Original article from Kent Live
When selecting a bay for the perfect day out, one thing we often don't think about as much as we should is the environment on our coasts.
With clean water and plastic pollution an increasingly prominent issue for beaches up and down the country, it's likely that the cleanliness and safety of our beaches will be on a lot of people's radars in the next few years.
This is where The Blue Flag Beach award comes in, however.
The award, issued by the Foundation for Environmental Education, is an internationally recognised gold-standard that balances water quality with good access.
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This doesn't mean that the beaches that have been given the award are necessarily the best beaches around – and more remote, smaller coves and beaches may be just as clean and picturesque.
Instead, the award specifically highlights the best beaches with easy access and plenty of facilities, as well as meeting the high environmental standards set out by the awarding criteria.
Beaches are judged on the following:
- Environmental Education and Information This includes information on the Blue Flag award itself along with details on the water quality. A beach map including locations of facilities must also be displayed.
- Water Quality Second on the list is what most people assume the Blue Flag is all about. The most important stipulation is that no industrial, waste-water or sewage-related discharges should affect the beach.
- Environmental Management These criteria include the administrative side of things as well as keeping the beach clean. It also states there must be toilets available to the public.
- Safety and Services At the top of the list here is the beach should be patrolled by lifeguards. Other criteria include availability of drinking water and accessibility features.
A total of four Kent beaches were granted the award this year, two from Thanet, and a further two located on the Isle of Sheppey.
The winners are as follows:
Named after its Australian counterpart for it's historical connections to smuggling, Botany Bay is most notable for its dramatic chalk cliffs.
With golden sand, rock pools and adequate facilities, what Botany Bay lacks in infrastructure it more than makes up for in views.
Just outside of Broadstairs and close to the Viking Coastal Trail, Botany Bay was placed as the 6th best beach in England based on the Blue Flag Beach Award's criteria.
Minster Leas Beach
Expansive, open and with fantastic views across the mouth of the Thames as it enters the North Sea, Minster Leas in north Sheppey is a lesser known Kent beach compared to Botany Bay.
Having won an award previously in 2016, the combination of a long shingle beach, grassy areas and a designated bathing section, Minster Leas is also very accessible.
With the historical village of Minster nearby and an excellent promenade running alongside the beach, Minster Leas is a true gem in North Kent.
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Near the popular seaside resort town of Broadstairs, Stone Bay offers a slightly quieter option.
With high chalk cliffs and a pleasant, secluded location, the fact that Stone Bay is a less well-known patch of coast doesn't leave it without amenities.
With beach huts, rock pools and shelter from the high cliffs, the only thing to note about Stone Bay is that it nearly disappears at high tide – so it is worth double checking when the tide comes in if you're looking to visit.
Sheerness beach has also been recognised with a Blue Flag award, just a few miles up the coast of Sheppey from Minster Leas.
The better known of the two, Sheerness is a shingle beach spotted with pools that often have crabs, shrimp and other creatures living in them as the tide goes out.
The beach is backed by a sea wall, doubling as a promenade, and whilst this is ideal for walkers it does pose an issue for those with mobility issues.
With plenty of facilities, it's an ideal spot for families, and has very high water quality, being awarded 5 stars from a possible 5.