'We just learn keep our mouths shut' - swimmers' reaction as Cleethorpes fails to bag Blue Flag award

-Credit: (Image: GrimsbyLive/Donna Clifford)
-Credit: (Image: GrimsbyLive/Donna Clifford)

Swimmers from northern Lincolnshire are dismayed over the failure of Cleethorpes beach to secure a Blue Flag award for 2024.

Beaches along the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire coastline were praised for their success in maintaining excellent standards of water quality. They are at Whitby, Hornsea and Withernsea in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire's prime beaches at Mablethorpe, Sutton-on-Sea and Skegness' Central beach.

Liverpool Docks has also been granted a Blue Flag award for the cleanliness of its waterway.


But Cleethorpes missed out for another year. Open water swimmers say they have learned while swimming at Cleethorpes to keep their mouths shut.

President of Grimsby and Cleethorpes Water Rats Open Water Swimming Club, Margaret Smith said: "The concern would always be the health and safety of individuals. The concern is because of the situation where Grimsby and Cleethorpes sit at the mouth of the estuary.

"There is an element of overflows from the water authorities and there is always the potential from all the factories and farming land along the riverbank which goes a long distance. There are multiple factors for the quality of water. The issues are the outfalls from the water systems. The question of sewerage going direct into the river is not clear. Yes, it did happen years ago, but is not currently.

"Here at Grimsby docks, we have the flow from the River Freshney, so we have a mixture of river waters. There is a change twice a day because the dock gates open. I have been swimming here since 1975 and in that time I have only come to the dock once and felt the quality of the water was poor enough that I did not go in."

She added: "Many of the members go down to Cleethorpes. I would like to see, on a national basis, the quality of water improved, so that people can swim safely, health wise in any stretch of water available to them." She told how the Long Distance Swimming Association conducts testing before events to make sure the water is safe in which to swim.

"We have had events cancelled because of the water quality, which is tragic."

Water Rat, Victoria Jacklin said some swimmers and windsurfers prefer to travel to Sutton-on-Sea three or four times a week.

"When we swim at Cleethorpes we just learn to keep our mouths shut. After heavy rain we know to leave it a couple of days before going out for a swim because of the impact on the quality of the water in the river. But you see starfish and anemones, so it could be it is improving," she said.

She is among a team from Grimsby taking on a relay swim across the English Channel later this month.

A spokesman for North East Lincolnshire Council said: "Whilst our water quality is currently rated “good” by the Environment Agency, events happening further upstream in some of the Humber tributaries such as the Rivers Don, Ouse and Trent do have an impact on our water quality in Cleethorpes.

“These could include things like potential pollution and adverse or extreme weather, and clearly these events are out of our control.

“To qualify for blue flag status, beaches must comply with a specific set of criteria relating to water quality, information provision, environmental education, safety and environmental management.

“This includes maintaining “excellent” rated water quality for four years. This means that one or two instances of extreme weather can delay our efforts to regain Blue Flag status.

“Achieving Blue Flag status is a real team effort – not just by the Council, but by partners including the Environment Agency and Anglian Water, and local businesses, residents and visitors – with everyone working together to ensure that our beaches and waterfronts are kept clean and well maintained.”

A total of 74 sites around the UK have been given the prestigious Blue Flag awards this year. Blue Flag is an international award presented to well-managed beaches with excellent water quality. It shows visitors that they are at a clean and safe beach.

Every year, Keep Britain Tidy announces the winners for England, and in 2024 they have given the prestigious award to 72 beaches, as well as two inland bathing spots. The Royal Albert Dock and Salthouse Dock Marina in Liverpool has been awarded a Blue Flag this year, as has Rutland Water in the East Midlands.

Half of this year’s winners are in the South West, with 37 Blue Flags going to the region’s beaches. The East of England has the next most with 13. That’s followed by the South East with 11, You can use our interactive map to find the best ones near you, or to see if the beach you’re planning to head to has won the award.