Kielder Water and Forest Park is a large man made park in the middle of Northumberland. A haven for wildlife including red squirrels.
The weather has been glorious recently, the sun has been shining, the birds singing. It is the sort of weather where you want to get out and explore the countryside. This weekend we went to visit Kielder Water and Forest Park.
A visit to Kielder Water and Forest Park
Kielder Water and Forest Park is in Northumberland. The park is 250 miles in size and is the largest forest in England. Kielder Water is a reservoir and is the largest capacity reservoir in the UK. There is plenty to do in the park. You can take part in water sports, enjoy the forest trails or visit Kielder castle. If you want to stay a couple of days there are plenty of camp and caravan sites.
Kielder forest also has an observatory and as the forest is so large it is a great place to see the stars at night. The park is a dark sky park, meaning there is little light pollution so the stars look amazing. You will also find wildlife, it is the home to Northumberland’s largest red squirrel population and there is also a breeding osprey colony.
It has been a long time since I visited Kielder water. I remember stopping at the dam on a trip back from somewhere else but I have never been though the forest. We really wanted to try the forest drive, it is 12 mile drive on a forest track and is one of England’s highest roads reaching 1500 feet (450 metres) at the highest point. Since we got the land rover my son has always wanted to go off road in it. Packing a picnic we set off on our adventure.
Getting to Kielder Water and Forest Park
Kielder is about 45 miles from Newcastle and the road we took was full of twists and turns. The scenery is lovely. Finally we arrived and stopped at Leaplish Waterside Park to eat our lunch. This is one of the visitor centres you can find around the park. Parking costs £4. The ticket is valid for the day and can be used at any of visitor centres in Kielder.
The views across the lake are stunning and the water was busy with people sailing, windsurfing and sitting in rowing boats fishing.
Things to do at Leaplish Waterside Park
You can catch a ferry at Leaplish to take a tour of the reservior. We did check the times and it was quite a long time till the next one. If you like walking you can go on a trek round the reservoir from here. If you want to relax the Boat Inn is beside the water. You can get a meal here or just stop for a drink. You can also visit the osprey viewing point where you can see the ospreys nesting in season. Kielder also run osprey spotting trips on the water during breeding season.
We found lots of ducks swimming around the edge of the jetty. My son went to investigate.
The entrance to the forest drive around Kielder can be found near Kielder castle which is at the other end of Kielder.
It really is a castle and there is a Minotaur maze in the grounds. We didn’t stop to visit it on this occasion as we were ready to tackle the forest drive.
The Forest Drive at Kielder Water and Forest Park
The forest drive is a toll road, you need to pay £3 at the toll machine before entering. The first part of the road is deceptive, it has a normal road surface. Very soon the surface turns into a gravel road. We felt like we were in the wild west on a wagon train, clouds of dust followed our car as we drove.
There are steep drops and ditches on either side of the road, so you need to keep to the 20 mile an hour limit. This was easy to do as there was hardly anyone on the road, we only saw four cars coming the other way.
Kielder forest is a working forest, we saw piles of logs at the side of the road and signs warning us about log wagons.
It was fascinating seeing the areas different forest areas. We drove though areas of cleared forest, areas of large trees and areas of baby trees. It showed how the forest was managed. We also passed an area of special scientific interest, I am guessing it was home to a rare species of plant or animal.
The views across the countryside were spectacular and you could see just how vast the forest was.
It would be easy to get lost out here if you wandered off the trails. It would have been amazing seeing England in the days when it was covered with forest and bears and wild boar roamed freely. A number of large trees had fallen at the side of the road, the stumps were lined up in a row which I thought looked rather strange.
The areas of cleared trees looked rather prehistoric and made me think of dinosaurs roaming the land.
We were surprised how long we had been out when we got back home. It was a fascinating day and there is plenty to do. We are now planning on going back for a longer visit and perhaps an overnight stay. Ideally we would love to spend a night camping, but first we need to get a tent.
You can find more information about Kielder Water on their website: http://www.visitkielder.com/