At the weekend we had our second caravan adventure at Kielder in Northumberland. This time we were not alone – we were being joined by other canicross enthusiasts, one of whom was a fellow Beagle owner with her own blog!
Kielder Water & Forest Park is close to the border between England and Scotland. It’s pretty remote; there’s no mobile phone signal, no local fuel stations, and precious few village shops. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Kielder has become a popular location for outdoor sports and last year it was the location for one of the formal CaniX races. Although the shortest route from our house is only 130 miles, the drive takes over three hours due to the winding country roads in the final section. The journey went well for the most part, although as we drew close to the park we both heard what sounded like a worrying scraping, tearing noise. We pulled up immediately thinking that something was amiss with the caravan, but before I could get out for a look, the true source of the noise became apparent when a low flying jet ripped through the air above us. I nearly soiled myself at the shock of it, but the Beagles didn’t even stir from their slumber. How come they can get all worked up out about a park bin liner flapping in the wind, yet scarcely even notice a jet doing some crazy speed above their heads?
Arriving first, we figured it would be a good idea to check out the trails around the site and try to reconstruct the course that had been used for that race. That plan was quickly abandoned of course due to the fact that between us Susan & I have barely the navigational and map reading skills of a brain-damaged lemming. We did however manage to find our way round the well-marked and very scenic “Duchess Trail” by Kielder Castle. Though short, we knew it would make for an enjoyable run, and a couple of laps would come in at around 5k – ideal for the group’s first run together.
The next day the rest of our party arrived. Biggles did a great job of alerting us as each of them drove into the campsite, and he also alerted us to a couple of border terriers on a walk, a guy wearing a brightly coloured T-shirt, someone taking their rubbish out to the bins, and some ducks.
Beanie strains to get a first look at Murphy, the new Beagle on the block!
Before long we were all off on our first run round the Duchess Trail. It was great fun and Susan – who was tethered to both our crazy pups – had a couple of roller-coaster moments when she was dragged through the downhill sections rather faster than intended:
Video footage of our forest trail run
After the run we headed back to camp to refuel and prepare for our next adventure: a walk up Deadwater Fell. At around 2000 feet high we felt it would be a good complement to the morning’s run without being the draining marathon that a full-on Scottish Munro tends to be. What’s more, we’d read that the views from the top were amazing. It has to be said that the weather wasn’t great as we started out, but visibility was good enough…
I don’t know what, if anything, these sheep were thinking as we walked past, but it might have been something like: “Why the hell are they going up the fell this afternoon? Haven’t they seen the weather forecast?”
As we gained height it grew colder, mistier and wetter, but the waterproofs came out and we kept on going..
By the time we reached the summit we’d been thoroughly battered by wind and rain, our extremities were numbed by the cold, and the views were, shall we say, somewhat limited!
The summit, but are we smiling or grimacing?
The summit of Deadwater fell is home to MOD radio towers and a radar station, neither of which were much use to us, but it also has a shelter for walkers. We quickly took refuge inside, only to discover that this shelter had just one solid wall; the other sides were full of gaps. Apparently this was by design to let walkers see the views while still escaping the cutting wind. In practice, it was a bit like a pocket with a big hole in it; not a lot of use, though the roof did at least keep some of the rain off while we ate our snacks and sandwiches. As I unwrapped my sarnies Beanie and Biggles turned on the charm and although I was hungry I tore off a couple of pieces and fed them. Before I could take a bite myself, a third Beagle – Murphy – was looking longingly at me and again I succumbed. No sooner had I fed him than I became the focus of attention for the other doggies. Well, I couldn’t really show favoritism for the Beagles so I ended up being left barely a quarter of a sandwich for myself, and even then Beanie made me feel guilty as I ate it.
Huddled in the “shelter” just before the feeding of the five thousand
Soaked and tired yet surprisingly cheery, we headed back towards the camp. As we drew close, Susan saw the chance for a shortcut and we all took it. After a couple of minutes we started to have doubts about whether this “cut” really was “short” though. The path seemed to be taking us round in circles and at one point it went over a very strange, curved wooden bridge that banked first one way then the other. Yep, you guessed it! We’d wandered onto one of the mountain bike courses in the forest! Brain damaged lemmings, remember? In the fullness of time we did make it back to camp, and had a get-together in our caravan later that evening.
On the final day the weather turned good, and we got to run the scenic Bull Crag peninsula trail in sunshine. The trail is 10-11k long, and much of it is by water so there are plentiful opportunities for doggies to cool themselves. Despite this, Biggles and one of the other dogs were looking a little warm so we broke out the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler jackets we’d bought recently. I was very impressed with how well they worked; we just soaked Biggles’ jacket and put it straight over his lightweight running harness, so not all of it was in contact with his fur, but it still did an excellent job of cooling him down. Even by the late stages of the run he was clearly very comfortable – even more so than Beanie who generally copes well with heat. This was rather fortunate because the run became a little longer than planned; our party foolishly chose to trust in the brain damaged lemmings (me & Susan) again for navigation and the inevitable happened. Still, we did 13k and a couple of extra hills so it was all good training!
Video footage of our lakeside run
That was pretty much the end of our long weekend, and clearly it had been a long weekend for our pups. They not only had plentiful exercise, but the mental stimulation of new doggies and humies..
Biggles crashes out with his chin on the table..
Murphy chills out while his Mum dismantles their tent
Kerry likewise lets her Mum do the packing up
Despite their fatigue, our two pups made a spirited effort to relieve us of our cake slices as we had a final group cuppa in our caravan. Given her past form, Beanie was surely the favourite to succeed at cake nicking, but while she drew our attention it was Biggles who finally made the big score. He quietly snook up by the cooker, waited for a window of opportunity, then leaped at the cake as I was preparing the tea. He executed the action perfectly; normally he has to boing a couple of times to make his target height, but this was a one-shot deal. He snatched a huge mouthful of cake, leaving a Biggle gob imprint in what was left of it.
Has Beanie’s position as ace food-nicker been usurped by Biggles? She’s not well pleased about it!