33. Jumpin Jumpin at Extreme Newcastle!

All credit to Sarah for this one! It was her birthday this week and so obviously she wanted to celebrate turning 28 with a trip to Extreme Newcastle – a trampoline park that’s recently popped up on West Road.

We headed there this afternoon for our 2pm slot, purchased the compulsory  socks, watched a slightly bizarre H&S video and then headed on in.

During the video we realised that (perhaps unsurprisingly) we were almost definitely the oldest child-free people there. We were therefore initially slightly concerned about potentially crushing some small children, but actually the park is really well organised and there were no issues at all!

It was also really fun. Like REALLY fun. We began our time on a tightrope, which Molly was great at and the rest of us were, frankly, crap. 

We followed this up with some bouncing which, FYI, is seriouslyyy tiring. Like I was knackered after five minutes. I am so unfit. We attempted to get a photo of all of us doing a star jump, but this was about as close as we got… 

The scariest bit was a high jump into a foam pit. I mean loads of small children were doing it and Molly, Sarah and Barnesy tackled it straight away, but Astrid and I were too scared.

We decided to be brave though and give it a go. I waited anxiously in the queue, made it to the top and then got TOO SCARED and had to sit down to jump. Seriously. LIKE HOW OLD AM I!?

Astrid then smashed it and, so determined not to be the only non jumper, I rather sheepishly climbed back to the top andddd this time I made it! Hurrayyyy! I had conquered my Everest!

Ermmmm how GLORIOUS does Astrid look when lounging in a foam pit!?

Other activities included Sarah destroying Barnesy and Molly at some sort of Gladiator thing… 

And a basketball game which I’ve no photos of and which I was seriously bad at. I even got the ball stuck somewhere and had to ask staff to get it down 🙈

All in all it was an absolutely smashing afternoon and one I’d recommend to anyone keen to feel like a child again. It really was knackering though and so between bouncing and playing we needed the occasional rest. 

Well, when I say “we” I mean me, Astrid, Molly and Sarah. Not Barnesy. Barnesy spent the time planking. Obviously. 


32. Take a walk in Rising Sun Country Park

I had such a WHOLESOME Sunday morning last weekend. I got up early and went climbing with my friend Emily at Climb Newcastle in Byker and then returned home to do some of my jigsaw. Absolutely living the dream.

Anyway, the sky was blue for what felt like the first time in forever and so Neil suggested we headed out on a walk. My friend, Rachel, had mentioned Rising Sun to me a while ago because she occasionally does a Park Run there and so we decided to try it out.

Rising Sun Country Park is located just off Whitley Road in Benton and is a huge green space (162 hectares to be precise) which boasts, amongst other things, a nature reserve, a lake, a farm, vast grassy and woodland areas, and a countryside centre with a park, shop and café. 

The café provides training and employment for adults with learning difficulties and the farm, which is organic, also provides a day service for people with learning difficulties. Maybe it was my awareness of this great work or maybe it was the blue sky and green scenery, but somehow all of Rising Sun Park just seemed to give off really lovely vibes.

There are various trails around the park, none of which seemed to be particularly long – though no doubt you could extend them – Neil and I took the red trail, which was around a forty minute walk and took us up a hill… 

Through some woods… 

And eventually back to the café where we had a slice of cake and enjoyed these views… 

Sadly, through no fault of the Rising Sun Park, our wholesome Sunday ended there. We headed home and prepared some vegetables to make a cottage pie for tea. At this point, however, Neil suggested we went to the pub “just for one” to watch the end of the Manchester United, Blackburn match. 

Just the one drink turned, predictably, into several. Having lost all inclination to cook, we ordered a pizza and, rather sheepishly, popped our beautifully prepared vegetables into the fridge. We then settled down with our Dominos in front of (at my request) a YouTube compilation of Shola Ameobi’s Newcastle goals. What a guy. What a Sunday!

31. Feed the ducks in Leazes Park

New Years Resolution/Target… Complete this blog! My apologies for the horrendous delay since my last post. PGCE placement, a hefty assignment and classic Christmas chaos have meant that more or less everything else has been sorely neglected. I’ve a couple of weeks of relative calm, however, before my next placement begins and so am eager to catch up on writing about the few activities that I have done since I last posted.

