The English beaches where water quality is so poor you’re not allowed to swim

While England is well known for it’s stunning coastline and beautiful – albeit cold – blue seas, not all spots are actually safe for a dip.

Holidaymakers every year flock in their thousands to enjoy the best seasides all across the country.

And with ongoing overseas travel restrictions, it’s looking as though summer vacations this year will predominately stay on British soil.

With that in mind, it’s perhaps worth knowing about places not considered a good place for a swim.

The bathing water season started on May 15 with the Environment Agency (EA) carrying out regular testing of water quality at designated bathing sites until the end of September.

Classifications were not made for the 2020 season due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sampling programme.

Throughout the bathing season the EA will issue warnings of any forecasted pollution risk on its Swimfo website covering over 170 sites. Signs are also put up at these swimming locations to inform bathers about any possible dips in quality as a result of factors like rainfall, wind and high tides.

In the autumn the EA will publish its classifications – Sufficient, Good, Excellent or Poor – for each designated bathing water site.

The long-term trend for bathing water quality in England remains upward and overall quality is high. In 2019 98.3% of bathing waters achieved the minimum standard of Sufficient. Of these, 93% achieved the highest standards of Excellent or Good.



Tynemouth Cullercoats, Tyne and Wear
Tynemouth Cullercoats, Tyne and Wear

The most recent results (2019) showed eight areas were considered poor quality for swimming, and bathers were advised against or prohibited from going in:

Tynemouth Cullercoats, Tyne and Wear

Currently no warnings in place.

Cullercoats Bay Beach is a gently sloping resort beach enclosed by piers at each end making a very sheltered bay.

This bathing water has, in recent years, shown reduced quality in the latter half of the bathing water season.

The EA has carried out DNA analysis on the water samples to help identify different sources of pollution.

This analysis shows that sewage is the major contributor to the reduced water quality found in the bathing water. The EA has carried out a desktop hydrogeological investigation to help us understand the source and pathway of the bacteria.

Scarborough South Bay, North Yorkshire

10/06/2021 08:30: Advice against bathing: pollution risk warning

Scarborough South Beach is a popular resort beach situated on the Yorkshire coast. It is 0.5 kilometres in length with a gentle slope.

During 2015/16 intensive investigations and pollution prevention inspections were carried out by the Environment Agency and partners of the Yorkshire Bathing Water Partnership around south bay in order to better understand and minimise background levels of pollution.

During 2020 Yorkshire Water have funded a circa £1 million project to develop a water quality prediction model for both Scarborough South and Bridlington South. Over the summer of 2020, 60 days of intensive bacti monitoring was carried out at the Scarborough South compliance point.

Clacton (Groyne 41), Essex

Permanent advice against bathing is in place at this water.

It is no longer designated as a bathing water under the Bathing Water Regulations 2013 because the water has been classified as poor for five consecutive years and cannot be improved to meet the minimum standard.

Weston-Super-Mare Uphill Slipway, North Somerset

Currently no warnings in place.

Weston-super-Mare Uphill Slipway is on the Somerset coast overlooking the Bristol Channel. It is a sandy beach resort approximately 1.2 kilometres wide, next to the mouth of the River Axe.

The Environment Agency has been working over a number of years to investigate sources of pollution to this bathing water. Recent investigation work has been continuing with Wessex Water as part of their investment programme.

This includes a review of sewerage performance within the Weston-Super-Mare area to determine what improvements, if any, would be needed to improve bathing water quality further to secure a Good Class and beyond to Excellent.

Burnham Jetty North, Somerset

Permanent advice against bathing is in place at this water.

It is no longer designated as a bathing water under the Bathing Water Regulations 2013 because the water has been classified as poor for five consecutive years.



Combe Martin, Devon
Combe Martin, Devon

Combe Martin, Devon

Currently no warnings in place.

Combe Martin is a small resort, in a sheltered valley, at the western edge of Exmoor National Park on the north Devon coast.

Since 2009 the Environment Agency has used a DNA tracing technique to help identify whether sources of faecal pollution are human or animal.

The Environment Agency has worked with local farmers to prevent livestock access to the river, to provide alternative farm animal drinking systems and control yard run-off.

It is working to resolve any outstanding issues that have been identified and will continue its investigations during 2021.

Ilfracombe Wildersmouth, Devon

Permanent advice against bathing is in place at this water.

It is no longer designated as a bathing water under the Bathing Water Regulations 2013 because the water has been classified as poor for five consecutive years.

Instow, Devon

Permanent advice against bathing is in place at this water.

It is no longer designated as a bathing water under the Bathing Water Regulations 2013 because it is infeasible to meet the minimum, legally required bathing water quality standard at this location.


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