Ashgill Force

Ashgill Force & Tynehead Fell

Walk Summary

A fine walk from Garrigill with a visit to the superb waterfall of Ashgill Force before a visit to Bellbeaver Rigg, the highest point of Tynehead Fell. The easy return passes the source of the River South Tyne.

Distance: 11.5 miles
Total ascent: 1200ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Roadside, Garrigill
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

My only previous visit to Bellbeaver Rigg was back in 2007. On that occasion I’d parked up at a layby on Yad Moss which I’ve always felt was a bit of a cheat as it is only about 50m lower than the top of Bellbeaver Rigg. Therefore for a while I’ve been thinking of a longer approach from South Tynedale. The benefits of this were that I’d be able to revisit Ashgill Force, explore a bit of Clargill Burn and finally also visit the sculpture marking the source of the River South Tyne.

I’d meant to do this walk a few months earlier when I spent a few days at Alston. Instead I’d ended up joining the Alston Moor Walkers Are Welcome group for a walk to Lambley Viaduct. On this occasion I’d taken a few days off to recharge my batteries after a particularly tough few weeks at work.

“Although I was close to the source of the River South Tyne the views here were of the infant River Tees in the wilderness of the Moor House Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve.”

Starting from Garrigill I walked south out of the village along the road. At Crossgill Farm I followed the route of the South Tyne Trail down to the river which I crossed at Windshaw Bridge. Continuing upstream the path was then deflected away by Ash Gill. While it is quicker to cross over at the first footbridge and continue up the River South Tyne I first detoured to visit Ashgill Force, by far the largest of several waterfalls in Ash Gill. Quite simply it is one of the finest waterfalls in the north of England. After a lot of recent rain the waterfall was even more spectacular than usual.

From Ashgill Force I took a path slanting west on the south side of Ash Gill. This led to a farmhouse where a path dropped down the fieldside to rejoin the main path. Continuing south on the South Tyne Trail I passed the farm at Hole House to eventually reach the confluence of Clargill Burn and the River South Tyne. Here I left the South Tyne Trail to take the byway passing the house at Tynehead.

I soon left the byway to make a detour to visit the waterfall shown on the map. It proved to be a fine fall but was a little bit tricky to get close to due to the steep grassy sides of the gill. After taking a few photos I carefully picked my way back to the path and continued up the byway.

There had been occasional patches of sunshine but as I climbed higher the weather took a turn for the worse. Half way up Clargill Burn I slanted down to a small bridge and some old mine levels where I huddled next to the stream to eat my lunch. Returning to the byway I continued uphill to pass a ruined hut. Not long after I left the track to follow a fence on my right. At a fence junction I then turned right to follow another fence before cutting across open ground towards Bellbeaver Rigg, avoiding where possible the peatier ground.

There are two cairns on the top of Bellbeaver Rigg. I first visited the more southerly of the two before walking north-west to the one that marks the summit. It had stopped raining by this point. Low cloud was largely covering the higher fells to the west, the views to the north were largely dominated by Round Hill whilst to the east was Burnhope Seat. To the south I could see Mickle Fell beyond Meldon Hill.

From the summit I made my way towards a line of prominent green mounds near a small tarn. These mounds are the filled in remains of old shafts. A thin path dropped down alongside the series of mounds to eventually reach a broad track. Although I was close to the source of the River South Tyne the views here were of the infant River Tees in the wilderness of the Moor House Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve. Moor House itself could be seen away to the south.

Turning right on the track I soon reached the sculpture next to the small stream which is the source of the River South Tyne. The sculpture dates from 2002. Next to it is a large rock with a plaque set into it with information about the River Tyne Walk for the ‘Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care Walk’. From the sculpture the return to Garrigill was dead easy. It was a simple case of remaining on the track until it cross the infant river. From here the track continues to join the road end beyond the ruined farm at Dorthgill. I did make a brief detour to try and view the waterfall in Dorthgill but I couldn’t get a decent view, it was probably the only disappointment of the walk.

Once on the road I followed it all the way back to Garrigill. By this time the sun had begun to make a reappearance and I thoroughly enjoyed the views across the valley to the likes of Burnhope Seat, Flinty Fell and Alston Moor. The roadside verges were also full of wildflowers including plenty of wood cranesbill.

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