Polkerris Beach is a classic Cornish cove: in the words of Boards magazine "one of those gems you often hear about but seldom find". It is unusual, in that it has all the natural ingredients of soft sand, rock pools, inviting waters and splendid scenery, combined with historic features like the harbour wall. It is intimate and inviting, yet has all of the amenities you would hope to find for a great day out.
We go to a great deal of trouble to keep the beach an inviting and pleasant space, from cleaning it to enforcing controls to ensure that some people aren’t enjoying it at other's expense. The seasonal dog ban is contentious but absolutely essential: this is a very popular beach but only 180m long. Dogs get excited on beaches and one person's happy dog is many other people’s nightmare. Poo, barking and rampant dogs are just some of the issues, especially where small children are concerned. Barbeques are banned because of the nuisance they cause to others, both in terms of smoke and harmful waste: there have been a number of incidents elsewhere of abandoned barbeques burning or impaling people's feet. See this article from the Cornishman newspaper. Of course, considerate visitors are equally affected but generally they are the people who also appreciate what we are trying to do.
Located at the back of a very large South-West-facing bay, Polkerris attracts more than its fair share of seaweed and sea-borne litter in the prevailing winds. Our policy is to litter-pick plastics and anything harmful on a regular basis (daily in season, weekly at other times). Generally, seaweed comes and goes but in season, we deal with it if it becomes a nuisance. Usually, that means raking it up with a tractor, or forking it into our pickup when it’s had a chance to dry out but sometimes it means moving tens of tonnes with a digger, which is very expensive. Occasionally, a storm such as the one on 15th July 2010, will completely destroy our efforts to keep the beach pleasant. When that happens, it can take a full two-week tide cycle to put it right – and any further blow will not help.
At peak times, we grade the beach in the morning with our low-tech but highly effective harrow to create a fresh canvas for the day. Unlike some places, our policy is not to clutter the beach with ugly litter bins. We encourage people to dispose of rubbish in bulk bins located discretely near the public toilets, which has proved increasingly effective. Many people are happy to pick up litter for the good of all.
Bathing water quality
As a 'European Bathing Water', from May to September, the Environment Agency monitors the quality of the water at Polkerris and publishes the results. Generally, the sea water here is very clean but occasionally there's a problem caused by run-off after heavy rains. The Agency states that our... "Bathing water quality is influenced by the Par river, and may reduce during or after periods of heavy rainfall due to run off from agricultural land, urban areas, and occasional discharges from a storm overflow". In practice, there were just three occasions in 2012 when the quality fell below the quality that we - and the European guidelines - would expect.
Boats and moorings
We operate around a dozen moorings for boats up to 20ft/6m in length, which are available (via a waiting list) for the full season, or for short periods (booked in advance). The moorings are 'frappe', or running-line moorings, allowing the floating boat to be pulled ashore on a loop of rope. On neap tides, the boats stay afloat. On springs, they dry out around 2 hours before low tide. Space for storing dinghies on the beach is also available.
Launching is available on request in the shop, however, due to issues with safety, damage and vehicles becoming stuck, no vehicles may now be used for launching boats (except for seasonal mooring holders). In good weather the access road is congested and the beach is very busy, so no launching is permitted between 10am and 5pm.
In peak season, a buoy-line is used to separate swimmers from boats. Boats are not permitted to the North of the buoy-line. All visiting boat drivers must exercise extreme care because there may be swimmers in any area. Anchoring 50m off the beach is recommended, where the seabed provides good hold for Danforth-type anchors.