Tag Archives: beaches

Travel advice: Beware beach guides

Guides to the best of Britain’s beaches do not necessarily tell the whole story, advises Sophie Butler.

For most of us, the summer wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the seaside. But how can you make sure you choose a beach that isn’t littered and contaminated by polluted water?

You might imagine that the Good Beach Guide 2009, launched by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) earlier this month, would be the answer. But it doesn’t give the whole picture.

What it does give you is information about the seawater. It includes details of its water testing for more than 770 beaches in the UK, listing the top 370 beaches that pass the EC’s most stringent “guideline” water tests, those that pass the less demanding “mandatory” levels; it also names 78 blacklisted beaches where the water fails the minimum legal standards.

But it doesn’t tell you how clean the sand is, how well managed the beach facilities are, whether the dog ban is effective, litter is picked up, swimming and watersports are properly zoned or the lifeguards are doing a good job.

Thomas Bell, of the MCS, defends the guide. He says: “The beaches we recommend are good from the MCS’s point of view and the purpose of the guide has always been foremost about promoting and campaigning for better bathing water quality.”

The truth is that there’s no single award scheme that tells you all you might want to know about a beach. However, below are details of the schemes that will be operating around our coast this summer and what they tell us.
2009 Beach Award Schemes

MCS Recommended Beach (www.goodbeachguide.co.uk). Gives details of water quality and sewage discharges at resort and rural beaches. You can read the full list on our website at telegraph.co.uk/travel.

Blue Flag (www.blueflag.org.uk). European-wide scheme indicating large, well-managed resort beaches where water reaches the highest guideline standard.

Quality Coast Award (www.qualitycoast.org). Launched by Keep Britain Tidy to pinpoint smaller resorts with good facilities, or larger resorts where water quality passes minimum required standards but not the higher levels demanded by Blue Flag.

Seaside Award (www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org). Run by Keep Scotland Beautiful and divided into Resort and Rural categories. Beaches must be well-managed and meet the lowest water standards.

Green Coast Award (www.keepwalestidy.org). Operated by Keep Wales Tidy and highlights the country’s quiet, less-developed beaches where water quality passes the highest EC water standards.

Read the original article from the Telegraph


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Britain’s dirtiest beaches 2009

(This article can be read in it’s original form at Virgin Media)

Failed British beaches for bad water quality

It’s a bad year for Britain’s beaches, with almost half of our favourite sunbathing spots announced as not “recommended” for swimming. Only 370 out of 777 British beaches, tested by the Marine Conservation Society, were “recommended” for their water quality.

We’ve rated Britain’s beaches to find the dirtiest.

9. South West beaches not making the water grade: 13

Last summer’s heavy rains attributed to poor water-quality in South West England, as a mixture of storm-pollution from combined sewer overflows, and animal waste from livestock, washed off farmland across the coast South East and into the sea.

Still, South West beaches still maintain the best water quality in the British Isles.

Failed beaches

Cornwall: Rock, Porth Beach, Porthluney Cove, Par, Readymoney, Looe East and Seaton beach.

Devon: Combe Martin, Instow, Mothercombe and Exmouth beach.

Plymouth: Plymouth Hoe – east and west beaches.

8. Northern Ireland beaches not making the water grade: 1

Although only one beach failed, compared to three last year, Northern Ireland continues to suffer from storm run-off carrying material like fertilisers and animal waste to sea. The heavy summer rainfall didn’t help. The province is investing £420 million to clean up the shoreline.

Failed beach

Down: Ballyholm

7. South East beaches not making the water grade: 2

Water pollution problems in the South East can be attributed to the region’s high population density coupled with extensive new housing developments, leading to storm pollution running off city streets and through emergency storm overflows into rivers and the sea.

Failed beaches

East Sussex: Bexhill

Kent: Sandgate Beach

6. Channel Islands beaches

Channel Islands – the only place in Britain where water quality has improved.

Beaches not making the water grade: 1

The Channel Islands, which were criticised heavily last year, was the only British region to show any improvement – rising by 37.5 per cent thanks to the much improved quality of Jersey beaches. The beaches have improved thanks to years of campaigning in conjunction with Surfers Against Sewage. The States of Guernsey have finally committed to invest in a new high tech sewage treatment plant.

Failed beach

Guernsey: Pembroke Bay.

5.  North East beaches not making the water grade: 5

Five beaches failed the minimum water quality. But, despite the poor weather, long stretches of coastline in Lincolnshire and Northumberland are now notable for consistently high water quality. However, Staithes, North Yorkshire has failed 17 times in the past 21 years. Not a place to take a dip.

