I trace the outline of Ursa Major with my index finger, barely seeing its tip in the midnight darkness of Kielder Forest.
It’s the only star constellation I’m able to recognise. The Plough. Big Dipper. The Great Bear my family’s dog, Ursina, is named after. For someone who loves nature so much I know very little about it. My dad always wanted to teach me to recognise every tree by its leaves and every bird by its song. But somehow we never got around to it.
“I’m a city girl,” I would say whenever someone brought up living in the countryside. “I think I’d go crazy.”
Something changed within me this past year. Every fibre of my being feels oversaturated. Overstimulated. Overwhelmed. I recently went on a whirlwind trip to London and started to sweat the minute I stepped off the airplane. There were people everywhere, rushing to and fro. An older man whacked me with his suitcase without stopping to apologise. It didn’t hurt but it made me feel invisible, like a tiny speck of dust floating through the universe.
But looking up at Ursa Major that exact realisation felt different. Freedom coursed through my veins as I aligned myself with the universe, a vastness completely oblivious to my existence. I’d been an existentialist since before I found out what the term meant. I don’t believe our lives have a meaning unless we create one.
My mission right now is to figure out what that is for me. As it turns out, nature is where I’m able to think about it most clearly and possibly also the answer.
That finally brings me to my little glamping trip to Kielder Forest. I can’t claim any credit for organising it – that was all Peter who arranged it for our second anniversary. I’d spent months raving about a website called Canopy and Stars, and he took it upon himself to fulfil my dream of staying in a magical hut somewhere deep in the woods.
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a sponsored post. I just really love the website and have ever since I discovered it during my final year of high school. But hey, if you work for them drop me a line and I’ll happily become a cabin tester for you… #dreamjob
The entire trip had been a surprise but the wellies in the trunk and an offhand comment about spotty phone signal tipped me off. I assumed it was going to be some form of glamping – not camping. The last thing you want on your anniversary is to wake up to ants sharing your sleeping bag and affectionately nibbling your feet. No, thank you.
But I had absolutely no idea where or what our accommodation would look like. “I bet it’s a teepee or a wagon!” I thought out loud as we drove toward our destination. The reality was much sweeter…
Before I give you more details about this glamping experience, I’d love it if you watched the video below. It’s just four minutes long and I put a lot of time and energy into making it. I’ll show you the inside of our pioneer cabin, the surrounding area and some behind the scenes silliness from our anniversary.
Holly – our hut had a name! – did have wheels but she was a lot more than your regular wagon. I can say this with certainty because Hesleyside Huts has four properties, three of which are wagons, and they all pale in comparison to their big sister. Her doors were salvaged from an old church. Her walls were made from reclaimed wood, put together in the style of New England pioneer cabins in the US.
Staying there is as luxurious as glamping can get, from a king size feather bed to a free-standing copper bathtub and ensuite bathroom. There are plugs to charge all your electronic devices, binoculars and a gas stove. But none of it takes away from that delicious feeling of seclusion – it didn’t for me anyway.
The property is surrounded by ancient woodlands which are only available to Hesleyside Huts guests. There’s also a reservoir nearby – the largest man-made dam in western Europe – and the Kielder Birds of Prey Centre.
During the day you should definitely go on a hike, which is as simple as picking a direction and walking out your front door. If you’d like to sprinkle in some history check out Vindolanda. This Roman auxiliary fort was built in 85 AD and predates Hadrian’s Wall, which you will also find in the area. It is known for the Vindolanda wooden tablets which are among the most important finds of military and private Roman correspondence ever discovered.
But the fun doesn’t stop after the sun sets. While you’re toasting marshmallows, reading or playing card games by the fire don’t forget to look up…
Dark Sky Park
The star-studded skies above Kielder Forest are said to be the darkest in England. At nearly 580 square miles the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is also the fourth largest area of protected night sky in the world. That may not sound like a big deal until you get there are realise that you’re seeing most stars for the very first time. Seriously – it’s estimated that 85% of Brits have ever seen a truly dark sky.
Few sights are as inspiring as gazing up at the millions of stars that surround our little blue planet. In preparation for my next starlit adventure I’m learning to recognise a few more constellations. Move over Ursa Major, there’s a new kid… I mean billions of new kids… in town!
Have you ever visited Kielder Forest or tried glamping? What did you think? I honestly fell in love with it and will be sharing more posts from my subsequent glamping adventures here on the blog. Next up is a hobbit hut in (Hereford)shire, so get excited!