Rather than writing a review about different attractions in Gateshead, I have just decided to review Saltwell Park in general. I am not sure that Saltwell park is an attraction that would make a certain person travel from a far distance to Gateshead but I'm sure most of the population in and around Gateshead have been to visit the park at some point. Saltwell Park was actually opened in 1876 where it was named the peoples park. Over the years we have seen major restoration of the park, where better safety and order have been issued to make the park an enjoyable place for families to visit. The park itself has been restored in order to bring back the feel of the Victorian times and we can see nearly 100 Victorian- style seats and a newer addition would be Saltwell towers, a building where we can now sit and have a coffee or a cup of tea while admiring the beautiful flowers of the park. Here are a few of the facilities that Saltwell Park has to offer: Public Sports Facilities: The Park has Tennis and Basket ball courts that are free to use all year round. The Broadwalk and the Northern Fields: The Northern field area is where you can sit and have a nice picnic and admire the scenery. The Broadwalk is basically the flower displays The Pavilion: This is the part of the Park where you will find the refreshments kiosk (only open in the summer months) and you can also find the toilet facilities here. The lake: The lake is quite large, and it has undergone some major restoration since 2005. Here you can walk right up to the sides or use the small wooden pier to feed the duck's and swan's. It is also lovely to take a row or pedal boat ride around the lake. I particularly like the idea of the swan shaped pedal boats, as they are very fun for the children. Play areas: There are 2 play areas in total. The first is for the toddlers which has a sand-pit with a small climbing activity, a definite favourite for the kids. There's also 2 climbing activities the first is small and has 2 slides, it does have bridges for the children to cross but due to the plastic having sand on it that has been trailed from the pit, this certain frame tends to get quite slippery. I noticed my Daughter seemed to be struggling a bit to walk on the sand. The bigger of the frames is definitely loved by my Daughter, it again has 2 slides with one being bigger than the other. Iit has wooden bridges and platforms as well as ropes and tunnels, a firm favourite for the kids. The Bowling Green: Saltwell Park actually has 3 bowling greens in total. I have never used them and I have to say everytime I visit the park, nobody else seems to use them either. The Rose Garden: This is a beautiful part of the park to have a walk through and see all of the different coloured roses. Saltwell Towers: The towers hold a mix of gothic, Elizabethan and French styles and as I mentioned before, they hold the café. You can also pick up information from the towers about different up and coming events the park will be hosting. Animals: My Daughter loves to come to the park and see the animals. You can see everything from peacocks and birds to rabbits and guinea pigs. You aren't allowed to feed the animals which is a bit of a shame although I can understand why. The cages are always kept fairly clean too so you can stand comfortably around them. The Dene: This is the woodland part of the park where you can go over bridges and walk down the small rocks by the side of the stream, which has pools, cascades and a lily pond. It is definitely worth a walk through here. The Education Centre: This is not a part of the park that I have used as it is basically for use by schools or colleges. South Park: This is basically a part of the park that is decorated with clumps of trees. You can also have picnics here too as it doesn't get as busy as the northern field and it is closer to the car parks. The Maze: I used to love this facility when I was a child as we used to run around chasing each other through a tree filled maze coming to dead ends when trying to find a way of getting out. This has also undergone some major work. New plants and trees have been added and it is still as fun for the children and adults too. I would advise though that I did find a lot of prickles and nettles when I visited the maze yesterday. They should definitely be cut down. Octagonal Gardens: This is the lawned area behind the towers and it is used for open- air performances. South Dene Nursery: This is an allotment that is open to the public and you can buy plants and gardening supplies. The Grove: The grove is a seating area around a bandstand. In the summer months bands can be heard on a Sunday afternoon. It can also be used for events. I visited yesterday and the park held a wooden sculpture day where families could get involved and build their wooden sculptures. It was great to see everyone getting together and building. Some of the sculptures were very good indeed and if they were small enough you were able to take them home. A band was also playing. Car Park: As I mentioned before the park does have a car park, which is very secure, as it is covered with CCTV that also extends to the park itself. The security in general is very good in the