Pillow, sleeping bag, roll mat, tent, food and water (amongst other bits and bobs). Put them all in your rucksack and head off into the wilderness… What could go wrong?!
Not much if it’s only a small trek in Kielder, but it was a perfect introduction to wild camping. It’s something that I’d wanted to do for years – ever since I got the outdoor adventure bug – but only got round to doing it a couple of months ago, on the 1 May 2017 as I had the Tuesday off work after the bank holiday weekend. So I packed up rucksack, got into my now-old car and headed up to Europe’s largest manmade forest and reservoir.
I didn’t really have much choice other than to go ahead when I got there. My petrol tank was empty, and the fuel station in Kielder village didn’t open until 7am the following morning (at least that’s what the sign says, even though it has self-service, cards-only pumps). I arrived just after 7pm, with dusk just a couple of hours away, I parked up and started to head along the well-maintained paths, with just an idea of where I was going.
I was looking for one of Kielder’s wild camping sites, which I’d stumbled upon when Googling for ideas where to wild camp. It seemed perfect. The whole area is remote enough for it to feel like proper wild camping, but close enough to a main road for easy access. Not to mention the fact that the whole place is pretty much under the ownership of Northumbrian Water and the Forestry Commission, meaning that you’re never too far away from their workforce. I did pass a couple of NW minivans as I made my way to the backpacking site, which seemed odd for a bank holiday Monday evening.
Anyway, I headed off from the village with mixed feelings. Mostly excitement, but also a tad nervous. What about if I really did want to go home? Will I actually enjoy it?
The first part of the walk took me over Kielder viaduct, which was preserved by Northumberland and Newcastle Society when the reservoir was being made. It’s not until another half an hour or so later that you see the final glimpse of civilisation, as you pass a farm / large house to be envious of on the left, overlooking where Bakethin reservoir feeds into Kielder water. I wonder what it’s like to live there?
It’s a nice short trek to where I’ll be calling home for the night, near Silvas Capitalis, the shocked-looking ‘forest head’ work of art.
After pitching camp, it was time to get the hot water on and settle down for the night after a hot chocolate.
Forests can be noisy places at night. Mostly peaceful – like birds chirping, but some horror-movie like. I’d managed to convince myself that there was a Blackadder slithering around at 4am, but alas there was nothing there when I got out to have a look.
By 6am I was ready to leave, all packed and leaving the area as I found it. It was time to head home; the petrol station would be open by the time I walked back. I’d done it! My first night camping away from a campsite, in the near-wilderness with everything I needed in my rucksack. Where next?