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 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!


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.



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.


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.


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!?


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;


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.

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.


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

Greenhaugh – We hope you brought your walking boots!

The Greenhaugh Cluster arrived in convoy, chose their beds in the Castle dorms and set straight off to Ford Moss, the unique nature reserve a brisk walk from our grounds.

At various stops along the way the pupils  learn about the geological quirks in the area that let us trace the history of the ground, animals and plants. Exploring unearthed small pieces of pottery from an old village and a collapsed mine shaft. Before a tour of the woodland, a quick study of the soil showed that the students were standing on the site of an ancient ice-age river!

Back at the Castle, Greenhaugh worked up an appetite by crossing the ravine, taking a deep breath, and zooming across on the zip wire. Nervous laughter gave way to moral support as the group cheered each other on to take the leap, and everyone faced their fear.

Ford Moss Chimney

Ford Moss

Dinner, evening quizzes and a hot chocolate treat made sure the students were out for the count, ready to rise early for a day trip to Lindisfarne on Holy Island and to the Anglo-Saxon town of Berwick.

Heritage and history was all around as the sun shone; a walk across the Island revealed more about the Pilgrims and their castle, along with the fascinating geography of the area.

Later, the ramparts park in Berwick was the perfect destination for the students to rest their weary feet and ponder the day’s discoveries over a mix up from the old-fashion sweet shop. They deserved it after all that walking!

The following day was packed with adventure activities in the sprawling Castle grounds. The pupils took the opportunity to ride the zip wire again, and did Greenhaugh proud by working together as a team on the Initiative course.

Too soon, it was time to have one last delicious Castle meal and head home.

See the  pictures from Ford Moss and the zip wire on our Facebook page!


Gosforth Central Middle School & Subhadassi


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.

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

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.

Amble First School

by Rosy Graham

Amble + Castle
My allotted welcome to the enthusiastic 8 and 9 year olds from Amble First School, was to harness them to a wire and encourage them to zip across the wooded ravine situated next to Ford Castle. Fortunately for me, the group was very much up to the challenge.It was a good job there was an anchor rope at the landing site; it was a tad slippery due to recent heavy snowfall. The group loved it of course; they are safely attached to the anchor rope, positively gliding to the Finish area, whilst I found myself repeatedly face down in the mud until I resembled some sort of mud monster, much to the amusement of all onlookers.

Ambling by the Lady Waterford Hall

Ambling by the Lady Waterford Hall

The next day we took a walk – well (naturally) more of an amble really – to Ford Moss, which afforded stunning views of the snow-dusted Cheviot Hills on the way, though I fear my photographic skills have not done them justice.
Cheviots with Snow
Once at the Moss there was much to see, from ice patterns in puddles to the mine shaft entrance. For some reason though, the young group were far more interested in some fox poo and then some rabbit fur close by (no prizes for guessing the connection there).

Ice (rather than mud) puddle

Ice (rather than mud) puddle

Back at the Castle and time to relax. What am I saying, that’s no way to keep year 5 children entertained. A much better idea was Nightline (especially as the teachers could participate too: dropping leaves and twigs on their young charges – no encouragement from me, of course), followed by Archery and the Castle Tour.It was the turn of we instructors to be entertained, after a delicious and filling dinner, at the Talent Show, followed by a disco where everyone let their hair down.The final morning dawned, but there was still time for some Crate Stacking, Potions and Initiative Exercises, which the Amble pupils attacked with skill, humour and aplomb.

Waving off Amble School, I considered two things: what great fun the children from Amble are; and, if I don’t stop waving soon, my arm’s going to fall off.

 Amble + Staff1

Low Ropes Course


Fear of heights?  No problem

by Crystal Booth

  Low Ropes
It’s not that we don’t have enough outdoor activities already at Ford, but we’ve just installed a new low ropes course for the heck of it and as a fresh challenge for you to explore too, of course.So why have a low ropes course if we already have high ropes I hear you ask. Well, here are just a few reasons:
  • There’s no need for specialist safety equipment as it’s less than half a metre off the ground
  • This type of course suits a variety of abilities and ages
  • It’s a great confidence-building exercise
  • Try Zig and Zag or the Balance Beams for yourself; they’re great fun!

An assault course should also have been in place by now, delayed unfortunately, due to the (somewhat inclement!) weather, but that will be built shortly. So, assuming you need them; there are now two new, and rather exiting reasons to come and visit us.  We hope you continue to enjoy the improvements we are making.

A big thanks to HangFast Adventure Structures for building our new courses in some fairly challenging conditions.



Teacher Preview Weekend

Saturday saw another Teacher Preview weekend with teachers from as far afield as Harrogate and East London visiting to check out accommodation, activities and, for those who stayed, some local sites.

The forecast promised a lot of rain.  Let’s face it, of late, that’s an easy promise to keep and there were indeed showers, but there were brighter spells too and, our undaunted guests were not to be put off by a bit of rain.  Apparently one of the teachers from St John Fisher School spent this year under canvas in the Lake District with 160 children . . . possibly for a bet!

Following lunch on Saturday a tour of the Castle was a great way to start and we didn’t even lose anyone!  The views from the upper chambers, the size of the rooms, the fireplaces and original features were all pretty impressive, but honestly, most of our visitors were far more interested in the ghosts:

“So is there a ghost then?”

“Oh no . . .”

“Ahhhhh, that’s a shame – might have shut my Year 5s up a bit”

“ . . .  there are two!”

The tour continued outside taking in the Initiative course, Nightline trail through the trees, the High Ropes and Zip Wire along the way, not to mention the wonderfully manicured grounds and gardens, where children love to play hide-and-seek or have a picnic.

Of course it’s not obligatory to have a go on the Zip Wire but, as it was set up, it seemed churlish not to.  Some of our guests had children with them and whilst more detailed analysis (Apparently 7 year olds find dormitory allocations and itineraries boring!), over tea and cake, of what a visit to the Castle would include, one of our trained instructors took advantage of the Archery targets and Fencing equipment.  This, it seems, was far more entertaining for our younger visitors.

As more schools and teachers visit the word is spreading and places are going fast.  summer and March 2013 are filling rapidly, so if you’d like to visit, our next Teacher Preview Visit is 29th September.  Contact us for further details and booking information on 0844 800 4278 or leave a comment below.