park as there are grounds men always wondering around to make sure there is no trouble. This Means that the park is directed for families and not a place that gangs will hang around. In the summer months there will be extra activities available for the children, for example bouncy castles and inflatable slides. The prices are also very reasonable, it cost me £2.00 for my Daughter to bounce on all 3 castles until she was ready to come off. You can purchase balloons for around £1.00, Bubble swords for £2.00 and duck food for 50 pence. The bouncy castles are located directly beside the lake so after a bit of fun you can go and feed the ducks and swans with the food. I am not actually too sure what the food is as it strangely resembles cornflakes and seems to sink before the ducks even get a bite. In my opinion a cheap loaf is a better option. The wildlife in the park isn't shy either, as you will see a lot of squirrels running around hiding pieces of dropped food. There is a hot food van located at the park where you can buy chips, hotdogs or burgers as well as hot and cold drinks. I would advise that it may be best to eat before hand or if it is warm to bring a picnic as the van is very expensive. You will also find a few ice cream vans dotted around the park. The prices are fair. If you decide to do a full circuit of the park and take in all the scenery it will probably take around 1 hour. If the weather was nice I would definitely recommend doing this as it is very peaceful and relaxing. A lot of people actually take dogs around the circuit for walks. The park is an ideal place to take children on their scooters and bikes, as they are safe to pedal freely with no fear of any roads. Throughout the year Saltwell park holds a few events, one being the Saltwell explorers event, if you are interested to know how people used Saltwell park during the Victorian times or the plants cycles then you can go along to this particular learning event. There are lots of other events held for all of the family with regular crafting at Christmas, Halloween and Easter. Other events include spring planting, hanging bird feeders and guided walks. Saltwell Park is definitely a great place to visit on bonfire night for an amazing bonfire and fireworks display. The bonfire is usually lit around 7.00 followed by a 20-minute firework display. The site is safe and monitored by Marshall's. A great part of this event is that it is totally free and saves a lot of money on all the fireworks you would purchase for home. If you are interested in finding out about any of the yearly events you can email Events@gateshead.gov.uk The advisors are helpful and can give you details on any events you may be interested in. Over the years the park has won many awards ranging from the green flag award to the Britain's Best Park award. I can't say I'm surprised as the park is very popular and during the summer months it does get very busy. The park is usually open from early morning till 7pm including all public holidays. As the darker nights start to set in the park tends to close a bit sooner. Overall Saltwell Park definitely gets the thumbs up from me.
I'm going to try my best to be unbiased in this and not make it a giant advert! I worked at Mister Twisters for 8 months last year and I had a brilliant time. I had to leave as i was leaving the area. But I always told management where they were going wrong, lol, not that they appreciated it. So I'm sure I'll have no problems!!! So for those of you who dont live up in the north east, Mister Twisters is a soft play centre for children. There are three centres at the moment; Gateshead, Consett and Hartlepool and i do believe there are plans to build a fourth. Mister Twister is a giant mouse! ADDRESS Unit 15E Follingsby Park Wardley Gateshead (Near Heworth Golf Club for anyone local) GENERAL The centre is open 7 days a week 9.30am - 8pm (9pm fri and sat) Gateshead centre has a wild west theme. The frame is 4 levels high with a smaller slide for the younger kids (or the wimps like me) and a giant slide that goes top to bottom for all the brave people out there. There's a massive ball pool, a bouncy castle and a football area for all the boys (or girls). There's also a seperate smaller frame which is just for the under 5's and staff always make an effort to keep the older bigger kids away, so its safe for all the toddlers to play without getting knocked around. WEEKLY EVENTS During the week there are lots of different things going on for the kids and its a great place for parents to meet up and relax. - Toddler time. This runs from 9.30am - 3pm, monday to friday. Children aged 3 and under get in for a reduced price and there is free juice and biscuits out on the tables - Music Madness. This takes place on a monday during toddler time and there are usually 2 sessions. The staff will round up the children (usually in the football area) and sing lots of songs and nursery rhymes and get the musical instruments out. This usually features a visit from Mister Twister himself. Which is exactly the reason i had mondays as a set day off, lol. - Activity time. This takes place on tuesdays and thursdays during toddler time and again there are 2 sessions a