Category: Uncategorised

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

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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

Having recently relocated to Northumberland, one of the first things on Ruth Tweddle’s list of things to do on a free weekend was to try out the cycling at Kielder.

On the appointed day the weather was perfect (well, it was dry), the drive not arduous and we arrived safely at Kielder Castle Visitor Centre car park. Once the bikes were removed from their racks and the appropriate level of pre ride maintenance had been administered we were ready for the off.

Due to different cycling abilities and motivations the family split in half. Son number one (age 12) has a serious need to throw himself down hills fast on two wheels so he and dad ventured off to try the “Deadwater Trail”. Son number two (age 10) and I have no need for any such adrenaline rush so we opted for the gentler Lakeside Way. Watches were synchronized and we agreed to rendezvous in a couple of hours for lunch and a debrief.

Ruth cyclingThere are two ways to tackle the Lakeside Way, either via the North or the South Shore. After reading the information on the Kielder Water and Forest Park website before our visit we chose to ride on the South Shore as the North Shore doesn’t offer any facilities or have vehicular access. Signage from the car park was clear and easy to navigate; no need for a map. We made good progress up to Bakethin Nature Reserve and just beyond the car park came across a wonderful carved bench with otters, salmon and osprey.

I believe that this was carved by Tommy Craggs as a part of Kielder’s “Living Wild at Kielder” project; it really is a thing of beauty and makes a perfect spot for a photocall.

We carried on our way enjoying the views over Kielder Water and the peace and tranquility the forest environment offers. The paths are well maintained and made for an comfortable cycling experience, although I must admit I had the idea that as the Lakeside Way went round a lake that it would be flat. This was misguided; whilst none will challenge Alpe d’Huez, there are a few ups and downs that certainly raise the heart rate.

The Lewisburn Bridge is at the bottom of one of these descents; a most fabulous curved suspension bridge that fits in beautifully with the environment. We stopped on the bridge and chatted to a couple of walkers and their dog who turned out to be regular visitors at Kielder. They shared how much they loved the place and gave us some recommendations of things to see, notably Silvas Capitalis on the North Shore and the children’s play area at Kielder Waterside!

We had hoped to reach Kielder Waterside to try out said children’s play area, however time was again us and it was evident that son number two’s blood sugar levels were dropping. We turned around in Matthew’s Linn car park and started heading back to Kielder Castle with the promise of sausage, beans and chips focussing the child’s attention.

The return journey was equally as pleasant; we even made it up the hill to the visitors’ centre without dismounting. As luck would have it, the other half of the family had also just arrived back (it was as if we’d planned it) and we went to the cosy Kielder Castle Cafe (or Duke’s Pantry) to swap tales of our bike rides. The Deadwater Trail proved to be a suitably exciting affair with the right level of technical challenges and opportunities to go fast and “get some air”. From this I was secure in the knowledge that we had made the right decision to ride the Lakeside Way.

Once suitably fed and watered our first visit to Kielder came to a close. We will definitely be back, the thrill seekers want to try the Osprey Trail and we leisurely cyclists would like to challenge ourselves to make it all the way to Kielder Waterside and back, about 12 miles. We’re already looking forward to it.

Ruth Tweddle is Tourism Development Officer at Northumberland County Council

If I am ever asked, “What are your career highlights?”, top of my list without hesitation, is having been involved in the project management and delivery of the James Turrell Kielder Skyspace in 1999/2000. I was the Kielder Partnership marketing and events officer at that time. I returned to work at Kielder on the Living Wild project in 2017 and was delighted to be invited to attend an event at the end of last year to show the refurbished and newly installed lighting in the Skyspace.

The original project had substantial Arts Council and other matched funding and involved true partnership working to see it through to successful completion. Originally planned to be built in the North Pennines on the Coast to Coast cycle route, for various reasons it ended up being a Kielder project. Arts curator Judith King and I progressed the early plans with discussions with Kielder partners about potential sites. Peter Sharpe took over as curator part way through the project to completion.

We had a most memorable site visit with James, his elegant wife Kyung and Kielder partners in a borrowed minibus which I was driving. I took a wrong turn somewhere on the north shore, when James never having been to Kielder before was able to get me back on the right road, ending up with cups of tea in Kielder Castle using a wooden box for a table. James loved the last potential site we took him to – a rocky outcrop at Cat Cairn with then spectacular views over the whole reservoir and much of the forest.

