Water warnings mapped: 19 places across the UK you should not swim

The Environment Agency publishes regular updates on areas across the UK where the water isn’t deemed fit to swim in

Jonathan Kanengoni
Saturday 10 June 2023 15:57 BST
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With temperatures hotting 30C this weekend, the UK has been issued with an “extreme” heat warning.

The UK Health Security Agency has upgraded a yellow alert for the weekend to an amber heat-health alert, covering five regions - southeast England, the West Midlands, East Midlands, east of England and the southwest.

So you might find yourself tempted to go for a dip as Britain heats up.

However, it’s worth doing your research beforehand and the Environment Agency (EA) regularly provides updates on water quality across the country.

The Swimfo website has an interactive map highlighting areas where the EA advises against bathing. Annual ratings classify each site as excellent, good, sufficient or poor based on measurements taken over a period of up to four years.

Campaign group Surfers Against Sewage provides a similar map that also flags more recent sewage discharges.

Below we take a look at more than a dozen locations around the UK where you should think twice before going for a swim, either due to sewage concerns or poor quality conditions for bathing.

Blackpool North

Blackpool North sand beach is opposite Blackpool Tower and between Central and North Piers. Water quality here was rated sufficient in 2018 and 2021, and good in 2019 but were rated as poor last year.

Bognor Regis (Aldwick)

Aldwick is mostly a shingle resort beach with some sand exposed at low tide. There are eight sewer overflows spread out across the length of this beach with several more to the east and west. In 2019 and 2021 the water was rated as good but took a dramatic plunge in 2022 to poor.

Bridlington South Beach

Bridlington South Beach has one sewer overflow that discharges straight onto the beach. A long sea overflow was built in 2014 to transfer discharge from the Gypsy Race 1.1km out to sea. Water quality was rated as poor last year.

The Environment Agency highlights many of the locations on this list due to water quality concerns (Swimfo)

Burnham Jetty North

In 2020 the Environment Agency warned against swimming on Burnham-on-Sea’s main beach due to ongoing water quality concerns and that remains in place three years later.

The Agency’s environment manager Jim Flory said at the time: “The EA has issued permanent advice against bathing at Burnham Jetty at Burnham-On-Sea. This advice is issued under the Bathing Water Regulations because water quality has been classified as ‘poor’ for five consecutive bathing seasons at Burnham.”

Clacton (Groyne 41)

This is another area where the EA has permanently advised against bathing. The spot in Essex was found to have been poor for five years running.

The agency previously suggested pigeons were partly to blame for the conditions, with birds dropping faeces dropping into the water when they nest under the pier.

Dunster North West

Dunster North West is a large pebble and sand resort beach backed by Chalets. It faces into the Bristol Channel and is just east of the popular seaside resort of Minehead. A sewer overflow discharges directly into the sea in the middle of this beach. Bathing is not advised after previously sufficient water quality dropped to poor in 2022.

Beach resort Weston Super Mare has a number of spots with poor quality water for bathing (Getty)


Heacham or Stubborn Sands is a gently sloping sand beach fronting a popular Norfolk seaside resort. The sea is cloudy here due to tidal movements stirring up the sediment. There are no sewer overflows discharging directly onto the beach but there are long and short sea outfalls at Hunstanton.

In 2018 and 2019 the water quality was deemed sufficient but has dropped to poor in the last two years.

Ilfracombe Wildersmouth

Wildersmouth beach is another Devon location where the EA permanently advises against bathing. In 2017 alone, 42 warnings were issued against swimming due to pollution risk.


Instow in North Devon is not a bathing beach and the public is advised not to go swimming, the local parish council says. It is another spot that has consistently had poor water quality and the EA does not believe it will meet the minimum standard in the foreseeable future.

The council also warns that “dog owners should bear in mind that if there are pollutants in the water that are potentially harmful to humans they are also potentially harmful to dogs”.

Surfers Against Sewage also shows recent sewage discharges across the country (Surfers Against Sewage)

Kinghorn (Harbour Beach)

Bathers are advised to avoid entering the waters of Harbour Beach in Kinghorn, Scotland, due to its poor annual classification. The beach is a mix of sand and rock pools and cliffs and stretches about 500m long.

Scarborough South Bay

Scarborough South Bay is a long, sandy resort beach located directly below the seafront – and in one of Britain’s most famous seaside towns. There is a sewer overflow that discharges directly onto the beach, with two more at 800m and 2.5km away from the bathing water. Quality of the water was rated sufficient in 2021 but dipped back down to poor the year after.

St Mary’s Bay (Kent)

St Mary’s Bay is a shingle beach with large areas of sand flats. There are no sewer overflows discharging directly into St Mary’s Bay, however there are sewer overflows in the vicinity. Back in 2018 the water quality was considered good but dropped to sufficient the year after and then poor last year.

Seaton Carew North

A small, sandy resort near Hartlepool in County Durham, Seaton Carew North has experienced sewer overflow directly onto the beach in the last 48 hours. Discharges from streams and rivers can also impact the water quality here too, particularly following periods of heavy rainfall.

Seaton Carew Centre

Closeby at Seaton Carew Centre, there have been similar sewage warnings issued in the last couple of days. Though the sewage hasn’t discharged directly onto this beach, the issues in the surrounding area - at Seaton Carew North - could have an impact on water quality.

Tynemouth Cullercoats

The beach is enclosed by piers at each end, which means the area is a sheltered bay. Though no sewer overflows discharge directly at Tynemouth Cullercoats, there are discharges into the River Tyne, which meets the sea just south of the bathing water. Water quality here has been rated poor every year since 2018.

Blackpool North is one of several areas where water quality took a dive last year (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Weston-super-Mare Sand Bay

A sand and shingle beach resort in North Somerset, approximately 5km wide and backed by sand dunes. There is a salt marsh at the northern end, and Sand Point Headland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The outfall from Weston-super-Mare STW discharges to the sea at Black Rock 5km south of Sand Bay. Water quality was rated good in 2018, falling to sufficient the year after and then poor last year.

Weston Main

Located close to the popular seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, the main beach is a large stretch of sand with a pier. Two sewer overflows discharge directly into the sea here - one at the northern extent of the beach and one 2km to the south. The bathing water quality may also be affected by discharges from the surrounding urban catchment area. In 2019 it was rated as sufficient but fell to poor for the last two years.

Wharfe at Cromwheel

The short 160m stretch of the River Wharfe flowing through the West Yorkshire town of Ilkley is popular with swimmers and paddlers. A sewage discharge outlet is located within the designated bathing area at one of these beaches. Water quality was found to be poor in 2021 and 2022.

Wolvercote Mill Stream

Wolvercote Mill Stream is a bifurcation of the River Thames that splits from the main channel above King’s Lock, re-joining below Godstow Lock. The most recent water quality classification in 2022 rated it poor with bathing not advised.

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