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

Traditions and Time Travel

As you are aware we have a vested interested in history and feel that it’s important to keep traditions alive -we do enjoy the odd falconry session in our courtyard, therefore we have a few fascinating facts about Northumberland which we want to share with you.

You may even learn something new to amaze your friends.

Kern Baby

The phrase ‘kern baby’ derives from the meaning, the corruption of corn. In the past a good harvest was essential, therefore a ‘Harvest Queen’ or’ Kern Baby’ was dressed in flowers with corn under her arms and carried through the village on the morning of the reaping before being placed on a pike. She was then removed and returned home after the harvest.

Kern Baby from 1905

Kern Baby from 1905

Blackmail

The word blackmail originates from the borders. It comes from the tradition of the local villagers paying a fee for protection from pillaging.

Tartan

Northumberland tartan is black and white as the hill shepherds only had access to black and white wool. It is now used as the basis of Scottish tartan.

Northumberland Flag

Northumberland has its own flag which is designed from the regal banner of red and gold which was draped over the tomb of St Oswald, the 7th Century king of Northumbria.

Flag of Northumberland

Flag of Northumberland

All Saints Eve

Young men from the surrounding villages stole cabbages on October 31st and according to an old Gothic custom, threw them down people’s chimneys with dangerous consequences…

We hope you enjoyed your trip through time and traditions, please return again for more fascinating facts.

 

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!

Ford Fun Outdoors

The Benefits of outdoor study!

There is sometimes a misconception that school trips are far too much paperwork and not enough fun, but we want to prove these negative nellies wrong.

Now, here’s a few facts and figures, but  don’t worry, we won’t bore you; they’re here to prove that the grumblers are incorrect.

A survey by the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) found that 87% of teachers said LOtC made lessons memorable and 77% agreed that it motivated and enthused young people towards learning.*

So, how does this link in with our fabulous Ford Castle? Well listen up. If you’re thinking of an exciting and memorable way of teaching Geography, History, Biology or Geology we have the solution for you.

On offer at Ford is a range of packages that bring these subjects to life. For instance; ever wondered how to make the miserable medieval period fun?If the answer is yes, then let us take weight off your shoulders and give your pupils the chance to make medieval crafts, eat historical food and visit medieval sites. However, if it’s the Romans, Vikings, Saxons, Tudors or 21st Century Conflicts that you’re studying, fear not. We have it covered with our Time Travellers and Historical Study packages.

Our YounExplorers package will take your Human Geography students to coastal sites Bamburgh, Lindisfarne and Heatherslaw Mill, Northumberland’s only working watermill.

River_Studies

It doesn’t stop there. Explore marine life in the name of Biology and become conservationists for the day at Ford Moss. Students can search for the Puffins, Red Squirrels and moles at the nature reserve.

We can even design a specific plan for your curriculum, incorporating fun outdoor activities and educational excursions.

Let’s all work together and show the 87% of teachers in the survey that they are correct: LOtC is a memorable experience. Here at Ford Castle we’re working towards 100%

*Facts and figures provided from http://www.teachsecondary.com/outdoor-learning/view/school-trips-effective-learning-outside-the-classroom

St Michael’s School, Madrid

by Rosy Graham

St Michaels Scary Sisters Girl with Owl Team Games - Tunnels Scary Staff
St Michael’s was a school we were all incredibly excited by: a big booking, staying for longer than usual at Ford Castle, packing a lot into their visit and, more importantly, they were from Madrid.

Everyone was really keen to see the differences between a Spanish school and an English school and maybe even learn a thing or two. Unfortunately I wasn’t involved with the St Michael’s group for the early part of their stay, but on the fifth day of their visit we went to Heatherslaw Mill and Etal to see the Castle . . . or that’s what was supposed to happen. 

The walk started well, apart from the school being more spread out than I would have thought possible: it took 20 minutes to cross the first road! Now, I’m not going to lie, my sense of direction resembles a drunken rhinoceros, so I was pleased when we got to the little train that would take us to Etal. I should have known better. At first the train was so slow

Dungeon
Girl with Barn Owl
I noticed a butterfly passing us, until we stopped and finally reversed back to Heatherslaw.  To be fair, the driver had warned us that normally the train would not be open to visitors due to the wet conditions.

