Film ID:
NEFA 13923



Visitor Tabs


A documentary produced and directed by Karen Partridge and David Bellamy Associates Ltd that looks at the hidden kingdom of wildlife, both plant and animal, around the industrial complexes of ICI Chemicals and Polymers and British Steel on Teesside. The film is narrated by Joanna Lumley.

The film opens on a number of geese flying through the sky; two wooden posts in the foreground

Credit: A DBA film

A series of wildlife scenes at night begins with a badger sniffing through the undergrowth looking for food, a bat landing on a tree and going into a hollow and two fox cubs playing together beside a chalk bank.

Clouds pass over a full moon then the scene changes to British Steel Teesside Works where sparks and flames jump into the air, a spectacular display during the manufacture of steel.

Back outside and now in daylight a view follows of a Kestrel and sunlight coming through trees.

Title: The Hidden Kingdom. A Natural History of Industrial Teesside

General views follow of a bushes and trees inside a woodland enclave. In a clearing is a derelict building, part of the areas ironstone mining history.

From Eston Nab a view looks down on ICI Wilton showing a number of large industrial and chemical complexes. Additional overhead shots show similar industrial sites with steam coming from chimneys. Inside Teesside Works steel is being poured out of a ladle producing flames and steam. From another part of the complex a section of a hot metal girder travels along a conveyor.

Outside the complex waste slag pours out of an opening creating moon-like landscapes of sea walls and slag banks.

Along the lower reaches of the river Tees near to the steel works is a rocky outcrop of old slag, now overgrown with green plant life, including Common Spotted and Northern March orchids. Nearby other flowers grow including Hare’s-foot clover, Cat’s-ear (Flatweed), Yellow-wort, Biting stonecrop (Goldmoss stonecrop).

On a nearby pond, part of Coatham Marsh, two Mute swans feed in the background Redcar's steelworks. Other birds rest and feed on the water.

At Teesmouth a colony of Little Terns nest on the beach at South Gare laying their eggs into small ‘scrapes’ in the sand. A pole in the sand deters visitors to the colony. Notices on them read; ‘Tern Breeding Grounds. Please do not enter or Disturb’. A Tern sits on her eggs in the sand.

Men work to sink a bore hole using a drilling rig on one of ICI’s brine fields. Nearby a mole appears from his hole. Underground the creature digs through the soft earth and eats an earthworm. The mole re-appears in the field, not far from the drilling platform in the background.

At a saline pool water leaks from a high-pressure pump creating waterlogged ground with pools of water. Brine flies thrive in these conditions and are eaten by waders such as Dunlin and Winged Plover feeding along the edge of muddy pools.

Hidden in the reeds of this man-made industrial wetland is a Common Tern colony. A chick is fed a small fish by one of its parents.  A Ringed Plover also nests in this environment sitting on eggs or watching for predators. From behind a rock comes a rat and the parent plover fanes injury to deceive the rat leading it away from the nest. The threat gone the bird returns to sit on its eggs near to an industrial complex. Back at the tern colony the birds nest together for protection, the adults pruning themselves or sitting on eggs. Two small chicks stand near water.

Feeding from flowers are a number of butterflies and moths. This changes to show them at an earlier stage of development, as a number of caterpillars crawling along a nettle converting the energy gained from feeding on the leaves into a chrysalis. One caterpillar hangs from a plant at the chrysalis stage.

Industrial pipes criss-cross the industrial site at ICI Wilton with smoke pouring from large metal chimneys and cooling towers nearby.  At the ICI North Tees Works crude oil terminal the tanker ‘Far Saca’ is unloading its cargo of Naphtha which is refined at the nearby complex. General views follow of the large towers inside which the conversion process takes place.

Walking through a shopping precinct two women wear brightly coloured ski-wear made from synthetic fibres created by ICI. Other products featured include nylon rope.

Resting on a plant a butterfly opens and closes its wings, a chrysalis hangs from a branch. On a disused industrial site is a wild flower meadow and moths or butterflies feed on the nectar.

The  film of a leaf growing on a tree fades to a moving conveyor of burning coke. Water is poured onto the burning embers producing steam, the image fades changing to hot molten steel being poured from one ladle to another producing flames and sparks. Along another conveyor comes a finished ingot of steel which is turned and moved my machine through a shower of water to cool it down.

Outside the sun sets over an industrial landscape of metal chimneys followed by clouds passing over a full moon. At an old industrial chalk pit a vixen, a female fox, appears from her burrow. Nearby her two cubs play together learning the hunting skills they will need in later life. Around the area the vixen uses her nose to hunt for food.

The film changes to show an ICI chemical complex lit up at night. Around their sett three badgers appear and use their keen sense of smell to hunt for earthworms and insects to eat. In a suburban garden a hedgehog also hunts for food such as beetles and slugs. A hedgehog flea moves down the side of the creature's face. A badger appears and the hedgehog curls up into a defensive ball. With the danger past the hedgehog un-curls and moves on followed by the badger. Back at the fox burrow one of the cubs eats morsels of food bought for it by the vixen before returning to play with his or her sibling.

Back inside the British Steels works a molten girder travels along a conveyor passing through a shaping machine. The film changes to the ICI Wilton site and the night sky lit by flames emanating from two chimneys. The lights inside one of the company’s research laboratories are turned of and there are views of microscopes, tubes and other glass vessels around the room. Through an open window flies a Common pipistrelle bat who proceeds to crawl between a number of glass vessels, fly around the room and use its claws to climb a wall. Eventually if flies out of the window and heads towards its roost in a nearby tree and uses its claws to climb into a tree hollow. In another tree hang two Common noctule bats eating.

Back at the fox den the two young continue to play, a crack of thunder causes them to stop. Rain begins to fall helping the badger continue foraging for food through the grassy woodland.

Inside the British Steel works another metal ingot travels along a conveyor.

End credit: Narrated by Joanna Lumley

End credit: “Hawk Roosting” by Ted Hughes read by Mike Greenwood

End credit: The Producers would like to thank the staff of ICI Wilton, ICI North Tees Works and North Tees Brine Fields. David Adamson, Conrad Ellison and the staff of British Steel, Teesside Works

End credit: Photography Peter Smithson, Hiliary Smithson, Peter Evans, Richard Ranken

End credit: Sound Chris Watson, Mike Riley, Ron Gunn

End credit: Music Ron Berry

End credit: Dubbing Glentham Studios

End credit: Graphics Neil Armstrong

End credit:  Field Assistant Bob Walters

End credit: Research Ken Smith, Tom Woolard

End credit:  Edited by Derek Inglis

A general view follows of an industrial complex at dawn with steam from the chimneys rising into the sky. A Kestrel flaps it’s wings beside a petrochemical storage tank before flying off into the sky. On a pond near to the ICI Wilton chemical complex a number of resting birds are startled and fly off into the sky.

End credit: Executive Producer Brendan Quayle

On Coatham March two Mute swans feed from water

End credit:  Produced and Directed by Karen Partridge

End title: © 1991/ DBA/ICI/British Steel

End title: This film was funded by ICI Chemicals and Polymers and British Steel General Steels Teesside Works