Three years ago Heather and I had fun collecting Snowdogs around Newcastle. We’d missed them ever since, so were delighted to learn that this year something a little heavier was arriving in toon, with a collection of Elmers. We had to go and see!
—A Trip And Some Elmers
Departure, Arrival, Elephants!
We headed northwards on a , which in theory means the annoying weekend crowds don’t have to be dealt with but we still found ourselves jammed onto a tail end rush hour tube. That was the worst part of the journey (though our train was also late departing Kings Cross) and soon we found ourselves pulling into the impressive curve of Newcastle station. Getting off the train and through the barriers we found our very first Elmer; Elmeris Maximus, an elephant as Roman guard to watch over arrivals. Having said hello we were soon sitting in Centurions, where I was promptly sick in the toilets (no idea why; I’d felt a bit funny for the last twenty minutes or so on the train; was perfectly fine afterwards; one of those things).
After that strangeness we headed for the hotel, finding our second Elmer along the way. Disco Wilbur stood outside the cathedral, shimmering in the light with thousands of reflective shards covering him (and reminding us of Disco Dog). He set us in party mood as we checked into the hotel before heading off to find a few more of his cousins.
Hunting More Elmers
First up was the colourful Blossom standing at the foot of the Swing Bridge, her orange and blue reflecting the dying light. Having found one Elmer we set off along the river, calling into The Head Of Steam along the way, as it’s one of our preferred bars. Further along the river, by the brightly named Quayside Seaside (a patch of sand with deckchairs) stood Jumble. The name appropriately reflects the decoration, a mix of animals from giraffe to peacock to zebra.
Still further along the river, near the Millennium Bridge, a further two Elmers awaited our collecting them. The cool blue of Under The Sea captivated with its penguins. Orbit meanwhile give a world map, and an indication of where we were.
That was all the Elmers for that side of the river so we headed to find some food, discovering the pleasant Charts on the quayside. There was then time for a last drink of the evening in the Bridge Tavern tucked beneath the looming Tyne Bridge before bedtime.
On The Trail Of Elephants
The next morning we found coffee and Heather’s breakfast in the little coffee shop on the quayside we like. From there we climbed up the hill to an Elmer we thought was too far off the day before but proved to be a lot closer, Treasure Trunk a shiny gold beacon calling to us. The only issue with finding another Elmer is that it was at the bottom of the hill, and so we had to climb up the stairs and past the Corner Tower to get back into town—a problem exacerbated by the fact Heather was recovering from a operation to her toe, and my own toe seemed to become painful in sympathy. That long walk did at least allow us to find ourselves in the middle of the big roundabout at the end of the Tyne Bridge, once we’d navigated the bewildering array of underpasses, where another Elmer lurked. The People’s Elmer is covered in selfies submitted by listeners of a local radio station (outside who’s studios he stood). It’s probably great fun to find yourself or someone you know among the crowd of pictures, but it lacks a little something for the rest of us.
Anyway, Elmer duly collected we made our way further into town proper. After a bit of a trek that brought us round to the Grainger Market, where hiding among the normal stores we found a St Oswalds pop-up shop, selling a range of Elmer themed products (and other stuff—including a couple of pretty little wine glasses).
From the Grainger Market it’s a short stroll up to the Monument, where another Elmer awaited. Memories was a burst of stripey colour overlooking the busy shopping area. We could have done without acquiring the memory of the truly awful busker though. His sound still unfortunately carried as we went to see the nearby Dazzle, with a neon swirl of a design. Perhaps the buskers were setting up near the Elmers, as another terrible example was present in old Eldon Square by Savanna, a colourful collection of patterned patches.
By now our combined sore toes were bothering us so we headed for a rest in the Goose. A drink and a sit down later we were just about ready to go again, so made our way along the road to the Haymarket.
At the top of Northumberland Street we found Elm Tree, who lived up to their name by being very tree like. I was a nice design, resplendent with a number of animals hiding around its “trunk”. We moved on to the church over the road, St Thomas The Martyr, where our first little herd was hiding: A collection of small Elmers decorated by school children from around the region (and, as with the Snowdogs last time, sometimes appearing to be better or more creative efforts than some of the professional versions). Sadly they weren’t very well displayed in the church, tucked into hard to reach corners and a bit like the church was unsure what to do with them.
