GUIDE TO THE RIVER WEAR
(Wear Head to Eastgate)
WHERE IS IT?: North East England, Wear Dale.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put in off the A689 on the upstream outskirts of the village of Wearhead (NY857396). Or if you want to start at the waterfall, continue driving through Wearhead towards Kilhope with the river on your left until can see the waterfall from the road, NY854405. After driving out of Wearhead take the left turn to Kilhope, then take your next left and drive down the hill towards the bridge. Park this side of the bridge to view the fall or the far side has a secluded layby near a church in which to get changed. There is a building within the church that we used to get changed in but is now fenced off. This should be enough info to pinpoint the waterfall but if all else fails just follow the river out of Wearhead and you can't miss it.
Take outs are numerous, however the minor road crossing the Wear off the A689 just East of Eastgate is a recommended spot as the river loses its quality after this (NY958384). For a shorter trip the first useful take-out is at NY896381 in Daddry Shield, with parking possible for a few cars on river left and a footpath on river right.
APPROX LENGTH: 16 km.
TIME NEEDED: 2-3 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: This trip is best with plenty of water which requires heavy rain, although its still pleasurable at lower levels. The weir below the road bridge at the suggested get out should have a good flow over its entire width to make the trip worthwhile, at higher levels this is an impressive sight. At the get in the river bed should be noticeably covered, at the best levels the first few hundred metres form a continuous fairly steep rapid making an exciting start to the trip.
The gauge at Stanhope ford gives a good guide. The minimum level seems to be over 1ft - the waterfall will just go at this level, but the run down from the fall to Wearhead is pretty boney. 1.5-2ft gives a good level. The phone gauge corresponds to this (Rivercall 09066197722), but is in metric and taken at around 3am, so the river may have dropped dramatically by the time you get there.
There's an online EA gauge on Killhope Burn at Wearhead. Calibrations are roughly - Low: 0.4m, Medium: 0.7m, High: 1.0m. 0.5m is required for running Killhope Burn from the waterfall to wearhead without too much scraping.
GRADING: Apart from the waterfall, fairly constant grade 3.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: John Bell says (March '00)...'If you start at the waterfall, this makes an exciting warmup! I have paddled it many times, the plunge pool is deep and the tow back not bad. I reckon the fall has got to be the highest cleanly runnable fall in the northeast unless you know otherwise. In spate, it's awesome.'
The river afterwards is a fast and exhilarating run in high water, although there are no particular nasties for an experienced paddler. The trip is fairly constant throughout its 16 km with play waves scattered at regular intervals. There is a weir at the suggested get-out, which as of November 2010 has broken and washed away in the middle- there is probably a 5/6m wide gap.
OTHER NOTES: An interesting tributary which might also be worth a look, is Rookhope Burn. There is a little more whitewater to be had just downstream and the river further downstream near Durham is easier but still interesting. There has been some investigation of Killhope Burn above the waterfall which requires masses of water, but may be worthwhile. Middlehope Burn joins at Westgate and looks like it should be paddleable in high water from Middlehope Lodge. Also Bollihope Burn (the grade 5 fall in particular!) is awaiting a descent and report!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Bob Evans, John Bell and Jim Pullen.