Leazes Park, with an opening date of 1873, was the first public park in Newcastle. It was designed by John Laing and was created to give the people of Newcastle a place for exercise and recreation. In the past the park was home to such delights as a croquet lawn, avaries and herds of deer. Sadly, none of those remain today but the park is still home to a large fishing lake, tennis courts, a bowling green, children’s play areas and various pleasant green areas that a person can enjoy wandering through.

I hadn’t really spent any time in Leazes Park until I began my PGCE when, on more than one occasion, we have been taken there to explore ways of teaching Science outdoors. On these trips I noticed how pretty the park is  and, given its close proximity to the university, thought it might be nice to head there one lunch time. A quick Google of Leazes Park suggested that one of the key activities there is feeding the ducks and so having first persuaded my friend and fellow PGCE student, Laura, that this was a GREAT way to spend our lunchtime, we headed there with our bread at the ready.

Now, most things I write about on this blog I strongly encourage everybody to go and do. I’m not sure I can do that with this one. Feeding those ducks was right up there with the scariest (albeit most hilarious) experiences of my life.

When we arrived at the park it was a sunny day and the lake looked beautiful and all in all I was feeling pretty smug about this great lunch time idea. As soon as we got close to the water, however, and before we had even got out our bread, the ducks emerged from the water and began to surround us. Only there weren’t just ducks… there were also some Canadian geese and, of course, some bloody seagulls darting around ruining everyone’s fun.

I was feeling slightly nervous when along came this man, who just so happened to be an absolute expert at feeding ducks.

“Ahh, you want to feed the ducks do you? Right, well what you do is you tear up the bread into little pieces and then hold your hand out flat and they take it from you. They won’t bite you!”

I mean, I am not going to lie to anybody… I had no intention of hand feeding the ducks. I was just going to throw some bread around. Determined not to look a fool in front of Mr Duck Feeding Expert though, I did as he suggested and, of course, was almost instantly bitten by a goose. By this point we were completely surrounded by (what felt like) hundreds of ducks, geese and seagulls and were essentially just throwing bread as far away from us as possible, whilst giggling slightly hysterically.We still just about held it together though until two swan emerged from the water and started heading threateningly towards us, at which point it all became too much and we both just absolutely legged it in opposite directions, much to the amusement of a nearby couple, who almost definitely filmed the entire thing.

Spot Laura…
Stalked by swans!

Once we had recovered from our near death (ahem) experience, we went for a little walk around the rest of the park. CLEARLY, this is all we should have done to begin with as the rest of Leazes Park is actually pretty beautiful – how could it not be, with St James Park standing so gloriously in its background!?

30. See Fenwick’s Christmas Window Display

Anyone who read the very first entry of this blog might remember that I began it in order to keep me occupied during a (very happy) 14 weeks of unemployment. I genuinely thought I would have all 50 activities done and dusted by the end of August… OBVIOUSLY, that didn’t quite work out. Here we are in November and I have only just made it to number 30! The thing is though, even though this isn’t what I intended, I am actually kind of glad about it, because now it means I get to write about Christmas related activities!

I am a Christmas fanatic, but I try not to let myself get too excited until at least mid November. Ideally, therefore I would be writing about Fenwick’s window display at a later date, but I was in town and I just could not resist. Fenwick’s Christmas window is, to anyone who has been brought up in the North East, a HUGE deal. We used to come from Hexham every year to see it as kids. Weirdly, whenever I remember coming as a child I always remember it snowing… but that can’t possibly be true. I bet it snowed one single time and I have really held on to that memory.

Fenwick’s began their traditional Christmas window display in 1971 and have had a whole collection of wonderful themes since then. They say it is their way of giving something back to the North East and so the window always tells a story rather than featuring any brands. Highlights from over the years can be seen here and here.

For me personally, it never disappoints and this year was no different. The window has taken on a Beatrix Potter theme in celebration of it being 150 years since the iconic author was born and the window is full of her most famous tales. It really is a fantastic sight and, as always, didn’t fail to take me right back to my childhood (if only it had been snowing..).


