A DRAMATIC increase in the number of walkers getting caught up in quicksand has prompted a “stay off the beach” coastguard warning.

The Morecambe Bay coastline is one of the most perilous stretches of shoreline in the country and weather conditions this year have made the sands even more dangerous.

Arnside coastguard Nigel Capstick said the sudden rise in rescues was due to more people going to the beach in warm weather and the recent heavy rain making the sand more saturated and unstable.

He warned that if walkers around the Silverdale and Arnside area are not on a guided tour then they should not venture onto the sands.

“There is no telling where the quicksand is going to be and once you are in it above your knee then you have very little chance of getting out without someone’s help,” he said.

“One rescue recently involved a horse and its owner getting stuck in the sand with most of their bodies trapped, near Cotestone (near Carnforth). It took over four hours to free them, with just about every rescue organisation in the area coming down to help.

“A few days later somebody else got stuck in the sand five metres from the shore. We managed to free them in time but they were very lucky the tide wasn’t coming in. Everybody knows the tide comes in very quickly on that beach but not many realise the risks when quicksand is added to that - it can be fatal.

“Quicksand is very unpredictable, it moves along the beach and once you step in it, it changes very quickly from a liquid to a concrete substance.”

Last weekend the coastguard witnessed three teenage children in the middle of the estuary “literally tring to get themselves stuck” on a sandbank.

“If we had not been there to get them off the consequences could have been unthinkable, “ said Mr Capstick.

Morecambe Bay coastguards spend a lot of time on the beach warning people where the quicksand is.

“Visitors and residents have got to be aware that the estuary in Silverdale and Arnside is one of the most dangerous in the UK,” said Mr Capstick.

“We have a full rescue unit ready to help anyone in danger but we would advise people to stay safe and not to venture out onto the sands.”

South Lakeland District Council continues to work with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute and Arnside Parish Council to provide signs warning of the dangers but Mr Capstick said these were often ignored.