When I first heard about the location of the new café, I imagined that it would be pretty functional and practical, but as photos and comments started appearing on social media platforms, my interest was increasingly piqued. It looked innovative, quirky, warm and interesting. We were eager to visit and see for ourselves!
Outside, there are some bright and cheerful tables and chairs, where clientele can enjoy their treats in the fresh air, watching their children training or playing a match on the fields.
Inside is fresh, bright and full of character- a really comfortable and welcoming space to spend time. The furniture is eclectic and charming- our ‘table’ was a refurbished cable bobbin, and the children were intrigued by an old church pew, where we can rest your legs by the counter. They were made or restored just up the hill by GWK Woodshed, a very exciting social enterprise which supports long term unemployed, young people and those from disadvantaged backgrounds by transforming timber into practical works of art.
The paintings on the wall reflect the cafes dog culture, dynamic style and support of local business, with paintings by Whickham-based artist Leanne Warren and her LeapUp venture. Art work can be purchased in store or a painting of your own precious pooch can be commissioned.
Lunch is mainly baked potatoes (£3.50) or toasties (£2.50), served with a tasty and healthy selection of salad. It is served on lovely rustic tin plates and hot drinks are served in similarly hearty tin mugs. It feels homely and informal and relaxed. It’s just the kind of thing I fancy when I’ve been enjoying a brisk walk and need to refuel.
There is also a selection of hot drinks (c. £2), cakes (£2), scones (£1.50), cupcakes (£1.50) and treats- for humans…and dogs too! Being such a popular venue for dog owners, it’s great that dogs (on their lead) are welcome in the café. There were several very cute and well-behaved dogs there during our visit.
The café is very much a community venture, and a lot of thought has gone into the venture, so it can meet the needs of its users well. For those who are waiting or enjoying some quiet time to themselves, there is a library of books that can be browsed or purchased for a small donation.
Best of all, there is a really impressive selection of activities for children- really suited for little ones who are waiting while their sibling trains on the field, but also great for extending a walk round the park into a longer and more varied day out. You could fill a LONG time with the story books, play kitchen, colouring books, pens, paper, beads, glue, pompons, masks and various other craft activities, all available for free.
I really enjoyed browsing the shelf of locally made products in the small shop area, too. There you can pick up some Gateshead-inspired Powder Butterfly homeware, a treat for your pup from Roar Pet Supplies, some canine fashions by The Eco Dog Design Company, homemade pickles, chutneys and jams from The Pickle Palace or some gifts by Emily Faulkner.
After our very pleasant lunch, the children hopped on their bikes and we headed off to enjoy the forest park. It’s a great track for children as, apart from a couple of slopes at the entrance, the path is largely flat and wide and paved- great for buggies, bikes and scooters. The Mini-Apprentices are always keen to stop at “Scramble Mountain”, some rocks that afford some fun exploring. It is a beautiful and tranquil area with plenty to see and investigate.
On the way home we decided to pop in for our first visit to the GWK Woodshed, which we’ve heard so much about. It’s just left out the gate and first on the left. It is definitely worth a blog in itself one day. We all really loved it.
So, with the opening of the Watergate Café CIC, our stalwart Sunday afternoon excursion destination has just become even more appealing! Opening hours are currently 10am-3pm then 5pm-7.30pm, but it’s worth checking before you make a special visit, as these times may change as the business establishes its market.
If you found this article interesting or helpful, please like, comment or share to spread the word. We think you’ll also enjoy Thought Foundation ,another local community interest company bringing the Arts (and great nosh!) to Birtley and the wonderful Gateway Studio Project that encourages young people to get dancing, healthy and creative.
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