After sitting on the train for so long though, there was not a single warm toe among us. We had a brief tour of the flour mill, which was very interesting, but honestly, I think that the Spanish students couldn’t wait to get back to the Castle and some heat – perhaps Spring in Madrid is a tad warmer.

Once everyone had warmed up over a delicious meal, we had a fantastic Halloween-type party and spooky tour of the Castle, with tall tales in the laboratory and a taste of being locked in the dungeon. Strangely enough it was a member of staff who shot out of the dungeon first, pushing children before him. The disco that followed had more than a hint of the Rocky Horror Show about it, to my eye.

The following day, the group visited a local school, Longridge Towers, returning for dinner and evening entertainment, which was a music quiz, followed by a (more informed) disco.

Team Games
Fly-by Clock Tower
Longridge School now visited St Michael’s at the Castle for team games and Castle Olympics featuring the Elephant Relay, the Tunnel Race and Bridges and Roundabouts.

Friday was an excursion day, with Bamburgh and Holy Island on the itinerary. We visited the Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh and were moved by the story of her bravery.  We then went onto the beach and were literally moved by the wind! This proved to be more fun than a gentler day would have been. We lay back into the wind and raced with and then against it, and all the while the wind was blowing sand into rivers around our feet. A little souvenir shopping was followed by

Boy with Barn Owl
excellent fish and chips at Pinnacles’ Fish Restaurant in Seahouses. On Holy Island we explored the ruined monastery and I for one spent far too much money in a pretty gift shop. 

We had a break from partying that night after our busy day and had a DVD and Games night instead.

Saturday was another day of activities and yep, you guessed it, we later partied all night, but as this was their last night with us, the students from St Michael’s made it the best night yet.  I may have had my arm slightly twisted to play one last song . . . once or twice.

The next morning I was really sorry to see St Michael’s School go; they had been with us for 11 days and we’d become quite attached.  I must admit to almost shedding a tear when the school presented us all with cute St Michael’s school hats.

It turns out that I did learn a lot from the Madrid school, the most important thing being the words to the Spanish part of The Macarena. What an experience to hear 37 excited students singing The Macarena at the top of their voices – almost brings another tear, if you know what I mean.

English Tourism Week

Northumberland – A great attraction in itself

By Crystal Booth

Berwick upon Tweed Walls Walk Beamish Museum Alnwick Treehouse Alnwick Harry Potter Bamburgh Castle
To celebrate English Tourism week (March 16th – 24th) we wanted to share with you our brilliant excursions from Ford Castle.

For three years running Beamish Museum has been the North East’s top visitor attraction and if you’re visiting us from the south, the good news is that we recommend you come and experience a bit of time travel and step into Victorian England, on your way up to Ford. Positively dripping with tourism awards, including Best UK Attraction for Group Visits over six times, why not find out why? It can also double up as a lovely rest from your travels.

Another brilliant excursion close by is Bamburgh Castle, originating as far back as 1200BC and famously home to the Kings of Northumbria. Discover the secrets that have lain hidden for centuries such as the Bamburgh Beast and the unique Bamburgh Sword, unearthed as recently as 1960; someone clearly knew how to hide things well. With its historic castle, quaint village and breath-taking coastline, no wonder Bamburgh won Gold in the North East England Tourism Awards 2010, just don’t expect any zip wires at this castle – you can do that when you get back.

If historic museums aren’t what you’re looking for, how about a magical maze of gardens or perhaps taking a step inside a piece of film history? Not only have Alnwick Castle and Gardens been used for the first two Harry Potter films but Elizabeth and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, to name a few, have taken advantage of this incredible site.

There are, of course, a huge variety of Potter-themed activities throughout the year: broomstick training, potter characters on parade and a battle-axe to broomstick tour, which we’re sure the students will love. This is one excursion not to miss!

It’s easy to see why Northumberland attracts an average of 7.2m visitors a year. With fabulous film locations, great gardens and medieval museums; it’s our privilege to show you around the Region whilst visiting Ford Castle.