Kielder Forest Drive toll road anniversary to be celebrated

A ROAD in Northumberland which has been billed as England’s wildest drive is to celebrate its 40th birthday in style.

Lord Ridley offically opens Kielder Forest Drive in 1973 by sawing through a wooden barrier

A ROAD in Northumberland which has been billed as England’s wildest drive is to celebrate its 40th birthday in style.

In 1973 a 12-mile route was carved out from west to east across Kielder Forest.

Cresting at more than 1,500 ft, the toll road has two claims to fame.

It is the longest public forest road of its kind in England, traversing a wild landscape to connect Kielder village with Blakehopeburnhaugh, one of the longest place names in the country, and the A68.

Alex MacLennan, Forestry Commission recreation and public affairs manager for North East England, said: “It is a drive where people have the chance of seeing wild goats, deer, buzzards and ospreys.

“The views generally are absolutely amazing and it is a real wilderness experience.

“Originally it was probably built for operational purposes but then it was realised how good the views were.”

Officially opened by Lord Ridley, the first toll ticket issued cost 30p.

The toll is now £3, with the money raised helping to maintain and repair the road.

But forest chiefs reckon the drive experience is good value for money, and around 4,000 vehicles make the trip on the stone road annually.

On May 11 the Forestry Commission will mark the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Kielder Forest Drive, when scores of antique vehicles from the bygone days of motoring will hit the trail.

Owners of cars, motorbikes or vans from yesteryear are being invited to join in.

A cuppa stop is planned for tea brewed over an open fire with the vintage drive also taking in nearby Otterburn and Greenhaugh.

“There are few more spectacular routes to get away from it all and indulge in the joys of motoring so we would like as many people as possible to take part,” said Alex.

The next day the annual Kielder Vintage and Classic Vehicle Show will be held at Kielder Castle.

Last year more than 100 vehicles from motorbikes, to tractors, cars and commercial vans turned up for the occasion at Kielder Castle.

“It seems that for all the comforts and gadgets of modern vehicles, interest in the simpler but more distinctive machines of the past is on the rise,” said Alex.

People who want to take part in the circular anniversary drive or the main Kielder Castle rally should contact Wesley Turnbull on 07800 853475.

The forest drive is currently closed for the winter and will re-open on May 4.

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