Jo’s Monday walk : High Force and Gibson’s Cave


It’s almost like a watercolour, isn’t it?  The light was so beautiful on that late December day in Teesdale, and the sense of freedom was intoxicating. The days on either side of it had sheeted with rain, and there was little doubt in my mind that the Tees would be in full spate.  Where better to head than spectacular High Force waterfall, situated within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Beauty?


From the car parking at High Force, you can walk down to view the falls and then follow the river downstream to Low Force, pictured in my first photo.  A sign at the top of the path grabbed my attention- a reminder that the power of nature is nothing new at all.


High Force formed where the River Tees crosses the Whin Sill– a hard layer of igneous rock.  The waterfall itself is comprised of three different types of rock.  The upper band is whinstone, or dolerite- a hard igneous rock which is slow to erode.  The lower section is carboniferous limestone- much softer and easily worn away.  Between the two, carboniferous sandstone was baked hard when Whin Sill was molten 295 million years ago.  This combination means that the waterfall is slowly moving upstream as the rock wears away.

I had no sense of this, as I stood there, enveloped in a world of water.  The temporary fine weather, and the respite between Christmas and New Year, had brought the crowds to gaze in wonder.  I edged as close as I could, happy to worship alongside them.

As I walked back up the path, the rocks streamed with water, and the frailty of the trees was visible all around me.  It’s many years since I was last at High Force, and I had to ask myself why.  The countryside is so beautiful!


Looking at the map in the car park, I followed the river along to Bowlees Visitor Centre, and my attention was caught by a short walk to Gibson’s Cave.  Something new to me!  My husband knew from the glint in my eye that this was my next target.

I was delighted to find that the somewhat muddy path followed a tributary of the river, and that there were more waterfalls in store.

The route bypasses abandoned Bowlees Quarry and I stopped to read the signs.  It was too wet underfoot to do more.

The drystone walls and even the fences were covered in spongy, green moss, but it was the bed of the river that captivated.  The rock formation was unlike anything I’d seen before- an intricate scratching of patterns .




You can see the path, running alongside the falls.  It was a little slippy in places and I had to scramble through a fallen tree, but the end was in sight- Gibson’s Cave.  But who was Gibson?  A ‘lovable rogue’, apparently.




Did you read the explanation of the patterns on the river bed?  Layers of grey limestone, sandstone and dark shale, in a tropical sea about 330 million years ago.  Quite incredible!  And Gibson?  A happy, 16th century outlaw.

That wasn’t the end of my adventures for the day, but I think that it’s a good point at which to stop.  The Bowlees Visitor Centre is nearby and, if you’re lucky, it might be open.  Cake, or something more substantial?

Next week we’ll carry on to Low Force.  It’s just as lovely, so I hope that you can join me.

walking logo

First things first- let’s put the kettle on and get settled for a good read.  Huge thanks to my lovely contributors!  If you have a walk you’d like to share I’m always happy to have you along.  Details of how to join in are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo above.


Let’s start with Debbie, and some beautiful views of Edinburgh :

Up Calton Hill

Jackie is still enjoying Mexico!

Monday Walk- La Noria

And Amy takes me to a beach I remember from long ago :

Monday Walk : Clearwater Beach

There’s one thing my friend Drake has for sure!

Independent Mind  (And a love of beautiful places too)

Back to the rain forest with Lee Ann for two super walks, in quite different places!

O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk

MacRitchie Trails Rainforest Walk

Anyone ready for a snowy walk yet?  Not too much snow, I promise!

Alone in the Snow : Mynydd Mawr

Surely one of the prettiest walks from the festive season!  Many thanks, Jude :

Christmas Glow

Meanwhile, Richard is topical (and maybe a bit windswept!) :

There’s more to Boscastle than floods

And Denzil is eating blackberries :

Masbourg : How Green is my Valley

If you had a garden like Pauline’s, you would never mind coming home :

Back Home in the Garden

That’s it for another week!  My walking group will be out today, weather permitting.  First walk together after the New Year, and we’re sticking to footpaths- no boggy fields!  Take care of yourselves!




