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Useful Notes / The Great British Seaside

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Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to be beside the sea...
Oh, I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside, traditional British seaside song

Britain, being an island, has a considerable amount of beach. There are a fair number of seaside resorts around the UK. They're not as popular as they once were (with more and more people going abroad for their holidays).

Safety first:

  • Look for two large flags on most beaches - between these indicate the area patrolled by lifeguards in case anyone gets into difficulty. ALWAYS check the information boards for information on the times and dates they are on duty. If the flags are half yellow, half red, that means it's safe to get in, and that a lifeguard is on duty.
  • If there are signs saying no swimming in certain locations, DON'T ignore them. Otherwise safe looking water can have dangerous rip tides and currents that can easily overwhelm even a strong swimmer.
  • If there's two black and white chequered flags on part of the beach, that means watercraft are operating in the area of those two flags - don't enter the water here, or you risk serious injury from potential collisions.
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  • If someone gets into difficulty, alert the lifeguards if on duty. Otherwise call 999 and ask for the Coastguard - they will alert all local rescue services such as the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) as well as their own boats and/or helicopters. Some beaches also have emergency flotation devices you can throw to swimmers in distress. If you choose to enter the water yourself, remember the first rule of rescuing someone is to avoid becoming a casualty yourself.


Other useful notes on the UK seaside:

  • If the beach has a blue flag flying, it's met internationally-agreed standards for cleanliness and you can safely swim there.
  • Don't go topless unless you're on a nudist beach.
  • If you want surfing, head to Cornwall (or West Wales, or Donegal or Portrush in N.Ireland)
  • Bear in mind that the sea water is not going to be as warm as it is in the US or Australia. Unless, of course, you're from the region surrounding the Gulf of Maine, in which case the water might actually be slightly warmer. Or Alaska, in which case the water will be much, much warmer.
  • Be prepared for rain, especially if you're in a heatwave.
  • Sun-cream remains a good idea, irrespective of how sunny the seaside may actually appear.
  • Windbreaks, no matter how hilarious the concept may seem, are also frequently a good idea.
  • Be prepared to defend your food. Seagulls are quite vicious in tourist areas.
  • British seaside resorts are known for their piers, which started as simple landing stages and were then elaborated with attractions, theatres, food shops and so forth. Some of the longer ones even had miniature railways constructed along them. Many are now in a state of disrepair, sometimes speeded up deliberately by malicious people.
    • In the past, a common selling item were seaside "postcards" which were mostly anything but postcards and contained crude Carry On-like humour.
  • While many beaches are sand, some British beaches are stony - beach shoes are recommended for these to avoid uncomfortable walking.
  • If you are a dog owner, note that many beaches ban dogs from certain parts of the beach between certain dates. Always clear up after your pet.
  • Please place litter in the rubbish bins (trash-cans for US readers) provided or take it with you to dispose of. Dropping litter is anti-social.
  • Beachcombing is rather common, although it sometimes angers excavators and archaeologists who might show interest in the area.
    • Fossil hunting is also a popular pastime on certain parts of the UK Coast; The Jurassic Coast in Dorset and the Back of the Wight are especially rich in finds, so it might be worth bringing some fossil hunting tools along with you; if you're lucky, you might find something worth quite a bit of money and of considerable interest to local scientists and archaeologists.
  • The aforementioned RNLI is an all-volunteer organisation that receives no taxpayer funding. If you do find yourself getting into difficulties and need the assistance of a lifeguard, it's considered good manners to make a reasonably substantial donation afterwards: There will probably be collection boxes in most local shops, or you can use their website. This applies especially if your distress was the result of your own negligence.


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