It is a little known fact that Swale Borough Council has a small, but dedicated daily beach cleaning service on the bathing beaches of the Isle of Sheppey, comprising a Seafront Officer with five cleaners in the winter and up to eight in the summer period. Many larger coastal authorities in the UK do not have this specific service to help maintain their beaches, so Swale is particularly lucky to have this resource.
The three island bathing beaches of Sheerness, Leysdown & Minster Leas have long been annual recipients of the prestigious Blue Flags & Seaside Awards. The Blue Flag is an internationally recognised environmental award & recognises beaches that have a daily cleansing regime; a lifeguard service, dog restriction byelaws, facilities & ‘Excellent’ bathing water quality. The dedicated team of beach cleaners do not just pick up litter – they empty our numerous bins; pick up dog waste, remove washed-up items from the sea & acts as the ‘eyes & ears’ for the Seafront Officer.
Obviously with this small team not every area can be reached on a daily basis, & this is where Sheppey is blessed with an army of individual volunteers who do what they can with no recognition, but just heartfelt thanks. The Seafront Officer has seen an increase over the years of individuals wanting to do ‘their bit’, & is only too happy to supply litter pickers & bags to those who are serious about helping. Over the years Sheppey beaches have been a local focus for Islanders taking part in the annual national campaigns of Keep Britain Tidy & the Marine Conservation Society with a large amount of volunteers; hosted & enabled commercial firms with their Community Action Days & our Seafront trucks carry a stock of dog waste bags & portable ashtrays to give to customers.
Sheppey has also welcomed the ‘Guardians of the Deep’ project on the island over the last 3-4 years – a Heritage Lottery funded project, managed by Belinda Lamb of the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership. Supported by the Seafront Team their wide range of environmental work has included voluntary beach cleans; education workshops, Coastal Guardians (eyes & ears on the coast) and a Wildbeach strand – taking local primary schools down to our shorelines & providing fun & educational activities for the next generation of our environmental custodians. The legacy from this work will hopefully be continued by the local schools.
So having the Blue Flag flying is not just about picking up litter – it’s a whole ethos of education in the service provision to look after Sheppey's marine environment for future generations to enjoy. And finally the important attendance of RNLI Lifeguards on Leysdown beach during August enabling the flying of the Blue Flag during 2020 as part of the safety criteria.
Enjoy summer and the beaches safely - respect the water and remember to only leave your footprints in the sand.
Note: Thanks to the Seafront Team, Ian Arnell - the Seafronts Officer and the valued volunteers for our beaches.