Facts About the River Tees (U.K)

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The River Tees is situated in northern England and travels for eighty miles from it's source at Tees Head on the eastern slope of Cross Fell, a two thousand, nine hundred and thirty foot high peak of the Pennine Mountain range, to it's estuary on the North Sea, situated three miles east of the town of Middlesbrough.

The river at first flows in a south, easterly direction through the county of Cumbria where it passes through several areas of outstanding natural beauty including part of the 267 mile long Pennine Way walking path, the 100 mile long Teesdale Way walking path and the eight mile long by 1,643 foot high glaciated valley known as High Cup Nick. The area which consists of vast swathes of bleak moorland also takes in the two mile long Cow Green Resevoir and dam situated in the Moorshouse Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve - Britain's first and only GeoPark - where the landscape then changes to a vista of soft, rolling, green hills.

Most of the river flows over black, basalt rock, which has led to the formation of a succession of rapids and waterfalls, including the fifteen foot high, Low Force set of tiered waterfalls, the seventy one foot high High Force, plunge waterfall and the six hundred foot wide, Cauldron Snout, cataract waterfall.

The river goes on to flow through yet more protected areas of countryside, including the Maze Nature Reserve, the Bowesfield Wetland Nature Reserve and Basselton Woods before making it's way towards the 490 acre TeesPort, Britain's third largest seaport which incorporates the docklands of both Middlesbrough and Hartlepool, before moving out to the shifting channels and extensive mudflats of it's estuary. The estuary's seven hundred and eight, square mile basin forms part of the 295 hectare, Special Site of Scientific Interest at Teesmouth National Nature Reserve – also known locally as Seal Sands, renowned as it names suggests, for its large colonies of grey and common seals. 

Situated just outside the town of Stockton – on – Tees is the Tees Barrage, an immense structure which consists of a barge loch, a fish pass for salmon and trout, a bascule bridge to allow ships to pass beneath, a footbridge, a water purifying system and flood defence. It is at this point where the river becomes tidal and changes to a more north, westerly course. The building of the barrage has also enabled this part of the river to be used as a world class, 820 foot long, artificial whitewater course for rafting and canoeing known as the Tees Barrage International White Water Centre.

The river has several tributaries including the thirteen mile long River Balder,the twenty five mile long River Skerne and the ten mile long River Greta all situated in County Durham, the forty four mile long River Lune in Cumbria and the twenty eight mile long River Leven in North Yorkshire.  

The river passes through several small villages and hamlets, the historic market town of Barnard Castle and the County Durham / North Yorkshire towns of Middlesbrough, Middleton - in Teesdale, Stapleton, Stockton - on - Tees, Thornaby - on - Tees and Yarm.

The river is spanned by about fifty bridges, many of which have become tourist attractions in their own right, including a steel, vertical lift bridge, the first of its kind to be built in the country when it opened in 1934, known as the Tees Newport Bridge. It has a span of 270 feet and carries the A1032 road between Middlesbrough and Stockton – on - Tees.

The river’s most unique bridge is the Grade II listed, Middlesbrough Teeside Transporter Bridge, which carries the A178 road from Port Clarence to Middlesbrough. The bridge is an 851 foot long by 225 feet high, blue steel, cantilevered gondola bridge which was built in 1911.

The bridge’s suspended gondola can carry 200 foot passengers and nine cars and takes just ninety seconds to make the 580 foot journey across the river. The bridge is unique for being the only one of its kind in England and one of only two, the other being in Wales, still in working order in the world.

The river’s newest bridge is a 131 foot high by 787 foot long, stainless steele, cycleway and footbridge situated between the Teesdale Business Park at Stockton – on – Tees and the campus of Durham University at Thornaby – on – Tees. The bridge is known as the Infinity Bridge and was built in 2009. 

Another interesting, yet controversial bridge is the Tees Viaduct or Tees Flyover, a six-lane, dual carriageway situated on the A19 road between Middlesbrough and Stockton – on – Tees. At just under two miles long, this concrete, beam bridge is the largest of its kind in the U.K. The monster bridge was opened in 1975 and carries upwards of seventy thousand vehicles a day. 

The rivers oldest bridges are a six arched, stone bridge at Croft, and a four arched, stone bridge at Yarm, both built in 1400 by Walter Skirlaw, a former Bishop of Durham. The river is also home to the country’s oldest vehicular carrying, iron bridge, the Eggleston Abbey Bridge built in 1773.

Another interesting bridge in Yarm is the Yarm Viaduct, a 2,280 foot long by sixty five foot tall, forty three arched, brick built and railway viaduct with the two arches that span the Tees built from stone. The viaduct was designed by Scottish civil engineer Thomas Grainger for the Leeds and Northern Railway Company and was opened in 1851.

Overall the River Tees is a haven for nature lovers owing to it’s diverse countryside and stunning scenery, a Mecca for bridge enthusiasts due to it’s many British, record breaking structures, an internationally renowned water sports destination, due to it’s rapids and whitewater course and a popular location for both fly and course anglers, owing to it’s abundance of trout, grayling and other course fish varieties found within it’s waters. 


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                                                      Title image – Yarm Viaduct, courtesy of wikimedia commons. 


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