Travel Review: Wild Northumbrian Tipis and Yurts

WHAT more can a boy wish for? A 21ft tipi complete with a firebowl and the ultimate – a bag of marshmallows!

Wednesday, 27th June 2012, 3:00 pm

Twenty minutes after “checking’’ into his Indian home for the weekend, five-year-old Ruaridh had helped his dad build a fire, worked out how the toasting fork needed to be handled and cooked a pink and white fluffy kebab!

And all that while his two-year-old sister Flora whizzed around the spacious tipi kissing the beautifully painted animals on the inside perimeters.

Outside the rain thundered down, but the Hay family managed to keep dry and cook a three-course meal on the fire bowl, before turning in for the night, parents on a comfy double bed, while the children slept soundly on futons, all of us kept warm by duck down duvets and Fair Trade and reindeer rugs.

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We were nestled in the heart of the Northumbrian National Park in Tarset, around 20 miles from Hexham, staying in the tipi owned by Wild Northumbrian Tipis and Yurt hosts Robert and Victoria Hersey.

Set in beautiful rolling countryside, the tipi is stragetically placed on its own, with another three on site, but out of sight, and two yurts.

Cooking and washing facilities (complete with underfloor heating!) are close by and the Hersey’s have made a good job of creating an environmentally friendly atmosphere in beautiful surroundings rich in wildlife (red squirrels!) and flowers. The couple run special workshops to teach outdoor skills such as bushcraft and wildness therapy.

One of the attractions of the area is its darkness at night. A few miles away from Tarset is Kielder Water and Forest Park. There lies an observatory where you watch the stars by night and during the day, enjoy Northern Europe’s largest man-made lake and England’s largest forest.

There are lots of bike and walking trails and a birds of prey centre. An hour’s drive takes you into the market town of Hexham. Centrepiece in the town is the abbey which dates back to around 675 AD. Hexham Old Gaol is the oldest purpose-built prison in England, complete with a trip to the dungeon!

The town itself if compact and neat and has a certain charm about it as you wander around. It is also home to a small, but beautiful racecourse. We had a flutter on Ladies’ Day and enjoyed the old-fashioned facilities and well-kept course, which as with most small courses, offers race-goers a good view without the need for big television screens.

From Hexham, we headed towards Newcastle and the newly-opened Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens. Set in the grounds of Northumberland College, the zoo is home to a host of animals from emus to meerkats!

It has been well thought out and the animals are kept in spacious and green settings, with the staff really enthusiastic about their “inmates’’. Students are taught in the zoo and at weekends and in school holidays, it is open to the public.

There is so much more to see in Northumberland, it’s a county full of beautiful countryside, deserted beaches and picture postcard homes. Our trip was just a taster, like the toasted marshmallows, we’ll be back for more!

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