Beamish is, quite simply unique. It is not a theme park. It is more than a museum. Oh and whatever you do, don’t tell the kids it’s educational as well.
It is a special time at Beamish this year because the site celebrates it’s 40th Birhday.
Beamish grew up, at the same time I did and I have been able to watch the site grow over the years into the premier tourist attraction in the county of Durham, if not the region.
There are two main time zones on the site. The town is based around the 1913 era and Pockerly Old Hall and Wagonway recreate the early 1800′s.
Now I should explain, if you are from outside of the North East of England and plan to visit Beamish, allocate the whole day to your visit. If you spend any less time there you will miss so much of the site. If you live in the region, you can get an annual pass that will allow you to visit the site as many times as you like throughout the year. Great value for money since the annual pass costs (at the time of my last visit) the same as the standard day entry.
From the instant you cross the threshold, you are transported back in time. After passing through the reception area the first thing you will see is the tram stop. This is merely one stop on the circular track around the site where you can hop on and off the various trams that provide a frequent service. There is nothing better than sitting on the upper deck of an open topped tram to give a great view of the whole site.
However, if you time it right, you will be met by a chauffeur driving the specially built replica of an Armstrong Whitworth motor car. Driving past those walking to the town, those getting the tram or bus, it’s very hard to resist doing a royal wave as you pass them in style. Sadly traveling from the entrance, passed Pockerly Old Hall to the town was all too quick and we were dropped off by our driver just outside the garage in the town where the original Armstrong Whitworth car is housed.
There is always plenty of things going on in the town. Whether you visit the Bank, the sweet shop (where you can see the sweets being made), the drapers, co-op, pub or even Masonic Hall. A short walk along the terrace will also take you into the dentist’s, the music teacher’s house or soliticor’s office.
It is also home to the tearoom that supplies a range of food from simple tea and scones to full meals.
However, my personal favourite is The Print Shop. There is something special about the mechanics of it all with cogs and levers and counter balances, as well as the sounds of the presses as they operate. It is also the place to ask questions of the master printers. For example do you know where the saying “to come a cropper” originates? Or perhaps you often “get the wrong end of the stick” but never thought where that phrase came from? For the more modern minded, you may want to know why THIS IS CALLED UPPER CASE, whilst this is called lower case, when typing on a computer. This is place to ask and all will be revealed.
Moving on from The Print Shop, it was time to visit the park. It was the ideal time of year as the floral displays were amazing, particularly around the bandstand that forms the central feature.
This is an ideal place to take a rug and have a picnic.
Whilst there was no band playing on the day of the visit it has been known for a range of music to accompany the sandwiches. Even on the busiest of days it is possible to get a spot within easy view of the bandstand.
Moving on from the park it was time to visit the railway station. Painstakingly rebuilt brick by brick, like most of the buildings at Beamish, regular trips are available on the steam train as it passes up and down the line.
From the railway station I moved on to the farm where the highlight had to be the huge shire horses. I really had forgotten how big these magnificent beasts were. The previous visit to the site, I had spotted one in a field driving a plough.
Then all too quickly it was time to go. I hadn’t visited the Colliery Village, the drift mine, the chapel, school or Pockerly Old Hall and wagonway. However, I do have an annual pass so perhaps they will be the first stops on my next visit when I add to my Flickr Set.
Beamish Museum really does allow time travel to come to County Durham.