Signal Posts and Artworks

Ten gateway signal posts mark the entries into the Heritage Park. These posts were designed by the sculptor commissioned to carry out the landscape artworks and are made of cast steel. The sculptures also incorporate a QR tag which enables information to be obtained via a smart phone regarding the site and surroundings.

1 – Black Bobbies’ Field

This gateway is situated at the northern end of Thornaby Green, a medieval village founded by the Vikings – probably called Thormadby after the founder Thormad with the suffix “by” signifying a small settlement. Undulations in the Green indicate original building and trackways around the remaining early Norman church. The mother of Captain Cook lived in the village.

The name Black Bobbies’ derives from the use of part of the land as a football pitch used by the local police team. They used a pub near the police station which became known as Black Bobbies’ as it was often full of policemen in their black uniforms!

Paths lead in both directions along the Tees and a landscape artwork has been created to the south, which provides a rest area and viewpoint adjoining a local nature reserve.

2 – Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend is a tight loop in the river, also known as The Holmes, derived from the old Norse holm meaning “islet in a river”. Originally agricultural land, The Holmes is mentioned in a poem by Tennyson, “The Northern Farmer”

He might have taken Jones, who hasn’t a halfpence of sense

Or he might have taken Robins, he never mended a fence

But God Almighty he must take me and take me now

With half the cows to calf and Thornaby Holmes to plough.

Today the land forms part of the Bassleton Woods and Holmes Local Nature Reserve. The Holmes is a mix of developing woodland, wildflower meadow and wetlands. A landscape artwork has been built on eastern bank which provides a rest area and viewpoint. Footpaths link into Bassleton Woods, an area of ancient deciduous woodland with a variety of woodland flowers, giving a hint of its ancient past.

The footpaths through Bassleton woods link into an extended footpath network into Bassleton Beck valley, the nature reserves at Bowesfield and Preston Park, via Gateways 5 & 6.

3 – Bassleton Beck

In ancient time Bassleton Beck was known to have the small edible variety of bass fish, which could be the source of its name. The Romans had a marching station and villa at Barwick nearby with a minor road going into Thornaby, one of the nearest ancient settlements, which may have followed the current track across the valley. Thornaby Wood is a large area of ancient woodland and features trees such as oak, elm and witch. Roe deer are often seen in Thornaby and Bassleton Woods. In the upper part of the valley are the remains of two pill boxes connected with the defence of the nearby Thornaby Airfield

An ancient stone path (Stoney Path) runs along the top of the valley from the Gateway towards the Tees and may have provided access from windmills to transport grain to barges on the Tees. The path also linked across the beck at Bassleton Bridge to the stone quarry at Ingleby Barwick.

An artwork seating area has been provided on the footpath between the Gateway and the Tees on the Thornaby side, which provides a viewpoint across Bassleton Beck Valley.

4 – Thornaby Woods

Thornaby Wood is a large area of ancient woodland and features trees such as oak, elm and witch. Roe deer are often seen in Thornaby and Bassleton Woods. There was a Romano-British villa near Barwick. An artwork seating area has been provided on the footpath between the Gateway and the Tees on the Thornaby side, which provides a viewpoint across Bassleton Beck Valley.

5 – Bassleton Bridge

Bassleton Bridge was an ancient link between Thornaby-on-Tees and Barwick village and Barwick Quarry, known locally as Stoney Path. In ancient time Bassleton Beck was known to have the small edible variety of bass fish, which could be the source of its name. The Romans had a marching station and villa at Barwick nearby with a minor road going into Thornaby, one of the nearest ancient settlements, which may have followed the current track across the valley. Barwick village was the largest medieval settlement between Yarm and Stockton and remains of buildings and earthworks are still visible around the current Barwick Farm – Bere is Saxon for barley and Wick means farm.

