Flying the Blue Flag

Obviously there are significant benefits to living down here in Dorset; miles of open heath, stunning countryside, pretty stone villages and, of course, the world famous Jurassic Coast is on our doorstep. However, with every positive comes the inevitable negative and a big negative to living in such a beautiful part of the world is that everyone else wants to come and enjoy it!

I always view summer with mixed feelings. It’s certainly lovely to get outside with the dogs and enjoy the sun but along with its welcome (but all-too fleeting) appearance comes traffic jams and the dreaded ‘dog restrictions’.

Yes, as familiar a sign of summer down here as swallows, ice cream and wasps, certain beaches (from the May 1 until September 30) become ‘no go’ zones for our canine friends. It’s one of the strict requirements for the coveted ‘Blue Flag’ status that most of our premier resorts wish to gain and boast of in their advertisements and glossy brochures.

One of the key requirements (from a very long list of criteria) is that “access to the beach by dogs and other domestic animals must be strictly controlled”. And, believe me, it is strictly enforced as I witnessed last year when a girl with a young exuberant puppy (who was on a lead) brazenly stepped a paw onto the hallowed sand and was loudly berated by some passing official.

We recently had a glorious weekend down here and in the evening we set off with the dogs for a walk along the promenade down to the ‘dog beach’. As we walked past the ‘dog free’ beaches I was quite literally dumbfounded by what I saw.

The beach resembled a municipal tip. The famous golden sands were strewn with plastic bags, fast food cartons, discarded nappies and, despite being an ‘alcohol free zone’, beer bottles. Through the thick choking smoke of countless cheap disposable barbecue sets (many of which had also been discarded on the beach and one had managed to set fire to a nearby bin) wheeled flocks of scavenging seagulls adding to the ‘tip-like’ ambience of the place.

Where was that over-zealous official when you needed him as families began to pack up and casually step over their bulging bags of waste left behind them for someone else to clean up? As I walked to the ‘dog beach’ I thought of that line in the Blue Flag criteria; “access to the beach by dogs and other domestic animals must be strictly enforced”. I wondered what the officials would think of the large rats (attracted by the litter that is all-too frequently dropped) that one can see most evening scurrying out from their homes under the brightly coloured beach huts or the foxes that stalk the beaches at night, again attracted by the humans’ leftover rubbish – and these brush-tailed interlopers don’t obey the ‘pick up’ mantra after doing their business in the sand. But, of course, these aren’t domestic animals (dogs), are they?

What a strange bunch we are in this ‘nation of dog lovers’ where dog faeces deposited on the pavement will provoke indignation, fury from Z-list celebs in search of a bandwagon and countless letters from the ‘Mr Angry from Purley’ types yet everyone is quite willing to turn a blind eye to the human-generated litter that fills our roadsides, woodlands, heaths and beaches. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loathe dog mess on our streets as much as the next person and feel that the perpetrators should be hit with the full force of the law but I would like to see some perspective shown. There should be a ‘zero tolerance’ approach for all litter and some decent penalties handed out for those who continue to do so.

Scenes like these are a national disgrace; something has seriously gone wrong for people to find it totally acceptable to treat a beach this way. Funnily enough, the beaches designated for ‘dogs’ are now havens of peace and cleanliness. Which would you prefer to sit on?


By Lee Connor, Dog World :

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