Seaton Common / North Gare Pier / Seaton Snook
and Seaton Channel by Ian Forrest
This area covers the north side of Tees Estuary forming part of the Teesmouth National
Nature Reserve. Habitat is mostly salt marsh and sandy beaches with a line of sand
dunes separating the two areas. North Gare pier extends a short distance into the
Location, Access and Strategy
Located by the A178 Tees Road one mile south of Seaton Carew and five miles north
of Haverton Hill.
Public have open access to the beach areas either side of North Gare Pier south
to Seaton Channel. Lying behind the sand dunes is the salt marsh of Seaton Common
bounded by Seaton Carew golf course to the north and Hartlepool power station to
the south. The A178 Tees Road forms the western boundary. Some areas of Seaton Common
are open and others fenced off. Foot access to the Common is mostly around the margins
apart from the access roads for North Gare and Zinc Works Road. The southern boundary
of this area is Seaton Channel where Greatham Creek enters the River Tees. Seaton
Snook is an area of dunes in the Estuary mouth on the north side of Seaton Channel.
It is connected to the coastal dunes by a sandy ridge artificially reinforced though
erosion has taken its toll I the last few years.
The area can be split into three areas for bird watching - North Gare Pier, Seaton
Common and Seaton Snook each of which can be covered individually or combined in
one or two trips.
North Gare Pier/Seaton Common
The pier is the north boundary of the Tees Estuary. It is shorter and less impressive
looking than South Gare Pier which with the steel works at Redcar dominates the
skyline to the south and east. There is little in the way of finesse, the pier is
an oblong slab of concrete jutting 250yds into the sea.
Access can be gained by walking south along the beach from Seaton Carew but if visiting
by car it’s more convenient to use the pier car park. Traveling one mile south from
Seaton Carew you reach the sign posted access road to the car park. It is set back
with two impressive stone column gate posts proclaiming ‘North Gare’ between which
is a cattle grid. There is a metal barrier, but it is rarely closed. The road runs
for about one mile through the salt marsh of Seaton Common.
The north side of the track is unfenced open salt marsh with many wetland areas
and unobstructed views of Seaton Carew. Grazing cattle are usually along the track.
The south side has a wooden rail fence alongside the road, bounding more salt marsh
which has some permanent water holding areas. At the end of the road is a large
car park capable of holding a number of coaches as well as cars.
From the car park foot access to North Gare Pier is by a hard core path across a
narrow strip of golf course - so mind your heads! Golfers are generally very careful
but it's not unknown for unwary visitors to be hit by a ball. With such good sandy
beaches, this area is a very popular and can become quite busy with people who have
no interest in the bird watching – especially in summer. Following the path leads
you through the sand dunes and onto the pier itself from where most of the Tees
basin from Hartlepool to Redcar and up river to Middlesbrough can be viewed.
photo: Zink Works Road and Seaton Common
Seaton Snook and Seaton Channel
To the south of North Gare further into the Estuary is Seaton Snook. It lies inside
the Estuary itself on the north bank of the River Tees at the confluence with Greatham
Creek. This area of the water is known locally as Seaton Channel.
The beach area between Seaton Channel and North Gare is a vast expanse of sand ½
mile wide. The whole beach can become covered with water on Spring tides but usually
even during high tide the beach is mostly left uncovered. The Snook lies immediately
on the edge of Seaton Channel and ¼ mile from the line of dunes that stretch along
the coast from Seaton Carew to Seaton Channel. It comprises an area of sand dunes
held in place by maram grass. It is connected to the mainland by a low sandy ridge
reinforced by manmade shingle i.e. blast furnace slag! It used to be a continuous
ridge 200m long and 2m high with a paved walkway on top, however years of erosion
have breached it in several places. Whilst the Snook itself is never covered by
the tide, the shingle ridge often is in places.
Further upstream the channel becomes Seals Sands a vast area of mudflats during
low tide. Behind the line of sand dunes is the Power Station separated from the
dunes by a large grassy field grazed by cattle and horses which keep the grass quite
short. On the edge of the field by Seaton Channel is a concrete blockhouse left
over from the war which can be a good viewing place for the Channel and Seal Sands.
To reach Seaton Snook the easiest access is via Zinc Works Road. Travelling south
along the A178 from Seaton Carew 100m after the turning for North Gare is Zinc Works
Road. Follow the road to its end and park in the small parking area or verges by
the sand extraction site. There is a public right of way through the site either
following the main track to the beach or turning left over the stile and passing
behind the buildings and then turning right until you reach the sand dunes. Paths
then lead you onto the beach or you can follow the dunes south towards Seaton Channel.
Worth mentioning are the ‘migrant bushes’ which lie behind the sand dunes at the
end of Zinc Works Road. They often trap migrating Warblers especially in the Autumn
A good selection of birds can be found in the area.
In winter the Estuary is a nationally important area for wintering waders. The list
is extensive but some of the species routinely found here include Redshank, Dunlin,
Sanderling, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Knot, Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Ringed
Plover, Cormorant, Shag, Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Eider Duck, Common
Scoter, Shelduck, Guillemot, Razorbill, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit and Bar-tailed
Godwit, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe. Most winters Great Northern
Diver, Long-tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe and Red-necked Grebe area found as well.
Wintering geese tend to be low in number apart from on passage but include Greylag,
Pink-footed, Canada and Brent. The dunes also hold wintering Twite, Snow Bunting
and Merlin with the occasional Hen Harrier as well. Short-eared Owl are seen most
years and occasionally Barn Owl. Large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing pass through
Spring and Autumn passage migrants regularly include Northern Wheatear, Whinchat,
Ring Ouzel, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common
Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellow-browed Warbler, Barred Warbler, Lapland
Bunting, Artic Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Shearwater, Arctic Tern and Roseate Tern,
Osprey, Marsh Harrier and Rough-legged Buzzard. Many scarcer migrants turn up each
year as well. In years past Bluethroat and Shorelark were regulars here.
Additional species found on the marshes – Snipe, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting,
Grey Heron, Skylark, Linnet, Pied Wagtail, Little Egret, Teal, Wigeon, Northern
Pintail, Shoveler, Mallard, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon and Sparrowhawk. Large numbers
of gulls and Starlings roost on the marshes as well. Summer breeding migrants also
include Swallow, Swift, Sand Martin, House Martin, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and
Cuckoo. Little Tern, Common Tern and Sandwich Tern all breed in the area.