From this Gateway, footpath and cycleway access is enabled to Preston Park and the Tees Valley Wildlife Reserves at Bowesfield. This wetland reserve is formed by three loops in the River Tees, each with its own character and special wildlife. The reserve is home to a growing number of birds, which roost and and feed in the rich, wet grassland and lakes found on the site. The reserve also offers opportunities to spot Otters and Sand Martins along the river. Roe deer can often be seen moving through the reserve.  A landscape artwork has been constructed at the Bowesfield Nature Reserve between the two lakes, which also provides a “hide” for observing wildlife.

6 – Preston Farm

Below the Gateway, Tees Valley Wildlife have created another wetlands nature reserve which links with the existing pond and reed beds adjoining the Queen Elizabeth Way, a popular nesting site for swans. The footpath leading to Preston Hall passes close to the original village of Preston, the remnants of which are still visible on Preston Lane, close to Preston Farm. This area was also known as Chapel Hill, the building is shown on a map of 1860 close to the footpath where it diverges from Preston Lane. There are also indications that there may have been a bronze age settlement in this locality.

From Preston Lane the footpath links through woodland in Preston Park to the Hall and is part of the Teesdale Way, which follows the course of the Tees from source to the Estuary.

7 – Preston Hall

Preston Hall and Park are at the heart of the Heritage Park and provide access by footpath, cycleway and the river to most parts to the greater park. On the hillside above the gateway is a landscape artwork celebrating the creation of the Tees Heritage Park and all lands visible from the artwork along the river valley form part of the Park. It is the major artwork of seven sculptures built so far within the Park area, which are associated with the gateways and footpaths linked to the surrounding communities. One of them, a seating sculpture, is situated a few hundred yards downriver on the riverside walk. The works were commissioned as part of Lottery Funding achieved for the first phase of the Heritage Park and created by international sculpture Keith Barrett.

The museum in Preston Hall describes the history and development of the river valley and settlements and there is a supplementary exhibition explaining the Tees Heritage Park within that context.

8 – Highfield

Prior to the extensive housing development, part of this area was known as Highfield, and was farm land. Fortunately a substantial area of this original character has been preserved as farming around the medieval village of Egglescliffe. From this gateway The Teesdale Way follows the Tees around the farmland, which includes arable and livestock farming and is a unique reminder of our heritage in the heart of a heavily built up area. The Teesdale Way leads to Yarm and the medieval Yarm Bridge and there is a footpath spur leading up to Egglescliffe Village and its historic Church and village green.

9 – Round Hill

This gateway leads to the remains of farming lands which once thrived along the Tees. Opposite, there are fine views of the Heritage Park area between Egglescliffe and Preston Park. On this bank, one of the original farms, White House, remains to the north linked to a new housing development. To the south, above the confluence with the River Leven, are the remains of an early Norman castle, built as an earth motte and bailey, known locally as Round Hill. The base mound of the castle is clearly visible and would have originally been surmounted by a timber tower. From the top of the mound, the remains of a ditch around the bailey are just visible in winter time. The wider views along the Tees and the Leven valley towards the Cleveland Hills, emphasise the prominence and dominance of the site to overawe the local saxon population. Below the castle mound on the Tees are the remains of an early building and dock , which seems to have been connected by ancient tracks to the ridge along the Leven valley and early windmills, such as that at High Leven.

10 – Yarm Bridge

There was a bridge at Yarm from about 1200AD, but the present one was was built in 1400 and its position as the most easterly bridge across the Tees contributed to the prosperity of Yarm as a thriving port and market town. It

was the scene of a minor battle during the English Civil War, when the northern arch was demolished and temporarily replaced with a timber drawbridge. In the early 1800’s a steel bridge was built, but collapsed almost immediately – the foundations are still visible on the opposite bank. Upstream, the Teesdale Way footpath leads eventually into Teesdale and the upper reaches of the river. Downstream the path skirts the remaining farmland around Egglescliffe village and enters the special rural character of the Heritage Park. On the opposite bank would have been the bustling dockside of the early port leading to the Friarage lands, which were originally settled by the Dominican, Black, Friars around 1300 and some of the early names such as The Froggery near the river Leven were associated with the Friarage and Hospital of those times. The name Spital is derived from the medieval Hospital. This stretch of the Tees was once rich in fish resources, particularly salmon and some of the early names such as Salmon Landing and Fishers Bank reflect this importance. It was also known for it’s shipbuilding, although on a somewhat smaller scale than today!

