14 for 2014 #6 – Take part in a family cycle ride or event

 

Old and new camper vans ("My, how they've grown ...")

Old and new camper vans (“My, how they’ve grown …”)

While visiting family last week in Northumberland the boys took a day trip to Kielder Water and Forest** to try out the new mountain bike trails.  I was impressed.  Kielder is certainly a well organised centre and we had a great day.

Before we got started, though, Lydia’s homing device took her to park right next to an immaculate blue and white splitscreen camper.  I think it might have been a hired van from the Lake District (judging by a card in the front window).  It looked stunning.  I was struck with how compact it is parked up next to Lydia.  Now Lydia’s a little bit of a squeeze at times for a family; I can only imagine what it’s like trying to get dressed and packed up in the morning in a Splittie !

We parked at Kielder Castle, the former hunting lodge of the Duke of Northumberland, which proved an excellent base for our day’s mountain biking.  The trails start from there, we hired a bike from the bike shop there and enjoyed lunch and a well-earned refreshment break at the Castle cafe.

While Kielder sits within the Northumberland National Park it’s actually a man-made environment.  Kielder Water was created in the early 1980s by the building of a large dam to meet the rising demand for water from the North East’s industry (which by that time was actually in decline).  The Forest is also man-made, planted on moorland, and together they constitute the largest man-made lake and forest in England.

Mountain biking at Kielder Forest

Mountain biking at Kielder Forest

None of us had actually been on ‘proper’ mountain bike trails and so were looking forward to some great biking.  We opted for an intermediate (blue) run which in retrospect was probably a mistake since much of it was on forest tracks: far too tame for the youngsters looking for some exciting mountain biking.  There were a couple of ‘single track’ sections which were much more enjoyable but none of it particularly technical at all.  Being midweek (and the English schools not yet on holiday) we had the trails to ourselves.

The cafe at Kielder Castle serves up a great pot of tea with a scone and clotted cream – and after a couple of hours in the saddle I can highly recommend it.

Emerging from the forest

Emerging from the forest

** And yes, I know Kielder isn’t in Scotland but it’s just a stone’s throw from the border, so near enough (and I didn’t say my 14 for 2014 had to be in Scotland !).

 

Footnote:

I’m using my 14 for 2014 to help raise funds for the Naomi House Children’s Hospice in Hampshire. Naomi House cared for little Chiara, the young daughter of a friend and ex-work colleague who died of an incurable brain tumour on the 21st January. This case study tells the moving story of how the life of this energetic three year-old was tragically taken.

Naomi House clearly made a real difference to the last few months of Chiara’s life, and that of her family, and so this is why I want to use my 14 for 2014 to raise awareness and additional funds for the great work that they do. If you have enjoyed reading my blog and feel inspired in any way please consider giving a donation to this extremely worthwhile charity.

Thank you.