- Start: Crimdon
- End: Crimdon
- Country: England
- County: Durham
- Type: Beach
- Nearest pub: Gillen Arms, Hartlepool
- Ordnance Survey: Landranger map 93
- Difficulty: Easy
This walk on the County Durham coast takes in views created 250 million years ago
Words and pictures by David Taylor
We had a disappointing summer in the region this year, weather-wise. And it is little consolation, perhaps, to know that it wasnt always like this. A mere 250 million years ago, the north of England was very near the Equator, our climate was similar to that of the southern Sahara today, and the seabed of our coast was carpeted with coral reef.
It is the geology that was put down during this period that gives this months walk its shape, beauty and unique wildlife habitats. We are at Crimdon, on the Durham Heritage Coast.
Park in the car park at Crimdon Beach. Follow the long board walk down to the beach, then head north. (If the tide is high, or if you prefer not to go down to the beach, follow the path north from the car park, past the caravan park, and then head for the railway bridge.)
The spectacular and beautiful cliffs here are an outcrop of the Magnesian Limestone, a suite of rocks that stretches from Nottingham in the south to County Durham in the north, and which dates back to the Permian period on the geological timeline. The Magnesian Limestone is part of the Zechstein, sedimentary rocks that were formed by the Zechstein Sea, which is believed to have stretched from southern Britain across northern Europe, through present-day Germany and Poland.
On the beach at Crimdon it is possible to find coral embedded in the rocks, fossils that were formed hundreds of millions of years ago on the bed of the Zechstein Sea. On a more practical level, the Magnesian Limestone consists mainly of dolerite, which has important industrial applications and has been quarried locally.
Walk along the beach until it cuts in at Lime Kiln Gill, and then go up the steps. At the top, head for the railway bridge and pass underneath it. Follow the path to the road, turn right and follow the road. At the footpath marker on the other side of the road, cross over and follow the path.
Head diagonally left across the field, then go over the stile and follow the fence along the edge of the field. Cross the stile and turn left. Follow the farm track, go over the stile and follow the path as it curves round the farm. Go over the next stile and turn left along the road.
You will now pass the entrance to Tweddle Childrens Animal Farm. The farm is home to a huge range of animals including pygmy goats, alpacas, and zebu cattle and exotic birds, and is open all year round.
Cross over the road and, at the footpath marker, follow the concrete driveway. Before you get to the house, turn right at the footpath marker and head diagonally left across the field. Take the right fork in the path and walk round the pond, then follow the edge of the field and look out for the footpath sign on the left. Cross the stile, and drop down to an old railway cutting.
Cross over the path, and follow the footpath marker to the left of the green gate. Follow the field round until you reach another footpath sign, and turn right into the woods.
Follow the path through the woodland and cross Crimdon Beck with care. Continue along the path, and then re-cross the beck. Follow the track to the right until you reach a footpath marker on the left. Take this path up the hill.
At the top of the hill you will emerge onto the same old railway cutting as before. This is now the Hart to Haswell Walkway, as well as part of the Easington Cycleway. The Walkway follows the route of the former Hart to Haswell railway line, which was designed by George Stephenson and built in 1843. The line was carved into the Magnesian Limestone bedrock, and carried coal from the Durham Mines to the West Hartlepool Docks.
The railway was also very important to Crimdon in a different context holidaymakers used to arrive here by steam train to enjoy the delights of a traditional seaside holiday.
The Walkway has been designated a Local Nature Reserve, because of its importance as a wildlife habitat, and the area is carefully managed to preserve the environment and to enable plant and animal species to flourish.
Continue along the path. When the woodland clears, you will see the modern railway line on your left. Cross the footbridge over the railway, then follow the path as it turns to the right and head towards the coast. This is the Crimdon Dene Nature Reserve. An area of dunes and rocky shoreline here provides a nationally important nesting site for Little Terns, and it is estimated that 13 per cent of the European population of this, the smallest tern species, nests at Crimdon. Every year, an area is fenced off to protect the birds, their nests and their young.
Crimdon Dene is also important as a habitat for a number of plant species, which thrive as a result of the soil quality afforded by the Magnesian Limestone bedrock. As you follow the path back to the car park, and the end of this months walk, you may be lucky enough to see goldfinches feeding on the seed heads in the grass. It is interesting to reflect that the plant life here is a direct result of, and is fed by, the geology we first encountered at the beginning of the walk.
Start point: Crimdon Beach car park
Grid reference: NZ 480 372
Ordnance Survey map: Landranger map 93
Length: 5.1 miles (8.2 kilometres)
Difficulty: Good paths, mainly flat though some short but steep inclines
Time: Three hours
Nearest pub: Gillen Arms, Hartlepool
Nearest town: Hartlepool
For more information about the County Durham coast visit www.thisisdurham.com.