Yesterday I introduced my newest category “time to love” because, while there’s a lot of love in our house it isn’t always the LURVE kind. So, this here “EPIC” (I’ll get to that in a moment) blog kicks off the first of a series of posts about love and relationships and keeping it all alive while you have little ones running around ravaging your time and energy levels! Because this is an extra special date, sponsored by Visit Kielder, both Mike and I have written our own his and her points of view about the date. So, without further ado I bring you…

Our Epic Date to Kielder Water and Forest Park – by her

Probably the first thing you are thinking is why am I using the word Epic? I agree, no one over the age of 12 should use it. However, I’m not using it in the #epic (or worse still #EpicFail) sense but in the Oxford English Dictionary sense (“heroic or grand in scale”). Which therefore makes it OK.

Kielder is Epic. A lake that is huge, wild, remote and stunning. It has a quiet about it that you just can’t get in the Lakes (which is why I found the Lakes a bit claustrophobic when we visited is July, there are people and cars everywhere!). All things you probably wouldn’t associate with something that is manmade. That’s how epic it really is.

It seemed fitting for Mike and I to be returning there. When we first started seeing each other I did the Reivers Coast to Coast route (178 miles from Whitehaven to South Shields), which goes around Kielder. When I arrived in Tyne Mouth after 3 days of cycling, covered in mud and dust, sore all over and completely shattered, I called up my new boy friend on the off chance he could come and get me (trying to play it cool but I was literally DESPERATE to see him!). I hadn’t even been to his house yet but he turned up and did the emotional equivalent of scooping me up; making me hot tea, running me a bath, getting me cosy clothes to put on… And, we chatted and drank wine until I collapsed from exhaustion. It was the most romantic night of my life!

And here we were, 4 years later, driving past the pay phone where I had called him the night before he came to collect me  (because there is no phone signal around Kielder), preparing to have some quality time together, without our kids.

The itinerary for the day was biking then swim/sauna/hot stone massage then check in to self-catering apartment, then dinner.

So, we started the day the way all good dates should start. Not speaking to each other. Well, you need to have something to work towards. We dropped Reuben and Gabby off at Mike’s parents’ in Corbridge and drove the 40 minutes to Kielder. I spent all 40 of those minutes trying to send a tweet about our forcoming arrival…it never happened. And what I should have done then was accept that I wouldn’t have signal and only use my phone for taking photos and documenting the day. Lesson 1.

Mike loves talking about things we should do as a family. So as we were arriving on the outskirts of Kielder, Mike was already gearing up for a good old “we should come here more often” session. “It’s only an hour away from us. Oh, we should come here our parents and Steph and James and the kids.” “In fact, we should BUY something out here. Look how beautiful and quiet it is.The kids could go sailing every weekend.” Etc. until we arrived at our first port of call…The Bike Place in Kielder Village. I enjoyed listening pretending to still be in a huff but already the tensions were leaving with my phone signal.

Before my date got into his “fancy cycling gear”, we ran across the road to get our picnic from Kielder Castle. Mike and I had been detoxing all the previous week (hence the arguing!) so I was literally over the moon to see a bag of Walkers Crisps and a tiffin in our goodie bags.

kielder

kielder

Then we got ourselves ready for our bike ride to Silvas Capitalis. I’m not one for research or details so I didn’t know what it was either. We were advised that it was about a 5 mile round trip and since Mike was properly kitted out our guide wrongly assumed we would want to go further!

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My date styling out the hi-viz look

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Bike skillzzzz

Then we were off! And, no sooner had we got off the not very beaten path we were engulfed by the glorious Kielder Forest and soon after that, looking out over the vast Kielder Lake with nothing but water and trees as far as the eye could see. It was a grey day but there was something wonderful about the low cloud, brushing the top of the forest. In any case, in a few hours time we would be warm and clean and VERY relaxed so I almost welcomed the rain. I wanted to feel like I really deserved my hot stone massage.

kielder

Kielder

Before we knew it we were having a wonderful time together, Mike shouting across to me, “I love this!” – all previous arguments forgotten. It’s amazing how you can do that once you get away from all. The everyday struggles that Mike has living with the most disorganised woman alive, trying to get out of the house for a decent time and with the least amount of stress. Yes,  I know my faults but it doesn’t seem to matter how hard I try, they are still my faults.

But here none of that matters. It’s not even relevant because we were off to find a massive head in the forest. In fact it’s so massive that it will find us. And we will kiss in front of it because WE’RE ON A DATE!!

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We’ve made it…in more ways than one!

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Testing Mike’s speed and agility – set the camera off, then run through the mouth, up the stairs and get into position at an eye before the camera goes off. He did it on the first attempt. That’s MY man!

At this point we were meant to carry on for another mile, up a hill I might add, to our next point. But then I remembered my tiffin and spotted a little nook down to the water. So, at the grand time of 12 o’clock we sat down by the water’s edge for our lunch. My god, it was peaceful. And while Mike sat attracting the local insects, I pondered the quiet without the usual hubbub of home.

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The nook – a perfect place for some nookie? Not saying…

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Like honey to a bee! (I was so tempted to put “like flies on…” but that would be mean. We’re on a date man!)

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What goes through a mum’s mind when the kids aren’t around? Not a lot, I tell you!

After that we decided we should go a bit further because we were here and it was beautiful, so we went a further half mile to the view point, took a few snaps and were on our way back with plenty of time for a cup of tea, and some internet time over by the Leapish Waterside Park.

