Canoeing The River Tees – One Day Tandem, One Day Solo

Canoeing The River Tees – One Day Tandem, One Day Solo

Canoes on the River Tees
Canoeing a lovely stretch of the River Tees in County Durham, northeastern England. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Canoeing the River Tees is not something I did when I was younger. Even though I grew up in the north east of England and the Tees was local to where I lived until I was 18 years old, it was only later in my life I began paddling.

I know sections of the Tees very well from the bank, having walked and cycled extensively in Teesdale. When I was in Scouts we built rafts and floated them on a section of the river near Barnard Castle. The summer after my A-levels we floated down a section below Cotherstone in an inflatable dinghy.

These days when I revisit the area, I like to try to canoe on the river if I can. Recently I was able to spend a couple of days paddling on the Tees. The first day I paddled tandem with Amanda from Cotherstone to Barnard Castle, a run I have done multiple times before but the water levels are always different so there is no lack of variety. It’s also a very picturesque section of river.

About a week later I went out solo with some friends from the north east. We paddled the section below Barnard Castle, from just past Abbey bridge to be precise, down to Winston. While I was familiar with many of the features along the river – such as the rock steps at Whorlton Lido, I had never paddled this section of river.

Water levels were again low but it was nonetheless a fun day out with a variety of features to make the most of and several obstacles to negotiate. There are some unusual “fun slide” features on this section of river too. All this, combined with lovely tree-lined river banks and spring sunshine made for a very fulfilling day on the river.

Also, I fell out of the boat once on each trip. Both times were somewhat comedic πŸ™‚

These videos form the first two of a series of video blogs, or vlogs, probably irregular but aimed to share some of my fun or otherwise interesting times outdoors around the UK and further afield. These will be published on my YouTube channel (please subscribe here) as well as embedded here.

Paul Kirtley’s Outdoor Vlog 001 – River Tees, Cotherstone To Barnard Castle

Paul Kirtley’s Outdoor Vlog 002 – River Tees, Egglestone Abbey to Winston

Let Me Know What You Think

Please leave a comment below to let me know if you enjoyed this format, if you found value in the contents of the videos and if you’d like to see more of this type of video blog/video diary style of video… As always I’ll read every comment and reply to as many as I can.

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

White Water Safety & Rescue Training Provides Useful Survival Skills

Wash Day On The River Spey

PK Podcast 013: Ray Goodwin On Continually Evolving Adventures By Canoe

Switching Out Of An Expedition Mindset: Two Days Of Paddling At The English Canoe Symposium

29 thoughts on “Canoeing The River Tees – One Day Tandem, One Day Solo

  1. Dear Paul,

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful scenery’s/video’s. I wish I could be there.


  2. I’m not a canoe person although I have done some in the past.
    I do enjoy your utube bushcraft instructions. I would have to
    say they are my favorites. I’m going on 72 and I’ve just gotten
    myself a hammock tent and other than my backyard I have not
    used it in the wild yet. I’m having some modifications made to
    it before I go out. I ask my wife if perhaps in my old age I had
    lost my mind but she said no! That I had always enjoyed getting
    out and doing for my self and if I felt up to it, go for it, so I will.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      it is nice read you are still active. I am 56 a hope i have many adventures befor me. πŸ™‚


    2. Way to go Jeff!! I’m 53 so there’s hope for me yet!!
      Kind regards,

  3. Looked like a really fun day. Thank you for sharing. – Andy

  4. Hi Paul

    Nice to see you out paddling in that neck of the woods … haven’t seen the area since I was at school there next to Bowes museum. It really is a great part of the world.

    Not sure what Mr Goodwin would say about the swims though πŸ™‚ I thought you were unlucky, especially with the first one which I thought you run through. Low brace gets you there every time.

    I know I’m biased as a paddler but I think it is hard to underestimate what connection to the surroundings can be made during a canoe trip and also how wildlife around don’t seem to be unduly bothered by canoes.


  5. Hi paul, can you tell me the best ingress and egress points for both these runs.?? I really enjoyed the vids and have never been on the tee’s, looks like fun and nearer me now. I used to live nearer the Wye…
    Many thanks, dOm

    1. Hi Dom,

      Yes, it’s a lovely river.

