Category: Uncategorised

International Dark Sky Week
19 – 26 April 2020

Full Obsy Milky Way smallerWe would like to thank you for not travelling out to the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park at this current time and look forward to seeing you all in the future. In the meantime, there are some wonderful things to look out for from your back yard, or from your window, and do over the next few days

Isn’t it great when a simple idea takes hold and within a very short space of time, becomes a global event? Seventeen years ago, US high-school student, Jennifer Barlow, came up with the idea of International Dark Sky Week to draw attention to the problems associated with light pollution and promote simple solutions available to mitigate it. As England’s first International Dark Sky Park, it is now it is firmly embedded into our calendar.

Northumberland International Dark Sky Park comprises the whole of Northumberland National Park and most of Kielder Water & Forest Park making it England’s first and largest International Dark Sky Park. It is championed by the Northumberland Dark Skies Steering Group, a partnership that includes Northumberland National Park Authority, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Forestry England, Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society, Northumberland County Council, Northumberland Tourism Ltd, North Pennines AONB Partnership and the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership.

.Night Time Observations

This is generally a good time to view the night sky as it coincides with a New Moon on the 23 April.

One event to look out for is the Lyrid Meteor Shower that peaks in the early hours of the 22 April. Meteors are small bits of debris left in the wake of celestial objects like asteroids or comets. When the Earth passes through this trail of material on its orbit of the sun, it catches a number of these pieces, which fall into our atmosphere.

These objects move extremely fast (about 50km/s), causing the surface of the meteor to reach temperatures as high 1600°C and to glow brightly, which is what we see as a short-lived streak of light in the sky.

The Lyrid Meteor Shower is associated with long-period Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, one of the oldest recorded meteor shower still visible today, which was first recorded in 687 BCE.

The best way to view them is you are patient enough to stay up, is to wrap up warm, take a deck chair to sit on and flask of hot chocolate and just lie back and take it all in.

On the 26 April, the Moon and the planet Venus will be very close to each other in the western sky. Venus will actually be at its brightest on the 28 April. Regarded as the sister planet to Earth due to its similar size, one day on Venus is actually longer than one year on Earth. It takes 243 Earth-days to complete one rotation. The orbit of the planet takes 225 Earth-days – making a year on Venus shorter on day on Venus.

Light Pollution Matters

Image-by-Free-Photos-from-Pixabay--1200x600 dark skiesLight pollution is a common term referring to artificial light that shines where it is neither wanted nor needed. Nocturnal animals like moths and bats are active at night. Artificial light can create a fatal attraction to insects, allowing some predators to exploit this attraction to their advantage, resulting in declining insect populations and impacting negatively on other species that rely on these insects for food or pollination.

Artificial light can cause birds that migrate or hunt at night to wander off course, or to migrate too early or too late and miss ideal conditions for nesting and foraging. We too adhere to a circadian rhythm (our biological clock that is governed by the day-night cycle). Artificial light at night can disrupt that cycle making it difficult for us to sleep well and healthily.

Top tips for conserving our dark skies

1)     Make sure your outside lights are fully shielded or angled downwards, so that no light shines up into the night sky

2)     Cool-white LED lighting can be disruptive to nocturnal wildlife. Choose LED lights that emit a warm-white light i.e. below 3000 kelvin

3)     Avoid over-lighting and glare by choosing a low wattage LED light. A modern 5w LED bulb is equivalent to a 60w incandescent light bulb and is ideal for most domestic uses.

If you want to find out more about what to see in our night sky and how to conserve them, go to these useful websites: and

Osprey Watch summer 2017 2I had heard that ospreys were nesting in Kielder forest in 2009 but it took me until 2012 to find out more about it and I first became an Osprey Watch volunteer in 2013.

So what is Osprey Watch all about?    Well it isn’t sitting camouflaged in the middle of the forest protecting the nests, nor is it sitting in front of a TV screen recording everything that happens on each nest.  It’s talking to people about ospreys and, in particular, telling people about the ospreys that have been nesting in Kielder forest since 2009.  It’s helping them use the telescopes to see one of the nests and answering all manner of questions, mainly osprey related but by no means all.

Osprey Watch is the part of the Kielder Osprey Project and relies on volunteers to make it all possible.

The project is a partnership between Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT), Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and the Forestry England.  Northumberland Wildlife Trust manages the volunteers that run the public viewing point for Osprey Watch.

Forestry England provide the technological infrastructure that allows us to see the nests and monitor the ospreys’ progress.

Since I first started as a volunteer we have had more and more nesting pairs with 6 nests in 2019.  We have also moved from a corner in the Boat Inn to a lovely wooden cabin next to the play area at the back of the inn.  The technology has also improved over time with live feeds in both the cabin and also at Kielder Café – although we still have to call on the Forestry England boffins every so often when the systems fail.

