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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Monday, 17 September 2007

Our holiday in County Durham...

Finally.. a brief account of our holiday, not least so I can remember what happened!

We took a leisurely drive up along the M1, then onto the M18 to join the A1(M). We popped in to see Trev and his two daughters � it�s always great to see the children getting on so well. Despite our holiday destination being only 50 miles south of where it was last year, it made quite a difference to the journey time; once we left the A1, it was a short drive � the satnav taking us through a beautiful North Yorkshire village called Richmond, which sat on a winding hill road offering amazing views of the Pennines � to our holiday cottage near Cleatlam.

Strathmore BarnsWe arrived at a small cluster of converted barns on what turned out to be a working farm. The barns had been completely refurbished by the farm owner; each of the four holiday cottages had a photo album documenting the vast project which was certainly a labour of love. The accommodation was very comfortable, and Christopher was very pleased to have the four-poster bed (despite the princess-like state of it, we were a little concerned that Lenni might get a little lost and ultimately fall out � she ended up having her pick of the twin beds in the next-door room). They both loved the bubbly bath, though � it had a jacuzzi setting, which caused the bubble-bath to foam up almost over their heads!

In fact, the cottage was wonderfully equipped throughout � it was just a shame about the smell from the bulls who lived in the shed behind the barn and the rather ingenious wood/paper burning heating system and the flies (which seem to be fairly usual for this time of year) which meant we couldn't really open the windows.We can�t fault the helpfulness of the owners, who lived next-door, though � they did so much to make our stay as pleasant as it could be.

Sunday was a gentle start for us � our main objective was to make it to a supermarket to stock up with food. The nearest (in Barnard Castle) was a Morrisons � it had the town�s only car-park which had rather exorbitant parking prices for a Sunday. The town itself was rather unremarkable � it was only as an afterthought before we attempted the supermarket that we headed toward the castle itself. I�m really glad we did, though � while Beth did the shopping, I took the children for a play around the castle�s outer walls (the prices to go in were, once again, a little high) and then we wandered down the hill to the river walk, enjoying the sight of the river Tees as it rushed over the rocks as it flowed through the valley. There was a folk festival nearby over the Bank Holiday weekend, but unfortunately we didn�t have the opportunity to visit it.

On Monday, we had some friends over for lunch; the children spent some time playing in the small play-area at the front of the barns. Unfortunately, our barn was the only one without a direct line of site to where they were playing, but I�m always happy to keep an eye on them while they have a run around. Funnily enough, two of our three neighbours were also from Luton � what are the chances of that? They came up together and shared the larger of the barn complexes, which had the option either of remaining separate, or could be merged by opening an adjoining door. No chance of getting away from Luton, eh?

We took a trip northwards early(ish!) on Tuesday, hoping to make it to Ikea so we could have a wander around and enjoy their bargain 99p breakfast (I�ve still not tried the meatballs yet, though!). We arrived a little before the store opened, though, so we took a bit of a meander around part of the immense Metro Centre while we waited. Beth�s very keen to come back (without the children so she can have a meander!)

Penshaw MonumentAfter the (mainly window-shopping!) retail therapy, we drove over to the Penshaw monument to see if we could fly some kites that the children had coloured in from the top of the hill. We couldn�t believe it, though � there was next-to no breeze at all! Still, they enjoyed the amazing view (with a wind-farm to the north and countryside all around) and when we descended, we visited the playground at Herrington Country Park where we knew the children would have a wonderful time, since they so vigorously cavorted around it last time! The weather held out � in fact, it was positively warm, and I don�t think we could have picked a better day to be outside!

Somewhat ironically, we then took a trip toward the coast, to enjoy our second visit to Funshack. The children have always enjoyed indoor play areas, and this one was no exception; the food was quite good value, too. Regardless of whether we were indoors or out, they slept well that night!

On Wednesday, we took another trip north-east to visit the remarkable Beamish museum with our friends who lived nearby. It truly was a world away from the hectic modern age, especially when were were able to participate in a tour of one of the drift mines there. I think the older I get, the more I feel the need to preserve these memories of Britain�s past, be they in museums, battle re-enactments or just stories from those who have lived through the wars, since I believe they risk the same extinction as any endangered creature, and to be without them would mean we would be missing out on the richness of our past..

The children loved to run around, experience the sights and smells and unusual domestic arrangements (although some of the houses from 1913 reminded me of my Grandad�s home in Portsmouth) and � as you�ll see from the gallery � we managed to capture some fine memories.

Lenni with a falconOur main intention for Thursday was to go to Thorpe Farm � it was quite a cool morning when we set off, and, since it was only about 15 minutes away, we arrived soon after it had opened for the day. We�d been to our local farm (Woodside � where the prices have unfortunately increased substantially) several times, and were used to its compactness and organisation, so when we saw the huge expanse of farm estate that greeted us when we arrived, it was a little daunting. However, as the morning wore on, the sun came out and the children really enjoyed everything that there was to do there (except, perhaps, for stroking the bunnies, who weren�t really in the mood for it that day!) We loved the falconry display � I recall now that as a boy, I really loved peregrine falcons because of their amazing hunting abilities, and speed of flight. If you get the chance to see falconry, it�s definitely well worth it for the �whoosh� as the bird swoops down overhead to get the swinging lure�

Normally, when I'm on holiday, I like to take a walk in the evening, but I think it might have been the driving that had taken its toll during the other days, since it was only on Thursday evening that I felt like taking a walk. I was on the hunt for a geocache just outside the grounds of Raby Castle. I found the correct location, but couldn't find the geocache, which was most frustrating! It was starting to get dark, so I made the two-and-a-half mile walk back to the house with a tinge of disappointment, but feeling much more healthy for it!

We were going to go swimming on Friday morning, but we couldn�t find the pool in Aycliffe (despite some instructions from a man at the community centre where we ended up) so we opted for a trip to the seaside. Our town of choice was Seaham, since we knew there was a beach there, and, wearing our �mock crocs� we paddled and drew in the sand, and generally had a lovely time.

We took one more trip to our friends� in the afternoon, and visited the Riverside Park, near Chester-le-Street. Once again, it was a warm (if breezy) day, so plenty of opportunity for the children to get exercise - in this sense, we've been generally very lucky with our holidays over the past couple of years!

We had done most of the packing on Friday evening, while the finale of Big Brother played itself out (a television choice made since it wasn't too much of a distraction!) and on Saturday morning, we left earlyish and drove home. We had encountered a traffic jam on the way there, but - once I'd worked out how to do it without ending up just one junction closer to the congestion - the satnav helped us out! The trip back was much easier, though, and by mid afternoon we were having a cup of tea at Beth's folks, our holiday done and dusted for another year.

Posted by james at September 17, 2007 2:25 PM

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