Kielder's first ever winter 24 hour mountain bike race

Kielder’s first ever winter 24 hour mountain bike race”

On 11/12th of Feb 2017, some 200 riders will descend on the frozen winter wonderland of Kielder Castle, ready to push themselves and their bikes to the limit.  This event has long been in the planning with the Forestry Commission keen to make it a success and highlight the use of the fantastic trails in both winter and summer.

With entries opening a month ago, there are already over 100 people signed up for the challenge.  Riders are coming from all over, including Belgium, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man and even the remote Orkney Islands.  All visitors will be welcomed with open arms and shown the usual high standards of hospitality the area offers.

The chosen route for the event centres around the Deadwater Red with the addition of some extra forest tracks put in for event vehicles.  These trails are carefully crafted by the volunteer Kielder Trail Reavers who work hand in hand with the Forestry Commission.  All these people are passionate about riding and the tracks are a reflection of this passion, combining testing climbs with fast and flowing descents.

If riding a mountain bike for 24 hours was not enough of a challenge, the weather is also going to have a big say on the experience.  Kielder sits well above sea level and the bracing winds that can whip up will chill people to the bone.  Competitors who have chosen to ride in pairs will at least get some respite as they shelter in their cars, but solo riders get no such luxury.

Although the ride is a race, there is always space for people who want to try this type of riding for the first time.  Kielder trails are there for everyone and this race takes the same ethos.  So why not try the ultimate test of mountain bike endurance?  Take on the wild elements of northern England and still be on your bike when the sun starts to rise on Sunday morning.  Let the beauty of Kielder fill your senses and your soul.  Now what are you waiting for?

The launch of "The grass seemed darker than ever"

The launch of “The grass seemed darker than ever”

In 2015 Kielder Art & Architecture invited expressions of interest from artists or architects to create a new temporary work for the surroundings of Kielder Castle, Forestry Commission England’s visitor base in Kielder Water & Forest Park, Northumberland. Interested parties were asked to propose a work of contemporary art or architecture in any media that explores and responds to the Castle and its broad environs. This commission would become part of a larger strategic project by Forestry Commission England and the Kielder Trust, involving artists Heather & Ivan Morison and Mosedale Gillatt Architects, that is currently exploring options for the longterm future usage and identity of the Castle and the wider western end of Kielder Water & Forest Park.

The call out resulted in the London-based artist, Fiona Curran, being selected to create ‘The grass seemed darker than ever’. Located only 600m from Kielder Castle visitor centre, the sculpture consists of  350 individually painted sycamore fence palings encircling a section of the forest, which has now been painted black.

The piece is inspired by the history of enclosure of the English landscape, reflecting, in particular, the Black Act of the 18th Century. This Act enabled the death sentence to be passed on people suspected of poaching on the newly-enclosed land, or those found in the forest with blackened faces.

Fiona said: “It has been a wonderful experience working at Kielder over the past year with such a committed and supportive team of people. The landscape has been a constant source of inspiration throughout the changing seasons. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work in such a magical place, to participate in the Art and Architecture programme, and to contribute to the area’s rich histories.”

The launch also saw the introduction of ten temporary installations created by Fine Art students at Newcastle University. All 11 pieces of work form part of Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust’s Art and Architecture programme. These particular pieces have been made possible thanks to support from the Forestry Commission, Northumbrian Water, and Arts Council England.

We set off from Leaplish on a bright and chilly morning, 3 cyclists and me. A complete amateur, 20 years since last on a bike and absolutely terrified! The thought of 26 miles on a bike had kept me awake, let alone 26 miles of wild and rugged terrain around the mighty Kielder Water! In order to keep up with my group Ian from the Bike Place suggested an electric assisted cycle. He explained how to use it and offered useful tips and suggestions when he delivered it along with obligatory safety helmet.

Leaplish Waterside Park

Sam (left) all set for her ride around Kielder Water, starting at Leaplish

We started along the Lakeside way enroute to Kielder Castle and after a few wobbles managed to get the hang of it surprisingly quickly. The four different assistance settings meant I was more that able to keep up with the others, in fact with a little turbo boost I flew past them on the steeper inclines. For the first time in my life I was actually grateful for having a well padded derrière as in addition to a gel saddle and cycle shorts I was well protected from wear and tear.

