#ETW17: Parks and outdoor spaces

Spring is firmly on its way and it’s the perfect time to get outdoors and embrace the blue skies, milder weather and all the glorious Spring blooms bursting into life! English Tourism Week couldn’t have happened at a better time! With seven prestigious Green Flag seal of approvals for the parks and green spaces in Middlesbrough, we’re not exaggerating when we say they’re quite simply, the best!

We’re not ones for choosing favourites – because how could we?! – so in no particular order, here’s our list of parks and outdoor spaces you have to visit in Middlesbrough.

Albert Park
It makes sense to start with Albert Park. Situated right in the town itself, the park covers an area of 30 hectares and includes a visitor centre, roller skating rink, swan and boat hire on the lake, tennis courts, bowling greens, play areas, a fabulous bandstand and so much more! At this time of year the trees are just starting to see their first bursts of beautiful blossom, and all around the grounds are bright flashes of yellow, white, pink and purple as Spring bulbs pop out of the ground to say hello…and it just keeps on getting better as the seasons progress. The park is currently open from 7.30am to dusk .

Love Middlesbrough Top Tip ❤️ To take in all the sights of the park we recommend entering via the Park Road North entrance, turn right and follow the circular path round the entire perimeter of the park. Along the way you’ll be able to enjoy all the trees and seasonal blooms, see a sneak peek of our much-loved Dorman Museum, stroll past the lake with the ducks and the swan boats, and back around to where you started from…where you can pick another path and start exploring all over again!

Stewart Park
Ahhh Stewart Park, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Nature! Heritage! Captain Cook Birthplace Museum! Stewart Park Farmers’ Market! 120 acres of mature woodland and wide open park space! So pretty, so spacious, so tranquil, it’s hard to believe that outside the gates of the park is the normal hustle and bustle of life. There’s a huge children’s play area, a trim trail for when you’re feeling super fit (or trying to be!), outdoor table tennis and mini golf! There’s also two lakes for all the water fowl so you can feed the ducks too! Make sure to get the right food for ducks though, they’re not as keen on bread as everyone imagines…Stroll up an appetite and head to the cafe to enjoy a very tasty scone – just one of the many tasty delights – which you can enjoy outside or inside, depending on the weather. We could wax lyrical for so much longer, but space is limited. The park is currently open from 7.30am to dusk.

Love Middlesbrough Top Tip ❤️ Head to the park on the last Sunday of the month for the Stewart Park Farmers’ Market. Make sure to get there bright and early (it opens at 9am), wander round all the stalls with some of the best tasty and local food we have ever eaten, try not to drool (it’s so unladylike!), grab a coffee to go, pick a path and wander where your feet take you, before taking your food belly home for some well-earned sofa time!

Transporter Park
Transporter Park is right next to our iconic Transporter Bridge, which is an absolute must-see/must-visit/must-ride! The area has recently seen a real change and is looking tip-top – it’s even been a venue for music celebrations!. The recent addition of the oh-so-cool, multi-coloured Pioneer housing sets it firmly as a place on the up. As with all the other parks in town, the Spring blooms are bursting out of the ground and we can’t wait for the wildflowers to be back in Summer – so pretty. If you like taking photographs, it’s a brilliant place to start as you’re close to some of our most loved and iconic sights and there’s a photo op at almost every angle. There’s plenty of parking (including the two hours free offer available throughout the majority of town centre car parks) and you only have to do a hop, skip, and a jump back to the train station and onwards into town if you fancy finishing off your visit with some food. Doesn’t everyone do that? Just us then…

Love Middlesbrough Top Tip ❤️ We only have one for Transporter Park: if you’ve not been yet, go now and explore! Trust us…

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Fairy Dell 
Fairy Dell is a woodland beck and park and it sits on the borders of Marton and Coulby Newham. I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s beautiful! Truly, it’s a gem in Middlesbrough and well worth a visit if you’ve never been. Step through the main gates into a vast expanse of green park and then basically pick a path and start strolling (if you’re not sure 20170324_103101-effects which way to go there’s a handy map just as you walk through the main gates). Along the way you’ll see woodland, pretty waterfalls and streams, wooden sculptures and seating, and right now, as Spring is springing, bursts of yellow daffodils everywhere you look! The great thing about it is, there’s something for everyone. The outer pathways are accessible and buggy friendly, and if you want to go exploring you can do that too – just remember to pack your wellies! There’s even a ‘Trim Trail’ all the way around if you want to get your health and fitness on at the same time as taking in the lovely sights. There’s free parking available right outside of the main gates too which is always an added bonus!

