Stroll With Stu: A town ‘on its knees’ – but plenty still to see

Locke Park, Redcar
Locke Park, Redcar
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This eight-mile circular from central Redcar takes in a park, a nature reserve, industrial heritage, majorshipping lanes and a huge expanse of deserted beach.

Redcar may be on its knees, but there is still a lot worth seeing away from the charity shops and the job centre.

Ship leaving Teesport

Ship leaving Teesport

From platform two, head along Kirkleatham Street past the council offices and eventually the cricket pitch before turning left over the railway and right at the junction into Locke Park.

Colonel TWS Locke, a veteran of the Crimean war, a JP and a Magistrate, died in Redcar at the ripe old age of 94 in the early 1920s.

He left a generous sum in his will to the Town Council to buy 24 acres of land for use as a public park and in 1929 Locke Park was opened, presumably to a fanfare of trumpets and other ceremonial pomp.

The park is well maintained by the council (assisted these days by a small army of volunteers) and it was nice to see that despite a special Government experiment in advanced austerity, the good people of Redcar still have enough spare bread to feed the ducks.

Heron on Coatham Marsh

Heron on Coatham Marsh

Keep the lake on your right and leave the park at the top left corner, crossing over Kirkleatham Lane to turn right on a hardcore path to enter Coatham Nature Reserve. Follow this down to turn left ahead of the railway line and follow the duckboards and track as it snakes alongside creeks and ponds harbouring an impressive variety of wildfowl, reeds and assorted bugs. A curious heron watched us skip gamely past some rotten boards, then 300 yards after crossing a wide beck, a sign pointed us right into bushes to a bridge over the railway. The line was rerouted in the 1970s after British Steel decided they needed the land at Warrenby and their bean counters sent a modest cheque down a corridor in Whitehall, to their nationalised counterparts in British Rail.

Quite how they got permission to build a new line straight through unspoilt marshland beggars belief, but perhaps the words “environmental risk assessment” had yet to be coined.

Or maybe it wasn’t a major wildlife habitat then – do any Gazette readers remember? Follow the path left and right, emerging on to Tod Point Road after crossing a ditch to a gap style in the fence, just ahead of the council recycling depot.

The road soon crosses the original route of the railway, before heading left alongside the golf course to take you two miles to the South Gare.

Redcar blast furnace

Redcar blast furnace

On the way you get a sad but awesome close-up of the redundant blast furnace that was the beating heart of the Redcar Steelworks. This may well be cut up and fed into a different blast furnace after taking a slow boat to China, and while you contemplate that irony, here is an interesting fact. It has been calculated that if you fill it with all the dubious Thai businessmen, the intransigent Londonesque politicians, all the pious Fleet Street hacks that were wheeled out on generous expense accounts to squeeze a new angle out of the collective grief of a proud town, and all the work shy managers and corporate spivs who trousered huge salaries to oversee the works going bust, (and then shamelessly did it all again thtrr years later), and then squash the furnace lid on and bolt it down for a not inconsiderable period…….. it would serve them all right.

Follow the road all the way to the gare, passing the colourful boats at Paddy’s Hole and the Auf Wiedersehen style fishermen’s huts. There are fabulous close-up views of the mouth of the River Tees with some huge boats plying their trade full of Filipino sailors shaking their heads after a heavy night out.

The route back is simple. Some rusty railings (adjacent to a large and historic anchor displayed near the sub aqua club), lead to steps dropping down to access the broad sands that lead all the way back to Redcar.

The sands and dunes are very impressive and even the offshore windfarm takes on a captivating appearance given the proximity to all that deceased industrial heritage.

Paddy's hole

Paddy's hole

Migrating whales pass close by offshore, and if one of them has eaten some dodgy krill, look out for a chunk of whale vomit smelling horribly of stale fish.

No, really. This is ambergris, and someone recently found a waxy ball of it in Morecambe Bay, worth £100,000 to the cosmetics industry. You can do your own research into how someone first decided that putrid whale spew would make outstanding perfume.

So, it’s about three miles back to Redcar. Still alive and kicking – spend some money in one of the independent shops/pubs/cafes.

The owners deserve it.