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A canoe class prepares to shoot the falls at Low Force
A canoe class prepares to shoot the falls at Low Force

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Route No. 170 - Saturday 11 March 2006
Bowlees, Ettersgill, Forest-Teesdale
High Force, Low Force - 13.5km
Upper Teesdale . . .

Maps: OS Explorer OL31 North Pennines Teesdale & Weardale at 1:25000
Route Map on 'Landranger' base from OS Open Space service

This weekend we stayed in a lovely cottage call "Stable Court" about 6km from Barnard Castle in Upper Teesdale, with two of my wife's sisters and their husbands. On Saturday the ladies went to Barnard Castle whilst we three brothers-in-law went for a good walk. The weather was poor, overcast grey skies with sleety drizzle. We drove to the car park at Bowlees (map ref. NY907282) next to the visitor centre and museum. From the car park we crossed the footbridge over Bow Lee Beck and turned right through a gate behind the visitor centre into the woods. We followed the path through the woods for about 1km to map ref. NY 906290 where there is a stile through the wall into some rough pasture. We headed northwards for about 200m to another stile in a wall. This took us into open access land overlooking the confluence of two streams in steep sided valleys which join to form Bow Lee Beck.

Moorland stream running into the woods above Bowlees
Moorland stream running into the woods above Bowlees
Scattered farmsteads at Ettersgill seen from Ashdub
Scattered farmsteads at Ettersgill seen from Ashdub

At this point (map ref. NY 906292) we turned left to follow a public footpath across the rough hillside to a farm called Ashdub. There is little sign of the path on the ground and it's best to check the direction with your compass. The path is on a bearing of 282 degrees magnetic, allowing for a magnetic variation of 3 degrees west. After about 2km on this path across the exposed hillside in the sleet we reached Ashdub as the weather cleared a little.

Crossing Ettersgill beck below Ashdub
Crossing Ettersgill beck below Ashdub

Swaledale tupps near Ettersgill
Swaledale tupps near Ettersgill

We followed a path from Ashdub to cross Ettersgill Beck and climb up to the road at map ref. NY 884293. We walked up the road towards Ettersgill for about 200m and turned left off the road to follow a path up the hill to join a track at map ref. NY 880292. We then followed the track which became a tarmac road after about 500m.

Just after the start of the road we passed a disused Primitive Methodist Chapel with all the windows boarded up. The road led us down to a road junction at map ref. NY 871294 where the was a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel - still in use.

Track across the fields at Moor Riggs
Track across the fields at Moor Riggs

Disused Primitive Methodist Chapel at Moor Riggs
Disused Primitive Methodist Chapel at Moor Riggs

I was brought up in a Methodist family (my dad was a local preacher) although I no longer have any religious leanings. I thought how sad it is that all the religion I know of are split into factions who all believe that they have the one true revelation of God's purpose.

River Tees from the Pennine Way bridge crossing below Cronkley
River Tees from the Pennine Way bridge crossing below Cronkley
Following the Pennine Way up the rocky hill at Cronkley
Following the Pennine Way up the rocky hill at Cronkley

Any way enough philosophy, we crossed the road and took the track opposite that led us to a bridge over the River Tees at map ref. NY 861293.

Quarry next to the river Tees above High Force
Quarry next to the river Tees above High Force

The river Tees crashing over High Force
The river Tees crashing over High Force

Here we joined the Pennine Way route which we followed back along the River Tees for about 6km to Wynch Bridge at Low Force. On the way we passed High Force, a really spectacular water fall on the river Tees.

High Force seen from the Pennine Way
High Force seen from the Pennine Way
High Force seen from the Pennine Way
High Force seen from the Pennine Way

At Low Force, a series of smaller falls on the River Tees, we stopped to watch a group of conoeists with their instructors. They were shooting each of the falls in turn - the highest looks to be about 3m. It looked very exciting to do and some of them capsized and rolled to right themselves as they landed in the pool below the highest fall.

Shooting the falls at Low Force
Shooting the falls at Low Force
Shooting the falls at Low Force
Sheep sculptures on the approach to Wynch Bridge

Above: Shooting the falls at Low Force

Left: Sheep sculptures on the approach to Wynch Bridge

From Wynch Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge, we crossed the river and made our way over the fields to Bowlees and back to the car park. The whole walk had been abour 13.5km and had taken us four and a half hours to walk including a stop for lunch in the shelter of a wall corner.