I wake to the patter of rain on the window. It is nearly 9.00 and I have slept for over ten hours straight. Creaking out of bed I examine the damage. Apart from stiffness the worse is some chafing/burning on the backs of my upper thighs. I apply ointment and hope that this helps. Then I go for a big cooked breakfast which is excellent. When I mention my compasslessness in conversation the friendly folks who run the Blackcock Inn tell me that someone who took my proposed route north from Kielder over the moors got so lost recently that they had to be rescued by helicopter. Oddly they also say the guy got charged thousands of pounds which seems very odd as British mountain rescue is free. Anyway it doesn't make me any more sanguine.

The gentle rain increases just as I leave so I use the local bus shelter to put on my overtrousers. I don't like wearing them much but today should be fairly level and if it keeps on like this there is not much option. Then I set off along an old railway line for Kielder Water. This takes me out of and slightly above the village straight towards the lake.

Apparantly for my personal convenience a new walk has just been completed along the north shore of the lake, and had been extended along this old railway to the village. The footpath on my map is more direct and I feel really tired from yesterday's exertions, but it is a short day even taking the longer path along the lake edge and the alternative is forestry tracks, which I have had enough of for the time being.

By the time I get to Kielder Dam and the lake the rain has eased to drizzle. Visibility is poor but it gives the reservoir a mysterious aura. There is a tower off shore which according to the interpretation sign is the "tap" by which the water is extracted. Intriguingly according to the diagram there is a passage from the bottom of the dam to the tower which vehicles can drive along, under the bottom of the lake.

I am less pleased to see a sign saying Kielder is ten miles away. Ten miles is not much, really, but I had this down as a semi-rest day and I really feel like I need one. Ten miles plus the walk from Falstone in the pissing rain is not that restful, really.

As I set off I catch a glimpse of a small ferry in the distance. Along the lake-shore through the rain, I take photos with my small Olympus. I have stowed the new Panasonic in my pack as these are precisely the conditions that sent my Kodak insane after using it on Cross Fell (it is still turning itself on and off spontaneously).  The Olympus is (or so it claims) waterproof and shockproof. And today looks like a day for waterproof cameras.

The good thing about this route is that there are lots of things marked on the shore. Indeed I am using the tourist map from a leaflet from the pub rather than OS map. I have put both in my map case but the tourist map, showing the new path, is much more use. The first thing to see is called The Belling. A stone beehive on a little isthmus you are supposed to be able to see waves from the water on the stone shore but the light conditions are not right. The ferry comes in close for a look and I wonder for a moment if I could have taken it all the way to Kielder. After all, I did say ferries were OK, and I am still astonishingly tired!

But it doesn't go my way, crossing the lake to the south side and the road so no use to me however lazy I might be feeling. I trudge on through the rain. This path is not as flat as I had hoped. It goes up and down as it follows the curves of the lake side. There is plenty of fungus in the trees though. I come across a boletus with a slimy top, slippery jack?

The rain keeps coming and going but at some point it goes enough that I take my overtrousers off. You can guess what happens next. I spend most of today trudging through the rain in soaking trousers.

The next fun thing is truly hideous, a  scarlet metal shelter called 55/02  it seems to be designed to give shelter from all directions, with seats facing this way and that.  But all the seats are soaking.  And it would be an ugly thing, something like a deformed transformer, had it been dark green. The lurid red it has been painted is revolting to me, but that is personal taste. It jars in the landscape though, having no relationship at all with the trees and lakeside. It is only as I leave that I see you can pull the structure into different shapes and so maybe it is possible to arrange shelter for the current weather, but the seats in it are all already soaking.

Grumbling about modern architecture I stump off into the rain. More ups and downs. For a nice flat, restful lakeside walk this is becoming a major disappointment. At least there are a series of brand new wooden mileposts. Actually I am not sure if this is good or bad. They make me think of other milestones like those on the Cloud Trail in Derbyshire.  If you make good progress they can be encouraging, but if you are going slowly they really rub it in.

Still, I prefer to know how far I have to go on balance. My next diversion is to see the Belvedere. Another shelter and this one is much more like it. Warm and dry inside and sparkling silver outside. I take a rest and have a muesli bar. So far I have seen no one else since the fishermen by the dam, except two mountain bikers, one of whom was walking his bike as his chain had broken.

The next intallation is Robin's Hut an empty wooden shingle hut. Inside there is a singularly soppy story linking the hut to Freya's cabin on the south side. A sort of modern fairy story that fails through having no dark heart. Still it is a fun thing. But the rain is upon me and it is open ended with no seats, so I don't linger.

I pass some gloriously coloured orange peel fungus.  OK I may be being contradictory as this stuff seems to belong to the muted forest no more than the scarlet shelter. Still It lifts my mood.

On through the rain. I really am finding this much harder than I should be, clearly shattered from yesterday's exertions.

Four cubes come into sight. These are called the salmon cubes and represent... well fish... apparantly.  OK, guys, if you say so. One of them tinkles in the wind as I go by which is sort of fun I suppose.

And on to the Janus chairs. Now these I like the look of. Giant chairs that you can move around to vary the view. I am too tired and it is too wet for me to walk down to them though, so I take a snap or two and grind on. I am counting the mile posts now, willing the next one to turn up. Every step seems to be an effort as the walk takes  me away from the lake side and then back to it by turns. And it goes up and down and up and down relentlessly. Sometimes mountain bikers thunder past me, always going in the opposite direction.

At last I meet a couple of walkers, with a friendly dog. They have waterproof trouble too having left theirs in Newcastle in the morning. They tell me they are just going to see the Janus chairs and I grab the chance to get them to take my photo.

And on and on until the last and best of the sculpture things on the trail. The big heid. Actually it is called Silvas Capitalis (The Forest Head) and it is beatifully made and rather eerie even when you have been inside and climbed the little stairway to look out through its eyes. Really quite a magnificent contruction. 

After the head the walk starts to flatten a bit. And the rain has eased long enough for my sodden trousers to dry out.  There is even the odd glimpse of sun as I trudge on past an old viaduct and, at last, into the village.

It reminds me a lot of Kinlochleven, that is an aluminium town created in the deep highlands. This is a forestry village but the houses are of similar vintage and it has the same way of being deceptive - larger than you think with little estates hidden in the trees. I pass a mass of ducks waiting patiently on someone's front lawn. 

I ignore the signs and follow my OS map to the youth hostel. But to my annoyance it is shut. There is a sign saying that it was closed last night. Good job I did not make it then. And that it will open again at five. I make my way up to the castle and try to buy a compass and a proper map of the area to the north. But though there is a visitor centre stuffed with tourist tat, and a mountain bike hire place that sells lots of bits of bikey gear, bizarrely there are no more places to buy compasses here than there in Haltwhistle.

At least the cafe in the castle is still open and I have fabulously welcome pot of tea and bit of cake. And I admire the old forestry van parked in the courtyard.

After trying the shop I trudge back to the hostel and wait for the warden or manager or whatever they are called these days to turn up. When he does I ask him. He does not have a compass for sale but does have one he can lend me if I promise to send it back. It is a battered old thing with a big bubble but much better than nothing.

He also tells me that the last people to make it through that footpath to the north, some time back, said it was tangled, unclear and overgrown.  He tells me that the road, the only alternative route,  is a very quiet one.



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