The railway station, Rowley, is just a short walk away. Steam trains run on a weekend. There is also a small funfair (a carousel, swingboats, and a traditional coconut shy) on the village meadow. These cost a little bit extra.
Beamish run special events throughout the year. The day we went there was a selection of traditional games and circus skills to try out. We got help learning how to walk on stilts, and got dizzy trying to hula-hoop!
We took a slow walk up to the farm, stopping en route at the warehouse. Here is a huge display of all the artefacts Beamish have collected over the years, which they may use in the future – I am told they are planning a 1950s zone! These included an array of old televisions and radios, and an awesome retro hair salon hairdryer bench.
The tour down the pit takes about 16 people at a time. You walk down a few yards – you have to stoop because it’s only 4′ or so high at some points. Then you turn down a tunnel and are shown where the men (and women and even young children) would have worked for eight or ten hours at a time digging coal out of the ground and pushing the barrows back out again.
Then they turn the electric off so you can see exactly what conditions they would have worked in. The pit they showed us was a health-and-safety version of what the pit would have been like at the time, and a lot nearer the surface. It certainly makes you think about what life was like for those miners and their families not all that long ago. I wouldn’t recommend this part for those scared of the dark or close spaces, or those with mobility problems. But for everyone else, it’s very interesting and created a lot of questions from my nine-year old. It takes about ten minutes from going down to coming back up again.
Our favourite part of the pit village was the Victorian school. We tried writing with a pen and traditional inkwell, and attempted to do hoop and stick in the playground. It’s a lot harder than it looks!
A quick turn with the traditional games on the village green…..
…..and it was time to go home. Via the gift shop, naturally!
Beamish is HUGE. We were there from when it opened at 10am to when it closed at 5pm. We didn’t rush but you couldn’t do it all in less than 3 or 4 hours. Get there early.
It is also tiring. Take the tram where you can. They can take a limited amount of folded up buggies.
Toilets are well signposted and in all the major areas. There are some baby changing facilities too.
If you’re not sure of anything, ask! The staff are easily distinguishable by their traditional costume. They are very helpful and knowledgeable.
Take a picnic. There are loads of areas to eat your picnic and even if it’s busy, you can pull up a patch of grass in the town’s park or the meadow.
If it’s busy do the museum in reverse order. If you get there early, head for the Manor House first, and leave the busy town until later in the day when it quietens down (allow at least an hour or more for this part as there’s lots to see).
The car park is ample and it is easy to find (signposted off the A1(M) at Chester-Le-Street.
The main hazards for young people (or anyone really) are the stone steps everywhere as would befit the era, and the moving vehicles. There are also lots of live animals and lots of the stuff that comes with them (or from them). Exercise the caution you would every day and it’s all fine, but don’t expect baby proofing!
I would recommend Beamish for children aged from five and above. Children under five are free. While they would enjoy the day out and the fresh air, I’m not sure how much very young children would get out of it, and it can be tiring for little legs (or people pushing prams). My nine year old LOVED it and found it all fascinating. We were glad we hadn’t taken the two-year olds.
We love Beamish and would heartily recommend it to families with older children and teens.