A Stroll With Stu: going back to my childhood roots

Thornaby Green and St Peter's Church.
Thornaby Green and St Peter's Church.

For purposes of mud avoidance, I went partially urban for this six-miler around my home town, Thornaby-on- Tees.

I started at the railway station, where I once met Prince Charles staring at his watch.



I worked for the railway at the time and was catching the Saltburn train home. I didn’t have the heart to tell Charlie that I’d just seen a couple of our elite fitters hitting a lifeless Royal Train with a lump hammer in Tees Marshalling Yard.

Turn left past the old town hall heading up to a roundabout. This was a thriving shopping area when I was a lad – Bloom’s carpets, Paleschi’s ice-cream, Thirkell’s butcher and a Barber’s shop where my Mam would send me with a few threepenny bits and instructions to “get plenty off”.

The demon snipper always finished with an application of a cheap version of Brylcreem (precursor to hair gel, kids). He called it “syrup” and it was dispensed from a plastic bottle, in a careful and conservative fashion.

The stuff would set firm after 30 seconds or so, holding your quiff in place, but one day I remember the top of the bottle coming off, drowning me in pink goo.

Replica Spitfire.

Replica Spitfire.

He spent some time scraping puddles of it up my neck until my head was encased in a three-inch dome of hardening gunk.

Unfortunately, it was a really hot summer’s day and by the time I got home it had melted and was pouring down my ruined shirt in great sticky waves.

My Mam was furious!

Note the lighting column (an homage to the five lamps originally erected here in 1874 as a gathering place) and head across the A66 up Westbury Street, past the Westbury pub (on the site of my old

Junior School).

Turn right at the butcher’s down Peel Street, soon diagonally across a park, eventually emerging from Victoria Street to turn left along Thornaby Road close to the impressive St Paul’s church (1888).

Thornaby swimming baths survives from my youth 100 yards ahead, but go down Cornfield Road opposite the church, right at the bottom along Garden Close, then left to access a path by the River Tees.

A mile or so to your left, follow a signpost marked Thornaby Village Green.

Go right across the thin but picturesque green across a small road then further greenery to reach the remarkable St Peter ad Vincula church (St Peter in chains).

Remarkable, because in the middle of municipal Thornaby, this tiny church dates back to the 12th Century, pre-dating the Notre Dame in Paris and the loco used to pull the Royal train.

Turn left up the next road, then right past the Oddfellows pub.

Cross over to reach a memorial on a green space dedicated to all who served at Thornaby Airfield during and after the Second World War.

Prior to urban expansion, I used to play in the abandoned bomb stores and air raid shelters above which Avro Ansons and Spitfires used to roar.

Further along the road atop a roundabout is a magnificent life-size replica of a Spitfire and away to the right down Bader Avenue, is a small remaining patch of original runway asphalt, if that sort of historical minutiae floats your boat.

Beyond the Spitty, turn left down Cunningham drive.

As it curls left at the bottom go right by Woodside Grange care home, working your way behind the houses at the end to a path leading through woods to Stainsby Beck.

Follow this left – crossing a lane at one point but always staying close to the beck – until after at least a mile you get the chance to leave mud for Tarmac close to Stainsby Hill Farm.

I was once rounded up by an irate farmer here (treading on his cabbages, allegedly), made to work for five hours, and then had a fork-full of pig muck thrown in my face (accidentally, to be fair).

When they let me and my mates go, I ran home to report a vicious kidnapping to my Mam and Dad and expected the cast of Z-cars to be called into action, but my Dad just held his nose and sent me upstairs for a bath, whilet my Mam stoically accepted the destruction of another shirt.

The path emerges close to a junction on the A19 (a hump-backed bridge during the pigmuck felony).

Turn left past the cemetery, another replica of the five lamps, The Littleboy Park, Teesside Golf Club and finally the Pleasure Gardens – just an acre or two of trees (conker central) largely unchanged in at least 60 years.

Keep following the main road to get back to the Station.

I was born just up the road, and went back to look at the old place where, sadly, they’ve grubbed up the privet hedge.

Cracking memories though (despite the rogue barbers and dodgy farmers!)