Durham Coast Watch

A stroll along the coast © Dennis Rooney

A stroll along the coast

It’s now over 20 years since the closure of the last colliery on the Durham Coast, and there are few stretches of British coastline which have undergone such dramatic changes over the last century.

For decades, five collieries dumped coal waste directly onto what became known as the ‘black beaches’. This environmental disaster posed a massive threat to the delicate ecosystem of an extremely rare habitat, the magnesian limestone outcrop which forms much of the Durham Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Following the final pit closure, the local authority took responsibility for leading the massive clean-up operation. Backed by Millennium Project funding from the National Lottery, a partnership of interested parties and landowners – including the Trust – was formed and the Turning the Tide project was born. Aiming to clean up the beaches, remove coal spoil and derelict mine apparatus, Turning the Tide has led to the improvement of nature conservation (via cleaner beaches and coastal slopes) plus a reduction in intensive farming and the restoration of natural habitats, particularly cliff top grasslands.

In 2003 the area was awarded Heritage Coast status, and a survey carried out by Seasearch in August 2009 discovered that, thanks to the coastal clean-up operation, the Durham Heritage Coast has enjoyed a significant recovery, and species diversity has greatly increased since 1991.

Now, the Durham Coast Watch scheme has been launched to continue the legacy of Turning the Tide. By clubbing together, this partnership of local residents, police, landowners, including the Trust, hope to improve land management, nature conservation and public access, and reduce environmental crime on this stunning stretch of coastline.

Our rangers in the North York Moors, Yorkshire Coast and Durham have recently started sharing their exploits in the great outdoors on their blog: A Day In The Life Of A Ranger.

Find out more about the scheme, events and activities.