day. A member of staff will help the children paint/ draw or make some kind of arty/crafty thing. One thing we did was make place mats for fathers day by getting the children to make hand prints with paints on a piece of paper with a lovely sickening poem on, them laminate them. Great fun. I always came home with paint all up my arms and in my hair!!! - Parachute Games - this is the wednesday activity. Its parachute games in the football area. Athough as most of the kids are quite little it usually turns into, lets just run around underneath it!!! - Football coaching. This takes place on a thursday night. You just pay normal admission and the coach is there for 2 hours. The children get free juice and biscuits. - There's always Christmas, Halloween and Easter Parties where children pay a set price to get in and they all get a meal, a visit from Mister Twister and a present - If there are any free staff of an evening or weekend they will always try and organise a game of hide and seek in the frame BIRTHDAY PARTIES Mister Twister birthday parties are always popular. You get your own party co-ordinator who organises everything for you leaving you to sit back and relax. There are lots of extras you can have and every birthday party can be personalised for the child. They are quite expensive though and there has to be a minimum of 8 children which tends to put a few people off GRUMBLE TUMS This is the restaraunt. The food is brill, and im not just saying that. I used to eat there every day. I wanted to kidnap the cook and bring her away with me. Its not cheap but not overly expensive. The drinks however are extortionate. Its £1.40 for bottles of coke and dr pepper etc... All the customers are outraged and the poor staff get at least 10 ear bashings a day!!! You're not supposed to take your own drinks in... but if you sit upstairs, nobody will ever know!!! There are also several family meal and entrance deals available from 3pm til close VALUE Its better value during the week as the prices go up at the weekend. Also at weekends it tends to be busy and staff may make you stick to your 1 1/2 hour time limit. During the week however you can pretty much stay as long as you like. The prices are during the week under 3: £2.50 3-4: £3.50 5+ : £3.95 and weekends under 3: £3.50 3-4: £3.95 5+ : £4.45 Toddler time : £2.25 So, overall. The kids love it and its a good place for parents to socialise and relax (theres comfy sofas upstairs and even a widescreen tv!). It is a bit pricey but if you go at quieter times, its cheaper and you can stay a lot longer.
As an adopted Geordie, I have been known to take part in that great north eastern pastime - a visit to the MetroCentre. (You must have heard of it - I'm sure it was mentioned on Byker Grove on a weekly basis). Up until a couple of years ago, this was the largest shopping and retail "city" in the UK, although it has now been surpassed by the Trafford Centre in Manchester and that new place in Essex (Blue Water?). It's still a very impressive shopping experience though, I can tell you. :-) The MetroCentre is located on an enormous retail park in Gateshead, about 3 miles south west of Newcastle upon Tyne, along with other major units (notably an ASDA hypermarket and the wonderful Ikea). I'm talking about an area so big that the powers that be have had to provide shuttle buses to move people around it! The sheer scale of this development means that it draws people from all over the region, as well as being a popular attraction for tourists and visitors to the area. The size of the MetroCentre also means it can usually absorb people very well, but even so it manages to be packed to bursting point just before Christmas - so avoid this time if you don't want to end up as a sardine. Weekdays during term time are great though, as you don't have to queue anywhere and get all the leisure services virtually to yourself! Getting there is fairly straightforward: - Car: signposted off the A1 west of Gateshead, and had 12,000 free parking spaces - Train: the MetroCentre has its own railway station, which can be reached via a short journey from Newcastle's Central Station (it costs about £1.50 return and services run every half hour) - Bus: local buses from Gateshead and Newcastle run into the MetroCentre bus station every few minutes from central pick up points, including the Eldon Square bus station in Newcastle (contact local providers for details) - Coach: many local and national travel companies offer sh opping breaks specifically to the MetroCentre, and this is certainly provided for with 350 designated coach bays on standby Having got to the MetroCentre, you are faced with an impressively large shopping mall, filled with several hundred shops, around 50 restaurants, a few bars, a food court, a UCI cinema and MetroLand (the centre's very own fairground and amusement arcade). The centre is split into two levels and four coloured zones (red, blue, green, yellow) to help you find your way around - each zone is clearly labelled and signposted, and has its own car park to make it easier to find your car again after you have finally finished shopping! As you would expect with a mall this size, there are plenty of maps and help