There is nothing as dramatic in any landscape as the thunder and spray of a large waterfall as it plummets over a valley side and carves out its plunge pool and gorge below. We all know of the World’s grandest waterfalls, and many feature on the ‘bucket list’ of those who love travel and the great outdoors – Niagara Falls in Canada and the USA ,the Iguassu Falls on the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, and the Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border are all popular destinations.
But what about waterfalls in the UK? The counties with the largest waterfalls are in the north and west of the UK, in the mountainous regions of high rainfall. The tallest single drop and total drop waterfall in the UK is in Sutherland in north west Scotland (it’s called Eas a Chual Aluinn) and falls 200m. In full spate it is 3 times higher than Niagara Falls. In Wales the highest total drop waterfall is Maesglaese , 10km east of Dolgellau, with a fall of 160m, although the largest single drop fall is The Devil’s Appendix on Cwm Idwal, in the Glyder range east of Llanberis which falls 93m. All are impressive, and all are county champions (Maesglaese is in the historic county of Merionethshire, while the Devil’s Appendix is in the traditional county of Caernarvonshire), but getting to see them can be difficult because of their inaccessible locations.
Finding the largest drop waterfall in your own county can be more straightforward. In Somerset, for example, St.Audrie’s waterfall drops 10m on to the beach at West Quantoxhead, 5km east of Watchet on the Bristol Channel coast. In Shropshire the highest waterfall is Light Spout , which has a drop of 4m, and is not far from the road in Carding Mill Valley on the Long Mynd, 3km west of Church Stretton.
In the lowland and more urbanised parts of the country it can be much more difficult to find a waterfall, though. This is sometimes because there are no large height drops that rivers must negotiate. Its also, though, because people are very good at modifying rivers and streams by building diversions, dams, weirs and making artificial lakes when we need to control flooding, or the river is in the way of building work, or we want some ornamental feature constructing. In West Midlands county, for example, there are almost no natural waterfalls, and the county record is held by a small fall of about 1m height on the Mousesweet Brook, in Cradley Heath , Sandwell, a tributary of the River Stour.
And in Greater London there are no natural waterfalls left at all. There are a large number of artificial falls and weirs built for ornamental or water control reasons – for example, the ‘waterfall’ at Padmall Wood on the River Ravensbourne in Keston, Bromley, which is sometimes described as the largest waterfall in London. There is, though, not a single natural drop of water in London!
Does your home county have a waterfall worthy of a visit?
The Record Locations
Use the Grid References below to locate them on a map at www.streetmap.co.uk
The Highest Single Drop and Total Drop Waterfall in the UK
200m Eas a Chual Aluinn NC28102780
The Highest Total Drop Waterfall in Wales
160m Maesglase, 10km east of Dolgellau SH82741402
The Highest Single Drop Waterfall in Wales
93m The Devil’s Appendix, 10km east of Llanberis SH63805880
The Highest Waterfall in Somerset
12m St.Audrie’s waterfall , West Quantoxhead, 5km east of Watchet ST10634314
The Highest Waterfall in Shropshire
4m Light Spout , Carding Mill Valley, 3km west of Church Stretton SO43009500
The Highest Waterfall in the county of the West Midlands
1m Mousesweet Brook waterfall, in Mousesweet Brook local nature reserve Cradley Heath, Sandwell SO93708620
Not the “Highest Waterfall” in Greater London!
1.5m Padmall Wood waterfall on the River Ravensbourne, Keston, Bromley (in South East London) TQ41706460
The Must Get Out More Question !
Where is the deepest freshwater lake in the United Kingdom?
The Answer to the Last Blog Question
Where is the deepest place underground (measured from sea level) that you can reach on the transport network in the UK?
Its at the lowest point of the Severn Railway Tunnel underneath the Bristol Channel between Bristol and south Wales, where the line is 43.9m below sea level. For comparison, the lowest point on the London Underground system is found on the Jubilee Line platforms at Waterloo station, which are 26m below sea level. The lowest point of the Channel Tunnel is 75m below sea level , but of course that’s not in the UK as its in the middle of the English Channel