#MyFordCastleAdventure

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With Spring well on its way it’s safe to say that our 2016 season is all systems go! And we just know it’s going to be an Adventurous one…

To commemorate the castle’s 60th anniversary in educational endeavours, we decided to get back to our roots this year, by launching a range of new activities and programmes to encourage young people to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places:

  • Den Building
  • Mini Beast Hunt
  • New and improved Falconry
  • Search and Rescue
  • Equipped to cover all 4 challenges of the John Muir Award.

(to find out more call us on 01388 741 354)

But that’s enough about us, we want to hear about you! Have you visited Ford recently? Do you have any funny memories or stories you’d like to share, or do you have a really good photograph from your school trip with us?  Then we’d love to hear from you!

Nothing brightens our day here at Ford Castle Head Office more than viewing your tweets, posts and photos from your time with us

You can share your thoughts, memories, pictures, letters and even videos with us via Twitter and Facebook by using the hashtag: #MyFordCastleAdventure, and after every season we’ll post our favourites here on our blog 🙂

Be creative! And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news and updates.

– Kelly

A Magical Venue

tribe zuza

A medieval castle amidst the Northumberland countryside; the perfect scene for every fairy-tale story.  Secret staircases, acres of green gardens filled with flowers and wildlife, all that’s missing is the knights in shining armour… or for our belly-dancing guests, maybe a genie?

Belly-dancers? – you ask – I think you’ve made an error, belly-dancers don’t belong in fairy-tale castles, they belong in Agrabah with Aladdin and Jasmine.

Alas no! I am not mistaken…

More than just your regular Activity Centre, for the last few years Ford Castle has played host to Tribe Zuza for their Tribal Goddess weekend and this April was no exception, marking their 10th anniversary with us!

So after a decade of dancing, what is it about Ford Castle that keeps the ladies coming back for more? “Ford Castle is well placed location-wise and accommodation for numbers and teaching space is good,” and of our facilities and services? “a fantastic effort by the castle team!”

Ford Castle offers the Tribal Goddesses whole occupancy accommodation throughout their stay, and our magical on-site team of helpful heroes are completely at their disposal, providing them with our quality accommodation, meals, service and smiles :). With full access to the whole castle to set up rehearsal and workshop studios throughout the public floors.

“The team worked very hard to make us welcome and worked very hard to make the weekend run smoothly. Overall a lovely bunch of people!”

A big thank you to Angela and the rest of Tribe Zuza for keeping us company every year; we can’t wait to see what 2017 holds for the Tribal Goddesses!

If you’re part of a club / organisation, or know someone who is looking for a refreshing change of venue for annual gatherings, we’d love to hear from you. Be a part of the Adventure, and call Helen on 01388 741 354.

Or email: holidays@ford-castle.co.uk to request a call-back.

-Kelly

My first week at Ford Castle

MY FIRST WEEK AT FORD CASTLE

By Jack Franks

 

During the last week in February I experienced what it was like to be working in and around a medieval castle, something that I would not have imagined myself doing a few months ago. If someone had proposed that idea to me before I started my apprenticeship at Ford in January, I would have been very surprised. Yet from the 24th-28th February 2014 I had a taste of what goes on at Ford Castle, a picturesque and historical building which provides visiting flocks of children a whole lot of fun as well as education all in the space of a few days. I was intrigued to see what the castle was all about, as well as to brush up on my historical facts.  I managed to jot down some notes about my experiences throughout the week, in the hope I would come back with a better knowledge and understanding of the castle. It turned out to be the most fun week I’ve had in a long long time!

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After a short journey on Monday morning, we arrived in Ford Village. I don’t know how I imagined Ford to be, but I was surprised at how huge and rural it is, with miles of stretching countryside in every direction. When the castle came into view I was very impressed with the sheer scale of the building as I had previously only seen the castle on photos. We unloaded all the bags into reception and I met the castle staff who made me feel welcome from the first minute to the last. The first job was to unload all the shopping that had been delivered for the upcoming week; I’ve never seen so much food in my life! Once the goods were stocked up I was shown where I would be sleeping for the week. I had a small room in the cottage which is a separate building located to the east of the castle. After getting my uniform and a quick tour of the maze-like castle it was time to meet the first arriving schools from Byker and Kirby Moor. That afternoon, I got to try my first scheduled activity: fencing. I would be shadowing the staff throughout the week on various activities, helping out and picking up some knowledge along the way. After a beginner’s fencing education I helped on a low ropes session with some of the younger children from Byker. It’s great to see the groups working together and having fun. Later that day the staff told me some ghost stories about the Castle’s past; flickering lights, creepy laughter and doors opening themselves. Thankfully I think they were messing with me – not a Grey Lady in sight! I also took the opportunity to go down into the castle’s dungeon. Simply put, I didn’t go back in a hurry.. Later, for my first evening’s entertainment, I led the Grail Hunt, which was a puzzle style game which had riddles and questions about the castle. It reminded me of a 90’s adventure quiz show, Crystal Maze springs to mind…

