Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Kielder Sanction 1 - the North Shore.
December 2nd
 Kielder water is the largest man made lake in Europe and around it is the largest man made forest. The North Tyne was dammed a little above the village of Falstone to create a reservoir to supply water to industry in the North East. Sadly there was a rapid decline in North Eastern industry and the lake is a tourist attraction with fishing, sailing, cycling and walking. A track has been built all the way round the lake; it is about 27 miles in length, well surfaced and about the right distance for a marathon. Two have been held so far. FTAs of my acquaintance say it is not a good marathon course because of the short ,twisting, steep slopes but it excellent for walking and riding I cycled it in summer, taking our time to enjoy the views it took about four hours.
 But today six gadgies are going to walk the north shore from Kielder Castle to Falstone, a linear walk but gadgie bus passes solve problems. There are  five  regulars plus a guest, "Geordie Bob", an exiled Tynesider and in law of the punmeister. Bob  worked for Swan Hunters* but when they closed he moved to Essex for work. We drove to Falstone and booted up. There is a nice little tea room which probably serves tasty bacon butties and tea but the shop does not open until 10.30 in winter and the bus to Kielder leaves at 10.35. Poor management. The bus is run by Snaiths and operates only on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, so be careful if you fancy following in our footsteps. It is also advisable to ring Snaiths to check it is running. (01830 520 609).
The bus takes about 15 minutes to get to Kielder castle, another tea room and also closed at this time.
  You can easily do this walk without a map but the OS map I have is LR80 and Kielder castle is at GR632935. A more useful map is the one produced by Ashworth Maps called The Kielder Water and Forest Park map, available at visitor centres at the castle, Leaplish and Tower Knowe. You can also download it.
 The castle was built in 1775 as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Northumberland.
Head down the hill past the castle, pub on your right, maze on your left and when you get to the road make a decision. Either turn left over the Butteryhaugh bridge and join the northshore path almost immediately or take the forest path almost directly opposite and after about a quarter of a mile take the steep, railed footpath on your right onto Kielder viaduct. This old railway bridge, a relic of the North Tyne Railway, is of interest to lovers of railway architecture as the arches are not at right angles to the sides of the bridge but at an angle. The walls of the bridge have been decorated with wrought iron work; a train, a bee and others. Nice. Once across the viaduct you join the north shore path and keep on it to the dam. And go to the pub.
BUT. The path follows the lake shore quite closely, initially alongside the original reservoir, Bakethin. On your left is forest.
As a young man I drove a car from Albany in New York State to British Columbia. Once the excitement of being in America for the first time had subsided and we crossed into Canada we hit forest. For about three days, it got rather boring. Then we hit the prairies, for about three days, it got rather boring. Then we got
to the Rockies. I tell you this as a reminder that I have travelled, a bit.
  The Kielder forest can be dull too although the bird life can be interesting. After about two miles you come to the first of a series of art works that have been erected around the lake. This first one is called Silvas Capitalis, forest head or wooden top.

Punmeister Brian cheerfully picks somebody else's nose.

The routemeister keeps an eye on us. He says he was a good pupil.
  Of all the installations on the lakeside this is my favourite. It is beautifully made from wood, a staircase inside leads to the eyes and a space where Herbie could probably live for a few days.
  Moving on, the forest is on your left, but the bird life can be interesting. At a point there is another art work, called viewpoint, based on the Ordnance Survey symbol for viewpoint . It was designed by Tanya Katak, a Hungarian. Brian, a polyglot punster, explained that "Katak" is Hungarian for behind so that the lady would be known in English as "Tanya Behind". Think about it. The path wanders round an inlet, the Plashetts Burn, a photographs shows the Plashetts mine which once supplied the area with fuel and, by means of the North Tyne Railway, sent coals to Newcastle. Next stop, and one made use of as a Herbiespot is "Janus Chairs"
  At this point an RAF plane started making an appearance, flying low over the water and woods it crossed three times. I think it was a Hercules, practising a remake of "The Dambusters"

 The Janus Chairs.
  These huge steel chairs can be rotated, with some effort, so they can face out on the water or toward the forest, or anywhere between. Hence the name. On a fine day they make a comfortable eating place. On the opposite side of the lake is an Osprey nesting site, naturally they have gone to a warmer place for winter.
   The next stop on this cultural odyssey is Robins Hut. A wooden shepherd's bothy which looks across the water to Freya's Cabin. Robin and Freya were lovers, separated by the lake. Those of you old enough to remember "Running Bear" by Johnny Preston, a number 1 hit in February 1960 will be familiar with a similar tale. But Robin didn't drown.
 Continuing on the path, the forest is on your left. By the path is another work of art 
Salmon Scales. Twinkly and musical in the breeze.

Salmon Scales

  And then the Belvedere! Bright and shiny and a good shelter when the rain falls

This side of the Belvedere overlooks the water. Behind is the forest. There are seats inside and windows.

  On the next promontory there is a art work called 55/02 which I suspect is a Latitude/Longitude reference, slightly inaccurate, but we didn't go to this one. Nor, having rounded Belling Burn inlet did we go to the Wave Chamber,  but headed on to the carpark at the north end of the dam and down the old railway, now a footpath to Falstone and the cars. There were three deer feeding on the grassy bank of the dam, seen only by Dave and Ben who took a slightly different path.

 As this area of Northumberland is near the border with Scotland there are many tales of the Border Reivers but my favourite story is that of the Maid of Kielder, an event some years after the border squabbles had been solved.
  Towards the end of the eighteenth century a young maid of Kielder was due to be married but her farmer groom left her waiting at the church door. Full of bitterness the maid wandered the banks of the North Tyne, picking flowers. She either jumped or slipped, Ophelia like in to the cold river and drowned. Full of remorse her former lover fled the area and joined the army, serving in the Napoleonic Wars. When Boney had been dispatched to St. Helena, along with many other surviving soldiers, the farmer returned to the valley, only to be shunned by his neighbours who could not forgive him. He left again, this time for America. Many of the locals claim to have seen the maiden's ghost walk the banks of the Tyne. Now of course the river bed is at the bottom of the lake but some say that on occasion a ghostly light can be seen in the depths.
  For an after walk  drink we went to a pub in Bellingham, I think it was the Cheviot Hotel, anyway it was near Barclays Bank. A really friendly pub with some good beer, a strong draught cider and a selection of snacking nuts, kept in jars and sold by the tumbler. Hot and spicy.
 The pedometers worked well with some agreement. The walk is about 11.5 miles quite easy going.
Coming soon to a blog near you, The Kielder Sanction 2 - The South Shore
* Swan Hunters  a Tyneside shipyard. When I started working in Newcastle they were building huge tankers. They built HMS Ark Royal too an aircraft carrier. I was lucky enough to get on it before it sailed. It was big. Then I went on a Russian carrier used as a theme park in China. The Minsk was gigantic. Swan Hunters no longer builds ships or welds cars.