A walk up the River Tees, from Middleton to Cauldron Snout.
First in a series of write-ups on some of our walks in the North UK.
We started at Middleton In Teesdale at 0735hrs at first light and intended to walk for 16 miles, but `the best laid plans` and all that! but, more of that later. What a beautiful river the Tees is! Rock strewn for most of the way, it was just as I envisaged, the walk up to the first of the falls along the Pennine Way was a pleasure, and we were literally in about the 3rd field, when we saw a Fallow Deer, and stalked it to get some closer photo's! As it was, Bill got the best one which you can see in Gallery. We got to Low Force in little shower of rain, (the only one of the day!) and the falls certainly lived up to all expectations. As we continued up river, the landscape got more open and the river deepened, but there was always the road, not to distant, and we longed for the time when it would disappear! As we approached High Force, we heard it, before we saw it, and when we looked over the top of the gorge just off the Pennine Way, It took our breath away! The fall was in spate, but not all the way across, as it is sometimes in rare flood conditions , but it was quite something else, and we couldn't take ourselves away from it. Just as we were preparing to leave a Robin came and settled less than a foot away from us and shared in a Mars Bar that we were eating. After eating its fill, it took some away to feed a mate or young perhaps? I took some great photos. We continued up river again, then took a small diversion to photograph Bleabeck Force, a smaller waterfall coming off Holwith Fell and being North facing there was still ice around the fall. We continued towards our turning point and the going got really tough, with rocks strewn all over the path! It was very hard on the legs, for there was no alternative because of the gorge we were in, it was also patched with mud and small brooks to cross, and we were looking forward to our lunch at Cauldron Snout which was taking forever to come! When we finally arrived, the sight that greeted us was far more awesome than any of the books or photo's had promised! It was a cacophony of white and frothy water pouring down a narrow gorge to the river some 100ft below! After a myriad of photos and expletives we sat down on the rocks at the side of the falls to eat our lunch. I was absolutely starving, as it was now 1230, and we had been walking for over 4hrs with just a Mars in our bellies! I don't think I have ever eaten my sandwiches so fast! After coffee and Eccles cakes, (supplied by Bill) we packed up, and with a last look at the falls, we tackled the not very easy climb to the footbridge across the outlet from Cow Green Reservoir. We intended trying to cross the river at this point, but it was far to fast and deep so we continued upstream to find a more suitable spot but eventually we could go no further due to MOD 'do not enter' signs. We eventually waded across at the shallowest point (we thought!) but it still came up to my calves (higher for Bill, short legs, you see!) then we had to backtrack downstream to find the path up to Cronkley Moor, and, the way back to the car. The return journey had started with a wet river crossing and then we had to climb up to Cronkley Fell, a gain of only 200mtrs but with already tired legs it seemed twice this height! Once on the tops we had cracking views all round as the weather had cleared to sunny periods. All the tops came into view and we thought we could see Middleton in the distance, but this turned out to be wishful thinking! Once over the fell we had to loose height into Birk Rigg, then gain it again to climb onto Holwith Fell, this time a gain of only 170 metres, but by now our legs were really feeling the miles and the climb had to be done in 7 or 8 stages. We dropped down past Holwick Scars and into Holwick itself, the place to park next time for us! It makes the walk 6mls shorter! This part of the walk was done almost in silence, we had to save our breath and energy! We found the path down to the River Tees and returned on the familiar path, but, even though it was familiar, it seemed to take an age! We arrived back at the car as the Sun was setting, almost 12 hours of walking! 22 miles! We got to the car and just collapsed onto the seats! Were we glad to take the weight off our aching limbs! What a day! We were suffering a little from lack of liquid, but a stop at the Motorway services did the trick on the journey home.