Mother Natures Free Offers, And Dirty Humans…


I’ve been out today doing something that pleases me in more than one way.. Firstly I get to walk the beaches of Northumberland, secondly I get something for nowt ! It’s the best kept secret of green living…a free bounty of fuel which you can use without guilt (almost) and with the added bonus of a good bit of exercise whilst collecting it. I am of course talking about sea coal. I have been accused by certain southern jessie visitors of making this free floating fuel up, but no, it does exist and its as easy to get now as it ever was.

Back in the days of full production mining, no coast road around the north east was complete with out the sight of a retired pitman in tatty wellys and allotment attire pushing an odd wheeled bike with a sack of seacoal, dripping salt water, hung over the crossbar.
Used then as a free fuel for greenhouse heating in the winter, it comes in all sizes of bits, the ‘dross’ is almost dust like coal and on a fire could burn all night, ‘happing up’ as it was called. Happing up would be used at home as well, and the yellow smoke of slow burning fires once hung like a pall over Ashington and surrounding pit villages on cold frosty mornings.

The small industry of sea coaling, with horse and carts deep in the frozen surf, mainly run by the ‘travelling’ community that stopped travelling and lived in a shanty town near the beach, has died a death as well.

Nowadays the seacoal washes up on the beach and only a few hardy souls gather it in the areas that the tide decides to pile it up, or steal it back, the next day.
My favourite place to go is a hidden beach near Newbiggin which usually produces enough for a bucket or two, and justifies a walk and a coffee at the local shops. The brand new main beach (imported from the south) is a wonder, and its only right that the south should give us some sand to fill in the bloody big hole caused by us giving them all our coal. Newbiggin is shaping up to be a nice little tourist village again, and is shrugging off the dereliction left by the Thatcher wonder years. (spits in derision).

Today however,I needed to ‘stock up’ a bit, the cold nights of late have dented the log store , so down to the worst beach in Northumberland to see how the idiots of the world can wreck our countryside. I have walked 99% of northumberlands beaches, and with the exception of one or two that have had a messy holidaymaker or camper leave the odd bottle , the beaches rival anything I have seen worldwide, in fact I often comment that it’s as well the sun doesn’t shine to often here, as it would spoil the beaches by having people on them.
Today a brisk walk down Cresswell beach, at the southern end of Druridge Bay confirms that statement, a freezing wind whistles down the 10mile beach, moving the sand dunes in front of our eyes and building other dunes to compensate. But it is absolutely superb, the desolation and majesty of the massive waves breaking on the sand, and the laughable efforts of mans concrete structures showing nature in its full glory.

The strange thing is for all the fury, the sea delicately places sea coal only in a few places, and one of these is just around the point , and into Lynemouth bay. Now historically, this was a beach used to dump stuff from the pit, and locals and travellers alike took advantage of this to use it as a sort of ‘reclamation’ yard, them reclaiming copper wire while leaving the burnt husks from stolen cables. The council had a go a couple of years back to tidy it all up, but of course a good percentage of our population are idiots, and it is truly remarkable that they can put effort into finding a spot to place a fridge/sofa/bag of old shoes a full 5 mile from a legal dump. They must have had a bleedin car to get it here, so why not the proper place??

There must be an exposed seam of coal offshore though, because this is where the vast majority of seacoal washes up, and today it is a foot deep in places, the only downside is that in an effort to thwart the litter dumpers, the council have stopped legal access to the beach by anything but a mountain goat, and try getting one of them to carry a bucket!
Still three climbs of the muddy ascent and the car boot is full, and now I type this with a roaring log and coal fire warming the tootsies, and the moths still reside happily in the wallet!

By Tony on December 1, 2009

Check out all the pics

3 Comments RSS Comment Feed

  1. Was down there with the hoond today and there was Gint loads of the stuff !

    Comment by Rchie — December 1, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

  2. Have you ever seen this documentary Tony?

    Comment by Dave — January 18, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

  3. yes i have, it just shows how people get ideas re the source..the pits have been closed for years now, no dumping now, and yet it still comes in, so i think it is from exposed seams.

    Comment by Tony — January 18, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.