The dirtiest beaches in the UK (and the cleanest)

Sarah Coles
Chesil Beach Dorset England
Chesil Beach Dorset England

When you're strolling along your local beach, are you taking in the wonders of the natural world - or are you too busy picking through piles of discarded cans and bottles, and stepping over ice lolly wrappers?

Every year, the Marine Conservation Society runs its annual Beachwatch Big Weekend, where local people hit the beach to pick up litter. They then record how much they found, and produce a league table of litter.

This year volunteers worked over a weekend back in September, and picked up an incredible 223,405 pieces of litter. This was the 20th year they had done the survey - and featured the largest quantity of litter ever seen by the volunteers.

They found a number of bizarre objects. Among the weirdest were half a TV, a French bullet-proof vest, a pack of bacon, a brass candlestick, some plastic bird feet, a birdcage, a bath plug, half a canoe and a set of dentures.

Their figures revealed that the worst offender was Holes Bay in Dorset, where 60 bags of rubbish were found. This was followed by Chesil Cove Shore in Dorset with 50 bags, and Gunwalloe Fishing Cove shore in Cornwall with 42.

However, when calculated by the number of items, dishonourable mentions went to Slapton Sands in Devon (with 4,615 items), Bournemouth with 3,860 and Sand Bay in Somerset with 2,995.

The worst 10 were:

At the other end of the spectrum were Langland Bay in Swansea and Vazon South in Guernsey - both of which only produced a quarter of a bag of rubbish. In all, eight beaches had less than a bag of rubbish on them, and 20 yielded just one bag

The cleanest eight were:
Langland Bay, Swansea
Vazon South, Guernsey
Seatown, Dorset
Goring, West Sussex
Ferring, West Sussex
Shingle Street, Suffolk
Princes Parade, Hythe, Kent
Grandes Rocques, Guernsey

The Western Daily Press calculated that (in terms of the numbers of bags of rubbish turned up) beaches in Merseyside were the cleanest in mainland UK, followed by West Lothian and Northumberland.

And before you get too downhearted about the state of Britain's beaches, it's worth remembering that under a scattering of litter left by visitors, there are some truly great beaches in this country. Holkam beach in Norfolk, for example, was recently voted Britain's best beach, and the attractions of the endless golden sand may overcome any disappointment at the sight of a few pieces of litter.

Likewise there's Bournemouth - revealed by TripAdvisor to be our favourite seaside destination - which was rated above not only every other seaside town in Britain but every one of Europe's top ten beaches too. The reviewers didn't seem too put off by the 3,860 items of litter on the beach.

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