Love Middlesbrough Top Tip ❤️ Head through the main gates and take the first pathway to your right and then just keep on following that pathway all the way around. You get to see most things on this trail including the giant snake, acorn and stork wooden sculptures, as well as enjoying the peace, quiet and the tranquil sound of the bubbling stream and birds singing – truly delightful! We already can’t wait to go back…

Linthorpe Cemetery and Nature Reserve
This is a recent discovery for us and we are absolutely loving it! A highly important burial ground, it’s steeped in history as well as being a genuinely lovely place to walk around. You’ve probably figured out by now that we’re massive fans of Spring blooms and there are heaps of them here *heart eyes emoji* If trees are more your thing there are parts of the cemetery that are almost completely covered by canopies of trees, many of which were planted in the 19th Century. And finally, for all you bird lovers out there, it’s a bird paradise! We’ve even heard that there are tawny owls – wow!

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The beautiful thing about all these parks and green spaces is that they’re just a mere glimpse into all the amazing places that you can head to in Middlesbrough when you feel the need for some great outdoors. You can find out more about Council facilities via their website and more from us at Love Middlesbrough too.

Love Middlesbrough Lasses
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#ETW17: Orange Pip Market

Last weekend (Saturday March 25) was my first experience of the outdoor market, on Baker and Bedford Street, Orange Pip Market.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this, Orange Pip Market happens once a month (should the weather allow) and it is a foodie’s heaven. There are plenty of food stalls selling food from across the globe, such as Italian pizza, German bratwurst and traditional Armenian flatbread, as well as the good British food such as Scotch Eggs and a carvery. Not only is there food, but there’s arts and music too, doesn’t that sound good?

I’ll take you through what I ate, which was a lot.

I started off with a vegan samosa, which was really good!

Then I went on to try some hot sauce. I chickened out of the super-hot sauce and went for the mild version which was just delicious and the vendor was a really funny guy who didn’t mind the fact that I was a wimp – or me taking a photo of him so I could get his t-shirts in the background.

My next stop was hot chocolate (with a little chat). Sprinkles did and amazing hot chocolate which was super smooth and just the right sweetness, they had homemade marshmallows with a few different flavours; I had to leave out the marshmallows (which they toasted with a blow-torch – talk about hardcore) but they did mention that they were looking into vegetarian options.

I had a little wander around the market, picking my next destination when I came across an authentic crepe stall, the guy who owned it was French, and spoke French to his customers in greeting etc. For a moment I felt like I was in France with this guy, he was very polite and allowed me to video him making the crepe, which was delicious.

I sat down to eat my crepe and started talking to two men who were very polite and gave me their thoughts on the market. They both loved the idea and were enjoying themselves a lot. I took a moment to enjoy the sun, because it couldn’t be Orange Pip Market without the sun, and went on my way.

The Clucking Pig Company sold me a vegetarian scotch egg which was so good, if a bit messy. I had a nice chat (as always) with the vendor and discussed social media. They are very active online and I was more than happy to tag them in a post. They’re from Redcar but have been down to London and even in the Houses of Parliament to sell their eggs. The sold goose and free range eggs too, which made me very happy.

I found a nice cheese stall – and I love cheese – where I tried quite a few different flavours of cheese (I went back at the end of my day to buy – didn’t want it melting in my bag) and talked to the vendor about cooking with these cheeses; top tip for lazy cooks: having the seasoning already in the cheese makes for a super easy sauce.

