Flying the Blue Flag for Swanage again

Swanage Main Beach in Dorset has been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag, alongside the Seaside Award, for a 24th consecutive year in recognition of the bay’s excellent sea water quality.

The flags for 2024 were hoisted up the flagpoles outside the Swanage Information Centre along the seafront to show residents and visitors that the beach meets the highest of standards.

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Busy summer swanage beach

Swanage Beach is a magnet for visitors in the summer

“Swanage Beach remains a fantastic and safe place”

The Blue Flag awarded by the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy is only presented to beaches with water which has achieved the highest classification as set by the EU Bathing Water Directive and has an environmental education programme.

Swanage Main Beach, owned by Swanage Town Council, also received a Seaside Award which goes to the best, clean, safe, attractive, and well-managed beaches in England.

Swanage Town Council’s visitor services manager Culvin Milmer said:

“We are so proud to once again be awarded the Blue Flag Award. The application process for this is quite challenging but it clearly shows that we have a clean and safe beach that strives to meet the needs of the wide range of residents and visitors who use our beach throughout the summer.

“The weekly water testing shows that the water quality is ‘excellent’ and along with the beach cleaning regime and customer facilities it ensures that Swanage Beach remains a fantastic and safe place for everyone to visit.”

Blue flag and seside award

The 2024 Blue Flag is hoisted up outside the Swanage Information Centre by Swanage Town Council’s new visitor services assistant Susie Pike (left) and visitor services manager Culvin Milmer (right)

Top beach criteria

Among the criteria beaches are assessed against are:

  • Safety and services, such as first aid, and lifeguards where necessary
  • Environmental information including displaying details about local ecosystems
  • Water quality – Blue Flag beaches must meet the ‘excellent’ water quality standard as set out in the EU bathing water directive and Seaside Award winners must meet the sufficient standard
  • Environmental management, including litter and waste
Blue flag and seside award

Charlotte Walker from the Swanage Information Centre battles with the sea breeze as the Seaside Award flag goes up

Weekly water quality testing

The sea water in Swanage Bay is tested by the Environment Agency on a weekly basis between 15th May until the end of September each year. This period is traditionally called the bathing water season.

While there is much concern about the water quality around the UK, in Swanage the tests consistently rate the water quality as excellent during this period.

In future, it’s hoped that the testing will be achievable using a floating device that will send a live feed of the data back to the Environment Agency and allow water users to see realtime information. A scheme is being trialled in Bournemouth with the ambition to roll it out along the coastline.

All the current water quality data is available online and new signs are to be placed along the seafront with a QR code that will point people to the latest information for Swanage.

Blue flag and seside award

Flying the flags for Swanage outside the information centre on the seafront

“Still one of the best”

Culvin added:

“Swanage was one of only eight locations in England back in the 1980s to be awarded a Blue Flag and we are still one of the best. This is down to all the effort that goes into keeping our beach clean.

“The town council employs two people throughout the summer and one during the winter to manage the beach, but we couldn’t achieve everything that we do without our fantastic volunteer Beach Buddies who regularly undertake a beach clean.

“I’d also like to thank all the residents who rescue all the bits of rubbish that have blown along the sand, and all the visitors who tidy up after a day on the beach. It’s always noted and appreciated!”

Seaweed on beaches

In past years, seaweed has poised a bit of a nuisance when it hasn’t been quickly swept back into the sea by the tide

Pushing seaweed back into the sea

New for 2024 will be a different approach to managing the seaweed that sometimes gets deposited in large heaps on Swanage Beach. Over the last three years more than 1,800 tonnes of seaweed has been collected from the beach.

However, in future, rather than removing the seaweed and using it on farmland, which goes against modern farming practices, the plan is to push the seaweed back into the sea and allow the tide to take it away.

The Blue Flag organisation recognises that seaweed is a natural occurrence and only advises managing it in cases where it constitutes a nuisance.

The new approach is being trialled for 2024, to see if it can be an effective way to balance nature with the desire of people to enjoy the sand without the seaweed.

A recent improvement has been the effort to provide an accessible path onto the beach for wheelchair users and those with prams

“Clean, safe and meet the highest environmental standards”

Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive, Allison Ogden-Newton said:

“These awards are a credit to the collective efforts of beach managers, volunteers, residents and businesses who have worked tirelessly to maintain, protect and improve some of our best-loved and most popular beaches and we’d like to take this moment to recognise and applaud them.

“Visitors to a beach flying a Blue Flag can be assured the beach will be clean, safe and meet the highest environmental standards, as well as international bathing water quality standards.”

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