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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

Plashetts Rising 2 in situ reducedKielder Water & Forest Park’s unique outdoor arts programme is set to continue evolving and become increasingly inclusive, thanks to a new project supported by funding from Arts Council England’ (ACE) Project Grants programme, says Lynn Turner.


The Kielder Art & Architecture programme uniquely turns parts of the Park into an outdoor art gallery.

And now, a £49,700 grant will see new artistic works complemented by a range of community outreach projects that will open the programme up to an even wider audience.

We’re going to see a number of fantastic additions and developments, thanks to this funding, including:

  • The Kielder Brag is a trans-media fairytale that will use social media and online platforms to enable young people to interact with, and add to its ever-evolving story. Writer and illustrator Niel Bushnell has already begun work on the creative content and teachers have been contacted to plan how children and young people can best get involved.
  • Educational work with schools will expand, with a three-day architectural workshop aimed at Year 12 pupils, as well as interactive sessions in middle and high schools.
  • The programme’s popular curator-led tours will be targeted to specific groups, through work with organisations such as Calvert Trust Kielder, to enable disabled guests and their families to experience the area’s art. Work will also be carried out, aimed at building and enhancing relationships with people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, as well as with refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Tethered Cloud, a new installation at Kielder Waterside by architects Messer, Glover and Grindley, will take the form of a reflective ‘cloud’ that hovers in the air and changes its appearance as the weather, time of day and seasons change.
  • Waymarker, a new permanent landmark to be created by artist David Rickard, will be created on the Lakeside Way, to provide enjoyment, shelter and directions to visitors.
  • Work will take place to progress the redevelopment of Forestry Commission’s Kielder Castle, to increase its appeal to cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Refurbishment work on the award-winning Kielder Belvedere, the programme’s first installation, will ensure it remains an attractive draw for visitors.

The Kielder Art & Architecture programme is a unique and increasingly strong draw for visitors to the Park, making it a wonderful place to visit and ensuring there is always something new to experience here. The funding from Arts Council England will help us to develop creative projects that support our partner organisations’ work in the area, enhancing the visitor experience.

We want to expand the numbers and diversity of visitors to the Park and the exciting projects being developed as a result of this funding range from multi-media activity to direct engagement with people who may not have previously experienced anything like what we have here.

With further funding being applied for to develop other projects, this is a very exciting time for everyone involved with Kielder Water & Forest Park.

Lynn Turner is Director of Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust.

By beer blogger Paul White

Those who know me outside of the Poets Day Pint beer blog will know that, as well as beer, I have a real love for my native North East of England, and a particular fondness for the Kielder area of Northumberland.

RattyOver the last couple of years, the area has seen the reintroduction of water voles.

Having previously been a common site in the area, they have had a serious decline over the last 30 years, and Northumberland Wildlife Trust, through its Restoring Ratty project, has been at the forefront of the species’ return.

All cute, cuddly, heart-warming stuff, you say. But what does this have to do with beer?

Well, imagine my surprise, when perusing the fridge in the shop at Kielder Waterside, to find bottles of Ratty – a collaboration between the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and the First and Last Brewery, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (yes, when you bought that Lotto ticket, you were contributing to the brewing industry – well done, you!).

Of course, I brought one home, hoping very much that it would not be as furry as its namesake.

And finally, tonight, I’m getting to try it. So, what’s it like?

It’s got a very fresh, fruity aroma, probably very unlike what you get if you hold a real live water vole up to your nose, but I don’t intend to test that theory.

And, in terms of flavour, it’s very light. Unlike many pale ales, it’s also not too sharp – personally, I prefer them this way.

It’s not a beer that gives your mouth a pounding when it comes to flavour, but it’s certainly a very enjoyable beer and, because of this mildness of flavour, it’s probably one you could call “sessionable”, which is no bad thing.

​If you like beers like Ilkley Brewery’s Pale Ale, then you’ll love this, knowing you’re supporting a great cause, because a donation from every bottle goes towards the Restoring Ratty project.

This blog post was originally written for the Poets Day Pint beer blog.

bike‘And now for something completely different’, as they used to say on Monty Python.

Until now our visits have concentrated on the past and buildings, matters Roman and old castles and historic houses. This visit was concerned with the future and nature. We were off for our first visit to Kielder Water. We’d heard lots about Kielder over the years but had never got around to making the detour off the A69. We set the trusty Sat Nav and followed the route we were told, arriving after an hour or so driving. As we passed several sites at the side of the water we began to be concerned that maybe we’d set the wrong postcode for our destination. However, all was well and we arrived at Kielder Waterside.

The helpful lady in the shop/information confirmed we’d come to the place we intended, and we went for our usual coffee and scones. Shock! Horror! No scones! Plenty of nice looking cakes but we don’t do cake in the morning, so we settled for toast.

We walked up to ‘The Bike Place’ where Martin was waiting for us with our two electric bikes. Yes, we know, what are two active septuagenarians doing with electric bikes? The answer is having a go with a view to the future. Martin gave us a tour of the controls which are the same as a normal bike with the extra facility to be able to select how much help one wants from the electric motor. One can of course use these machines as an ordinary bike, although it has to be said they are rather heavy, and if you don’t pedal you don’t get any assistance. It does seem a bit odd to begin with but very quickly you get used to it and can start to enjoy the ride. We went around a pathway in the trees and sailed up inclines that would have seen us getting off and pushing a standard bike. Next a trip round the side of the reservoir out in the open and covering considerably more distance than without the electric bike. I have to confess that I’m hooked on these bikes now, although it still feels like cheating, but it does mean one can cover much greater distances, ride up hills that would make one suffer, keep up with younger and fitter riders. All this without getting hot and sweaty, and one can really enjoy the views.

Reluctantly we gave our bikes back and went for our appointment with Milly to find out about The Ospreys. There are telescopes set up to see a nest across the water but at in excess of two miles there is not too much to see, however there is a camera set up on the nest and a live feed into a hut where one can see the actual nest itself. The nest is built on a man-made platform that is the size of a double bed. Milly is extremely knowledgeable on all things osprey and told us more things than our old minds can remember but we’ll try to relate what we can remember. Osprey’s favourite food is trout but they will also fly to the coast on occasion and catch sea fish, regrettably we didn’t see any diving for fish. Apparently, ospreys can rotate their rear talons so that they can carry caught fish like a torpedo in order to reduce wind resistance. Additionally, their eyes are adapted to allow for refraction so that when they dive they see the fish where they are, not where our eyes would think they are, nature surely is an incredible thing.

There are other nests in Kielder with chicks, and it is a success story that so many are returning each year to breed. We were amazed to be told that the parents leave the nest before the chicks and leave them to make their own way to Africa. Also, the parent birds spend the winter apart and fly separately back to Kielder but they arrive within days of each other. How do they do that, we can’t arrive for coffee at the same time if we separate in Morpeth? The chicks stay in Africa until they are ready to breed but hopefully they will return to Kielder for many years to come.

Speaking of returning to Kielder, one visit is nowhere near enough so we will be returning to Kielder to see much more. We returned home via a different route, not by choice but due to misunderstanding the sat nav, but hey it was nice to see somewhere different.