I always said I’d never buy a house near running water. But that is precisely what we did in February 2021.
The Brierdene Burn is a small stream in North Tyneside, just over 4 miles long (and a catchment of around 3¾ square miles) that flows in a deep ditch close by my house. Fortunately, the ditch is full of plants, and these slow the flow of water considerably. Even during periods of very heavy rain that we experienced recently, the flow didn’t increase appreciably.
That’s because the length of the Burn from its source west of the A19 trunk road (in a field at the top of a slope) to here is less than half a mile, if that.
As near as I can be certain, its actual source is close by the tree in the top image below. In the lower image, the housing development where I live can be seen on the east side of the A19, perhaps only a quarter of a mile away.
From here it meanders eastwards under the A19, through the lower section of Backworth and onwards until it meets the North Sea at Whitley Bay.
Just beyond our housing there is an overflow pool, where the Brierdene Burn is joined by a southern, shorter tributary.
Now I’m not sure if this pool was constructed when the houses were built to reduce the risk of flooding, or whether it’s a natural, ‘ancient’ feature in the landscape. The whole area was once covered in coal mines, and maybe the pool was dug when the mines were opened to reduce flooding. I just don’t know.
I often follow the Brierdene Burn and past the pool on many of my daily walks. They are havens for biodiversity, a changing flora throughout the year, and so many different birds. I haven’t seen any mammals in the pool, although I’ve heard reports of otters. I have seen roe deer a little further east.
The Burn flows under Station Road, where common reeds (Phragmites spp.) flourish.
And in the Spring, the Burn is an excellent habitat for marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris L.) and yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus L.).
And just yesterday, there were the first signs of Spring, with these hazel catkins shaking in the breeze.
A year ago I decided to take photos of the overflow pool every week from two different locations, and make them into these two timelapse videos.
From the dark dismal days of January to the height of midsummer, there is a succession of different species, with a ring of bulrushes (Typha spp., right below) around the perimeter of the pool developing throughout the year and flowering around August, a flush of bedstraws (Galium spp., left below) in June/July, followed by the purple common knapweed (Centaurea nigra L., middle below).
These are some of the birds¹ which I regularly see around the pool all year round.
In summer there are some delightful visitors to the pool, and the occasional species that pass through like the little egret and Canada goose.
And on the fields along the Burn on the west side, several other species including winter visitors like the redwing, fieldfare, and golden plover, as well as many of those I see beside the pool.
Just the other day, I stopped to take this photo, looking east from Hotspur North towards the pool. And disappointed that folks had decided to drop litter instead of taking it home (an issue I commented on not long after we moved to North Tyneside).
Anyway, just as I took the photo, a small bird flew into a gorse bush beside me. My first reaction was a wren. But to my surprise and delight it was a goldcrest (below), Britain’s smallest bird. I’ve only seen a goldcrest once before and then not very clearly. This one stayed there for almost five minutes, hopping through the branches, and giving me a spectacular view.
There’s always some new delight to inspire me around here. I certainly look forward to exploring more of this fascinating landscape that has come to life 40 years after the coal mines were closed.
¹ Bird photos courtesy of Northamptonshire-based photographer Barry Boswell. Take a look at his excellent website: http://www.britishbirdphotographs.com/index.html