The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - Travel
How clean is my beach?
It is a question we hoped had been left in the past.
But in the wake of repeated sewage “spills” in coastal areas and water-company excuses about “Victorian infrastructure”, you may well be worried about the state of your chosen beach.
There is a way to check it. Blue Flag status (blueflag. global) is a firm indicator that a beach has measured up to a “series of stringent environmental, safety and accessibility criteria”. It is awarded annually.
The UK has 104 Blue Flags for 2023. Devon and Dorset are the trailblazers with 14 each. Cornwall, Essex and Kent offer nine apiece. Pembrokeshire leads in Wales, with 10; Ceredigion has five. Scotland has its own system: 53 beaches are heralded for 2023 via the Scottish Beach Awards – see keepscotlandbeautiful.org.
Of course, the absence of a Blue Flag does not damn a beach as an automatic health hazard. Several hotspots have lost their Blue Flag this year, including three in Norfolk – East Runton, Mundesley and Sea Palling – as well as the much-loved “Brighton Central” in East Sussex. However, this generally means that water quality is at less than optimum levels – though still safe. “In November, we received notification from the Environment Agency that our water classification for Brighton Central beach for 2023 was ‘good’ rather than ‘excellent’,” a spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council explained. “As only beaches that have ‘excellent’ bathing water are eligible for a Blue Flag, we were unable to apply.” Also note that beaches must have certain facilities, such as lavatories and safe drinking water, to be considered for Blue Flag status – thus smaller stretches of sand may well be clean, but simply ineligible.
There are other ways to assess the shape of things at your nearest coastal beauty spot. Keep Britain Tidy has its own Seaside Awards (keepbritaintidy.org), run on a similar basis to the Blue Flag scheme, and campaign group Surfers Against Sewage offers regular pollution alerts (sas.org.uk).
WHERE TO EAT
For crispy batter and proper chips doused in salt and vinegar, Smugglers serves old-school suppers best eaten on the beach (facebook.com/smugglersfishandchipbar).
RAINY DAY ACTIVITY
See press cuttings of Hollywood stars and a model of the Daddy Long Legs saltwater tram in the Grange museum. Free entry (rottingdeanheritage.org.uk).