GUIDE TO THE RIVER TEES
Winston to Piercebridge
NAME OF RIVER: Tees
WHERE IS IT?: In Teesdale - east of Darlington on the A67.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: River left below Winston Bridge (NZ142163), down a steep and thorny bank (a sling and karabiner are useful to lower boats down this - dont drop your pride and joy here as itll likely end up in Piercebridge without you).
Alternative access, this gives access to a really cool little play-wave and a nice G2 rapid above Winston Bridge. Walk upstream on river right above the bridge 350 metres and get in above the obvious little wave. Run the rapid below the play wave river centre to right to avoid the obvious rocks in the centre of the channel.
Egress at NZ209155 - river left 150m above the stone bridge at Piercebridge scramble through a small wood to arrive near the village green. For reference this is several hundred metres below the green arched pipe bridge (youll know what I mean when you see it!!).
APPROX LENGTH: 7 miles (10km).
TIME NEEDED: 1.5 hours
ACCESS HASSLES: Stockton Angling Ltd have recently been grumbling about paddlers on "their" sections of river and have put up signs. Ignore them and stay polite and you should have no issues.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: 1) Broken Scar Weir at Darlington, left of the A67 on the way out of the town, there's a picnic area. The Tees should be running over both sides of the weir as well as the central chutes. I've run this section at 30-45cm over the RHS of the weir when the trip is a really cool level. If the water is just trickling over the RHS of the weir then the trip will be a bump-n-scrape fest.
2) From Winston Bridge looking downstream, at a good level the wide channel above the first minor rapid should be free of protruding rocks.
GRADING: Grade 2.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: None.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This is a classic and mellow section of grade 2 water, very scenic and with no major hazards; a great beginners trip which deserves to be better known.
Easy water leads to a slight quickening, best run river right in medium water before a short further flat bit leads to the first Grade 2 section. Faster water with small waves, best run slightly right before swinging river left and following the main flow through a series of bouncy waves as the river turns right (NE). A short section of flat moving water leads to the next series of rapids, simple but fun, best run river left before moving right following the main flow.
Pass under an old stone bride and as the river turns right (SE) follow the main flow river left through a series of minor rapids ending with a cool ickle wave train through a little drop. Below this is a powerful lively jet which is great for ferry glide and breaking in and out practice and is a top tailly spot. After a short flat section (passing a weird old stone fountain and spring river left) an island hoves into view. This is best run river right and forms another friendly wave train (which can be run monkey style i.e. hand paddling by those daft enough to try it). A small play-wave forms river right about two thirds down this rapid.
Next pass under a stone bride followed immediately by another rickety iron bridge, one of whose stanchions lies in the water just below the bridge river left; this may cause funny water at higher levels. Best advice here is to avoid passing beneath this construction when vehicles are passing overhead. Pleasant moving water leads to the first possible egress, the beach river left from where a path leads to the parking spot at Gainford Cemetery (!).
For those continuing (and its worth doing as the best rapids are below this section) the river now bends left (NE) and a complex series of islands (man made allegedly, to avoid erosion) come into view. Extreme river right is a bony channel which is guaranteed to remove shreds of precious plastic from your steed; the best line is the channel left of this which appears to collect most of the flow in this section. Run centre then right at the end to avoid an overhanging tree.
Further minor rapids lead to a small slide, best taken slightly left of centre in medium water. Now large cliffs loom river right as the river turns left (E) and through a series of rapids best taken river left and then moving right at the top of the island. There are strainers river left toward the bottom of this last section, inspection is easy and recommended from the island river right.
After more minor rapids interspersed with flat moving water another complex series of islands announce the arrival of the most technical section of the trip. The river splits into two channels around two islands. A possible line is the left channel at the first fork and the right channel at the next, with technical (at the grade!) paddling of increasing difficulty culminating in a series of tiny drops as the channels re-combine.
The remainder is flattish water, with some very minor rapids and a couple of small play-waves just above Piercebridge.
OTHER NOTES: Correct as of 10th May 2009, this description applies to low to medium water only, the usual disclaimers apply.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Steve Quinn.