One of the joys of the North East is the local radio – its unlike any other part of the world. BBC Radio Tees is as likely to advertise a jumble sale in Brotton as it is to report on the Eurozone crisis. Its motto says it all – “Proud of where we live”. People around the country probably don’t really know Teesside – its not Yorkshire and its not Newcastle – it the bit in between. An area containing Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar is not top of most people’s holiday visits but for those in the know it is special.
There’s an honesty about the area – it was created and grew under industry… first mining, then iron and steel and most recently chemicals and at the heart of it is a little-known and once heavily polluted river which makes its way into the North Sea between Hartlepool and Redcar.
Crossing the river is the Tees Transporter bridge. It operates a bit like a ferry – vehicles drive onto the deck and then the deck is transported across the river. Pedestrians can either ride the ferry or the energetic ones climb up and over the bridge. This bridge has become a focal point for the community. Its now over 100 years old. I was listening to a documentary on Radio Tees about it and some of the stories were wonderfully affectionate. My favourite was a couple who have the bridge to thank for their life together. The husband was stationed at Catterick Garrison to the north in the 1950s while his girlfriend was based over the river. Every weekend he would hitch and catch buses, walk over the bridge and meet her for a weekend together before making the return journey on the Sunday night. They courted in this way for three months and then became engaged. Without the bridge he couldn’t have made the journey and either they would not have carried on or it could have gone the way of Running Bear and Little White Dove (probably pollution would have beaten drowning as cause of death). The bridge has been a figure of fun, nearly demolished, featured in Auf Wiedersehn Pet and after all that still runs between Port Clarence and Middlesbrough today.
A lovely heart-warming piece of local radio that really captured the local feeling. Its what you pay your licence fee for.