Follow The Heron, Kielder, Sat 20th March

We’ve always loved Kielder, the forest, parks and water, it’s an absolutely magical place, that constantly re-invents itself. Whether that’s sculpture, arts programmes, mountain bike routes or star gazing, there always seems to be something new going on.  So another chance to visit, is always grabbed with both hands, especially as on this occasion, we blagged on-site accommodation too.

We weren’t actually sure what this free event, “Follow the Heron”, was all about, it was billed by Kielder Partnership as… “Kielder Water & Forest Park’s first ever magical lantern festival.” And we were invited to join them “throughout the day and early evening to celebrate the beauty, culture and diversity of Northumberland.”

Right, we said, we’ll have some of that. We got to Leaplish, around 3 and couldn’t find the “cultural diversity” anywhere… we later realised that most of it was going on at the castle. Still… after a cuppa to recharge the batteries after the long drive. We set off to make our “lantern.” What a bleedin’ messy job that was too. Twigs, tape, tissue and copydex… not the first lantern I’ve made either, but definitely one of the messiest. Then it was just a waiting game. Firstly waiting for the chuffing lantern to dry, secondly waiting for “something” to happen. Now, again, with the benefit of hindsight that “something” turned out to be the sunset. (Obvious really, for a lantern procession).  However not obvious at the time, and not obvious, to the gradually assembling throng of young and old, who were definitely showing signs of impatience and unrest. As the samba band beat out a steady rhythm and lantern candles were being lit, and we finally entered into the long awaited twilight…  I suddenly had the strangest feeling that we were all part of some lawless, torch carrying mob about to embark on a lynching. Perhaps it was the wicker man, pagan-ness of the event, perhaps it was the fact that a twelve foot illuminated Heron had just hoved into view! Anyway, finally there was the Heron and we were here to follow it, (Where to? No one knew! Why? No one cared!)

Off we set, winding through the forest, past stars, and salmon and more heron lanterns, hundreds of us with our lanterns, following a steel band, following a samba band following an enormous heron. Class really.

Now, in all fairness it wasn’t that far, but cold tired, legs from the delayed start, meant that many of the younger members of the procession where starting to show signs of fatigue… (you know those long “are we there yet?” car journeys!!!.) But we finally emerged from the forest onto a grassy embankment overlooking the water, for a truly stunning finale. A feast of light and gushing water, all to the strains of Karine Polwart’s …. You guessed it… “Follow the Heron” and suddenly, like an icy blast of Kielder Water, in your face, it all made sense….

The back of the winter is broken,
light lingers long by the door,
the seeds of the summer have spoken.
In gowans that bloom on the shore.

By night and day we’ll sport and we’ll play
And delight as the dawn dances over the bay
Sleep blows the breath of the morning away
And we follow the heron home

And yes it’s the 20th March… the Vernal Equinox, Spring is here, the back of the winter IS broken and the penny has finally dropped. Brilliant.

Congratulations to all those kids, who made lanterns and learnt that song and travelled from all over Northumberland, and Avanti Display and Dodgy Clutch for the stunning water show and the musicians and all those people who made the effort to head to Kielder to welcome in the spring… and of course to Kielder Partnerships for another magical night out, in one of my favourite places. Makes you proud!

Karine Polwart. Follow the Heron on YouTube.

By Dave on March 22, 2010


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