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The Bridges of Middlesbrough

A riverside figure of eight, with a train journey from Middlesbrough to Thornaby in the middle.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 2hrs plus train journey

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Riverside paths and pavements

Landscape Former industrial area, riverside, fine engineering structures

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 306 Middlesbrough & Hartlepool

Start/finish NZ 462193

Dog friendliness Can be off lead on riverside sections

Parking Tees Barrage car park, approached over Barrier from A66

Public toilets Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre (open weekends only, but daily in school holidays) and Middlesbrough Station

1 From the Tees Barrage car park walk to the red-and-blue metal flags above the canoe slalom course. Turn right, down the slope, then left over two arched bridges. Bear right then left through the walled picnic area to join the riverside path. Turn left and follow the path, staying beside the river where the tarmac ends. Go beneath the concrete road bridge, built in 1975 to carry the A19 road. After the bridge the path becomes a track. After a metal barrier across it, go straight on towards the Newport Bridge.

2 Climb the steps and cross the bridge. At the end of the bridge take the steps on your right and descend to the river bank, bearing right beneath the bridge to join a tarmac track. Turn left and follow the track, keeping left where it divides. Continue along the riverside for 1½ miles (2.4km). This riverside park was once the site of the Newport Iron Works, founded in 1864. Across the river are the chemical complexes at Billingham, which opened in 1917. The river curves right. Notice the wharfs where the iron ore barges tied up to supply the ironworks.

3 Near office buildings go up a grassy slope ahead and continue to a curved metal bench - there are disused slipways, where boats were once built, on the other side of the river. Turn right here and follow the path which brings you into an open area with steel sculptures of dinosaurs. This is Teesaurus Park, opened in 1982 on the site of a former slag heap. Keep to the left, to emerge on to a road. Turn left and follow the road, bearing left at a roundabout, to reach a crossroads beside the Transporter Bridge. Turn right and follow the road to where the Albert Bridge takes the railway over the road. Go half right to enter the railway station via a subway.

4 Take the train one stop to Thornaby. Leave Thornaby Station over the footbridge and go straight ahead over the grassed area, bearing left at the end to a roundabout. Turn right, following the Stockton Town Centre footway signs. If you look to the left you will see a replica of Captain Cook's ship Endeavour, and the Teesquay Millennium Bridge, opened in December 2000. Go over a small bridge, then bear right then left to reach another roundabout. Go straight ahead over the Princess of Wales Bridge.

5 At the end bear right to join a track going towards the river. Go left through a narrow gateway into woodland, then continue along the riverside as far as the Tees Barrage. Go underneath it and bear left to pass the canoe slalom and return to the red-and-blue metal flags.

Middlesbrough, on the River Tees, has several outstanding bridges, which are the feature of this walk. The Newport Bridge was built by Dorman Long (who also built the Tyne and Sydney Harbour bridges) in 1934. The first vertical lift bridge in Britain (and the largest in the world), it was last raised in 1990 and is now permanently shut. But it is the Transporter Bridge that is the symbol of Teesside. Built between 1907 and 1911, it carries 750 people and 600 vehicles across the Tees every day on a carrying car that crosses in 2½ minutes, 160ft (48.7m) above the river.

The Tees Barrage, where the walk begins and ends, was built between 1991 and 1995 at a cost of £54 million. It has four 50-ton gates, each 44ft (13.4m) long and 26ft (7.9m) high and has created 11 miles (17.7km) of freshwater between Stockton and Yarm that is used for a wide variety of leisure activities. The whitewater canoe slalom course provides exciting sport, and hosted the Canoe World Championships in 2001.

Where to eat and drink

There is a café near the Tees Barrage, and a hotel and restaurant on the hillside above. Otherwise Middlesbrough offers a wide choice - you can reach the centre by going under the Albert Bridge before catching your train to Thornaby. Stockton also has cafés and pubs. Cross the Millennium Bridge to reach its centre.

While you're there

Albert Park in Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, is a green oasis in the town. There is a visitor centre and areas for sports and games, as well as beautifully planted flowerbeds. The refurbished Dorman Museum in the park, built after the only son of the Dorman shipbuilding family died in the Boer War, has displays of Middlesbrough history.

What to look for

The area around the Transporter Bridge has largely been cleared of the tightly-packed houses that once accommodated the thousands who toiled in the ironworks, but some still remain. Middlesbrough grew from a population of just 25 in 1801 to 91,000 a century later. It was called 'youngest child of England's enterprise, the infant Hercules'. Many of the houses the workers lived in were hard up against the ironworks, and their lives were dominated by smoke, dirt, heat and noise. Two-bedroomed houses could hold as many as 20 people, who slept and worked in shifts, so the beds were never cold. The women were condemned to a life of drudgery, trying to keep families together and prevent illness. It is not surprising that the children, taken from this squalor to church-organised picnics on the edge of the North York Moors, believed they were in heaven.


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