For the second December running, we braved the cold to head out to Saltwell Park for their Enchanted park Inventor’s Ball. It really was a freezing night and we will all look like the Michelin men the number of layers we had on. We booked a 7.30pm slot on the Friday evening, as I knew Alan wouldn’t be home until around 6 pm and it would be a busy time to head over to Gateshead. We were joined by our friends the Walkers (Liv, Lee, Louis and Millie). Just like last year, we parked up along from Saltwell Crem in a residential street with a 10-minute walk uphill to get to the entrance. There were plenty of marshalls to take ticket information and hand out maps.
The theme this year was the Inventors Ball, and we were to be the guests of Ursula Wailes, not seen in Saltwell for over 100 years.
As we were guided into the park, we could see shadowy musical instruments playing us into the Ball, and a musical ballerina box on the bandstand. Already the scene was set for a magical night. The girls were a little bit creeped out by the smoke machines at first, but then warmed up into the festivities. During the warmer months we go to the park quite a bit and the way it’s transformed is impressive. Most of the time I wasn’t quite sure which part of the park we were in. The darkness and lights really do transform the area and show that parks are not just for the summer months.
Ursula Wailes appeared through a statue, explaining how she worked with science and conducted experiments.
The theme of the night of Inventions worked so well and interwove into all of the light installations. Saltwell Towers itself was a brilliant backdrop to the electrical currents running through. The gothic tower was perfect for the Inventors Ball theme reminding me of other gothic stories like Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde.
As we wove through the park we took the time to interact with the actors. One lady told us to find the head gardener John and ask him to do his dance. Intriguing.
The trail took us through a field of fireflies, a garden of giant paper rabbits and the gorgeous lasso around the moon on the lake. Each of the installations had a real purpose and meaning to the story of the Inventors Ball, and I was engrossed in the theming.
Taking the time to talk to the actors opened up more of the story. While staring at the moon I overheard the actor mention that the lasso was originally too tight and the moon had stopped spinning. So they corrected that. Sure enough, when I looked back the moon was actually turning within its tether.
Halfway around the trail, we stopped at Saltwell Towers for hot chocolates and coffees. An addition to this year was a small craft market in the upstairs function room. Imogen insisted on buying a tin of ‘unicorn hot chocolate’ from her birthday money (which seems to be everlasting!) It was nice to have a sit-down and a warm before making our way back on the path.
We turned a corner and entered a garden full of neon coloured flowers.
An actor warned us to stay off the grass. Which we did. We continued to walk on and then it hit me… Was that John the Head Gardener? Sure enough, it was and we requested to see his special dance. He managed to get our kids joining in too. Great fun and something we nearly missed.
As we headed on the last part of the trail we passed the pineapple greenhouse (who knew they could be grown in Gateshead?) with its authentic sweet smell. Just one of the great installations which just added to the bonkers theming. We were then guided down into the Dene to spot woodland creatures, some of which were playing instruments. We were then into the final installation ‘The Spirit of the Cyclone’ which took place at 15-minute intervals. As the chime counted down a shadowy figure emerged with smoke machines revealing a girl suspended high up on a crazy man powered bike which span around shooting out pyrotechnics. Literally creating a human Catherine Wheel! I’ve no idea how the artist managed to stay in control and not set alight to her hair! It was a perfect finale and as we walked back home with the kids we all commented what a brilliant night Enchanted Parks 2017 had been. The theming of the event was perfect and I hope they can manage to top it next year!
Enchanted Parks Video
While touring around Saltwell Park we created a sample video of the highlights of this year’s Enchanted Parks.