Summer is approaching and everyone’s hoping to be back at the beach soon. You might have seen photos of crowded beaches in the news, but the reality is that if you take sensible and simple precautions the seaside can be one of the safest places to be. Especially because we’re often told by sources like the World Health Organisation (WHO) that it’s far less easy to transmit viruses outdoors in the fresh air than in enclosed indoor spaces. And beaches are all about clean sea air and space!
Social distancing on the beach
Viruses, and that includes this novel coronavirus Covid-19, but also other viruses we’re used to like norovirus, don’t live very long at all in water… that’s why we’re told to keep washing our hands. So there’s little concern about going in the sea, but what about how to stay socially distant on shore?
1. Pick a big beach
It sort of goes without saying that the bigger the beach the more space there is for everyone to spread out. It’s probably not a surprise that many of Europe’s top beach spots in the TripAdvisors Choice 2020 awards are some of the biggest. That includes many of the UK’s best beaches including Luskentyre in Scotland, Woolacombe Bay Sands in Devon, Rhossili Bay in Wales and St Brelade’s Bay Beach on Jersey. So Great Britain is well represented for expansive sandy beaches plus many others too in England like Blackpool, Skegness, Bournemouth, Saunton Sands, Newquay, St Ives and Great Yarmouth. Most towns and cities are only a few hours drive from their nearest big beach.
2. Check tide times
When the tide is in, called high tide, there is often a lot less beach and so less space to spread out. The good news is that the tide is controlled by the moon and therefore can be predicted millions of years in advance. To benefit from the most space you will want to arrive about half way from the time between high tide (when the beach is at its smallest) to low tide (when the beach is at its biggest). That gives you a very reasonable six or seven hours of maximum beach time. Just be sure to check in advance as low tide is at a different time each day, but there are many online resources like the tide tables on the BBC Weather website. Just make sure you plan your visit for the daytime and don’t go after dark!
3. Look out for a lifeguarded beach
The RNLI provides a summer beach lifeguard service on many of Britain’s most popular beaches like Fistral in North Cornwall, Croyde in North Devon and Scarborough in North Yorkshire. Everyone hopes for the best but it’s always a good idea to plan for the worse and so if you do get in difficulty on the beach or in the water, then their lifeguards are trained to administer first aid whilst respecting social distancing measures where it is safe to do so in an emergency situation.
4. Travel in your own car
The current UK government coronavirus advice is to limit the use of public transport to essential journeys only, like going to work. Whilst a trip to the beach is very good for many peoples’ physical and mental well-being it’s not considered an essential journey and it can be difficult to maintain social distancing on buses, trains and coaches. Where possible use your own car, or for short journeys a taxi may be an option, and check out car parking locations in advance. Many allow you to make contactless payment using your mobile phone to avoid handling cash.
5. Bring as much as you need
Another advantage to taking your own car is that you bring everything you need to the beach, and take it home with you including any litter to help keep Britain tidy. Perhaps bring a packed lunch, and plenty of sun protection and water to drink, to avoid having to frequently go to shops and cafes. Shops, bars and restaurants will be open according to Government advice and enforcing social distancing measures, spending money with a local business will help them too after a difficult start to the 2020 season.
6. Buy a windbreak to mark your space
One thing you might want to buy is a windbreak, many seaside stores sell them close to the beach access points. Not only is it great for providing some protection from the wind, and even the sun, on summer beach days but it is also a simple way to mark out your space on the sand without other people inadvertently walking into it – it’s a easy way to practice physical distancing outdoors.
7. Stay on the beaten path so don’t get lost
Many beaches at busy spots like car parks have implemented one-way systems so you can keep a safe distance. But when you get to the beach it’s best to stay on the well walked path, where possible, because if you wander off and get lost or get too close to a cliff edge the emergency services have to come and find you. You also want to keep an eye on the tide to make sure you are not cut-off in small secluded coves, they might sound like the perfect place to be socially distant but when the tide comes in, you might find your route out is cut-off. Instead, once you get onto the beach, stay in the open – but perhaps walk a little further than you normally would.
Beaches like Woolacombe Sands in North Devon and Perranporth Beach in North Cornwall are both about three miles long and are both popular surfing locations for families on the Atlantic Ocean. A majority of visitors congregate in a small section rather than walking a minute or two along the beach where there is plenty more space.