Christmas at Beamish

I might have forgotten to post this before Christmas, but in celebration of Orthodox Christmas and Epiphany I thought I would share it now.

This year I’m really not feeling very festive, maybe it is because I share a house with the Grinch. Yes, I mean the grinch, but my photographer is a bit of a Bah Humbug too. Since I returned from Hong Kong I’ve been helping wrinkly human decorate the Christmas tree (it’s dinosaur themed). They have been telling me about the old Christmas traditions. It’s no secret that I love Beamish and what better reason to visit than to I see all of the old Christmas traditions. As everyone else isn’t getting into the Christmas spirit, I decided we would have a day out.

Beamish has decorated the museum with Christmas decorations from each different era. I was excited to find that a group of elves had taken up residence in the wood. But, the big question was, would I find Santa?

I headed straight to the Colliery to see the pit houses decorated ready for Santa. The warm coal fires were a welcome sight as England has been very, very cold recently. The newspapers had been made into streamers to hang from the ceiling, a big contrast to current Christmas decorations. Sadly, there was no Christmas cake for me to try but nevertheless, I was glad to be warm. I paid a quick visit to the church and Band Hall but no one seemed to be singing carols (my photographer was secretly glad because I am a terrible singer!).

Next I headed up to the 1940’s farm, bypassing the netty (outdoor toilet) because I thought it was a bit cold to go in. To escape the cold I headed into the cottages, where I discovered a staircase to a room I had never visited before. The cupboards were filled with beautiful old clothes and I loved the vintage suitcases. The smallest one looked like mine! I love the 1940’s area because of all the animals. They are so well looked after, especially the chickens who quite often like to escape. Sadly, due to bird flu, they were all locked away. It made my photographer sad to see, but I was happy to see all the birds are kept safe. I did drop in to wave hello to the turkeys in one of the horse stables. The most exciting part was the piglets in the barn, they were so cute snuggled up next to mother pig, doing a snooze. I didn’t want to disturb them so I headed into the farmhouse. The Christmas tree next to the coal fire was a welcome site.

Sadly, I couldn’t stay there all day (I did want to!). Instead I headed back out onto the main road around Beamish. Whilst I was looking at the sign, I spotted Santa zooming past in a vintage car. Not only did he wave, he also told me that my photographer is on the naughty list!

I was surprised to find out Spain’s Field Farm (Its from Weardale, not mainland Europe) has opened, alongside some other parts of the 1950’s area. This was new to me and I couldn’t wait to explore. There is a distinct difference between the three farms at Beamish which really surprised me. The newest farm really highlights the hardship of living on the dales. Wrinkly human loved seeing all of the old food containers. I’ve always wanted to know how they find these items and is the food still inside? When I went upstairs I was shocked to see how dark it was. The family photographs around the farm were a nice reminder that this was once someone’s home. I for one am glad it has came to beamish for everyone to enjoy. I can’t wait to come back and see the rest of the 1950’s area once it is finished later this year.

Spot the ghost!

This photograph was taken in the living room of Spain’s Field Farm, apparently there is a ghost of a woman there. You can see her in front of the fire. Neither my photographer nor I noticed anyone else in the room whilst we visited, we just thought it was a cold room because of the stone floors. Have you had any spooky experiences at Beamish or any old houses?

The beautiful crisp winter weather was starting to make my blue toes go numb so I decided it was time to stop for lunch. The queue for the bakery was winding down the street (as always it is worth the wait). Instead, I decided to try John’s a 1950’s coffee shop. The booth was amazing and I really enjoyed the music from the jukebox (but only wrinkly human knew the words to the songs). The coffee was served in glass cups and I found my whole lunch experience made me feel as though I had went back in time. Leaving the café, I headed into the 1950’s terraced house which is a recreation of the home of artist Norman Cornish. Rather than putting his work in a fancy gallery where it may not be fully enjoyed, Norman donated some of his belongings to Beamish. Including finished and unfinished artwork, I loved seeing all of the art on the walls near the accessible lift. There was also some bears visiting Beamish, so we stopped for a chat before heading out on our adventures.

As the town was really busy I quickly skirted around the crowds, not before posing next to some of the Christmas decorations. I really liked the effect of the fake snow. Santa and Mrs Claus were also riding around in a horse drawn carriage, so I stopped to say hello. The volunteers in the museum are so good and I love how they managed to convince Santa to spend a day with them.

I decided to head across to the 1820’s landscape and explore inside Pockerley Old Hall and Farm. This building is made up of 2 halves, you can tell the difference in ages from the colour of the roof tiles. The older house dates back to at least the 1440’s. Unlike the other buildings at Beamish, Pockerley old hall has been enveloped into the museum rather than rebuilt. You can feel the history of the building, maybe it is haunted but I didn’t see any ghosts. The older side of the building has a separate entrance from when it was fortified as part of a medieval manor house. They say there has been a house on this hill since the Iron Ages, I can see why the view is incredible (if you ignore the old gibbet in the trees). The old pele tower rooms are up a (very) steep staircase hidden behind thick walls. The best part of this room is the cupboard bed, a wedding gift to a family in the 1720’s. Each time I visit Beamish I learn something new. My photographer have visited numerous times and never knew anything about this building.

We ended our loop of the 1820’s landscape with a visit to Joe the Quilters cottage, where I discovered Christmas decorations are a relatively modern thing. Back in the day, greenery and small plants would be brought inside to celebrate the season. But please don’t tell my photographer, they have already turned my house into a jungle!

Finally I headed across to Beamish wood to see if I could find the elves. Honestly, I will say I wasn’t expecting to see anything special but I was once again proven to be wrong. Beamish Men’s Cree (a support group like the Men’s shed) created an elf Beamish which was witty and well laid out. I did join in with some of the (naughty) elf activities and found that my photographer and I struggled to spot all of the elves. My favourite was the elfy fish and chip shop and my photographer loved the national elf service (which I think is where they work). This was way better than all of the Christmas decorations I have seen throughout the museum. The elves even helped to make a certain photographer feel a tiny bit festive. The men’s group is made up of men living with dementia, social isolation and mental health issues, I hadn’t heard of their work in the museum. But, I will definitely be looking out for it next time I visit as I think it is a brilliant way to help people socialise and proof that illnesses don’t define a human (hopefully they do something dinosaur themed!).

Luckily, I timed my visit to the elf wood just as the sun was setting, the trees looked wonderful covered in the small lights. Unfortunately, the lack of light meant it was time for Beamish to close and for me it was time to go and wrap up my Christmas presents.

Beamish Museum, Beamish, County Durham, DH9 0RG.

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