The Middleton-in-Teesdale and Bleabeck Force walk in the North Pennines

South-west out of Middleton-in-Teesdale along the Pennine Way and A Pennine Journey to Harter Fell, followed by a trek over moorland north-west to Holwick Scars. West to Bleabeck Force, then back to Middleton-in-Teesdale following the course of the River Tees, passing High Force and Low Force on the way. A 14-mile walk in the North Pennines.


The best map to use on this walk is the Ordnance Survey map of the North Pennines, reference OS Explorer OL31, scale 1:25,000. It clearly displays footpaths, rights of way, open access land and vegetation on the ground, making it ideal for walking, running and hiking. The map can be purchased from Amazon in either a standard, paper version or a weatherproof, laminated version, as shown below.

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Looking back over Middleton-in-Teesdale from the Pennine Way on Intake Hill.


The view north-west over Teesdale.


Looking back towards Middleton-in-Teesdale with Monk’s Moor in the background.


Not much to see here! Heading up to Harter Fell.


The view south-east down to Grassholme Reservoir.


The view south-west from A Pennine Journey over to Salset Reservoir.


A row of very neatly built square-shaped stone grouse butts. Usually they are round.


One of three lapwing chicks, perhaps only a few days old, on the grassy path on which I was walking. They were so small and well camouflaged, and I narrowly avoided treading on them. The parents were flying frantically above my head so I quickly moved on.


Rowton Beck, on its way down to the River Tees.


Unusual stepping stones across Blackmea Crag Sike.


Holwick Scars.


Beautiful stone sheep on either side of a stile near Holwick Scars.


Blea Beck, which I see flowing into the River Tees later in the day.

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Dine Holm Scar as seen from Whiteholm Bank.


The view north-west over Upper Teesdale.


The Pennine Way by the side of the River Tees below Dine Holm Scar.


Stone quarry on the north side of the River Tees, just to the east of Dine Holm Scar.


Blea Beck flowing into the River Tees just after the Bleabeck Force waterfall.


Bleabeck Force.


The Pennine Way alongside the River Tees on the approach to High Force.


High Force

At High Force, about five miles north-west of Middleton-in-Teesdale, the River Tees drops 21 metres into a deep plunge pool.

Molten rock

High Force plunges over a layer of resistant rock known as the Whin Sill. This formed 295 million years ago from molten rock, which solidified underground between older layers of rock. The Whin Sill is now exposed at the surface after millions of years of erosion.

Sun, sea and sand

The rocks below the Whin Sill formed 330 million years ago when the North Pennines was at the equator. The grey rock is limestone and the layer above it is sandstone. The limestone formed from limy ooze in a tropical sea and the sandstone was once sand in a river delta.

Sculpted by water

This gorge has been carved by water. This process began at least 15,000 years ago with ice age meltwaters and continues with the action of the river today. The waterfall is progressively moving upstream as water wears away the rock.

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What’s in a name?

‘Force’ comes from ‘foss’, the Old Norse word for waterfall. This, along with other local landscape words like ‘dale’, ‘beck’ and ‘fell’, came here with Viking settlers around 1100 years ago.


A Cinnabar moth, originally named after the bright red mineral ‘cinnabar’ once used by artists as a red pigment for painting. Visit https://www.buglife.org.uk/bugs-and-habitats/cinnabar-moth for more information.


Low Force, a set of waterfalls about 3½ miles north-west of Middleton-in-Teesdale.


A pair of stone sheep near Wynch Bridge, Low Force.


Meadowland by the side of the River Tees near Holwick.


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