29. Go to Friday Night Life at the Centre for Life

I have always been a big fan of the Centre for Life and so when my friend Sarah told me that they had started hosting a monthly Friday night event for adults I was super keen. All the fun of a museum with a bar thrown in! Dream scenario.

We booked tickets for the halloween themed October late night event; a day which also just so happened to be the deadline for one of my university assignments. For some reason, in the weeks running up to this deadline, I felt VERY confident about my ability to get this essay written quickly and so planned a whole range of fun activities for the week we had been given off from the university in order to write it.

I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to see where I am going with this… Turns out I have completely lost any ability I may or may not have once had to write an essay quickly and the “week off” ended up being an absolute mess. Reluctant to give up any of my social commitments I worked all day, went out every evening and by the time it came to handing it in was an absolute wreck. Nonetheless I was determined to not only stick to the Friday Night Life plan but also to have a few drinks with friends from university too..

Again, we can all see where I am going with this – by the time I arrived at the museum I was more than a little merry and so I am afraid my ability to provide some coherent information on the night is a little questionnable. What I do know is that being in a museum without children and after having had a few drinks is just great.  I essentially bounded around it like a hyperactive child. Highlights included eating insects with Astrid (they were absolutely minging, but it was interesting to try); holding all sorts of creatures – I held a tarantula and a scorpion and Sarah and Carmen both held snakes; playing a musical phone game and, best of all, riding the 4d motion ride! 

The only downside of being drunk in a museum is that you aren’t really able to appreciate the more serious aspects. I more or less completely ignored the Animal Inside Out exhibition, which is supposed to be brilliant. Also, by the time we’d been at the Centre for a couple of hours my friends were (thankfully) also a little tipsy and we ended up completely forgetting to visit the planetarium (one of the things we were most excited about) and went to the pub instead – could happen to anyone, right!? 

I may not have provided the world’s greatest description of Friday Night Life, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words so maybe these delightful shots will add a little more insight..

 28. Watch a film at Tyneside Cinema

I realise I’m going to sound super old here, but I remember going to the cinema in Hexham and it costing £2.50 for a ticket. That was a few (okay about 14) years ago, but in my head I still seem to vaguely expect a trip to the cinema to cost about £5. Obviously this isn’t the case and every time I go I get a genuine shock at how expensive it is.

It is because of my inability to cope with modern day prices (seriously, how old am I?) that I don’t go to the cinema an awful lot. When I do go, however, I like to feel as though I am having an actual evening out – not just essentially watching a DVD on a super big screen. Thankfully in Newcastle we have the  Tyneside Cinema and even more thankfully, I happen to have a lovely friend, Suzannah, who, for my last birthday, gave me an incredibly generous giftcard for the Tyneside – hurray!

Situated in a Grade II-listed building, the Tyneside Cinema was once a newsreel theatre, in fact, it is the only one time newsreel theatre to still be operating as a full time cinema in the whole of the United Kingdom. It has a hugely varied programme, showing films from all over the world and ranging from local, independent films to Hollywood blockbusters. Within the cinema are three main screens; a bar which, as well as serving LUSH food, also regularly shows films for free; a Coffee Rooms and a digital art gallery, as well as numerous artefacts from the cinema’s past.

Put simply, it is an absolute delight, and I have really loved being able to go there more frequently. I went for lunch ON MY OWN – super brave – and was also able to actually treat (trust me this is a rare occurrence) both my mum and Neil to a trip there. Mum and I went to see Bridget Jones (it was just like hanging out with an old friend) in the Roxy screen room which is nice and cosy, but nothing really to write home about. Neil and I though were able to see Life On The Road (Neil’s choice, FYI) in the Classic screen room and it was bloody amazing. We were sat on a sofa in the upper circle, watching the film with a gin and tonic in hand.. Just stupendous!


27.Head down Victoria Tunnel

Voted THE number 1 thing to do in Newcastle on TripAdvisor, a trip down Victoria Tunnel has been on my to do list for a long time and it absolutely didn’t disappoint. I headed there yesterday afternoon with my friends Molly and Sarah and participated in a two hour tour which was as funny as it was fascinating.

