The proposed project area (see image to right) is located in the upper catchment of the Twizell Burn, a tributary of the River Wear to the west of Chester-le-Street. It covers the source of the burn near the settlement of Annfield Plain and follows it as it flows through the outskirts of the town of Stanley. The study area is approximately 7 km2 covering urban and semi-rural areas to the south of Stanley.
For the purposes of this project, the study area will be broken down into four sub-areas, initially chosen to represent semi-independent hydrological catchments, as well as distinct urban areas. The study area of Stanley South consists of the two Durham County Council electoral divisions Stanley and Craghead and South Moor with slight incursions into Annfield Plain. The whole area also comes under Stanley Town Council.
Stanley was a town built on coal mining which was transformed between 1800 and 1850 from a few farms and sparse settlements to a bustling industrial centre. The villages of Craghead, South Moor, Quaking Houses, and East Stanley were at the centre of the coal industry in the study area. In the early years of the twentieth century, South Stanley and The Middles were built as an infill development as the town struggled to cope with the demand for housing.
South Moor and Quaking Houses are historical mining communities, predominantly characterised by back-to-back terraced housing with little interspersed green space. The name, South Moor, comes from the area which was known as the south moor of Beamish which stretched from Beamish almost to Annfield Plain and at one time was classed as wasteland. However, with the discovery of coal this changed and, just as in other parts, the area developed rapidly with the expansion of coal mining. The South Moor Colliery opened in 1818 and the first pit in Craghead opened in 1839. When it was realised the extent of the coal in the area several other mines were opened up across the study area. Homes were needed for miners and the area quickly went from isolated rural hamlets to bustling villages. There was a big influx of miners and their families and the villages grew quite quickly, bringing in the shops, churches, schools and hotels to satisfy the needs of the population. In the study area there would have been seven collieries in operation at the height of the North East coal trade in 1913.
South and East Stanley are characterised by smaller areas of historical properties, instead mainly constituting post-war, semi-detached, former council properties. These developments feature large areas of open green-space, typically laid to grass.
The smaller settlements of The Middles and Craghead are similar to Quaking Houses in character, although both feature post-war estates, and both are now being extended further with new estates, such as Cloverhill Court and Middles Farm.
The study area more widely has significant areas of open green-space and woodland. These are distributed across the study area, particularly in the upper reach and along the course of the Twizell Burn. The Burn itself flows from west to east. It is a heavily modified watercourse, with several lengthy sections of culverting, and other man-made structures. The residential housing in these areas are mixed ownership, predominantly made up of housing associations and private tenanted houses, and are typical of the types of housing found across the northeast.