Waterfalls of Weardale

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Q  Why has Weardale got so many waterfalls?

A   Its geology.  300 million years ago the North Pennines, which were then located near the equator, were covered alternately by shallow tropical seas and river deltas, resulting in alternate layers of the bones of sea creatures, mud and sand being deposited.  These deposits hardened into layers of limestone, shale and sandstone.   The shales are worn away more easily by the rivers of Weardale resulting in lips of limestone and sandstone where waterfalls occur.

Q  The geology of Teesdale is similar to that of Weardale so why are its waterfalls, like High Force, so much more impressive?

A  The Whin Sill.  This is layer of very hard igneous rock up to 70 metres thick which lies under much of County Durham and Northumberland.  It was produced from magma flows, which instead of reaching the surface as volcanoes, spread out through the rock strata.  The Whin Sill occurs at the  surface in Teesdale but not in Weardale.   Rivers erode the Whin Sill much more slowly than the layers in which it is embedded, producing the high waterfalls of Teesdale.

 

Waterfall at a ford, Newhouse Pastures, River Wear
Waterfall at a ford, Newhouse Pastures, River Wear

 

Waterfall at West Blackdene on River Wear
Waterfall at West Blackdene on River Wear

 

Waterfall on Horsley Burn, above Stanhope
Waterfall on Horsley Burn, above Stanhope

 

Waterfall on Reahope Burn, Stanhope
Waterfall on Reahope Burn, Stanhope

 

Waterfall on River Wear, Wearhead
Waterfall on River Wear, Wearhead
2 Comments
  1. David Heatherington says

    Congratulations on your Weardale Today Website. The whin sill does appear at the surface in Weardale as the Little Whin Sill at Stanhope where the river cuts a deep ravine at Briggen Winch. Just upstream from the bridge there is a modest waterfall where the fish jump is.

    1. Graham says

      Thanks David,

      We’ll be out soon to take a photograph

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