Kielder: Deadwater Hills 2-day backpack

Pitch on Peel FellA 2-day circuit of the Deadwater hills of the Kielder Forest region, largely following the route of the old ‘Kielder Stane’ Trail, now called the Deadwater Trail (DWT) on some marker posts.

We had pondered the Kielder Forest area for some time on the maps, a region encompassing a number of new hills including Peel Fell, a Dewey summit and our one remaining unclimbed 600m hill in England – the ‘SiMS’ list. This route traverses Peel Fell and includes Deadwater Fell, another new summit from the Dewey 500m hills, a circuit that seemed right for the predicted conditions.

The route is one of sharp contrast: the ascent of Deadwater Fell, and the descent through Deadwater Forest and return along the North Tyne valley, are very easy walking on good paths and tracks, but the traverse of Mid Fell and Peel Fell is typical north Pennine peat bog of heathery hags, tussocks and sphagnum. Despite being a named trail and furnished with a few waymark posts, the latter section is not sanitized in any way and after a wet spell is potentially very boggy in a few places. The line is almost always discernible on the ground though with even a few brief fragments of good path.

We saw several sketchy accounts of these hills online, and this being a sunny Sunday morning we expected to see at least a few walkers on the ascent from the Kielder Visitor Centre, but we saw nobody at all and the area was deserted for the whole trip.

The old Outdoor Leisure map shows this route but the newer Explorer map does not. Typically each revision of a 1:25,000 map shows various new named walks springing up here and there, but this is the first case I recall of a trail being removed.

Full report & photos

4 thoughts on “Kielder: Deadwater Hills 2-day backpack

  1. Interesting walk Geoff. I have wondered whether Kielder would be a good area for a backpack, but I can found very little information on any walking blogs describing walkers experiences in this area. One for the future I think.

  2. From the scanty accounts I’ve found, and from what we tasted on that walk, I don’t think it’s good backpacking country generally. The upland terrain above the forests varies from mildly unpleasant to purgatory: horrible matted tussocks and heather typically, and you need to fight through that to get to the peat-stained water (and if we think the English side is bad, the Scottish side is even worse by all accounts).
    Now that we’ve climbed our last 600m English top Peel Fell, I doubt we’ll return there to be honest.

  3. Reading between the lines (and your reply to Marks comment above!) this sounding like a pretty tough outing. Rewarding in an off the beaten track sort of way but possibly not one for regular visits 🙂

  4. I think the waymarked line over Peel Fell is possibly the only walk on the upper moorland that is quite easy. I’ve studied the Geograph photos of other parts at length and I recognize the M.O. very well. On most heathery tussocky moorland in walking areas, at least a fair number of walkers have followed the fence lines to reach the 2000′ tops and forged a usable path, but here there are no highly listed summits, extremely few walkers and therefore no traces of a path, even along the fences. Spacious views and solitude but at a too high a price, even for us!.

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