Warning that Northumberland harbour could close if tombstoning continues

Lives are being put at risk by daredevils jumping off a harbour wall in front of boats.

Thursday, 19th May 2022, 8:55 am

That’s the stark message from Beadnell Harbour Fisherman's Society which has warned the area could be closed to the public if it continues.

“Children are daring each other to jump in and it’s dangerous,” said Anthony McAdam, the society’s chairman.

"It may only be a small harbour but there are fishing boats and pleasure boats going in and out and we’re really worried about a serious accident or even someone being killed.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Beadnell harbour.

“No working harbour in the UK would allow people to jump in and we’re no different.”

The stance has provoked an outcry on social media with many people sharing their memories of jumping or ‘tombstoning’ from the harbour.

But Mr McAdam said: “Tombstoning may not be illegal but you only have to look at the statistics of how many people die or get seriously injured every year to see what the consequences can be.

"We don’t want to be responsible for that and with it being a working harbour there are risks of accidents happening. Boats can’t always see swimmers in the water, they can’t slam the brakes on and stop and they’ve got huge propellers which could shred someone to pieces.”

Safety signage at Beadnell harbour.

He says the tidal harbour also presents other safety risks.

"There are times when there will only be two or three feet of water in there but you can’t tell when jumping in and you don’t know what’s underneath,” he revealed. “And there are strong rip currents.”

There are also dangers for boat users themselves.

"We had an incident where a fisherman’s rope was tied across the entrance of the harbour and people were using it as a tight rope,” he said. “They just left it there and a fisherman only just spotted it at the last minute. It could have killed him.”

New warning signage has recently been installed ahead of what is likely to be another busy summer season.

But Mr McAdam noted: “There’s been signage there for years telling people that diving and jumping is forbidden but it is just being ignored.

"Trying to police it is a nightmare because you just get abuse.

“It’s gone on for long enough and unless it stops we’re not going to be able to get insurance and the fishermen would lose their livelihoods.

"If there was a terrible accident who does it come down to? We’ve got to take action once and for all to show that we’re done everything we can to stop it.

“If not, we’ll have consider closing it to the public and putting security fencing up which would be a great shame.”

Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson, local ward member on Northumberland County Council, added: “The county council has a large stake in Beadnell Bay, owning the car park and contracting out the boat launch.

"Safety is always the priority and people need to listen to the harbour master or risk losing access to the harbour.

"Jumping in the water around working boats is extremely dangerous. No fisherman or harbour user wants to be responsible for the death of someone in the water.”