The Teesdale Way
The Teesdale Way is a 147 km (92 miles) walking trail from Dufton in Cumbria through County Durham and Teesside to the North Sea coast at South Gare near Redcar, England. For much of the way it follows the 156 km (98 miles) course of the River Tees as it snakes across County Durham and Teesside from its source at Tees Head on the slopes of Cross Fell, the highest point in the Pennines. Its character is pleasantly diverse, featuring the remote uplands of Teesdale, the heavy industry of Teesside, the expansive, golden beaches north of Redcar and the rural farming landscapes of County Durham.
The journey is comprehensively waymarked for its entire length: wooden signposts for the Pennine Way are in charge as far as Middleton-in-Teesdale after which they are re-branded for the Teesdale Way. These then appear intermittently along the trail together with the much more frequent green-and-yellow circular badges with the ‘dipper’ bird motif that is retained all the way to Redcar when it is replaced by a salmon. Where the route becomes more urbanised around Stockton so does the signage until we meet the galvanised artistic triumphs that feature sculptures of walking paraphernalia after Middlehaven in Middlesbrough. Also worth a mention are the simple, unobtrusive and intriguingly chimney-like, boundary markers that help chart our progress through the parishes of Teesdale.
Travelling east to west, the Teesdale Way begins its journey in the picturesque village of Dufton in Cumbria’s Eden Valley at the foot of the North Pennine escarpment. Using the same route as the longer and better known Pennine Way, the trail pulls directly upwards away from the village, skirting the edge of High Cup Gill as it climbs to the highest point on the journey at High Cup Nick. Once over the top it’s downhill all the way – in terms of elevation anyway.
After crossing the moorland watershed the trail passes into County Durham at Cauldron Snout. Here the River Tees, released from its confinement behind the looming dam wall of Cow Green Reservoir, plunges over the edge of the Whin Sill to join the Maize Beck far below. After initially following the river, the trail departs briefly across upland pastures before meeting it again at its confluence with the Harwood Beck.
After another brief departure, trail and river come back together just before the magnificent waterfall at High Force, another of the outstanding natural features on the Teesdale Way created by the Whin Sill. Thereafter the route travels the length of Teesdale through idyllic woodland and farmland via the towns and villages of Middleton-in-Teesdale, Eggleston and Cotherstone to the historic market town of Barnard Castle.
Out of Barnard Castle, the river heads into the Tees lowlands with the trail always close by, past the villages of Whorlton, Winston, Gainford and Piercebridge, to the borough town of Darlington where it begins to meander insistently, inviting the trail to take its leave at intervals to explore a more pragmatic route. The terrain is much flatter now as the river winds through the villages of Hurworth, Neasham, Middleton One Row, Aislaby, Yarm and Egglescliffe to Stockton-on-Tees.
In recent years Stockton’s riverside has been massively redeveloped, with lifestyle and recreation in mind; it’s also the location of a substantial part of the campus for Durham University. The going here is urbanised, flat and shiny with a guarantee of clean boots all the way past the replica of Captain Cook’s barque ‘Endeavour’, the Tees Barrage Watersports Centre, the Newport Bridge and on to Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium at Middlehaven in the shadow of the iconic Transporter Bridge.
On a personal note I find the next section to be one of the most compelling of the Teesdale Way although the heavy industry encountered after Middlehaven might not be to everyone’s taste; some might justifiably consider it to be an eyesore. Despite its unarguable lack of environmental credentials it serves as a reminder of the vanished industries that once populated much of the route we have just walked.
The trail cleverly picks its way through the industrial sites to join a busy trunk road before crossing a nature reserve to Warrenby. You can elect to finish here if you don’t want to go all the way to South Gare a few kilometres further on. If you do decide to continue to South Gare you do so via a busy, narrow road or cross the dunes and continue along the beach behind them. Be aware that unless you have access to personal transport or are planning on phoning a taxi or receiving a lift you’ll need to walk several miles back into Redcar to access transportation.
THE TEESDALE WAY – SECTION BY SECTION
We divide the Teesdale Way into 15 sections of between approximately 4 and 9 miles to make them suitable as ‘out and back’ day-walks (although some have obvious circuits that we’ll be publishing soon). Starts and finishes are suggested with reference to obvious meeting points, parking facilities or proximity to towns and villages; however it is easier to achieve this for some sections than others – so please feel free to adapt them for yourself.