As part of the Lottery Funding for the development of the Tees Heritage Park, international artist Keith Barrett was commissioned to design and assisted by Linda Watson, constructed the landscape artworks to strengthen the identity of the Heritage Park, providing destination features, incorporated rest areas and viewing points. The artworks are linked to the gateway signal posts as part of the improved, footpath network throughout phase one.

1 – Preston Park

This artwork is the symbolic centre of the Tees Heritage Park. Walking down towards the river you will at first be aware of the wave-form of grass embankments and glimpse passages of stone mosaic that drop down the  embankment towards the river. As you walk in to the centre of the work, it will open out and you will find yourself surrounded by a stone circle defined by a stone mosaic in a rising sun or petal motif in the embankment rising behind, and a semi circular embankment and ring of stone to the front. At the centre of this is a raised stone platform which bears a cast iron plate, showing the extent of the Tees Heritage Park with an image of the river line and names of the surrounding communities.

At this point the artwork creates a space at which people will feel themselves to be at the axis of the Tees Heritage Park, and the fall and outward ripple of stone and earth waves spreading out from the centre act as an invitation out in to the surrounding landscape.

As well as working symbolically as a central landmark, the artwork is also intended to be simply enjoyed in an aesthetic and sensual way, with pleasure to be taken in the beautiful stone and how it has been put together, and in the way in which the work changes from every perspective, enhancing and emphasising the attractive character and fall of embankment down to the river.

2 – Preston Park Riverside

Walk 150 yards downstream from the signal post and landing stages in Preston Park to a small fun sized seating area with a view of the river and shaded by the surrounding trees.

3 – Black Bobbies’ Field

This is a quiet and subtle art work comprising two terraces of stone on either side of the footpath leading down to the bridge over the inlet to the fish pond. The terracing creates a strong definition in the form and drop of the embankment, enhancing the character and identity of the space, providing a definite sense of destination and arrival. The stones provide places to sit and for children to scramble and play. Their strong presence give the impression that they have lain there for many years.

4 – Bowesfield

A sculpture built from clay and stone which sweeps beside the footpath along the narrow strip of land which lies between two lakes of this lovely nature reserve. The simplicity of material, the elegance and mass of form, and a surface becoming green as it is colonised by surrounding flora, creates an art work which truly belongs in its space. Six large faces of stone set in to the inside face reveal fossilised lake beds in a leap of time from the period of their formation to the moment by moment movement in the water of the lakes which surround them.

As well as being an aesthetically powerful piece, this art work has a practical advantage in offering a place to rest and hide for people watching the rich bird life in the reserve.

5 – Horseshoe Bend

This art work of three wave like mounds faced with finely crafted rhythmic patterns of stone creates a flowing movement, which reflects the sweep and curve of the river. A seat has been integrated in to the stone work, providing a place to stop. The mounds provide an elevated position to gain a better view. As well as a work to be seen and enjoyed from the river bank, it has also been designed to be seen from the river; the three waves appear to pass across one another in a rippling movement when viewed while travelling past in a boat.

6 – Bassleton Beck Valley

If you cycle or walk along the path above Bassleton Beck, between Queen Elizabeth Way and Bassleton Lane, you will pass a short walled footpath to the south of the main route, leading down a cut in a low embankment. Should you take the few yards down the path you will find the walls become seats and spread out like open arms on either side of the path, revealing and inviting your enjoyment of a beautiful view across the Bassleton Beck Valley.