This rough sketch gives a fairly good idea of what the area between Portrack Lane and the River Tees Looked like up to about 1965. The location is from the bottom of Stoney Road, which ran alongside the Billingham Branch Line. I am not certain how Marston Road coincides with Stoney Road.
Stoney Road was no more than a roughly cobbled lane that began just to the Portrack side of the bridge over the branch line. The road would have been built after the “Portrack Loop” of the River Tees was cut off in the 1820s. Filling in this bit of the loop would have helped it to silt up, although up to 1960 there was still a lake full of bullrushes on the Portrack side of the Road.
On reaching the gate, to the right there was a public footpath, raised above the surrounding farm land, curving its way down to the river. I have a feeling that it may have followed a dyke, built to protect the farm land from the original River Tees. This land, of course, would have once been on the Middlesbrough side of the river. The building beyond the farm gate, in the distance, is a dutch barn. The farming in this area, that is on the south side of the original River Tees loop, seemed to specialise in barley and wheat. The soil would have been more silty than most of the clay on which Stockton was built.
In my childhood this was a most delightful walk, that began by turning off an almost deserted Portrack Lane. In the late spring there was the scent of wild roses which grew on the high bank on the right hand side of Stoney Road. And on reaching the farm gate there were acres of barley and wheat stretching into the far distance. On the railway side of the fences there was the inevitable fire weed. If one was lucky there would be a steam engine on the branch. And if one was even more lucky, a railway siding fire from sparks from the locomotive
Sketch and details courtesy of Fred Starr.