Dear Ford Castle (June 2016)

St Mary's School Thank Yous

 

We couldn’t possibly choose a favourite! So here’s a short snippet from each of the lovely and colourful letters we recently received from our good friends at St Mary’s School!

“Thank you so much for encouraging me to do the Zip Wire, I didn’t think I could do it!” – Ruby

“Thank you for making us laugh!” – Matt

“If I could have stayed longer I would since it was so amazing!” – Iona

“I never thought I would do fencing or archery and after doing them I want to do it again and again” – Ollie

“I didn’t think I would be able to stay over Two nights because I have only ever stayed over One night…  If I had the choice to go to Ford Castle again, I would definitely try and stay longer!” – Freya

“The Zip Wire was amazing, going down upside down was a thrill of a lifetime!” – Jamie

“I was very happy when I climbed up the high pole because I had fractured my arm beforehand. I would like to thank Dave for helping me finish it!” – Maria

“I really want to thank the kitchen staff for the amazing food!” – Hamish

“Thank you to all the staff for the disco, which was so much fun” – Phoebe

“If I got to do another activity it would obviously be the Assault Course, because we got so muddy!” – Orla

“Thank you to all the staff for being very kind and helpful to all of us.”  – Jessica

“The food was delicious, especially the cheesy pasta!” – Alex

“Thank you very much for making me feel welcome and safe, I really enjoyed myself!” –  Isla

“I never thought that I would be on a platform on a pole and doing piggy-backs on it” – Lucy

“I especially enjoyed the Leap of Faith, so I would like to thank Dave for encouraging me to climb to the top” – Tegan

“I am also going to be starting fencing at home, when I can get my hands on some equipment!” – Dicken

“I especially want to thank Dave for helping me finish the Leap of Faith. I think I overcame my fear of heights” – Antony

“It was sad to say goodbye at the end” – William

“Now I can’t wait till I do high ropes again!” – Tommy

“My favourite activity was the disco, Luke as a really good dancer” – Will

“Thank you very much for making my stay enjoyable and exciting, thank you for the yummy meals and lovely rooms” – Rowan

“Thank you for showing us around the castle and telling us the history of the castle, it was really fun” – Beth

“I have never done fencing before, the history of Ford Castle is cool!” – Fergus

“I would like to say thanks to Ollie, he was really nice when he took us on the castle tour – I enjoyed learning about the castle” – Otto

You guys sound like you had an amazing time! And we’re so happy you shared your stories with us,

See you next year on your return visit! 🙂

#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

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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

Looking back and looking forward

Looking back and looking forward. The Ford Castle Adventure for 2014 starts now!

 

By Jack Franks

 

St Michaels Scary Sisters2013 was a fantastic year for Ford Castle, a year where people laughed, conquered fears, tried new things and overall had a memorable experience. Over the course of last year we had a lot of visitors, with schools and EFL children joining us at our Northumberland base. During their stay with us they experienced the thrill of what Ford Castle offers; the numerous activities that challenged their skill, minds and nerve. Of course there was a lot of fun chucked in the mix as well, with smiles a plenty beaming on every face.

Amble + Castle

In April we had a visit from Amble First School, and they proved to be an infectious and excitable group. Later into April, a Spanish school, St Michaels, visited us all the way from Madrid. They had an extended stay at the castle and tried everything we have to offer. During their 11 day stay with us they packed in a whole range of activities and excursions around the North East, and visited a local school, Longridge Towers, as well as Bamburgh and Holy Island. Although the weather might not have been quite what they’re used to, the St Michaels had loads of fun in the great British outdoors. The majority of the nights saw a disco and team games, and they definitely seemed to be in the party spirit throughout their stay.

 

Another highlight of last year was a visit from historian Dan Snow. In May, he visited us as part of a report for the BBC hit show ‘The One Show,’ to mark the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden. Whilst he was with us he toured the nearby Battlefield, talked about the

weapons and tactics used by both armies, and visited the spot where King James IV was killed by the enemy. To have such a high profile visit was exciting, and our caretaker and resident History buff Paul told Dan a few little known facts about the castle on camera.

