No matter what the weather, there is always family fun to be had, as Phil Harrison reports.
MOST UK summers, it would seem, have had their fair share of days severely disrupted by the rain. This year, as most of us can no doubt testify, was probably one of the worst in living memory.
Even the more often sun-kissed destinations of Devon and Cornwall in the south west have had to welcome holidaymakers with a heavier-than-usual dose of the wet stuff, putting them on a par with the rest of us.
But, we’re supposedly a hardy bunch us British folk, in the majority of cases always finding ways to make the most of our precious holiday time, come wind, rain or shine.
Two years ago my family spent a very wet week in Wales. Last year, we found ourselves the victim of the weather in Ayrshire as the rain came down, at times, in bucketfuls.
On both occasions, we still managed to have fun and make the most of our time away and, during our short stay in Northumberland this summer it was to prove no different. I mean, you just make the best of it don’t you?
Having based ourselves in a comfortable and spacious wooden lodge at Wyldecrest Parks’ peaceful Bockenfield Country Park, 10 minutes south of the historic town of Alnwick and literally seconds off the A1, we soon realised we were ideally placed to explore what the area had to offer, either by retreating south slightly towards Newcastle-upon-Tyne (only 20 minutes away) or heading further north towards Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Scottish border, comfortably less than an hour’s drive.
Having settled in after our arrival on, yes, another wet evening, our first port of call the following day was to head south-west, bypassing Newcastle and heading for the picturesque village of Corbridge which was, over the course of two days, holding its annual music festival.
As a way of introducing young children to a festival atmosphere – without the often exorbitant cost or possible logistical nightmare of attending one of the major three-day musical extravaganzas which hit the UK every summer – Corbridge is an ideal place to start.
This year saw Simon Fowler and Oscar Harrison from Ocean Colour Scene headline with an acoustic set, which perhaps gives you a clue to the level of celebrity involved. But the lack of big-name artists is what makes the festival attractive, providing a relaxed, child-friendly atmosphere meaning we will more than likely make the two-hour drive up from Leeds and return next year.
Being so close to Alnwick Castle, one of Northumberland’s most popular attractions, meant we could not return having not visited a site made even more popular because of its starring role in the Harry Potter films.
Although children under five are free, it costs £48 for two adults to gain access to the castle and gardens (you can opt for just the castle for £14). Gain entry early in the day to get your money’s worth.
The rather steep admission prices are tempered slightly by the fact you can return anytime during the subsequent 12 months for free. That might be all right if you either live locally or maybe within an hour or so of the attraction. But, if like most people who visit Alnwick Castle, you are on holiday from other parts of the UK, or even further afield, it’s doubtful you will have chance to make use of that offer.
Once inside, the gardens – particularly with their child-friendly water features – and the external grounds around the castle are well worth the admission. The standard internals of the castle can be covered fairly swiftly, although that may have been more down to fear of our young son breaking something valuable as well as being aware that we needed to get to the Harry Potter-inspired wizard training we had him booked in for outside shortly after.
The next day saw us stick to the rugged Northumberland coastline, having decided to take in the small seaside town of Seahouses, overlooked by the stunning Bamburgh Castle.
As further evidence of the rainfall that had occurred in the area during the previous days, we were initially denied access to Seahouses twice due to roads being flooded before a third exit off the A1 enabled us to reach our destination – but only just.
Given the weather and its effect on local roads, it meant we chose not to risk what would have been a similarly difficult journey trying to get to Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle this time around.
With our hoped-for round of crazy golf at Seahouses being ruled out due to half of the course being under water, we took refuge in the adjoining fish and chip restaurant – complete with its own soft play area – which overlooked the harsh-looking, grey sea across the road.
Determined to hit the beach at least once during our short stay, we took a two-minute drive up towards Bamburgh. With wellies pulled up tight and waterproof clothing donned, we walked across a short run of sand dunes before finding ourselves on a more-or-less deserted beach, with the popular castle visible through the mist.
Most people’s idea of enjoying their time on the beach involves sunshine, ice cream and ball games. There was none of that here on yet another wet and blustery day but, as always, we still managed to have a lot of fun.
Phil Harrison’s accommodation during his four-day stay at Bockenfield Country Park in Northumberland was provided by Wyldecrest Parks who also have a similar site at Badgers Retreat, near Tunstall, North Yorkshire (www.wyldecrestparks.com or telephone 0844 567 7300).