Film ID:
NEFA 13927



Visitor Tabs


David Bellamy is our guide in a source to sea story of the River Tees and the challenges to the health of the river and the environment that have come with increased population and industrialisation especially in the lower reaches of the river. The film is sponsored by ICI as a contribution to European Year of the Environment (1987).

Title: A David Bellamy Film

General views show a sunrise over Teesside’s industrial landscape, with views of birds around the seal sands and salt marsh areas. Cormorants sit on industrial steelwork silhouetted against the sunrise, a ship passes the chimneys and cooling towers of local industry. Swans and geese navigate the calmer waters of a marsh. Seals with their heads out of the water look around curiously.

David Bellamy appears on camera at Seal Sands, the film shows seals and birds. Birds being the largest group of animals on seal sands. However David Bellamy points out a sand beetle as it makes its way across the sand, a creature which is just as important to the area.

Flocks of birds take off and fly across a background of large buildings and plant that make up the heavy industry of Teesside.

Using some stills of the river Tees from the 1960’s David Bellamy briefly talks about the affect heavy industry had on the river environment in the past. As the film shows effluent being pouring into the river, David Bellamy points out that there is a fine balance between a healthy river and a poisoned one.

General views follow of shipping and a view of Middlesbrough’s Transporter Bridge, followed by aerial views of a beach, and the upper reaches of the Tees and a more rural landscape.

Title: The River Tees

Title: The Living River

David Bellamy appears on screen at Cross Fell at the source of the Tees.

Title: Teeshead 1000 BC

Actors portray the effect humans had on the area, where clearance of trees and grazing of animals lead ultimately to the current boggy area of land.

A series of photographs from the late 1960’s show the development of a dam at Cow Green creating a body of water to feed the demands of large industries on the Tees.

The area is also an important haven of long established species of plant.

An aerial view shows the limestone rock which is important to the environment in which these plants survive, most famously the blue Gentian which has become the symbolic flower for Teesdale.

General views show upper Teesdale which has become an important nature reserve, a stone built barn in a field, the river running over rocks and a sunset over the reservoir.

Aerial views follow the river through the rocky landscape, including the cascades at Cauldron Snout. The aerial views carry on beyond Cauldron Snout as they river winds its way through moorland.

The aerial view passes over Dine Holm Scar near Kirby Stephen, with rocks covered in juniper, further along the bankside is a mining installation (?)

On camera David Bellamy speaks as he sits on a stone that, as he explains, belonged to an ancient settlement next to the Tees. The film shows the churned waters of the Tees as it travels over rocks.

On camera David Bellamy talks about early farming settlements. Sheep even now graze on land which has never been ploughed, which ensures that the great variety of wildflowers and plants in the area survives. The camera shows the Tees running through a more verdant landscape. He indicates that this is the sort of area tourists will come, which is a major industry in Teesdale. A view follows of a bus stop sign, a gift shop sign along with a bed and breakfast sign in a local village.

The film shows two walkers crossing a gated bridge over the river. David Bellamy sits on an outcrop of the great whin sill above High Force, another well-known tourist attraction, as he turns to watch the river cascade down to the pool below.

David Bellamy outlines the history of the lead mining industry in Teesdale, a number of old still negatives show a huge water wheel at Forest-in-Teesdale in 1890 provide the power for grinding and crushing ore. Another photo shows men working at Coldberry mine at Middleton. Another group photograph shows miners from Middleton in Teesdale in 1860.

Near the pool at the base of the High Force, David Bellamy tells of how at one time that part of the river was so rich in salmon it was caught and use for fertiliser. Aerial views show more of High Force while off camera David Bellamy explains that the subsequent reduction in salmon was the poisoning of the river in its lower reaches.

General views and aerial views show more of the route of the Tees as we head towards the more industrialised sections of the river.

David Bellamy stands on a wooden staithe on the Tees at Middlesbrough, the Transporter Bridge appears in the distance. He speaks to camera about the waste that has been poured into the river in the past.

When the population increased on Teesside things began to change. Still photographs show Middlesbrough in the last century. The first one shows Middlesbrough c.1900, the next in 1910, then 1912 all adding to the raw sewage which entered the river.

On the riverside David Bellamy stands at a point on the bank at Cargo Fleet where raw sewage still enters the river. The film shows a sewage outlet pipe as David Bellamy explains off camera that the bacteria feeding off the organic material in the river use up oxygen which restrict the life of other plants and animals. In the 1920’s industry along the river also added its waste products to the mix in the river.

Static photos show ICI at Billingham in 1924 and 1926, a general view of Teeside’s heavy industry in the 1960’s, followed by a view of ICI Billingham in 1962. A black and white photograph shows effluent leaving a pipe in the river bank somewhere on the Tees in 1969.

Standing above a water outlet into the Tees David Bellamy acknowledges that industry produces waste making products we all want or need, however he feels this waste should not include residues and chemicals which effectively kill off the wildlife which relies on the river. He goes on to say that ICI, Northumbrian Water and the people of Teesside acknowledged this in the 1960’s and work started on cleaning up the river.

General views follow of chimneys and pipework of ICI’s industrial plant, a boat makes its way along the Tees as David Bellamy states off camera that by 1987 ICI had reduced the oxygen taken from the river to a quarter of the 1969 levels.

A small wood-louse type animal makes its way across the exposed mud of part of the estuary, followed by a view of a small shore crab followed by ragworm.

Aerial views follow of the Tees followed by a close up of the clearer waters of the river. With more life in the river, the bird population on the estuary thrives. Many species use Teesmouth as a stopping off point on their migratory journeys.

General views shows wading birds looking for food, swans swimming through reeds, and seals. Off camera David Bellamy talks of future plans to create a wildlife reserve at Teesmouth.

The film ends as on camera he outlines hopeful prospects for the future of the revitalised river. A general view shows birds feeding on mudflats as a ship slowly travels past in the distance

End credit: Camera – David Baillie, Sound – Tony Cogger

End credit: Research – Jacqui Marson, Helicopter Pilot – Pat Orchard

End credit: Editors – John Kyle, Mike Bryden

End credit: Executive Producer – Brendan Quayle

End credit: Directed – David Baillie

End credit: Wildlife Adviser – Ken Smith

End credit: Produced in the North East by David Bellamy Films

End credit: ICI Logo fllowed by ‘Sponsored by ICI Chemicals & Polymers Ltd. as a contribution to the European Year of the Environment