Tales of the Tees – Cow Green Reservoir

Cow Green Reservoir

Cow Green Reservoir

Cow Green Reservoir is a man made reservoir that was finished in 1971. The dam and works took 4 years to build. 

It was built to supply water to the growing industry on Teesside. Industry often uses a lot of water and needs a constant supply. It also served the huge numbers of homes for people who worked in the new industries. A reservoir allows you to ‘top up’ a river during dry periods. It is one of a series of three designed to support the Tees Valley economy.

The construction was held up for nearly ten years by environmental complaints and investigations despite the area having been the site of mines, principally for barium sulphate, a chemical added to paint. 

The area is almost unique in Britain. Many species of plant have existed there since the last Ice Age over 12000 years ago. It is now surrounded by protected wildlife areas. Only the hardiest of birds can thrive here at an altitude of 480m above sea level. The reservoir regularly freezes over in winter for long periods.

The reservoir is around two miles long with a surface area over three million square kilometres. It sits just below Cross Fell where the River Tees officially begins. Cross Fell is also the starting point for the River Tyne which flow in a different direction around the mountain’s huge glaciated valley sides. The boundary between Cumbria and County Durham runs directly through the middle of the lake.

Although a harsh environment, people have lived in the area for thousands of years. When water levels dropped due to drought one year, a Bronze Age farmstead was uncovered. In and around the wildlife areas, the main use of land is for farming today, especially sheep.

Other resources

Link to Wikipedia page about the reservoir

Visit Cumbria site with lots of information about the reservoir

Website about its construction from the Institute of Engineers

Link to image search for pictures of the reservoir

Bird watching site showing the wildlife there

Official website with info of what’s on and what to do there

Youtube video of the points of interest around the reservoir

Visit our help resources to make fantastic fliers and posters

1861 map showing the area around the mines and villages where the reservoir now sits