Last year Simon and I enjoyed a visit to the historic market town of Richmond, Yorkshire. One of our adventures can be seen here: Muker and the highest pub in Britain (528m/1732ft)
We liked Richmond so much that this year we decided to spend Simon’s birthday weekend in the same town again. We had booked our b&b a month earlier; the weather was the last thing on our minds. But one month on and the UK had already suffered from the tantrum of Storm Ciara – and now Storm Dennis was due on our Richmond weekend.
Hmmm. I wondered if we hadn’t already booked our accommodation, would we have called the weekend off?
The roads going to and back from Richmond were fine, but one could see many of the fields were flooded.
On the Sunday of our stay, we took a trip to see Low and High Force Waterfalls in Upper Teesdale, County Durham. They’re located within a National Nature Reserve.
However, we had to take two detours as one road had a sign warning motorists to go no further because it was closed due to flooding.
And another road was open but a massive puddle flooded it. A large 4×4 could get through but a small Skoda?
We didn’t take the risk anyway.
So instead of going through Barnard Castle (which is a small town with, you’ve guessed it, a castle), we went through the village of Middleton instead. On our way back we enjoyed a hot drink and warming tomato soup at a little cafe called Rumours.
There is a car park where we nearly parked last year. On that occasion, we hoped to have a quick walk before heading on our way back to our respective homes. But there was a charge that had to be paid by a certain number of minutes – or else a lovely fine would come through the door.
And they had CCTV to check.
You also had to pay extra to actually see the falls.
So after a quick exit, hoping that we hadn’t been in the car park for more than 10 minutes, we had the luck of spotting a lay-by where cars could park for free and you could walk for free to see the falls.
That time we didn’t see High Force, but we still had a pleasant walk along the river, enjoying the calmer sight of Low Force.
One year later, we parked in the lay-by again. Evidence of Ciara and Dennis (the rain of which we endured the evening before) could be seen in the muddy paths. Thankfully I was wearing good walking boots!
We walked along a single-person bridge over the River Tees. A sign which is often ignored considering the numbers of people on it that afternoon. When I strolled across, three people were behind me!
The first bridge was built in 1741 and, according to the sign at the site, ‘was the earliest known suspension bridge in Europe ‘. Tragically, three men fell in the river in 1802 after one of the chains snapped. One of the men died. The current bridge was built in 1830.
Low Force was just as scenic as I remembered. It drops over the Whin Sill, a layer comprising a hard rock called dolerite. Locally, it’s known as whinstone.
As we followed the muddy path towards High Force, we admired artistic carvings along the walls.
Juniper trees seemed bigger than I’d seen before – but unfortunately a sign declared that a disease was killing them in the area.
There were boot wash facilities en route but whether walkers took this precaution is another matter.
High Force is a dramatic scene. As I mentioned, we had just had two storms in a fortnight and bystanders could see the amazing effect of this on the waterfall. The power of the River Tees gushing down the 70ft cliff edge is highly impressive. With the heavy rainfall, it formed two falls but I have heard that, in exceptional conditions, the level of the river could even reach and flow down the middle section of rock.
It looked rather intimidating too, but thankfully we were safe at our viewing point!
Despite appearances, High Force is not quite the highest waterfall in England, according to Wikipedia. It seems Cautley Spout in Cumbria is nearly 590ft (180m) high! But the Wikipedia entry also says High Force ‘does have the largest volume of water falling over an unbroken drop when in full spate’.
It’s an amazing sight to see.
Fact of the Day
The word ‘Force’ comes from ‘Foss’, an Old Norse word for waterfall. The word came with Viking settlers more than 1,000 years ago.
(Information from a sign at the High Force site).