Feature

Life's a UK beach

If you are planning a holiday in the UK, have a look on the Internet before you go.

It's hot time, summer in the city, and restless minds throughout the land are apt to wander to thoughts of sun, sea, sand and Scarborough?

Yes, indeed. Discard that Mediterranean holiday brochure you've been ogling. Cancel that salubrious sojourn in the Algarve. Pour scorn on colleagues who fill you in on their plans for island-hopping this summer. UK beaches are back and there is a wealth of Web sites providing information on our regenerated shores.

This online renaissance for UK resorts is being fuelled by the fact that UK beaches are getting cleaner. And that's official. According to the European Commission, sun worshippers can once again flock to the shimmering sands of this sceptred isle and go swimming in its sparkling waters without fear of glowing for the next few weeks, growing an extra limb or coughing as if they've puffed away on 30 Capstan Filters before breakfast.

The UK has at last managed to get more than 90% of its beaches up to European cleanliness standards. Just 46 of the country's 541 beaches failed to make the grade, according to the EC report published at the end of May, down from 80 last year. But Blackpool still failed to impress the cleanliness czars at the EC, casting doubt on its reputation as the "Golden Mile".

However, if you were one of the estimated 26% of IT professionals taking your main holiday in the UK this year - and fancy spending it on the beach - there are lots of Web sites to look at.

The Marine Conservation Society's online Good Beach Guide describes itself as "the ultimate independent guide to UK bathing water quality". The site recommends UK beaches that have achieved "the highest possible standards" and are unaffected by inadequately treated sewage, which can put off even the most hardened sun worshipper.

For those of you with an unhealthy appetite for statistics, the MCS' Web site also gives details of the types and sources of the litter found during its annual Beachwatch clean up campaign. Apparently the highest levels of sewage-related debris (SRD) is to be found in Scotland.

Information on the Blue Flag seaside cleanliness campaign run by the Foundation for Environmental Education can be found at blueflag.org.uk. For those of you who want a clean break, the site includes a useful map showing the location of beaches in the UK that have been awarded a blue flag for cleanliness.

Consumer watchdog Which? also publishes a report on the UK's best beaches. Members can view the latest report, published in June, at its Web site. Details of the Tidy Britain Group's Seaside Awards are available on the organisation's Web site.

There are also specialist sites catering for those who want more from a trip to the seaside than a red body, a kiss-me-quick hat and a bag of chips on the pier.

Dog lovers can swat up on Fido-friendly beaches and related information at www.thecornishcoast.co.uk a Cornwall-centric beach guide for dog owners. Simply click on the happy dog for information on pooch-friendly beaches or on the hapless mutt with a big red cross on him for beaches with poop-free sands.

The site also includes sections on surfing and Cornwall's miles of golden, sandy beaches, such as Pollyjoke, which it says, "you won't find unless you know where to look". Fortunately, the site gives directions.

The Cornish coastline is well represented on the Web. A more comprehensive view of Cornwall, complete with lots of glamorous images, can be found at the Cornishlight online beach guide. But although it includes sections on safety, including such pearls of wisdom as "if in doubt, stay out", it fails to wax lyrical about the cleanliness of the beaches.

Those of you who prefer an all-over tan could look at Web sites such as britishnaturism.org or naked-freedom.fsnet.co.uk. The latter includes sections for those "curious about naturism" along with other novel sections such as a list of nudist quotations. These include advice such as "when you find a burden in belief or apparel, cast it off" and the rather more curious "one should go through life, be it red or blue, stark naked and accompanied by the music of a subtle fisherman". Make up your own mind about the latter.

UK surfers who fancy their surf home-grown are also well catered for. Information on the best beaches for surfing in the south-west, for example, can be gleaned at sites such as cleangreen.co.uk and gul.co.uk, that also has a link to a site that provides updated images from a selection of the beaches in question. A comprehensive guide to surf and facilities at various locations in Cornwall, Wales and Jersey is provided by britishbeaches.co.uk.

So, UK beaches are booming and the Web is bristling with information about them. But none of this will come as a surprise to all you techies out there.

A survey by technology information portal SystemsPlaza has shown that the UK is the main holiday destination for 25% of IT professionals this year.

More than half of the respondents who said they were basing their holidays around their children said they would be staying in the UK this year, along with 56% of people taking a leisure activity-based holiday, such as cooking or painting.

But only 8% of the 250 technology sector professionals who said they were looking for a beach holiday are staying in the UK this year. This would suggest that they are not making the most of their Web-browsing sessions or are yet to be convinced by the resurgent UK seaside experience.

So, it may be some time before as a nation we start getting dewy-eyed about the yellow, yellow sand - as opposed to the green, green grass - of home.

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This was first published in August 2001

 

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