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Behind the blue flags

Words by Bethany Allen

Cornwall is renowned the world over for its opalescent waters and gold sandy beaches.

Image by Chris - Smooth Photographics

Surrounded by the Atlantic on all sides but one, Cornwall is deeply connected to the ocean. And when you visit our sandy county, so too are you. As humans, we feel a natural pull to the water. It nourishes something within us and in summer, people from all over the country make for Cornwall’s beaches – making the most of miles of golden sand, clear turquoise waters and secret coves.

This May, environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy announced that 22 beaches in Cornwall have been presented with Blue Flag or Seaside awards. Awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education, the iconic Blue Flag is an international mark of quality, presented to well-managed beaches with excellent water quality and environmental education programmes. Similarly, the Seaside award is presented to the best beaches in England, celebrating the quality and diversity of our coastline.

Surfers Against Sewage at Watergate Bay

“It’s fantastic news for Cornwall’s holidaymakers, overseas visitors, residents and businesses,” says Keep Britain Tidy’s Chief Executive, Allison Ogden Newton, “that we’ve been able to award an amazing 22 flags to the county’s beaches this year. The success of reaching the high standards of both awards is testament to all those who have worked so hard to protect and improve our beaches.”

Beaches that have been awarded Blue Flag status include: Gyllyngvase, Porthmeor, Great Western, Porthtowan, Trevone Bay, Widemouth Bay and Carbis Bay.

Seaside Awards have been presented to: Crackington Haven, Gyllyngvase, Great Western, Perranporth, Polzeath, Porth, Porthtowan, Porthmeor, Porthminster, Sennen Cove, Trevone Bay, Widemouth Bay, Crooklets, Summerleaze and Carbis Bay.

Image by Chris at Smooth Photographics

Such a string of awards would not have been possible without the support of Sharp’s Brewery. Based in St Austell, Sharp’s is surrounded by the rugged beauty of Cornwall’s north coast and strives to support the coastline that inspires its creativity. As such, over the last five years, Sharp’s has provided vital funding for the Blue Flag and Seaside award applications, in Cornwall and beyond, contributing over £42,000 towards the costs of the applications, and other vital Blue Flag related projects.

“Cornwall’s coastline and beaches are deeply important to us,” elaborates James Nicholls, Senior Brand Manager at Sharp’s Brewery. “We are delighted to have supported the hard working beach champions and local volunteers. The team at Sharp’s fully appreciates the hard work and dedication that goes into gaining and keeping so many iconic Cornish Blue Flag and Seaside Awards.”

When it comes to protecting our beaches, maintaining the water quality and providing environmental education, collaboration is key. Every year thousands descend on Cornwall’s beaches and with people, comes litter, so making sure you get rid of it responsibly is really important. A crisp packet that blows away on the breeze will last in the environment for thousands of years, breaking into micro-plastics, plaguing our oceans and, ultimately, our food chain. Watch ‘A Plastic Ocean’ for more information on this issue.

Initiatives such as the Beach Guardian scheme and Surfers Against Sewage encourage and inspire individuals to get involved and contribute towards keeping our coastlines clean, and both schemes provide educational programmes within schools to help raise awareness and promote the diligent care of our coastal environment.

The Beach Guardian initiative was founded by Emily Stevenson and her Dad, Rob Stevenson, with the mission to keep our beaches, oceans and waterways free of litter pollution. Beach Guardian believes in the power of working together to drive positive change, supporting the #2MinuteBeachClean initiative and leading Surfers Against Sewage beach cleans. Set up by Martin Dorey and Tab Perry the #2MinuteBeachClean is a social media led initiative. It promotes the concept that if everyone who visits the beach scours the sand and collects litter for just two minutes, together, they would contribute a huge amount to keeping our coastline clean.

Having studied marine biology, Emily is deeply passionate about the marine environment. “The plights of plastic have reached every corner of earth and every aspect of our daily lives. Plastics have become one of the deadliest plagues to ever face humanity; it’s in all of our lives, and we can all do something to make a difference. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you do, you can start small or go big. Instead of buying bottled water carry around a re-usable water bottle and the same goes for coffee cups, or join in on a beach clean. Beach cleaning not only benefits the welfare of the environment, it also equally improves your own mental health and well-being and we have seen first hand the difference that just one hour on the beach picking up plastics can make.” The concept that beach cleaning can contribute towards your own mental health is all the more reason to participate: just as it feels good to have a clean and tidy home, the same can be said for maintaining the beauty of our natural environment. And just as we have all experienced the fascination and focus of scouring the sand for shells and pebbles, the same sense of discovery can be said for picking up marine litter. So, next time you head to the beach, grab some gloves and a canvas bag and get collecting – you’ll be surprised by how rewarding it is when you decant your findings.

As well as conducting community beach cleans; Beach Guardian also conducts educational workshops with schools and other groups, lending towards the Blue Flag requirement of environmental education programmes. These programmes aim to connect people to their environment and drive positive change, as well as championing the mental health benefits of getting involved in keeping our coastlines clean.

Similarly, Surfers Against Sewage, is a charity that aims to inspire, unite and empower communities to protect oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife, organising beach cleans, lobbying for environmental acts to pass in government and educating the next generation of ocean activists.

It’s organisations such as Beach Guardian, Surfers Against Sewage and #2MinuteBeachClean that have contributed towards Cornwall receiving these esteemed awards. A fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Cornwall’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection, Sue James. “I want to thank everyone across the Cornish community who selflessly and tirelessly dedicates their time to looking after our beautiful beaches. Our local staff and many volunteers who raise awareness about harmful marine litter and organise beach cleans play a really valuable role in helping us to protect and maintain Cornwall’s reputation as a great place to live and a wonderful place to visit. They should all be rightly proud of these awards. As should Sharp’s Brewery for once again playing a key role in sponsoring the Blue Flag and Seaside applications.”

It’s a fantastic achievement for Cornwall to have been presented with so many Blue Flag and Seaside awards. Our county is undeniably blessed with its spectacular coastline and it’s an honour to be able to proudly raise these flags above our beaches. With incredible organisations the likes of Surfers Against Sewage, Beach Guardian and #2MinuteBeachClean contributing a massive amount towards protecting our coastline and making it possible to receive this recognition, “We are thrilled to have so many Cornish beaches represented amongst the world’s best,” Sue summarises. “The 22 Blue Flag and Seaside awards are an important symbol of what we who live here already know – that Cornish beaches are in fact world-class.”


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