Kielder Forest Plans

Kielder Forest Plans


The Kielder Forest Plans cover an area of more than 60,000 hectares in Northumberland and Cumbria, the majority of which is owned freehold as part of the public forest estate. Around 4,000 hectares are leased from the Ministry of Defence and other landowners.

The character of the forest's landscape is dominated by rolling hills, rising from the relative shelter of the lakeside to the exposed moorland edges, with Deadwater Fell and Castle Hill prominent. All the plan areas in Northumberland have in common tributary valleys running into Kielder Water, their form varying from the more intimate nature of the Lewis Burn to the wider valleys of Kielder and Bells Burn.

In the Cumbrian part of Kielder the relatively gentle slopes from west to east across Spadeadam and the rolling landscape in the south west of Kershope rise to steeper valleys and exposed moorland to the north. 

Most of the forest is currently planted with conifers, primarily managed as a timber resource, although there are smaller areas of ancient woodland among the plantations. On average more than a third of the planted area now comprises younger second rotation stands. Future restocking will introduce greater species diversity into timber crops, as well as increasing the area of native broadleaved woodland.

Kielder provides habitat for many species of wildlife, and it is estimated that the forest is home to up to 75% of the Red squirrel population on the English mainland. It will be important to maintain connectivity of suitable coniferous habitat to support a viable population into the future.

Since 2009 Ospreys have made Kielder their summer residence on platforms created by the Forestry England wildlife rangers and today Kielder Osprey Project is very successful with now 6 returning pairs of Osprey rearing young every summer to the delight of followers.

Kielder Head, Kielder Moors and Butterburn Flow are designated as Sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) and lie wholly within the area covered by the plans. Parts of Kielder and Spadeadam Mires, Kershope Bridge, Birky Cleugh and Irthing Gorge SSSIs also fall within the public forest boundary. These sites are covered by separate management plans agreed with Natural England.

A significant number of sites of archaeological interest also exist within the area covered by the plans. All the scheduled sites are well documented and covered by separate management plans, which are reviewed by an independent archaeologist.

Kielder forest is well used for informal recreation throughout the year and in addition many public events, of which some are signature, nationally recognised events. Most of the forest area is dedicated for open access on foot under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.

There is an extensive formal network of waymarked trails across the forest area for walking and cycling- these routes taking visitors into remote, iconic areas of the forest and giving panoramic views across the forest from the higher fells.

Some trails offer an insight into heritage of the area, such as the Bastle Trail at Sidwood for more info, please visit

The 26-mile multi-user Lakeside Way is located around the edge of Kielder Water in the centre of the forest giving iconic views around Kielder water.

Horse riding is welcomed using the forest road network and natural green trails where possible, Cuddy’s Hall area on the Kershope beat being a very popular area.

Picnic sites can be found at Warksburn (Stonehaugh) Elf Kirk, Kielder Castle and Blakehopeburnhaugh (near Byrness) and informally along the 12-mile Kielder Forest Drive.

One picturesque waterfall exists on the Hindhope Forest Walk (near Byrness) and is an extremely diverse in plant and tree species and a very popular visitor attraction.

Artworks include the James Turrell Skyspace installation Skyspace, the award- winning Kielder Observatory and more recently the Nick and Time Lapse.

For the full listing of Kielder art and architecture please visit

Since 2013 Kielder Forest is the centre of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, an accreditation awarded from International Dark Sky Association.

At Kielder the award-winning Kielder Observatory operates all year round delivering public engagement on the wonders of the universe and the wonders of what can be seen in the Northumberland Dark Skies.

For more information on Kielder Observatory please visit


The environmental, social and economic objectives of forest management detailed in the plans balance conservation, landscape and recreation values with the constraints of both the current high risk of windthrow and its future management.

Clearfelling has been planned to create age separations wherever conditions permit, and where practical the opportunity to implement lower impact silvicultural systems has been taken.

At restocking opportunities are being taken to mitigate the straight boundaries of earlier planting, increase the open area, and introduce broadleaf species.

The introduction of open woodland planting along the forest edges which bound on to the open moor will mitigate the hard change from moor to forest. This will significantly enhance the potential for increasing the Black Grouse populations associated with Kielder Forest.

There are a number of border mire sites within the forest without formal designation, some of which have been planted. The aim is to reinstate these as active raised bogs as the trees are removed through planned clearfells, and so restore the mires to their former extent.

What we'll do

The plans outline management proposals including felling and restocking over 25 years, with felling licence approval for operations up until 2021.

For further information regarding species composition and the future management of Kielder, please refer to the full plans below.

2021 Extensions

In past years, all 13 Kielder Forest Plans have been written and renewed simultaneously, creating many plans which are due for renewal at the same time. To balance the renewal programme, the Kielder Forest Plans are being extended by five years in 2021. It is our intention to renew the plans within this period following a structured approach, giving due consideration to the UK Forestry Standard, prevailing and relevant Government strategies, Natural Capital approaches as well as being informed through stakeholder consultation.

This extension will allow for the continuity of timber supplies and forest restructuring whilst supporting a measured, considered, and inclusive approach to maximising people, nature, and economy outcomes from our nation’s forests.

The extension will provide continued approval for the felling and restocking of the coupes hatched green on the originally approved plans, which can be viewed in the links below.