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University of Newcastle students build wildlife hide in Northumberland

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A wildlife hide has been designed and built by students from the University of Newcastle on the shores of Kielder’s Bakethin Nature Reserve in Northumberland

The award-winning Kielder Water & Forest Park contains England’s largest working forest and the largest manmade lake in Northern Europe. It is home to England’s largest red squirrel population and in 2009, ospreys returned to the area following an absence of more than 200 years.

Bakethin Hide was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund along with Northumbrian Water as part of Living Wild at Kielder. The hide comprises two spacious, timber-built, hexagonal pods - the ‘lake view’ which offers experienced birdwatchers a more elevated view of the osprey nesting pole and upper lake, and the ‘forest view’ which gives full views of the lake and the lower forest. 

Over the last two years, nine students from the University of Newcastle School of Architecture have worked closely with Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust through its Art & Architecture programme to create the project, developing several designs from which the project partners selected their preferred option. Students were supported by staff from partner organisations, employees and technicians at Newcastle University School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, and by Northumberland Wildlife Trust volunteers. 

Hide 011

Hide 011

Although the two pods are on different levels, both are fully accessible, giving wheelchair users exactly the same experience with a carefully designed space under window ledges. Each separate room contains boards providing information on the birds and animals that are likely to be seen from the hide throughout the year – as well as a blackboard and visitor’s book for sightings. The large horizontal, glazed sash windows can be easily raised to make visitors feel even closer to the surrounding park.

Beyond the hide, two screening walls extend along the lakeside and into the forest, reducing the impact of visitors on wildlife and helping to provide an undisturbed viewing experience once inside.  

Bakethin Hide is part of a series of projects delivered by Kielder and the University of Newcastle over the past five years, and according to the university students are now applying to its MArch course specifically because of the opportunity to work on a live project.

Staff and students’ view

This project has given me a step forward in my career, an opportunity to get ahead and a better understanding of how a building comes together. When I detail a building again, I will be able to look back on this experience, think about how we went about this project and how it might affect a project in the future.

Katie Fisher

The completion of Bakethin Hide demonstrates the school’s ongoing commitment to offering an architectural education that provides opportunities for students to learn by doing. The project has been challenging and the students have had to navigate complex statutory, client and user requirements as well as developing a range of new design and construction skills. The quality of the finished structure is testament to their commitment and enthusiasm.

Professor Graham Farmer, director of architecture at the University of Newcastle

A109 proposed bird hide site location plan 1 250 c

A109 proposed bird hide site location plan 1 250 c

Location plan

Clients’ view

As well as being a key element of the Living Wild at Kielder project, Bakethin Hide is part of our Testing Ground programme, which enables us to commission innovative architectural pieces that are also invaluable learning tools for architecture students, providing them with design and construction experience and helping to develop their communication and negotiation skills with real clients.

Peter Sharpe, art & architecture curator for Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust

Bakethin Hide been a fantastic project for all concerned and we have enjoyed working with the students and our partners on it. We feel it will be of huge benefit to the local community and to visitors, and will provide a fantastic vantage point for nature lovers for years to come.

Lynn Turner, Director of the Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust

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