Kielder Water and Forest
In the uppermost reaches of the River North Tyne, to the east of Bellingham, we find the huge dam of Kielder Water, the largest man-made lake in Europe. The construction of the dam, which is 170 feet high and three quarters of a mile wide was begun in 1976.
The lake was opened in 1982 and was built to supply heavy industry and domestic users on Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside and can hold up to 44 billion gallons of water. Kielder stretches along the North Tyne Valley for about seven miles, has 27 miles of shoreline and a surface area of 2684 acres.
Water from the reservoir can be released into the North Tyne, where after a journey of two days, it reaches the pumping station at Riding Mill on the River Tyne near Corbridge. From here it can be pumped through pipelines under the Durham hills and fed into the River Wear or River Tees. Like many reservoirs in North East England it is hard to believe that Kielder Water is man-made.
The landscape of Kielder is in fact rich in natural beauty, despite the fact that it is almost entirely man made. For not only is the lake man-made, but so is the countryside around it, because the reservoir is surrounded on three sides by the huge Kielder Forest, the largest man-made forest in Europe.
In truth wherever you go in Britain or Europe, much of what is considered natural beauty has been created by human management over many centuries and this is only one of many landscapes created by human endeavour. It is certainly a landscape of great beauty.
The area is naturally an important area for recreation, tourism and leisure, with water sport facilities on the reservoir for wind surfers, canoeists, water skiers, anglers and yachtsmen in addition to the visitor facilities provided by the Forestry Commission. Cycling, walking and crazy golf are among the activities on dry land.
Kielder: International Dark Sky Park
The other great natural asset of Kielder is neither the ground nor the water but lies directly above. The area lies within the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park which forms the largest expanse of pure night time sky in Europe. It is in fact the third largest area of protected dark sky in the world. Its status results from the exceptionally low levels of light pollution with no major urban centres or even major villages in close proximity.
At the heart of this park is Kielder Observatory, a unique visitor attraction set within this almost Scandinavian landscape. The observatory offers an opportunity to observe the universe as it is meant to be seen – in pure dark skies – and it provides a rare opportunity for those members of the public who have a passion for astronomy or who simply have a curiosity to gaze in wonder at worlds far beyond our own.
This former hunting lodge for the Earls of Nothumberland lies to the north of the reservoir and is the main visitor centre for the area.
The England-Scotland border is only about a mile from the castle although the road north across the border does not enter Scotland for another three mile where it crosses from Tynedale into Liddesdale to the east of Deadwater Fell.
A 12 mile forest drive road begins at the castle, which runs west up the valley of the Kielder Burn towards Redesdale. The Kielder Burn is the main tributary source for the River North Tyne:
On Kielder side, the wind blaws wide,
There sounds nae hunting horn,
That rings sae sweet, as the winds that beat,
Round banks where Tyne is born.
The forest drive takes us into Redesdale, through forrested and unforrested sections of the southern Cheviot Hills. On its way it passes a hill called Oh Me Edge – perhaps a reminder of an old border feud.