Cheese stall

I of course bought myself an Orange Pip mug for the office – I needed a new one and it seemed appropriate.

Orange Pip mug

I was informed weeks in advance that I could not go to this market without getting my face decorated, so that was what I did. I spoke to some lovely girls who decorated my face in gold leaf (not actual gold) and glitter. It looked amazing and stayed on until the evening, I’m still wondering what they used as a glue.

Emma face paint

I bought myself a brownie from Crumble and Slice, the owner’s mother told me they had brought 17 trays and had sold nearly all of them by the time I had got there.

Now, you can’t go to Bedford Street without going to Songbird Bakery, and that’s exactly what I did. Those talented girls had Easter cupcakes out and waiting for us and I loved it. I tried a mini eggs cupcake and holy guacamole was it good, those girls must have magic of some sort.

Songbird Bakery

One of my last stops was for pizza. I shared a stone-baked pizza with my sister (who turned up later on in the day) and boy was it good. The sauce was perfect and the cheese was amazing – did I mention that I love cheese- and quite frankly I haven’t had a better pizza yet. It was quick service and they were making them right there in front of us.

The music was utterly brilliant, I manged to hear two performers and they differed greatly in musical styles but both were talented and it was obvious that there was meant to be something for everyone.

I have to say, Orange Pip Market was a brilliant experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The security at the end of the streets were on the ball, not allowing anyone to take alcohol out of the street and also making sure everyone were safe, all the vendors were lovely people who were great to talk to and didn’t mind having photos taken all over the place, and it was a gorgeous day. It would have been a perfect day out for the family and I’m surprised at how little I actually ate, considering I was in two streets full of food.

Everyone I talked to really enjoyed the market and that spans a range of people. It was obvious from the wide range of vendors and performers that there was meant to be something for everyone to enjoy and the entire event looked very well organised. Kudos to the people who organised it and well done to all of the vendors for remaining happy and upbeat all day, even though it was probably very hot in a lot of those tents and very tiring.

#ETW17: Independent eating, drinking and shopping

If there’s one thing the Love Middlesbrough lasses love (apart from cake, hot chocolate, and the Very Hungry Caterpillar), it’s eating, drinking and shopping. And Middlesbrough just happens to be full of fantastic independents for all your shopping, eating, drinking, hair and beauty (and more) needs. So many wonderful things – where to start…?
Bedford Street Coffee

Shopping

Whether you want a clock, a pair of designer trainers, or a new tattoo, you can get all of them (and more) without ever leaving the comfort of Middlesbrough!

With more independent businesses than you can shake a stick at, Boro’s got you covered no matter what the occasion. Beautiful wedding dresses? Check. Last minute birthday present for the person who’s got everything? Check. Emergency pair of 90s denim dungarees? Check (yes, you definitely need them).

Independent businesses are clustered on the wonderfully fabulous Baker and Bedford Streets, as well as neighbouring Linthorpe Road, Borough Road, and Grange Road, but that’s not the end of it. From Concept on Linthorpe Road to TP Coffee House in Middlehaven, our independent offer stretches across the whole town centre, not to mention into every corner of the town too – from hairdressers in Hemlington to bouquets in Berwick Hills.

Eating

Our lovely town’s foodie offer can only be described as multicultural, and who wouldn’t want to sample dishes from around the world, from the comfort of your own town? Whether you fancy Spanish chorizo at The Curing House or Turkish lahmacun at Meze Lounge, that’s just the tip of the iceberg – add in Italian, Chinese, African, Greek, Lebanese, Mexican, Indian, and Caribbean, and you’ll start to get a picture of how much of a foodie paradise this town is! (Plus, if you add in national chains, there’s also French, Portuguese, and more Caribbean!) And if after all that you’re still not convinced, there’s always somewhere which will do you a parmo!

Speaking of food, watch out for the hotly-anticipated return of Restaurant Week on May 1 – what better excuse to eat all the food!

Oh, and Middlesbrough has cake…a lot of cake…but that would need a whole other post! (You didn’t expect us to go a whole post without mentioning cake did you?)

