Gauge: there may be a handy (visual) gauge at the ford at Stanhope, but this sometimes gets washed away. However, when the system is working, the Environment Agency provide a page online showing the level at the gauging weir upstream of Stanhope which is just at the downstream end of this run. 11th December 2010 gave a good run, with the gauge around 1.2m (dropping off).
At 1 foot on the Stanhope Ford gauge (which we think is about 0.6m on the Stanhope EA gauge), the upper section was just a nice level. It would go a bit lower, but is definitely more exciting when higher. However, there seems to be some doubt that 1 foot at Stanhope Ford then is the same as the gauge now, as 1 foot on December 12th 2010 (0.6m on the EA gauge) gave a bit of a bump and scrape on the section to Wolsingham and seems likely to have been too low for the Upper. Ho hum, more reports needed !
Above Wearhead, on the Killhope Burn, there is a waterfall which is described on the UKRGB river guide. Some folk on the Boldron Paddlefest put on and ran this, but mostly non-SOC paddlers. For normal mortals, the put-on is reached over a stile on the river-right, downstream side of the bridge at Wearhead. There's usually room to park in the little side road opposite. You may be able to pop under the bridge to get an extra few metres of paddling under the river-left arch.
Put-in river right below the main road bridge at Wearhead
This Upper section is fairly continuous 3, possibly bits of 4 at high levels. The first real obstacle is a series of drops at West Blackdene. The easiest approach to inspect these is to do the job whilst doing the shuttle, by nipping over the bridge and peering over the wall from river left just downstream. We've paddled under the river-left arch, then crossed to river-right to do the last ledge drop seen in the photo. In higher water, a more straightforward line probably works, ending in the same place.
Below this there's a brief pause before the river becomes fast-moving again, with few breakouts in the next couple of hundred metres before becoming easier again. The next notable landmark is the ford at Ireshopeburn, where there is a ledge drop, best taken right of centre if the level is not that high (as seen here). A line on the left may be better in higher water (the green boat in this photo has been stuck in the shallows for some time on the left line).
More description to come...
Plenty of ledge drops on this section, some with retentive stoppers
An alternative put-on is via the bottom of Rookhope Burn to join the river just above a bridge at Eastgate. The description for the section from here to Stanhope has a separate page on UKRGB.
There used to be two weirs at Eastgate, the first being straightforward and the second (directly below a green girder bridge) was harder, but an easy portage. This lower one collapsed in November 2010, making it easier, but the upper weir became a little harder. However, sometime at the end of 2011, this one was removed, too, so now it's all just an ordinary stretch of river.
Just beyond a lattice girder bridge where the railway crosses from upvalley on the left back to downvalley on the right (angled across the river) is a gauging weir with most of the flow going between two concrete walls down a centre chute. Left of this has a landing on rocks. Right is a good chicken chute, though the eddy at the bottom can be hard to get out of back into the main flow at lower levels. There's a big stopper on the centre, but it doesn't seem to be too serious at low levels - with more water, this has been the scene of swims, and it's not an ideal place, as it is followed by a big roller-coaster wave train down a gorge.
Running down from the last weir to the Stanhope bridge
It's possible to get out by scrambling up river left to the road above here, but usually easier simply to continue a short distance to the Stanhope Ford where there is more parking, river right.