Blast Beach, Dawdon
Salterfen Rocks, near Ryhope
In this blogposting….
* Durham’s Coast
* Street Art
* Amazing Medical Facts
So - cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war…

This editorial appeared in an October edition of The Guardian.

The coast of the UK has been subject to all manner of intrusions, from caravan parks to wartime defences. But few stretches have been as drastically affected as the cliffs and bays between Sunderland and Hartlepool, which for years earned the nickname of the "black beaches" because of the spoil from coalmining.

They became notorious as one of the most dramatic settings for the iconic Michael Caine film
Get Carter, along with Owen Luder's brutalist car park in Gateshead, which was demolished last year. There was a campaign to save that, but no one wanted to keep the black beaches.

A huge and partly voluntary operation called
Turning the Tide saw 1.3 million tonnes of mining spoil and industrial debris cleared by 2002, and the Durham Heritage Coast Partnership, an amicable team of 14 councils and agencies long aware of the 'big society', has continued the job.

Footpaths, cycleways and nature reserves now mark a sinuous shoreline which contains 92% of the UK's coastal magnesian limestone. In contrast to the dark past, the rock gleams, and – through its easy handling by carvers and quarrymen – provides at least 8,000 years of archaeology.

This transformation has now been recognised by a commendation in this year's Council of Europe landscape awards, and very deservedly so.

But the harder task, of regenerating some of the country's most deprived and isolated communities in an area which has never recovered from the collapse of King Coal, remains to be done.

So BIG congratulations to the Durham Heritage Coast Partnership for its commendation.

For my part, these are no hollow applause.  I grew up in Easington and Peterlee, and - as I mentioned in posting 313 - the area had a quite justified reputation as being one of the most unbeautiful in England.  Pit heaps scarred the East Durham countryside in all directions and the coast was a coal-blackened, ugly and unvisited wasteland.

My Nana and Granda lived at Blackhall Colliery and I can remember the huge gantry network that dumped the pit’s spoil and waste directly onto the beach and into the North Sea.

The Guardian is right; it’s very different now.  The pit heaps and Get Carter gantries have gone and the pit towns and villages along the cliff tops have been ‘tarted up’, as well - Seaham Harbour, Horden, Easington, Blackhall and even Dawdon, whose Blast Beach is a revelation.

The Durham Coast is once again a haven for wildlife and walkers and although this may not be the ideal time of year for a first visit, it would certainly blow away the tired winter cobwebs if you fancied taking a first look.

You could do a lot worse than start at the transformed Seaham Harbour, or a little further north, at Salterfen or Featherbed Rocks.

Or, south of Seaham, find the typical County Durham ‘hidden gem’ village of Hawthorn and scramble down the cliffs into its secret cove.

At Easington Colliery, a car park and path have been laid out from the former pit yard to the cliff top, where the old ‘cage’ from the pit now stands, a lonely sentinel looking out to sea.  It’s both educational and moving - a respectful reminder of the industry which once employed thousands of men hereabouts - including my Granda and my brother.

I recently visited Dene Mouth (between Horden and Blackhall) and was genuinely astonished at the natural beauty of a site I can remember as being grey-sanded and strewn with concrete and metal.

From here, you could walk into Castle Eden Dene - a nature reserve of national importance - or southwards down the coast to Blackhall Rocks and the beach at Crimdon, where we used to spend many happy weekends when I was a child.

The ‘re-invention’ of Newcastle and Gateshead tends to take all the glory these days but the breathtaking transformation from utter ugliness to outstanding natural beauty and power that has taken place along Durham’s coastline deserves some limelight, too.

All the pictures in this posting (except the two at the top) are of genuine ‘street-art’, produced either by recognised experts like Banksy, by art students or by ordinary members of the public.
To be honest, I always feel a bit ‘cheated’ when I see street artists drawing onto canvas taped to the pavement.  I’d much prefer to show my appreciation for artwork which is fresh each time, and which stays put and on show after the artist has gone.
Like the artwork in these pictures…

* There are only 4 words in the English language which end in '-dous', namely:  hazardous, horrendous, stupendous and tremendous.
* A newborn kangaroo is only about 1 inch long.
* March 14 is Save a Spider Day
* The electric toothbrush was invented in 1939 and the doorbell in 1831.
* The bones of a pigeon weigh less than its feathers.
* Gorillas can't swim.
* In an average lifetime, a person will spend about 25 years asleep.
* ‘Stewardesses’ is the longest word that can be typed with only the left hand.
* A dolphin’s top speed is 60kmh (37mph); a shark’s is 70kmh (44mph).

The mischievous Peter, in South Shields, recently emailed me this….

1 - Nobody can open their mouth all the way and stick their tongue out past their lips.
2 - 90% of you just tried it.
3 - All of you learned it was false.
5 - A simple majority of you - 51% - laughed, or at least smiled.
6 - Most of you haven’t noticed that that I’ve missed out number 4.
6 - Most of you just went back and checked.
7 - Most of you also didn’t notice that I’ve missed out number 2.
8 - Got you again.
9 - But did you catch me repeating 6?
10 - You didn’t want to look, did you?
(Then don’t look for the two thats in 6.)

Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


Hildie said...

I only once got to the coast this year. must do better next year .... because I do love it ...
in particular the Northumberland coast. I envy you, Ian, for having had the good fortune to grow up near the sea.
As a miner's daughter, who grew up in Dipton, I was taken to the sea-side four times a year during
the 'Pit Holidays'. A lady named Mrs Slater organised four trips to the seaside during the last week in July and the first week in August. We went to South Shields, Whitley Bay, Seaton Carew and Tynemouth. Seaton Carew, believe it or not, was the one we got the most excited about. At Seaton Carew we were able to hire a little wooden hut for the day !!!!!
Those other places just had tents for hire. But the sun did shine, I remember that!

Sid said...

Didn't those sandwiches taste so much better with a bit of sand in them.

Hildie said...

Does anyone happen to know what a tilley stone is? I had lunch in a pub in Gateshead the other week .. It was called "The Tilley Stone"
.... and I've wondered, ever after, what the origin of the name could be.

Hildie said...

Do you know what a flock of starlings is called?
A murmeration of starlings ....
..... I bet you already knew!
I saw one on
'Look North'.....
a viewer's photograph, that is.

Sid said...

As you know Hildie there were many mines in and around Gateshead.
Each seam of coal worked was given a name. The 'Five Quarter' seam was worked at the Derwent and Gateshead Fell pits, and the 'Three Quarter' at Dunston Colliery. The 'Tilley' and 'Stone' seam were also worked at Dunston.
The 'Tilley' seam was involved in the country's worst ever mining disaster at Burns Pit, West Stanley. On the afternoon of February 16th 1909 two explosions were heard from underground. 168 men and boys lost their lives on that dreadful day.
Perhaps the pub was named after the two local coal seams Tilley and Stone.
Jackson Street, on which the pub stands, used to be called Colliers Chare until the late 17th century.

Ian Robinson said...

To be honest, I thought Tilley Stone was someone's name....
I don't suppose you know WHY the coal seams were so-named, do you Sid? I've always wondered. 'Five-quarter' etc.

Vivienne said...

Hi Folks!

Here are some photos of murmurations of starlings:


Lots of love,

Vivienne xxx

Sid said...

I very nearly added 'Don't ask' after I wrote 'Five Quarter' seam Ian.
It seems that in the past every colliery had its own scheme for naming coal seams. Although some seams covered great distances in length, they were perhaps only 2 or 3 foot in height. Many pits tapped into the same seam from different directions.
Can you see that happening today in the case of gas or oil......I don't think so.