      All the info on the various options available to you are in the following links:

      Cotherstone To Barnard Castle (first video) is contained within the Middleton to BC section. Access at Cotherstone is via the track next to the Balder, as per the description in the following. NB it’s written from a kayaker’s perspective πŸ˜‰


      Barnard Castle to Whorlton (first part of the second video):


      Whorlton To Winston (second part of the second video)


      Hope this helps.

      Warm regards,


  6. Cold wet instant and still kept the go pro dry well done and love the music, it is not so grim up north after all.

  7. Hi Paul, thanks for taking us along. Love the video. Thanks for giving the locations. Being a map guy, I went to google maps/earth and explored the whole area. Makes me want to take a walk down Abbey lane, check out the castle, then head into Barnard for a pint. No places like that here in Dayton, Ohio. Love the UK.
    Keep up the good work, thanks. Marcos D.

    1. Hey Marcos,

      I’m glad I spurred you on a virtual trip. Barnard Castle is a good place to have a pint πŸ™‚ There are a fair few pubs there.

      The castle dates back to not long after the Norman conquest and was developed in the 12th Century by Bernard de Balliol, after which it is named.


      A lot of history here. We shouldn’t take it for granted…

      Warm regards,


  8. Excellent Video’s really enjoyed the content. thanks again for sharing all this great content for free.

  9. Hi Paul
    I really like your paddling videos, they have given me an insight into what to expect on the Spey and the Tees. Your trip from Bernard castle is a grade 3 run according to a recent canoe focus, I can see where the roller coaster rides are but there is nothing like seeing the action for yourself. I think a visit to the Tees is called for after a good rainy spell, ‘note to self, take the camera with charged batteries’.
    I shall be doing some video trips on the Trent and Tame in the summer, both normally grade 1, easy steady paddling but when there is rain on the Staffordshire moorlands grade 2 but flat.

    1. Hi Howard,

      I’m glad my vids have provided some insight. The section below Barnard Castle drops a grade in low water. We started after Abbey gorge and this in particular is the section to be mindful of in an open boat when the water is running but a favourite of kayakers.

      Enjoy your trips. There are so many lovely corners of the British Isles… πŸ™‚

      Warm regards,


  10. Thank you Paul,

    Superb video and lovely scenery. Kirtvlog πŸ™‚



  11. Nice video, thanks for sharing.
    Regards Peter

  12. Hi Paul,
    I enjoyed your new ‘vlogs’ very much! It really feels like being out there a bit. I particularly like being in a position to observe what kind of line you choose when navigating your way down the ‘bony’ river.

  13. Hi Paul
    What a beautiful River Tees is. Thanks for being there sharing your part of the world experience.
    Kind Regards
    Jim-Pacific NW

  14. Paul thanks for everything you do on social media a question, what is the brand and size of the waterproof pack you use in this video thanks.

    1. Hi Chip,

      It’s a 70 litre Seal-Line Boundary Pack. http://www.cascadedesigns.com/sealline/packs-and-duffles/boundary-pack/product

      It’s a little big as a day pack but in terms of adding extra leadership items such as a first aid kit and group shelter, it provides plenty of room. I find it big enough for year-round use, having enough room for a vacuum flask and other extra items in winter.

      I also have the 115 litre which I use on multi-day trips.

      Both are very tough and reliable. Highly recommended!

      Warm regards,


  15. Hi Paul
    Great videos.
    Is the access point for the river at Middleton or Cotherstone in your first video please ?
    The Ure is another great river πŸ™‚
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Robin,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you liked the videos.

      The access point on the first video was at Cotherstone. The run down to Barnard Castle from there is quite straightforwards.

      Coming down from Middleton, one has to negotiate the “racecourse” section downstream of the bridge at Egglestone, which takes a bit more skill and care in canoe as it has some grade 3 drops.

      I hope this helps.

      Warm regards,


  16. Hi Paul,
    Many thanks again for another great feature, I like your vlogs as you call them as they show the trip as it is, not an instructual video, just a simple video of a trip as we would see it, it makes me want to get on the river more than ever, think its a late midlife crisis
    Best wishes.

    1. It could be a late midlife crisis Nige but also canoeing is just fun whatever age you are πŸ™‚

      Anyway, I’m glad you like these videos, documenting adventures large and small, rather than seeking to teach or instruct directly. I’m glad you appreciate the difference too.

      Warm regards,


  17. HI Paul, I will be visiting Barnard Castle end of August. Can you recommend a stretch of flat water for me to tour on my sit on kayak? Thanks.

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