Leigh-on-Sea rated 'good' for summer sea swimming

May 9, 2024

A new study has given Essex's beaches a mid-table ranking when it comes to clean swimming water in summer, with Leigh-on-Sea rated as a 'good' beach for bathing.

Dorset, Devon and Suffolk take the three top places in the league table, created by UK travel site Holiday Park Guru, which analysed Environment Agency data from hundreds of beaches.

Essex ranks 11th out of 19 English seaside counties with 53% of its official bathing spots rated as 'excellent' (three stars) for water cleanliness in summer, including Shoeburyness and Frinton. The water testing location at Leigh Bell Wharf is currently a two star location, meaning 'good'. Other local testing points include Southend Chalkwell (which also won two stars) and Southend Westcliff Bay (which won three stars).

In Dorset, 89% of beaches are rated as 'excellent' for summertime water quality.

The nation's 13 dirtiest beaches have been offered 'Brown Flag Awards' - including Blackpool (Blackpool North Beach), Weston Super Mare (Weston Main Beach) and Bognor Regis (Aldwick).

The 'winners' are being offered complimentary brown flags featuring a poo emoji to display for swimmers (see attached). These beaches are rated as 'poor' by the Environment Agency due to bacteria such as e-coli from sewage and other waste.

The positive news for Essex is that none of its beaches have won a 'Brown Flag Award' for 2024. All of its beaches are rated as 'good' or 'excellent' by the Environment Agency.

Lancashire came bottom in the league table, whilst Somerset and Yorkshire are both in the bottom half.

The Isle of Wight, Lincolnshire and Northumberland performed well, with all of their designated bathing areas gaining one of the top two ratings (‘good’ or ‘excellent’).

Keen sea-swimmer, Robbie Lane from Holiday Park Guru said:

“We’re hoping to make a real splash in the papers with the launch of England’s first ever 'Brown Flag Awards'! Commiserations to our 13 winners this year – you really are top of the plops. We just hope they’ll take up our offer of a free brown flag, although I’m afraid we can’t quite afford to provide a flagpole as well.”

“On a more positive note, high praise is warranted for England's 273 beaches with the top rating for their water quality - including nine beaches in Essex. You can find a full list of all the three star swimming spots at https://www.holidayparkguru.co.uk. With a bit of research, there's a good chance you will be the only thing floating in the sea this summer!"

It is worth noting that the Environment Agency only includes water quality readings from 15th May to 30th September when giving ratings to bathing areas. Sea water quality tends to be worse in winter after heavy rain.

Whilst Holiday Park Guru's 'Brown Flag Awards' use official Environment Agency data, it does not have any official link with the Environment Agency or any other awards. It is intended as a tongue-in-cheek award to support the campaign for cleaner beaches. Holiday Park Guru is the sister site to Isle of Wight Guru and The Sleep Guy.

Percentage of beaches rated 'excellent' by the Environment Agency for sea water cleanliness. From best to worst:

Dorset: 89%

Devon: 86%

Suffolk: 83%

Cornwall: 81%

Tyne and Wear: 78%

Northumberland: 77%

Lincolnshire: 77%

Hampshire and New Forest: 75%

Isle of Wight: 73%

Merseyside: 57%

Essex: 53%

Sussex: 52%

Cumbria: 50%

Norfolk: 50%

Kent: 45%

Yorkshire: 40%

County Durham: 16%

Somerset: 10%

Lancashire 0%

The water quality readings look for intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli (e-coli) levels to see whether there is ‘faecal matter’ in the water. This comes from ‘sewage, agricultural livestock, wildlife, birds and road drainage’ according to the Environment Agency.

Each bathing resort then receives an official Environment Agency score of: three stars (excellent), two stars (good), one star (sufficient) or zero stars (poor). Overall, 66.4% of England’s monitored resorts currently score a three star rating whilst 4.3% score zero stars.


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