As we are about to start the New Year with the new smart Batson pontoons – some say that they look like a racetrack from East Portlemouth – it’s worth reflecting that there have been some pretty significant initiatives in the harbour over the last three years. Some of the bigger changes have been new pontoons also for visitors, now with fresh water; a new pontoon in Kingsbridge; dredging in Batson Creek; introduction of a six-knot speed limit; some tightening up on harbour dues and moorings; the Harbour Board meeting at various venues round the harbour, including South Pool; and a new Duchy lease (well, almost). Behind the scenes there has been some nifty work with duty rotas, bulk ordering of chain, the standardisation of engines and local government finance to make all this possible with only relatively mild increases in fees and charges.
However, there is a sense in which all this has been only to make good, replace or repair what should have been done in any case. We have been catching up and it is only from now on that we shall see an increase in facilities – which is why the possible dredging of Kingsbridge and a new Normandy/Whitestrand pontoon system could be quite exciting developments. They will be the start of an upgrading of the harbour.
Some issues are, however, proving intractable or at least slow and difficult. Although the water looks gin-clear and Egremont should soon at last stop discharging everything directly into the harbour, it is proving a struggle to get back a Blue Flag back for South Sands. It now seems that, like a number of other beaches around the country, the flag was won only because of a couple of dry summers. The wetter summers since have increased ruminant run-off and polluted the beaches; not much, perhaps, but enough to fail the water standards. As always in such situations, there are a lot of people running round measuring, but not so many doing anything to change it or knowing what to do. One possibility might be to go for a Quality Coast Award for the beaches on the east side: that requires meeting the European water standards – which they do – but does not entail having the same level of facilities on shore, like showers and a dog ban.
In sunny South Pool we have a refurbished pontoon and have agreed ways to keep the village slip clear of mud, as well as a possible method of protecting the swans’ nest. We haven’t yet won the case for withies up the creek to help those who have left it too late and really do need to keep strictly to the channel. Nor have we found a way of stopping hire boats en route to Kingsbridge coming up South Pool creek instead. But then we mustn’t take all the fun out of life.