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A week in the life of a beach coordinator in Cumbria

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A week in the life of a beach coordinator in Cumbria

LOVEmyBEACH co-ordinator Emma McColm from Morecambe Bay Partnership
LOVEmyBEACH co-ordinator Emma McColm from Morecambe Bay Partnership

The seaside economy contributes more than £3.6 billion each year in England and it’s crucial we protect our bathing water quality.

Bathing water quality in the UK reached a record high in 2014 – and has improved significantly over the past two decades – but there is more to do. Designated bathing waters in England now have tougher water quality targets to achieve as the new regulations are twice as stringent as the old ones.

I’ve listened to some illuminating stories from open water swimmers and ex-naval divers who all confirm that the water is a lot cleaner than 20 years ago. I used to swim each week in the River Mersey as part of my Naval Reserve training and never even thought about water quality – until now.

Litter doesn’t affect the water quality but is something that everyone hates. Thankfully, we’ve got amazing volunteers who clean the coast from Ainsdale to Silloth. Cotton buds being flushed down the loo and ending up on our beautiful beaches really annoy me and they are quite difficult to pick up with a litter picker.

My week as a beach coordinator

On Monday, I presented to a Cub group and made some ‘fat traps’ with a Scout group. Fat traps are a great way to collect fat and greases after cooking for easy disposal. Afterwards, I spoke to a Scout leader who admitted she flushes cotton buds down the loo – she’s not the only culprit, but hopefully now she’ll put them in the bin instead.

Weeks ago, I arranged a recent beach clean-up at Bardsea. There was lots to prepare, including checking tide times, media promotion and getting the correct kit. I run 30 events each year and I support other partners promoting their events on Twitter and via

Tuesday is the day of the beach clean. Seventeen volunteers set off to fill their bin bags. We started near Ulverston and walked along the pebbly coast to Bardsea.

Take your litter home

On Wednesday, I met the photographer Mandy Barker who really opened my eyes to the litter challenge across the world. One of her projects was to collect washed up footballs from around the globe to create a series of photographs to raise awareness. Her work is stunning even if the subject matter is a bit rubbish (pun intended!). It’s really inspiring for the LOVEmyBEACH campaign.

Only rain down the drain

Emma McColm and Archie Workman (a drainsman who volunteered his time to help)
Emma McColm and Archie Workman (a drainsman who volunteered his time to help)

On Thursday, I met with staff from Barrow Dock Museum to explain what I was going to be doing in their car park putting ‘Yellowfish’ stickers on nine surface water drains – the first ones in Cumbria.

The stickers host a simple reminder: ‘only rain down the drain’. Pollutants entering drains can cause pollution on beaches and can affect bathing water quality. Most road drains and surface drains are designed to carry only rain water, so pouring pollutants down these drains, is like pouring them straight into the river. I hope to be adding more stickers across Cumbria and in Morecambe soon. Back in the office, I wrote an article for the press on my work, sent some photos and got ready for an interview on Radio Cumbria. Six beaches were awarded Keep Britain Tidy’s Seaside Awards: Morecambe North, Morecambe South, Haverigg, Silecroft, Seascale and St Bees.

Working with partners to improve water quality

On Friday, I held a meeting with five local authorities to discuss ways in which we can help them achieve cleaner bathing waters. I also presented at a public meeting to talk about how homeowners can check they don’t have any misconnected drains. If you want to see how you can help visit ConnectRight.

No two days are ever the same but, contrary to belief, I’m unfortunately rarely on the beach.

Tackling dog fouling with Lancaster City Council
Tackling dog fouling with Lancaster City Council

Everyone needs to play their part to help

The Environment Agency works with others to deliver improvements and protect bathing water quality for people, business and the environment.

Water companies, businesses, farmers, councils and householders all need to take action and help make decisions to ensure bathing water quality is protected and further improved now and in the future.

Visit to see how you can get involved and do your bit to help in the North West.

Heading to a beach or lake this summer? Before you take a dip, visit the Environment Agency’s map to see the water quality online.


Emma McColm is a LOVEmyBEACH Coordinator based at the Morecambe Bay Partnership working on the beaches along the coastline of Cumbria, from Morecambe South to Silloth. Emma started in the role in 2012 and has learnt a lot about bathing waters and behavior change since then. Emma can usually be found with a smile on her face, saying hello to everyone!

LOVEmyBEACH is a campaign run by the Turning Tides Partnership - a partnership of organisations working together in North West England to do everything we can to improve the quality of our bathing waters. Through infrastructure, planning, campaigning, volunteering, educating, engaging and hard work, our aim is to make sure everyone enjoys our beaches for generations to come.

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  1. Comment by Denzil Bell posted on

    Hi Emma, just thought I would introduce myself. Last August I volunteered to be beach coordinator for Beckfoot Beach near Silloth. Every day myself and two neighbours pick up rubbish from the beach when out walking our dogs. We cover a 4km stretch from NY08447 47988 to NY09692 51023 and between us we manage to keep it pretty pristine. Every day I send in a survey of a 100m stretch of beach to the Marine Conservation Society and have been doing so since last August with very few days missed. If you are ever up this way please let us know myself and my neighbours would be pleased to offer you any assistance required. Regards Denzil Bell

  2. Comment by A litter picker posted on

    I have been informed that litter picking is theft.
    I fill two carrier bags of litter, beer cans ring pulls bottle tops
    Etc every time I go for a walk. I have been informed by the police I'm breaking the law. so if you are a nature lover like me, and want to make a difference don't get caught cleaning up you might end up in court.
    For me it's a matter of what is more important, the planet we live on or
    The law that stops me and you looking after it.
    Yours sincerely
    A litter picker


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