GUIDE TO THE RIVER TEES
(Cauldron Snout to High Force)
NAME OF RIVER: Tees.
WHERE IS IT?: In Teesdale! The North East of England, flowing out of Cow Green reservoir.
Take the B6277 heading northwest; pass the Bowlees Parking/Picnic area at Low Force about a mile up the road is the sign for Ettersgill. Take this turning. Immediately you will find a lay by area. This is the parking for the get out. This can also be used as parking for the get in for the Upper Tees, so it is often busy with paddler’s cars. (NY 894284)
Continue along the B6277 after 300m you will see a track on the left. This will take you from the get out back to your shuttle car. Carry on past the High Force Hotel. After about 9k turn left at Langdon Beck. The get in, Cow Green Reservoir is sign posted. Park at the reservoir car park (NY 814307) follow the track to the dam (2km)
APPROX LENGTH: 9.5km of paddling plus 3.5k of walking in/out.
TIME NEEDED: 3-4hrs.
ACCESS HASSLES: No known agreements or disagreements. This section is of no interest to anglers and paddlers rarely go there.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS:
It is rare to find this section in condition for the trip to Ettersgill. (The levels needed to run Cauldron Snout are a different matter. Please see separate guide.) After heavy rain on Cross Fell/ Harwood this section goes. The ordinary compensation flow from Cow Green reservoir (1-2 pipes on the dam) is not enough to make this a pleasant descent. If everything else in the area has too much water for your canoe, this section will go.
It is worth taking a walk up to the top of High Force, along the Pennine Way from the Ettersgill layby. That way you can be sure that you know the lie of the land in order to portage High Force in good time, and you can see if the levels are too your liking. If it looks like the section above High Force will go, then the rest will! Alternatively; you can see High Force from the road just before the High Force Hotel. If water is coming over both sides, this section will definitely go.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The put-in (Cauldron Snout) and the get-out (High Force).
This is an eccentric and rarely paddled section of the Tees. Different aspects of it will appeal to a spectrum of paddlers… all of whom will be ‘enthusiasts’ in one way or another. I have paddled it in my canoe.
The first couple of hundred meters of this section is the dictionary definition of gnarl. Nick Doll first ran Cauldron Snout in the 80’s and a few people have paddled it since then. It is 180m of G5+ and England’s longest cascade waterfall. If that wasn’t scary enough… it is also haunted by the ghost of a Victorian suicide called ‘The Singing Lady.’
This is the upper limit of known paddling on the Tees. The source of the Tees is about 8km east above Cow Green Reservoir on Cross Fell (the highest point in the Pennines at 2930 feet) about a mile from the source of the South Tyne. Cow Green dam was built between 1967 and 1971 to supply water to the industries on Teesside. The building of the dam stopped the characteristic surges of the Tees, holding back the water from Cross Fell. The river now runs on compensation flow and release system. At this time release dated are not published.
Parking for the get in is at Cow Green reservoir (NY 810309). This is free. There follows a long walk to the put in. Open boaters will need a trolley. However, it is on a tarmac track and largely down hill. The bleak upland habitat around Cow Green is a National Nature Reserve due to the rare birds, wildlife and plant life found there. You might be tempted to paddle down the Cow Green… however, there are signs prohibiting water sports on the reservoir.
After about 250 meters of G2/3 ledges there is a bridge and the river turns sharply left. This is the start of Cauldron Snout (NY814287) 180m of G5+. This is very difficult to portage and could be a graded as a scramble. Take the Pennine Way, river left. This is the limit of possibility for open canoe portage for sane people. However, if you were sane you wouldn’t have just portaged 2.5k to get there. The area is a protected environment and less sporting portage routes are fenced off to protect the land.
After Cauldron Snout the river is a consistent G2 with mainly shingle type rapids. The Pennine way runs along side for most of the way. Even so, there is a wonderful remote feel about this place, added to by the difficulty in getting there. The river is overshadowed by massive whin sill cliffs of Cronkley Scar and Falcon Clints making a dramatic backdrop to the journey.
Almost immediately tributaries start joining the Tees. Maizebeck ,almost at the put in, then Merrygill at 1.2km, Harwood beck at 6.2 km. These drain watersheds other than Cross Fell and might unexpectedly raise the level of water in the river. At 9.5k you will see a stone quarry with workings, buildings and machinery on river left. This is a sign to prepare to get out river right. You must get out by the end of the quarry site. The low woodland at the far end of the quarry marks the start of the rapids that lead in to High Force. There is only one quarry site; you cannot mistake it for anything else. GET OUT! High Force, the largest waterfall in England is coming up. (NY 880283) No one has ever paddled it. A paddler who declared his intention to paddle it back in the early 90’was arrested for his own protection. Statistically you have less than a one in three chance of survival if you were to go over it.
There is now a long (1.5km) but down but mainly down hill portage/walk out along the Pennine Way. However, it is worth it because you get to see High Force. Follow the Pennine Way through a gate and there is a viewing area where you can peer down the drop. After this an amazing Juniper wood follows the path down hill to a foot Bridge. This is another protected environment and you need to disinfect your footwear as you enter and leave it. If you have parked in the lay by at Ettersgill you cross the river here and follow the track up the hill till it joins the main road. Turn right and the lay by is 300m along the road.
Alternatively you might choose to add the Upper Tees, High Force- Low Force/Middleton section to this trip.
WHEN YOU SEE THE QUARRY SITE ON RIVER LEFT YOU MUST GET OUT RIVER RIGHT. IF YOU DO NOT GET OUT HERE YOU WILL DIE.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Lizzie Harrington.