The Aune Conservation Association has responded to safety concerns around increased recreational use of the Avon estuary by visitors and local people during the COVID pandemic. These concerns were expressed and discussed at the last two Avon Estuary Forum online meetings. It is thought highly likely that this increased use will continue for the foreseeable future now that the natural delights of the estuary have become more widely known.
Our response has been two-fold: 1) we continue to provide our usual financial support for the Avon Patrol, in order to offer on-site advice to those using the estuary 2) we have paid to transfer our website to a professional manager and have re-modelled the website to make it easier to view from a smartphone. Associated with this change, we are promoting the distribution and use of a QR code linked to our website to easily access important new safety advice for boat users, wild swimmers and boat users. We are encouraging those responsible for communications around the estuary, anybody involved in the hiring of SUPs and kayaks, and local campsites to display this QR code prominently. The relevant QR code and the tips to which it leads are shown below:-
1. BIOSECURITY CODE
It is vital that highly portable wetsuits, SUPs, canoes and kayaks are checked for contaminants, cleaned and dried before they are put into the waters of the Avon – ‘CHECK – CLEAN – DRY’! Non-native species cannot survive long-term desiccation.
2. GENERAL TIPS
• The entire area below Mean High Water is owned and administered by the Duchy of Cornwall. Much of the area is licensed for various purposes to the Bantham Estate.
• Always be aware of the state of the tide. Water levels can change very quickly as the tide rises.
• Be considerate to landowners and properties that border the water. Most of the estuary runs through PRIVATE land; you could be trespassing.
• Park sensitively wherever you go: do not block roads, do not block gates to fields or access to houses. Remember, large emergency vehicles may need access.
• Do not park along the Tidal Road – vehicles are sometimes submerged!
• Leave no trace of your visit, take all your litter home
3. TIPS for WALKERS
Follow the Countryside Code:-
Protect the natural environment
• Do not wander over the salt marsh or samphire beds; stay on the main track
• No commercial bait digging or commercial gathering of other flora and fauna is allowed.
• Don’t light BBQs or fires
• Keep dogs under effective control. Do not let them chase any birds.
• Dog mess – bag it AND take it away to bin it. Please do not leave bags tied to bushes, etc.
4. TIPS for SWIMMERS
Of particular concern in our estuary is the danger posed to swimmers by recreational boat users.
• Swimmers should make themselves highly visible
• Avoid the waterski zone which is marked by buoys
• Wear a brightly coloured hat and tow a bright float.
BEWARE! Water skiers may operate 1.5 hours either side of high water. Swimmers should stick to the sides of the channel at all times to stay safe.
3. TIPS for SUPs, CANOES and KAYAKS
• Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
• Check the weather forecast and tide times.
• Do not underestimate the forces of nature; know your limits. The wind and tidal flow in the estuary can be very strong. Paddle into the elements first, to make the trip home easier.
• BEWARE of dangerous currents, variations in water depth and rip tides – especially where the estuary meets the sea.
• Wear the leash or ‘kill cord’ so you don’t lose control of your craft.
• Carry a whistle or phone. If you get into difficulty, stay with your craft as it will keep you afloat and make you easier to find. If help is essential, call the Coastguard on 999.
• Watch out for swimmers; they may be very difficult to see!
• Observe the 8-knot speed limit.
• Please respect the staff operating the Avon Patrol. Follow their advice for your own safety and that of others.
• Keep well clear of all moorings.
• Alcohol and boats are a dangerous mixture!
• Nesting swans are very aggressive – beware!
• NOTE – Fishing is forbidden by law from vessels of any kind in the estuary
END – July 2021