The other half is off work for two weeks at the moment, but instead of going away like we usually do, we are exploring closer to home. Yesterday we drove about half an hour up the coast to Easington Colliery, where we parked up and took the coastal path north above Shippersea Bay. Our plan was to walk as far as Blast beach or even Chemical beach towards Seaham but we only managed to get to the railway bridge at Hawthorn before I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it that day. So instead we followed the path down under the arches and along the dene and found a little hidden beach with old lime kilns, a WW2 pill box and some beach art to explore before heading back the way we came.
There are lots of these places dotted along the Durham Heritage coast where industry once thrived. It is always a bittersweet thing to stumble across and my mind ends up in conflict with itself. As I observe the slight ugliness of the beach itself where a shelf of industrial slag sits above the natural beach covered by a layer of soil, I think of all the livelihoods lost as the collieries and related industries along the coast shut down. A triumph for the natural world, yet it was food in bellies and roofs over heads for thousands. There is no ignoring the poverty that still remains in these run down towns and villages of the north east, no matter how pretty the coast and countryside around them has become.