Drinking and nightlife

As well as a culinary world tour, Boro can also lay claim to being a micropub and bar hotspot, with no less than ten quirky drinking establishments clustered around the Baker/Bedford Street/Linthorpe/Borough Road area. The Nuthatch’s craft cocktails rub shoulders with the Chairman’s real ale, while at Sticky Fingers you can enjoy a locally-produced pie and live music with your drink.

(We don’t want to miss anyone out, so here’s the full list: The Nuthatch, The Chairman, Sticky Fingers, The Twisted Lip, The Bottled Note, The Devil’s Advocate, Dovecot Bar, The Slaters Pick, Sherlocks, The Infant Hercules).

 

A final word

So independents may be a little more expensive than a national chain which can afford to keep its prices low, but the money spent in an independent business might just go on a child’s dance lessons or helping a someone provide for their family.

Money spent locally stays local for much longer than a few financial drops in the ocean of the profits of a huge national corporation. No corporation will miss the price of a sandwich or a new outfit in the grand scheme of things, but to small businesses every penny matters, and Middlesbrough is lucky enough to have a whole range of independents who are talented, dedicated and care about the town.

(Many thanks to Stuart Boulton for the lovely photo of Bedford Street Coffee!)

Love Middlesbrough Lasses
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#ETW17: Breakfast/Brunch in Middlesbrough

Eating out is one of my favourite things to do, and I think most people can agree. But sometimes and evening meal is too much effort and lunch is too time consuming, which is exactly why breakfast is the best time to eat out. With America popularising Brunch (which is possibly the best idea to come out of that country after Oreos) I think that we need to talk about that too. The ever-present question is ‘Where?’ I’ll tell you where, and when, right here, right now.

We’re sticking within the centre of Middlesbrough so you don’t have so much choice you give up and eat toast and jam at home. Here’s the 15 places for you to fill your belly and boots on a morning (and doesn’t that sound like clickbait).

Café Roys

We’ll start here, with good old comfort food. The typical British fry up is exactly what you can expect from this place. Its prices are on the low side so it’s perfect for students with that god-awful headache looking for a grease fix as well as for families with young kids. A kid-friendly place with cheap prices, who could ask for more. Look down on Victoria Road for this one, and check out their Facebook.

Sandybells Café

Our next place is Sandybells Café on Bulmer Way. This is another place for the tradition English breakfast, very similar to Café Roys but with better parking access, remember all the places listed here are within walking distance of at least one of the carparks in Middlesbrough. They are Child-friendly and do takeout, so you can take your breakfast to work and make your colleagues jealous. It’s also waiter service so if you’re too tired to walk to the counter this is brilliant. Open Monday to Saturday 8am ‘till 3pm, is this the perfect place for you? They’re also on Facebook for all your questions.

The Swatters Carr

You can’t go to America and not go to a Fast Food Restaurant, and you can’t come to England without having a Pub meal; and breakfast is the best option. The Swatters Carr is super cheap but really tasty. Served from 8am until noon, their traditional breakfast is less than £3, bargain. They also served tea and coffee for less than £1, you can’t beat it. They don’t just do traditional, they have Veggie options, children’s breakfasts and American Pancakes (maybe you can eat American in England). They do have a few healthy options too, like Tropical fruit and Greek style honey. They’re waiting on Linthorpe Road for you, Monday to Sunday from 8am, serving breakfast ‘till noon.

The Star

Let’s look at another pub, honestly England’s full of them, and go to The Star (awesome name). Serving breakfast ‘till 3pm, this is possibly the best place to go. Their menu is limited for breakfast for you can take your meal away with you, so who can complain. This isn’t one for early risers though as they don’t start serving until 10am, I guess that’s student early though.

The Fork in the Road

The Fork in the Road is a special place in Middlesbrough with a great background. They use locally sourced ingredients and are doing everything they can to make Middlesbrough a better place. They do their best to help people back onto their feet and back into the world through their ‘programme designed to offer precious opportunities to those needing a helping hand’. They also have a great menu that strays from the traditional, going for higher end food and the food that’s good for you (and some that’s really, really not). They also offer unlimited coffee and wifi for just £5, can’t beat that. This is the perfect place for your brunch meeting, or just working outside the office, with food, and coffee, and free wifi. I think I’m working in the wrong place.

