Tuesday, 7 April 2015

5 Great Reasons to Visit Kielder

I don't very often get all environmental but here's a scary fact to start off this blog.  Whenever we visit Kielder we're blown away by the size of the place so I've done a little checking and discovered that at 250 square miles Kielder Forest is the largest working forest in England - impressive.

Then I did a little more digging and found out that every single day over 337 square miles of rainforest are destroyed.  That's roughly 1.4 Kielders every single day.  Impressive, but in a whole different way.

Our campsite this time was the result of a mistake last time.  On our last visit we were booked into Leaplish campsite but turned up at Kielder campsite instead, which we really rather liked the look of so promised to return on our next trip, which we duly did.  There's nothing wrong with the Leaplish site per se, it's just that the pics make it look as though you have lovely views of the lake, but the reality is that only a few pitches have lake views and the rest are buried deep in the woods.

Kielder Campsite on the other hand doesn't promise any views of the lake but does have gorgeous big open spaces to pitch up, a perfectly pleasant toilet block (really, there's only so much you can say about a toilet block) and the village and pub just around the corner.  It's also part of a project to reinvest in the local community and that's always going to go down well with us.

So enough of my jibber jabber - here are 5 good reasons why you should visit Kielder.

1.  The dark skies.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) claim that these are the darkest skies in England.  The area designated as the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park covers 580 square miles and is the largest dark sky protected are in Europe.  (Not far off twice the area of rain forest destroyed every day - no I'm not letting it drop).

With minimal lighting on the campsite (another plus over Leaplish) you can enjoy the skies from the comfort of your tent/ van, just so long as the muppets next door don't have their extra bright external light switched on all evening, even though they're out...



You can also book events at Kielder Observatory but book well ahead as they tend to be very popular. 

2.  Cycling

A cycled lap of the lake is the thing to do here - it's enough of a challenge without being over the top, plus there are lovely art installations the whole way around which are both a pleasant distraction and the perfect excuse for a rest.

We are infrequent hobby cyclists and our advice is to tackle the north side of the lake first - it's the hilliest and most challenging so best get it done while you have fresh legs.  The south side is less hilly and has the added advantage of the visitors centre & cafe at Tower Knowe and the bar at Leaplish to help you along your way.  We also recommend padded cycling shorts...






Not sure what this one is called but "how it feels to be a ready meal" would
be my guess.

The craziest crazy golf

Now you see me, now you see me, now you see me

The route around the lake is very well signposted so it's pretty much impossible to get lost.  There are also plenty of warning signs for steep downhill sections, though heaven knows why, the down hill bits were fine, it was the up hill bits I needed advance warning of.



3.  Hiking

There are dozens of forest tracks and trails to keep you distracted here.  None of them have the immense climbs of the Lake District, but all of them are prefect for family rambles.


The walk up to the observatory is well worth a go - the grounds are open throughout the day even if you don't have tickets for an event.  Plus there's another art installation nearby (Skyspace) which as well as being a lovely piece of art, is also an ideal stopping spot for a flask of tea and some sarnies.





4.  Wildlife

Red Squirrels, Osprey and Goshawks are the stars of the show, but as with all stars can be difficult to glimpse (apart from the stars in the skies overhead that is).  Over the few days we were there we spotted a number of buzzards, the occasional red squirrel and several dozen other birds we're unable to name because they didn't sit still long enough for us to get our book out.  This fella did though.


We didn't get any close up pics of red squirrels this time - but this one Steve took the last time we were there would have been hard to beat anyway.



5.  Peace and quiet

It can be hard finding an escape from the hustle and bustle, but Kielder is so big that there's always somewhere you can go to get away from everyone else (not the cycle route around the lake, that's pretty much busy the whole time).  I'm thinking of places like this


And this


And this

And this


And this


And finally this...



If Kielder forest vanished in the space of 1 day we'd all be pretty darned angry.  So if, like me, you're still a wee bit horrified at the amount of rainforest vanishing every single day, here are a number of practical steps we can all take to help make things a little better.