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Blakehope Nick Overlook (‘The Nick’)

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Welcome to The Nick

The Nick, at the highest point on Kielder Forest Drive, is a great place to stop and look, take in the dramatic surroundings, and fully experience the raw wildness of this upland landscape.

‘The sculpture’s open-ended, twisted form harnesses the site’s wild nature and unique climatic conditions, while also providing different levels of enclosure and exposure.

The Nick is a dramatic shelter that has quickly become a highlight of the Forest Drive. It’s an intriguing beacon for Blakehope Nick, designed to enhance the experience of visiting this remote spot. It provides a remarkable vantage point, with panoramic views down the valley towards Kielder, and offers a new way to focus on features of the landscape. 

Download a Travelling Tales guide – or pick one up at either end of the Forest Drive – to find out more about the route, The Nick and what to see along the way.

The inspiration for The Nick

The structure lies along an axis connecting the villages of Byrness in Redesdale and Kielder in North Tynedale. It references the vital role that the Forest Drive plays in connecting the two valleys and their communities, and celebrates the stories embedded in this upland landscape. Pastoral farmers and hardy foresters have long lived and worked up here, while lawbreakers and adventurers have passed through. This is also an important corridor for a rich array of wildlife, at home in the forest or out on the open heath and boggy mires.

Visit The Nick to see how its design captures, isolates and identifies elements of this remote landscape, focusing the eye on the heather and mosses that form this rare peat bog ecology. See how it frames the distant fells and offers views above in a celebration of Northumberland’s endless skies. Discover how each segment of the landscape is framed in turn, culminating in the stunning westward view, down the Forest Drive to the head of the North Tyne valley. 

The structure’s unique tilted pentagonal form is built from larch, much of which came from just over the border in Scotland. This distinctive tree, which thrives in Kielder Forest, is the only European conifer that loses its needles in the winter. It’s a popular wood for building, and is the perfect material to withstand the exposure and climate at the highest point on the Forest Drive.

The creative team

The Nick was designed and built by a team of seven students from Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, who recorded the process in their entertaining blog. They worked with members of the Redesdale community throughout 2018, to generate ideas for the project and then develop the selected proposal into a detailed design. The students built much of the structure in the university workshops during the autumn, then transported and assembled its individual parts to create the finished structure at Blakehope Nick. This is the latest project in Kielder Water & Forest Park’s Art & Architecture programme, which has been running since 1995 and has delivered over 80 visual art and architecture projects inspired by the area’s complex environment and rich history. The Nick was commissioned by Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, working with Newcastle University and Forestry England, as part of the Revitalising Redesdale Landscape Partnership. It was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Forestry England and Newcastle University, with support from James Christopher Consulting and D. G. Walton and Son.