In 2020, Scotland’s Coasts and Waters will be celebrated with a programme of activity designed to inspire both visitors and locals to explore and experience our unrivalled shores.
Scotland has a wealth of beaches which come in many shapes and sizes. Beaches and the coastal environment are a valuable national asset, providing critical habitats for many species and the basis for a range of activities. Beaches also have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing, providing places for people to relax and enjoy being outdoors.
Fife’s beaches have long been recognised as one of the Kingdom’s primary natural assets. They’re a place to relax and play, learn about our natural environment and are home to many species of wildlife. As we look forward to the forthcoming Themed Year, and following the recent Keep Scotland Beautiful Beach Awards, VisitScotland spoke to Robbie Blyth, Beach Manager for Fife Coast and Countryside Trust. Find out what he had to say about life as a Beach Manager in Scotland.
Tell us about being one of Scotland’s Beach Managers – what’s your working day like?
To be honest when you manage a coastline of over 140 miles, incorporating a 117-mile coastal path and vast amounts of recreational beach, your planned working day can change very quickly. One day you can be dealing with issues pertaining to the provision of public toilets then the next a water safety issue.
The day normally starts with switching on the computer and delving through the emails that come in, followed by the supervision of staff (beach patrol, litter teams, path maintenance teams, toilet attendants and cleaners). The role also involves working with many other partner groups and volunteers. For example, in 2018 we helped facilitate over 85 voluntary litter picks with community groups and local businesses. This also involved working with other charities such as Keep Scotland Beautiful and the Marine Conservation Society who help support the work of the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust.
However, you never know what’s going to come from left field e.g. stranded whales, oil slicks and the list goes on.
What motivates you each day? What do you love most about your job?
The motivation is being able to make a difference in my chosen vocation in so many ways that is connected to the great outdoors and the quality of our environment and people’s lives. The thing I like best is the knowledge that the great outdoors is open to everyone and free to use. The principle of responsible access to the great outdoors for everyone is what I love most about my job.
Tell us about your most memorable day in the job?
The most memorable day in my job was at the very start of my working life when I was 17 years of age (I’m now 51). Unemployment was at an all-time high and I got my first permanent full-time job. On the way home from my work that day I popped into see my gran. She was so proud and happy, and her joy and the cuddles she gave me that day still brings a lump to my throat. If something beats that memory, then I will be sure to tell you.
More recently receiving 14 beach awards along the coastline I manage is a fantastic feat and something that can only be achieved through partnership work.
A number of beaches in Fife, and across Scotland have just been awarded Beach Flag status – why is this accreditation so important?
Accreditation is important as it’s an achieved national standard that encourages opportunities for further financial investment in our communities. It raises awareness in terms of the environment, water safety and the promotion of tourism. It also puts Scotland on the map internationally in terms of outdoor recreation. Award status brings many benefits to our coastal communities, and you only need to see the improvements that are now taking place at Leven beach to see the longer-term benefits. In short, Beach Flag status is a good tool for measuring improvements for our coastline and can be used to install much needed civic pride in our coastal communities.
How will you be making the most of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020?
My role during Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters in 2020 will be making the case for our beaches to attract greater sustainable usage, investment and to keep encouraging community pride. Our coastline is a performance indicator in so many ways to the way we lead our lives. The focus on our coasts and waters will enable us to promote our award-winning coastline to a wider audience, while providing support to visitors to ensure they leave only footprints after their visits.