1:21pm Thursday 28th June 2012
Morecambe Bay was in the news recently again when local inshore rescue teams and the Coastguard had what was possibly the busiest day on record for callouts.
The beautifully clear, sunny day had a lot to do with it.
We all know Morecambe Bay can be the most idyllic place to be on a day like this.
I am Deputy Station Officer at Bay Search and Rescue, an independent charity based at Flookburgh and Milnthorpe.
In the 11 years the team has been in operation we have seen at first hand what can happen when Mother Nature is not treated with respect.
In these instances the issues seemed to be people enjoying a good long walk on our endless lovely flat sands… which shouldn’t be a problem should it?
Unfortunately our tides come in at a rapid rate, funnelling into the Kent estuary and the famous ‘Arnside Bore’, which has been known to reach more than 10 miles an hour, with canoeists regularly surfing the bore from Silverdale to beyond Arnside viaduct.
If you are walking a few miles out on the sands and the tide comes in, it can either overtake you, or fill up around the edges, leaving you high and dry for a while on a raised sandbank, until that gets covered too!
Luckily the Bay is well served all round the perimeter from Morecambe RNLI with their hovercraft, the Arnside Coastguard team with a jet ski and Ulverston Inshore, plus another Coastguard team based at Walney.
Bay Search and Rescue operates at the top of the bay with two Hagglund all terrain amphibious tracked vehicles, which we find to be ideal for some of the callouts that occur, specialising as we do in quicksand rescue, especially large animals and vehicles.
Which brings us to the second perilous situation you can find yourself in out on the Bay on your relaxing walk; quicksand!
Again this year we have seen a number of quicksand-related incidents and it can catch even the most experienced locals out, as it is difficult to see, until in most cases you are in it, and you only need be ankle deep before you are in a position that you need assistance to get out.
We proved this on a re-enactment we did for BBC Coast a couple of years ago. I remember this well as, despite the many years’ experience of my team and the Arnside Coastguard crew, we couldn’t find any quicksand for miles – typical!
Usually you need not walk far as some of the most notorious areas are just off Arnside promenade, but they do not stay put, so you never know where you will encounter any.
This all sounds a bit ‘doom and gloom’ and I would not want to put anyone off enjoying our fantastic scenery, as it is one of my favourite places to be.
But I would advise everyone considering walking on the sands to check the tide timetables (available in local shops), let someone know when you will be back, take waterproof clothing, a mobile phone, and a map and compass is never a bad idea.
In fact treat the bay with all the preparation you would to do a Lake District hill walk.
If it was just a nice, big, safe bit of sand there would not be as many rescue teams like us around the edge.
In fact, if you fancy a ‘safe’ long walk across the Bay, why not join us on our annual fundraising Cross Bay Walk on Sunday, July 15?
Your participation by gaining sponsors to do this will help raise vital funds for the Bay Search and Rescue team The six-eight miles walk will be led by Cedric Robinson, the Queen’s Guide to the Sands. Some of the team will be walking and will be happy to discuss our role on the Bay For more details see www.baysearchandrescue.org.uk
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