Throughout July and August, our English Language camp was in full swing. We had visitors from France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Holland! Over the duration of their stay the students, aged between 8 and 18, participated in a host of activities alongside their language studies, and soaked up the tradition and culture that comes with the castle and its surroundings. Broomstick training, soap making, dressing up in traditional outfits, canoeing, zip wiring, the list goes on. They also enjoyed trips out to Edinburgh Castle, sampling the sights of one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, and even had time to stop off for ice cream.

 

On the weekend of the 3rd and 4th of August EFL Students and actors participated and reinacted the ‘Battle of Flodden’ as part of the Flodden discovery weekend. Over the course of the weekend the students assisted in the running of the event, handing out leaflets andBattle! Théo and Nathan info, as well running the admissions tent, and of course taking part in some of the battle re-enactment, which was one of the bloodiest battles in history!

 

We’ve had small parties, huge groups, international students and celebrities visit us this year, and we’ve had so much fun looking back that we can’t wait for the 2014 season to begin.

This year we look to continue in the same vein, and even improve upon the excitement of the year just gone.

We’re excited for former visitors to make a return, and to show new visitors just how exciting our unique centre is!

We hope everyone checks out our social pages too – we have daily updates, info and photographs added to our Facebook and Twitter pages every day, some fun challenges, riddles and competitions too, so give us a follow!

Have you seen our YouTube channel yet? Once the season gets going next month, expect to see regular updates.

The first video looking back at 2013 is online now, so if you have 3 minutes and 47 seconds spare check it out…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMXDST0jyho.

May this year hold many moments which will live in the memory for years to come. Here’s to 2014!

Ford Castle Captions – Fancy a go?

Do you fancy yourself as a witty writer or enjoy the odd caption conundrum? If so, you’re in luck – we would love to see what you can come up with for the image below.

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.

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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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.

Gosforth Central Middle School & Subhadassi

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by Rosy Graham

We were looking forward to Gosforth Central Middle School coming to the Castle. Their arrival, oddly enough, heralded some time off after a rather hectic week.  We were afforded these extra breaks because the school had timetabled daily ‘Writing Lessons’, which puzzled me slightly: why would a school group come to a genuine, medieval castle, with brilliant outdoor activities and excursions, to then sit in a classroom to do work?  All became clear however, when Subhadassi, artist, poet and children’s writer, came to stay at the Castle to do some narrative writing workshops with the Gifted and Talented students of Gosforth Central Middle School.

So I was beginning to wonder what precise definition of ‘Gifted and Talented’ Gosforth Middle were using, during the Grail Hunt, as their quests to find the numbers of doors, windows, chairs etc just didn’t tally with what I had written down as the correct answers.  I like to think that I learn fom my mistakes and in the future, I’ll think twice before automatically assuming that the (rather intelligent) children before me are wrong.  Big oops!  I am aware of the saying ‘Common sense is different for each person’ . . . yeah, turns out that’s true.

The following day saw me leading the group in Initiative Exercises, where the group is encouraged to solve the problems set before them as a team.  The Gosforth group were indeed excellent . . . almost too good though.  One exercise involves getting a ‘bomb’ from the ‘danger zone’, across a gravel area that must not be touched and into the ‘safe vault’.  The group is given two lengths of rope which can be used to lift the bomb to safety if crossed in the correct way and some care is used while moving the device.  However, clearly excellent at judging distance and confident in their ability to jump, one of the team took it upon themselves to leap clear across the gravel, without so much as touching a pebble, to the danger zone; pass the bomb to another member of the group and solve the problem.  Not exactly a classic display of teamwork, but I couldn’t fault their initiative.

Later that evening, there was a Medieval Talent Show, followed by a disco.  I have to say that there was more personality on display that evening than I’ve witnessed so far this year: picture if you will, a sketch with a knight fighting a dragon and a wedding with girl playing the ukulele.

The next day Gosforth Central Middle School left us, though I did hear on the grapevine that some of us are included in their stories. So, watch this space for more news on the novelists of tomorrow, coming to a bookshop near you . . . I may even get a mention.