points dotted around the place in case you do have trouble locating anything. There are also abundant visitor services such as toilets, baby changing areas, seats, lifts and a crèche. The centre has its own medic on standby at all times, and was even the first public place in the UK to have a defibrillator installed in case anyone has heart trouble while shopping (presumably for people who see the prices in House of Fraser). I enjoy visiting the MetroCentre for many reasons - not least because you can escape from the cold north eastern weather for a day! Firstly there is the sheer range of shops ? not just your usual high street chain stores, but also independent and specialist shops that are hard to find elsewhere (such as magic shops, needlework and crafts, Christian bookshops and "new age" places). Secondly, the fact that you can reach it easily and cheaply via public transport, which is very important to me as I don?t own a car. Then there are the "themed" areas - such as the Mediterranean Village - that help to add a bit of atmosphere to what would otherwise be just a standard mall that could be anywhere at all. Oh, and the shuttle buses to Ikea are very welcome as well! :-) Any down sides? Well, as I mentioned before there are the pre-xmas crowds that seem to be even worse here that anywhere else; in the last couple of shopping days you literally cannot move in there. Other than that, only that I can't afford all the things I would like to buy there... And Finally... The MetroCentre is open 10am to 8pm weekdays (9pm Thursday), 10am to 7pm Saturday and 11am to 5pm Sunday - although the cinema and other leisure facilities are often open later. The times over Easter are restricted, but at Christmas you do get more late night shopping provided for all those people who have to work. See: www.metrocentre-gateshead.com Happy shopping, people! :-)
It has always been Gateshead's misfortune to be compared to Newcastle, its northern neighbour just across the Tyne. Indeed, aside from the old legend that Defoe wrote 'Robinson Crusoe' while briefly residing in Gateshead, if you'd asked me a mere five years ago to sum up its attractions and main claims to fame I would have struggled to name anything but the MetroCentre and the International Stadium. However, after undertaking some impressive flagship projects in the last few years, the town has now submitted a joint bid with Newcastle to be the European City of Culture in 2008. Many dismiss the bid, and deride Gateshead Council as being guilty of 'Pharaohism'(an ideology that measures success merely by the number of spectacular projects you undertake). Others point to the shining example of the Angel of the North. The council's excellent website-www.gateshead.gov.uk-details the history of the Angel and offers advice on how to get there. Initially derided as a waste of money, an eyesore and a threat to property prices, the Angel was sculpted by Antony Gormley unveiled in early 1998. The largest sculpture in Britain(20 metres high and weighing 200 tonnes, with a wingspan of 54 metres), its site on a hill adjacent to the A1 means it's viewed by around thirty-three million people every year. The sculpture soon won over the vast majority of the doubters(the odd miserable NIMBY aside), and gave Gateshead a national profile which helped the town win Lottery funding for the Gateshead Quays development. The Gateshead Quays have always suffered by comparison with Newcastle. A few factories and a floating nightclub aside, the dominant landmark as you look over at Gateshead has been the old multi-story carpark which so memorably featured in 'Get Carter'. Movie connections notwithstanding, the carpark has degenerated into an seldom used eyesore which constantly tops newspaper polls for the building most residents would li ke to see demolished(along with the hideous Swan House in central Newcastle). Recently, however, the southern bank of the river has been a hub of activity with the construction of the Baltic Flour Mills contemporary visual arts centre. Converting a disused grain warehouse into one of the biggest temporary art spaces in Europe has cost upwards of 45 million pounds, however this ambitious project(which is due to open in March,2002) acted as a catalyst for the adjacent Music Centre Gateshead(which has a design a little reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House and will serve as the home of the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra and Folkworks, an agency which promotes traditional music) and the Millennium Bridge-a stunning river crossing which opened last year. Nicely compemented by the Riverside Sculpture Park(featuring work by renowned sculptors like Richard Harris and Sally Matthews),more details on the Gateshead Quays development can be found at www.gateshead-quays.com. I certainly wouldn't recommend a long stay in Gateshead-the town is mostly made up of a series of ageing housing estates linked by never ending hills. However, if you're ever in Newcastle, or merely driving up the A1 en route to Edinburgh, you could do a lot worse than give the place a few hours of your time. Gateshead may still be in the shadows, but it seems to be slowly emerging into the light.