It’s the end of my third full week in my new role as Director, and I already feel like I’ve been here for years… everyone has been very welcoming and helpful and I’m quickly settling into the team.

My time so far has been filled with a wide variety of activities. One of my first tasks was to get a thorough understanding of all the exciting things Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust has been getting up to over the last three months, from our Dark Skies project to our new inspiring art workshops and even our recently launched Friends scheme.

VE Awards for Excel Port 2014_Bronze Red

In my second week, I had the privilege of sharing in the Northumbrian Water Leisure team’s success when Leaplish Waterside Park was awarded Bronze for Best Holiday Park at the Visit England 2014 Awards.

Coming hot on the heels of Kielder’s award as the Best Tourism Experience in England in 2013, it was inspiring to see that the Park is still recognised as being among the best in the country.

Given my previous role at Northumberland County Council, I was equally proud when two other Northumberland businesses won Gold Awards that evening and delighted to see our county so strongly represented.

 

George Clarke

On another positive note, we launched the Park’s Friends scheme, with support from Sunderland-born, TV architect, George Clarke – the first North East star to become a ‘Friend’ of Kielder Water & Forest Park.

Our Friends scheme will help us to conserve wildlife, develop educational opportunities and enhance the great attractions available at the Park. Plus, Friends will receive various offers and promotions. If you fancy joining George and becoming a Friend, click here for more info.

 

One of the opportunities I’m most excited about is our Dark Skies astro-tourism potential.

There has been a huge amount of interest in stargazing following ITV’s Robson Green’s Tales from Northumberland, Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces and our recent designation as an International Dark Sky Park, together with Northumberland National Park.

Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust is   leading a DEFRA funded project, with support from other partners in Northumberland and the North Pennines, to help businesses take advantage of this new opportunity, as well as improving the facilities on offer for visitors.

A number of businesses are already reporting an increase in trade from people wanting to come and experience the Park’s deep dark skies and the fabulous Kielder Observatory.

A series of workshops has been arranged for any business that would like to know more about how to provide an unforgettable dark sky experience for their visitors. You can find out more about the workshops here.

Star Trails over Kielder Observatory

As you can see my role here is varied, fun and challenging. Over the coming months I’m looking forward to meeting everyone that’s involved in helping to make Kielder and the surrounding area such a special place and being part of some exciting projects in a spectacular location.

In addition, to remind you just how great the Park is, keep reading our blog page where we will be letting a ‘guest’ blogger loose with words every month – from forest rangers, to local schools!

Lynn Turner

Director, Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust

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We’re currently on the hunt for a new guest blogger. Check back soon when we will be able to keep you up to date with all the exciting goings on at the Park!

So it’s back to Kielder with renewed vigour after a fabulous Christmas break. I do mean Kielder – first day back after New Year and I spent 5 hours in Kielder School while the children and teachers were on a training day.

Historical Kielder Viaduct 2Jo, Julie, Liz, David, Debs and I were hosting a free scanning and heritage story sharing afternoon on the Kielder Viaduct Heritage Project, which is part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. David busily scanned an old map of the area pre-Kielder Water, while we talked and captured the stories of villagers about their experiences of the village, railway and viaduct. I even met the man who lives in the former Deadwater Station where the old railway line used to pass through on its way to Riccarton Junction. Tales of coal being passed to the children waiting along the track as the train passed through the valley brought a smile to my face.

We then planned what to do with all of the material we have collected over the period of the project – website links and on-line stories to listen to, plus a possible talking bench and boards, all of course on the Lakeside Way which goes across the viaduct.
                

22. The iconic shot of the first ever Kielder Marathon 2010Later that evening I met up with the Kielder Parish Council to give them my six monthly update and discuss any plans or events happening in Kielder Water & Forest Park which they might want to work alongside, such as the Kielder Marathon. New events this year include the Kielder Ultra in April and the Kielder Triathlon in July of Iron standard.                                         

 

 

Star Trails over Kielder ObservatoryIt’s been a busy week for Dark Skies too. Since securing the International Dark Sky Park Status before Christmas, I have been refining the next steps in our dark skies adventure.

The Kielder Observatory goes from strength to strength with events to March fully booked. So with a possible grant from the Rural Development Programme for England, a group of us are working with local communities to develop Dark Sky Discovery Sites.

These would be dotted about Kielder Water & Forest Park where visitors can get out on a clear night from their B&B, cottage or shepherd hut to see the stars with some information boards and leaflets to help. They may be a local event with a trained astronomer to help point the way with some binoculars and telescopes to hand. Then back to the hot choccy and wood burner to warm up again.

 

To see Jupiter, Saturn’s rings or the newest and oldest stars in the universe, a trip to the fabulous Kielder Observatory is a must. Gary’s been updating me on their plans to make it a 7 day a week place – but more of that to follow.

Following last weeks BBC Stargazing Live, the evening’s entertainment involved watching Dara and Brian and then tweeting with the rest of the fans just reminding them how great Kielder and the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park really is.

 

Elisabeth Rowark
Director of Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust

Badger in gardenNow then, the subject of badgers, for a few people, is a hot topic. And it is for me too…cos I’ve got loads of them! Not as pets, my adopted badgers are still as wild as can be, but I’m lucky enough to get close to these magnificent beasts on a regular basis. ‘Meles Meles’ or ‘Auld Brockie’  as I like to call them, have a reputation for being vicious little tinkers. If you show yourself to my Brockies all you see is a herd of badger bums legging it the opposite way. Now if you were to corner the animal, that’s another thing. There have been occasions when I’ve seen a fox and a Brock competing for the same food, the fox is shooed away by a nonplussed, but very determined badger. In my mind Brockie is tenaciously robust. (more…)

elf-kirk-viewRejoice! Kielder has had a summer. Surely you remember what one of those was like? My parents told me we used to have them on an annual basis.

With temperatures soaring and minimal rain there has been evidence of cheeky little devils leaving washing on the line….overnight. Apart from the 22nd of July, where we had the most impressive thunderstorm with horizontal rain, sheeting rain and more rain. I just had to stand out in it and have a bit of a cool down. The air was cleared and hey presto, just like magic it was dry by morning for another sunny day

The sun has been perfect for the summer holidays. The pleasant days have brought striking views, with glorious sunrises and sunsets. You’ll know if the odds are high for the sun to be around in Kielder as the symphony of our fleet of lawnmowers will be heard for most of the day. And if it’s a bit overcast, then it’ll be chainsaws and the thump of log-splitters you’ll be hearing. (more…)