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The View Point. I think you’ll agree I look mint in a bike helmet 

We were told to bring our swimmers so we could make use of the pool and sauna while the other one was having their massage… Now, Leapish Waterside Park is not what I would call ‘luxurious’ but it does has a certain charm. The changing rooms are clean and they cater well for everyone, including families. The pool is quite basic and the sauna even more so but I think its main appeal is for a quick dip to ease weary muscles or for a family to have a bit of a splash in the water. It’s not really a spa where you would want to relax too long on your own (which by the way Kielder, I think that a full on spa facility would be a massive draw for the weary mama!).

Not that it mattered to me! I donned my bikini just quick enough to dip my toes in the water and warm up in the sauna before hopping along the corridor to a funny little conference room for my massage. But do not judge a book by it’s cover because I was soon to have the second best massage I have ever had! {The best being one from a little woman in Vietnam after spending all day and night on a coach and she cracked every bone I had. I don’t even know if that’s legal in this country but basically a massage would have to be given to me by an angel with cloud fingers to beat that one.} For a start the bed was heated. Big tick for me. Then she used the hot stones to relax my muscles before she let rip and really worked out all the tension. Just brilliant!

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While it was Mike’s turn I decided not to go back in the pool because I wanted all the lovely oil to soak into my dessert dry skin. So I got dressed (looking like an oil slick, I’m sure!) and padded over to the little viewing area by the side of the pool to read my magazine (we get The Week every week and I can’t remember the last time I sat down to properly read it!) and relax. It was so lovely!

Then it was off to Falstone Barns. I had no idea what to expect, other than ‘self-catering so bring some breakfast’ (which we didn’t have time for because I’m disorganised!), but it certainly wasn’t this. This was proper, no expense spared date night accommodation! We arrived to a beautiful little courtyard surrounded by some fancy looking holiday apartments with names like ‘Versace Glamour’ and ‘Romantic Medieval’, which incedentally has a tree in the middle of it! Then out popped Nikki. I had been told by Ian at The Bike Place, while Mike was moving the car, to expect a vivacious, slightly eccentric lady who was full of life. And, that’s just what I got. The warmest of welcomes and a tour of our gorgeous apartment, Classic Opulent.

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Kielder Falston Barn

Kielder Falstone Barns

Kielder Falstone Barns

Kielder Falstone Barns

That bath was running for me! Oh, the luxury! 

While Mike was getting ‘milk’ (he came back with wine and Gin), Nikki gave me a guided tour of a few of the other apartments including her newest venture Posh Huts. 2 Shepherd Huts that she had brought in and meticulously designed and decorated herself. It was during this tour that I realised I had fallen in love with Falstone Barns – Nikki was the Ying to my Yang. She is the super organised, detail oriented woman I wish I was!

Now, Mike LOVES small spaces so with underfloor heating and a little woodburning stove – I really want to go back for a little date in the Posh Huts in Autumn. While this is probably mostly off topic as we didn’t actually stay here, I still want to share with you some pictures from these small but perfectly formed love nests!

Kielder Falstone Barns

Kielder Falstone Barns

Kielder Falstone Barns

Kielder Falstone Barns

This isn’t your average ‘caravan’ loo!

Right, where was I? So, we settled into our apartment, I enjoyed a sumptuous bath (or at least would have done if I hadn’t put too much cold water in, wasn’t in a hurry and didn’t wash my hair in the now oily water from my massage!) and got ready with a G & T in one hand. We were getting ready to go to the Pheasant Inn, which was just up the road from Falstone Barns, and I’d struggled earlier to pick out an outfit to wear. The dress I’d picked was branded by Mike as ‘too dressy’ for a pub meal so I plumped for jeans and a jumper with heels, which in itself is a mile-stone. This used to be my signature look (I know, sad!) but I literally can’t remember the last time I wore this that wasn’t pre-baby.

Kielder

Kielder

Then after a while of trying to take a photo of ourselves in our lovely apartment, ready to go out (this picture is literally the best of a bad bunch!), we made our way up the road to the Pheasant Inn. It was a quaint little pub, which was exactly what I had expected. I had also expected to be looked at funny by the locals on arrival but there was none of that and we were seated by a friendly bar man in the prime people watching spot in the corner by the bar. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the couple in their 70s opposite playing on their iPad while they waited for dinner. Maybe they had only just got wifi too, that’s not a crime, surely?! You’ll understand the relevance of that later!

Kielder

Kielder

The menu was huge and I spent ages trying to decide on what to have…Ian from The Bike Place had recommended the Lamb, so Mike went for that and just when I had decided on Belly Pork, our friendly Bar Man threw a spanner in the works by informing me that the special today was Northumberland Crab salad, so I had to have that. It was deliciously kitsch complete with strawberries in the salad! And we enjoyed it alongside a bottle of wine.

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And there endeth a fantastic date with my fella. Or so I thought. When we got back we (I) popped a bit of Miss Congeniality on the telly and I caught up on a bit of the day’s instagramming. BIG mistake. So, listen up people and learn from my mistake: when you’re on a date day and night, it’s not over until you’re on your way home! It will be tempting to check your emails and facebook and twitter and instagram and pinterest and [complete with social media of choice] after having a day off, but you will live to regret it… believe me! #Epicfail

I just wanted to say a final thank you to everyone at Kielder water and forest park for hosting us last week. There was a lot of thought and effort that went into ensuring we had a wonderful day and night. I am only sorry that we weren’t able to make the most of the following day’s activities as unfortunately we had to be back in Newcastle for Mike to go to a meeting. When you go to Kielder you will witness first hand what a tight-knit community it is. I mentioned a few times Ian in the bike shop, who knew Nikki at Falstone Barns and ate Lamb at the Pheasant Inn. He was also married to a woman who works at the Leapish Waterside Park! I guess with it being so remote everyone knows everyone and looks out for each other. It’s incredibly endearing but unlike many places I have visited, we were welcomed with open arms and I know for a fact we will be back, especially with the kids and hopefully sailing!