The Durham Coastal Footpath extends 17 km from Crimdon in the south to Seaham in the north through an area of Magnesian Limestone with boulder clay above it. It passes through an area that is an outstanding example of regeneration following the impact of large-scale industry. Coal in this part of the Durham was exploited principally in the twentieth century, when vast quantities of spoil were tipped on beaches, but all the mines closed in the early 1990s, although coal washed in by the sea was collected over many centuries, usually by men who placed it in sacks and took it home on bicycles.
Many of the ancient pastures along the coast were ploughed up to grow crops during the Second World War, and one object of restoration has been to recreate the grasslands on the cliff tops. The footpath passes the sites of collieries Blackhall, Horden, Easington and Dawdon, all of which dated from the early twentieth century and had extensive workings under the sea.
In 1951 an underground explosion killed 81 men at Easington, where the pit cage remains as a landmark and memorial. An area of Magnesian Limestone grassland at Horden is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and at Castle Eden Dene a huge dump of colliery waste is steadily being removed by the action of the tides and the site is reverting to saltmarsh.
Several impressive viaducts on the coastal railway built in 1905 can be viewed from the path, and the platform remains of the private station built for members of the Pemberton family of mine-owners, whose mansion, ‘The Towers’, was designed in 1821 by John Dobson, and demolished in 1969. Coal was once despatched on a large scale from Seaham Harbour, which was established by another mine-owning family, the Earls of Londonderry. One terrace remains of a planned model village, designed by John Dobson, but never completed.