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On Good Friday 2005 (25th March), Carter, Taylor and Stanley visited Gibside, a beautiful country estate on the outskirts of Newcastle Upon Tyne in the North East of England.  Situated in the leafy Derwent valley, this 18th-century park is one of the North’s finest landscapes, a ‘forest garden’ currently under restoration and embracing many miles of walks with fine views. The estate is the former home of the Queen Mother’s family, the Bowes-Lyons.

The Palladian chapel, which was completed in 1812, has been fully restored. The exterior strongly resembles an Italian villa whilst the interior features superb 19th-century furnishings including a three-tier mahogany pulpit and cherrywood pews.

From the chapel, a great avenue of ancient oaks runs over half a mile along the side of the valley, focusing on the Column of Liberty which rises 43 metres from the wooded hill at the far end. This avenue is called "The Long Walk" and runs into "The Hollow Walk" closer to the column.  These features are the surviving remnants of what was once one of the greatest examples of 18th-century landscape design.

Stanley was impressed!  Click on the image for a larger version.  In the picture is Lewis, a friend, Lauryn and Saskia, our cousins (who hosted Stanley earlier), and us.

Apart from the chapel, the stables and banqueting hall also survive but the orangery is now a ruin and the Hall itself was abandoned early this century.  It's ruined, but still looks pretty impressive.  Again, click an image for a larger version.

The second image is a closer view, and if you look carefully you will see (apart from Stanley!) there are a number of bullet holes in the stonework above the door.  This dates back to the Second World War when a Home Guard unit was stationed here.

After she died, Countess Mary Eleanor (George Bowes's daughter) was buried in the Chapel crypt. Her spirit is said to walk the grounds.  Neither Stanley nor us saw her during our visit!

The huge grounds at Gibside provide excellent walking, with easy strolls along the river, green pastures and wooded trails.  Great fun for all of us!  At the end of one of the longest climbs in the grounds is the Column, which can be seen for miles around.  The Column of Liberty was built from 1750 - 1757 and is 140 ft. high; when it was built it was the tallest building outside London. The figure of British Liberty on the top is 12ft. high, and is that of a lady with an inverted cup in her hand. The figure was carved on top of the column from a boulder by a sculptor called Richardson, who was paid only £40 for the work!

As you can see, Stanley was impressed.

From the site of the tower is one of the greatest views on the entire estate, down to a pond beneath the hill.  This is really stunning scenery.  We haven't shown you many of the other sites of Gibside, beautiful areas such as the Octagonal Pond, the Banqueting House, the Chapel, the West Wood, the Orangery, the river, and the Stable Block.  If you're ever in the area, it's well worth a visit!
As it was Easter, there were a load of activities, like making Easter Bonnets, a bouncy castle, and a Mouse House competition.  To build a Mouse House, you pick up dead materials around the estate and then use them to build a house for a mouse.  The best house wins a prize.

Our house, mainly built by Lauryn, Carter and Stanley (with a little help from Grandad Cliff), sported a tunnel entrance, a fence, a thatched roof (nearly!), a dining table with cups and food, and two realistic-looking mice!

Happily, we won the prize, and were all very proud...

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