Animal attractions are always favourites with children so it’s no surprise that two zoos are included in a recent list of the top five North East attractions for a family day out over the school summer holidays.
What’s perhaps more unusual is that a lesser-known clock museum in Northumberland also makes that list, which is compiled from Tripadvisor and Google reviews that rank the five venues highly in categories ranging from value-for-money to parking availability. Mr George’s Museum of Time is a family-run watch and clock museum in Haydon Bridge whose website proudly says: “We can guarantee you will never have visited anywhere quite like us!”
And it actually offers free entry for people to browse its treasures, which include cuckoo clocks and clockwork toys. Visitors who have tracked it down clearly love what they see, according to the findings of car dealership Brindley Group which looked into family attractions across the UK as they geared up for an increase in visitors over the summer.
It compiled top-five lists by ranking venues on six factors considered important for a family day out, with average review scores – combining Google and Tripadvisor feedback – given on on-site dining; on-site parking; child ticket price value; adult ticket price and the value of a ticket for a family of four. Topping our region’s list is Wetheriggs ‘zoo’ and animal sanctuary which is crowned the best North East Family Attraction with a final score of 77 out of a possible 90.
Both an animal rescue centre and a visitor favourite which hosts the likes of animal-handling sessions, the sanctuary in County Durham rescues wildlife and its entrance fee helps to run its vital work. It is currently looking for volunteers. In second place is Northumberland Country Zoo, with a score of 74, then comes Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books, in Newcastle with 69; Diggerland Durham with 62 and Mr George’s Museum of Time with 59.
The museum – free to enter although donations are welcome – contains the collection of Diana Bell, a watch and clock repairer who grew up helping her father George Ellis in his own repair business and now has ‘clocked up’ more than 30 years’ experience. It still operates a repair workshop while the collection itself features timepieces from the late 18th century onwards.
The museum’s name comes from the title of the series of children’s books about Mr George the Clock Man which are written by Diana and based upon her father. These are on sale, alongside audio CDs, in the museum’s on-site gift shop which also sells novelty and traditional toys, fairtrade gifts and local souvenirs.
Diana, whose museum was previously in Haltwhistle before it moved to Haydon Bridge where she has her workshop adjoining the display room, says there it has something for all ages and that includes activities for children. She said: “Kids are fascinated – some haven’t seen a clock before.
“We also have cuckoo clocks and traditional clockwork toys. People can just browse.” The museum is open from 10am to 4.30pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 10am until 2pm on Wednesday and Saturday.