Guardians of Kielder

Using augmented reality to connect people to the wonder and beauty of Kielder Water & Forest Park

Kielder Water & Forest Park is a vast expanse of natural beauty in Northumberland, close to the Scottish border. It is home to the largest working forest in England, the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe and thousands of plant and animal species who have made it their home.

The Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust (KWFPDT) partnered with Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley to invite applications from digital agencies for the creation of a ground-breaking immersive experience. A highly competitive process led to Arcade’s appointment and the beginning of the ‘Guardians of Kielder’.

The brief was to create a digital experience for Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust with the potential to:

  • Engage both on-site and remote audiences
  • Encourage learning especially amongst younger, more diverse audiences
  • Drive revenue and create new reasons to visit Kielder Water & Forest Park

Our response was an AR-driven experience designed to bring audiences of all kinds closer to the rich history and narratives of one of the UK’s most astonishing outdoor spaces. Importantly, it offers a way for people to go beyond basic engagement and, if they choose, to commit to supporting Kielder financially by signing up to becoming a ‘Guardian of Kielder’.

Starting with a digital 3D replica of Kielder, users can explore the expanse at various stages in its history. Audiences can see how the land evolved during the 20th century, view the impact of the reservoir’s creation in the 1970s, and even go back to pre-historic time periods.

When they are finished exploring, they can try the ‘Guardians’ experience – taking on guardianship of an area of Kielder for themselves.

Recreating Kielder

Recreating the Kielder landscape across the different time periods was a painstaking but hugely rewarding task. First, we used open source terrain data and satellite imagery to build an accurate 3D model of the present-day Kielder environment.

We then used contour data from old maps to reconstruct the landscape below the water line, and added back in the villages, roads and fields that were present before the dam was built. Going back 20,000 years, and then 330 million, took plenty of research, and a little artistic license!

Becoming a Guardian

Having explored Kielder in all its beauty, the question is: “Will you become a Guardian of Kielder?”

Those who agree are treated to the real magic of the Guardians app – getting even closer to the incredible flora and fauna, and feeling a genuine connection to the land no matter where they are in the world.

Guardians are invited to choose their area. Will it be deep in the forest? On the shores of the lake? In the marshes? Easily accessible, or out in the wilderness? It’s up to the Guardian to decide. Once they have picked their area, they can bring a stunning visualisation of the space to life, and get as close as they want to the landscape and everything in it.

Kielder Water and Forest Park
Kielder, UK
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Arcade's purpose is to 'connect people to place through play'. That really resonated with is and certainly proved to be true. All partners at Kielder are delighted with the app, the quality of work is outstanding, and it has been a real pleasure to work with the Arcade team.
Hilary Norton, Project Coordinator, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust