Set in one of the more remote parts of Northumberland, Kielder Water may be man-made, but it is a haven of tranquillity. This lovely stretch of water is surrounded by forest; at over 250 square miles, the largest working forest in England. The lake is a popular place for water sports, while the forest offers miles of walking and biking trails. It is a haven for wildlife, one of the few places in England where you can see red squirrels. And on a clear night its skies are full of stars, as this is an International Dark Sky Park with the largest expanse of dark night sky in the whole of Europe and a renowned observatory.
Kielder is the largest artificial lake in the UK, by capacity of water held. It was first conceived of in the 1960s when it was anticipated that the demand for water, especially by heavy industry in the north east region, would put a lot of pressure on the system. The decline in such industries meant that this never happened, and some questioned whether Kielder was necessary at all. But in recent years water shortages in the UK have seen the south of the country experience restrictions on use (such as banning the use of hosepipes); while the north east, thanks to Kielder, has had plenty of water for all.
Another reason for controversy surrounding Kielder’s construction was the loss of several farms in the valley, and even of a school. So at the time it was a far from universally welcomed project. But today it seems that all controversy is at an end; the project is generally considered a success, both for the water it supplies and the tourism it brings to the region.
Some may bemoan the introduction of these conifers into what was once mostly open moorland; but there is a mysterious quality to their darkness that appeals to me. You might almost imagine Little Red Riding Hood to walk out of their depths!
The trees were introduced in the 1920s and 1930s, with much of the planting work being undertaken by unemployed miners and shipbuilders from the north east’s urban areas. They were housed in a camp on site – a camp which is now under the waters. I wonder what they made of their work in such an alien (to them) environment? The wide open moors must have seemed a long way from the pit and the shipyard. Today the Forest is managed by the Forestry Commission who state as their aim:
‘to create and sustain forests and woodlands which are attractive as well as productive, useful to the community and pleasant places for people to visit, rich in wildlife, both plant and animal, and where the natural and cultural heritage is safely conserved.’
Lewis Burn inlet
There is a lot to see and do. But today I want to take you on a walk around one small area, the Lewis Burn Inlet. At this spot the lakeside way, which encircles the whole reservoir, leaves the shore of the lake to turn for a short distance up a burn. It then crosses it via an elegant suspension bridge and returns through forest glades to the water’s edge.
On the day we did this walk, this was a magical spot. The inlet was almost completely still and reflected the surrounding trees and blue sky perfectly, apart from when on occasion the reflections were disturbed by a leaping trout. The amount of water in this landscape ensures a lush greenness wherever you look.
There were beautiful wild flowers to add touches of vivid yellows and purples among the predominant greens; and waving grasses and rushes by the water’s edge.
The loop path ends near the Mirage jetty, where we walked out to the end to get some great views of Kielder Water itself. A lovely end to our short walk.
I visit Kielder regularly; these photos were all taken in 2015