Kielder Water

A couple of months ago I travelled south in Stella to a place I hadn’t visited since living in Northumberland about 35 years ago. In those days it was simply Kielder Forest, the largest planted forest in England, and home to many woodland sculptures. (I remember a particularly spooky giant spider’s web). Since the completion of a dam across the North Tyne in 1981 and the subsequent two years it took for the reservoir to fill, it has also been home to the largest artificial lake in the UK by capacity.

I visited Kielder Water and Forest Park for the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild (OWPG) AGM weekend. On the Friday we were lucky to have a cloudless night to explore the Park’s “Dark Skies” with expert guidance on how to locate some of the alluring astronomical objects only visible where light pollution is low. Having learnt how to find the Andromeda galaxy and other features with binoculars, I now enjoy spotting them with the naked eye when taking the dog out before bed.

Despite the sun streaming through the windows of Kielder Castle, built as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Northumberland, I stayed indoors on Saturday for some training sessions on the business of outdoor writing and photography. As usual, there was a frank and fascinating exchange of views and experiences between members. I found it a good opportunity to reflect on my direction and how I can do what I do better.

Sunday was when I chose to go and play in the Park. We were offered a great choice of activities over the weekend and I opted to sample Kielder’s mountain bike trails with four others. The Lakeside Way Trail offered an easy warm up as we pedalled around the head of the Kielder Water then crossed the curving bridge over Lewis Burn to reach the foot of the red-graded Lonesome Pine Trail. A lot of climbing took us up to a 454m summit on heather moorland high above the reservoir and not far from the England–Scotland border. The reward was a considerable stretch of downhill single track, though I would have enjoyed it more if the surface of the trail wasn’t eroded down to the angular hardcore, which gave very jarring riding. After a late lunch at Kielder Castle cafe, we slipped in another bit of fun on the shorter Deadwater Trail.

When I wrote a previous post about mountain biking at Comrie Croft, friends queried whether I had really been doing it myself, or just taking pictures. So this time, thanks to fellow OWPG member Jon Sparks, here’s a shot of me in action:


The photo gallery below starts with some images of Kielder Water, including a magical dawn I experienced by making the effort to get up before the sun rose. Then there are a few of the many photos I shot of my companions: Bernie Carter (in red), Jacquie Budd (in purple) and Jason Budd (in blue) on the trail (Jon Sparks spent a lot of time behind the camera like me). The unusual grey image is the inside of Skyspace, a sculpture we passed near Kielder Observatory and the last one is my view from Stella of Leaplish Waterside Park from my pitch at Kielder Caravan Park. Clicking on any image opens a lightbox to view them all.

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