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The second day we were up and at ‘em early for breakfast, with first session at 10.40am. It was a busy day ahead however, with Initiative and Nightline all morning. These two games are all about communication and working as a team, and I thought the children rose to the task brilliantly. After watching several kids tackle the assault course I helped Group Leader Rosy put some of the final touches to the eagerly awaited Knights Quest. I made a crown for one of the skeletons; it was truly a work of art. The day ended with a disco which took me back to my very own primary school days. Classics such as the ‘Cha Cha Slide’, ‘The Macarena’ and ‘Saturday Night’ were all blasted out and it definitely took me back. I can’t say that I sioned myself doing the ‘Cha Cha Slide’ in front of 20 plus children, but I can safely say I’ve still got the moves…

 

 

Wednesday arrived and it was definitely the most hectic day of the week, as we said our goodbyes to two schools and welcomed three. The whole castle was turned upside down as we prepped each room until it was gleaming. I was housekeeper all morning, which admittedly is not my strongest point, however if I can take anything from my week it’s that I can now make a bed to a very high standard. Once the children had all settled into their rooms and were ready for their Ford Castle experience to begin, I led an Initiative session and a double session of Nightline, leading a blindfolded group across an obstacle course that requires them to work together.

 

Upon waking for my final day, I was on pot wash duty (earning my keep!), followed by a clever and well-constructed CSI session in which the groups have to solve a murder mystery and guess who did it. As it was my first time experiencing the activity, I was basically one of the children as I was trying to solve who committed the murder, which I was surprised to hear was a real life crime. I had a stab in the dark (excuse the pun) and went for a suspect who was the least likely on paper. Don’t ask me why I thought this, but unsurprisingly I was incorrect. It reminded me a bit of life-size Cluedo. Next was Knights Quest, and it was something I was looking photo 1forward to seeing as I had a little hand in the preparation of the session’s various props. I was impressed at the idea and the puzzle elements within the activity, and the children got right into it trying to solve riddles and find the treasure which was the goal of the quest. After a huge lunch, afternoon arrived and began with Team games which allowed me to choose my own activities throughout the session. My group for the hour was from Lanchester School and the children were excellent, fun and well behaved. I opted for a game of Splat to begin with; a game which I learnt throughout the week is a favourite with all young children. I then went with what I know best and that is football, and thankfully the group all were in the mood for a kick about and I was impressed with some of the skills on show. Kwik cricket was my final choice for the session and a big hit with the group. Next, I led Nightline myself for the first time. I had watched 3 sessions of Nightline throughout the week so I was quite familiar with how the session should be handled. This time I had a great group from St Michael’s C of E School. With this session I opened up with a few starter games which showed them how important communication is, communication being the key word for the session. My confidence was growing and I took the children round the rest of the activity, guiding them to the obstacle course that they had to navigate through whilst seeing only complete darkness. They worked so well in a team that we had ten minutes at the end to play everyone’s favourite game; Splat. I felt proud of myself and felt like this was the final thing I needed to try to get a full Ford Castle experience for the week. My final night was capped off with a disco for the Lanchester students. A dance off between the boys and the girls began and the boys tried to get me to participate for them, but that was a step too far for me. I had a few children come up to me and say “You can’t dance”. All I could do was agree with them…

 

The Friday started with another Team games session on my own and I used the same format as the previous day, however I decided to throw in a fun relay race as well. I had created the most random relay of all time, with hoop throwing, pole spinning, hopping and cone juggling just some of the features included. The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves though and wanted to race again, but sadly time was against us. Next up for me was something that I had been looking forward to which was the castle tour, as this would give me the chance to learn some of the history of the castle as well as get some photos. Part of the tour took us to the James’ study which holds some memorabilia and historical artifacts. There were swords, muskets, helmets, armour and paintings which all dated back to the 1500’s; around the time the Battle of Flodden took place. The children were shown the dungeon and had the choice whether they wanted to be locked in with the lights turned off for a short period of time. I had already seen the dungeon so I chickened out of it; however a brave bunch stayed and were surprisingly calm about the whole situation! We had a small tour of the grounds and I realized

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just how close we were to where battles would have taken place, after being told arrows were found under a mile away. The tour showed to me how the castle is steeped in history and made me realise what a beautiful building it truly was. Once the tour had finished I had one last spot of housekeeping to attend to, as there were teachers from France coming to stay over the weekend as part of a teacher preview. It was. This brought the curtain down on my week at Ford Castle, and what a week it was!

