Of course at this moment when we find ourselves all involved in lockdown due to the Corona virus epidemic, no one is away from home, UK beaches are pretty much closed, no one is able to take weekend trips and foreign holidays may seem like a dream….but this won’t last forever and there are a few important things to consider as part of the BeWaterAware campaign for when lockdown lifts ….
Today my blog focuses on the UK and by that I mean when we take day trips or domestic holidays away from our own home area in the UK. We are blessed, as a small island we have lots of beautiful coastline, in fact the mapping authority for the United Kingdom, the Ordnance Survey, records the coastline of the main island, Great Britain, as 11,072.76 miles rounding to 11,073 miles (17,820 km), alongside lovely lochs, lakes, canals and rivers…it’s no wonder that water plays such an important part in our leisure activity.
One of the important things to remember when you are away from home visiting a new area is that you may not be as familiar with the water risks in that area, for example Camber Sands beach in Sussex has beautiful long stretches of sand …but is prone to sandbars, shifting underwater levels, which means that the unaware can find themselves quickly out of their depth, as compared with some of the beautiful coastline in Wales or Devon which are surfers 🏄♀️ paradise due to the waves …but some of which are prone to Rip Tides, which can quickly catch you out if you don’t know what they are (rivers in the sea) and how to get out of them. Equally the Thames and the River Ouse have beautiful spots along their length, but both are tidal rivers and it’s important to know the tidal patterns and forecasts.
So a few simple things to consider when visiting the British coastline…
1. Choose a lifeguarded beach – not only will they know the beach well and be able to give advice, but if you want to swim, safe areas will be designated.
2. Follow the advice on signage…particularly warning signs which will advise where it’s safe and not safe, for example some coastal cliff areas are prone to landfall
3. Know your flags – there are lots of sources of advice….but you would be amazed at the number of adults I talk to that don’t know.
4. Know your limits…and that of your friends and family ….whether you are swimming, surfing or paddle boarding, you will know your level of competence and ability so think about that ….a swim out to ‘that rock’ might be fine for some in your group, but not for others and particularly young males like to push their boundaries
5. Take sensible precautions and don’t add to your own risk….a few things here…
NEVER enter the water after drinking alcohol…they do not mix well and too many drownings in UK are caused by alcohol, as it affects judgment and impairs motor skills
Wear a life jacket if you are undertaking water sports and consider a buoyancy aid for young children even if they are only paddling, protective personal equipment saves lives
When you have soaked up the sun and decide to go and cool off…be aware of the temperature shift and impact on your body…UK waters remain cold even in the height of summer and diving in can cause shock…cold water shock is a known factor in many UK drownings, so be sensible, walk in and acclimatise and get over that initial gasp BEFORE you fully enter the water.
5. When you visit a new beach area, it’s wise to just notice if there is a first aid station or locations of PRE ( rescue equipment) …whether it’s sunstroke, weaver fish, cuts on rocks or glass…each year many people need to use these facilities. You may even think it worth carrying a small first aid pack in your beach bag with waterproof plasters if you have kids with you.
All of this is just sensible advice, we all want people to enjoy their time off, relax and enjoy the water or water sides safely, but unlike road users there is no test to pass to keep you safe so a bit of self awareness and water safety advice is important.
When the lockdown ends it’s likely our coast will be busy, so use the time wisely before that and make sure you and your family are #BeWaterAware