North York Moors CAM

 

Thursday 26th April 2001

Weather: Drizzle at times and dull

Today's walk: Tees Barrage - Stockton Riverside - Newport Bridge

( 9 miles )


 

Today’s riverside walk begins at the Tees Barrage,
situated on a stretch of the River Tees between Middlesbrough and Stockton

At the time of its construction in 1992, in terms of cost (50 million) and size
it was Britain’s largest single engineering project
– the barrage is 70 metres long, made of reinforced concrete,
with a pavilion building at each end and a road running across the top

 

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Before the barrage’s construction, the River Tees was tidal as far upstream as the town of Yarm
- since then, there has been a total transformation of the upstream river corridor,
the waters are clean and the fish have returned

 

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 We begin by walking upstream along the north side of the Tees,
the riverside path we take here is part of the 40-mile long ‘Teesdale Way’
– across the river are the buildings of the University of Durham

 

As we approach Stockton we pass underneath the Princess of Wales Bridge, often referred to as the Diana Bridge
- it was opened on 23rd September, 1992, and provides a road crossing between the Riverside Road, Stockton
and the Teesdale area of Thornaby

 

Looking ahead we get our first glimpse of the Teesquay Millenium Bridge, Stockton’s newest river crossing,
a footbridge linking the Castlegate Centre of the High Street to Teesdale . . .

 

. .

. . . it is of cable stay design supported by a 40 metre high mast and was completed in December 2000

 

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Just past the Millenium Bridge we reach a replica vessel of Captain Cook’s ship, the Endeavour

 

Further upstream we cross Victoria Bridge . . .

. . . a plaque reads, "The Victoria Bridge was formally opened on 20th June, 1887,
and has been named THE VICTORIA BRIDGE in commemoration of the 50th year of the reign
of her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria"

 

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From the bridge we walk back downstream alongside the river in the area known as Teesdale

Back in 1987, and amid great publicity, the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher,
made her famous ‘walk in the wilderness’ amongst this once derelict and barren site . . .

. . . it has since been transformed into a smart, bustling arena, complete with university, business facilities and housing

 

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Following the river downstream in a now easterly direction we soon arrive back at the Tees Barrage
and after passing under the barrage bridge come to the old railway sidings
where row upon row of rusting rolling stock stand for ever idle – graffiti artists have helped brighten things up a bit!

 

We continue along a fairly straight stretch of the river – however, this wasn’t always its natural course
as in 1810 and 1830 the Tees Navigation Company improved access for shipping to Stockton
by means of the Mandale and Portrack Cuts, thus isolating two huge horseshoe bends in the river

Ahead we see the A19 Tees Viaduct before the river bends towards Newport Bridge

The A19 bridge was opened to traffic in 1975 as part of a comprehensive scheme to improve the Sunderland to Thirsk route – although it boasts two lane dual carriageways, it can still become quite a bottleneck at peak traffic periods

 

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Newport Bridge is one of Teesside's most famous landmarks

An impressive piece of engineering, it was built by local company Dorman Long
(who also constructed the Sydney Harbour and Tyne Bridges) and was opened in 1934

It was the first vertical lift bridge in Britain and the largest of its type in the world
– it could be lifted 90 feet, giving a clearance of 120 feet at high water.

The bridge was raised and lowered for the last time on 18th November, 1990, at a special ceremony attended by thousands
– sadly, the lifting span is now permanently fixed down

 

From Newport Bridge we continue along the riverside path by what is now a fairly quiet area
– here we look across towards the gas tanks near the Cannon Park Industrial Estate

You wouldn’t think so looking at today's peaceful scene, but for more than 100 years from about 1850 onwards,
these green pastures were dominated by giant iron and steelworks and huge blast furnaces
– sadly the industry quickly fell into decline in the latter half of the 20th century
when local ironstone ran out and cheaper imports could be brought in

 

There's still evidence of the timber wharfs and jetties where great ships moored
to offload imported coal and ore and take on their cargoes of steel

 

Over the river at Billingham and North Tees there are still some fairly large and active chemical plants

 

This is as far as we go today and as close as we get to the most famous landmark of all on Teesside
– the Transporter Bridge

The 'Transporter' was opened in 1911 to replace the ferry services between Middlesbrough and Port Clarence
– passengers and vehicles are carried across the river on a suspended travelling platform

The crossing takes two minutes and I believe I’m right in thinking it’s the only bridge of its type in the world that’s still in use

From this point we retraced our steps to Newport Bridge,
crossed it, then walked on the north side of the river back to the Tees Barrage

 

Click here for some great old black and white photographs of the bridges
and past industries associated with the River Tees

 



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