 

My experience at Ford Castle has been a very important one and one I will take a lot from. For one it has allowed me to get a feel for the castle and see how it works on a day to basis, as well as meet some of the people who work there and get to know the team dynamic. I have to say that I respect the team who work there all season, as they are professional, helpful and dedicated people. As my role is in marketing, seeing the castle with my own eyes will allow me to market the company better, as well as add the photos I took to the collection we already have. I will take a lot from my week at Ford Castle; instructing sessions, learning about the castle and of course most importantly, learning the dance moves to ‘Saturday Night’…

Seven sensational reasons to visit

Never visited Ford Castle? – What are you waiting for?

1) We are the only residential centre which doubles as a genuine Medieval Castle! – Walk in the footsteps of Kings and uncover a piece of English heritage.

2) See work from one of the ‘greatest artists of her time’ at Lady Waterford’s Hall; the same Lady Waterford who once owned the Ford Estate.

3) Choose from our range of over 15 action packed activities.

4) Famously rumoured to be the place where King James IV spent his last night alive before venturing out onto the Flodden battlefield.

5) Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) is good for you – learn new skills, experience new environments and it’s fun!

6) We have over 15 years’ experience of running Residential Centres – we know what we’re doing.

7) Tailor made packages for schools; whether it’s Geography, Biology or History we can design a programme that best suits you.

A book is for life, not just a week

In honour of National Children’s Book Week 2013, we decided to ask a few of our team which books they loved as a child.

Crystal (Marketing)  – ‘The Mr Men and Little Miss books by Roger Hargreaves – I tried to collect them all! I also loved Animals of Farthing Wood which was made into a TV show too.’

Emma. H (Finance) – ‘Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. I found it really exciting that you could choose where the story went by picking certain pages in the book.’

Holly (Marketing) – ‘James and the Giant Peach was my favourite, anything Roald Dahl really, I loved his silliness.’

Lyndsay (Sales) – ‘The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and the Ladybird books such as The Gingerbread Man.’

Chelsea (Sales ) – ‘The Story of Tracey Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson. I love the TV show too.’

Katherine (Sales) – ‘The Enormous Crocodile’ by Roald Dalh, that was definitely my favourite.’

Annette (Sales) – ‘I used to love going to the library as a child and reading the Enid Blyton books. I’d say the Famous Five was my favourite.’

Emma.W (Finance) – ‘Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet Ahlerg. It was a sweet little story but a tongue twister!’

Flodden 500

500 years ago today, King James IV of Scotland was killed on the battlefield of Flodden Hill in 1513.

Amazingly when you visit Ford Castle you can see this fateful field from our King James Tower.

Why was the Battle of Flodden so important?

  • King James IV was the last King to die on British soil.
  • Clive Hallam-Baker of Remembering Flodden Project explains about the vast loss of life; “Around 15,000 men died in the space on two and a half hours. A death toll like that wasn’t seen again until the battles of World War One.”

What would it have been like during the battle?

  • The Scots were under fire from English canons and billhooks
  • They retreated downhill into slippery, boggy ground
  • James’ army had to rely on pikes as their defence

How many men were in battle?

  • English – 26,000
  • Scottish – 30,000

How is Flodden remembered?

  • In the Scottish folk song: “Flooers o’ the Forest”  which details the grief of women and children who have lost their men in battle. It is played at remembrance services and funerals around the World.
  • There are various events to commemorate the battle happening September 9th and beyond including; an archaeological dig, private dinner and exhibition at Alnwick Castle. For details please visit: www.flodden1513.com

The back to school blues

You’ve returned to school and now can’t wait until the Autumn half term – Sound familiar?

Well on the plus side, back to school also means fabulous new school trips and where better to experience high adrenaline action and thrills then at Ford Castle?

Take a look at what you can get up to ( yes, teachers we mean you too).

Zip Wire

Could you tackle the 80ft wide zip wire?

A truly British past time

Try out a truly British past time in our Long Gallery

Initiative

Take on the volcanic lava in Initiative

Canoe

A leisurely canoe down the River Till

                             But perhaps best of all, you get the opportunity to sleep in an authentic English Castle and how often does that happen? – We bet you’re back to school blues have gone now and if not chin up!

