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Tuesday, 5 May 2009


I got a "thingy" in my camera and every shot came out with a little knot of dust in the middle, so I took it back to the shop. They sent it to the suppliers who agreed that I should get a replacement. That was many weeks ago and I got sick of waiting politely. I also got sick after my last call-in to school and have spent a couple of weeks recovering from a chest infection.

Last time I would not leave the shop until they had phoned to find out what was going on. After half an hour it transpired that nothing was going on because they had sort of forgotten that they were meant to be doing anything and so they assured me that they would start again and I would get the replacement camera in a few days. It is now a few days but I have to work for the next three days so hope to get the new one at the weekend.

So I took my old 2 megapixel kodak on an outing to Blackhall Rocks to walk the beach and cliffs and view the Industrial Revolution archaeology in the remains littering the beach. The picture above shows the black scars of the eroding "slag heaps". These are the coal waste dumps left on the beach. The collieries were on the cliff tops and the coal mines were the ones that went out under the seabed of the North Sea for a mile or so. My uncles told me how water dripped from the roof of the workings and it was salty to the taste!

Mind you I don't want to waste the weekend at the camera shop; I want to go to the Garden Sale at Addisons Auctions at the weekend to get some stuff for the garden at the "new" house. Yes! I shall be on the move again in a few weeks but hopefully this is the last time because I have purchased instead of leasing. There is a lovely but small garden and it needs some care and attention.

The cliffs at Blackhall Rocks are a friable magnesian limestone, with remarkable caves. The limestone is topped with a thick layer of glacial boulder clay from the last Ice Age (now grass covered) and underlain by the much older carboniferous layers which contain the coal seams. On the beach is an amazingly disgusting and very thick layer of solid sludge. This is a couple of metres deep and is slowly being eroded away by wave action.

There are miles of this layer, which is the remains of centuries of dumping all the muck over the cliff onto the beach and hoping that the sea would act as a giant toilet and the tides would flush it all away. The boulders embedded in this thick, brown-grey fudge are not natural pebbles but rounded bricks, worn concrete conglomerates and vast lumps of klinker. The klinker is left from furnace bases. Industry ceased here a few decades ago. The mines closed and the works were demolished, the slag heaps re-vegetated and the area re-landscaped. The sea is still battling to remove the sludge layer and storms do great good here.

There was a movie starring Michael Caine (now Sir!) made "oop north" a few decades ago. The bad, baddie was disposed of by MC and loaded into a slag bucket and trundled on a sort of aerial cableway, off the nose of this cliff into the sea. I can't find an old pic to link to right now but there are plenty around.

We sat atop the cliffs in the sunshine to eat our picnic (I made some scotch eggs...simple but messy and much enjoyed). We could see to Sunderland and beyond to the north and Hartlepool and the billowing chimneys of Billingham to the south. We could see eight people!!!

More news soon about the house. I'm awaiting certainty before blogging with pics.

Cheers Gillian


carol said...

It's rather wonderful what nature does to the ugliness humanity causes. I've never seen slag heaps beginning to look like the natural environment before.

It looks like a beautiful coastline - as you may have guessed I love big empty beach-scapes.

Good luck with the next (last) move. How is Tigger making out with all these changes?

sue said...

What a great history lesson for us all. I hope you get a new camera soon so we can see pics of your new home. I am sure you are very excited. Happy Birthday too, I did send you a birthday message on facebook.

Heide said...

The pictures are beautiful in spite of the origins of the "mud" on the beach. Hope that you are well and the house comes through for you.