Respecting our Coastal Home

Jonny and family

Respecting our Coastal Home

By Jonny, Amenities Technician 

 

The sun is shining, Lockdown restrictions are easing, children are still off school.  So, is it any wonder why Cornish families and teenagers alike, are moving in their droves to our magnificent beaches?  For many families it has almost been a strangely early and long summer holiday, with some home schooling thrown in for good measure. 

The only rules set out by the government are, that we ‘social distance’ and sleep in our places of residence, with no restrictions on how far we can travel to be out doors for exercise or sunbathing, it is even conceivable that we could expect day trippers from outside the county.  I’m sure you may have noticed that many coastal communities have tried to limit the amount of people that can use the beaches by closing car parks, Portreath and many National Trust car parks have fallen into this category and with good reason. 

 

Beach safety and lifeguard cover.

Boasting 250 miles of coastline, over 300 beaches and some of the most idyllic and picturesque coastal views in the world, we should consider ourselves lucky to live in such a beautiful location.

But, as beautiful as our coast is, the coastal waters and oceanography that surround us have the ability to change very quickly, sometimes having fatal consequences.

The RNLI beach lifeguards usually cover 247 beaches uk wide and do a fantastic job of keeping beach users safe.  However, as with every service (this being a charity), their ability to get the essential pre deployment training, necessary to be able to operate effectively in saving lives, was hugely disrupted by the Coronavirus lockdown measures and social distancing.  (I understand this having previously been a NARS Beach lifeguard myself)

The RNLI have released information about how they plan to operate this year.  70 beaches UK wide, will be under RNLI cover at ‘Peak’ season.

More information can be found here:

https://rnli.org/news-and-media/2020/may/06/rnli-plans-70-lifeguarded-beaches-this-summer

 

This has comes at the same time as we learn of at least two people having lost their lives, and one more, being in a critical condition following the bank holiday Monday.  I can only imagine that, had many of the car parks been open, that the numbers could have been much much higher.

But amidst some people showing their misplaced disappointment that the RNLI have somehow let them down, a new service has come to light to try and bridge the gap, SLSGB Beach Wardens:

https://www.slsgb.org.uk/2020/05/would-you-like-to-become-a-volunteer-beach-safety-warden-now/

 

I found myself talking to one such Beach warden yesterday while we were both surfing.  The cover had been put on by the local Surf Life Saving Club and is a service that will no doubt save lives this year.  But this does not mean we should become complacent, common sense and due diligence must still be observed at all times.

 

Education Education Education.

Ignorance is not bliss! I am still surprised how little our children are taught at school about the sea that surrounds us and it’s many hidden dangers, I know that many teenagers will pay lip service to the things we tell them, but by no means should we give up trying to teach them.

I myself was fortunate enough to have grown up in a coastal village and spent almost all my spare time in the sea, all year round, regardless of the conditions.  To the onlooker (in my youth) I could have seemed like another ‘stupid kid with a death wish!’  But I have been building my knowledge of this particular beach for my whole life, having information drip fed down to me over the years, from an older generation of surfers, fishermen, and locals. 

I believe we all have a responsibility to self educate when we wish to become a sea user, and this can be as easy as finding the signage at the entrance of the beach.  Here are just some of the things we should all bare in mind when visiting the beach:

 

  • Have a plan - check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage

 

  • Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water

 

  • Don’t use inflatables

 

  • Don’t allow your family to swim alone

 

  • If you get into difficulties or fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE: fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and try to float to regain your composure before signalling for help or swimming to safety

 

  • In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard

This is vital advice passed down by the RNLI and HM Coastguard and is a reference we should all use regardless of age or experience.

 

Environmental considerations.

This can be from making sure you have the appropriate clothing, water to stay hydrated or even where you choose to sit on the beach.  Sitting under an over hang may protect you from the sun at a beach like Gwithian, but you don’t want it to fall on you, likewise pitching up a place to sit at low tide may have wet or even dangerous implications.   

One of the most important things to consider before going in the sea is “rip currents” here is a brief video giving a very basic over view of “rips” and may just save your life:

https://youtu.be/rJ76XfBVKq0

As lifeguard services will be reduced you may want to take some basic first aid with you, this is of  paramount importance to people allergic to stings that require an EPIPEN, but in general plasters, bandages, wipes etc… for trips and falls when rock pooling.

 

EPIPENS…. (Bare in mind that soon we will be in weaver fish season, and those at risk from anaphylaxis from stings will need to take their pens with them.)

It may sound crazy but it is worth considering taking a hot flask of water to the beach, not for a cup of tea,  but to neutralise the venom from this prickly little fellow, should you or a member of your family tread on one. Contrary to some news papers sensational headlines, this small fish that lays beneath the sand on the shoreline is not out to get you or you family, but does have a nasty sting if you step on their spines, so, if you tread on something sharp (with the bottom of your foot) at the shore line and you get an increasing pain like sensation, you have most likely trodden on a weaver fish and should immerse your foot in as hot as you can stand water.  Lifeguard huts will (if in operation) warm a kettle, immerse your foot in a bucket of warm water and gradually add small amounts of hot water to a bucket until the pain subsides.

This is merely advice on my part and should be done in a way that mitigates the chances of burning someone.

Looking forward.

This is merely scratching the surface, but seemed pertinent to me given what I have seen on beaches and the fact that we are loosing a key safety aspect on many beaches this summer.  Social distancing is still a huge responsibility for us all to take seriously if we want to enjoy this summer and stop a resurgence of Coronavirus.  And let’s remember that there is so much more to explore in our wonderful county, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the beaches in this fine weather but if we do let’s do it as safely as we can, to alleviate the burden on those key services.