So why do I do it?  To spread the story of these amazing birds that went extinct in England in 1840.  To tell people how Forestry England encouraged them to nest in Kielder and what we are learning about their migration routes and destinations.  It is also a great opportunity to work along side other volunteers from many different backgrounds and to share my knowledge of the local area with our many visitors.  We see visitors from all over the world and from just around the corner, some are knowledgeable birdwatchers, including some who have made a special trip to see our osprey. Others come across us by chance and are curious about what we are watching through the telescopes.  The other part of osprey watch I really enjoy is heading out onto the reservoir with the Calvert Kielder on their Wildlife Cruises and seeing how many osprey we can spot and hoping every time that we might see them diving for fish!

If you want to know more about your local osprey head to the website  We are always looking for more volunteers so if you are interested I am happy to try to answer any questions you may have so please do get in touch.  There will be a training session in April and you will be working with an experienced volunteer.  The watch usually starts in May and it runs until mid August. You can volunteer for as few as 3 days or for many more, selecting dates that suit you on the NWT “My Volunteer” site – the watch operates on Saturdays and Sundays and also Wednesdays during the school holidays.

To sign up to volunteer or to find out more information please visit the Northumberland Wildlife Trust website at or alternately contact Lou Chapman, Volunteer Coordinator or call 0191 284 6884.

Margaret Bird

By Hilary Norton

I still catch my breath in awe when I drive round the Shilling Pot corner and get the first sight of Kielder Water and Forest Park. Magnificent.

Tower Knowe visitor centre is an excellent first stop with toilets, a brand new Wafflemeister café, a well-stocked shop and a very informative and interactive (and free!) exhibition.

The wildlife themed exhibition incorporates an interactive map showing the all of the Park’s attractions; two iPads – one with details of all the Art & Architecture installations; the second - a forest management game aimed at 10-12 year olds but good fun for all ages! Colourful wall panels detail all the wonderful wildlife to be found Park wide, encouraging visitors to get out and explore. There are interactive pods featuring wildlife related activities one example being the “Home” pod includes matching the animal, insect, bird to its home and a feely box with nesting materials.  And a theatre space showing a range of videos- including the creation of Kielder Forest, the dam and history of Kielder Water, wildlife and Dark Skies.

A very special experience to share as a family, how about spotting one of the magnificent Kielder ospreys?  Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Kielder “Osprey Watch” has knowledgeable guides and powerful telescopes to allow visitors to observe these magnificent birds unobtrusively.It’s open 10.30am – 5:00pm every Saturday, Sunday, Bank Holiday Monday and Wednesdays in July and August until Sunday 18th August – so just a week to go. It’s free but all donations most welcome!

Wildlife fun on the Bakethin Hide wild walk – this new wild walk is around 2.2km (1½ miles) long (there and back) on even-surfaced paths. It is accessible to wheelchair users and buggies. It is clearly signposted from Bakethin Nature Reserve car park and leads under Kielder Viaduct, past the dipping pond and along the Lakeside Way to Bakethin Hide.  There are beautiful views, interesting wildlife, curious habitats and new interpretive features.

Kielder Viaduct is home to bats and birds and a favourite spot for wildlife to take a drink at the water’s edge. The dipping pond is a peaceful place to get close up to watery wildlife and the walk then winds its way through conifers, mossy woods and secret spaces. There is a series of brass rubbing plaques on the rail. The welcome panel explains that the pond is a watery jungle teeming with animal and plant life. The plaques feature some of the creatures you may see here throughout the year. Take along some paper and crayons and bring home rubbings of the minibeasts in the pond.

A little further along the route, you might be in need of a short rest. Perch a while on a beautiful wildlife themed bench carved by award-winning wood carver Tommy Craggs. Four very real-looking otters provide the arms and shoulder rests, while salmon swim along beneath, and an osprey with outstretched wings, alights from the rear.

Shortly after the bench, you can enjoy a unique outdoor space known as the “Wild it Up Clearing”. Suitable for all ages the clearing providing multi-sensory interaction combining sight, sound and touch in the forest environment. It includes a mirrored disk to “look up by looking down” and an artist’s pallet to match items you can find on the forest floor with the colours. Here is my 2 year old grandson enjoying the bug periscope

QJKME7003 (2)











Not too much further on you reach Bakethin Hide itself. A lovely, peaceful viewing spot for wildlife, where all manner of flora, fauna and feathered creatures can be spied. It was designed and built in partnership with University of Newcastle Master of Architecture students and is accessible for wheelchair users and pushchairs.

The hide’s lake view pod is slightly elevated and offers great views of a ducks, geese and other birds. An osprey pole has been installed on an island to encourage ospreys to rest there. The forest pod has tall windows which give dramatic views of the close-up forest floor to its high canopy. Wood piles on the ground harbour all sorts of small forest creatures from toads, frogs and adders to hedgehogs, while red squirrels can sometimes be seen darting higher in the branches.












