CEDRIC Robinson was ‘born and bred’ on the Morecambe Bay sands, and has no plans to turn his back on them yet – despite turning 80 on Sunday.
The Queen’s Guide to the Sands must have walked every inch of the notoriously dangerous Bay, and has led hundreds of thousands of people safely across it, with visitors travelling far and wide every year for the experience.
Coming from a family of fishermen, Cedric, of Grange-over-Sands, spent a lot of time cockle picking with his father as a youngster, and it was then that he was asked to consider the guiding role.
“It was the officer of the sands that mentioned the former guide was retiring – I had never thought of it before but after he had called round with the details I decided to go for it,” he said.
“I was never nervous going out on the sands, but being chosen for the role meant I had to get used to people. I had never been out of the village and it was all the same people – everybody knew everybody else. “ Almost 50 years on from his appointment in October, 1963, groups of up to 500 people now flock to Arnside for their tour across the sands through spring and summer.
“I am surprised at how many people have come to do the walk, and how many want to come back,” said Cedric.
“I have taken people across on their birthdays, scattered ashes on the Bay, seen family get-togethers– there’s always something different.”
He has also led many groups doing the walk for charity, and said the money raised had been ‘phenomenal’.
Deputy station officer at Bay Search and Rescue Paul Calland said the funds raised had made a big difference to the charity.
“We have done the cross-bay walks for a number of years and the money raised just about covers our biggest running cost, which is the insurance for our fleet of vehicles – it makes a huge difference to us.
“When you go out with Cedric it’s great because he has such a wealth of experience. He can tell you so much about the bay and what is going on out there.”
And there are also some famous faces who have braved the Bay – one of the most memorable for Cedric being chef and presenter Rick Stein.
“He was filming and kept forgetting his words,” said Cedric.
“He had to stick to a script and they would say to me: ‘Can you just do that again.’ I could, but I said it probably wouldn’t be the same. I was trying to hold in my laughter because I was on film.”
Other faces trusting their safety in Cedric have included comedian Ade Edmondson, Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays Hayley in Coronation Street, and Prince Philip, who crossed the bay in 1985 by horse and carriage.
Whether Royalty is expected or not, Cedric regularly monitors the ever-changing sands to ensure each and every guided walk is completely safe.
“The river is always on the move but more so now that we get more rain, so I have to spend a lot more time out there,” he said. “I look out every day to study the sands – I have a look at the patterns and how it changes. Every year there are dramatic changes and they take me a few days to suss out.
“For 25 years I led the walks from Hest Bank, then at one stage they could only go from Silverdale, and now the route goes from Arnside to Kents Bank.
“Always on the Friday before a Saturday walk we plan the route. It has to be renewed for each walk because the tide takes away our markers.”
And although playing the most prominent part, Cedric does have three ‘very good’ helpers who are all retired.
“It would be nearly impossible for just one man to do the job,” he said.
Asked what will happen when he can no longer carry out the role, Cedric said he simply believed it would not be the same.
“Still, I have no plans to retire just yet,” he added.
“I have known nothing other than the sands and I love them – they just draw me. As long as I feel good I’ll keep going. People still have a job keeping up with me – I’m not a slow walker!”
Adding to Cedric’s two big milestones this year, he will publish his ninth book. Time and Tide: 50 Golden Years on Morecambe Bay is to be released on June 15. To order visit www.gnbooks.co.uk