Thursday, April 16, 2015
Today's Guardian Country Diary is about the return of marine life to the Durham coast at Dawdon, where coal mining waste was dumped onto the beach until Dawdon colliery was closed in 1991. An underwater survey by divers at that time found half a metre of coal silt on the sea floor at Noses Point (in the background of this photo) and water that was so turbid that it was impossible to see any marine life.
Since then the Turning the Tide campaign has cleaned up the beaches, to the point where this beach was recently described in the Guardian as one of the best lesser-known National Trust beaches in the UK
Click here for more pictures and information about the restored coastline here.
Meanwhile the waves have done their work offshore, washing away the coal spoil, so now it's a beach where you can go rock-pooling again. We found this shore crab amongst the rocks near Noses Point. The pointed abdomen under its body indicates that it's a male.
Catching a shore crab took me back to childhood rock-pooling days, and learning to pick up an angry crab between finger and thumb on either side of the shell. That armoured carapace protects the crab from predators but prevents it reaching above its shell with those powerful nippers. This method of holding them works well with shore crabs but from painful experience I've learned that this is less successful with velvet swimming crabs whose nippers seem to be better articulated and can reach back to deliver a very strong pinch.