Stay Safe

Whether it is a family day out at Tynemouth Longsands, an exploration of the rock pools near St. Mary’s Island, or a walk along the riverside from Spanish Battery to Royal Quays Marina, we are fortunate to have a fantastic coastline here in North Tyneside

The coast is there to be enjoyed but it is vital to do this in a safe and responsible manner. Of greatest importance is to know that if you are in an emergency situation or see someone in danger at the coast or near the mouth of the river, dial 999 immediately and ask for the Coastguard.

We have listed below some further information on how to stay safe at the coast, along with links to partner organisations with more specific safety information. Please note that the Brigade is not responsible for the content held on other websites. 

Visiting a beach – the basics:

We would highly recommend visiting a beach that has a lifeguard service – locally this is provided by the RNLI and you can find information on the dates and time when their lifeguards will be on service on their website.

When on the beach make sure you know your flags! From showing the area where lifeguards are patrolling, to indicating that conditions are too dangerous to swim, and informing you that a shark has been sighted (yet to be seen at Tynemouth but never say never!) – flags are a vital part of beach safety – you can find out more information by visiting the Royal Life Saving Society’s website – or watching our short video!

Know your beach flags and what they mean

Did you know that the most common time for children to have accidents when on holiday is during the first hour after arrival when parents/guardians are unpacking and distracted – when you arrive at a beach spend time looking at the hazards together. From that point onwards, know where your children are at all times and, for young children, ensure that they are within reach and under constant supervision. The beach may also be operating a local wristband scheme which helps identify children if they wander off – speak to the beach lifeguards to find out more information and for any specific local hazards. 

Although usually harmless, digging in the sand can be dangerous if you dig a large hole and the sand caves in. Always avoid digging tunnels or deep pits below waist height and make sure you fill in any holes you dig before you leave the beach. 

When the time comes for a dip in the sea, the safest place will be between the red and yellow flags with the lifeguards keeping watch over you. If lifeguards are not present, it is vital that you stick within your limitations and avoid rip currents. These are currents of water typically flowing from the shoreline back out to sea and are commonly formed by a build-up of water caused by wave and tidal motion. Once in a rip current it is easy to become scared and disoriented – especially as you may feel that you are putting lots of effort into swimming but not making any progress. To escape a rip current you should:

  • Shout for help
  • Keep hold of any buoyant aid you have – such as a surfboard or inflatable
  • Do not swim against the current – even Olympic swimmers will struggle!
  • Swim parallel to the shore as this makes sure that you are swimming out of, and not back into, the current
  • Once out of the rip current, swim towards the shore but be aware of the need to avoid being drawn back in by feeder currents

Rip currents can be identified by looking at a beach from a vantage point – if you want to find out more please ask a Lifeguard, Brigade member or Coastguard officer when you next see one and they’d be happy to explain how to spot them!

Jumping off rocks or tombstoning from piers and sea walls is extremely dangerous – unfortunately we regularly get called to those injured from engaging in such activities, especially near to Cullercoats Bay. The main risks come from not being able to see what you are jumping into, and the fact the tides are constantly changing which affects the level of water beneath you. The safest form of jumping is to not jump at all!

There are lots of different activities that take place in the sea – and locally we see many people enjoying swimming, surfing, paddle-boarding, kayaking and much more. The RNLI have put together specific guides and safety tips for a range of activities and we would recommend reading these in advance of any trip to the seaside. 

Whatever you get up to in the sea, the most important thing to remember is ‘Float to live’. 

If you get into difficulty in the water your natural instinct will be to try and swim to safety but this may put you in more danger. If you are engaging in a water sport you should always stay with your kit as it will keep you afloat and this will also make you easier to find. The most important tips are:

  • Once in the water, fight your instinct to thrash around
  • Lie backwards, extent your arms and legs and, if needed, move them around gentle to help you float
  • Once floating, control your breathing as this will help you take charge of your next actions
  • Once floating and in control of your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety if you can

The use of a whistle is a simple, effective, cheap and lightweight method of calling for help when close to shore – if venturing further offshore we recommend carrying a suitable means of calling for help which may be a waterproof and fully charged VHF radio, phone in a waterproof pouch or flares.

Also remember that the international distress signal is hand waving and shouting for help!

Tynemouth Lonsands is a very popular beach but beware of rip currents

Beyond the beach – coastal paths and exploring the rocks

A walk along the cliff tops at Sharpness Point, Cullercoats Bay, or north of St. Mary’s Island can be a great form of escapism but the cliffs are susceptible to coastal erosion with cliff falls/landslides happening without warning. Please take note of warning signs, do not climb fences or barriers, and never climb a cliff as a short cut to the top. Erosion can be especially prevalent at times when there are significant temperature changes throughout a day – so it is important to be aware of the risks all year round. 

At particular risk from falling over a cliff or being impacted by a cliff fall are dogs and dog walkers. Dogs often get into trouble while exploring, so we would recommend keeping them on a lead at the coast, especially near cliff edges. If your dog does get stuck on a ledge, at the bottom of a cliff, or event swept out to sea you MUST NOT go after them. In many cases of attempted rescue, the dog will survive but the owner will not – so stay away from danger and call the Coastguard on 999. 

The tide goes in, the tide goes out, the tide goes in, the tide goes out… For those of us local to the sea we have this instilled into our lives from an early age – but for many understanding tide times and heights is something they only appreciate after visiting a beach and being chased up the sand by fast approaching water! 

Understanding tide times are vital to planning a coastal visit and there are many websites with information to help you stay safe – Magic Seaweed is a particularly useful site for those planning to surf, paddleboard or kayak. 

A regular callout for the Brigade is when members of the public get cut off by the tide at St. Mary’s Island. Although only a short distance from the mainland, the causeway is treacherous to cross when covered by any depth of water and we would advise against doing this. Safe crossing times for the causeway can be found on the St. Mary’s Lighthouse and Visitor Centre Facebook page

When the tide is out, we have many rocks which are great to explore and to look at the sea life lurking within them and the relics of shipwrecks from many years ago. When rocks are close to cliff faces you will find that they are generally very slippery as the sunlight has not been able to dry them out – in general any walk across rocks will be a bit of an adventure so remember to take your time, wear sensible footwear, try to keep a low centre of gravity, stay focused, and make sure you have sufficient time to exit the rocks before the tide catches you out. Where possible, also stay away from walking directly under cliffs in case there is a collapse.

When you are on the rocks, especially near to St. Mary’s Island, there is a good chance you will come across seals and other wildlife – please make sure you keep away from these animals to allow them to have the space they need to conduct their daily life! You can learn more about the this on the Facebook page of the St. Mary’s Island Wildlife Conservation Society. 

We have listed above information on how to stay safe at the coast, along with links to partner organisations with more specific safety information. Please note that the Brigade is not responsible for the content held on other websites. 

We wish you a safe and enjoyable trip to the beautiful North Tyneside coastline – but if you do get in trouble, or spot someone in danger – please remember to dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.