Café Zim

Café Zim is our healthy option- and yes you read that right…healthy *shudders*. For all I hate the healthy foods (chocolate all the way) I have to say that this menu looks good. With a healthy version of the Full English, 3 different types of eggs, sandwiches, oats and yoghurts, you really can’t go wrong. It’s cheap as well, with all breakfast options served below £8.00 (and you get a LOT of food for that money). Serving from 9am till 11am means you can go for a healthy brunch too. Much better than a McDonald’s breakfast, I have to say.

Bedford St Coffee

Saying this is my personal favourite would be unfair, but boy do they do good poached eggs. Bedford Street is parallel to Baker Street (where Café Zim lives) and both have recently undergone a total overhaul, bringing in new businesses which are awesome! This is the place for coffee lovers, they have the best coffee and some new ways of brewing –like the aeropress for example. Their menu isn’t the most extensive and is pretty sophisticated (for me anyway) so it’s not a place I’d recommend for kids to eat. If you just want to eat yourself and provide your child with a sweet treat and a drink, they always have a great range of delicious pastries and their white hot chocolate is the one drink your child will want to finish.  They’re breakfast options are served all day and they open from 8am so perfect for the early risers.

Cupeno Coffee

Another coffee house, coffee and breakfast seem to go together. Cupeno Coffee is child-friendly and just delicious. It’s the perfect start to the day and open from 7am so I guess they only see the kind of people who take 6am jogs. I’m kidding, people who take 6am jogs are too healthy for coffee. For those of you who love the different types of drink, they serve an amazing (if fattening) white hot chocolate, yum! They serve delicious pastries, toasties and paninis, just waiting for you to try. And with 10% student discount you really can’t complain.

The Good Food Joint

Another greasy breakfast place, but this time all day. They open from 6:30am (these times are getting earlier, how the owners get up this early I will never understand) and do the Full English, as promised. They’re also open match days with away fans welcome, let’s hope they know how to end a fight.

Goodbody’s Eaterie

Goodbody’s have a good range of options for your breakfast, from the greasy sausages and bacon to the healthy poached eggs with avocado on toast, they’ve got it all. They have plenty of Veggie options and are slowing bringing in more and more gluten free options… perfect! They are reasonably priced too and it’s a great atmosphere. Perfect for breakfast meetings. And open from 8am (getting back to normal times).

Yates

This is the one chain restaurant (pub) in this list and I have to say, I’m slightly ashamed of myself. This is, however, perfect for the fussy eater. You know you can rely on this place to be just as good as every other Yates you’ve been in. It’s the typical pub menu for breakfast (and lunch and dinner but we’re not talking about that) and it’s also great value. Breakfast is served until noon and there’s wifi, so you can’t complain about this one really.

Love Middlesbrough Lasses
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Middlesbrough: A centre for design lovers

Guest post by Sarah Laurenson.

In October 2014, a group of historians and researchers visited Middlesbrough for a conference, titled ‘Victorian Cities Revisited’, to explore and share knowledge and ideas on place, space and industrial heritage. Sarah Laurenson, a doctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh with a background in design and craft practice, reflects on her experiences during the visit.
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When I stepped off the train from Edinburgh late at night, I knew very little about Middlesbrough. I was attending the conference as part of my research into nineteenth-century craft and design, which involves thinking about how industry and production shaped everyday life in Britain’s towns and cities. I was expecting to hear some interesting papers, and maybe meet a few like-minded folk.