A few new additions to enhance any visit include an app which is like having a virtual tour guide with you. There are now 8 Kielder walks on the ViewRanger app. Install the free app and search for Kielder Water & Forest Park Wild Walks. You can then easily download the route and information on a smartphone before you visit. The app not only gives directions, route map and photographs, it also suggests what to look out for and offers fascinating wildlife information at each waypoint. Visitors can also listen to audio clips of Kielder wildlife experts talking about all the varied species who live here and how they are cared for.

Families will love to go wild treasure hunting! The six “Wild at Kielder” geocaches hidden around the park allow you to enjoy fabulous scenery, learn more about wildlife and discover hidden treasure. Sign up at  and download the VisitKielder caches on to a smart phone or GPS system for free. Then head to Kielder and start searching.  Four geocaches are hidden around Kielder Castle, the Duchess Trail and the Salmon Centre; one is on Tower Knowe peninsula and one at the Belling.

Two final suggestions for visits to add to your wildlife experience, the Salmon Centre close to Kielder Castle (free) has a natural North East river environment aquarium showcasing salmon and other local river species. Open daily 10am to 4pm until end of September, enjoy watching the videos revealing the behind the scenes work at the centre, a prehistoric salmon fossil dig, a quiz and brass rubbings to unveil interesting information about the salmon.

You can see one of the largest collections of birds of prey in the North of England at the Birds of Prey Centre at Kielder Waterside. Home to over 60 birds including eagles, owls, falcons, hawks and vultures – and even a family of wallabies.  The Birds of Prey Centre is open daily from 10.30am to 4pm watch flying demonstrations and interact with the birds (daily at 1.30pm and 3pm in summer) and book an owl experience, falconry course, hawk walk or photography day.

Have a wild summer!


By Joel Ireland

The first week and a half of June were the busiest weeks for the Restoring Ratty team. It was what we had been building upto all year, the next release of Water Voles into Kielder Forest.

For this release, 237 of the critters were released taking the total amount of Voles reintroduced to around 1200 which is excellent news.

For Kelly and Graham, the release is extremely complicated as they try to co-ordinate the entire logistics of the release, whilst also providing plenty of tea and coffee for the volunteers!

After showing the release sites to Coral, who works for Derek Gow Consultancy and who was also responsible for bringing the Water Voles up from Devon, we constructed the release pens, filled them with straw and left them by the forest tracks ready for Voles to be brought along.

The next day was the most exciting day of the entire release process as this was when we were able to see the Water Voles for the first time. For myself and the vast majority of other people present, these were the first Water Voles we had seen with our own eyes. Once Coral had placed the Water Voles in the pens we carried them down to where they would be released. Each pen needed two people to carry it and they provided a few comedy slips on the uneven ground. Once the pens were in position they were covered with branches to provide shade.

During the rest of the week, we had to feed the Voles each day and after a couple of days we attached baffle boards to the front of the pens which meant the Voles could come and go whenever they pleased. Kelly even had time to make an appearance on TV! In between all of this, Paul from Devon Wildlife Trust came up North to help out with the school groups who were visiting during the release week. As Paul has also visited Derek Gow’s farm where the Water Voles are bred, it was good for him to see the final stage of the process. One morning, we headed up early to Kielder where we were lucky enough to see an Osprey fishing as well as four Red Squirrels so it seems Paul was a lucky charm too.

Over the weekend, the final baffle boards were added and the voles were fed again, with some of the Voles having already decided to take the plunge into their new home. The final few days of the release were a lot more relaxed as the only task was to empty the pens of straw and return them back to the Coral. Nevertheless, there was still a never ending supply of tea, coffee and biscuits! All in all, it was incredible project to be a part of and I couldn’t thank Graham and Kelly more for what they have done for me over the last nine months.

We would start off in Kielder Waterside Lodge where, after a hearty breakfast, we’d set off on the Lakeside Way by bike – a 26 mile trail around the shoreline of Kielder Water. You can often see osprey swooping across the resevoir looking to catch a fish for their breakfast.

Next stop is Kielder Castle for lunch in the welcoming café. Here we’d pop into the Kielder Cycle Centre to check out their range of electric assist cycles and book one for Sunday.
There is also the fantastic Zog Trail here, which is great for youngsters and in a really historical part of the forest.

Next it’s time to tackle the north shore of the Lakeside Way, which has some fantastic art works along the way, our favourite being the forest head.
I’d choose The Pheasant at Stannersburn for dinner followed by a visit to the amazing and informative Kielder Observatory.

After a lie in on Sunday morning, we’d try out the e-bike on the Deadwater Trail which is a challenge but completely thrilling! At the top of the fell (1900 feet) the views are simply stunning over Kielder, Northumberland, the Scottish Borders and north Cumbria. The descent to Kielder Castle is leaves us buzzing!

Returning to the lodge we’d make our departure, but not before leaving via the Kielder Forest Drive, an amazing route where we’d manage one final visit to the very peaceful and pretty Hindhope Linn Forest Walk.

A perfect weekend in the Kielder wilderness by Alex MacLennan, Forestry Commission

Find more perfect weekends in Northumberland at