Tackling shifting sands for good causes
Thousands of fundraisers have taken on the Bay Walk challenge over the years, providing a huge boost to local charities. SHELAGH PARKINSON stepped out on the scenic sands to find out why it's still so popular
Aside from a decision about what to wear - wellies or flip-flops? - it didn’t help that in the days before our Morecambe Bay walk a certain popular soap featured a character stuck up to his neck in sinking sand.
But when your guide has been leading this famous walk for more than 50 years, ensuring folk get across the treacherous shoreline, you know you are in safe hands.
Cedric Robinson might be over 80, but the Queen’s Guide to the Sands knows every inch of the notoriously dangerous bay.
Our party of assorted cousins, friends and two dogs was among 700 making the trek that day.
We joined a group of around 300 completing the eight mile walk in aid of the Blue Skies Appeal for Blackpool Victoria Hospital, but there were also many other charities represented including Cancer Care.
Our route was from picturesque Arnside to Kents Bank, and after picnics and loo breaks, we set off initially round the stony edge of the beach and through a tree-lined caravan park before reaching the beach and heading out towards the distant horizon.
Either barefoot or old trainers which you didn’t mind getting soaked, was the preferred choice of footwear.
Gradually the assembled crowd strung itself out like a pilgrimage drawn onwards towards some mysterious destination.
Instinctively everyone stayed within an invisible barrier and only at one point did a few folk find themselves sinking above the ankle into the sand.
They were quickly pulled out but it was a scary reminder of why this bay has claimed so many lives in the past.
Coming from a family of fishermen, Cedric learned how to read the movements of the channels in the bay early on when he went cockle picking with his father as a youngster.
Today’s walks are meticulously planned, and branches can be seen poking out of the sand at various intervals to mark the route.
We were accompanied by a tractor and assistant guides who every now and again stop the trail so everyone can catch up before the next section.
This happens just before the walk changes direction - cutting corners to keep up could be fatal - so it is vital everyone holds the line.
After a couple of hours we can see gushing water directly ahead, and trousers are quickly rolled up while the smaller dogs jump into their owners hands.
This is the tricky bit, as we wade through the incoming channels of the River Kent.
The water swells up to our knees and those taking photos hang on tight to phones and cameras as anything dropped would soon be swept away.
It doesn’t take long though before everyone is safely through to the other side and we begin heading back to shore.
Throughout the trek, we have been accompanied by stunning views over the sands, across to an endless blue horizon and inland to the Lancashire fells.
Finally after nearly four hours, solid land is within striking distance and everyone streams off the sands at Kents Bank.
It has been thirsty work for both dogs and humans and we retire for well deserved refreshments before jumping on board the train for the 10 minute journey back to Arnside.
This particular walk raised about £7,000 for the Blue Skies Hospitals Fund which raises money to support health care at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Ann Hedley, interim head of fundraising at Blue Skies, said: “Every day I’m amazed by the generosity of spirit of our supporters.
“The atmosphere and camaraderie on the Morecambe Bay Walk just blew me away.
“This is the fifth time that I’ve taken part in it and it definitely was the best one that I’ve experienced.
“I can’t thank everyone enough and I hope that they’ll also join us for our next walk on September 30 through the Illuminations here in Blackpool.”
The guided walk which Blue Skies took part in was the first of the 2017 summer, but they are held on various weekends until September.
• To find out more, go to www.yourguide2thelakedistrict.co.uk/events-in-the-lake-district/morecambe-bay-walks/