Friday, 14 May 2010

Blue Flag - Load of Bull?

Call me a cynic (many have, many will) but is there much value, in biodiversity terms, to this "prestigeous award"? Listening to the local councillor describing how they had to "battle against whatever nature throws up at them" to achieve the coverted Blue Flag just got my blood boiling!!

The previous day, I watched as the council tractor drove its way around Cullercoats beach removing all the untidy seaweed that the twice daily inundation had thrown up onto the golden sands (soon to be frequented by teenagers intent on tombstoning or supping alcopops until totally legless).

Ironically, this preceeded ourvisit which was aimed at surveying the beach as part of the Big Seaweed Search ( We went ahead regardless of this and the fact that it was High Tide (oops!!)and we were able to locate a good range of marine algae which had escaped, principally by virtue of being underwater at the time.

Meanwhile, on the next door "Blue Flag"beach at Tynemouth Longsands, home to surfers brave enough to take on the North Sea, North Tyneside Council have spent lots of time and effort on restoring the dunes only to find that the winter weather make a heavy dent on their efforts (

Well, is it any wonder!!!

Dunes are built from windblown sand that is trapped around obstructions such as grass or SEAWEED, starting of the process of dune construction. Removing this material through mechanical beachcleaning not only removes this building block but it also takes away some of the sand that is vital to ensure replenishment occurs. ITS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE!

In a more enlightened statement than his unnamed colleague above, Cllr Ed Hodson, cabinet member for the Environment, has been quoted as saying: "These sand dunes are an important coastal habitat and sea defence. I believe it's vital that the area continues to be closely monitored so we can take action to protect the dunes whenever necessary."

Absolutely right! But lets make sure the balance is correct between biodiversity AND beach cleaning. Perhaps moving rather than removing the seaweed would be better? For instance, it could be positioned next to the embryo dunes to provide sand trapping material and it would also leave behind some of the vital material which, as it decays, provides food sources for the shorebirds for which this stretch of coast is designated as an SSSI (although not in the best position)!!! After all there are worse things under all that sand (asbestos from the Plaza for one thing - I recall seeing Souxsie and the Banshees there - sigh!!).

It might also save some money? Now, as a Cooncil Tax payer, I am all for that!

Winslow Homer - Tynemouth Beach