Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there

Twitchhiker Challenge Day 3 – Kielder Water, Northumberland
19/08/2009, 22:56
Filed under: twitchhiker challenge | Tags: , ,

This morning I was looking forward to an adventure that required minimal effort on my part, as I was due to board a hot air balloon. All very easy – it wasn’t as if I had to blow it up or anything so strenuous. Mother Nature wasn’t having any of it. High winds grounded my chance to cure my fear of heights – that’ll have to now wait until tomorrow, when I’ll be strapped into a harness and hurtling through the trees at Go Ape, squealing like a stuffed pig as I go.

So instead, a last minute solution was found and the now legendary Adventure Generator dispatched me to Kielder Water in the far reaches of Northumberland. The village of Kielder sits just three miles from the Scottish border, on the edge of the largest artificial lake by volume in the UK. Surrounding the reservoir is Kielder Forest, the largest man-made woodland in Europe. That neither of the latter two facts ever cross your mind – the view appears to have been crafted by Nature, rather than man – is testament to the planners and labourers who have shaped this idyllic landscape over the course of the last century.

Aside from a week in 2006 when I rode a knackered BMX up and down Burley Road in Leeds at five in the morning, I haven’t owned nor ridden a bike since I was 16. Then I had a yellow Tensor mountain bike, a great bike, and cheap too – it wasn’t sold in Skinnergate Cycles like the posh Raleigh models, but on a trading estate near Cummins where my dad worked. The other kids laughed at the badge on the front but I loved it to bits. Many an adventure were shared by boy and bicycle around Haughton and as far afield as Sadberge and rarely glimpsed Barmpton village.

So to summarise, you could have described me at best as a little rusty. At worst, utterly clueless. It took me forever to remember how the gears worked. I also failed to consider on which side to pass other cyclists. Obviously it works like traffic on a road with cyclists sticking their immediate left, but I didn’t realise this until nearly ploughing into a tourist. He only said a few words, the majority of them very bad.

Hills also proved to be a considerable problem:

Even in the grim weather, Kielder was stunning – the banks are filled with reeds and wild flowers, streams run off the land over moors and grasses, and whichever way you travel around the lake, your journey is punctuated with landmarks and curiosities – from forgotten train viaducts to this fellow, Silvas Capitalis:

Twitchhiker - Silvas Capitalis, Kielder Water

There are all sorts of routes around Kielder, depending on your age, expertise and fitness. I hired a bike from Purple Mountain at Kielder Castle, and against the odds managed to return it intact. All I’d suggest is slipping a comfortable pillow down the back of your trousers before setting off on a similar adventure – my backside currently feels as if it’s been kicked by an angry horse.

If you have a moment, there is a plethora of pics from today’s adventure on Flickr for your mild entertainment, including a particularly fine attempt at creating the work of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.


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