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High Force Waterfall is situated in Upper Teesdale approx. 4.5 miles northwest of Middleton-in-Teesdale, alongside the B6277 road. High Force, England's largest waterfall thunders 70 feet over the Whin Sill volcanic rock to a deep pool below, and is adjacent to one of the most picturesque sections of the Pennine Way long distance walk.
High Force is very easy to get to and easy to explore once you are there. From Middleton-in-Teesdale follow the B6277 northwest past Newbiggin and Bowlees to the car park and picnic area at the High Force hotel. The car park/picnic area is open all year; the parking charges are a modest 1.50 (correct as of 01/2002).
There are two ways to view the falls. The most common way is through the wooded walk situated directly opposite the car park across the B6277. Because this is private land, a small charge is made to gain access to the falls, 1 for adults and 50p for children and over 60's (correct as of 01/2002). Follow the gravel path for 1/2 mile through the woods until you reach a flight of steps. As you approach the falls there are reasonable views through breaks in the trees. I have found that spring or autumn are probably the best times for photography,
the foliage is usually too thick in the summer.
Once you reach the steps you have two choices, the flight to your right takes you to the top of the falls, straight ahead takes you down to the rocks adjacent to the plunge pool. Whichever route you take, be very careful, the steps and rocks can get very wet and slippery, especially when the river is in flood and there is lots of spray around. It is best to keep your gear in a backpack until
it is needed. In this location I find that this method has a number of advantages. Your camera is nice and safe and dry, with your equipment on your back you will be more stable and you have both hands free for climbing around.
Even taking these precautions I have ended up on my rear on many occasions!
Taking the route down the steps first, you can get very near the water for spectacular photographs of the falls. The one main draw back is that the falls are nearly always in shadow, or at least have a shadow partially across. I find that this is a perfect location for dull weather photography. Using a wide-angle lens - 20mm if you want all the falls in your shot, I find that from this position I can virtually crop most of the sky out. When overcast it can be quite dim down here, so a tripod is the order of the day, slow shutter speeds and a small aperture will ensure that the water is nicely blurred while everything else is nice and sharp. Spray is a problem down here, protect the front element of your lens with a skylight or U.V. filter, any droplets of water can be wiped from the camera and lens with a small chamois.
Climbing up to the top of the falls gives a good view along the river gorge downstream, as well as good views of the river upstream with Widdybank Fell in the background. However, a large ugly quarry prevents access further upstream on this side. Retrace your route to return to the car park - pausing for a moment for a last look at the falls.
As previously stated, this is the most common (and busiest) route to view the falls, it does not take long to reach the falls, a couple of hours at the most would suffice to see and do most things. But how about something different?
Starting back at the car park, cross the B6277 again, but instead of going into the wooded walk, turn left follow the road downhill for a very short distance until you reach a gate in the drystone wall marked 'footpath'. Follow the footpath down a steep flight of steps until you reach a small meadow. The path can be seen crossing the meadow, with the river on your right. Follow the path for a short distance until you reach a rather splendid suspension footbridge crossing the river. Cross over the bridge to the opposite side where you will be confronted with the Pennine Way footpath. The downstream section of the path - to your left goes past Low Force, about an hours walk from here. The upstream section of the path - to your right leads to High Force and on to
So following the path upstream we climb a fairly steep bank at the top of which there are a lot of prickly gorse bushes. Follow the path further upstream, the thunder of the falls getting louder all the time, eventually you will find some smaller paths leading off to your right. All of these paths lead to the edge of the gorge, follow the path that leads to a small clump of twisted windswept Hawthorn trees. From this point you have a beautiful uninterrupted view of the falls, with no one in the way! From this location with a moderate telephoto lens you can isolate the falls from the rest of the scenery. This is also a good place to have a break; a tree trunk is ideally placed as a seat so you can enjoy your sandwiches and the fantastic view in reasonable comfort.
Suitably refreshed, follow the main path upstream to the top of the falls, you are now directly opposite the place where the flight of steps from the wooded walk leads to. However, from this side you can get far better photographs of the falls 'going over the edge', as well as the river upstream minus the dreadful quarry.
Further upstream the path runs through some of the most spectacular scenery of Upper Teesdale, keen walkers can follow the Pennine Way path right up to Cauldron Snout from this point if they wish. If you have decided that you have had enough, simply retrace all of your steps back to the car park.
Either side of High Force can easily be explored by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness in a couple of hours. Due to the close proximity of the falls to the car park there is no excuse for not taking your tripod with you! Both the river and the falls make it a fascinating place for everyone, though do keep a tight hold on young children should you decide to make this a family outing as