As I am sure you all recall, an extended spell of sunny weather and the Government easing lockdown rules on 13, May, led to tens of thousands of people flocking to the UK's coast. 

I remember those shocking images of sunbathers packed together on beaches in Dorset and Bournemouth. I also remember seeing and hearing many news reports warning that the "majority" of beaches would not be patrolled and, that there were no lifeguards on beaches.

From my experience of working at the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS UK), I know, seasonal beach lifeguards are recruited, and trained in March and April, ready for the summer, but, as the UK went into lockdown at that time, this would have been impossible.

By early July I was aware more RNLI lifeguards were now operating on more beaches than initially expected. However, my perception was that many beaches were still not patrolled and anyone, planning to visit the coast was responsible for keeping themselves and their families safe by following beach safety advice.

I have two children, aged 10 and 13 and with a holiday to the Pembrokeshire Coastline pending, wholly dependent on the Welsh Government imminent announcement, I had already started to prepare them for a staycation with far less bodyboarding than usual! 

On 6 July, we heard the news that our family had been waiting to hear! Travel restrictions in Wales lifted, self-contained accommodation allowed to reopen a week later, and people were allowed to form "extended households" (we were planning on holidaying with my cousin and her family). Our hope for a family holiday this year could become a reality. 

On 24, July, with the car bursting with kit and clothing to cover every weather eventuality - kids were insistent on taking their wetsuits and bodyboards just in case - we headed from our Worcestershire home into Wales. 

Broad Haven Beach

Our destination and base for the week, was Broad Haven, a village and seaside resort in the south-east corner of St Brides Bay, Pembrokeshire.

Not wasting a moment, as soon as we had unloaded the car, we headed down to the beach - a long, narrow sandy and pebble beach at high tide but at low tide, an expanse of firm sand. We chose Broad Haven due to its safe bathing, but due to my preconceived idea of no lifeguards, I spent the whole walk down to the beach reiterating to my children why they could only paddle.

Well, I cannot tell you how happy my kids and I were to see lifeguards operating and red and yellow flags in situ. It was bodyboarding heaven!

As a parent, it was such a relief to be on an RNLI lifeguarded beach, and I am very grateful to all those RNLI lifeguards who patrolled (wearing their PPE) during our holiday.

We visited Broad Haven Beach a few times during the week, and come sun, rain, and wind (we had it all) the lifeguards were always there, keeping people safe.

We came across more lifeguards than I could have imagined during our holiday.

Manorbier Beach

On Wednesday 29, July, we visited Manorbier Beach, a south-westerly facing beach; making it a favourite surfing beach.

By the time we had finished exploring the fairy-tale turrets of the gorgeous nearby 12th-century Manorbier Castle, it was high tide at Manorbier Beach

I am told, at low tide, there is a beautiful sandy bay, but on our visit, we only got to explore the top of the beach, carpeted with rocks and smooth pebbles and framed by rock pools.

It was while rock pooling, that we noticed an incident on the opposite side of the beach. Coastguards, paramedics, and lifeboat crew, (all wearing PPE and quite obviously adhering to COVID-19 guidance) worked together to ensure that the injured person received first aid.

Tenby RNLI inshore lifeboat crew were joined by HM Coastguard Search and Rescue officers, to assist while awaiting an ambulance. The casualty was then evacuated from the beach to a land ambulance and taken to hospital by Welsh Ambulance Paramedics.

Freshwater West Beach

On our last day, we visited Freshwater West Beach, near Castlemartin - a wide, and sand and rock beach backed by cliffs and sand-dunes which has featured in two feature films – Ridley Scott's Robin Hood and also Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

This south-westerly facing beach has the best waves in the county BUT, it is only for the experienced and strong swimmer and surfer. Strong rip currents occur off this beach.

Yet again, even before getting on to the beach, we were greeted by RNLI lifeguards warning us it was not a swimming beach and not to go into the water under any circumstance.

A sincere thank you, beach lifeguards

It was brilliant to see so many RNLI lifeguards on patrol on the Pembrokeshire Coast and, their service certainly meant my family and I could enjoy the sea, safely. It has been a challenging summer for us all, but beach lifeguards are doing a brilliant job helping to keep the public safe on many beaches during this pandemic.

Advice on how to keep safe

The RNLI now has lifeguards on more than 70% of the beaches they would patrol in a normal summer so try to visit one of those if you are planning a trip to the coast.  I would also urge anyone planning a visit to the coast to keep themselves and their families safe by: 

  • Following RNLI safety advice:
    • Have a plan - check the weather forecast, tide times, and read local hazard signage.
    • Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water.
    • Do not allow your family to swim alone.
    • Do not use inflatables.
    • If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float.
    • In an emergency, dial 999, and ask for the Coastguard.
  • Complete the RLSS UK free, online toolkit Lifesaver-Lifechanger and discover skills to enjoy the water, safely.
  • Beaches often have no postcode. what3words is one of the simplest ways to talk about your location. Be prepared, download the free what3words app before you visit any beach or coastal area.