Article from The Western Morning News
When the Earl of Rone gets chucked in to the sea at Combe Martin this weekend, he can wallow in the water without worrying about swallowing a drop…
That is because the beach which lies at the sea-end of Britain’s longest village has now been given a clean bill of health after a period of polluted failure.
Combe Martin is one of 30 Westcountry Seaside Award winners in this year’s official listing of cleaner beaches – which is good news indeed for a community that five years ago had the ninth most polluted beach in Britain.
Only four weeks ago Combe Martin was featured in a special Western Morning News article that described how the local shoreline was due to be given the thumbs down despite more than £2 million having been spent in cleaning the area up.
But this is a bad-news-turning-to-good story if ever there was one… The sea at Combe Martin was polluted some years ago when record-breaking rainfalls caused sewerage systems to overflow on 79 occasions.
However, since then large sums have been spent by South West Water and the Environment Agency (EA) to fix the problem.
But – and this is what is angering members of the Combe Martin Clean Bathing Water Group along with local councillors and tourism providers – despite the fact that two years of samples from the beach had given it a clean bill of health, it was still likely to be listed in the forthcoming Good Beach Guide as “poor”.
That was because old rules concerning seawater quality designation had recently been changed by the EU so that all of the past four years’ results would be taken into consideration.
But now, thanks to last year’s results, the bay has appeared as one of the winners in this year’s good beaches guide – and local spokesman Trevor Kibble told the WMN: “We have the flag proudly flying on the beach already. It is brilliant news.
“It’s exactly what we were trying to point out to the authorities who do the listings – last year we passed at the highest standard – but they were putting out that we were likely to fail because they were taking all the previous years from 2011 to predict 2015.
“This makes a nonsense of their own predictions – and we are delighted that we’ve come out victorious in the end,” said Mr Kibble. “If you based the prediction on 2011 we would fail – in fact, at that time we were classified as ninth worst beach in Britain.”
“The Hunting of the Earl of Rone is this coming weekend and we shall be throwing him into the sea as usual – but at least he won’t have to worry about dirty water,” said Mr Kibble, referring to the annual four-day shindig at Combe Martin which was so wild and crazy it was banned for over 100 years.
Some people believe the ancient festival has pre-Christian origins and is to do with springtime fertility rites. This weekend the hapless Earl can wallow to his heart’s content in waters that will be as pure as they were over 2000 years ago…