A Different Sort Of Beast
Never mind, onwards we went, to the nearby civic centre and Raphael, representing those involved with the transplant games. The poor Elmer was ready for sports despite a rather large plaster on it back (it wasn’t clear which bit had been transplanted though). Something which had been transplanted was an old friend, temporarily housed in the close by Hancock Musuem Technically called the Great North Museum these days, but still known as Hancock. There Dippy was on tour.
Passing through the familiar normal museum galleries we found the towering dinosaur OK, it’s a cast, but still filling a floor in a dedicated space. The raised head was a different pose to that familiar from so many years in London’s Natural History Museum but it was still the same old Dippy and we were pleased to see him.
We mooched around a little bit more of the museum but the pain of walking was catching up again so we left to find another resting point. That was in the quiet Crow’s Nest, something that was also a bit of a memory for me though I don’t think I’ve been in it since frequenting its guise as Inventions in my Uni days.
Back To The Elmers
In keeping with the theme of brief rests to keep going we were soon off again, heading this time down Northumberland Street to Hapi, the Greggs Elmer. He had the colours to match but didn’t seem to be extra rotund as one might expect! His nearest friends were another little herd within the library, grouped in two little clusters by the entrance way, facing the large windows. Across the road from them, outside the art gallery, was another full sized version, Tynie swirling with its decoration representing the river passing through the city to the sea.
We headed back past the library little herd and on into the warmth of Eldon Square, where, just inside the entrance, we found a chilled out Elmer. Surf Dude lacked water to surf on but was still laid back about things, man. Onwards and into a rarely visited part of the shopping centre, the gym and leisure facilities upstairs (I’m pretty sure I haven’t been in any part of that complex since freshers week of university, far too many years ago). We were there to see not only a large Elmer in Telly The Elephant (adorned with cartoons of well known north-east TV personalities) but also another little herd from the schools.
Back downstairs and into the heart of the shopping centre lay one of my favourite Elmers—The Elephant’s New Castle a finely decorated Elmer forming a castle, complete with windows for eyes. A joy to look at and well executed in a joyful cartoon way. Perhaps the historic heart of the centre is Fenwick and it was into its basement we headed for the next Elmer, Run North East. This represented the Great North Run, with a neat Tyne Bridge design. From there the escalators took us up (past some colourful sheep) to the exciting third floor, where the toys live! We were actually there not for the toys (though we may have acquired some Lego minifigs) but for another little herd, in the same place as the Snowpups were last time.
We were tired out (and aching) again from the hunting efforts and so down the hill to Lady Greys for a rest and then back to the hotel to prepare for dinner. Food was found in our new favourite Italian, Prima. There was no troll serving us this time but the table next to us was full of a lively bunch of what we decided must be academic swingers. And the food was very good.
There was just time for a brief visit to the Bridge Tavern again before heading off to bed.
—Elephants In The Rain
The Long Way Round
brought miserable rain as we headed out to find breakfast. After rejecting a couple of options we eventually settled on a place almost at the bottom of Castle Stairs within sight of the Swing Bridge. It was a bit empty but did provide food to set us going. It was a good job we’d been fuelled for we took a wall along Close to climb up the heights of the Breakneck Stairs. That, eventually, brought us to the remains of the walls behind the station, and passing Second Street, cradle of the railways. We were actually heading for the Crowne Plaza hotel and another little herd scattered around the reception area.
It had been a long climb up, and was still raining, so before heading for the next Elmers we looked for a rest, ending up in the very studenty Dog & Parrot. The plan was to loop around up the Westgate Road and towards the next Elmer. While that did (we belatedly realised) give a chance to peer at the house featured on A House Through Time it turned out the old Newcastle Breweries area is still a bit of a building site and the roads we thought were there currently aren’t. That meant we had to wearily go the long way around, down streets I haven’t walked for quite some time, until eventually reaching the new Newcastle University campus and Electric Ellie, and Elmer celebrating the emergency of clean energy sources.
We left the funky new university buildings behind to head towards more traditional buildings, finding our way to beside the cathedral of St James’s Park. Opposite, outside another university building, was Ele-Bot, a robot of an Elmer with dials and buttons and plating. Further, directly outside the football ground, Landmarks a stylish black and white design from our old friends Powder Butterfly.
Finally we could have a rest, the Strawberry calling loudly to us, where we could sit, rest, and plan our next Elmer hunt. It became clear the first stop was just round the corner, Nice To Be Nice a slightly gaudy cartoon. We’d realised that we’d missed one during the previous day’s walking, hiding in the desolately quiet Eldon Gardens. The gorgeously painted Brightside unfairly relegated to what is obviously a failing sideshow to the main shopping centre.
