Jo’s Monday walk : Seal sanctuary


Today’s walk brings us full circle with where my Monday walks began, just over 2 years ago, in Greatham Creek.  Doesn’t time fly? And have I worn you out yet?  There are days when I feel quite weary myself.

On Wednesday I woke with that restlessness upon me.  The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds and I needed to be out.  My partner in crime suggested Saltholme, the local nature reserve, but somehow that felt too tame.  I don’t do compromise well, but we headed along the Seal Sands Road, in that direction.  It’s an area I find very depressing, and if you saw my Forbidding skies on Thursday, you’ll know what’s coming.


Heavy industry crowds the skyline, and the power station’s ugly presence broods malignantly nearby.  If you can ignore that, there’s a world of wildlife to explore.  To give it it’s grandest title, this is Teesmouth National Nature Reserve, a site of more than 350 hectares.


Natural England have recently extended the footpaths and installed bird hides.  Parking on Seal Sands Rd, you can cross over A178 (carefully- you don’t want to be run over by a bus!) and follow the path beside the creek, out towards the sea.  In the distance you can see the Transporter Bridge, in Middlesbrough.  Closer to hand, a family of swans usually enjoy the salt water.




Looking back, A178 spans the creek, and on the far shore industry looms, threateningly.  But we won’t be intimidated.  A ragged sign on the fence gives a clue to the area’s past.  There are still defence structures to be seen, and if you are interested this document gives full details.


The skies alternately boil and shimmer, as I follow the path beside the creek, and along to the first bird hide.

If you click on the last shot you might be able to make out the windmills of the offshore wind farm.  Here they look very distant, but it’s not so.


This is a remnant of the military installations, but history goes much further back.  In Medieval times the area was important for its salt, which was extracted by boiling salt water until the liquid evaporated, leaving behind precious salt crystals.  For thousands of years, the sea swept across the Tees estuary, exposing mudflats and sand bars as it ebbed.  Defensive banks were built against the tides, changing the flow of the currents. Gradually the ground lost its saltiness and became fit for agriculture.  Sheep grazed on the salt marshes, growing the thick fleeces sold by medieval monks to much of Europe.

A second bird hide but a distinct lack of wildlife, though the sign tells us of plenty.  Maybe the birds are all at nearby Saltholme, where they will undoubtedly be better fed.  And then, the strangeness of the brine fields.

The landscape changed enormously after World War II.  In the 1960s the area east of A178 was intensively developed for brine fields and the storage of petrochemicals.  Pollution in the estuary had been heavy, but when Natural England became involved the site became a Special Protection Area.  Careful management and reclamation has helped to restore and maintain the natural habitat.



Returning along the creek, my sharp eyed companion spots a grey mammal, paddling his leisurely way out to sea.  They are one of the great success stories of the nature reserve.  200 years ago a seal population of around 1000 lived in these mudflats.  A survey in the 1930s failed to reveal any.  They had been decimated by hunting and pollution.  Today there are about 100 seals, and several pups are born each summer.


Thriving in the midst of all that ugliness.  It’s good to know, isn’t it?  The sign boards ask you to respect the seals privacy and remain behind the hide.  While this may not be the prettiest Landscape, I do hope that you found it interesting.

I know how you all like a cuppa after a walk.  RSPB Saltholme is just 2km south of this site, and the cafe has a panoramic lake view. The website includes a map and full details of the area.

walking logo

Two years and more of walking.  It must be time to put the kettle on!  Many thanks to all of you who’ve supported me along the way, and made such wonderful contributions.  Details of how to join me are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo.  You’ll be made very welcome.


Riverside walks are among my favourites.  A smattering of history makes them even better.  Thanks, Anabel!

Bothwell and Blantyre

Denzil is leading us intrepidly, step by step, across Belgium :

GR571: Aywaille to Stoumont

Jackie combines sunshine with some rather intriguing sculpture this week :

Lenora Carrington

Liesbet takes us roaming about in Connecticut, just one last time :

A Walk in Housatonic Meadows State Park

Time spent with Drake is absolutely never wasted!

