A Stroll With Stu - enjoy cracking views of the old '˜Northern power house'
I suppose I prefer my column to be prettier, (that's why they took my mug shot off the top of the page), but on this 4-miler alongside the River Tees you can still enjoy some cracking vistas of what was once the epicentre of Britain's industrial wealth '“ the Northern power house, when it actually existed.
You might want to couple this with a spot of Christmas shopping, because the walk starts at Middlesbrough train station and ends not a million miles from Teesside Retail Park.
Leave the station via the rear entrance (the front entrance has been shut for donkey’s years while Network Rail’s bean counters scour their map of the Home Counties for Middlesbrough) and turn left opposite the magnificent Club Bongo International – a little slice of Vegas in central Teesside.
Carry on along the road, skirting light industrial units and several cafés doing their bit for the bacon butty business.
The road eventually climbs left towards the A66 and you should turn right at the first traffic lights, then left at the bottom of the hill.
With tethered horses everywhere, continue on the left side of the road, climbing up to bypass the next roundabout.
Back at the road side, stay left and soon a path drops away to approach some very welcome greenery.
The first point of interest is the resplendent Newport Bridge.
Built in 1934, the central span used to lift 121 ft courtesy of two motors in the end towers, to enable hundreds of ships to pass underneath en-route to Stockton’s shipyards and quayside.
The final lift was in 1990 and now it is nailed
permanently down, but remains an impressive crossing over the Tees.
Carry on along the riverside path admiring optimistic cormorants and seals, trying to take advantage of the much cleaner waters flowing slowly past the remnants of jetties from yesteryear.
Soon, on your left, is a signposted path leading into Maze Park – a nature reserve of grassland and broad- leaved woods with high mounds consisting of reclaimed materials left over from the ironworks at Thornaby.
There are a multitude of butterflies, wildflowers and allegedly a colony of sand martins in this unlikely place.
The path wends its way to a central mound which you can climb straight up, or choose a left turn when it gets a bit vertical to join a spiral path circling up to the top.
At the top there are cracking views away over the marshalling yards and Teesside Park to the Cleveland Hills in the distance, and over the river to Portrack and the Durham Plain.
Tees Yard is where I started and finished my 31 years on the railway, but they look very different now than they did in 1975.
There were 42 busy lines heading in, dovetailing with 42 more heading back out, with a large maintenance Depot at the Western End now reduced to rubble and buddleia bushes.
My first day involved a visit to Tees Yard where I was given a grand tour, culminating in a visit to the Collingwood pub for an extended liquid lunch.
On our return, I was approached by a man in a suit who asked how my first day had gone.
Not knowing that he was the revered and all-powerful Area Manager, I told him that it was great as I had spent much of it in the pub. Strangely, within a few short hours I was transferred to Darlington.
Carry on Westward, working your way back to the Riverside and ultimately to the hugely impressive Tees Barrage.
Completed in 1995 after four years’ work, this project cost £50m (contrast that with the £3bn already spent on HS2 before they’ve bought their first shovel).
Cross over the low level footbridge admiring the fish pass and the mechanism holding the water back at low tide.
On your right at the end, take a detour to have a look at the white-water rafting course before returning to head further West on the low level path now on the North side of the river.
The next Bridge is the infinity footbridge with its pretty asymmetrical arches.
You can finish here by crossing to the University campus area, head along to the second of two roundabouts and away to your right is Thornaby Station for your journey back to the Boro (or a bus to Teesside Park shops).
However, I implore you to do yourself a beery favour and carry on into Stockton. I haven’t enough space for specific directions, but ask someone the way to the Golden Smog micropub in Hambletonian Yard just off the High Street.
Recently voted the best pub in the history of the Universe, you are unlikely to want to leave in a hurry and when you do, the Christmas shopping decisions will be a lot easier.