Start Point : Middlesbrough Train Station
End Point : Hartlepool Train Station
Distance : 17.20 Miles
After a bit of a hiatus while we completed the Tyne and Wear Heritage Way we are back to trying to walk some more of the Coast Path. To get back into it we decided to start addressing the gap we’d left between Hartlepool and Saltburn. Part of the reason we’ve not got around to filling the gap before was due to thinking that it wouldn’t be a particularly scenic walk around Middlesbrough, but after having so long without covering any new areas of the coast path we thought it would be a good a place as any to start back up.
At this part of the coast path the trail deviates quite far from the coast to cross the river Tees in Middlesbrough, so from North Gare in Seaton Carew to Redcar is all away from the sea!
Starting off from the train station we headed down towards the Transporter Bridge, built in 1911 the bridge has become a landmark of Middlesbrough and Teesside. The bridge functions with a gondola suspended beneath the bridge which transports both vehicles and pedestrians across the river. Unfortunately for us at the time we did this walk the bridge was closed for engineering works so instead of a ride on a gondola we has a 7 mile diversion up to the next bridge and back down again.
We followed the signs for the England Coast Path which led us along a road slightly set back from the River Tees and continued along here until we reached Teessaurus Park. The park came as something of a surprise as we crossed the car park and found the area filled with metal dinosaur sculptures! Teessaurus Park was first opened in 1979 with just one sculpture and then more were subsequently added.
We passed through the park and emerged next to the river at last, as we continued to walk up towards the Newport Bridge where we would cross. We passed a couple more sculptures, including one of a seal which we learned were part of the Tees Sculpture Trail. We also saw some guillemots swimming in the Tees, which was very unusal, at the time we did this walk guillemots and razorbills were mysteriously turning up all along the North East coast, and we did continue to see them all along the river and when we eventually made it to the sea. Investigations are currently being made, as many birds have unfortunately died and washed up and those examined have been found to have starved, but there’s not yet an explanation as to why, though hopefully there soon will be.
We came to the Newport Bridge, and finally started to feel we were at least walking in the right direction, instead of away from the sea. The Newport Bridge was the first large vertical lift bridge in Europe and was designed to lift to a height of 37 metres via electric motors to allow ships to pass below. It was built by the local company Dorman Long & Co who were also responsible for the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle.
Once we’d crossed the bridge the coast path followed along a busy road for a while before branching off to a slightly less busy road and hitting into a lot more heavy industry than on the other side of the river, with the only break being the village of Port Clarence seemingly surrounded on all sides by factories! At the far end of Port Clarence we finally reached the other end of the Transporter Bridge, and agreed that if it had been open we would definitely have skipped out the diversion!
The coast path here briefly left the road around a few fields before joining Seaton Carew Road which we would be walking beside for a long time. Although still surrounded by industry this bit of the walk was made a bit more interesting by passing several nature reserves. The first and biggest of these was RSPB Saltholme, where we passed right next to one of the lakes and saw a few terns along with herons and egrets. RSPB Saltholme is developed on previously industrial land, where birds had already started to utilise when the RSPB opened the reserve in 2009.
Some time after this we arrived at Seal Sands, and Teesmouth Nature Reserve, despite the name we weren’t actually expecting that we’d see any seals, but we were pleasantly surprised to see quite a large amount of them out on the sand bank just across from the hide! Before human disturbance it would be common for more than a thousand seals on these sand banks but by the 1930’s there were no longer any at all. Things started to improve for the seals in around the 1960’s and more and more seals gather on at seal sands as time goes on, though still nothing like the numbers seen before industry took over.
We spent quite a while watching the seals, finding a bench that we could see them from while having lunch before carrying on. At this point we were sure that we must be getting close to the sea but it seemed to take a very long time before we got to the point where we could see sand dunes, then there was only the small matter of getting past Hartlepool Nuclear Power Plant, and bizarrely a golf course right next it before we could get to the sea.
We climbed over the sand dunes and finally reached the sea, at this point of the walk we had already done 13 miles, a long way for a coastal walk! As we turned to follow the beach we could see Seaton Carew, the beach here is very wide and just behind is a pretty promenade which made a nice change from the scenery earlier in the walk. We headed up onto the promenade for a well deserved ice cream before continuing along to follow it all the way around to Hartlepool.