Actually needed more time

Ruth joins us again, amongst some beautiful tree ferns :

Fern Tree to Spring Falls

Something I know you won’t be able to resist!  A trip to Narnia, with Debbie :

From Narnia to Albert Bridge

Just a little optimistic this early?  Elaine goes looking for Bluebells :

In search of Bluebells

Miriam’s got herself great company for her rather cloudy walk :

Meandering in Mount Macedon

Jaspa’s walk was written with Easter very much in mind :

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

BiTi is in love with green.  Colour themed walks?  Not a bad idea!

A Study in Green on my walk 

Coincidentally, Geoff is already ahead in this game :

Three Greens 

Please say hello to Patrick, who’s just starting a walking challenge :

52 Hike Challenge- No. 1

And to lovely Pat, ‘living life almost gracefully’, in Florida :

Walk in the Park

This week Susan goes looking for seals, (Snap!) and trying not to tumble over cliffs!

Estero Bluffs Walk

While Pauline captures all of nature with her camera.  Don’t miss this gem!

7 Day Nature Photo : Day 1- a walk in the national Park

That’s it for another week!  Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  I have one more walk for you next week and then I will be missing for a little while.  Have a great week everybody!

A note for Joanne : If you’re reading this, there’s a conversation between me and Bill Blackwell, who used to live on the creek, in the comments on my Greatham Creek post.  It starts- “I am one of the lucky kids whose family had a boathouse on the creek. At 80years old my memories go back to when in my opinion the creek was at its best, with more people than seals,yet I very much enjoyed the photos.”



  1. A wonderful post and tour, dear Jo…. The clouds particularly caught my attention, impressive.
    Also, I really like one of the last photographs which seems to be a window leading to the beach. Sending love and best wishes for your weekend, Aquileana 😉⭐️


  2. I feel much better now, thank you Jo :-). So interesting to see the contrast between the industrial area and wildlife habitat, without your exploration and background information it is easy to imagine the area as a polluted and dead environment.


    1. I’m glad, Sam. 🙂 Strangely enough there was a programme on TV last night, ‘Secret Britain’, which showed an area in Kent which looked equally unlovable and was another great wildlife habitat. Nice to know we’re not alone in this. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice walk.

    When it’s done correctly, industry and nature can coexist. But, both sides need to be cooperative. Here in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal is home to splendid array of wildlife and boasts a small piece of untouched prairie so close to a metropolitan area. In it’s previous life, a small portion of the arsenal property was used as storage for chemical weapons (which were removed long ago). Though developers had their eye on the land, the Army turned over the land to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to run as a National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a good place for a nature walk.


    1. Now you know why I focus on beauty, Karen. 🙂 They’re not the best surroundings to have on your doorstep, but there are wild orchids in the dunes and if you go in the right direction you can escape it all together. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So, it was you, was it, Smidge? 🙂 🙂 Actually, Saltholme gets all the birds and the Seal Sands get the… seals 🙂 Not such a bad deal. Thanks very much for your company. I’m feeling like a walk.


    1. Drake, that is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you so much for your kindness. 🙂
      You would have laughed yesterday. We set out around a nearby lake in miserable damp conditions. I was determined not to have the long face but it was a serious challenge. The rain didn’t exactly drip off my nose, but close. 🙂 I won’t be featuring it as a walk but one or two photos will make a cautionary appearance. Wishing you a joyful week!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations and well done on the two years, Jo. I wonder how many steps you’ve accumulated on these walks (that would be an intriguing stat!). I’m so glad the seals are coming back – wow! 😀


    1. It was Easter holidays last week and there were loads of youngsters with their eyes pressed to the peep holes. 🙂 The seals are used to being the stars of the show. Thanks, and you, too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Two years! Well done, I must say I love your walks and visit some of your walkers as well, I love the places they’ve taken me. This one may not be the most beautiful but it is interesting and real life. If it was too lovely, too many people might visit and that could send the elusive wildlife away. I see you’ve heard from Jude, that’s good, perhaps between us we can tempt you to a south west walk sometime. x:-)x


    1. I’m working on that, Gilly! 🙂 The second half of my year is as yet unplanned 🙂 🙂 A surprising number of people do go to see the seals. They are minor celebrities around here.


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