  1. That first picture is stunning, Jo! It does look like a watercolor, or better yet, an oil painting, right up there with the Masters! What a wonderful place to explore. I love your photos of the patterns in the rock bed too. Thanks for taking us along on this gorgeous walk. xxx

  2. That’s an incredibly interesting about the waterfall on the move! Natural wonders! I think you’re quite right in describing some of the photos as looking like watercolors. They really are. I love the huge expanse of space filled with such glorious light and color!

    1. I’d never thought about the falls in that context either, Debbie. I’m always too busy getting excited by them! Just like a kid! 🙂 Thank you for indulging me 🙂 🙂

  3. They do look like watercolour paintings Jo. Such a lovely sight and so peaceful! I just love the waterfalls. Are people allowed to go in and swim there?

    Thanks for the lovely walk and amazing photos. I enjoyed as always. 😀 ♥

      1. Then you would most definitely find me under one of those waterfalls next time. 😆

        Thanks, you too. 😀 ♥

  4. Oh Jo, what happened? I thought I came by, but then I realised I saw your first beautiful photo on Facebook, thinking then and now that it looks like a watercolour, and realising I didn’t comment here as I meant to 😦 I think I’m losing it! What a gorgeous place, and so many waterfalls too! Thank you for another perfect walk…can we go again please? xx

    1. And I had to drag you out of the spam by your heels! Pure chance because I saw your ‘like’ a little while ago and thought to myself, poor Sherri hasn’t got time to comment. Bless your heart, of course you did! But you really don’t need to hon. I know the pressures. Love you for it 🙂 🙂

      1. Ahh…just read this Jo, after leaving you a message on my blog in case!!! Thank you so much for dragging me out of spam prison. Just goes to show how well you know me! I will be able to comment now hopefully. It happened to me on three blogs yesterday, so annoying. And I love you and your blog, how could I not comment? I can’t keep quiet, haha 😀

  5. The light and the soft fresh hues of the first image are beautiful , but it is indeed the green moss and abstract, scratchy patterns of the river bed that hold me in thrall. Fabulous walk to return to Jo. Are you back in the Algrave/Poland already?

  6. This brought back great memories of our visit there a couple of years ago – in February but the weather much the same. Beautiful and a very uplifting walk which comes across in this lovely post. I must admit I didn’t know all the details though – thank you!

    1. I usually only acquire the details when I start to write the walk, Annika. I take photos of signs along the way but I’m much more engaged with nature than the facts whilst I’m there. I’m busy putting part 2 together, which you will also be familiar with. 🙂

      1. I look forward to Part 2! I’m terrible at stopping to read signs and information boards etc. As my husband stops to study them in detail, I’ll lift my head to the sun, my eyes to the view and ask him to tell me some information. I loved the High Force walk and at the end there was the usual cafe, serving huge scones, hot chocolate and were kind enough to stay open longer for us since we were so late in the day.

      1. Thanks Jo! Just getting back to this now because it didn’t initially come through to me in my “notifications”..there now though..some funny WP things have been happening recently. Thanks again :).

  7. No prizes for guessing that I was enchanted by the geology, as you obviously were too, and the picturesqueness it underlays (underlies?) That time scale is truly awesome. But I was also delighted by the first photo, all that moss, the patterns in the river bed, that lovely path beside the stream under bare trees and the notion of an Area of Outstanding Beauty. This notion reminds me of trees labelled “monument of nature” in Poland. A lovely acknowledgement of what nature offers us. This is a superlative post and I’m so glad my first encounter was on my laptop and not the puniness of the iPad.

    1. What lucky soul gets to wander the UK dishing out awards for excellence and outstanding beauty, do you suppose, Meg? I want their job 🙂 Thank you so much for finding your way back to me. I missed you 🙂

  8. OMG You have outdone yourself once again. Your photography is getting more and more beautiful. Of course you had the perfect landscape ‘palette’ but really, a lesser photographer could not have brought it to life the way you have. Magnificent.

