Why a brown sea deserves a Blue Flag

WHY has Felixstowe won a European Blue Flag when its sea looks so awful?Visitors rarely see it sparkling blue - even on the sunniest and clearest of summer days.

Richard Cornwell

WHY has Felixstowe won a European Blue Flag when its sea looks so awful?

Visitors rarely see it sparkling blue - even on the sunniest and clearest of summer days.

Unlike the English Channel or even the North Sea up north, Felixstowe's water is more often a dirty brown or battleship grey, murky and marbled, and certainly not inviting for those wanting a seaside swim or a quick paddle.

But it turns out for those places with nicer looking sea that beauty may only be skin deep because while Felixstowe's rolling waves may look unsightly, the water is perfectly clean and safe, compared with other resorts whose water has failed to make the grade.

John Cresswell, chairman of the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol and Rescue Service, said there were several reasons why the town's sea often looked a bit mucky.

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“The main reason is the sediment suspended in the water all the time, very common in shallow seas, and the huge amount of large shipping we have moving through it and stirring it up,” he said.

“It doesn't mean the water is 'dirty' but that is what gives it its colour.

“Periods of rain will make it worse because that's when we have surface water washing out into the sea too, especially down the rivers.

“But we do get clear periods and having worked as a diver for many years I know that May and June can be a very clear period.”

Mr Cresswell said since the HSS Discovery high-speed superferry - whose turbojets caused a huge displacement of water - had stopped running the water had become much clearer.

However work to pump 200,000 cubic metres of sand and shingle ashore for sea defence work could churn up the seabed for the next few months.

Local folklore says that once every 30 years Felixstowe's sea turns clear for a season.

Dickie Felton, of ENCAMS, part of the Keep Britain Tidy organisation which makes the Blue Flag awards, said the colour of the sea was not the important factor.

“Basically, it is how clean the sea is which is important - and all beaches which win the awards have their sea checked and analysed throughout the year to make sure they pass the strictest European standards for sewage-related material and other bacteria,” he said.

“It may look murky but it is the quality we are concerned about.”

The award also takes into account many other issues ranging from beaches being litter-free to them having toilets provided nearby and being accessible to all abilities.

Felixstowe's award-winning south beach - out of bounds this summer while a £10 million sea defence scheme takes place to improve the shore - also has a summer-time dog ban, showers, and a range of attractions alongside.

Does Felixstowe's beach deserve its Blue Flag? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Blue sea thinking

Scientists say there are several reasons why the sea may or may not look blue.

The brightness of the sky and its colour will have a tell-tale effect with the absorption and reflection of light of various wavelengths producing a variety of different shades of green and blue.

Particles suspended in the water - mud and sediment in many shallow seas - will also interact with the light processes to add new shades.

People standing in different places may also see the sea a different colour - the same stretch of water viewed from two miles apart at Cobbold's Point and Landguard at Felixstowe could appear completely contrasting colours.