Teesdale Way Section 12 (Yarm to Stockton-on-Tees)
Section 12 of the Teesdale Way links the North Yorkshire market town of Yarm to the city of Stockton-on-Tees in County Durham. Much of the journey is on easy trails along the flood plain of the river right into the heart of Stockton-on-Tees with only a couple of brief climbs to break things up. THERE IS A GPS ROUTE FILE AVAILABLE FOR THIS SECTION AS A FREE DOWNLOAD FROM THE SHOP.
Stats at a Glance
Distance 12.2 km (7.6 miles) | Height Gain 42 m/139 ft | Maximum Elevation 27 m/87 ft | Profile Gently undulating | Going Generally good, muddy in places. Sheltered on trails, tracks and road through farmland, parkland, woodland and urban | Supplies Yarm; Preston Park (cafe); Stockton-on-Tees
The section begins at the Blue Bell pub on the north side of Yarm Bridge. Although the trail winds round the side of the pub and through the beer garden onto the riverside it’s worth visiting the c11th church of St John the Baptist in nearby Egglescliffe. It’s not far away, up a nearby cut on the far side of the buildings to the north of the pub. And there’s also Yarm of course…
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 known as Spitalfields and The Friarage. The most distinctive feature of its Georgian market place is the Dutch-style town hall along with other notable buildings such as the George & Dragon pub, where, in 1821, the meeting was held that successfully sought permission to build the Stockton & Darlington Railway, and The Ketton Ox, a c17th coaching inn, in which the blanked-out windows at the top of the building concealed illegal cock-fights. The manager I spoke to also insisted that it was the most haunted building in Yarm!
Close to the bridge on the same side is an inconspicuous dwelling that was once a pub belonging to Thomas Brown, the ‘Hero of Dettingen’ who is buried in the churchyard of St Mary Magdalene. He was a private soldier who was knighted for heroism by King George II, the last British monarch to lead an army into battle. Such was his courageous tale that he’d undoubtedly have won a VC if they’d existed at the time.
To get there you have to cross Yarm Bridge which dates to 1400 when its construction was ordered by Walter Skirlaw the then incumbent Bishop of Durham. There’s a plaque separating the counties hidden behind a lamp-post half-way across, on the downstream side, dated 1810. Upstream, the entire town is dominated by the magnificent 43 arches of Yarm Railway Viaduct. This impressive piece of civil engineering was built 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. Such an important crossing point favoured it with a market granted by King John in 1207 and, being the highest navigable point on the river, it was an important seafaring location with many associated trades such as shipbuilding, rope making etc.
Following the river away from Yarm, there’s not much to exercise the eye apart from the expansive view, the subtle machinations of nature and the occasional pleasure craft. Just after passing the riverside part of Yarm School is the confluence of the River Leven with the Tees, its final major tributary but it can easily be missed within the woods on the other side of the river.
Eventually the trail crosses a metal footbridge before turning sharp left, uphill, through a narrow wood alongside Eaglescliffe Golf Course before emerging onto Dinsdale Drive (keeping with the theme of golf the entire estate consists of golfing references).
After that, it’s onto the busy A135 Yarm Road for a short distance before turning right, along the edge of Preston Park, heading back towards the river. Preston on Tees is recorded in the Boldon Book of 1183 (the equivalent of the Domesday Book for County Durham). David Burton Fowler built the Preston Hall in 1825, contemporary with construction of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. It then passed to the Ropners and by 1952, was in the possession of Stockton Borough Council when it was opened as a museum which houses an extensive collection of weapons, a living history, Victorian street and perhaps most notably, Georges de La Tour’s ‘The Dice Players’. The hall sits within a 100-acre public park with a riverside landing area that often accommodates the Teesside Princess river cruiser.
Leaving Preston Park past the landing stage and through the woods, the trail makes its way across the top of Preston Farm Nature Reserve before passing under Jubilee Bridge on Queen Elizabeth Way and entering Bowesfield Nature Reserve. Three long, tight meanders of the River Tees provide some obvious shortcuts through the reserve, so it’s your call.
The final part of the route is marked by crossing underneath the A66 where rural gives way to urban Stockton-on-Tees. After winding its way between industrial units it emerges on Boathouse Lane at the end of which lies a busy Bridge Road, leading onto Victoria Bridge mentioned earlier. Opposite is the car park of Chandler’s Wharf which marks the finish of the section (it used to be a lot more interesting until the replica of Captain Cook’s bark ‘Endeavour’ was towed away to its new home in Whitby in 2018).