    1. There’s always a silver lining, Lisa? Many people have suffered from the volume of rain we’ve experienced this winter. I almost felt guilty enjoying myself so much but it was a truly beautiful day. 🙂 Thanks for sharing it with me, and your kind words.

  9. How lovely. I rather like the Lower Falls photo the best, but you did manage to find a fair few waterfalls on your walk. Never been there I’m sorry to say. And oh, how I wish we were still living near a tropical sea! (Not under it of course). You are giving Meg a run for her money in the geology field 😉

    1. It’s my pick of the bunch too, and should more appropriately be in next week’s post, but when I started out I only intended writing one. Didn’t have the heart to remove it 🙂

      1. I am so glad you didn’t. I have been close to that area, but didn’t have time to do the Falls. We stayed just outside Alston – Slaggyford? Only a week which really wasn;t long enough. I have only just realised how close you are to the North Pennines!

      2. Small world 🙂 Having said that, I think I’ve only been to Alston once in my life. Isn’t it strange? Definitely will go back this summer, but of course, there’ll be less water and more people. We approach from the south, through Barnard Castle. (a lovely market town with a great cake stop 🙂 )

      3. Yes, I would think so. Or Middleton-in-Teesdale, which is smaller and closer to the falls. There are some beautiful villages that we only ever drive through on the way there and I always want to stop and look. 🙂 Been up Roker sea front this morning, just for a quick blast of air. Was going to photograph some hellebores for you in our garden when I got back but the skies have just opened again. 😦

      4. I hope to prove it some time this week. Such pretty little faces, I even had haiku running through my head. WHY didn’t I take the photo then? Want to come and hold the brolly? 🙂

  10. I agree Jo the first photo could be a watercolour hanging on a wall. Beautiful. I chuckled when you talked about your husband recognizing the glint in your eye. Oh these long suffering partners of ours. We are always full of ideas for adventures. 🙂

    1. It’s funny how sometimes it’s even more beautiful than you thought it would be through the camera. It really was a stunning day, Tish, with the light just luminous at times. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Gilly 🙂 Our Meg hasn’t been around here for a while. I need to go and see how things are, but I did think of her when I posted the carboniferous stuff. Yes- it will be interesting to see the quarry when it’s a bit drier. 🙂

  11. Fantastic photos, Jo. What a beautiful place for a worshipful wander. Waterfalls are always magical, and I’m sure that Gibson was very grateful for the constant miraculous appearance of food and clean clothes. With friends like his, who needs to work? 😀

  12. Stunning photos Jo and am glad you managed to get a little bit of fine weather for your walk. Always love watching water cascade down waterfalls and the history of the rock formations is fascinating. Have a lovely week and hope the rain has stopped!! 🙂

  13. This waterfall has always been at the back of my mind for a visit sometime Jo – it’s just so far away for a quick trip though ! Really lovely to see a personal view point as you’ve walked along there . Quite the time to see it too after all the rain we’ve had …. I wonder how long that loveable rogue hid out down there … as long as the food and dry clothes kept coming I suppose Lol . Hope you’ve enjoyed your walk this morning … grey and low threatening clouds here .. time to put on t’kettle 🙂

    1. A bit foggy and dim but it was nice to see everyone again after the break, Poppy. 🙂 You would love the area and Middleton-in Teesdale is a lovely little spot to stay for a few days. 🙂

  14. Before I even read your first line, I thought……….that picture looks like a Gainsborough painting. It really is beautiful. 🙂 I always look forward to your Monday walks.

  15. I haven’t been to High Force for years either (though it’s a bit far to drop in again any time soon) and have never been to (or heard of) Gibson’s Cave, so this was very enjoyable – thanks! I’ve pinged across my (soggy) contribution for the week. Dry today – fingers crossed it stays that way.

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