One hundred yards of old railway track

One of the highlights of the summer was dropping in to see Jaybee (aka John Bridges) on my way up to Scotland. His inspiration, shortly after my arrival in Durham in 2009, was a key factor in my choosing to develop bird-watching and wildlife photography.

While there, we visited on a short section of disused railway track, on the eastern side of South Hetton. I was keen to see it because it had a key part to play in Jaybee’s life. As he puts it on his website,

I was advised, because of health issues regarding a blocked artery in my left leg, to walk everyday or risk losing the leg which, to be honest, I quite like attached to the rest of my body. Having to walk on a daily basis meant I needed motivation, so in 2004, at the age of 55 I took up photography again after many, many years away from the hobby.

Over the first year, his daily walk was up and down the 100yds of this track – photographing all the wildlife. The result is a marvellously-produced book, which can be downloaded as a zipped PDF file from here.

The old railway track on the east side of South Hetton

The old railway track on the east side of South Hetton

It’s eye-opening to see just how much wildlife there is in a short stretch of old railway: many species of dragonfiles, beetles and butterflies; grasshoppers, wasps and spiders; plenty of flowers, grasses and fungi, a wide variety of birds such as whitethroats, linnets and kestrels, not to mention snails, water crickets and frogs! The book really ought to be published for both conservational and educational purposes.

As if to prove the point about the abundant wildlife along the old railway track, this reed warbler was very showy.

As if to prove the point about the abundant wildlife along the old railway track, this reed warbler was very showy.

Jaybee, with Jimmy Wagner whom we bumped into while there.

Jaybee (left), with Jimmy Wagner whom we bumped into while there.

At the end of the book there’s some useful advice for budding photographers, including this gem:

Make sure all your pockets are zipped up to prevent anything falling from them and into the pond – could that be the voice of experience?

From there we went down to the RSPB’s reserve at Saltholme. Although August is usually not a great month for bird-watching, we had some luck as there was a white-winged black tern flying around – much the most eye-catching tern that I’ve seen!

Me with Christine & Elizabeth Shearer

Me with Christine & Elizabeth Shearer

As might be imagined Jaybee and I also had a good natter during the day – he always has an interesting perspective which provokes a good discussion!

After visiting Jaybee, I caught up with Elizabeth & Christine Shearer in Stockton. Getting to know the Shearer family was another highlight from my time in Durham, and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with them over a Chinese meal.

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