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In a new initiative by Forestry England, overnight stays in selected car parks in the Kielder Forest area are now permitted. All that’s required is a payment of £10 via one of their payment machines.

While I would consider £10 to be a bit steep for the privilege of parking overnight on a car park that doesn’t provide anything in the way of facilities other than a patch of tarmac, Kielder Forest is an area that I’ve not been to for a while, or explored in any depth, and we decided that it would provide a good interim stop for us between the delights of Embleton and Dunstaburgh, and the final destination on our mini-Northumberland aventure, Hadrians Wall, where we plan to be tomorrow.

After checking out all three candidate car parks (which, I note, has since been extended to include the rear car park at the Anglers Arms in Kielder village), we decided the one by Kielder Castle felt the most appropriate for our needs. Tower Knowe seemed far too busy, and open, while the relatively small Elf Kirk View car park really didn’t have much of a view at all, and was… frankly… too small…

Kielder Castle is currently closed to visitors, so after parking up, we went for a short walk, following a marked route along a path known as Lakeside Way, by Kielder Burn.

We walked as far as Bakethin Reservoir, where there is a hide, although we chose not to visit it, however, on account of all the ones we encounter at the moment being closed due to Covid. Instead, we crossed the viaduct and followed the footpath back to Kielder village, where a planned pint at the Anglers Arms never happened. We sat out on one of the picnic tables waiting to be served (as per the instructions on the table), but never was.. I hate that… The fact that the pub was in the middle of taking delivery from a beer wagon doesn’t seem a good reason to totally neglect your customers…

Back at the car park, which is spacious and surrounded by the forest, and a brilliant place to stay the night, we proceeded to try and pay for an overnight ticket. Unfortunately, the car payment machine told us it was out of service, so I popped into the adjacent bike hire shop to obtain a handful of pound coins for the coin meter, only to discover that when it reached £7 (the daytime maximum), it printed out, and issued the ticket (which would only be applicable up until midnight), without giving us the opportunity to cancel it.

Slightly miffed at having had £7 extracted from us so easily, with no overnight ticket to show for it, I went back into the Bike Hire shop to report the issue. The chap in there was very good, despite the fact that this was clearly not his department or his reponsibility. He attempted to telephone the Forestry office while I was there, with no luck, and there didn’t appear to be any rangers in the vicinity

In the end, we taped the £7 ticket to the windscreen with a note explaining the problem. I fully expected us to get a knock on the van door in the early hours, demanding an extra £3 off us… Instead, as we were sat by the van enjoying a cup of tea some time later while waiting for our evening meal to cook, a young lady from the office dropped by, having heard of our plight, apologised for the problems with the ticket machine and refused to take the extra £3, insisting that we enjoy our evening stayover at a reduced rate in compensation.

So… a satisfactory result, then. Time to relax and enjoy the quiet of the forest and the clear, starry skies (although… no stargazing tonight as it’s too bloomin’ cold!…)

Peter Woolley

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