: Harvest Festival Programme – Beamish Youth Club and Gateshead Salvation Army Community Choir – Pit Village chapel.
  • 2pm: CONCORDIAMICI performing Choral Evensong – Eston Church.

Sunday, October 1

  • 11am: Shiney Row Male Voice Choir – Eston Church.
  • 11am: Broomside Choir – Pit Village chapel.
  • 12pm: Broomside Choir – Pit Village chapel.
  • 1pm: Harvest Festival Programme – Beamish Youth Club and Beamish Volunteer Choir – Pit Village chapel.
  • 2pm: Beamish Volunteer Choir – Pit Village chapel.

Other activities

  • Corn dolly making at Pockerley Old Hall.
  • King Coal Band performing from 1pm to 4pm at Pockerley Old Hall.
  • Sunnyside Up playing at The 1940s Farm from 1pm to 4pm.
  • Paper flower making in The Pit Village school.
  • Period-style food displays at Pockerley Old Hall and The 1940s Farm.

For more information, visit


Apple Day: October 21, 2017

Celebrate the autumn apple harvest

Roger's premier gold-winniing apple and pear exhibit
Roger’s premier gold-winning apple and pear exhibit at Harrogate Autumn Flower Show

It’s one of the crops we associate with autumn so celebrate the diversity of local varieties on Apple Day, held on October 21 each year.

The day was launched in 1990 by Common Ground, with the aim of creating a custom, and even an autumn holiday.

It’s a spotlight on the varieties we are in danger of losing, not simply the apples, but in the diversity of landscape, ecology and culture.

Activities take place across the country, notably by the Women’s Institute, the National Trust and Wildlife Trusts.

The first Apple Day took place in the old Apple Market in London’s Covent Garden, with 40 stalls showcasing fruit growers, nurseries, juice and cider-makers, writers and illustrators.

How to Celebrate Apple Day

  • Seek out apple varieties native to your region.
  • Check out events near you.
  • Host an Apple Day event, encouraging people to try new recipes and types of apples.
  • Try locally brewed ciders.
  • Take part in the Apple Wassail, a traditional form of this ancient practice, where bread is laid on the roots of trees which are then doused with cider. It’s supposed to bless the trees and bring about good harvests.

To find out more about Apple Day, visit

For National Trust apple day events, starting this weekend, visit here.

Helmsley Walled Garden in North Yorkshire is hosting an event, visit my Cool Gardens post here.

Lubera’s recommendations for Apple Day

Why not celebrate Apple Day by planting your own tree? Here are some recommendations from Swiss fruit experts Lubera’s Bionda range.

Apple Bionda Marilyn: Medium-sized, round to slightly flat, a beautiful yellow colour when ripe, never gets russets (which is very common in yellow varieties).
Texture: Extremely juicy, fine-celled and very firm.
Flavour: Sweeter than Golden Delicious, has a distinct pear aroma when fully ripe.
Growth: Good branching, resistant to scab, little mildew.
Harvest: Matures in early September, but can also be left on the tree until mid-September, obtains a distinct pear flavour, shelf life until Christmas, from £19.90 for a 1-year tree in a 5-litre pot.

Apple Bionda Patrizia: Medium-large, beautifully high built, with deeper and wider calyx.
Texture: Firm, fine-celled and crisp, juicy.
Flavour: Even after storage, there is still lots of flavour in the spring – lots of sugar and acidity.
Growth: Medium-strong habit. Very productive, resistant to scab.
Harvest: Mid-October, directly from the tree, should be stored 1-3 months before being eaten, from £17.40 for a 1-year tree in a 5-litre pot.

Apple Bionda Bella: Round, slightly tall, the “greenest” Bionda variety.
Taste: The successor of Golden Delicious – the storability of Patrizia (until February/March) and the best texture; the flavour is balanced in autumn (sweet with good acidity, then it gets sweeter).
Growth: Compact, very well-branched; resistant to scab; no russeting.
Harvest: Mid-late September, from £19.90 for a 1-year tree in a 5-litre pot.

£18 million Remaking Beamish project begins

Work starts on 1950s Town, farm and Georgian coaching inn

Heritage Lottery Fund head Ivor Crowther left and Beamish director Richard Evans celebrate with staff at an afternoon tea with Babycham

Building work has started on the £18 million expansion of Beamish, The Living Museum of the North – the biggest project in its history.

The ground-breaking ceremony was held on Friday, September 22, for the Remaking Beamish project, which will see the addition of more than 30 new exhibits, including a 1950s Town, Farm and a Georgian coaching inn, where visitors can stay overnight.

Thanks to the money raised by National Lottery players, the project has been awarded £10.9million by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Director Richard Evans said: “After years of careful planning, we are really excited to be starting this major project, creating new ways for visitors to experience Beamish and learn more about everyday life in the North East of England through time.”

The project is expected to create nearly 100 new jobs, and training opportunities, including 50 apprenticeships. An extra 100,000 tourists are expected to visit the region. The museum, in County Durham, will remain open throughout the work.

Cinema on the move

The 1950s Town will feature a cinema – being moved from Ryhope, Sunderland – a community centre, homes, shops, cafe, bowling green and fish and chip shop.

Aged miners’ homes will provide a dedicated centre for older people, including those living with dementia.

Artist Norman Cornish’s former home will be recreated, including the studio he donated to the museum.

Spain’s Field Farm, from Weardale, will tell the story of rural life in the 1950s.

The expansion of the 1820s landscape will include a coaching inn and a recreation of murdered Joe the Quilter’s cottage.

A trolleybus system and restored buses will transport visitors, while a Northern General bus depot will support Beamish’s work to pass on heritage engineering skills.

Buildings from County Durham, Tyneside, Wearside, Teesside and Northumberland will be moved or replicated in the programme.

New jobs and training

Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) North East, said: “It’s fantastic to celebrate the beginning of the project’s building work, which will see National Lottery investment used to build the much-anticipated 1950s Town, establish a pioneering wellbeing centre, create jobs and training opportunities and secure a bright future for Beamish, its staff and the hundreds of thousands who visit each year.”

North East firm Seymour Civil Engineering has been contracted to carry out the civil and infrastructure work.

Find out more about the Remaking Beamish project at