white horse logo

View from the track from Bowlees to 
Ash Hill
View from the track from Bowlees to Ash Hill

Menu:

National Parks

| 2001 walks | 2002 walks | 2003 walks | 2004 walks |
| 2005 walks | 2006 walks | 2007 walks | 2008 walks |
| 2009 walks | 2010 walks | 2011 walks | 2012 walks |
| 2013 walks | 2014 walks | 2015 walks | 2016 walks |
| 2017 walks | 1993-2000 library | Find a Route |
| A few Routes to print out | Request a Route... |

Route No. 255 - Wednesday 2 July 2008
Bowlees, Dirt Pit, High Force,
Pennine Way, Low Force circuit - 9km
Teesdale . . .

Map: OS Explorer OL31 Teesdale
Route Map on 'Landranger' base map from OS Open Space service
Open this route in Google Earth


Footbridge from 
the car park to the visitor centre at Bowlees
Footbridge from the car park to the visitor centre at Bowlees

We parked in the visitor centre car park, map ref. NY907282, at about 9.30am. We crossed the footbridge over Flushlemere Beck and followed the footpath through the woods for about 100m to the visitor centre in Bowlees village.

Today I am on grandad duty to collect my little grand daughter from her nursery between 3.00 and 3.30pm so we had to make an early start. Just after 8.00am we set out to drive to Bowlees in Teesdale.

The visitor centre 
at Bowlees
The visitor centre at Bowlees

Track from 
Bowlees to Ash Hill
Track from Bowlees to Ash Hill
All the buildings 
here are painted white
All the buildings here are painted white

Another white farmhouse
Another white farmhouse

He was given short shrift by the tenant when it transpired that he was on a neighbouring estate and not his own land. When he eventually arrived back home he decreed that all the buildings on his estate must be painted white to identify the extent of his estate. Well all the buildings here are white but only a few kilometers away they are all natural stone.

We walked in front of the visitor centre and set off along a track through the fields heading North West to Ash Hill and Dirt Pit. Neither name does justice to the very pleasant scenery at both places. All the buildings here are white and the story goes that the local land owner was caught in a tremendous storm whilst out riding and called at the farm he was passing to demand hospitality until the storm abated.

A brand new grass rake
A brand new grass rake

Track from Bowlees to Ash Hill
Track from Bowlees to Ash Hill

A pretty stream called Smithy Sike
A pretty stream at Dirt Pit called Smithy Sike

Here we crossed the road to follow a path across the fields for about 500m to the tourist car park for High Force (complete with toilets).

At Dirt Pit the track became a narrow tarmaced lane which we followed to the junction at Map ref. NY890289.

Birds Foot Trefoil
Birds Foot Trefoil

Most of this field was covered with this 
mixture of buttercups and speedwells
Most of this field was covered with a mixture of buttercups and speedwells

Then we crossed the road to have our tickets punched at the entrance to the private path through the woods to the foot of the falls.

Near the entrance to the car park is a gift shop where the tickets are on sale to view High Force from river level. As three old codgers we bought three concessions at 1 each.

Path down to the High Force view 
point
Path down to the High Force view point

High Force on the River Tees from the 
visitor view point
High Force on the River Tees from the visitor view point

Steps down to the River Tees from the 
road (B6277)
Steps down to the River Tees from the road (B6277)

After almost 15 minutes gazing at the sight we retraced our steps to the kiosk at the entrance to the path at the road. We walked about 100m along the road and turned off to the right to follow a path down through some woods to the river side.

It's about 600m to the river at the foot of the falls and what a spectacular sight it is when you get there! There was quite a lot of water in the river after the recent rain and we could hear the thunder of the falls long before we could see them.

a wild orchid by the path
A wild orchid by the path

Footbridge over the River Tees about 
1km downstream of High Force
Footbridge over the River Tees about 1km downstream from High Force

Caterpillar webs on a willow tree
Caterpillar webs on a willow tree

We crossed the river to join the Pennine Way route on the far side.

We walked about 250m by the river side to a footbridge over the Tees at map ref. NY889283.

