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 😉⭐️

    1. The ‘hide’ is there to give the seals a bit of privacy, Aquileana, but still give a wonderful window to their world. Many thanks for your company and a happy weekend to you 🙂

  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. 🙂

  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. 🙂

    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.

  4. You managed to make an industrial scene look beautiful with those lovely shots, the clouds really add to it. It’s so nice to see that the seals are being protected nowadays.

    1. Thanks so much for your visit, Jean. I drove by there on the bus yesterday under heavy grey skies, and it was a depressing sight. But the seals were still there. 🙂 🙂

  5. Actually I don’t believe you could make a walk be boring.
    No matter where we follow your steps – so it turns up inspiring and interesting time used… 🙂

    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!

  6. 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. I’m not one of those people who wear a ‘fitbit’ (is that even the right word?) but I think the number might be exhausting, Dianne. Best not to know 🙂 🙂 But thank you!

    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 🙂

  7. 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.

  8. beautiful skies, Jo! I love that you always see the good and beautiful even in the midst of uninviting landscapes. great pictures as always! 🙂 have a wonderful week! 🙂

  9. Jo I love that in the midst of what one could easily call a grim landscape is this magical success story of bring the deals back. Sometimes we have to look very hard for the bright and beautiful spots in this world. I think it is something you are brilliant at doing!

    1. Making the best of what you have, Sue. 🙂 I’m pretty lucky with what I have on hand most of the time. Thank you very much! Wishing you a great week 🙂

  10. Such a contrast… the natural beauty of wildlife against the ugliness created by humans! As I’m currently engaged in the A-Z Blogging Challenge with a theme of Wildlife Encounters, your post is very interesting, Jo.

  11. Thank you for showing how wild life will comeback given careful planning and the right circumstances – despite the industrialization of the area, success of this project is taking hold. I love this post Jo – have a wonderful week.

      1. I agree Jo – it’s the reality of both equations living together peacefully and hopefully over time it will be a called a major success.

  12. You always give a really clear picture of your walking adventures, Jo, even if it’s industrial like today — I appreciate that. And it’s always good to see when land has been designated a preserve, and a species, like the harbour seals, has been revived.

    1. There are dunes in close proximity to the power station (not shown) Jet, and in Spring they have wild orchids in the grass. I’m not a fan of the area but it is wonderful that efforts are being made to preserve the natural habitat. 🙂

  13. Somehow the darkish clouds are fitting in with the ugly industrial landscape. They make it look all the more threatening. Interesting that there’s a seal sanctuary in spite of this.
    Have a great week,

    1. The seals were there first, Pit, and it’s good to know they’re now holding their own. I don’t mind the area too much with dramatic skies but I hate it when it’s grey. You too, Pit! 🙂 🙂

  14. An interesting walk, Jo. Do you ever sit down, except for a quick cuppa? Lovely to know those seals have a haven of their own. I don’t suppose they notice the ugliness of the landscape. You captured some really exquisite skies in your photos. Have a great week. 🙂

    1. You obviously don’t count the hours I spend bashing away at this keyboard, Ad. 🙂 🙂 I shall be ‘resting’ in Portugal soon. 🙂 Have a good week too!

  15. Bleak but beautiful – thanks for taking me along on your walk! It’s heartening to hear the seals are staging a comeback. I got to swim with some pups when I was in the Galapagos – no touching, but they were fun!

    1. I find the landscape really depressing on a grey day like today, Heather, but those skies had me enthralled. And you have to smile at a seal, don’t you? 🙂

  16. What a difference this walk to your normal bright and breezy saunters. But it is heartening to know that all that pollution can still be turned around and the seals are back. The sky is quite stunning. Wow 2 years Jo and still going strong. Thank you for hosting this challenge week after week I look forward to seeing where everyone takes us. Are you going to Poland again soon?

    1. Hi sweetheart! 🙂 Well, I can’t be bright and breezy all the time and actually this walk fit very well with how I was feeling at the time, just after Lisa had gone home. Yes- 2 years of weary legs 🙂 🙂 I do enjoy hosting this! I’m off to the Algarve next Wednesday, Pauline, just briefly, and then to Poland with Dad for 2 weeks. Not sure exactly when I’ll be posting after next Monday, but I’ll keep everyone informed.

      1. Makes me restless just imagining it. Take care Blogging Buddy and I look forward to seeing your posts whenever you can fit them in.

  17. Marsh orchids??? Ears prick up in Warsaw! This is such a different walk from the usual ones, but you have magnificent skies and the return of seals to compensate for the intrusion of extractors and road builders.

    1. They don’t seem to mind the proximity of the power station at all, Meg! 🙂 Bit like the seals, really. Just us humans that find it depressing. In the sand dunes along that stretch of coast there are usually lots of wild orchids. I haven’t been for a look lately. Very wet forecast this week but I’ll fit it in if I can. Thank you so much for your lovely walk. I’ll be back in a bit for a proper look. Haven’t been home long- a trifle damp, but not miserable. 🙂 (heard from Jude briefly too 🙂 All’s well!)

      1. We’re bathed in sunshine today. Everyone feels joyous. Maja smiled all the way to pre-school and Jaś is waiting for birds to lay eggs. But we also enjoyed rain on Friday. Good that all’s well with Jude.

