(Wolsingham to Witton-le-Wear)


WHERE IS IT?: Weardale, from Wolsingham to Witton-le-Wear.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Wolsingham, river left at NZ 074 368, a track leads down to the river on the downstream side of the bridge, then follow the path a few metres upstream from where you can put-on and warm up on the playwave. Takeout river left after passing under the A68, at the minor road bridge NZ 147 307.


TIME NEEDED: An hour and a half is adequate if the level is high, but three hours would be more typical if run in average winter levels with a group.

ACCESS HASSLES: There is no access agreement, and militant anglers have organised opposition to canoeing. However, it is rare to see anyone fishing after the first couple of km, and those you do meet seem friendly and unconcerned, even outside "normal" canoeing months.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The playwave at Wolsingham, and the rapids leading on from there are the best place to judge the level. If this section is runnable, the rest should go. If the wave is meaty and intimidating, the trip should be fast.The number for Rivercall North East is 09066197722, which gives three gauge readings for the Wear.

GRADING: Mostly 2 with a short section of 3 at the start and under the first railway bridge a kilometre from the put-in.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The river is quite changeable, and trees are often a hazard. One section (NZ133312) has been silting up in the main channel, meaning a portage in low levels, or following the flow through trees river left in higher levels. Eddies may be in short supply here, and we've had one quite unpleasant pinning incident. However, a good winter flood may well have completely changed things again.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From the playwave at Wolsingham, fast shingle rapids lead on. Waskerly Beck joins from the left, with more shingle rapids, then a short rocky rapid under the next bridge. After this, the river is an easy blast with a few large rocks mid-river (deliberately placed to stop poachers trawling the river with stolen tennis nets !) The gradient gradually eases until quite flat at the end, so whilst paddleable at low levels, it is a lot more interesting with more water.

OTHER NOTES: The river is now quite flat, but I believe there are a couple of weirs downstream, at least one of which (NZ2171308) looks to be a potential park-and-play spot.

The sections above get harder the higher you go, mellow touring can be found from Bishop Auckland. Has anyone paddled from Witton-le-Wear to Bishop?

CONTRIBUTED BY: A.E.R.Waddington (MX:, box: andrew)