People's Landscapes on the Durham Coast

The Durham Coast

In 2019, the National Trust is launching People’s Landscapes, a national programme inviting people to look beyond the beauty of our places and discover the hidden histories within. On the Durham Coast, we’ll be exploring the area’s industrial and social heritage, and how people’s actions and events have helped shape the landscape.

We look after five miles of the dramatic Durham coastline which has emerged from its industrial past to become a haven for wildlife, including wildflowers and rare butterflies.

Once home to one of the biggest coal mines in Europe, at Easington, it suffered some of the worst coastal pollution in the world. The beaches were buried under two and a half million tonnes of colliery waste every year and became a no-go area for people, animals and birds.

The Durham Coast was once home to one of the biggest coal mines in Europe
A colliery worker stands on heavily polluted beach
The Durham Coast was once home to one of the biggest coal mines in Europe

Transformed by a massive clean-up project, Turning the Tide,  the vast majority of the waste has now been removed and wildlife and people are able to use the coast again.

But this landscape has been shaped by major social as well as environmental change. The Easington Pit employed over 2,000 local people at its peak. About 1,400 miners lost their jobs when the pit closed.

This year, film and photography collective Amber ( will be working with the local community to explore the area’s mining heritage, the impact of the miners’ strike 35 years ago, and residents’ evolving relationships with the coast’s former ‘black beaches’. Turner prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller is also providing artistic advice to the project.

Special events during 2019 will mark key moments in the history of the area and look at life during and after the strike, from picket lines and people’s cafés to the inventiveness and community spirit that resulted from those experiences.

People’s Landscapes is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and with additional support from Art Fund.