Outdoor family fun in the forest

10 wonderful wildlife activities to try at Kielder this summer!

Recent research shows that children are spending half the time outside compared with their parents.

However current studies also demonstrate there are so many benefits to being outdoors for children. According to www.childinthecity.org, being in the open air boosts Vitamin D levels; navigating real environments can help develop motor-skills and spatial awareness; there is evidence to suggest that exposure to the sun can help with eyesight and increase farsightedness in children; and being outside gives us all a boost to our mental alertness, whatever our age.

To encourage us to get out into the countryside more, the National Heritage Lottery funded “Living Wild at Kielder” project has come up with some great outdoors ideas for all the family to enjoy at Kielder this summer. And while you’re reaping the rewards of that fabulous fresh air – you’ll be seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and even tasting all sorts of amazing wildlife experiences and learning so much fascinating stuff about our native animals, birds and plant life without even realising it!

So, do something different this summer and head outside. Take a look at these 10 great outdoor wildlife activities you and the family can enjoy at Kielder Water & Forest Park from now until October. Set off for wildlife adventures you’ll remember for ever.

1. Ratty Ramble
Join Northumberland Wildlife Trust on a Ratty Ramble where you’ll learn about the recently released water voles at Kielder and be taken out into the forest to look for signs of them and maybe even see a live one. These family-friendly events take place in and around Kielder Castle. Ratty Rambles will be happening regularly throughout the summer and numbers are limited so booking is essential. Cost is £5 per person. For details on dates and times, please visit www.nwt.org.uk/events

2. Kielder Salmon Centre 

The incredible and unique life cycle of the salmon starts here! 2019 is the Year of the Salmon and Kielder Salmon Centre is the largest conservation salmon hatchery in England and Wales. You can visit free from 10am to 4pm until 30th September. 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 watch a video showing behind-the -scenes work at the centre Free entry. More information at www.visitkielder.com/visit/kielder-salmon-centre email kielder.salmon.centre@environment-agency.gov.uk

3. Kielder Osprey Watch

The return of the ospreys to Kielder Water & Forest Park in 2009 after an absence of 200 years in Northumberland is a fantastic conservation success story. From one pair in 2009, the Kielder osprey population has grown to six nesting pairs – and eggs have already been laid this year!
There are only a few months to catch these magnificent birds, so if you’re visiting between now and 18th August, don’t miss this opportunity to visit Kielder Osprey Watch. 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). This is free although the Wildlife Trust welcome donations. Find out more at www.visitkielder.com/play/discover/kielder-ospreys

4. Red squirrel safari 

Kielder Water & Forest Park is one of the last red squirrel strongholds in England. Put a date in your diary for Monday 19th August when you will be able to search for red squirrels on and discover their way of life in a changing world. Join professional naturalist, Bruce Ferguson, to track down one of Britain’s best loved animals. You’ll explore its forest home looking for the clues it leaves behind and also hopefully spotting the elusive creature itself. Cost £5 per person. Age 6+. Children must be accompanied by adult. Maximum of four children per adult. Booking Essential. Please visit www.natureholiday.co.uk or call 01388 529154

5. Wildlife and Osprey Motor-Boat Cruises
Enjoy a guided motor-boat trip around beautiful Kielder Water, with experienced Calvert Kielder staff and knowledgeable Northumberland Wildlife Trust volunteers. You will spot local wildlife and, hopefully ospreys flying ahead. The cruises take place on selected Saturdays and Wednesdays from May until the end of August. Booking is essential. Cost is £23 per person. Please book places directly with the Calvert Kielder Guest Services Team on 01434 250 232, email: enquiries@calvert-kielder.com or visit http://www.visitkielder.com/wildlife-events/wildlife-osprey-motor-boat-cruise

6. Go wild treasure hunting! 

The six “Wild at Kielder” geocaches hidden around the park allow families to enjoy fabulous scenery, learn more about wildlife and discover hidden treasure. Sign up at www.geocaching.com and download on to a smart phone or GPS system for free. Then head to Kielder and start searching. It’s a great family activity for all ages and gets everyone out into the open air with a shared mission and sense of excitement. Four geocaches are hidden around Kielder Castle, the Duchess Trail and the Salmon Centre; one is on Tower Knowe peninsula and one at the Belling. These caches are waterproof boxes in a camouflage waterproof bag containing activities, interpretation, a logbook and ‘treasures’ for geocachers to swap.

7. Kielder Night Safari
Hunt for the elusive night life of the forest including bats, owls and creepy crawlies of all descriptions. Join a professional naturalist, on 12th August for a night-time expedition in search of some of the nocturnal inhabitants of the forest. Use a detector to help locate some of the bats that live in and around the forest. At various dates throughout the summer. Booking essential. £5 per person. For more information, please visit www.natureholiday.co.uk or call 01388 529154

8. Wild Walks
A “Wild Walks” pack is available to buy at the Kielder main visitor centres and other outlets. Individual walks can also be downloaded here www.visitkielder.com/play/explore/walking The leaflets include a clear route map, route description, way marking and facts on the wildlife or features you might see on the walk. There are nine wild walks in the pack and the back of each leaflet encourages visitors to download the route on popular walkers ViewRanger app.

One of the new wildlife walks is the lovely Bakethin Hide wild walk. This easy-access, new wild walk is around 2.2km there and back, on even-surfaced paths and is accessible to wheelchair users and buggies. It is clearly signposted from Bakethin Nature Reserve car park and leads under Kielder Viaduct, past the dipping pond and along the Lakeside Way to Bakethin Hide. You’ll find beautiful views, interesting wildlife, curious habitats, a beautiful carved wildlife bench and new interpretive features along the route.

9. Zog Activity Trail
Little ones will love the Zog Activity Trail starting from Kielder Castle. 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

10. Edible wild mushrooms 

Here’s a treasure hunt with a difference! The fascinating Bruce Ferguson has been foraging for wild food in forests for more than thirty years. Join him on 12th October and find out what’s edible and what’s not in the world of mushrooms and toadstools - and taste them too! Cost is £15 per person. 13 years and over. Booking is essential. For more information, please visit www.natureholiday.co.uk or call 01388 529154


Outdoor family fun in the forest