Mountain pansies by the Pennine Way
Mountain pansies by the Pennine Way

Woodland carpetted with Dogs 
Mercury
Woodland carpeted with Dogs Mercury - this suggests that there has been woodland here for a very long time

Juniper berries
Juniper berries

At the end of this path we had a view of High Force from the cliff top just downstream of the falls. After that we made our way to the rocks at the top of the falls

We turned right to follow the Pennine Way upstream for about 1km. Here there is a little side path through the juniper bushes.

A juniper bush
A juniper bush

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

Standing above High Force on the River 
Tees
Standing above High Force on the River Tees

After our lunch break we set off to walk along the river bank following the Pennine Way downstream for almost 3km.

There we sat for our lunch with an amazing view of the river and the roar of the falls in our ears.

Birds foot trefoil with ground ivy and wild 
thyme
Birds foot trefoil with ground ivy and wild thyme

An orchid on the river bank
An orchid on the river bank
The River Tees from the Pennine Way near 
Bowlees
The River Tees from the Pennine Way near Bowlees
Knapweed
Knapweed
Low Force on the River Tees
Low Force on the River Tees

Four old tupps by the Pennine Way
Four old tupps by the Pennine Way

Just below Low Force is a pedestrian suspension bridge called Wynch Bridge, over the Tees. We crossed the bridge and walked through the woods on the river band to cross two fields that brought us back to Bowlees Village.

This brought us to a series of waterfalls called Low Force. They are not as spectacular as High Force but are still well worth a visit to see the impressive cascade of white water tumbling through the rocks.

Low Force on the River Tees
Low Force on the River Tees

Wynch Bridge over the River Tees below Low Force
Wynch Bridge over the River Tees below Low Force

We stopped on the way back for a coffee, but the service was much too slow for a toasted teacake or a bacon roll. We arrived back home just in time to collect my grand daughter from her nursery and was presented with a pile of her drawings and models to admire.

From there we made our way back to the car park where we had started. The whole route had been 9km and had taken us almost 4 hours to walk including our lingering stops at High Force.

Heading back to Bowlees across the fields
Heading back to Bowlees across the fields

Background Notes:
This walk would make a good day out in the summer holidays. It's just a little bit further afield. but it's such a spectacular place it's well worth the drive and may even keep the kids interested. It's a circular walk of about 9km, about 5.5 miles so not too strenuous either, from the visitor centre at Bowlees in Teesdale to High Force and Low Force on the River Tees. There's a good car park at Bowlees where the visitor centre is in a converted Methodist Chapel. From the village we follow a pretty track with pleasant views of Teesdale to two hamlets called Ash Hill and Dirt Pit, neither name does justice to these places, but the names may be a hang over from the area's lead mining past. From there our route takes us through the tourist car park at High Force. To see the falls of High Force from the North bank of the river you have to pay at a little kiosk and follow the path down to the foot of the falls and then return to the road next to the car park. From there our route takes a public footpath down to the river and a footbridge across the river Tees to join the Pennine Way on the south bank of the river. We follow the Pennine Way path upstream and through the juniper bushes to the cliff edge where there is a spectacular view of these huge falls. The whole river Tees thunders over a cliff about 70feet (22m) high formed where the river crosses a volcanic rock layer called the Whin Sill and drops down into carboniferous limestone that is much more easily eroded. I think it's worth seeing this amazing natural sight from both banks. And our friend J M W Turner visited the falls to sketch them on his epic tour of North Yorkshire in 1816. When you can tear yourself away our route returns back downstream following the Pennine Way. There are all manner of wild flowers along the path including wild orchids, mountain pansies, as well as juniper bushes and many other flowers. After about 2.5km, (1.5miles) we come to Low Force. These falls are not as high or spectacular as High Force but in their own way are equally impressive. It's a series of steps each a few metres high forming a white water cascade down the river. On a couple of occasions when I've been here there's been a group of teenagers from the local outdoor centre being taught how to shoot these waterfalls in small canoes. It looks to be a very exciting activity and lots of fun. There's a nice sculpture of two rams, or tupps, by the path here to look out for and just below Low Force is a wobbly pedestrian suspension bridge called Wynch Bridge, built in the early 1800's, and it takes us back over the River Tees. It's safer to cross it one at a time. From the bridge the path leads across the fields back to Bowlees and the end of our walk for this week.

top of page