Peter and I worked up the project with James, who sent a hand drawn design with very specific measurements for the “space”. I was unfamiliar with James’ work, Judith and Peter had seen several pieces of his work including a temporary piece in the Hayward Gallery in London so knew more of what we were creating.

JT's Kielder Skyspace drawing



As per James’ drawing left, the Kielder Skyspace consists of a short tunnel that leads to a partially buried circular room with a ceiling containing a central circular oculus (opening) and a ring of seats forming the lower part of the inner wall.



Our work over 2 years included liaising with civil engineers Babties regarding the construction – a little different from their usual work as we asked them to do a large pour of concrete core with traditional Northumbrian stone walling on the exterior in a very remote location just a few miles from the Scottish border. We worked with light technicians for the internal lighting and with solar and wind power consultants to get a power source for the lighting again in one of Kielder’s most remote locations. The project was all consuming but went on hold for 6 months as I took maternity leave for my son Richard, and came back to work in April of 2000 to pick it all up again – with the official opening event held in September 2000.

Peter and I collected James at Newcastle airport the afternoon before the launch. James walked through the arrivals gate, inconspicuous in cowboy boots and a Stetson hat – well he does own an extinct volcano and ranch in Arizona! We drove straight up to Kielder, almost dusk. James chatting all the way about how the Skyspace would work. To me – the uninitiated – I had no clue what to expect. Peter, me, James, Phil (a Forestry Commission ranger) and his dog met Mark Pinder photographer at the Skyspace. The lighting performance began and we were all stunned. The balance of the constant interior light working with the changing outside light creating an ever changing plug of colour in the circular space.

Through the development of the Kielder project, James told us about his interest in the psychology of perception, essentially how our brains work to make sense of the world around us and invent a reality to fit the information that our senses provide. In the Skyspace, a visitor’s experience of colour becomes particularly challenged and the sky viewed from within the space often appears very different from the same sky seen outside. When I take visitors I try to remind them that this is by its very nature an individual experience, and no two people will ‘see’ the same thing. James own quote about his work being , “My work is not so much about my seeing as about your seeing. There is no one between you and your experience”.

The project attracted much national and international media coverage. Pete and I enjoyed taking many a journalist up the (then) rough forestry road to show them the Skyspace – from Monty Don ( who caused quite a stir in the Bellingham tea rooms) at that time writing for Gardens magazine; Helen Pickles from The Times weekending supplement to Waldemar Januszczak for the Sunday Times Culture magazine.

The initial lighting comprised 2000 fibre optics tucked around the rim of the seating. As mentioned the power source was a combination of wind and solar. However, with every project there are issues – and eventually the power became unreliable meaning that while the daytime effect (see below) remained stunning, the dusk performance wasn’t always available.

JT skyspace daytime











So in spring of 2018 , after receiving an Arts Council of England grant and money from the Henry Moore Foundation, the Kielder Skyspace had a major refurbishment that included updating all of its lighting and power equipment and repainting the upper chamber. The new lighting programme was designed by James Turrell working closely with UK lighting artist Eleanor Bell and differs fundamentally from the original system. The new LED set up delivers a more even and much brighter illumination and incorporates a digitally controlled lighting programme that varies the intensity of the lighting throughout the period of dusk (about 65 minutes in total) starting at sunset each day.

So late last year, the launch event to experience the new lighting was very memorable. By chance both Peter and Judith were there – the original dream team reunited! It had been more than 15 years since I had seen the lighting in working order. The new lighting effect had me spellbound, and in places moved to tears (happy ones) To me, the work is so stunning. It is so simply beautiful. I encourage everyone to take the time to experience the light “performance”.

Photo Neil Denham








Visitors wishing to drive up to the sculpture can get a key to the forestry barrier beyond the car park; this is available for a refundable deposit from Kielder Waterside reception or Calvert Kielder.
Peter has added a very useful dusk time list to the website so you can plan the best time to visit.

Cat Cairn: the Kielder Skyspace


by Hilary Norton

Living Wild at Kielder project coordinator