“ Beamish / Stanley / County Durham DH9 0YB „
Looking for ideas for a day out with my 2 children (aged 13 and 9), I remembered that a friend had recently visited Beamish wild and recommended it to me. Beamish Wild is Birds of Prey conservation centre in addition to providing several supervised activities for children to enjoy.
There are no directions on how to find the centre on the Beamish wild web site. The centre is situated in Stanley, Country Durham about 20 minutes from Newcastle city centre. You will need a car to get here as there is no nearby train or bus stop. Even with my sat nav, I found the centre a bit complicated to find as there are few signs! The centre is situated in the grounds of the Beamish Hall hotel which is signed. I am not going to give complicated directions, but advise you to use either a sat nav or the AA route finder; the postcode is DH9 0YB. The road leading to the centre is very narrow and I really thought I was in the middle of nowhere! Once you reach the hotel, follow the road until you reach the end parking area. The admission hut is on your right up a slight incline. I tell you this because it is very poorly signed! Parking is free and there are plenty of spaces. The centre is set in beautiful countryside surrounded by woods.
Prices and opening times.
The ticket price for an adult and child is the same at £7. Over 60's pay £6.60 and children under 3 are free. There is no family ticket available. These prices are for school holidays and week ends. It is possible to buy a season pass for £40 per person.
During term time many of the supervised activities are not available and the ticket price is reduced to reflect this. From Monday-Friday during term time tickets cost £5.00 each for adults and children. The over 60's pay £4.50 and under 3's are free.
For children over 10 there is the opportunity to buy a ticket for the high ropes. This is an aerial rope course .The tickets cost £20 for children form 10-16 and £25 for those aged 16 and over. Under 16's have to be accompanied by an adult. It is possible to buy a family ticket for the high ropes costing a whopping £65. It is advised that you pre-book tickets via the web site.
The centre is opened from 10-4 every day.
What you get for your money.
We visited during the summer holidays so all activities were running. Having paid our entrance fee we were given a map showing the location of all the activities. We studied the blackboard giving times for each activity and decided to first make our way to the bird display area for the 10 am show. The show takes place a short walk from the entrance hut and is accessible to wheelchair users. There are several rows of benches; not the most comfortable I have sat on! The show lasts for an hour and was the highlight of our visit! The two members of staff involved were both highly informative and very entertaining! The show is repeated at 2pm with different birds on display. We watched 2 black kites perform stunning acrobatics, a magnificent bald eagle, hawks and an eagle owl. There was the opportunity for both of my children to have a hawk fly to them. The birds do swoop low over the heads of the audience-you have been warned!
The centre has 70 resident birds and we spent a very enjoyable time wandering around the enclosures. My children loved the small owls and were delighted to be allowed to hold one. This is a popular activity and we had to queue for about 15 minutes for our turn. However we were not rushed and the children were able to hold an owl each for over 10 minutes whilst being given some really interesting owl facts by the staff member.
There is a tractor ride available that takes you around the park, dropping off at the various activity starting points. It is worth planning your day as each activity takes a limed number of children, usually 12 in each group. We next made our way through the woods to topple tower. The idea of this activity is to build a tower from plastic crates, whilst two children, attached to a harness and ropes, have to see how high they can climb up the tower without it collapsing. This is a great team activity and my children loved it! All children get a turn at being the climbers. There is a bench situated at the activity for adults to sit and watch. The activity is well supervised and there was a comprehensive safety talk before the activity began.
Opposite to the topple tower is a climbing pole known as tip top. Again this is supervised and children wear safety hats in addition to a roped harness. Each child has a turn at seeing how high they can climb up a pole using the hand and foot holds. Once on the top platform they are helped to swing down to the ground using the rope system.
If your children enjoy climbing, they will love the creeper. This is tall tree with hand and foot holds. Once kitted out with hats, harness and ropes the idea is to see how high you can creep up the tree.
Both my children were keen to participate in the archery activity. Unfortunately we arrived at the queue point a few minutes late to find the activity had already started. A helpful member of staff radioed to his colleague to see if it would be possible for my two children to join the group. We were told the group already had its full 12 participants. However I noted that there were just 4 children taking part and felt annoyed that we had been denied permission to take part.
The rest of the park consists on non supervised activities. There are several zip wires amongst the trees, rope swings and swinging tyres. There is a den made of branches and a rope spider's web to explore. To the front of the parking area is an imaginative adventure playground.
The high ropes activity is only available for children over 10 and we didn't use this. It did look fun, although it is not that large especially for the price you pay!
There is a small café next to the admissions hut. We bought our own food as I object to paying the high prices usually asked at attractions, so I can't comment on either prices or what's on offer. There are several picnic tables available at the park entrance. If you want a more formal dining experience, then there is the stables pub offering full meals.
On the day we visited the centre it had been raining and the paths around the centre were very muddy and slippery. It would be difficult for any one with a mobility problem to negotiate the paths, although there is a flat path to the bird display area.
There are basic toilets situated at the entrance. I recommend you use the toilets up the stairs next to the stables pub as these were a lot nicer! There is a toilet for disabled customers next to the main toilet block.
There is a small gift shop behind the admissions desk. We didn't bother with this so I can't comment on whats on offer or prices.
We really enjoyed our visit to Beamish Wild, although I was annoyed about the archery activity! The bird displays were wonderful and I would visit again just for that experience. The paths around the centre are not easy to walk along after rain. All the main supervised activities were well organised with safety issues taken seriously. It would be good if directions could be posted on the Beamish wild web site as it is not easy to find! There is easily enough to keep children occupied for a full day and both my children have said they would like to return.