Saturday, 3 March 2007

A trip to Blackhall

The day started on an arty note today. I have been feeling quite creative this week too. Must be something in the spring air. We had a change from pastels today and got out the watercolours, which I must admit are my favourite.

A colour wash by Hermione

Lily's watercolours

We followed with the 'normals' (games/activities incorporating basic English and maths). Today we divided paper pizzas into different fractions and played with an egg box which we had turned into a letter sounds game - you say the sound your coin lands on after shaking the box.

The weather was really bright and mild so we decided to head on out for some fresh air. When we moved to Coxhoe I feared that we would be isolated and that there would be nothing for the children to do. I had visions of us still visiting all the places we used to - just travelling twice as far to do so. Thankfully though as time goes by we are finding our feet and finding that there are more attractions and facilities in this area than we had thought - they just aren't so well publicised and take a bit of scouting out.

Today we headed down to Blackhall to visit Tweddle Animal Farm. I certainly didn't expect to encounter a camel at Blackhall but I did :-) There was a wide selection of animal including African pygmy hedgehogs, monkeys, llamas, apaches and of course all the usual farmyard friends.
We also saw a capybara. We hadn't encountered a capybara before. It is the worlds largest rodent at approximately two feet tall and four feet long. Apparently there were prehistoric capybaras which were eight times that size! They are semi-aquatic and there feet are partially webbed. Native of woodland wetlands in southern Central America and northern regions of South America.

In addition to the animal there was also a good adventure playground and a cafe is to open within the next few weeks. Currently instead of a cafe there is a chip van serving odds and ends which you can then eat in a very old and decrepit German train carriage. I thin the girls may be disappointed when the cafe opens as they really seemed to like the train carriage. The farm is half a mile from the sea and the air was certainly fresh! Just what we need! The family season ticket looked very good value and the staff said that we could even offset what we paid today if we want to go back and upgrade to a season ticket. I suspect we may do this and make it a regular haunt. I'm really pleased to find out that we are closer to a farm and the coast than we were in Gateshead - and here I was thinking we would be in the middle of nowhere.

We didn't venture down to the coast today but I would like to some time soon. That part of the Durham Coast is said to be an area of outstanding natural beauty. I believe part of it is looked after by the National Trust. Apparently there is a park at Crimdon and a Nature Reserve at Wingate too which are both on the 'to do' list for the near future.

Late afternoon I headed into Durham to buy some charcoals for Lily and Hermione. I would like them to try as many different artistic mediums as possible. I think I will check out a couple of websites first though for techniques on using charcoal as I suspect it is easy to end up with just a messy black splodge which wouldn't exactly boost their confidence. I think we need some tips!

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