  18. It’s nice to know wildlife is thriving with all that industry around. It looks like spring is in the air, or at least some blue skies are peeking through. Hope you had a happy Easter! I need to do some backtracking now that I’ve returned from my Texas/Oklahoma trip. 🙂

    1. Easter was lovely, Cathy, with Lisa home. 🙂 Did you have a good time? I’ll be over to look for posts later. The weather is very hit and miss but we have had the occasional lovely Spring day.

  19. Nice piece! I also really like how your blog is differently set out. Stands out from many i have visited. Cheers!

  20. I often have that urge to stop the vehicle when driving with industrial fields on the side. I hardly ever done it. I always feel like whenever I take field pictures, it doesn’t really show much in pictures than seeing it in person. Despite the grim look and its presence against nature, I commend you for having interesting-worthy share about industrial areas.

  21. Ugly landscape yes, but what an inspiring effort in reclamation and saving the seals. And you managed to capture some spectacular clouds 🙂 Congratulations on two years of Monday Walks Jo! Have missed walking with you. Hope to catch up as best I can.

    1. Hello sweetheart! Lovely to have you back 🙂 I passed by yours a week or so ago and there was nothing new so I thought you must be engrossed in a project? I’ll pop over some time today. Just back from a bit of a drizzly walk but the company was nice. Thank you for finding me and spending time. 🙂

  22. This looks a bit like my neighbourhood except for the lack of wildlife. Well, we have that too if you count pigeons. I did not find your Thursday sky depressing at all, and here there is one photo I absolutely love, and I’ll leave you to guess which one. Have a great day, Jo!

    1. Well my personal favourite is probably the one with very dark sky and creek, but with the buildings highlighted by the sun, and I like the one that follows, looking towards the bridge. But I suspect you like a seal one? 🙂 Hugs, Paula! Did you manage to get all essentials done? I’m sorry about your company. There doesn’t seem to be a happy ending in sight, does there?

      1. Come on, you have to stay positive for me, please. My favourite is not the seal one, though I love them. It is the last large photo in the gallery 😀

  23. Ominous clouds and stark background but you still manage to capture the brightness of life in your walking posts. Thanks for taking us along Jo. Have a great week.

    1. Thanks a lot, Miriam 🙂 It was a little damp out with my walking friends this morning, but nice company. No idea what the photos will look like though. 🙂 You too- enjoy yours!

  24. l’uomo sembra distruggere costruendo..questo sembra la tua accorata tristezza.preghiera, ed anche quelle enormi nubi d’inchiostro sembrano confermarlo come se il cielo si preparasse a fare una grande protesta a base di fulmini e grandine!
    le foto sono intensamente legate al tuo pensiero, sei grande amica mia!

    1. The violent skies marry well with the landscape, I think, Annalisa, and with my mood that day. Happy Monday to you, and thank you for your wonderful company. 🙂

  25. Wow that will have been rather a lot of footsteps in two years, and what memories you will have. A lovely walk as usual btw!

    We had hoped to go out today for a Monday walk today but the heavens have opened and forecast remains distinctly British!

    1. It’s the same forecast here this week, Becky (funnily enough 🙂 ) but the walkers are still planning to go out. 😦 Thanks, darlin’! Yes- a lot of footsteps 🙂

  26. Well done, Natural England! I have to confess, I found this a seriously gloomy walk with all that industrial ugliness, but there is an upside with the nature conservation….

  27. Not such a pretty walk but equally interesting as all your others.. Those clouds looked dark and heavy hope they didn’t drop water while out walking. 😉

  28. Interesting comment about the bird hide Jo, from which there was nothing much to see, despite the info poster saying otherwise. I always think that information panels in bird hides or at entrances to nature reserves, while being educational, also build up totally false expectations. “Wow just look at all these birds and animals we are going to see here!” soon ends up as “How disappointing, we didn’t see any of those!” In the Ardennes I am constantly coming across boards that list red deer, roe deer, fallow deer, badger, fox, stoat, weasel, wild boar… and I know that most of these are either nocturnal, shy or just avoid the areas that the paths are going through. Having said that, the seal info board didn’t disappoint you!

    1. Very true, Denzil. 🙂 Heaps of seals that day, and a fair number of spectators too. To be fair, there were swans (my close ups were too poor to publish), Canada geese, ducks and coots but they’re too distant to see, and they’re observable most places around here. I definitely wouldn’t want to visit this area after dark.

  29. These are amazing captures Jo! Even with all the industrial buildings, nature just show us how beautiful she can be. It’s wonderful that the seals are protected there and that they are thriving. They are such beautiful animals. 😀

    Thanks for sharing and for the wonderful tour. Have a great week darling. ♥

    1. Thanks, Sonel! 🙂 Lots of people do go just to observe the seals and it’s a great success story. Back to gloom here this morning. No nice cloud patterns. Have a happy week, sweetheart! 🙂

      1. I know what you mean with the cloud patterns. Around here it’s also difficult to get some, especially on bright days. Hubby then calls it ‘Montana skies’. LOL!

        Thanks darling. Sending you some sun. ♥

    1. It’s not an area I’d visit every day, Viv, but it is a very familiar part of my landscape. In Spring there are marsh orchids nearby too. Good that someone is trying to redress the balance. 🙂

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