Way back in January I commented on my experience in corresponding with an enigmatic woman known only as Mrs Smith. Not surprisingly, given her reluctance to divulge anything more than the most infinitesimal details about herself, the relationship was destined to go no further, but I was thankful to her for introducing me to Seaham‘s Chemical Beach. I was inspired to make an early start one morning to capture the sunrise over the multicoloured “sands” that comprise the beach, and looking back at them now I think some of the shots were really beautiful.
Today I returned to this unique stretch of coast having met a friend (strangely also by the name of Smith) for a walk in the area. Whilst I’d originally planned to walk a different stretch of Durham’s Heritage Coast Walk, Seaham provided an easy destination for a rendezvous, and courtesy of Lickety Split, a coffee with complimentary miniature ice cream, so it wasn’t far to go and park up for a chance to explore both the Chemical Beach and the adjoining Blast Beach with the benefit of daylight. (Attractive nomenclature, but these names reflect the historic industrial use of these landscapes, and whilst nature is fighting back there is still plenty of evidence of previous human intervention.)
Having walked the length of the Chemical Beach over sand and shingle stained red by oxides or black by coal dust we decided to round Nose’s Point to its neighbour, which proved to be more eventful than I’d anticipated. From the cliffs above this looks like a scramble over a few rocks. When faced with it on the ground the scale becomes rather different. The cliffs soar above rendering people tiny by comparison – Jackie is in both of these images, but unless you know to look for her, she is lost in the scale of the landscape.
This wasn’t a day for dramatic imagery – the bright sunshine presenting the challenges of a dynamic range beyond the capabilities of a camera sensor, but it was good to emerge from the boulders to see what the Blast Beach had in store; another towering limestone needle, row upon row of sea-washed timber piles, tortured steel rails and at the shore line two large steel wheels and their axle. There was clearly serious industry here. I’d love to see some pictures from that era. Today though was not for setting up the tripod and filters required to make full use of the opportunities that this beach provides. Today was about conversation, and given Jackie’s background in Film and TV design there was plenty of raw material around us, these beaches having featured in Alien³, and less glamorously in Vera!
I think I’ll be back though.