Failed beaches

North Yorkshire: Staithes

Durham: Seaham Hall Beach

Sunderland : Seaburn Beach (Whitburn North)

North Tyneside: Seaton Sluice beach.

4. Scottish beaches not making the water grade: 17

In Scotland one in seven of 109 beaches tested did not reach the minimum standards. Due to the tenth wettest summer on record last year, MCS largely blames the drop in water quality on an increase in storm pollution. However, the Scottish Environment Agency is investing £2.15 billion to clean up the beaches.

Failed beaches

East Lothian: Dunbar – Belhaven, North Berwick – Milsey Bay, Fisherrow – West Beach.

City of Edinburgh: Portobello – Central James Street, Portobello – West (Kings Street) Beach.

Fife: Lower Largo, St Andrews – West Sands Beach.

Aberdeenshire: Aberdeen – Ballroom, Cruden Bay, Rosehearty.

Argyle & Bute: Ettrick bay, Bute Beach.

North Ayrshire: Saltcoats, Stevenston, Largs – Pencil, Largs- Main Beach.

South Ayrshire: Barassie and Greenan Beach.

Dumfries & Galloway: Sandyhills Beach.

3.  Welsh beaches not making the water grade: 30

One in six of its 180 beaches failed the water tests; that’s double-the-amount of beaches failing from last year. Although it’s not really the residents’ fault.

Welsh beaches are particularly vulnerable to storm pollution run-off from farmland, which carries fertiliser and animal waste into the sea. Add to that the high number of combined sewer outflows in the north and south of Wales. Still, Wales has a lot of cleaning up to do if they want to improve on their beaches.

Failed beaches

Credigion: Ynyslas – Twyni Beach (Estuary), Aberareon – Harbour (Forth), Little Quay (Cei Beach), Gilfach yr Halen, Llanina, New Quay – North Beach, Cwmtydu, Penbryn Beach.

Pembrokeshire: Abercastle, Nolton Haven, Gelliswick, Milford Haven, Wisemans Bridge Beach

Carmarthenshire: Llanstephan & Tywi Estuary, Ferryside Beach, Burry Port Beach – East, Llanelli & Loughor Estuary (Forth) Beach.

Neath & Port Talbot: Jersey Marine – West Beach.

Bridgend: Porthcawl – Newton Bay.

Vale of Glamorgan: Ogmore Central, Llantwit Major Beach, Limpert Bay, Aberthaw Barry – Watch House Bay, Penarth Beach.

2.  North West beaches not making the water grade: 6

Six beaches failed the minimum water quality. The majority of sewage is treated, but it’s clear that pollution from combined sewer overflows and storm run-offs is seriously affecting the majority of beaches in the North West.

Failed beaches

Northumberland: Spittal

Cumbria: Allonby, Newbiggin and Aldingham Beach.

Lancashire : Morecambe- South, Cleveleys and Fleetwood Beach.

Blackpool: Bispham Beach.

1.  Isle of Man  – the worst of the lot

Beaches not making the water grade: 3 beaches

On the Isle of Man only one beach out of 18 was recommended. Three beaches failed the water quality. The north and the west of the island are yet to be connected to the improved sewage system, and this means that raw excrement is still being pumped into the sea at a number of places.

The dangers of swimming in polluted water range from ear, throat, skin and eye infections to gastroenteritis, e-coli and even acute febrile respiratory illness, the MCS warned.

Failed beaches

Isle of Man : Douglas – Central, Douglas – Broadway, Garwick, Gansey Bay (NyCarrickey) Beach.

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Isle of Man bottom of the clean beach league

THE Isle of Man has come off worst in a survey of beaches in the British Isles.
Derbyhaven was the only beach in the Isle of Man to have been recommended for its water quality in the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Beach Guide this year.

Of our 18 beaches tested, 14 received a basic pass while a further three failed to meet the European Convention’s mandatory water quality standard. They were Garwick, Gansey and the Broadway stretch of Douglas beach.

The European Convention’s mandatory water quality standard is the legal minimum standard of levels of faecal waste and bacteria that indicate presence of pollution from sewage.

Other parts of the British Isles faired better than the Island for the number of beaches it had recommended by the MCS. The North West of England was ahead of the Island, achieving seven recommended beaches out of 34 tested.

Northern Ireland had seven recommended out of 23 and the Channel Islands had 11 out of 29.

However, the total number of beaches recommended overall was down 16.5 per cent on last year, meaning there will be 370 beaches making it into the MCS’s Good Beach Guide for 2009 compared with 444 for the 2008 edition.

Derbyhaven was again the only one recommended in the Island last year.

The overall number of beaches failing to meet the legal minimum standard was also up this year to 78 compared to 53 last year.



