FOUR weeks into The Westmorland Gazette’s Safety on the Sands campaign and people are still putting themselves in extreme danger by walking out unguided onto Morecambe Bay. Reporter STEPHANIE MANLEY went to find out whether warning signs could be part of the problem.
When the Safety on the Sands campaign was launched, rescue volunteers criticised some of the Bay’s 60 warning signs as ‘old’ and ‘tatty’.
To assess the truth in this, and also the consistency of the signs, which span from Bardsea to Silverdale, I set out on two sweltering hot days last week, armed with a map and a camera.
First I drove through Sandside, to Arnside, and then walked along the vil-lage’s coastal path, past the coastguard station. I counted 17 signs.
Ten of these were donated to the parish council last year by United Utilities, and so there were some old next to new, but the number still appeared plentiful.
The ones along the promenade were particularly shiny and obvious, but when walking further around the Bay, towards New Barns, I felt they were less in-your-face.
On two occasions this was due to overgrowing grass and weeds. As I walked back I noticed four or five people right out in the middle of a channel, knee-deep in water, no doubt completely oblivious to the risks they faced – I called the coastguard who advised them of the danger they were in over the tannoy.
Next I headed to Silverdale, and straight away noticed the small, but visible, danger sign at the entrance to the shore.
I parked up at The Dip - a popular place to visit - and had to search hard for signs.
The cove is a beautiful place and the water looks tempting and this has been a draw to many people who get stuck metres from where I stood.
There was one sign at the other entrance to the beach. But if you had parked where I did and gone to paddle, you would be unaware of the potential danger.
On the other side of the Bay, at Bardsea Country Park, the situation was similar.
I did locate three signs at this spot, but I spoke to a couple of locals who said they had never really noticed them. They said they knew the dangers so did not look – but surely if the signs were doing their job everyone would not be able to help but notice them?
There were prominent signs at Greenodd picnic area and at Canal Foot, Ulverston – where many were caught out by tides last summer – the sign was clearly visible close to benches where people sit to admire the coastal view.
Along the promenade at Grange, there were signs at the entrance to the sands, although there were only a couple along the front.
It was hard to compare place-to-place because there is much more coastline at somewhere like Arnside, in contrast to a picnic spot.
There are also miles and miles of paths where people could enter the sands, and I realise that there cannot be a sign every metre – there will always have to be a compromise between getting the message across and ruining the beautiful sea view.
Personally though, I felt finding the warning signs to be a much tougher task than it ought to have been. I know that some people will never be told, but it seemed more could be done to advise those who would take note.