Castle challenge helped mum to overcome her fear of going out

Hannah and Reuben at Morpeth Castle.
Hannah and Reuben at Morpeth Castle.

A woman has completed an adventurous castles challenge in a bid to overcome ‘new mum’ anxiety.

Hannah Parker, who lives in Matfen, set herself the goal of visiting all 40 castles in Northumberland in the hope that it would boost her confidence and eradicate her anxieties.

Hannah and Reuben at Thirlwall Castle in west Northumberland, close to the border with Cumbria.

Hannah and Reuben at Thirlwall Castle in west Northumberland, close to the border with Cumbria.

The 32-year-old – mum to three-year-old Reuben – struggled with anxiety every time she left the house with her little boy.

Combining her desire to see more of the county with her need to overcome her issue and spend more time outdoors with her son, she enlisted the help of English Heritage and the National Trust to set-up the challenge.

As she linked up with the organisations and agreed to write about her experiences on her award-winning parenting blog, Mums’ Days, in her words she ‘couldn’t cry off’.

Hannah said: “The anxious feelings really were a legacy from when Reuben was new-born. A new baby can be very overwhelming and I worried about leaving the house with him. I would procrastinate and stall until it was too late to go anywhere, which just perpetuated the cycle.

“I knew I needed to do something about it for mine and Reuben’s sake, but as a parenting blogger I know many of the struggles mums go through and felt it was important that I tackle it and write about it.

“From our very first outing to Mitford Castle, I knew I had changed. I got the bug immediately.”

Hannah and Reuben have now visited every castle in Northumberland – an adventure which has included an overnight stay in one historic building. She added: “We’ve had such a lot of fun out in these communities, meeting lots of new people and covering miles on roads I didn’t even know existed.

“From ruins with just a few bricks or a mound of earth to our last visit, Morpeth Castle, which we stayed in for the weekend, it’s been an amazing way to overcome my fears and create some really special memories.

“It’s been logistically challenging and we’ve driven a lot of miles, but I’m so proud of our achievement and have literally thousands of photos to document my son’s third year – it’s incredible to see how much he’s grown since the start and it’s really given me back my confidence.”

Natalie Sullivan, English Heritage marketing manager for the North East, said: “We were delighted to hear Hannah wanted to showcase castles in the region.

“English Heritage care for 13 castles in North East England – from the small 14th century Etal Castle, which controlled an important river crossing the Scottish Border, to the relatively unknown Belsay Castle at Belsay Hall, near Ponteland.

“There is so much fun to be had at each attraction and it’s a great way for Hannah to tell the story of Northumberland to her son.”

National Trust spokeswoman Sadie Parker said the organisation was keen to support Hannah as soon as it heard about her challenge.

She added: “We’re pleased to hear that Hannah and her son enjoyed a lovely family visit to Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island as part of her endeavour.

“Completing the challenge is an amazing personal achievement for Hannah and is well worth celebrating.”

To read her parenting blog, go to