North Gare and Teesmouth National Nature Reserve

North Gare and Teesmouth National Nature Reserve

It seems a long time since I last added to my blog so I am pleased to have finally finished this account of a recent visit to a little area of peace and calm amid the industrial background on my doorstep.

The entrance to the track across the marshland to the North Gare is marked by two stone columns, but as I didn’t want to get run over by traffic on the main road here is just one of them.

Pillar marking the entrance to the North Gare

Pillar marking the entrance to the North Gare

Friday was one of those rare things in the North East, a warm summer’s day during which you could walk about unemcumbered with coat and sweaters. I used the opportunity to pay a visit to a bit of an oasis that I had passed by on the road several times in the past, but never stopped and explored before. It is north of the River Tees, close to a huge petro-chemicals complex and I infrequently visit that side of the river because it is largely a very ugly landscape and it entails  passing right through the busy urban jungle to get there. I live to the south of the river and it is much easier to drive straight out into the North York moors, the Cleveland Hills or the Redcar – Saltburn coast.

I have visited the South Gare before (Redcar side), but never the North Gare. To explain, the River Tees flows out into the North Sea between Hartlepool and Redcar and these two piers mark and define the channel entrance. They were developed from the middle of the 19th century when the discovery of iron ore in the Cleveland hills in the 1850s resulted in the building of many blast furnaces on the banks of the Tees, and the development of the river as an industrial complex.

Redcar steel works across the river

Redcar steel works across the river

The South Gare breakwater was commenced in 1863 and the North Gare breakwater was commenced on 1891 using waste from the blast furnaces (mostly slag) as the foundation to build and strengthen the banks of the river, narrowing and defining the channel which caused scouring of the bed of the river and an increase in the depth of water. This enabled larger and larger vessels to use and service the area and enabled the considerable development of the industries we see on the banks of the river today which are largely built on reclaimed land.

Seal Sands

Seal Sands petrochemical complex

So, we have ended up with one of the largest petro chemical complexes in Europe and one remaining blast furnace spread around both banks of the River Tees with pockets of low lying marshes and mudflats interspersed. These undeveloped areas have become a haven for wildlife, especially birds and Seal Sands once again supports the only regular breeding colony of common seals on the north east coast of England. The area I visited is part of the Teesmouth National Nature Reserve an area of sand dunes, meadows and marsh.

Teesmouth National Nature Reserve

Teesmouth National Nature Reserve

Leaving the carpark on foot, the dominant sight rising above the verdant grasses is the Hartlepool nuclear power station. It is the meadows in the foreground that are of special interest.

Hartlepool NPS

Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station

Once you cross the golf course (with a warning to beware of low flying objects) a short walk brings you to a totally different view.

Looking across the River Tees

Looking North across the River Tees estuary

From here the view above is right across the South Gare, across Redcar to Huntcliff in the distance. The sand dunes almost glisten in the sun and on a day like this, almost have the effect of transporting one to distant climes, with not a person in sight!

The dunes sweep out to the pier following the curve of the bay. I was so lucky with the weather.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

After a delightful walk to the sound of waves lapping on the golden sand, you arrive at the end of the world, well as far as you can go….out there is the North Sea.

North Gare pier looking to South Gare pier

North Gare pier looking across Teesmouth to South Gare pier and the offshore windfarm.

The fascinating thing about this place is that once you cross back through the dunes and descend to the meadow on the land side, you emerge into another world and at this point, I realise that I have only closeup shots. I should have taken a general overview. According to the information boards, the stars to look out for are orchids and moths. I was very lucky to find both. These moths fly in the daytime.

I had some difficulty getting the camera to focus on some of the plants, they would not stay still in the constant sea breeze, so hope these shots are ok. So many that I took were too blurry in closeup to use so I enjoyed a second visit a week later to top up.

Purple is the colour

But I did come across this splash of yellow, which looks like a snapdragon, amid the grasses.

Snapdragon?

Snapdragon?

I really enjoyed my visits to this oasis of calm and hope my post gives some idea of the great contrasts to be found in this area of Northern England. I foresee a visit to the South Gare one day…

I hope you enjoyed your visit and thanks for stopping by.

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