Under construction is a 14.2km blue-graded trail designed to open up the landscape to casual and intermediate riders, according to build-organiser Kielder Partnership. A tougher 18.7km red route is also in the making, gaining more height and linking with 7Stanes, and including a 1km stretch of north-shore.
Alex MacLennan, recreation, communities and tourism manager with the Forestry Commission, said: “We’ve made massive strides in developing facilities and bike tourism at Kielder Water & Forest Park in the last three years. Last autumn we unveiled the 670 metre (2,000 foot) Deadwater Trail, England’s highest single track route, which has helped us achieve international recognition. This latest investment will provide thrilling new opportunities for bikers of varying abilities, giving unique access to one of Europe’s most majestic landscapes.”
The trailhead for both routes will be at 18th century Kielder Castle. Three construction teams have begun work on the all-weather trails, which will be surfaced with crushed local stone. Wildlife and ecological surveys have been undertaken to ensure bikers steer clear of sensitive conservation sites, the Partnshership says.
The blue trail will be the longest route of its kind in England, organisers say. Riders have the option of taking a longer route, which drops down to Kielder Water, before linking into a new section of the Lakeside Way for a return trip of over 20km.
The more strenuous red route takes in the Lewisburn inlet and involves hard climbs, vistas down the North Tyne Valley and a bird’s eye view of the new £480,000 Kielder Observatory.
The red route will pass the ‘Bloodybush Pillar’, scene of a clash between English raiders and their Scottish pursuers in the days of the Reivers. The 1km section, the longest in England, will take riders over a wetland area.
Funding has come from the Northumberland Strategic Partnership via Single Programme funds from One NorthEast, European Regional Development Fund, Forestry Commission, Tynedale Council and the Kielder Partnership
Tourism chiefs predict the new developments will create major economic spin-offs for the region, while strengthening Kielder Water & Forest Park’s growing reputation as a magnet for off-road fans from across the UK and further afield.
Elisabeth Rowark, director of the Kielder Partnership, said: “Sustainable tourism is the key to our vision to make Kielder Water & Forest Park one of Europe’s top outdoor destinations. That means providing world class facilities, while retaining the Park’s unique wilderness character. These new trails meet those goals, boosting the area’s all year round visitor appeal, while offering bikers a route to explore this sensational landscape.”