River Tees Rediscovered is a landscape partnership managed by Groundwork NE & Cumbria and is being delivered across all five boroughs of the Tees Valley.
It covers an area of 147km2 focusing on the river corridor from the coast upstream of Piercebridge, linking with the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership. The five-year programme is funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund and is being delivered until October 2019.
The project highlights the importance of the waterway as a national feature, which has had a key role in moulding the physical and cultural development of the area. It embraces sites including Saltholme Wildlife and Discovery Park within the North Tees Natural Network, Tees Barrage as a gateway to Tees Heritage Park and upstream to an increasingly rural offering at Piercebridge, near Darlington, linked together through the Teesdale Way.
The project recognises and celebrates the river’s natural and social heritage while also protecting, preserving and enhancing its unique landscape to allow wider access and enjoyment. Community engagement is crucial to the partnership’s success and sustainability and engagement is encouraged through a range of projects and activities.
The partnership comprises 21 partners, including the five Tees Valley local authorities, North Yorkshire and Durham County Council, Friends of Tees Heritage Park, Tees Archaeology, Local Access Forums, Tees Valley Rural Community Council, Natural England, Northumbrian Water, Environment Agency, Canal & River Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, Tees Rivers Trust and Cummins Engineering.
Successes to date include a new permissive footpath in Darlington at Middlesbrough Football Club’s training ground at Rockcliffe, linking the riverside path to the existing right of way network. Also, more than 20 heritage trails are to be developed linking into the Teesdale Way.
Two major projects have been completed within Redcar and Cleveland Borough; the steel footbridge at the Wilton Steel Works (costing £100K) crossing the main east coast railway line safely, backed by financial assistance from the Coastal Communities Fund and Tata Steel. This is an example of the joined up thinking that has that has led to the enormous improvements in public access to and beside the river. The regular flooding that has taken place at Dabholm Beck in Redcar has also been addressed with the dredging of the beck at this point by the Environment Agency.
Other examples of activities include Green ActiviTees, which involves volunteering for all ages and abilities to help people to rediscover their natural heritage; Rediscovering Skills, which provides opportunities for up to eight people from the Tees Valley to complete a level two apprenticeship in environmental conservation; Tees Alien Invaders, a project delivered by Tees Rivers Trust that tackles problems associated with the growth of globally invasive non-native species which pose a major threat to wildlife; and Wings of the Tees, a project delivered by Tees Valley Wildlife Trust which increases awareness, understanding and appreciation of the ‘winged wildlife’ of the River Tees – birds, bats, dragon and damselflies – through activities including talks, walks and workshops.
A number of positive outcomes are being delivered as a result of this project. By using engagement tools, guided walks and by encouraging communities to undertake additional outdoor activity we are helping to improve the general health and wellbeing of the communities across the Tees Valley. The project is also increasing the employability and economic prospects of young people through targeted activity and by working alongside the Youth Employment Initiative to offer two apprenticeship programmes in environmental conservation and marketing.
We are planning to raise greater awareness by bringing the five boroughs together to jointly celebrate the project through a series of large scale events. It’s one of a number of ways to engage more people. The conservation and restoration aspects of the project will also lead to increased community involvement and in the process develop a greater understanding of the landscape and its heritage, enabling us to increase training opportunities in local heritage skills.
The vision for the wider River Tees Rediscovered programme is impressive: to alter how the hundreds of thousands of people who live by the Tees from rural Piercebridge, near Darlington to the steelworks at Redcar, interact with the river.
The dozens of activities that are taking place over the coming years will help to raise the profile of this natural asset locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The hope is River Tees Rediscovered will become a tool for the local tourism economy and attract extra investment as awareness grows, which in turn will help the long-term sustainability of the partnership.