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Five Fun Summer Ideas From Ford

It’s week two of the School holidays and in case you’re starting to run out of ideas to keep everyone excited, we’re here to help.

Take a look below at a few of our suggestions to keep everyone entertained:

1) Go butterfly spotting –  Can you tell the difference between Cabbage White, Red Admiral and Holy Blue? Get your peepers on the beautiful sunny skies in your local area and you’re sure to spot at least one of these elegant creatures.

2) Have a picnic – It may seem a simple idea but what’s better than lying on the grass, letting the children run around in the fresh air with snacks at your fingertips. There’s no need to break the bank either; we’re sure you’ll have some nibbles in the cupboard you can take along and just pop in a few sandwiches, as easy as that.

If you don’t fancy taking the car to find a perfect spot, how about the garden?

3) Visit a free Museum – There are hundreds of free museums and art galleries to satisfy even the fussiest of visitors around the UK and here are a few local favourites;

  • Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum, South Shields
  • The Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery, Gateshead
  • The National Glass Centre, Sunderland
  • Discovery Museum, Newcastle
  • Woodhorn Colliery and Museum, Northumberland

4) Remember Pooh Sticks? – Made famous by A.A.Milne’s  Winnie the Pooh. Choose your stick, throw it over the side of a bridge, and race to see whose is first to reach the other side. Be warned it’s addictive!

5) Try Geocaching – Treasure hunting for the 21st Century. Anyone with a GPS device or smartphone can give it a go. Visit geocaching.com to search for local hidden caches/messages and begin your hunt. You may find buttons, badges and all sorts of little treats along with a log book to see who else has found your treasure.

We hope these few ideas may help you through the rest of the Summer holidays. Add us on Facebook and tell us your own ideas!

EFL 2013 – Welcome to Ford!

We kicked off our first Ford EFL (English Foreign Language) Camp on July 5th and my word, have we done a lot so far!

Lessons

Three hours of English lessons may sound dull but not the Ford way! Our EFL students created their own Attenborough esque wildlife documentary for starters. This resulted in Meerkats, Lions and Monkey’s roaming around our Castle grounds, with a distinct French accent. Lions were being shaved to make socks, monkeys eaten by apes and eager Eagles  were ready to eat their prey.

We also had a rendition of ‘I’m a little tea pot’ sung to the tune of Queen’s ‘We will rock you.’ – I told you they weren’t  dull.

EFL

Canoeing

The glorious summer weather (which was a nice surprise) made canoeing on the River Till an even more enjoyable experience. Suited up in their life jackets and oars in hand it was time to take to the water and discover what canoeing was all about.

Giggling and rocking boats was of course going to be a feature in this activity but after a stern safety session, they were on there way up the river elegantly in a line, like ducks to water.

Shakespeare

Evening entertainment consisted of a picnic and a piece open air theatre in Lord Joicey’s garden – how typically British. The brilliant Handlebards delighted the students with their performance of Twelfth Night and  even managed to steal a few hearts in the process.

Alnwick

A visit to Alnwick Castle was another item to tick off on their list of adventures. Boys dressed as Princesses and girls dressed as Knights;  there were no gender issues here. Oh, and I nearly forgot, a flying lesson on broomsticks!?

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A trip to the Lost Cellars for the older students went down a treat, discovery the horrible history of the Castle, whilst the younger students raided the gift shop and took part in an authentic archery lesson.

If these are the first few days; who knows what’s in store for the rest of the camp…

For more information about The Handlebards tour visit; http://www.peculius.com/handlebards.html

 

Lets all be a ‘Safety Hero’

To celebrate Child Safety Week (June 24th – 30th) we wanted to share with you how you can have superbly safe trip to Ford Castle.

The theme of the week is to be a safety hero and to pledge three simple but effective safety actions to abide by. So, in the spirit of the week here are our pledges to you:

  • To always provide harnesses and helmets for our High Ropes Courses.
  • To always have qualified instructors operating our High Ropes Courses.
  • To always have GNAS (Grand National Archery Society) qualified archery instructors.
  • To provide plastron arm garments for fencing, to protect your’ weapon’ arm.
  • To have BFA (British Academy of fencing and British Fencing Association) qualified fencing instructors.
  • To provide fencing masks which fully protect the face, head and neck.
  • To provide a safety jackets for fencing.
  • To provide helmets and harnesses for our zip wire.

Let’s not forget, perhaps the most important of all; to provide a great adventure in a real Medieval Castle without any safety worries for you.

Remember we aren’t safety heroes, we’re just doing our duty.