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Saturday, 9 August 2014

Durham Coastal Footpath   August 8th
This is a Ronseal* walk, it is exactly what it says in the title.
The holidays have taken their toll of gadgies, only three of us are out today, John, Dave and I. We have chosen to follow the Durham Heritage Coastal Path from Seaham to Crimdon, walking along a well marked route, much of it a National Nature Reserve with several sites of Special Scientific Interest.
It is a linear walk so should you follow it you need a car at both ends, or you can use buses as we did.
I took the metro from Jesmond in Newcastle to Sunderland railway station where I met the other two.
                                           Jesmond Metro Station, in lieu of a car park
Yes, a station.

We walked the few streets to the Sunderland Bus Station, (no picture, sorry) and caught the 60 bus to Seaham where the walk starts.
In the 19th and 20th centuries Durham had a large coalfield, several on this stretch of coast. The pits were closed by the 1990s. When the pits were in operation colliery waste was tipped onto the beaches. See the film Get Carter  for an idea of how grim it was. Once the pits were closed a regeneration programme was put in place."Turning the Tide" and the pit heaps are now restored to natural grassland and the beaches have been cleared and cleaned.
The walk; (Brian warned us there was a lot of ups and downs) You can do this walk without a map as it is well marked, but should you want one OS Explorer 308 covers all but the last mile into Crimdon. Better still try and acquire a copy of the booklet "The Durham Heritage Coastal Footpath" published by Durham County Council. A difficult publication to find but very informative. My copy is available for hire.
Officially the walk starts at Seaham Hall Beach, north of the town, but we got off the bus by the harbour and saved ourselves about half a mile.
                                               The start at Seaham, almost a car park.
(If you start at Seaham Hall Beach you pass the Seaham Time Line, artworks illustrating the history of the area, and a statue of the Marquess of Londonderry who was responsible for the creation of the harbour.)
                                  Seaham Harbour, Durham.
Shortly after having passed the harbour we spotted a signpost leading us to the footpath proper. Soon we came to the site of Dawdon Colliery. Information boards indicated the site of the pit and also provided some indication of the geology of the area on wooden posts with short poems. Dedicated to Bill Griffiths, author of at least two books on the language of the north east: A Dictionary of the North East Dialect and Pitmatic; the talk of the North East Coalfield. Both fascinating works. There are also a number of benches suitable for Herbie Spots, but it was too early, even for us. The frequency of benches diminished with distance.
The imposing cliffs are Magnesium Limestone, topped with boulder clay which has allowed for rich grasslands and a colourful collection of wild flowers lining the footpath all the way to Crimdon, almost. A home for insects too, and possibly small mammals as we saw several kestrels hovering on the cliffs. The beach below is called Blast Beach, presumably as there was once an ironworks in the area, nearby Noses Point was an industrial site too.
                                                    One of the information boards, they became fewer                                                                     the further  south we walked.
                                                
Magnesium Limestone cliffs
Soon we came to Hawthorn Dene. Nearby the Pemberton family had their own private railway station, at this point the footpath runs alongside the railway track. We took the option of walking round the dene rather than along the cliff tops and called a halt beneath Beacon Hill, sitting on a lonely bench with a splendid sea view for lunch. Dave, disappointingly, had nothing to offer but John provided Chocolate flapjacks and I produced the last of the bars of Czech chocolate.
Moving on we came to Easington, another colliery village which no longer has its pit, although the cage remains as a local landmark. South of Easington we walked round Foxholes Dene, moving some way inland before returning to the cliff tops. The dene did look deep, we should have taken it as an omen.
The next ex colliery is Horden, its site reclaimed  by tons of colliery waste from the beach, allowing the creation of more grasslands. Beyond we reached the first up and downer, Warren House Gill, a steep path down into the dene, followed by a steep stepped climb up the other side.
                                                     More magnesium limestone in a dene
                                               One of several viaducts on the walk
Looking south towards Hartlepool and Teesside
Whitesides Gill was relatively easy but Blackhills gill was a little more challenging . Somewhere in this area we met a party who were setting out a walk, or run, putting direction signs at junctions and adding a few encouraging signs too. "Come on Everybody", "Almost there" and so on.
Denemouth took us briefly onto the beach before another stepped climb but Blue House Gill, near Blackhall Colliery site was a walk round affair. Back on the cliff tops, although they were lower now, we followed the blue and yellow markers to Crimdon.
                                                          Laminated too!
              The path is well marked with yellow arrows, occasional acorns signifying a long distance
                path.
  The final dene was also very steep, a footpath, with stiles, led to a climb down followed by steps leading up again.
                                                             Pretty smart stile
                                                               Steeper than they look, there were 54
                     Finally we walked round the small town that is Crimdon Holiday Park, went under the railway and waited approximately five minutes for a bus to Sunderland.
                                                Crimdon Holiday Park
From Sunerland we took the Metro to Newcastle and called into Wetherspoons pub the Milecastle for some well kept Abbott Ale, or Ruddles in John's case.

THE MATRIX MMXIV
                                                               steps                             miles
LIDL3D                                                23016                           10.33
Dave's LIDL 3D                                    25706                          13.38
Dave's LIDL USB                                 25138                           13.09
GPS                                                                                            10.5
Measured                                                                                    13!
Booklet reckons 11 miles from start to finish, but quite hard miles. 
Gadgie distance 319
For both maps:Contains OS data, copyright. Crown copyright and database right 2014
* Ronseal. Protective paints for woodwork, The advertising slogan is
"Does exactly what it says on the tin"