GUIDE TO THE RIVER TEES
(Middleton in Teesdale to Barnard Castle)
NAME OF RIVER: Tees.
WHERE IS IT?: In Teesdale!
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Start at bridge in Middleton in Teesdale village (NY946251). Egress in the town of Barnard Castle (NZ050160). Eggleston Bridge (NY997233) can debatablely be used as an access/egress point via the footpaths, but the neighbouring landowner may not be too happy about this. The track next to the Balder in Cotherstone (NZ013201) provides an excellent access point with lots of parking - although easy to miss the turning on a first trip!
APPROX LENGTH: ~10 miles for the full run, but shorter sections are possible (see above).
TIME NEEDED: 4 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: The access is theoretically hassle free between the last weekend of October and the last weekend of March provided you don't use Egglestone Bridge (see Somewhat out-of-date access arrangements). In reality local paddlers have been paddling the Tees year-round for the last few years with no reported issues. I have spotted fishermen during the summer months at the big wave below Middleton bridge and on the gravel bed river right above Eggleston Bridge during summer paddling - they didn't look too happy to see us, but a smile and a wave and an attempt at paddling out of their way seemed to smooth things over.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: It's almost all paddleable in lowish levels, but it can take huge amounts of water and still be paddleable...indeed, there regularly are huge amounts of water in this river!
This section is probably the best bet on the Tees if you're desperate for a paddle and the Barnard Castle to Winston bit is too low. Maybe 0.1m or above on the Barnard Castle phone gauge (Environment Agency NE Rivercall service 09066197722), or about 0.50m on the online EA Gauge is the minimum needed to float.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Weir in Barnard Castle.
*NB the Barnard Castle Weir is currently having work done on it by the EA. This has resulted in the flow doubling over a reduced area, meaning it's now dangerous at much lower levels than previously. The EA has put up some signage to this effect, but be prepared to portage! The work is due to last until Autumn of 2013. Also note that this has made previous river level calibrations from this gauging weir a bit generous!*
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The first thing to note is this section is best when the river is in flood. We did it when the High Force section was too big for the group we had and it was fantastic. The get in is at Middleton In Teesdale at the field by the caravan site, have a word with the nice lady in the farm and give her a few pennies for letting you use her land (there is a public footpath river right here - no need to cross private land - Jim).
The section from Middleton to Eggleston is mostly flat with occasional bits of grade 2 and the odd playwave. There is one notable rapid/standing wave on a right-hand bend, which is fun to surf in the right levels.
Below Eggleston Bridge the section consists mainly of big bouncy grade III and loads of excellent play waves (short boats rule here!). However don't get too carried away at the playspots as there is quite a bit of paddling to be done on some boring, but very pretty flat sections. There are a couple of harder rapids on the section which are grade III/IV. The hardest rapid is where the river enters a small gorge and washes up against the wall on a long left hand bend - there is a bit of messy water against the wall on the outside of the bend and at the bottom lies quite a substantial stopper, this is known as Woden Croft Rapid. Hence a line tight down the left is advisable (and not too difficult!)
All in all then a top paddle - big, bouncy and playful but very long and tiring.
UPDATE! I ran this section in November '98 when the river was absolutely massive. The Racecourse kicks ass in this level. High levels made it technically less demanding (the alleged big spate holes were washed out) but an awesome experience none the less. By the Kielder outflow on river right was the biggest and nicest wave I have ever surfed - big, green (well, brown really) and clean. If you get the river at these levels paddle it!
After the River Balder joins from river right near Cotherstone (another possible access/ egress point), the grade eases to flat water for several miles, with the occasional Grade 1 and 2 rapid. When you are approaching Barnard Castle, watch out for a large weir. This isn't very pleasant in high water. Consider portaging on river left or perhaps trying the chicken chute on that same side? This isn't a bad place to finish if the car is near.
If you have the energy, the river picks up again in interest during the next section...
OTHER NOTES: Consider paddling one of the Tees tributaries if the river is really up, for instance the River Greta, Hudeshope Beck or Eggleston Burn. Two other tribs that come in on this section include the Lune and Deepdale Beck - anyone paddled them?
Mike Millington (28/10/02)...'Myself a friend ran the Tees yesterday from Middleton Bridge down to Whorlton Lido in 1 hour 30 minutes (which included a 10 minute portage of the Barnard Castle Weir while we tried to find somewhere to get back on!). In the 10 years I've been paddling this river I've never seen it so big! It really was like paddling a big volume Austrian Alps river. The trip was pretty full on and offered hardly any eddies (unless you fancied breaking out amongst the trees and bushes!) and inspection was definitely of the 'make it up as you go along' variety! Wave trains were huge stoppers of the river-wide and best avoided variety. Nothing appeared to be of the too serious and life threatening variety but the weir at Barnard Castle was to be avoided at ALL COSTS! The alleged chicken shoot on the left was non-existent as the river was washing over the bank and under a tree. We did intend to have a look at Abbey Rapids but it came up rather quickly and without the advantage of a convenient eddy! Running straight down through the centre in an Inazone was certainly a very amusing experience. Fortunately the stoppers were washed out and replaced by the biggest wave train I have ever paddled in the UK. All in all an absolutely fantastic paddle at a once in a "blue moon" level.'
The next section contains more whitewater, including abbey rapids.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mike Redding, Mark Rainsley, Mike Millington and Jim Pullen.
Ran the racecourse today 19th Feb in low water conditions, there's a tree or at least a huge branch located on the final rock in the middle of the river at the end of the racecourse, spent sometime trying to remove using various pulleys etc: a 6-1 wouldn't budge it !!
However as much as possible approx a 6ft branch was cut free with a saw and removed.
Please be aware this a serious hazard to any potential swimmers at the bottom !!!
As a result of the meeting, EA improved the signage, which is intended to alert people running the river who aren't aware of the work and would be expecting the flow over the weir to be consistent with levels they've experienced paddling down from Cotherstone.
I showed the engineer photos of Glissieres on French rivers to show how they have provided safe routes for boats over some very chunky weirs, and he seemed very interested. It is the intention to remove the existing fish ladder on the left, and replace it with something in the centre of the river which they believe will be more usable by paddlers - and which will project downstream further than the main stopper. It does seem that the main weir face will end in an anti-scour feature sunk deeply in the river bed, but they believed that this would not create any more of a stopper than at present at normal levels as the ledge would be well below the surface.
They were sympathetic to our suggestion that something could be done to make the portage shorter by providing access to a launch point below the weir river left but reckoned they'd need to do a risk assessment for making access to the general public easier (at the moment, they have to climb a fence - a major impediment, obviously:-) I suggested that paddlers wouldn't mind climbing a fence, but what was really needed was somewhere flat to get back into a boat to seal launch safely away from the stopper. We did point out that the major issue with portage was with big open boats which were a pain to carry all the way round the road at present and that these would need more space to put back on. They were at the stage of needing to do a structural assessment of the left bank wall (where the fish ladder is) as this was showing signs of cracking. If this needs to be rebuilt anyway, designing new structure to facilitate portage might well be possible at no significant extra expense.
Overall, we came away with a very positive impression and feel that they are trying quite hard to minimise the dangers to paddlers during the work and hopefully will try to be helpful in the design of the second stage. However, we were aware that the wet summer has delayed them a lot, extra infrastructure had to be built even to gain access to the part of the weir they are rebuilding initially and that consequently they are going to be way over budget so won't really be able to make proposals that would add to the cost of the project.