In our not-so-brave new world of Health and Safety, I’m constantly surprised that beaches aren’t sealed off with barbed wire. Because they are such dangerous places, with huge waves breaking on them, and sharks patrolling just offshore, and strong currents flowing in all directions. And then there are the tides by which the entire sea level rises and falls 10 or 20 feet twice a day. And then there are the dunes of choking sand, often infested with enormous crabs. And there are the regular hurricanes which bring storm surges and even bigger waves and driving wind and rain.
I’ve written about the danger of beaches before.
So I was pleased to read that in Germany, Health and Safety are tackling one of the greatest perils: they’re banning sandcastles.
German authorities are banning the building of sandcastles at beaches in case they fall over and injure people or block the path of emergency services.
The Local reports that some beaches on the islands of Fehman and Sylt have imposed a total ban on the structures, while Sieksdorf and Neustadt allow sandcastles, provided they do not exceed four metres (13ft) in diameter.
Beaches at Kellenhusen and Grossenbrode impose a three metre (10ft) restriction, with all beaches restricting height to 50cm (20 inches).
According to lifeguards, the beaches need to be kept clear for ambulances in case of emergencies, and there are also concerns that the structures could collapse.
Speaking to the local Kieler Nachrichten paper, a lifeguard said: “there is a risk of tripping, and from a certain height it can be dangerous,” however one father told the paper that it was another demonstration of the Germans’ over-officious nature. “The Germans want to regulate everything with a passion,” he said.
In 2012, a ten-year-old boy was killed at the coastal resort of Amrum when a metre-deep hole he had dug on a beach collapsed, burying him alive.
I know all about the dangers of sandcastles. When I was aged about 10 I used to be an avid builder of them. I built big circular ones with high walls around a deep central pit (in which I sat) to keep out the rising tide. But the waves would eventually break down the walls, and I’d be buried waist deep in wet sand and foaming water. And I’d only just manage to climb out before getting completely buried, by using my legs.
If my legs hadn’t been working properly, or had got bent or broken by the waves, or had got stuck in the sand, that would’ve been the end of me, like it was for the kid at Amrum,
I know about tripping over too. Sometimes I used to trip over the walls as I climbed out, and fall flat on my face in sea water that was at least a foot deep and flowing very fast. Or maybe fall over backwards into the treacherous quicksands in central pit. I was lucky to escape, once again by using my legs.
I was quite good at using my legs. But what if some kid doesn’t know how to use his legs? Or they don’t work very well? What if he hasn’t done a course in walking and running and jumping?
In fact, I used to regularly trip over in water. Because if you run through water that’s more than about a foot deep, you’re quite likely to trip over it, and get sucked out to sea. And then you have to swim using both your legs and your arms, while trying to keep water out of your mouth. And that’s very very hard. How many kids know how to swim?
I can’t say I ever remember seeing any ambulances on beaches back in my time. But these days, I imagine they’re racing up and down the beaches the whole time, rescuing kids whose sandcastles have fallen over and buried them, or who have tripped over and buried their heads in sand, or two feet under water. So obviously they don’t want to have to drive over sandcastles to rescue them, particularly if the children are buried under them.
If sandcastles can’t be completely banned, the next best thing would be to have Safe Sandcastle Building courses. Because I suspect that my sandcastles weren’t very safe, particularly with me sitting inside them with waves breaking around them. Safe sandcastles would be limited to 6 inches high, and when the rising tide finally washes them away, the builder should be standing at a safe distance from them, so as not to be injured or buried under the mass of collapsing sand.
Isn’t it a great relief to know that Health and Safety have identified this menace, and are doing something about it?
P.S. H/T MJM for 8 Diseases to Watch Out for on Beaches