We headed along the north shore just as the clouds parted and brilliant sunlight hit the reservoir, the effect was quite simply breathtaking. More excuses to stop soon appeared as we discovered each piece of art and architecture, wonderful creations that we wouldn’t have got to see by foot and all of them offering a welcome break from the saddle. Some tricky slopes and bends forced me to concentrate further along the route but all of them were achievable with my trusty turbo boost. We were all ready for a quick rest and some refreshments when we arrived at the Dam and I felt on top of the world crossing the Dam wall with the wind behind me.

Lewisburn Bridge

Sam passes the Lewisburn Bridge (still smiling!)

A relatively easy couple of miles took us to Tower Knowe where a hot cuppa was well received. Only 7 1/2 miles left to go, but I was now feeing a bit tired and saddle sore. I was buoyed by the stunning effect of glinting water peeping through the gaps in the trees, enticing me to keep going and soon the surroundings began to become familiar as we neared Leaplish. I literally flew past Freya’s cabin and completed the last mile with renewed energy.

It took just over 4 hours to get round the whole lakeside way, this included several refuelling stops, exploring of the sculptures and of course the obligatory selfies! We concluded the trip with a celebratory drink in the Boat Inn, feeling tired but elated that we had conquered The Lakeside way.

Janus Chairs - Ryder Architecture 2009

Sam takes a well earned rest at Janus Chairs

Cycling around the reservoir gave me a completely different perspective of Kielder, I saw elements of nature I would not have seen from foot; covering a greater area and still feeling completely connected to the natural surroundings. Being a, “non-cyclist” this would not have been possible without the electric assisted cycle, it allowed me to keep up with the group and still be able to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. Being able to hire this expensive bit of kit, makes the adventure very accessible and the advice, expertise and reassurance Ian and Kevin at the bike place provide is a brilliant resource!

I don’t think I will be entering the Tour de France any time soon, but I will definitely be visiting the Bike Place again, maybe later this summer to attempt the route in reverse.

Electric assisted cycles are available to hire from £35 along with a wide range of cycles to suit all ages and abilities.

If you fancy exploring Kielder on two wheels, find out more here:  http://www.visitkielder.com/play/adventure/cycling

Sam Haley

Working for Active Northumberland, I was given the chance to be considered for a place in the 2015 Kielder 10K at Kielder Water & Forest Park on October 3.

Gearing up for the race with some encouragement from Northumberland County Councillor Kath Nisbet

Dawn (left) gearing up for the race with some encouragement from Northumberland County Councillor Kath Nisbet (right)

After some deliberation I applied. The reasons behind my application were to get fit, lose weight, stop smoking, and generally make my life healthier. I had an added incentive in that I am to be mother-of-the-bride in July 2016 when my daughter gets married.

Shortly after I applied, I was fortunate enough to be offered my own ‘personal trainer’ to get me on my way. Little did Steve Baker from Morpeth Riverside Leisure Centre know what a task he had in front of him…

Week one started gently but by week six, I was working harder than I had ever done and that’s when I joined Ashington Hirst Running Club for beginners. They were fantastic and gave me so much encouragement leading up to the race.

The morning of the race came and I was a little nervous standing on the start line among nearly 900 other runners, but excited at the same time.

It hadn’t really hit me until then just how far 10K actually was and I found myself wishing a little bit that I had already finished the race, and not just about to start!

Everyone was so friendly though and I spoke to a few people around me who had run a 10K before. They assured me that it was an achievement just to be even standing on the start line, to enjoy it and not to worry about what time I finish the race – the main thing was I was there.

Running in the 10K

Running in the 10K

The views of the Park were absolutely stunning and I had plenty of time to enjoy them really as I wasn’t speedy in the least. Even the peace and tranquillity of Kielder Water & Forest Park is ideal and I enjoyed everything about it (except maybe the inclines around Bull Crag peninsula haha).

