Kielder is a beautiful area in the North of England. In particular, the Water & Forest Park brings you nature on a grander scale. The views are bigger, the night sky brighter, the sports wilder and the smiles wider. With three main visitor centres: Tower Knowe, Kielder Waterside and Kielder Castle, Kielder Forest is a large forestry plantation in Northumberland, England, surrounding Kielder village and the Kielder Water reservoir. It is the largest man-made woodland in England with three-quarters of its 250 square miles (650 km) covered by forest. Amongst wildlife and timber, the forest contains a number of sites of special scientific interest. The most famous being the Astronomical Observatory. This particular site was chosen due to its pristine night skies in a location free of light pollution with clear views to all horizons, which in practical terms means that it is one of the best places in the UK to view the Milky Way!
Knowing that the Kielder Forest had so much to offer, and never having visited it before, I was dying to explore every little mile of this incredible place, taking it all in and spending a nice day in my element, surrounded by nature. Bruno joined me on this adventure, and even though the weather forecast wasn't brilliant, due to chance of rain, we decided to brave it out and not reschedule the trip once more. We were going, regardless of the weather.
We left the house at around 10am and drove about one hour from Newcastle all the way to Kielder. The last time we attempted the trip, we got lost and couldn't find our way around because we forgot the most important thing: a map! We were very keen to see the 'Forest Head' in particular, a big wooden head in the middle of the woods, where you can go inside and look out the windows, which are the eyes of the head. However, last time, we made the rookie mistake of relying on our phones for directions...but when you lose signal in the middle of the forest, there's not much more you can do if you're not prepared. This time, we had a map, and we were determined to find the 'Forest Head', also known as Silvas Capitalis.
We parked at Bakethin Car Park, and we struggled for a second to find which way to go for Silvas Capitalis We were told there would be signs around, but we couldn't find more than a map on the wall. We took a photograph of the map, and I was grateful to have Bruno with me to guide the way, because my direction skills are shocking! I would have easily gotten lost and given up on it!
We visited a little shop where you could rent bikes to go to the 'Forest Head', and they were actually not that expensive to rent for the day. However, we opted for walking there which took roughly about one hour each way.
The weather was very unpredictable, though. One moment the sun was shining, the next the sky looked dark as a dungeon! We were so lucky on the way to Silvas Capitalis, but no so much on the way back. But it didn't matter. Even in the rain, I enjoyed every second of walking along in the forest. Just breathing the fresh air, listening to the birds chirping was enough to make the whole experience incredibly pleasant.
In no time, we arrived! What a beautiful piece of architecture! American artists SIMPARCH were the ones who created this beautiful head. As for its meaning, the head has been conceived as a watcher, an imaginary presence who has observed the passing occupation of the landscape over past millennia and who has also seen how environment has dramatically changed during the last one hundred years with the coming of the forest and more recently the lake. Members of SIMPARCH worked throughout February and May 2009 to fabricate and construct the hear in the forest. Silvas Capitalis has been made from approximately 3000 specially shaped pieces of European Larch and is glued and pegged together without the use of any screws or nails. Visitors to the head who enter through the mouth and climb upstairs to look out of its eyes literally get inside its head.
SIMPARCH returned to Kieler in spring 2018 to fabricate and install long-awaited ears for their muched loved sculpture Silvas Capitalis. Working with the same larch timber that they made the main head from, the ears take the form of trumpets protruding into the head's interior. Visitors can now listen to the forest through the sculpture's ears, as well as watching through its eyes.
I could have camped right there and stay the night. I was so surprised at how comfortable it was inside the head. They even made little wooden stools so you could sit on them and look out the windows.
On our way back down, we took some photographs of the stairs and the inside of the head. The rain had stopped at this point, so it was the right time to start walking back. Halfway through the journey, it started pouring down with rain. We both had waterproof jackets and shoes, but my leggings were absolutely soaked by the time we got back to the car.
Once we got to the car, we drove back to Newcastle, and ended up going to the pub for a burger (vegan burger for me!), and a drink. It was the perfect way to end another weekend. I can't wait to plan our next nature adventure.
I hope you're having a great start to the week. Speak soon,