© Sarah Laurenson

Over the next two days, I was utterly charmed by Middlesbrough itself. I discovered a fascinating town steeped in history, and packed with interesting examples of design. My first taste was seeing the Victorian architecture on my morning walk through the heart of the town to the Gothic Town Hall, where the conference was held. One of the first things I learned was how Middlesbrough rose from almost nothing to become a major industrial centre in a very short period of time. In 1801 there were four houses and about 25 people living in the area; just 90 years later, the population had grown to around 90,000 as a result of the rise of the iron industry. The whole town is a product of nineteenth-century industry.

c/o Teesside Archives. CB/M/E 24In the afternoon we took a walk to the Tees Transporter Bridge – one of several trips organised as part of the conference, including tours of Teesside Archives – and learned about its design and construction. The landmark is one of the longest of its kind, and is still fully operational more than a century after it opened in 1911. It carries vehicles and passengers across the River Tees on a gondola suspended on steel wires from a rail system 160 feet above the water. We also came to understand how the Transporter has become iconic of Middlesbrough and the surrounding area as a great blue steel monument to a rich history of industry. Currently undergoing major renovations as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund supported project, the Bridge will reopen with a newly renovated Visitor Centre in the near future.

On the second day of the conference, I took a walk to the Dorman Museum to see the Christopher Dresser Collection. Often named’ the father of modern design’, Scottish-born Dresser (1834-1904) is considered to be the first independent industrial designer and was a household name in his lifetime. Dresser is known for embracing the machine, in-keeping with his ideas that good design should be simple, functional and affordable, at a time when other important designers looked to the past and ancient hand techniques. The exhibits of Dresser’s own designs – wallpapers, textiles, ceramics, glass, metalware and furniture – along with objects that inspired him during his travels to Japan, document Dresser’s life, work and travels.

Dresser © Sarah Laurenson Dresser © Sarah Laurenson

Baker Street  © Sarah Laurenson

Arriving back at Centre Square (but not before I had a look in a few of the lovely independent shops on Baker Street), I headed into mima to discover one of the finest collections of contemporary jewellery in the UK. The newly-opened jewellery gallery has 200 pieces on display by designers including Wendy Ramshaw, Felieke van der Leest and Gijs Bakker. An exhibition charts the growth of a movement known as ‘New Jewellery’, which began in the 1970s through collaborative working and exchange between artists and designers from Britain, Holland and Germany. The movement was centred on the use of new and old materials and techniques to challenge the very concept of jewellery. The gallery is an absolute must-see for any budding jewellery designer. In fact, I think it will become a place of pilgrimage and an important learning resource for designers and makers of all sorts of things. It blew my mind.

mima © Sarah Laurenson mima © Sarah Laurenson

The keynote lecture of ‘Victorian Cities Revisited’ was delivered by Professor Robert J. Morris, Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh’s School of History. Titled ‘Place and memory in the industrial city’, Morris’s talk gave insights into his own experience of Middlesbrough (including his first job as a pay clerk in the very Town Hall in which we were sat). He spoke of how this ‘town without a history’ invented an identity based on a sense of its huge achievements. Over the next hour, we considered the ways in which other industrial centres have transformed unused plant and mills to create new spaces for hotels, design studios and museums, and the exciting possibilities for Middlesbrough to continue redefining itself through its many assets: the bridge, old coke furnaces and the water front.

I spent my last hour in Middlesbrough back in mima’s jewellery gallery before returning to Edinburgh feeling more than just a little bit fond of this unassuming gem of a town. It is a centre for design-lovers of all kinds – students, researchers, designer-makers, craft workers, fabricators, engineers. I’m certain that my first time in Middlesbrough certainly won’t be my last.
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Sarah Laurenson visited Middlesbrough as part of her PhD research on the Leverhulme funded project, ‘Artisans and the Craft Economy in Scotland, c.1780-1914’ led by Professor Stana Nenadic at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh.

Victorian Cities Revisited: Heritage and History Conference’ was a two-day conference organised by Tosh Warwick of the Heritage Lottery Fund supported Tees Transporter Bridge Visitor Experience Project and the University of Huddersfield. The conference was funded with support from the Economic History Society and Middlesbrough Council.

All images © Sarah Laurenson, except Tees Transporter Bridge, which is courtesy of Teesside Archives (ref:  CB/M/E 24).