Low Force and High Force, Upper Teesdale

Walk Date – 26th March 2017

Distance – 5.4 miles

Weather – warm and sunny


From home an hour’s drive to the east takes us to Upper Teesdale in the North Pennines in County Durham for a walk beside the River Tees to Low Force and High Force. Its another beautiful day for this relatively flat walk along a section of the Pennine Way and once again its going to give the damaged leg some exercise without subjecting it to excessive stress.

Route – out and back


01 Information board at Bowlees Visitor Centre

We’ve parked at the Bowlees Visitor Centre where there are no parking charges until April, and to begin with we take a short walk up beside Bow Lee Beck to view one of the waterfalls.


Its not as huge a waterfall as the one we’ll be viewing later on but it is quite an attractive one nevertheless. There is a higher and more dramatic one further up at Gibson’s Cave but we don’t have time to fit that one in today.


We stroll a little further along the path just to get the leg working again after the car journey and then start making our way back down to the car park.


The bad leg prefers going up steps to coming down them.


Alongside the woodland path is this notice board giving information about Low Force, the view of which was just ahead of us.


Low Force, a canoeist’s paradise.


It looked to be a practice session in how to handle the falls so we waited and watched the fun. The blue canoe on the left was just getting ready to go but I didn’t get a shot of it going over the falls.


Another blue canoe gets ready …..


….. and this time I managed to get a shot of the action.


The two blue canoes we’ve just watched are now in the foreground battling the turbulence while a red one waits to go.


Down goes the red canoe while the two blue ones wait below to make sure that the drop down ends safely. This looked like a lot of fun, despite the fact that each canoe and passenger completely disappeared under the water and got a thorough soaking at the end of the drop.


More information about Low Force and its surroundings.


Watching the canoeing was entertaining to watch but we had to get on with our walk, the next part of which involved crossing the river via this suspension bridge, known as Wynch Bridge. This is the third such bridge across the river, the first was built in 1741 and was washed away in a flood in 1771. A second one was created but that gave way in 1802 as a group of people were crossing over. The present bridge was built in 1830 and, as it is still in use, is obviously much better engineered than its predecessors and is now a Grade 2 listed building. Despite its sturdy construction the notice above the bridge requests that users cross over one at a time and not in a large group. This is a shot I took once I was safely across.


The view of Low Force from the opposite bank. The earlier shots of the canoeing were taken from the wooded area over on the right before we crossed over the bridge.


Sheep sculpture alongside the path with the words – ‘A wonderful place to walk – a walker’ carved into the stonework below the sheep.


Standing beside Low Force at the point where the canoeists  begin to drop down  …..


….. and where the next ones are preparing to take the plunge. I was standing in the wrong place to get a shot of the orange canoe going over …..


….. so I moved further down and managed to get this view of the green one instead. The canoeist gritting his teeth as he reaches the point of no return.


There goes the next one, the man on the bank having given the all clear, and another person standing by and waiting to go. The procedure went as follows – put the canoe on the large flat rock, get in the canoe and fasten the apron securely, when the OK signal is given shuffle the canoe forward off the rock and into the water, get the canoe lined up and then aim for the gap between the rocks.


On we go, following the path, which forms part of the Pennine Way, alongside the river.


More information about the area and I notice the board is carrying the logo of the Strathmore Estate. Their family name is Bowes-Lyon and the family seat is Glamis Castle. It doesn’t state that on the board but I expect most people will know that the Queen’s late mother was Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon before she was married, her father being the 14th Earl of Strathmore. That must make the present earl a relative of the Queen I suppose. However he is related to her he has a lovely piece of real estate in his property portfolio.


In several places the river comes up against large and immovable objects such as this one and it is forced to split and flow down either side. Today the water on this side was much more slow moving than on the other side, but no doubt it will flow just as quickly when the river is in spate.


Looking back to where the river meets the immovable object and is forced to split apart for a while.


Looking upstream for a view of the fast flowing Tees racing over the rocks.


Another meeting with an immovable object.


A stretch of calmer water up ahead.


Just beyond the bridge we begin to start climbing away from the river towards the lighter coloured patch of grass beyond the trees.


We arrive at the dry grassy area with the river far below us in the trees ahead, and although we can’t see it we can certainly hear it.


Words of warning and advice which visitors are wise to take note of – people have fallen in.


High Force – spectacular, formidable and thunderously loud.  We came up here earlier this week on a very dull day but only took the shorter walk on the opposite bank. We decided then that we would return and do the walk along this side as soon as the weather improved. The river was so full on that day that it was also pouring down the narrow gorge over on the right and throwing  huge plumes of spray everywhere.


We walked on, past the viewing point lower down the path, to here where the water starts to plunge down the gorge. Watching it plummeting  is terrifying and fascinating in equal measure.


Just before it reaches the edge of the gorge the wide river has to squeeze itself through this very narrow channel.


A little further upstream from the previous shot and its clear that the water has nowhere else to go but through the narrow gorge to the right of the picture. When the water level is much higher the water would also be able to flow over the lower rocks, just below the shrubs to the left of centre, and escape down the narrower gorge too. Those rocks are still dark with moisture indicating the level of the water which flowed over them earlier in the week.


Looking upstream at the obstacle course the river has to negotiate.


A look down from the point where the Tees plunges 70′ with scores of people on the opposite bank watching it doing so.


Now we’ve been terrified and awestruck its time to make our way back. The path close to the falls winds  through gorse and juniper bushes …..


….. while further down it becomes and enjoyable stroll through the gentle countryside. The bad leg is now getting tired so the mile and a half walk back is taken at a very slow pace, not that it matters at all because the sun is shining and there’s no reason to hurry.


Back at Low Force and the canoeists have packed up and gone home.


The sheep sculpture has a different inscription on this side which reads – ‘It reverts to scrub, once its gone its lost – a farmer’. A reference perhaps to the beneficial impact that grazing sheep have on the land.


Back at the bridge where the signpost reminds us where we’ve been.


Crossing the Wynch Bridge once again.


The view from the middle of the bridge.


We emerge from the woodland and cross the field back to the hamlet of Bowlees.


A peaceful, pastoral scene on the opposite side of the road as we begin our walk back to the visitor centre. We’ve enjoyed fabulous weather and had an absolutely delightful walk which I’m sure we’ll be repeating.