Skip to content

Above the Barrage

February 19, 2013

Canoeing at Stockton-on-Tees

By raising the river to the high tide level, the Tees Barrage (1995) created a slalom course, and let flat water canoeists paddle round the old docks without getting covered in tidal mud. The Tees Barrage Watersports Centre (click here) only charges £3 to launch, but you also get hassled by jobsworths who want to check your safety equipment. Here’s how to avoid all that.

teeside route

Park on Moat Street by Mecca Bingo. The original terminus of the world’s first railway, the Stockton to Darlington (1825), is just over the A1130.

stockton terminus

Forty-eight Bridge Road is now a hostel for homeless men. It was never a proper railway station, such things hadn’t been invented – passengers got on and off where they liked – but the line began here. When you’ve paid your respects, launch from the left bank, downstream of Victoria Bridge (1887).

victoria bridge stockton    launch point

300 yds to the replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavour.


0.5 mile – Millenium footbridge (2000)


in 1993 the mahogany-hulled minesweeper Kellington (M1154) was moored 500 yards downstream as a sea cadet training vessel. But health and safety fussed about asbestos, and it fell into disrepair. In 2009 it sank and had to be dismantled on site.

kellington1    kellington2     kellington3

Public slipway just before the bridge

1 mile – Princess of Wales Bridge (1992)

princess of wales bridge stockton

River Tees Water Sports Centre left. Click here.


Rowing, sailing and dragon boating. Pontoons and slipway. Good access.

1.5 miles – Infinity footbridge 2008

infinity bridge stockport    infinity_bridge stockport

2 miles – Tees Barrage, road and footbridge (1995)

tees-barrage2    tees barrage    barrage


Look out for seals below the barrage.  They congregate below the fish pass to catch salmon preparing to go up. Recent efforts to improve the fish pass have hopefully made things better for the salmon.

Lock right.  Water-sports Centre left

Tees_Whitewater_Centre     tees-barrage-white-water-course

Turn round and follow the right (now your left) bank, past Durham University Queen’s campus, under the Infinity Bridge for the second time, peep in the unnamed dock left, past Tees Rowing Club, and turn into the canal left.  You’re now entering the site of Head Wrightson Teesdale Iron Works (1840-1987). In the 1960’s this heavy engineering company employed 6,000 people here, built anything up to the size of a blast furnace, and sent their work all over the world. There can be few countries where you won’t find a Head Wrightson panel on heavy machinery.

headwrightson4    headwrightson

But when the Chinese and Brazilians got the furnaces working, decline set in and the company finally shut down in 1987.  Mrs Thatcher’s “walk in the wilderness” here the same year, soon after her third election victory, provided one of the iconic images of her premiership. Cavendish House on your right, once the home of the local regional development QUANGO, is now offices for SERCO the private provider of prisons.

thatcher head-wrightson     cavendish house

University Boulevard bridge

university boulevard bridge

Suspension footbridge

footbridge teesside park

The canal to the East is a dead end.  Turn right/west towards the river.

Yale Crescent Bridge

yale cresent bridge

Columbia and Princeton Drive, Stanford Close, Fudan Way, and Harvard Ave are all nearby – the planners obviously had high hopes for Durham University.  If you’re wondering, Fudan University is in Shanghai.

Pontoons under the footbridge obstruct re-entry to the main river but you should be able to wriggle through. Turn left and back to the start.

Jim Thornton

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: