Kielder Forest Adventure

Megan and I were offered a look into the innards Kielder Forest (the largest man-made woodland in England) by forestry manager Simon, hubby of Fiona who works with us at the B&B. Simon knows this forest like the back of his hand; and we are talking about an immense 250 square miles (650 km2).

(from Wikipedia)United Kingdom Forestry Commission,  initiated the first plantings in the 1920s. During the 1930s, the Ministry of Labour supplied men from among the ranks of the unemployed. Many came from the mining communities and shipyards of North East England.  Note:  Forestry manager Simon said much of the forest was also planted by Polish refugees from the war who worked to earn money to return home to Poland.

Not only did we get an insiders look at the forest, we also increased our vocabulary along the way. First stop was Deadwater Fell (Fell: somewhere between a hill and a mountain in size and “more pointy”),  just under 1,900 feet and the second highest Fell in the area.  At the Fell, there is a “trig point” which is a marker for the highest elevation in a specific area.  (No one seems to really know why it is called Deadwater; but, several think it is because during the times that warriors from Scotland tried to invade England, there were a multitude of dead in the water.  That works for me!)

Meet me at the trig, for a
Meet me at the trig, for a “cuppa” (it’s cold enough to warrant a cuppa hot coffee!)

Also, there was a “shelter/art work” and I use the term “shelter” loosely because on this day it wasn’t a shelter, it was a wind tunnel.

It works as Art, but not as a Shelter for cyclists.
It works as Art, but not as a Shelter this day.

This area is part of the downhill single track mountain cycling route.  The old road to the Castle starts here and I am told by a local cyclist that it takes approximately 12 minutes to get from 1,900 feet to the castle which is at 650 feet.  Fast ride, eh?

Notice the
Notice the “emergency” contacts. This is not for sissy’s.

Next stop, two items from my England Bucket List (one of which I added at the end of the day):

Forest Head

  • Forest Head:  This is an excerpt from The Telegraph newspaper about the art.

    (Peter Sharpe, art and architecture curator with the Kielder Partnership, said: “The concept for the large iconic head was inspired by stories of Northumberland’s mythical folklore heritage. Both the Park and the new artworks have a magical combination of the great outdoors, cutting edge contemporary design and imagination. All of which merge to create a welcome addition to our award-winning art and architecture program that will be enjoyed by residents and tourists visiting the region for years to come.)

    If you could see this in person you would see that it is constructed of small blocks of wood which have been precisely cut to fit the curves of the sculpture.  Simon assisted on this project  because of his talent for chainsaw sculpting.  For those of you who got my photos of the “skewed construction” of the railway viaducts, here is another example.  Nose close-up foto.Look at the Nose detail

Simon then took us to look at the Janus Chairs and the Kielder Dam.

Then the real trip into the forest began.   And, this is where we stopped.

 Big Green Machine
Big Green Machine

Simon is giving us the opportunity to operate this John Deere worth 40 million British Pound ($62,453,591.48 USD) logging machine – is he out of his mind???  But, we jumped at the chance.  Operator Neil was calm on the outside – not sure what the hidden emotions were! This was NOT on my bucket list, but I added it when I got home.

Megan cuts down a tree
  • The forest is one of the last English strongholds of the European red squirrel.
  • It provides excellent habitat for many species of birds of prey. In 2009 a pair of osprey nested successfully in the forest. This pair have continued to nest there each year since, and a second pair nested in the forest in 2011.  
  • A large population of roe deer is actively managed.
  • Many archaeological remains can be found within the forest and are an important cultural link to the often turbulent history of the area.
  • The forest contains a number of art and architectural installations including a Skyspace designed by James Turrell  (photos sent previously)
  • Wave Chamber, a camera obscura in a stone cairn by Chris Drury.
  • The forest also contains Kielder Observatory which is an astronomical observatory.
  • In 2010, former British distance runner Steve Cram inaugurated the Kielder Marathon which is a circuit around the lake taking in the surrounding gentle contours.

Last stop is the Millennium Bridge, suspended by cables, built by the Forestry Commission for which they received an award; and used for the Kielder Marathon.Beautiful Millenium Bridge Kielder

Hope you all enjoyed the trip as much as we did.

Have You Read Any Good Books Recently?

Have You Read Any Good Books RecentlyToday I went with Fiona to Hawirk,  (pronounced Hoyk), Scotland which required us to drive through about 30 miles of scenic, green rolling hills of various shades and textures and free-roaming sheep that have been newly shorn walking leisurely along the road; causing drivers to slow, sometimes come to a complete stop, until they mosey along into their pastures.

lambs free to roam

Of course we started our day in Hawirk/Hoyk at the “Pickled Orange” cafe which boasts ” Great Food, Great Coffee” on the business card.  No lying, the coffee is great and is served with real, thick, sweet Scottish double thick cream.  Did I mention that it was sweet and thick?  Accompanied by a fruit filled, fresh from the oven, homemade scone with a side a sweet butter that was room temperature making it very easy to slather onto the scone halves.  Are you drooling yet?  I was!

