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First Tees Heritage Walk a success

May 24, 2023
Martin and Inga with their certificates

Original article: Erimus Rotary Club

A lot of steps in the right direction It all started with a Centenary – when our oldest relative Middlesbrough Rotary was approaching that very significant milestone there was a lot of thought as to how it should be celebrated. In addition to the usual Dinner and golf tournament ,a visit by our elected Mayor to the youngest Rotary relative Erimus club provided the answer. He (Andy Preston) spoke of plans to plant large numbers of trees across the townscape and we spotted our Centennial marker. Offered a number of sites we chose to plant alongside the river Tees and members of the three Middlesbrough based clubs made personal donations which were swelled by two District grants. In March we completed planting one and a half miles of native deciduous trees along the riverbank.

As the planting progressed it became increasingly apparent that the riverbank footpath held other opportunities. The route is host to no less than Three National Trails and yet is also the site on which Middlesbrough’s industrial foundations were laid, here lies a ‘Green Travel’ route joining the two major Teesside towns of Stockton and Middlesbrough- what better place to stage a fundraising walk! Tees Heritage Walk would be a contribution both to the area’s history as well as for numerous good causes.

Erimus were soon joined by sister club Teesside West who are based at the upriver (Stockton) end of the route and assisted by Cleveland rotary.

A visit by Erimus members to Middlesbrough College, a multi disciplinary vocational training centre with over thirteen thousand students proved the catalyst to the creation of something rather special. College Principal Zoe Lewis rapidly accepted the challenge of joining forces to enable both students and Rotary to participate in a multi generational team. A group from the College’s Art and Design section took part in a competition to produce THW’s logo. A Level History students took lectures on Teesside’s industrial archaeology and formulated a series of ‘heritage hotspots’. Building tech students built display boards for the hotspots whilst those gaining digital skills produced QR Codes for each of these historic sites. Other members of Middlesbrough College training for public service roles volunteered for marshalling duties on ‘Walk Day’. The lead for Middlesbrough College across the range of support was Steve Donnison who proved to be a veritable ringmaster as the chocolate box of skillsets within the establishment worked together, it was brilliant.

Meanwhile back at the Rotary ranch, risk assessments were produced and revised, permissions from local authorities were gained (some much more easily than others) and where necessary licences obtained. Our link with a local primary school (Ayresome Academy with 41 languages across its 750 children) produced a band to play for the walkers as they approached the riverbank.

So to the day of our walk, blessed with good weather but unblessed by the fact that our local football club had reached the Premier league Playoff semi final on our big day, we stood by our registration and marshalling points … and the walkers checked in. We had included dogs on leads as unpaid extras for our participants, they were numerous in shape size and variety but very special mention must be made of Inca, a hearing dog for the Deaf, the clever and extremely useful helper for Martin Peagam, Inca got her own special certificate.

Elsewhere the feedback was very positive, our walkers liked the QR codes, praised the marshalling and organisation and enjoyed their day. Happily for all concerned the defibrillator, first aid training for marshals and detailed risk assessments proved a sufficient deterrent to any participant falling ill.

Results are still being finalised but we had over one hundred participants who raised over £5,000 and learned a lot about their history and environment. We too shall learn from this, not everything went perfectly but we have established an event which can continue and grow. In our locality there is a huge asset for rotary in a College with students and a teaching staff who want to work with us to improve life for others. Tees Heritage Walk is about empowering our community to take advantage of the asset on their doorstep and together we will deliver service above self with a smile and a few sore feet!