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TRAVEL NORTH - 36: KIELDER WILDLIFE PARK, Woodland Wonderland in Northumberland
Northward bound on your holidays? The Cheviots beckon, take a week off camping by a lake. How about Kielder Water?
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It's official, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England: Kielder Water is England's most tranquil beauty spot.
The waters of the country's largest man-made lake lap on a peaceful shore surrounded by its largest forest. The Red Squirrel thrives here, well away from the haunts of its grey cousin, as do many other of England's wild animal species. By evening star-gazers are alive to the land's blackest, clearest skies.
The Lakeside Way is a 27-mile 'multi-access' track that follows around Kielder's waters. It gives fresh access to the most scenic places on the shores of the lake. Cycle the whole route or walk part of it and take the ferry back. The trail has also been set to be wheel- and push-chair friendly.
Begin at Hawkhope car park and cross the dam, then take the track to Tower Knowe. The track goes side-by-side with the road, then dips to cross a bridge over Little Whickhope Burn, and climbs again towards Whickhope. Follow on to the next inlet, cross another bridge and zig-zag uphill to the Bull Crag Peninsula. Take a right turn at the junction and on to a clearing. The track leads from here to the eastern end of the peninsula. Here and there along the way see small brass plaques set into stone, parts of a comminnioned work of art known as the 'Keepsake'.
Along this eastern shore you benefit from a great vista that opens up across the reservoir and goes on around the peninsula. Briefly, on the north shore the way follows the original dale road that vanished under the lake elsewhere when the lake was created. It swings around the bay to Leaplish Waterside Park.
This is the nine mile-point, where the track follows the,open shoreline and crosses the neck of Hawkhirst Peninsula before going on to Matthews Linn. The track runs under the road bridge to the Lewisburn suspension bridge, over the bridge and around above the west bank. By the next headland zig-zag again past Mirage artwork and carry on along a short detour to Bakethin Weir, past another piece of artwork, the Kielder Column.
Go on through woods on the southern shore of Bakethin reservoir, on through a conservation area and join a road. Keep an eye out for red squirrels, Kielder being on of their last 'outposts'. Turn sharp right and into Kielder Village. By now you will have made up your mind whether you are going on - if you are on foot. Cyclists will be a little way past the halfway point at fifteen miles.
Take the way out south of Kielder along the north bank of Bakethin Reservoir. On from Gowanburn follow the shore to the southernmost point of the ness. You will find yourself looking westward across the lake to Hawkhirst. Follow the track northward now and turn east across the mouth of Plashetts Burn. Here, on a small spit of land you will see the Janus Chairs artwork that rotates to afford views of the lake.
Carry on along the shore to the southern end of the next ness, past Plashetts Quarry and east again to the Belvedere stainless steel shelter. Make your way back around the inlet and on to the shelter of Cock Stoor, to the twenty-three mile stage.
The track takes you north to a bridge across the mouth of Belling Burn. It then follows south to a headland. As by this point you are probably cycling - unless you're a determined walker - leave your cycle here and take a short walk to the Belling, the peak of a once popular rock-climbing site before the dale was flooded. There is a beehive-shaped building on the shore that acts as a 'camera obscura' on sunny days, bouncing the image of the waves onto the floor. Carry on along the Lakeside Way that leads past the shore back to the car park at Hawkhope.
As already mentioned, the way is suitable for wheelchairs. There are a few challenging slopes, however. The Lakeside Way was opened fully on April 12th, 2011. Check on the status of the track and the Osprey ferry timetable before leaving Hawkhope. Sections of the track will sometimes be closed for short periods for forestry work. Get in touch with Leaplish Waterside Park, 01434 251000 or tower Knowe Visitor Centre, 01434 240436.
Getting there by car, take the A69 from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Heddon, the B6318 (Military Road) to Chollerford. Follow the B6320 on to Bellingham and then a minor road on to Kielder. At the eastern end of the reservoir cross the dam to Hawkhope car park.
There is a daily Postbus from Hexham. On weekend mornings in summer Kielder Bus service 714 runs from Gateshead Metro Centre to Kielder Village, to return late afternoon. There are frquent ferry services from Tower Knowe, Leaplish and Hawkhirst to jetties on the north shore. Pre-book the Osprey ferry ar Leaplish Waterside Park, 01434 251000.
Refreshments can be had from the Pheasant Inn, Stannersburn, Falstone, NE48 1DD, ph.01434 240382, www.thepheasantinn.com
Anglers Arms, Kielder Village, NE48 1ER, 01434 250072, www.anglersarms.com/
The Blackcock Country Inn, Falstone, Kielder Water NE48 1AA, 01434 240200, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Rose & Crown, W View, Bellingham, Hexham, 01434 220226,
Black Bull Hotel, Bellingham, 01434 220202,
Refer to Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 80, Grid reference NY 707 882
Further tourist information: Visit Kielder, www.visitkielder.com
Forestry Commission, www.forestry.gov.uk/kielderforestpark
Before I forget, have a good trip!
Look into the past and the present of historic Northumberland, the last county on the east coast before Scotland. Hadrian's Wall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Hexham, Haltwhistle, small communities like Twice Brewed, old Roman settlements like Vindolanda, Blaydon Races, the 'coaly Tyne' with its bridges - old and new - and castles such as Alnwick (pron. 'Annick').
Red squirrels are practically unseen in the South of England, aside from the Isle of Wight (as their *grey immigrant cousins haven't figured out how to buy ferry tickets, nor can they swim). You might find them in the Forest of Bowland in northern Lancashire, you might even find them in North Yorkshire. You're certain to find them in northern Northumberland in the Kielder Forest, but you'd have to be quiet and still. They're not as forward as the grey variety.
*Grey squirrels were brought by a returning Englishman from America in the 19th Century. He can't have been known as a deep thinker, otherwise he wouldn't have made such a cock-up. There might have been plans to keep them in an enclosure. If they ever were, they weren't backward in escaping into the wild.