Saturday, 29 September 2012

High Force to Low Force 29/05/12

One of our pipe dream walks from long ago, courtesy of IH, was to take a bunch of us in two cars up to Cow Green reservoir and walk the Pennine Way path down Teesdale to Middleton-in-Teesdale. It never came to pass of course because the distance seemed like a long way, and the fact that the drive from Leeds would be way too far to do in a day. However, sights along the way of that walk appeal to my parents so for day three of my jollies, so we take the scenic route over the B6276 from Eden to Tees, for a day in the wilds of Teesdale.

Spring Jollies: Day Three

High Force to Low Force.  2 miles

Cow Green Reservoir & Mickle Fell
Driving to Cow Green reservoir takes the better part of the morning when you don't get an early start and it's a fine place to stop for a picnic in the car. It's a lovely morning and I wish I had been prepared for walking, but didn't bring my boots, so I have to enjoy the wilderness of this amphitheatre at a remove, with Cross Fell and the Dun Fells looking suspiciously close to the north west, and Mickle Fell (the highest point in Yorkshire before County Durham "stole" it, also only accessible with the permission of the Army!) to the south. Some would say that the reservoir spoils the landscape, but I'd disagree, for me it gives us a reason to go out there to witness it, in the sun, a silvery surface on the water with a surrounding of hills in the North Pennines, gorgeous damn landscape. Sadly no time for walking, and the round trip to down Cauldron Snout would take too long with limited time available.

High Force
Next sight is High Force, only 6 miles down the road, and not many waterfalls have their own hotel, and even out in the sticks and midweek it seem to be a huge tourist draw. Frustratingly, the waterfall is a long walk down from the road, not in general terms but long for my parents, but cutting the path down to the Tees takes us on a trip down through the geological strata that define the area. The falls at High Force are formed by the River Tees spilling 20 metres off the edge of the Great Whin Sill, the enormous slab of igneous Dolerite which forms notable landscape features all over the North (the Farne Islands, Dunstanburgh Castle, Hadrian's Wall and High Cup Gill are all located on it), and carving a gorge into the limestone below. Doesn't look like a falls you should try canoeing over, or even getting that close to, as tonnes of peat coloured water crash down with a satisfying roar, and it has formed a neat little arena to be viewed from, It's definitely worth loitering here for a while, especially when there's been a wet week preceding.

River Tees, upstream from Low Force
River Tees, downstream from High Force

Taking the walk back up hill, and my parents want a coffee break, so I give them the option of taking their beverage at the Hotel, or at the tearooms at Low Force, whilst I go for a stretch down the riverside for a mere two miles. Only an hour, plenty of time for my folks to refuel and nap as necessary. Sadly, the day has clouded over, so the sights of Teesdale are somewhat muted, but from the Hotel, it down the path through the fields down to the crossing over the Tees to meet the Pennine Way on the south bank. After a relatively smooth section, the river gets noticeably rockier and you keep thing that Low Force has arrived sooner than you think. You're not there of course, there are mini falls and rapids down for quite a stretch, the river even divides at one point, but we walk along the drier channel on the south side as the water level is relatively low. Bird spot in the meadows and the keen eyed can see Lapwings nesting (two ladies have to point this out to me) and later, encounter two guys carrying a dinghy going upstream, and am disappointed that I don't see them return down the river whilst I am out, then the Low Force estate fence is met and the dolerite rises out of the ground and the drops on the rapids get larger and larger.

Low Force
Sure enough, here is Low Force, a rough 5 meter drop over the dolerite and a country sight that would get so much more attention if there wasn't a much more impressive one just up the river, but this one is free to enter and much more straight forwardly accessible. Cross over on the suspension bridge and find on the opposite bank a group of old folks here who have plainly decided to spend their afternoon by the falls as they have brought their own picnic chairs with them. It would be a good spot to bask on a nice day, but sadly, we've gone into the colder part of spring and I retreat from the river to find my parents in the car, and no coffee break had been taken, so we go on to Middleton for watering before the day can warm up again as we head back to the Eden Valley. Tag Teesdale onto the list for future walking, because the scenery is grand and the remoteness palpable.

To Be Continued...

1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 153.6 miles

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