Victoria Tunnel is, in a nutshell, a 19th century wagonway originally built to transport coal from Spital Tongues Colliery to the Tyne and then later converted into an air raid shelter during WWII. It is 2.25 miles long, but only 700 metres of it are currently accessible. The entrance to the accessible section of the tunnel is in the Ouseburn Valley and that is where we began our tour with the knowledgeable and incredibly funny Steve.

Steve entertained us with various stories and facts as we walked through Ouseburn – my favourite of which was that back in the early to mid 1800s there were 129 pubs in Ouseburn Valley. Today there are just six and I still think of it as being a fairly boozy little part of Newcastle. Of course, back then pubs weren’t what they are today – Steve said a pub could literally be somebody’s living room, but STILL – 129. Wow.

Upon reaching the entrance to the tunnel we were given a hard hat and a torch (and so OBVIOUSLY took a couple of photos) and were told that we were first going to hear about the tunnel during WWII before being handed over to another tour guide to hear about the tunnel during the Victorian times.

During WWII a lot of people in Newcastle didn’t have the outdoor space to build an Anderson Shelter to protect them during air raids and so an alternative was needed. The government initially gave just £9000 to convert Victoria Tunnel into an air raid shelter – a slightly optimistic figure given that the eventual cost exceeded £37000! Again, Steve told us a number of stories about life in the tunnel during the war. These ranged from sad stories, such as one about a man who suffered such horrendous shell shock during WWI that when WWII began he moved into Victoria Tunnel and stayed there for the entire duration of the war, to funny and inspirational tales. I won’t repeat all of the stories here; firstly because I have no chance of remembering them all and secondly because I would hate to ruin the surprises for anybody thinking of heading down the tunnel. I will, however, share my favourite story… During WII up to 7500 people could be spending around 12 hours a night every single night for weeks in the tunnel. There were only 600 bunks available and the tunnel was a damp place with (unsurprisingly) poor air quality and pretty horrendous toilet facilities. At some point the government became concerned about the health of people having to endure this environment night after night and sent somebody from the Ministry of Health to investigate. He spent 24 hours in the tunnel and then asked a local man what he thought about the situation and apparently the man responded:

“Wey man hinny, you’re better off damp than deed!”

After which the man from the Ministry of Health sent a letter back to the government saying something along the lines of “Being from mining stock, the people of Newcastle are possibly better fitted constitutionally to resist underground damp conditions than those in the south”. Or, as Steve put it, people from Newcastle were a lot tougher than “southern softies”.

After hearing the WWII stories we were handed over to another volunteer; Kelly. After having been so impressed by Steve, Kelly had a lot to live up to and she absolutely nailed it, providing us all with a range of humorous tales about the tunnel’s early days. Victoria Tunnel was the brainchild of two men, Porter and Latimer, who, eager to get involved in Newcastle’s thriving coal industry, had bought Leazes Main Colliery, only to discover that the coal they were mining was of low quality and thus unpopular with the people of Newcastle. Unperturbed, the men came up with a simple solution – they would instead sell their coal to people who seemingly had lower standards when it came to coal quality – Londoners. What Porter and Latimer needed though was a way of transporting their coal from their colliery down to the river Tyne and thus the idea for Victoria Tunnel was born. It took only 200 men just 2 years and 10 months to build the 2.25 mile tunnel and when they were finished they were taken out on a three night bender to the Bigg Market to celebrate. Yes, really. Apparently they were given a lot of pies as well, although I am not completely sure why. The tunnel opened in 1842 and, although initially a financial success, was in operation for just 18 years before the pit and thus the tunnel were both closed. Again, Kelly told us numerous other stories about the tunnel and again I won’t repeat them all. I can only say that considering we were essentially just in a dark space underground, with not a great deal to see, the two hours in the tunnel were perhaps the two most fascinating I have spent on any activity thus far on this blog.  I am so grateful to people like Kelly and Steve who give up their free time to provide such an interesting and entertaining experience and I really cannot recommend it enough.