Our day in Hawirk/Hoyk was primarily dedicated to finding the perfect birthday gift for Fiona’s friend’s 50th which, of course, involved wine.  Lots of looking, examining, evaluating, discussing and in the end making a purchase not only for the gift; but an outfit as well.

Now it’s time for tea and Fiona takes me to a darling cafe and bookstore in a narrow side-street called Damascus Drum Cafe and Bookstore. This is a book readers dream.  Old brown leather couch to sink down into while you sip your beverage of choice and immerse yourself in literature.  There were books, books, and  books.  I would have liked to take some home (books are for sale); but since I will be flying to Belfast on Sept 7th, and there is a smaller weight limit on Jet Blue, I could only wish.  And I still have 9 books I’ve not opened yet.

Since many of you are readers of books I want to share my recent reads and ask you to share yours as well. Number One on my list is by Phillipa Gregory who is a meticulous historical fiction writer and author of “The King’s Curse” which spans 40 years of the reign of Henry the VIII.  If you like this then read “The Other Boleyn Girl” and/or “The White Queen”; all of these are most appropriate for me, being in Great Britain, now.

Maeve Binchey, an Irish female author has an uncanny ability to weave her characters through most all of her books in a way that you feel like you know them; and, she gives descriptions of foods in Dublin that make you think you could just go down the street and get some.  Most recently I read “The Copper Beech” which chronicles 2 generations of families in a small Irish town with one small schoolhouse and a Copper Beech tree into which every student has carved their initials.  I would suggest you start with”Scarlet Feather,” then “Tara Road,” moving onto “Quentins” followed  by “Evening Class” and then “Nights of Rain and Stars”.

Elizabeth Robinson is a first time writer who gave us “The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters”.  Since I was an only child, my view of this hilarious book may be different for those who grew up with siblings.

If you have read “The Shack”, and I don’t know many who have not read it; follow this up with “Cross Roads”.  I’ve just started this one, but it is holding my attention.

Still to go are Garrison Keillor’s “Pontoon”; “A Map of the World” by Jane Hamilton, “The Things I Know Best” by Lynne Hinton and “Rules For a Perfect Life”  by Niamh Greene who also wrote “Secret Diary of a Demented Housewife”, plus a few others.  If you have read any of these give me your review!

PS:  I have fresh oatmeal cookies with raisins and toasted walnuts to enjoy with my books…..  I would have had more, but Megan ate some.

Megan ate it

Damascus Cafe and Bookshop

Fiona in Hiwark ScotlandTour Guide:  Fiona

Rhubarb, Rhubarb

According to Wikipedia: Rhubarb is usually considered a vegetable. In the United States, however, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction on imported rhubarb tariffs, as tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits.

In the United Kingdom, the first rhubarb of the year is harvested by candlelight in forcing sheds where all other light is excluded – a practice that produces a sweeter, more tender stalk. These sheds are dotted around the noted “Rhubarb Triangle” of WakefieldLeeds, and Morley.
In British theater and early radio drama, the words “rhubarb rhubarb” were repeated for the effect of unintelligible conversation in the background.[ This usage lent its title to the 1969 film Rhubarb and its 1980 remake Rhubarb Rhubarb.
If you like rhubarb .. or even if you don’t particularly care for it, try this yummy dessert “whipped up” yesterday.  Be sure to top it with a nice dollop of sweetened whipped cream.
You need an 8×8 pan, lined with parchment paper (optional).
Set oven to 375.  Bake for 40 minutes
Mix in a bowl and set aside:
5 C sliced rhubarb w/strings removed
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 C white sugar
3/4 C raisins
In separate bowl, mix well:
1/2 C all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/3 C oats (not instant cereal)
1/3 C chopped walnuts
Add to dry ingredients:
1/3 C cold butter, chopped in small pieces
Cut butter into dry mixture until crumbly
Put rhubarb mix into baking pan
Sprinkle butter mixture over rhubarb
Put in oven and bake 40 minutes
When cooled, plate and top with whipped cream a sprinkle of brown sugar and decorate with walnut pieces until the masterpiece is looking fab!
Sit and savor … Yummmmmm
Next recipe will be Rhubarb Creme Brulee
Followed by Rhubarb and Strawberry pie w/lattice top
Attachments area

Preview attachment Rhubarb Crumble with Cream and Walnuts.JPG

Rhubarb Crumble with Cream and Walnuts.JPG