The Woodhorn Museum is recognised as one of the best surviving examples of late 19th century/early 20th century colliery life in the North East. It stands on the edge of the Queen Elizabeth ll Country Park which is a haven for wildlife. A narrow gauge railway links the museum to the Country Park
It is well signposted and is situated just one and a half miles from Ashington and almost midway between Newcastle Upon Tyne and Alnwick town,(approx. a 25 mile distance to each town).
The museum started life in the late 1890s as a colliery. It once employed over 2000 men. The colliery closed in 1981. Woodhorn became a museum in 1989 and after a huge refurbishment reopened in 2006. As well as being a colliery museum Woodhorn also houses 800 years of Northumberland history in its archives
As I have some mobility issues I was delighted to see the efforts that Woodhorn Museum, The Woodhorn Railway and the Country Park have gone to, to make the less mobile or disabled welcome. Accessibility information is given in the body of my review and summarised at the end.
The Woodhorm Museum is open 10am -5pm April to September and 10am-4pm October to April.
Admission is free, there is a parking charge of £3.50 per vehicle.
The car park has a staffed entry barrier. Blue Badge Holders should display their badge on approach to the barrier. This is because the colliery buildings which form the museum are spread out and therefore the disabled parking is also spread out to accommodate visits to the buildings. A staff member directs you to the disabled parking areas.
The car park is level. Throughout the museum there is either level or ramped access.
The museum is housed in a series of colliery buildings. The newest building in the museum which was our first port of call is called The Cutter, the name was inspired by the huge coal cutting machinery that worked underground. The cutter houses displays showing the heritage of the area. Including miners banners, and some truly emotive and beautiful paintings by the Pitman Painters – this gallery of artworks describes so well, life in the mining communities of the North East.
Woodhorn museum has both permanent and temporary exhibitions. My favourite permanent exhibition was Coal Town, this exhibition gives a detailed insight into the social history of the region. It takes you on a journey, from setting off to walk to work from your miners cottage to the Pit at 1 am. You pass through decades where you see the interior of the Pitman's homes, the marches, local life such as the tradition of growing leeks and the art of proggy mat making. You can experience Wash Days when the miners clothes covered in coal dust were washed and dried outside. The exhibition also shows the hardship endured by the Miner and his family.
With the exception of one or two the many colliery buildings have good access. The Winding House is perhaps less accessible with stairs.
There is a shop which is well stocked and sells a range of gifts. The shop is spacious enough for wheelchair users who also benefit from the low counters.
We enjoyed a much needed coffee in the Café which sells a variety of snacks including local speciality sandwiches such as ham and pease pudding. Ice cream made locally at Doddington Dairy is also for sale..
I found the customer service at this museum to be good. I noticed there was staff at various points throughout the museum who were only too pleased to help and who were able to provide interesting information on different parts of the museum.
The Woodhorn Railway can take you from Woodhorn Collery through to The Queen Elizabeth ll Country Park and around the lake. This narrow gauge railway operates on a Saturday Sunday and Bank Holidays. It costs £2 for adults and £1 for children. It has a wheelchair accessible carriage.
The Country Park ( which also has a car park for those not wanting to use the railway or not wanting to walk to it) is the result of years of reclamation of what was once one of Europe's biggest colliery spoil heaps. Today it has a 40 acre lake which offers sporting activities such as canoeing and fishing, It offers many walks to enjoy, the park has a large amount of wildlife including the endangered red squirrel. There is seating around the lake. There is a wheelchair accessible fishing platform. The pathways are wheelchair accessible.
A great day out and we would love to return,.
Accessibility summary: Woodhorn Museum
Staff regularly trained on disability awareness Assistance dogs welcome disabled parking. good access to most areas (I noticed only two areas of the colliery buildings that could prove problematic) Hearing Induction loop. Information available in large print and braille. Disabled W.C. Spacious shop with low level shop counter and hearing induction loop. Three wheelchairs available to hire – it is wise to pre book. 1 Electric scooter available to hire – it is wise to book in advance.
Accessibility at Narrow Gauge Railway: Wheelchair accessible carriage
Accessibility at Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Level surfaces. Wheelchair Accessible fishing platform. Seating.