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.
IN PRAISE OF….THE DURHAM HERITAGE COAST
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.
THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU DIDN’T KNOW
* 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).
AMAZING MEDICAL FACTS
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.)
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