The secret wild spaces of Kielder Water & Forest Park might surprise people who imagine it as a monotonous plantation. Native woodland, flowering grasslands and aromatic bogs are all here, homes for an impressive host of wildlife, unique in the UK. Among the veteran trees and delicate woodland flowers, you can encounter badgers, roe deer, otters, red squirrels, shrews, seven species of bat, many woodland birds and, especially in spring, birds of prey including ospreys.
Activities and Events to help you discover more wildlife
Wondering what wildlife is around when you visit? – click on our nature calendar.
Find out more about the special habitats and species, and how we conserve them.
There are two Nature Hubs, where there is information, walks and activities which will help you experience more wildlife:
- Kielder Castle and Bakethin Nature Reserve Nature Hub, at the west end of Kielder Water, and
- Tower Knowe Visitor Centre near Kielder Dam Nature Hub at the east end of Kielder Water
You can discover wildlife anywhere in Kielder Water and Forest Park, but here are some free activities which will help you to enjoy yourself.
Download the family friendly wildlife walks
Volunteering with Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Wild @ Kielder Geocaches have been placed around the Park, download details to your phone or GPS before you visit [link to Wild@Kielder geocaching.com page]
The Living Water Explorer App has a tour of the wildlife route around Kielder Castle
The annual Wild at Kielder Festival, plus other wildlife events for all the family
The wildlife garden at Kielder Waterside is open all year round and comprises a raised pond and butterfly shaped bed, a bog and drought garden and a nest box demonstration area. Adders, butterflies, stoats and amphibians inhabit the garden. Nearby, the Kielder Water Birds of Prey Centre is open all year round except Christmas Day.
This incredible, man-made landscape is constantly being cared for and improved by volunteers and the organisations in the Kielder Partnership. Since its creation during the middle years of the 20th century, it has matured and developed, and careful management is helping species that were once absent to return, including osprey and water voles. Thousands of fascinating plants and animals continue to live and thrive alongside the people who live, work and play here.
Ospreys - After over 200 years of absence from Northumberland it is a delight to see ospreys thriving at Kielder. In 2016, a fourth pair of ospreys bred for the first time. There is every chance that this year we will see a record number of chicks fledge. 41 chicks have fledged successfully from Kielder Forest since 2009 when re-colonisation began - an impressive contribution to the northern osprey population. Between late March and early September visitors using the Lakeside Way may see ospreys hunting over the water and can enjoy unique views of the birds at Kielder Castle Cafe and Kielder Waterside thanks to special cameras we have on nests. If you are coming up specifically for the Osprey Watch, don’t forget to check the blog for the most up to date news and what days the volunteers are here.
Red squirrels - Around 50% of England’s native red squirrel population live here, the largest remaining stronghold in the country. You can find out more about red squirrels in the exhibition at Kielder Castle, where there is also a squirrel hide overlooking native woodland. Another great place to catch a glimpse of one is at the red squirrel hide at Kielder Waterside. Find out more through the Red Squirrels Northern England project.
Salmon – The largest conservation hatchery in England, raising over 900,000 fish every year, Kielder Salmon Centre and Visitor Centre feature state of the art facilities for rearing both salmon and other rare species such as freshwater pearl mussel. These are raised, and then returned to the River Tyne to migrate out to sea. [link to Kielder Salmon Centre – can’t find a link!]
Water voles – The charming Ratty from Wind in the Willows, is actually a water vole. These secretive creatures are being re-introduced to Kielder Water & Forest Park, as the clean waters and absence of mink mean that they have a good chance of success! Find out more about the Restoring Ratty project.
Woodlands – Before Kielder Forest was planted, there were native trees growing here, and in the forest edges around Kielder village veteran trees and native woodlands still persist. The Forestry Commission are increasing the biodiversity of Kielder Forest and softening the plantation boundaries by planting native tree species and conserving the remnants of ancient semi-natural woodlands. Pollen analysis of the peat on Kielderhead moor shows that once these hills were covered with pine, alder, birch, elm and willow. Ambitious plans for replanting this ancient woodland are in development through the Wildwood project.
Grasslands – The north shore of Bakethin Nature Reserve has grasslands grazed by Exmoor Ponies as part of the Flexigraze scheme which uses rare breed animals in traditional land management schemes. The ponies used here are a hardy breed used to poor food and weather, and they help keep the variety of habitats along the lake shore, by eating any scrub or young trees trying to take over from the grasses and flowers.
Open water – By keeping the water at a constant level at Bakethin Nature Reserve we have created a nature reserve, including three islands, which provide an important sanctuary for local plants, birds and other wildlife including otters. In 2016 a new osprey nesting pole was installed on one of the islands, which can easily be seen from the new wildlife hide. This was rebuilt in early 2017 by Architecture students from Newcastle University, with a green roof and charred timber cladding to blend into its environment.
Bogs – The raised mires and blanket bogs around Kielder Water & Forest Park are astonishing habitats. They trap carbon from the atmosphere, regulate river flows by holding water back in the headlands, and preserve organic matter in their depths creating a record of past environments. They are home to curious plants and delicate insects, and are acclaimed as the most tranquil place in England. Conservation of these wetlands on a landscape scale is ongoing, to increase the rate at which the peat develops and to provide safe access for visitors. [Link to Living Landscape Scheme ]