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Travel North - 36: Kielder Wildlife Park, Woodland Wonderland in Northumberland

Updated on May 17, 2019

Northward bound on your holidays? The Cheviots beckon, take a week off camping by a lake. How about Kielder Water?

The long view: Kielder Water from the north, its shores bristling with forest - the scheme was to provide work experience, mainly for  ex-miners and shipworkers from Tyneside and around urban Northumberland
The long view: Kielder Water from the north, its shores bristling with forest - the scheme was to provide work experience, mainly for ex-miners and shipworkers from Tyneside and around urban Northumberland | Source
Cycle path route around Kielder Lake, travelled by Tour of Britain cyclists in association with the tour de France
Cycle path route around Kielder Lake, travelled by Tour of Britain cyclists in association with the tour de France | Source
Above Kielder WAter, an old stone bridge nestles between the banks of the burn - It was the Angles who taught the Scots their English. Many Northumbrian dialect words stem from this time
Above Kielder WAter, an old stone bridge nestles between the banks of the burn - It was the Angles who taught the Scots their English. Many Northumbrian dialect words stem from this time | Source
Kielder Water dam wall - the picture was taken the the water level was exceptionally low
Kielder Water dam wall - the picture was taken the the water level was exceptionally low | Source
Belvdere modern art display near the lakeside
Belvdere modern art display near the lakeside | Source
Kielder Water vista seen from a vantage point at Elfkirk View
Kielder Water vista seen from a vantage point at Elfkirk View | Source

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 thecbinn@yahoo.co.uk

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

Before I forget, have a good trip!

See the sites...

The ferry has just left Leaplish jetty for all stops to the north end of the lake
The ferry has just left Leaplish jetty for all stops to the north end of the lake | Source
Lakeside Woodcraft arts display - uses recycled timbers
Lakeside Woodcraft arts display - uses recycled timbers | Source
Kielder Water and Forestry Park
Kielder Water and Forestry Park | Source
The Kielder Wildlife Park and campsite have won many prestigious awards down the years. This Tourism Award is just one handed over in 2013 visit the website
The Kielder Wildlife Park and campsite have won many prestigious awards down the years. This Tourism Award is just one handed over in 2013 visit the website | Source

Red squirrels

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.

Watch wildlife at Kielder

Red squirrel in the Kielder Forest - few natural habitats left for red squirrels in mainland Britain, this is one, others are in North Lancashire, Cumbria and further north (aside from the Isle of Wight - grey squirrels haven't mastered swimming)
Red squirrel in the Kielder Forest - few natural habitats left for red squirrels in mainland Britain, this is one, others are in North Lancashire, Cumbria and further north (aside from the Isle of Wight - grey squirrels haven't mastered swimming) | Source
Leaplish Waterside, squirrel watching hide for visitors to observe a rarity in mainland Britain. Red squirrel has been pushed to several corners of the country by the grey variety  imported by some fool aristocrat from America in the 19th Century
Leaplish Waterside, squirrel watching hide for visitors to observe a rarity in mainland Britain. Red squirrel has been pushed to several corners of the country by the grey variety imported by some fool aristocrat from America in the 19th Century | Source
An architect designed hide to watch the wildfowl with all mod cons.
An architect designed hide to watch the wildfowl with all mod cons. | Source
Birds of Prey Centre - watch a handsome white tailed eagle home in on his handler with a morsel of fresh meat
Birds of Prey Centre - watch a handsome white tailed eagle home in on his handler with a morsel of fresh meat | Source

© 2012 Alan R Lancaster

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    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Pardon me, Marie. Just dropped by to do some updating and saw this.

      There's an interesting dialect up on the Borderlands that people from outside might mistake for Scots. The Northumbrians taught the Scots and Picts their English, so there's where the similarities come from, and there are words shared with Durham, Yorkshire and into the East Midlands.

      Enjoy the read.

    • MarieLB profile image

      MarieLB 

      4 years ago from YAMBA NSW

      What a great travelogue Alan. No doubt quite useful to those who are within reach of Kielder Water. Unfortunately I am too far away. I love 'discovering places' whenever I am doing any travelling [at home].

      I loved your account of the squirrels, red and grey and the repartee between you and tonymead60, was in part over my head, but still entertaining.

      All in all, great reading.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      I've seen a programme about the Halifax gibbet - it was invented before the French got hold of the guillotine. Judge Jefferies had children hanged for stealing stuff like apples or whatever. Theft was rated a greater crime than murder back then.

      'Them as 'as keeps, them as 'asn't weeps'.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 

      6 years ago from Yorkshire

      alan

      I know it as the begger's or thieves litany, did you know it was because both Halifax and Hull used the gibbet to solve their crime rates rather than prison. One ten year old child was executed for stealing, 1 cloth piece valued at 11d[pence old money] 3 farthings.

      what gurt oil is that then?

      al see thee

      tony

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      'Fra' Halifax, Hell and Hull, good Lord deliver us!' Know that one? 'A Dalesman's Litany' takes you from weaving in his cottage to digging ditches for the railway, living by the dirty River Aire in Leeds and toiling in Hull etc.

      I shall take a dekko at your local hubs. Another one of mine takes you around the north of Wakefield - light years away from Halifax, I know. Globally speaking, though, it's not that far.

      Sitha, thoo's doon i' yonder corner fra usn's. Ahm gannin' yam i' summer tahm, t'see a big 'oil i' groond at Boulby by Steeaz.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 

      6 years ago from Yorkshire

      Alan

      I'm in Brighouse nr Halifax, I've a couple of hubs about my area if you are interested.

      al see thee

      Tony

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Glad to be of use Tony - where are you situated in Yorkshire? I ask because there are several Hub-pages in this series around the county, some in my neck of the woods (north of the North Riding, towards Co. Durham) and others further south around the coast and inland (Summer Wine country and Towton area).

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 

      6 years ago from Yorkshire

      alan

      I love that corner of England, Berwick is a great town to wander about and do a bit of shopping. The roads are much quieter up there and the scenery is an artist's dream. Kielder is on my list of places to take my paints and just sit and take it all in.

      nice hub, I enjoyed the journey with you.

      voted up

      regards

      Tony

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Thanks Nell. You don't need to travel so far north to see red squirrels. They have them on the Isle of Wight - the greys haven't developed a knack for buying tickets on the ferry with nuts, nor can they swim. Other than that, if nice and peaceful is your aim then you can't go wrong up at Kielder.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi alan, another wonderful trip from up North, I really am missing out on these places, it looks so lovely. I noticed that at the end you mentioned the red squirrel, I do remember us having them down south here when I was small, but sadly they have disappeared because of the american grey squirrels, just to see one of those would be a bonus! lol! great hub, nell

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