• Start: Bowlees Village
  • End: Bowlees Village
  • Country: England
  • County: Durham
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: King’s Head - Middleton-in-Teesdale
  • Ordnance Survey:
  • Difficulty: Medium
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It must have taken a fair amount of rain to fill the full 85-mile stretch of the River Tees. This month's walk takes in just a bit of it

Rain is important. Without it our green and pleasant land would be far less, well, green and pleasant. Think about how many words the English have for rain. Add in the Scottish dreich, gandiegow and others and youll come to the conclusion that were obsessed by the stuff.
However, I have a few questions about it. If sheep are covered in wool, why dont they shrink when it rains? And how many raindrops does it take to make a river? Take the Tees for example. Its a big river. It must have taken a fair number of showers to fill the full 85 mile stretch of it. No wonder I always seem to get wet when I go out for a walk.
Still, today is sunny otherwise we wouldnt be out and about. But, just in case, better take the waterproofs. You never know, they may come in handyWe start this months walk at the village of Bowlees, a few miles west of the town of Middelton-in-Teesdale.
From Bowlees, walk briefly east along the road to a farm track on the opposite side of the road to the village. Follow this track to a farm, pass through the farmyard, and continue along the path between two tree plantations. When you reach a gate, go through and follow the path along a dry-stone wall to a footbridge over a stream.
Cross over the bridge and follow the line of the farm field until you reach the River Tees. The path now skirts the river closely, through a number of pinch gates and over another footbridge. Continue to follow the curve of the river to a small stretch of woodland. Along the way are many curious cows and (full size) staring sheep. This is farming country, the lovingly maintained dry-stone walls that you can see criss-crossing the Tees Valley is testament to that.
Although dry-stone walls seem a timeless part of the landscape, they only date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. This was a period when great tracts of common land were eroded by farm enclosures, as the countryside lurched from feudalism to more modern ideas of land ownership. It must have been a traumatic period and yet resulted in something astonishingly aesthetically pleasing. It would be hard to imagine the Tees Valley without its ribbons of dry-stone wall.
Follow the woodland path to a rise that leads to the Middleton-in-Teesdale road. Walk along the road; the verge is generally wide, but care must be taken on some of the short, curved stretches. Continue past the hamlet of Dent
Bank to Breckholm. Once past the last house in Breckholm, take the path that winds you downhill, through a pinch gate, to a farm.
At the farm turn eastwards and follow the path along the river once more. Cross over a footbridge and continue on until you reach the road bridge over the Tees into Middleton-in-Teesdale. Though not part of the walk, a detour into the town is worthwhile. It is a prosperous, bustling place with much fine architecture and, most importantly, a number of teashops.
In the 19th century the London Lead Company sited its headquarters in Middleton. The town benefitted enormously from the influx of jobs and money. Although the company has long gone, its influence, in the size and shape of the town, is still felt today.
Cross over the road bridge to the south side of the River Tees. Walk past the Middleton-in-Teesdale auction mart and then turn right to join the route of the Pennine Way. Follow the path
across a number of fields back to the River Tees.
Continue westwards, leaving the Tees briefly, until you reach the tree-lined bank once more. Cross over a footbridge and continue on. Looking south you can see a series of scars that cut into the Pennine Hills. The most impressive is Holwick Scar, an outcrop of dolerite and part of the Whin Sill formation that cuts across County Durham and Northumberland.
Continue to follow the river until you reach a clearing and the southern end of the Wynch Bridge that crosses over the Tees. An iron suspension bridge, the Wynch Bridge dates back to 1830. It was built for the Duke of Cleveland and replaced an earlier bridge from 1741. This original bridge collapsed in 1802 killing one by drowning and dashing another on the rocks below.
The current bridge is safe though, having been renovated and maintained by County Durham Council. Although, if you had one too many scones in
those Middleton teashops, youd better cross carefully
The bridge is in an impressive location on the Tees. Below is a gorge through which the river noisily rushes. Walk a few minutes northwest and youll see the reason for this torrent. Low Force waterfall gushes over the rocks of the Tees Valley. At 6 metres high it isnt going to break any records. Niagara it is not. However, its a pleasingly-shaped waterfall and still powerful, particularly after heavy rainfall.
After leaving Low Force, follow the path through the trees that takes you back to Bowlees and the end of the walk. And, isnt that amazing, it hasnt rained once along the way!

Walk facts

Start Point: Bowlees Village
Grid Reference: NY 905 280
Length: 7.1 Miles (11.5 km)
Difficulty: Moderate
(some climbing but generally flat)
Time: 3.5 hours
Nearest Pub: Kings Head - Middleton-in-Teesdale
Nearest town: Middleton-in-Teesdale
For more information about Middleton-in-Teesdale visit:

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