Teesdale Way Section 12 (Yarm to Stockton-on-Tees)
Section 12 of the Teesdale Way links the North Yorkshire market town of Yarm with the city of Stockton-on-Tees in its ceremonial county of Durham. Much of the journey is on easy trails following the river along its meandering flood plain right into the heart of Stockton-on-Tees with only a couple of brief ascents to break things up. Before 2018, this section finished alongside the replica of Captain Cook’s ship ‘Endeavour’ which has since moved to Whitby. Now, unfortunately, there’s little of interest in the immediate vicinity except, perhaps, Victoria Bridge, but at least it’s easy to get to and things pick up quickly thereafter.
Stats at a Glance
Distance 12.2 km/7.6 miles | Height Gain 42 m/139 ft | Maximum Elevation 27 m/87 ft (Dinsdale Drive, Eaglescliffe) | Going Generally good, muddy in places. Sheltered on trails, tracks and road through farmland, parkland, woodland and urban | Hospitality & Supplies Yarm (All); Preston Park (Ca); Stockton-on-Tees (All) | Start Blue Bell Public House, Yarm NZ 418312 | Finish Chandlers Wharf, Stockton-on-Tees NZ 446148 | Grade Gentle | GPS File
Before you leave the Blue Bell pub it’s worth visiting the c11th Church of St John the Baptist in nearby Egglescliffe village; it’s not far away, up a nearby cut on the far side of the buildings to the north of the pub. Recorded in the Domesday Book, Yarm was settled by Dominican Friars in 1286 and lies on the North Yorkshire side of the River Tees on a narrow peninsula, the oldest parts of which are Spitalfields and The Friarage. Central in the Georgian market place is the Dutch-style town hall surrounded by other notable buildings such as the George & Dragon public house where, in 1821, a meeting was held that successfully sought permission to begin construction of the of the famous Stockton & Darlington Railway, and The Ketton Ox, a c17th coaching inn, where the windows at the top of the building were blocked to conceal illegal cock-fights. A manager there insisted that it was the most haunted building in Yarm!
Close to the bridge on the same side is a house, once a pub, the landlord of which was Thomas Brown, ‘Hero of Dettingen’, who is buried in the churchyard of St Mary Magdalene. Brown was a private soldier, knighted for heroism by King George II, the last British monarch to actually lead an army into battle. Such was his courage in retrieving his unit’s flag that he’d undoubtedly have been awarded a Victoria Cross – the UK’s top military honour – if they’d existed at the time.
Construction of Yarm Bridge was ordered in 1400 by the Bishop of Durham, Walter Skirlaw (who was also ordered the builiding of Newton Cap Bridge at Bishop Auckland on the Weardale Way). A plaque dated 1810 and hidden behind a lamp-post half-way across the bridge on the downstream side denotes the county boundary. The bridge was fought over in1643 by Royalist and Parliamentarian forces when the northernmost arch had been replaced by a drawbridge. Upstream, the town is dominated by the magnificent 43 arches of Yarm Railway Viaduct. This impressive piece of civil engineering was constructed between 1849 and 1851 and runs the entire length of the old town.
Until 1887, when the Victoria Bridge opened at Stockton, Yarm’s was the first bridge on the river. Being such an important crossing point it was granted a market by King John in 1207 and for many centuries was the highest navigable point on the river with its own shipbuilding and rope making industries.
Downstream from Yarm School, the Tees is joined by the River Leven but it does it very subtly and is easy to miss. Elsewhere on the wide floodplain there’s not much to exercise the eye apart from the occasional angler and pleasure craft. Eventually the trail crosses a metal footbridge before turning left uphill, through narrow woodland alongside Eaglescliffe Golf Course. It emerges onto Dinsdale Drive, the highest point on route where the street names are all golf courses.
After a short distance on the busy A135 Yarm Road the route enters the 100-acre Preston Park as it heads back towards the river. Preston-on-Tees is recorded in the Boldon Book of 1183 (Durham’s equivalent to the Domesday Book). David Burton Fowler built Preston Hall in 1825, the same year that the first part of the Stockton and Darlington Railway was opened. By 1952 it was in the possession of Stockton Borough Council during which time it became a museum with an extensive collection of weapons, a Victorian street and most notably, Georges de La Tour’s painting ‘The Dice Players’. The park includes a riverside landing area used by the Teesside Princess river cruiser.
Away from Preston Park, the Jubilee Bridge on Queen Elizabeth Way separates Preston Farm Nature Reserve from Bowesfield Nature Reserve and is the first of series of bridges under which the trail passes. Although the landscape around it is becoming increasingly more urban, the parks provide an attractive, meandering route through it – until the A66 Surtees Bridge. After winding between industrial units the trail emerges on Boathouse Lane before crossing busy Bridge Road (leading onto Victoria Bridge) for what today is a rather unimpressive finish at Chandler’s Wharf.