Last year was a very special year for us at GearLimits. A year in which we have been on the road much more than in previous years, sometimes with outdoor brands, to use and review gear in the circumstances for which they were designed and intended. We also have wanted to share our experiences through video much more than before. Nature, colors, sounds, the sun, rain and snow, the feeling and the enjoyment of being outside; sometimes active, bombing down hills with 100 kilometers per hour, sometimes sweating uphill, legs burning, often just looking around in silence at everything around us. Always with a smile.

And in all those activities and all those weather conditions and landscapes, we notice how nice it is to have, to ride, to wear or to look through really good gear. Because great gear simply helps us perform better, makes what we do safer and helps us enjoy what we are doing even more.

Now that the end of the year is in sight, we would like to share our experience with a few of these beautiful and special places. Because it is not really about the gear (which we normally always focus on), but it’s about where good gear takes you, and how it helps you enjoy the things you love. In a number of posts, we will take you past Kleinwalsertal, Beitostølen / Oppland, Stubai, Whistler, Chamonix, and in this edition Kielder Forest.

Northumberland

We had never heard of Kielder Forest, but were familiar with the region of Northumberland. A name that I mainly associated with King Arthur-like antiquity: dark Middle ages with unintelligible English accents, dark wet granite, stone, the toughest heather, wind and rain. And that association proved to be quite spot on.

Northumberland is a truly beautiful region right up against the Scottish border. The wall of Hardianus runs through this area, which alternates between open plains with rolling hills, large stretches of forest and a number of large lakes. And everywhere you have these immense skies. The colour palette when we went in February was earthy, deep greens, purples, all the shades of brown, grey and black of wet granite. Simply brilliant.

To get to Northumberland you can fly on Newcastle, or as we did, take the boat from IJmuiden, The Netherlands. We did that because we had two bikes and a lot of camera equipment for the films we were going to make about the Berghaus Hyper 100 jacket. The plan was to go three days of trail running and mountain biking where we would film all our experiences to make cool videos.

(We invite you to watch part 1 and part 2).

To Bellingham and Riverdale Hall Hotel

Our voyage, which should have started at 11:00-, began with a bit of bad luck. The captain Stubing of our ferry was worried about the coattails of storm Doris, which was still happily wagging its tails across the North Sea. For 9 hours we stayed in the harbour of IJmuiden, on board, bored. I would like to say the harbour was picturesque, but it really wasn’t. As night set in we toke to the sea and on the swells of a still quite active North Sea, we fell asleep and we sailed through the night towards England.

In the morning we arrived in the harbor of Newcastle and drove to the beautifully situated Riverdale Hall Hotel & Restaurant in Bellingham. Such a lovely typical English hotel, an old manor house that had been refurbished by a well-known cricket player in the beginning of the 20th. The big green cricket field that our rooms looked out on testified to that. Stereotypical English decor, a serene silence and delicious food. I will definitely go to Riverdale Hall Hotel again!

Kielder Water & Forest Park

Riding north shores in Kielder Forest

Kielder Park is an area of 400 square kilometres with, among other things, the largest man-made lake in Europe. A lot of water, in the form of lakes and rivers, where you can be active in all sorts of ways, as well as forests and hills of the darkest and greenest kind. What really interested us was the beautiful routes that you could run and ride. For mountain bikers, there is a network of dedicated and well-marked routes. There is a variety of levels, from broad unpaved to really steep and technical singeltrack. With jumplines, rock features and north shores it is really great for enduro-style riding. They have agrand total of a whopping 170 km of trails ready for you,  through the woods or along and around the water with always those huge skies of Northumberland.

Central point of departure is Kielder Castle, built in 1775 by the Duke of Northumberland. It’s a fairly straight forward robust structure with a vicentre center and a small cafe. Nearby you have a bike rental where you can rent anything from touring bikes to full-supsension MTBs (with e-options also).

What we didn’t experience first hand, but what I found very cool is that Kielder is the largest “dark sky preserve” in Europe. There is an observatory and the evening skies (if it is not cloudy) is supposed to be absolutely breathtaking.

As mentioned, we stayed in a hotel outside the park, but there are lodges, B&B’s and caravan parks in the area where you can stay overnight.

For more info check: www.visitkielder.com

Trailrunning and Mountainbiking

As mentioned we went to review an ultra light wind and waterproof jacket, the Berghaus Hyper 100 jacket while going trail running and mountain biking. And the circumstances for that review could not have been better. Doris was not yet finished wagging, so we were hit with heavy rain, high winds that almost blew our camera drone into the woods, and quite low temperatures. The type of weather you could call, bad. The old adage “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” was therefore very appropriate. We stayed dry, we did not get cold, even though we had to stop and go while running and riding to make our film shots.

Because we continued to feel comfortable and happy we also managed to see, and hear and smell the forest; how it transforms when it gets really wet. How forest soil starts to feel, how deep dark moss colours, how small streams find their way down the wooded slopes. And that deep earthy odour of everything an ancient, grizzled, weather-beaten country.

And as icing on the cake, on our last day, we were served with an afternoon of ridiculously perfect rainbows. One after the other, for hours on end.

All in all a brilliant few days in the dark, dank, wet, grey, heavily scented wonderful Northumberland. I’d love to go back again to ride even many more trails there. I hope to one day get that chance again!

This post was NOT sponsored by Kielder Forest & Water Park, (or any other sponsor for that matter) but originates from real enthusiasm for this beautiful, hidden gem in England.

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Mark Stokmans

Sinds mijn jongste jeugd ben ik een zeer actief sporter in heel veel verschillende sporten: begonnen met honkbal, tennis en paardrijden later nog hockey, voetbal, hardlopen en aikido. Daarnaast sinds twaalf jaar oud into actionsports: als eerste windsurfen, later klimmen, skaten, snowboarden, mountainbiken. Gek ook op video’s maken van action sports. Verder al sinds 1990 werkzaam in de sport, en sportmarketing eerste bij de Judobond en tot eind 2016 bij NOC*NSF. Naast GearLimits in het dagelijks leven part-time werkzaam bij digitaal bureau Infocaster.

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