You’ve probably heard of beaches being awarded the ‘Blue Flag’ status, but what does this really mean and which beaches in England hold this apparently prestigious award? If you want the official low down check out the Blueflag.org website or keep reading for a summary of what it means and where you’ll find some of these sandy havens along the English coastline.
The award pertains to marinas and beaches and is given only to those that demonstrate a high level of water quality, adhere to a set of safe bathing standards and participate in effective environmental management. In a nutshell it’s like a quality control standard for a beach or a marina, giving peace of mind for those living or holidaying nearby. Headquartered in Denmark, the Blue Flag organisation began in 1987 and that year 208 marinas and 244 beaches in 10 countries across Europe were awarded with the Blue Flag status. The group now operates in 49 countries across the globe and in 2013 the Blue Flag was awarded to over 3700 beaches and marinas.
This year (2013) England achieved 55 Blue Flag awards given to selected beaches from Whitley Bay in the North East down to Falmouth Beach in the South West. The region in England that boasts the most Blue Flag beaches is the South West (23), which probably comes as no surprise given the attraction of Cornwall and Devon as a holiday destination and the large number of high quality beach cottages to rent dotted along the coast. The top of the pile was Westward Ho in North Devon, which was awarded the prestigious award for the 10th year in a row. Bournemouth and Poole in Dorset also rank highly with eight Blue Flag beaches between them including, Alum Chine, Branksome Chine, Durley Chine, Fisherman’s Walk, Southbourne Beach and Sandbanks Peninsular.
In recent times it has become a lot tougher to achieve or maintain the Blue Flag status due to stricter testing measures in regards to water quality, in fact there were 24 fewer beaches in England awarded the Blue Flag in 2013 as there were in 2012. There is another award called the Seaside Award for beaches deemed clean enough for safe bathing of which 133 received the award in England this year. This ‘second tier’ award is rated by Keep Britain Tidy and recognizes beaches that have the minimum legal requirement of water quality, are well managed and offer a range of basic facilities. Among many of England’s local economies the beach is central to attracting tourists so these awards form an important part of a seaside town’s marketability. So with over 180 beaches in England receiving one of these awards, there’s every reason to start planning that long awaited beachside escape today!
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