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The Teesdale Way – Section 02

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Distance: 10.7 km (6.7 miles) | Profile: Undulating | Going: Generally good partially on well constructed trails and tracks but involving a challenging and rocky clamber down the Whin Sill at the start. Elsewhere very muddy and boggy in places. Generally exposed on moorland and farmland | General Stores: None

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Section 2 of the Teesdale Way is 10.7 km (6.7 miles) from Cauldron Snout to Holwick Head footbridge in Upper Teesdale. From Birkdale footbridge the Teesdale Way continues in tandem with the Pennine Way. The entire section lies within the Moor House – Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve, a very special area in the British Isles that because of the harsh climatic conditions that prevail for much of the year supports a unique collection of sub-arctic and alpine plants. It is also home to fragile summer hay meadows, a large juniper wood and the rare black grouse together with other bird species that notably include the golden plover and ring ouzel.

We start off by clambering over the Whin Sill, carefully picking our way down the trail alongside the waterfall of Cauldron Snout where we meet the River Tees for the first time; after being restrained at Cow Green Reservoir it tumbles enthusiastically towards its union with the Maize Beck a short distance below. After a brief respite we spend the next kilometre clambering over ankle-turning scree (murder to run through) around Falcon Clints squeezed at times by the winding river. After this the landscape on our left broadens into upland pastures although the Whin Sill continues to tower over us across the river in the shape of Raven and Cronkley Scars

The going now is much easier – if at times boggy – and generally flat if you neglect to consider the short but steep climb onto Cronkley Fell. Flag-stones assist us onto Bracken Rigg from where the ‘Green Trod’ – an old drover’s route – is plainly visible going over the top of the fell. Here we also encounter the first of the juniper bushes that make this area the largest wood of its kind in England.

Off the ridge and further along the trail to the east is Forcegarth Quarry, the last quarry in County Durham still to be taking dolerite from the Whin Sill. Depending on your perspective you’ll either see this as a monstrous eyesore or a fascinating opportunity to consider a geological phenomenon in more detail and appreciate why industries such as these can breathe much needed life into the dales: it’s all about achieving a balance.

Slightly further along on the footpath side of the river is Bleadale Force, a waterfall that often goes unmentioned but which is particularly attractive when the beck is in spate. Less than a kilometre downstream on a well maintained footpath we come across High Force where the Tees thunders over the Whin Sill.

Continuing along the path a large notch is visible on the ridge in the far distance. The hill is Hardberry Hill and the notch is Coldberry Gutter with the workings of Red Grooves Hushes in front of it. Together these features comprise the most extreme examples of the ‘hushing’ method of lead mining to be found in the Durham ore-field. The section finishes shortly after at Holwick Head Bridge.