Cats, Golf, Food
Thankfully not failing, and still rocking strong, is Trillains where we headed for yet another rest. We felt the need for more relaxation and so went to find some cats, having a great time fending off the puds from our food (poor Stan The Man was admonished for managing to grab some and went off to sit in the huff). A fine time indeed.
Back to the Elmers, although combined with more fun. A little herd hid in Mr Mulligan’s Space Golf. Having found them it would have been rude not to have a round, or three, playing each of the three entertaining courses (best bit—racing balls around the spiral ramp hole while waiting for people in front of us to play).
Following the fun of crazy golf thoughts began to turn to dinner, so we went to sit in the surprisingly quiet Goose to contemplate the options. We settled on Chinese and after some pondering ended up in our usual choice of Red Diner which produced its usual level of food.
We were going to head back to the hotel but stumbled into the Newcastle Arms. That proved to be a rocking enough place that we were delayed for a couple of drinks more than expected before finally making it to bed.
—The Other Side Of The River
Criss-Crossing The Water
Our plan for the day was to go visiting Elmers across the river, so we began by strolling down to the Millennium Bridge and crossing for breakfast in the Baltic. After a mooch around the gift shop we climbed the stairs up towards the Sage (hopefully the forthcoming arena to be built next door will result in an easier route up from outside the Baltic). As with Snowpups the Sage was hosting a little herd, lined up either side of a full sized Are We Nelly Home?, a celebration of seaside holidays with a panoramic view of the Tyne and Newcastle behind them.
Leaving the Sage we were going to call into St Mary’s Heritage Centre but sadly discovered it was closing for a private function, so we went to By The River to cheer ourselves up. The day was actually nice enough to sit outside and enjoy the river views.
We had been tempted by the shop in the Sage and so decided to drop purchases off back over in the hotel before returning to climb up the hill to the Hilton. They were hosting the wonderful Amy, cousin to snowdog favourite Arthur (and sadly the last creation of the late Jeff Rowland).
Amy was left behind as we climbed further up the hill to rest in The Central before crossing the High Level to yet another of our must visit pubs, the The Bridge Hotel, which turned out to be quite crowded so we found ourselves in unfamiliar seats—which at least had a view of both my favourite bridge and the keep. There we considered our next move, settling on catching a train to the Metrocentre.
We were there to visit two further Elmers. First Silly The El-laigh-ant made us groan with its decoration of elephant related “jokes”. Between there and the next Elmer there was a stop into the Lego store to build some minifigs, and onwards to the tasty looking Sweet Treat, a confectionery covered Elmer with its own doughnut ring display.
We needed another rest after trailing round the malls and the Metrocentre these days has only one proper pub, the unimaginatively named Wetherspoons. We really didn’t want to end up eating there, so after a drink took the train back to Newcastle.
After a brief stop at our hotel the place we settled on for dinner was Rani Indian, which turned out to be an excellent choice for food but lacking in service (a neighbouring table had to actually go looking for a waiter to get some drinks). It’s a shame, because the food really was good. There was another nightcap in the Head of Steam before back to the hotel for the final time that day.
We had no Elmers planned for Sunday, because we had somewhere a little further afield to be. After a breakfast for Heather in the Head of Steam climbed to the station to catch a train to nearby Durham. We were there to meet Gemma, newly a student in the city. She met us in the Library—the pub not the place of learning. Whilst Gemma recovered from her hangover (it had been freshers’ week) we had a wander round, stopping in the Market Tavern. There Gemma left us while I watched the quite successful football.
Lifted by the football result we headed back to Newcastle and after a brief call into the hotel to our favourite of Newcastle’s Wetherspoons, the Quayside (sadly the weather was far from allowing us outside), which fed our tired forms before bed.
—Don’t Want To Go Home
The last day of our trip and we had run out of easily accessible Elmers to hunt, given both our foot situations so, after Heather had breakfast in the hotel and we stored the bags, we went for a meander around time. There was call into the Glamorous Owl where we surprisingly didn’t actually buy anything. We did buy something on a return visit to the pop-up shop in the Grainger Market however, finding they now had a copy of the Elmer souvenir book in stock—which led to a protracted attempt to get the card machine to work before I resorted to finding the nearest cash point.
We were running out of time but still had the chance to sit in The Old George before collecting the bags and heading for the goodbye venue of Centurions and the train home
Of course there were lots and lots