Sunday, April 12, 2009

Turning the Tide

If Michael Caine returned to the Durham coast today, south of Seaham, he probably wouldn’t recognise it. The final scenes of his cult movie Get Carter were filmed along this coastline in 1971, and in those days it was an industrial hell-hole. Coal waste from the local mines was dumped on the beaches, which resembled a moonscape: parts of the movie Alien lll were shot here, because it was the bleakest landscape that the movie-makers could find. Today, thanks to the inspired Turning the Tide campaign (, the damage is being undone and the path through the cliff-top grasslands is already a delight, flanked by wildlife at every turn. This morning the air was full of the coconut scent of gorse, masses of blackthorn blossom attracted peacock butterflies, skylarks sang and kestrels hunted for voles. The magnesian limestone grassland along this coastline, south of Seaham, puts on a magnificent display of wild flowers from April onwards and I’ll be posting more photographs later in the season, when I make return visits. In the photographs above you can see the little alula feathers, on the leading edge of the kestrel's wing, that prevented it from stalling while it hung in the air, on the updraft from the cliffs.


  1. That's great to see nature re-claiming.
    Those Kestrel shots are superb.

  2. Thanks for the kind comments holdingmoments. Pity I couldn't get a bit closer for the kestrel pictures, but I was struggling up the cliff path when I noticed it hovering and by the time I'd reached the top it had swopped off and was hunting some distance away.