What better way to celebrate spring and Easter time than to surround yourself with English nature and wildlife at its best! And there’s no better place to enjoy this than the lovely Kielder Water and Forest Park in Northumberland.
Supported through the National Heritage Lottery funded “Living Wild at Kielder” project, there are some wonderful, fun wildlife activities and events here for all the family to enjoy over Easter and beyond.
We’ve put together ten ideas for all ages to enjoy this year in the beautiful surroundings of Kielder.
1. Little ones will love the new Zog Activity Trail. Zog is the lovable dragon featured in a Julia Donaldson children’s book - also now a popular animated film. Zog is forever trying to win a gold star by learning dragon skills including flying, roaring, and breathing fire. Forestry England is inviting children to step into the forest to learn lessons just like Zog, including how animals fly, what sounds they make and how they catch their prey. Children win gold stars along the trail and there is an activity pack available for £3 which includes a Zog mask, activity sheets a pencil and stickers. For info see: www.forestryengland.uk/kielder-castle/zog-activity-trail-kielder-castle
2. For older children, teenagers and adults, a great way to enjoy the forest surroundings, breathe in the fresh air and spot wildlife, birds, lovely wildflowers and trees is via Segway! Segway tours run daily from Kielder Waterside and are for 12 years and over. Minimum weight is 7 ½ stones and children under 16 must be supervised by an adult. Cost is £35 per person. Once fully briefed, participants can cruise along the Lakeside way at up to 12mph on an instructor-led tour. Fun and healthy! Booking is essential and you can find more information on times and where to meet on 01434 251000 or www.kielderwaterside.com
3. For a totally unique experience for the whole family, why not enrol on a Family Bushcrafts activity? On 11th and 18th April, you can learn a range of bushcraft and wilderness survival skills with a qualified trainer who’s been doing this for over 30 years. Deep in the woods, you all learn how to build a shelter, light a fire, cook an outdoor meal and make something to take away – maybe an elder-wood pea-shooter or a string bracelet from nettles! Children must be five years and over and there is a maximum of two children per adult. The cost is £40 for a family of 4, and £10 for additional person. Booking is essential via www.natureholiday.co.uk or 01434 529154.
4. Whatever you do, don’t miss the fabulous Kielder Osprey Watch! It starts this year on Easter Saturday 20th April and ends on Sunday 18th August, so there’s only a few months! Every year, Northumberland Wildlife Trust coordinates a team of knowledgeable volunteers who share their expertise with visitors from a viewing point at Kielder Waterside. Through powerful telescopes and binoculars available from the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, you may be able to spot the ospreys in real time on their nest or flying around and hunting for fish. Osprey Watch takes place between 10.30am - 5:00pm every Saturday, Sunday, Bank Holiday Monday (extra Wednesdays in July and August). It’s free although the Wildlife Trust welcome donations. More information at www.visitkielder.com/play/discover/kielder-ospreys
5. 2019 is the International Year of the Salmon and the incredible and unique life cycle of the salmon starts here! Kielder Salmon Centre is the largest conservation salmon hatchery in England and Wales. You can visit free from 10 am to 4pm from April until 31 October. Learn about why the Environment Agency raises thousands of young salmon to be released into the River Tyne- the country's most thriving salmon river. You can also see fresh water pearl mussels, one of UK's most endangered species which are reared here, and you can have a behind the scenes tour of the facilities. On Thursday 11 April, a special family Watery Wildlife Day is being held with walks, talks and rambles. On this day, Northumberland Wildlife Trust will be on hand with the Restoring Ratty stand, telling visitors about the fantastic initiative to reintroduce water voles to Kielder and there will be a ‘Ratty Ramble’ at 1pm. More information at www.visitkielder.com/visit/kielder-salmon-centre or on 01434 250269
6. How about a gentle forest stroll? There are a series of beautiful, new “Wild Walks” at Kielder including one at Bakethin Nature Reserve. This walk is around 2.2km and is accessible to wheelchair users and buggies. On the way, visitors can enjoy exciting new forest features. The “Wild it Up Clearing” is a unique, very special woodland space for all ages to explore wildlife. It is clearly signposted and highly engaging for little people. Another notable feature is a beautiful Wildlife Bench carved especially for the “Living Wild at Kielder” project by award-winning, self-taught Co Durham wood carver Tommy Craggs. Four otters provide arm and shoulder rests, while salmon swim along beneath, and an osprey with outstretched wings, alights from the rear.
To enhance your walk, you can enjoy a virtual tour guide along the way . This along with the other wild walks are available on the popular walkers’ ViewRanger app. Simply install the free app and search for Kielder Water & Forest Park Wild Walks. You can also download the full Kielder trails guide here: http://images.visitkielder.com/downloads/kielder-trails-guide137.pdf
7. Bakethin Hide at Kielder, is a lovely, peaceful viewing spot for wildlife, where all manner of flora, fauna and feathered creatures can be spied. It was designed, built and completed in partnership with University of Newcastle MArch (Master of Architecture) students and is accessible for wheelchair users and push chairs. The hide’s lake view’ pod is slightly elevated towards an osprey perch on a nearby island which offers great views of the birds throughout the nesting season, as well as many varieties of ducks, geese and other birds. ,The ‘forest pod” has tall windows which give dramatic views of the close-up forest floor to its high canopy. Wood piles on the ground harbour all sorts of small forest creatures from toads, frogs and adders to hedgehogs, while red squirrels can sometimes be seen darting higher in the branches. Free to visit. More information at www.visitkielder.com/visit/bakethin-nature-reserve
8. Kielder Water & Forest Park is located in the heart of Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. All year round, Kielder Observatory offers a wild, star-gazing and astronomy heaven with numerous activities for all ages and abilities every week. You can learn all about the night sky and use the powerful telescopes; meet experienced astronomers and learn how to take stunning astronomical photographs; experience meteor showers (shooting stars) and other celestial events. These activities are extremely popular so best to book well in advance. Go to the events section of www.kielderobservatory.org/ for more information and to book, or call 0191 265 5510
9. You can see one of the largest collection of birds of prey in the North of England at the Birds of Prey Centre at Kielder Waterside. It is home to over 60 birds including eagles, owls, falcons, hawks and vultures – and even a family of wallabies. The Birds of Prey Centre is open daily from 10.30am to 4pm. Meet “Sima” a White Tailed Sea Eagle (the largest breed of eagle in Great Britain), watch flying demonstrations and interact with the birds (daily at 1.30pm and 3pm in summer) and book an owl experience, falconry course, hawk walk or photography day. Your entry ticket is valid for the whole day. For more information, visit www.kielderbopc
10. Enjoy an exciting and informative, hands-on, multi-media journey through Kielder Water & Forest Park’s past and present at Tower Knowe visitor centre. The free exhibition area includes interactive opportunities to learn about Kielder’s wildlife and Art & Architecture Programme, games for young people to learn about forest management and displays on the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. You will also find a theatre space showing a range of videos- including the creation of Kielder Forest, the dam and history of Kielder Water, wildlife and Dark Skies. Tower Knowe is a great place to visit and as well as the exhibition area, there is a café and well stocked shop.