Years ago, when we lived in Belfast, the top floor of our home was occupied by lodgers. Some just stayed a short time and others stayed for years, leaving only to get married/move country/lead a quieter life…
Most of them became like family to us and I doubt I’d have passed my GCSE or A-Level exams without their input. Between them they had me covered on history, theology, maths, and the sciences. Oh, and they were happy to sample and critique my Home Economics practicals.
I digress. What I wanted to tell you was that one particular lodger* used to tell us that he was from a ‘Brown Sign Family’. You know, those who regularly take advantage of a Saturday or Bank Holiday to visit an old estate, or gardens of historic interest (whatever the weather).
I was reminded of this recently because I think we can now claim this mantle for ourselves. We’ve treated every one of our early summer visitors to a Brown Sign day out, and we’ve only scratched the surface!
First up, Belshaw’s Quarry. Just a short car journey from our house, work ceased at this limestone quarry in the 1950s. Now anyone can go in and see the clay, limestone and basalt for themselves, along with evidence of fault lines in the chalk face. The quarry is also home to a fantastic exhibition of sculptures – artistic accounts of the history of the site and the relationship between man and the land. The boys love this place, there’s lots of exploring to be done and a marshy pond to squelch around. Will remember wellies next time…
Of course, the National Trust features heavily in the brown signs of Northern Ireland, and it wouldn’t be a bank holiday weekend without a trip out! So we took our Welsh Godfamily to Ardress House.
There are lovely gentle walks, beautiful rolling orchards and old farm buildings housing all sorts of surprises! A cheese-making exhibit, painted MDF cows to ‘milk’ in the dairy, an indoor play area, and a collection of old farming equipment.
All of which, accompanied by treats (and hot drinks in the rain for grown ups), bring the seal of approval for this particular day out!
On our way to Ardress House we’d passed some signs (yes, BROWN ONES) to The Argory. So a few days later, with a whole other Godmother in tow, we headed there.
This was quite the surprise – lots of woodland and river paths, landscaped gardens, plenty of picnic areas, a second hand bookshop, lovely wee courtyard cafe & gift shop, and a play area. We’ll be back here, no doubt about it, as we didn’t even have time to venture in to the house this time!
Of course, no season in our household would be complete without a trip to Rowallane Garden. We all love visiting here and haven’t yet done the same walk twice. Also, I’m very grateful to whichever smart person decided to locate the cafe right next to the best trees for climbing so the grown ups can have a cuppa and leave the boys to it.
Our June visit coincided with The Tiger Who Came to Tea theme at Rowallane – with a kind volunteer telling stories to our excited children and lots of craft activities to do.
Never one to shy away from a bit of drama, Luke had a great time dressing up and throwing himself into character…
Now school’s out for summer in Northern Ireland – term finished at the end of June – and we celebrated with a trip to the bowling alley and a lunch date.
However, I’d say the likelihood of Brown Sign activity for the Sellars family in the coming weeks is high…watch this space for more reports!
*whose mum reads this blog!