The people I met and the encouragement all the way along the route was amazing (although I think the marshals felt a bit sorry for the one at the back!). Four very kind marshals actually ran along with me for a short way as I must have looked a lonely figure bringing up the rear, or maybe they were a little on the cool side and needed warming up, either way I really did appreciate it.

Heading for the finish line with Northumbrian Water's David Hall

Heading for the finish line with Northumbrian Water’s David Hall

Crossing the line was amazing! There were so many people there and the atmosphere was something I’ve never experienced before. I think a lot of the crowd were waiting for the first of the Kielder Run-Bike-Run competitors, who were running simultaneously on a longer route, to start coming in but I soaked up their applause regardless.

I am a very lucky lady that I had so many friends and family also there to cheer me on and I want to thank them all.

I go to a running club now every Tuesday and Thursday which will help me finish better than last place or even just aim for a faster time than 1hr 41 mins next year…and yes, I did mention a next year!

That’s what people do; strive to beat their previous time. Although I think I may have to visit Kielder a few times before the race to help me conquer those hills!

The Park is so beautiful though, with it’s extensive network of off-road trails it’s the perfect location for some long (and not so long) distance running and cycling.

The atmosphere of marathon weekend is also so electric and it’s well organised –  I would recommend everyone take part in a race at some point – whether it’s the 10K that I took part in, or the marathon, the half marathon, the Run-Bike-Run or even the junior runs.

If you’re interested, take a peek at www.kieldermarathon.com.

In the meantime, while I gear myself up for next year, I would really like to thank all my colleagues in Active Northumberland who gave me the chance to do this and put up with my regular updates on my training plan!

 

Dawn Watson
Active Northumberland

Here at the Calvert Trust Kielder we’re very excited about a new addition to our site…

Just take a look at the fabulous photos of the Bradbury Chalet, our newest luxury accessible accommodation.

Luxurious living inside the Bradbury Chalet

Luxurious living inside the Bradbury Chalet

 

 

The Bradbury Foundation, who have supported Calvert Trust over many years, have once again provided the funds to help us build the second of five planned luxury accessible chalets.

 

 

 

Soak in style

Soak in style

 

 

 

As fantastic as the brilliant Straker Chalet, if you book now you can experience for yourself the steam/shower room, or soak in the spa bath while watching your favourite soap on the in-wall bathroom TV.

 

 

Beautiful outdoor area of the Bradbury Chalet

Beautiful outdoor area of the Bradbury Chalet

 

 

Enjoy the panoramic views of Kielder Water & Forest Park from the Jacuzzi on the terrace through the day, and the darkest skies in England at night.

 

 

 

A culinary haven

A culinary haven

 

 

If cooking is your favourite thing, the fully equipped kitchen has everything you could want, from individual lemon squeezers to a fish kettle!

 

 

 

The Bradbury chalet bedroom

The Bradbury chalet bedroom

 

 

The master bedroom has a hoist discreetly housed above the bed and the family bathroom has a door that opens in and out for easier access.

 

 

 

 

 

For the fourth consecutive year now, we’ve welcomed hundreds of young people during July and will continue to do so throughout August for a residential stay as part of their ‘Personal Challenge – Get Active’, ran by the National Citizen Service (www.the-challenge.org).

The National Citizen Service (NCS) is a government-backed programme which brings together young people from diverse backgrounds, providing them with strong skills for life, work, and adulthood.

As part of their intensive, part-residential programme, the ‘NCS Personal Challenge – Get Active’ encourages participants to face their fears, develop confidence and bond with team mates…

…and that’s where canoes come in. If you see a bunch of 16 and 17 year olds having a whale of a time on Kielder Water, supervised of course by our fantastic activities staff, you’ll be witnessing a first for many of them.

The teens enjoying themselves on Kielder Water

The teens enjoying themselves on Kielder Water

The teenagers are mostly from London and the Midlands and have little or no experience of the wonderful environment that Northumberland has to offer.

We’re sure that the beauty of Kielder and their experiences while in the Park, will help them to face their fears, develop confidence and bond with team mates.