Monday, April 20, 2015

Woodland walk along the river Tees that J.M.W.Turner trod 200 years ago

This is the view of the river Tees from Abbey bridge near Egglestone, on a tranquil spring day. When the snow melts in Upper Teesdale this becomes a raging torrent, roaring through the rocky gorge. 

The woodland on the steep banks of the river here is exceptionally beautiful in spring, carpeted with wild flowers. Last week wood anemones were the star of the show; next week the bluebells will take over.

Fallen trees are left to gently decay and often develop their own 'garden' of flowers as they rot - like this one with a flora of wood anemone, ramsons and herb Robert.

Last week the bluebells had just begun to flower but it will be early May before the tree leave canopy begins to close over them. The fully-grown trees are mostly sycamore and oak.

The path winds through a dense carpet of wood anemones, high above the river.

Wood speedwell Veronica montana

When we arrived there was still a chill in the air and dew on the leaves, so the wood anemone flowers were all nodding downwards ...

..... but by mid-morning, as the sun climbed higher in the sky, they turned to face it.

This wood anemone had purple leaves.

Some early wild cherry blossom, hanging over the river.

Wood sorrel, nestling against a moss-covered tree base. The leaves fold down at night, like triangular tents.

Beyond the woodland the path passes through pastures, with ground ivy Glechoma hederacea flowering in the shelter of a dry stone wall.

Last week the first influx of warblers arrived, with this willow warbler and blackcaps singing

Last time we passed this way the elms were just coming into flower. Today their clusters of seeds were well-formed.

A bee-fly, a parasite of mining bees, sunbathing in a clearing.

Crane-flies mating.

A comma butterfly soaking up the spring sunshine after a long hibernation.

In 1816 J.M.W. Turner must have walked this footpath and perhaps sat somewhere near here to sketched this scene, at the confluence of the river Greta and the river Tees, which he painted in 1818. I like to think that perhaps he sat under this ancient oak, which would have been more youthful then, to view the scene, which you can see in his painting by clicking here.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Woodlands in Spring are a wonderful place to be, aren't they Kate? Love the flickering light through the fresh green leaf canopy

  2. What a beautiful walk! Turner must have sat beneath the oak. The wildflowers make the walk magical.

    1. The ruined Egglestone abbey is just upstream of here - that would have appealed to Turner too.

  3. One of your best posts, I thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks Phil.

    1. Thanks Toffeeapple. We went back today for another look - drifts of bluebells now