Cornwall beach gets 'Brown Flag' for being one of the dirtiest in England

The Cornish beach was given a Brown Flag Award
The Cornish beach was given a Brown Flag Award -Credit:PR Supplied

A Cornish beach has been awarded a 'Brown Flag' for being one of the least clean in Engand. Porthluney is one of the 13 dirtiest beaches in the country, research has shown.

The good news is that overall, Cornwall is England's fourth cleanest county for swimming in the sea in summer. Dorset, Devon and Suffolk have the highest percentage of 'excellent' beaches for clean water, according to UK travel site Holiday Park Guru.

The site analysed Environment Agency summer water quality data from hundreds of beaches. It has now isolated the 13 dirtiest beaches are being offered 'Brown Flag Awards' - including Porthluney.


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

Overall, 81 per cent of Cornwall's beaches are considered 'excellent' for the quality of their sea water. Dorset scored 89 per cent while Devon scored 86 per cent.

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The good news is that Cornwall has 72 designated bathing beaches that are rated as 'excellent' - more than any other English county by total number, although we obviously also have more coastline and beaches overall. Lancashire in the North West of England came bottom of England's league table with none of its 10 designated bathing spots achieving the coveted three-star ‘excellent’ rating for cleanliness.

Somerset, Norfolk, Yorkshire and Kent were all in the bottom half of the league table. The Isle of Wight, Lincolnshire, Northumberland and Essex 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 72 beaches in Cornwall."

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

Holiday Park Guru says that, although its 'Brown Flag Awards' uses 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.

The Brown Flag Awards Winners 2024

It says: "The Brown Flag Awards are reserved for those select beaches which score a ‘poor’ rating (or should that be ‘poo rating’) from the Environment Agency’s water quality tests."

  1. Porthluney in Cornwall

  2. Southsea East in Hampshire

  3. Saint Mary’s Bay in Kent

  4. Littlestone in Kent

  5. Blackpool North in Lancashire

  6. St Annes North in Lancashire

  7. Heacham in Norfolk

  8. Weston Main, Weston Super Mare Sand Bay and Weston Super Mare Uphill Slipway in Somerset

  9. Dunster Beach in Somerset

  10. Bognor Regis, Aldwick in Sussex

  11. Tynemouth Cullercoats in Tyne and Wear

  12. Scarborough South Bay in North Yorkshire

  13. Bridlington South Beach in East Riding of Yorkshire

Weston Super Mare’s three water quality reading locations all scored the minimum score possible but Holiday Park Guru has just given them one Brown Flag Award.

County-by-county league table for clean beaches

For the 2024 county league table Holiday Park Guru analysed data at every designated bathing beach in England. The study looked at the percentage of beaches in each county that achieved the Environment Agency’s top rating for water cleanliness (three stars = “excellent”).

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

  1. Dorset: 89%

  2. Devon: 86%

  3. Suffolk: 83%

  4. Cornwall: 81%

  5. Tyne and Wear: 78%

  6. Northumberland: 77%

  7. Lincolnshire: 77%

  8. Hampshire and New Forest: 75%

  9. Isle of Wight: 73%

  10. Merseyside: 57%

  11. Essex: 53%

  12. Sussex: 52%

  13. Cumbria: 50%

  14. Norfolk: 50%

  15. Kent: 45%

  16. Yorkshire: 40%

  17. County Durham: 16%

  18. Somerset: 10%

  19. Lancashire 0%