Kielder - putting the 'great' into the great outdoors

PUBLISHED: 22:15 17 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:49 20 February 2013

Sunrise over Kielder Water

Sunrise over Kielder Water

Kielder Water & Forest Park is the jewel in the North East's crown of wild places dedicated to conservation and recreation WORDS AND PICTURES SUPPLIED BY PHILIPPA CLARK,OF THE KIELDER PARTNERSHIP

Nature lovers, water sports enthusiasts, explorers, walkers, cyclists, artists, families . . . . anyone looking to escape, set their own agenda and create new experiences will delight in everything that Kielder has to offer. The forest itself is one of the main attractions, featuring mile upon mile of purpose-built trails including forest walks for all the family and dedicated mountain bike tracks. New for 2009 is the Lakeside Way, a unique, multi-user trail suitable for walkers, runners, cyclists, push chair and wheelchair users and horse riders. The trail encircles Kielder Water, stretching for 27 miles. A haven for wildlife - nature lovers can expect to encounter deer, otters, badgers, bats and rare breeds of birds. Kielder Water & Forest Park is also home to around 50% of England's native red squirrel population, the last remaining stronghold in the country. The refurbished hatchery and visitor centre at Kielder Salmon Centre features state-of-the-art facilities for rearing both salmon and other rare species, such as freshwater pearl mussel, which was a new attraction for summer 2008. Waterskiing and sailing enthusiasts take to the water all year round and the lake offers a huge challenge to keen trout anglers between March and October. The 'Osprey' ferry is an ideal way to see Kielder Water in comfort. With more than 600 square kilometres to explore, the visitor centres are first ports of call for information-hungry visitors. Discover Kielder's history at the new interactive Tower Knowe exhibition, from April '09, or visit Kielder Castle, the former hunting lodge for the Dukes of Northumberland, which is now host to a visitor centre, art gallery and exhibitions. Nearby is an exciting mountain bikes skills area and the start point for the Deadwater single track mountain bike trails. Leaplish Waterside Park boasts luxury self-catering forest lodges, an indoor heated swimming pool and sauna, restaurant and bar and the Kielder Birds of Prey centre. A fully accessible centre and self- catering chalets provided by The Calvert Trust offer outdoor activities, care and relaxation for people with disabilities, their families and friends. Set in a 40- acre woodland site, facilities include a hydrotherapy swimming pool, en suite bedrooms, lounge and bar. Famed for having the darkest night skies in England thanks to minimal light pollution, Kielder Water & Forest Park is a star gazers' heaven and the Observatory offers exciting opportunities for those with an interest in learning more about the night sky. There's also an abundance of contemporary art and architecture in this striking rural setting, including the futuristic shelter design of the Belvedere, the Minotaur contemporary maze and the Mapping mini-golf course. With plenty of picnic spots and places to eat throughout the park, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to spending a day trip, weekend break or holiday in what was recently designated "the most tranquil area in England" by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The responsibility for developing this massive, nationally-important environmental and leisure estate lies with the Kielder Partnership. The Partnership is a public, voluntary and private sector collaboration working to develop Kielder Water & Forest Park as an inspirational place for leisure, exploration and fun. Partners are the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Northumberland County Council, Northumbrian Water, Tynedale Council and the Calvert Trust, along with representation from community groups. For more information go to www.visitkielder.com.

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