As we are soon to be leaving the North East for pastures new, I thought I would share with you some of our favourite places.
First up is Bolam Lakes Country Park. A lovely, tranquil woodland and lake close to Belsay in Northumberland. It is about 20 minutes out of Newcastle (driving) or an hour or so for energetic cyclists (once by me).
In the last few months Monkey, Chimp and I have been to Bolam Lakes quite a few times with Outdoor Playgroup and it was on Monkey’s list of places to visit before leaving. So last Friday we went again. For once, we had glorious sunshine and through a quirk of wind-direction, the part of the park we were strolling through was almost still.
Standing, face to the suns rays, warmth was felt. Spring is definitely approaching. Snowdrops peeking up through the deep leaf litter helped to reenforce this early celebration of winter’s end.
There are three car parks at Bolam, one with toilets and a cafe (weekends and school holidays only) where we normally meet. From here you can head straight into the woods to run through the leaves, clamber over fallen logs, find strange shapes in the clump of yew trees behind the toilet block or peer into the tree-tops with the hope of a glimpse of a red squirrel (sadly grey squirrels have also been seen here – to find out more about why this is sad click here).
Alternatively, you can head down towards the lake – Monkey’s favourite direction as she enjoys the run down the steps and then clambering along the fence. She also knows where the ‘horse/train tree’ is – a great tree to sit on, bounce gently and ride. A sneaky side path takes you down to an old boat-launch, as you approach the swans and geese race to greet you, with the hope that you will have something for them.
From here, we find sticks to play with – a walk is not a walk without a stick if you are Monkey! Chimp also discovered the joy of stick on Friday – largely seeing how tasty it was! Hide and seek is another great woodland game, even though Mud-Baby who joined us on Outdoor Playgroup was not the best at hiding. It was at this point that Chimp demanded to be out of his buggy (after yet another poor night’s sleep, I didn’t fancy slinging him and wanted him to sleep – ha ha ha) to watch the older children playing.
The end-point of most Outdoor Playgroup strolls to Bolam is the fishing platform and the meadow. Now the fishing sticks come into their own and the decking is comfortable for us adults to sit and enjoy the view, or feed the babies. Chimp was fascinated by the swans and geese as the swam around us or flew in, landing feet first in a wonderful whoosh.
The meadow has some great fallen trees to clamber over and along (or under in one case), is a much-loved running around space and one-time we turned it into an art gallery. Monkey looked again for her stick and leaf picture, but after a few weeks of wind, rain and snow, it had disappeared.
Like a certain Peppa Pig and family, jumping up and down in puddles is a firm favourite with Monkey and friends….
For longer adventures, there is a path right around the lake through a mix of semi-natural woodland and conifer plantation. We only attempt this with Monkey on family visits as it can take a long time to get her to walk the 3/4 mile trail – there is just far too much to see and do along the way!