* South West 59% (75%)

* South East 58% (66%)

* North East 53% (68%)

* Wales 46% (57%)

* Scotland 38% (41%)

* Channel Is 38% (28%)

* N Ireland 30% (43%)

* North West 18% (21%)

* Isle of Man 6% (6%)

Percentage of beaches to get the top quality rating from the Marine Conservation Society. The figure in brackets is the 2008 result


Thomas Bell, MCS coastal pollution officer, said that the overall result was due to last summer’s heavy rain which swept waterborne pollutants like raw sewage, petro-chemicals and farm waste into rivers and the sea.

However, he suggested that the Island’s poor water quality results came down the IRIS sewage treatment works not delivering.

Mr Bell said where a beach failed, significant amounts of bacterial contamination were found to be in the sea in at least two of the 20 tests carried out at the locations.

‘I wouldn’t go swimming in a beach that failed. The risk of catching something is, for me, unacceptable,’ he said.

He added that water quality was letting the Island down.

The MCS said the Island has yet to see the real benefit to its beaches from the IRIS sewage scheme, which came on stream in 2004.

‘It is still not delivering the bathing water quality improvements that MCS expected from a facility costing an estimated £170 million — about £2,300 per person. The north and west of the Island have yet to be connected to the system and this means that raw sewage is still being discharged into the sea at a number of places around the Island, including Peel,’ the MCS said.

But Transport Minister David Anderson said the MCS had got its facts wrong about the IRIS scheme and stressed the scheme was delivering results.

In particular he said the amount spent on IRIS to date was £88m, not £170m.

He said while it was true that the north and west of the Island were not yet connected to IRIS, but this was being addressed by the IRIS regional strategy, which the department is progressing at the moment.

‘Prior to Meary Veg (treatment plant) coming online in 2004, the failure rate of our beaches, when looking at the mandatory cleanliness levels set out by the EU’s Bathing Water Directive, was 54 per cent,’ said Mr Anderson.

‘Today, that rate is 27 per cent. Those percentages relate to the Island as a whole. ‘However, beaches in the south and west have performed better in the last five years than the Island average, and taking these statistics into account, we are happy that IRIS is delivering.’

The Good Beach Guide is produced by MCS, a charity dedicated to the protection of the marine environment and its wildlife.

The guide provides information about the quality of Britain’s coastal bathing waters as well as information on water quality and sewage discharges at 1,000 British Isles beaches.


I’m not surprised to hear about the Broadway stretch of beach and water.. It’s a mess! If I was a fish I’d be growing legs and learning to walk!

Interesting. One of the places I WOULDN’T swim on the Island is at Derbyhaven – the stink from the seaweed at times is so horrific it would put you off your picnic! Would much prefer to swim and picnic at Laxey or Fenella at Peel.

How totally embarrassing and unacceptable to be bottom of the pile and how unfortunately not surprising at all. Shame but thankfully Martin Clunes did not go swimming!

Re Beach Cleanliness, The article fails to address the issue of the debris on the islands beaches, most notably the plastic flotsam and jetsam that wash up all around the islands shores that are an eyesore as one walks around the island’s coastline. Why doesn’t one of the island’s government department simply hire some of the unskilled unemployed and get them cleaning it all up. As to the seaweed/smell issue – why not simply scoop all the decaying seaweed up and compost it – let the local farmers collect it. Seaweed is a phenomenal source of minerals and nurients that would benefit much of the agricultural land on the island.

Dr John Pilling, your ideas are good, only one problem, you are asking Government to THINK!

Life’s a Beach isn’t it! If I was afish I’d been in breadcrums or batter in the chippy. With Sellafield opposite the IOM what about the Nuclear waste drifting across the channel That must add to the unclean beach debate! However the gains with it are the giant Crabs and other weird sealife ,there could be a Manx version of Godzilla waiting To emerge from the depths.

So what are we going to do about it ? Who is responsible for Beaches and bathing quality? Why do we not have a statement explaining what is being done to improve on this going forward? If there is a problem with IRIS, what can be done to improve this? It is an embarrassment to have such filthy water, for a tourist destination. Who do we need to write to, to get things moving? Thank you
MATTHEW, Castletown

Our government needs to provide answers to how they are going to sort out this mess and make sure we have better results next year. Some members of the public also need to change their habits to get our beaches clean, namely; a) if you flush a sanitary towel or cotton wool bud down the toilet it will end up on our beaches. b) If you let your dog foul on the beach, the tide does not make it ‘magically’ disappear. c) The Marine Drive coastline is a moronic place to dump your unwanted bicycle, fridge or takeaway.
STEVE, Douglas

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