The UK is finally enjoying a spate of warm weather this bank holiday weekend, with parts of the country seeing temperatures 20C and higher.
As such you might find yourself tempted to go for a dip as Britain heats up.
However, it’s worth doing your research beforehand as the Environment Agency regularly provides updates on water quality across the country.
The Swimfo website has an interactive map highlighting areas where the EA advises against bathing. Annual ratings classify each site as excellent, good, sufficient or poor based on measurements taken over a period of up to four years.
Campaign group Surfers Against Sewage provides a similar map that also flags more recent sewage discharges. Below we look at more than a dozen locations around the UK where you should think twice before taking a dip, either due to sewage concerns or poor quality conditions for bathing.
Blackpool North sand beach is opposite Blackpool Tower and between Central and North Piers. Water quality here was rated sufficient in 2018 and 2021, and good in 2019 but took a dive to poor last year.
Bognor Regis (Aldwick)
Aldwick is mostly a shingle resort beach with some sand exposed at low tide. There are eight sewer overflows spread out across the length of this beach with several more to the east and west. In 2019 and 2021 the water was rated as good but took a dramatic plunge in 2022 to poor.
Bridlington South Beach
Bridlington South Beach has one sewer overflow which discharges straight onto the beach while a long sea overflow was built in 2014 to transfer discharge from the Gypsy Race 1.1km out to sea. Water quality took a nose dive last year to poor after it was found sufficient in previous assessments.
Burnham Jetty North
In 2020 the Environment Agency warned against swimming on Burnham-on-Sea’s main beach due to ongoing water quality concerns and that remains in place three years later.
The Agency’s Environment Manager Jim Flory said at the time: “The Environment Agency has issued permanent advice against bathing at Burnham Jetty at Burnham-On-Sea. This advice is issued under the Bathing Water Regulations because water quality has been classified as ‘poor’ for five consecutive bathing seasons at Burnham.”
Clacton (Groyne 41)
This is another area where the EA has permanently advised against bathing. The spot in Essex was found to have been poor for five years running.
The agency previously suggested pigeons were partly to blame for the conditions, with birds dropping faeces dropping into the water when they nest under the pier.
Dunster North West
A large pebble and sand resort beach backed by Chalets, Dunster North West faces into the Bristol Channel and is just east of the popular seaside resort of Minehead. A sewer overflow discharges directly into the sea in the middle of this beach. Bathing is not advised after previously sufficient water quality dropped to poor in 2022.
Heacham or Stubborn Sands is a gently sloping sand beach fronting a popular Norfolk seaside resort. The sea is cloudy here due to tidal movements stirring up the sediment. There are no sewer overflows discharging directly onto the beach but there are long and short sea outfalls at Hunstanton.
In 2018 and 2019 the water quality was deemed sufficient but has dropped to poor in the last two years.
Wildersmouth beach is another Devon location where the EA permanently advises against bathing. In 2017 alone, 42 warnings were issued against swimming due to pollution risk.
Instow in North Devon is not a bathing beach and the public is advised not to go swimming, the local parish council says. It is another spot that has consistently had poor water quality and the EA does not believe it will meet the minimum standard in the foreseeable future.
The council also warns that “dog owners should bear in mind that if there are pollutants in the water that are potentially harmful to humans they are also potentially harmful to dogs”.
Kinghorn (Harbour Beach)
Bathers are advised to avoid entering the waters of Harbour Beach in Kinghorn, Scotland, due to its poor annual classification. The beach is a mix of sand and rock pools and cliffs and stretches about 500m long.
Scarborough South Bay
Scarborough South Bay is a long, sandy resort beach located directly below the seafront – and in one of Britain’s most famous seaside towns. There is a sewer overflow that discharges directly onto the beach, with two more at 800m and 2.5km away from the bathing water. Quality of the water was rated sufficient in 2021 but dipped back down to poor the year after.
St Marys Bay (Kent)
St Marys Bay is a shingle beach with large areas of sand flats. There are no sewer overflows discharging directly into St Marys Bay, however there are sewer overflows in the vicinity. Back in 2018 the water quality was considered good but dropped to sufficient the year after and then poor last year.
The beach is enclosed by piers at each end, which means the area is a sheltered bay. Though no sewer overflows discharge directly at Tynemouth Cullercoats, there are discharges into the River Tyne, which meets the sea just south of the bathing water. Water quality here has been rated poor every year since 2018.
Weston-super-Mare Sand Bay
A sand and shingle beach resort in North Somerset, approximately 5km wide and backed by sand dunes. There is a salt marsh at the northern end, and Sand Point Headland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The outfall from Weston-super-Mare STW discharges to the sea at Black Rock 5km south of Sand Bay. Water quality was rated good in 2018, falling to sufficient the year after and then poor last year.
Located close to the popular seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, the main beach is a large stretch of sand with a pier. Two sewer overflows discharge directly into the sea here - one at the northern extent of the beach and one 2km to the south. The bathing water quality may also be affected by discharges from the surrounding urban catchment area. In 2019 it was rated as sufficient but fell to poor for the last two years.
Wharfe at Cromwheel
The short 160m stretch of the River Wharfe flowing through the West Yorkshire town of Ilkley is popular with swimmers and paddlers. A sewage discharge outlet is located within the designated bathing area at one of these beaches. Water quality was found to be poor in 2021 and 2022.
Wolvercote Mill Stream
Wolvercote Mill Stream is a bifurcation of the River Thames that splits from the main channel above King’s Lock, re-joining below Godstow Lock. The most recent water quality classification in 2022 rated it poor with bathing not advised.