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" The Morecambe Bay Sands Crossing "

Date & start time:      Saturday 7th May 2022.  10 am start for the walk.

Location of Start :     Arnside Promenade, Morecambe Bay, South Cumbria, Uk. ( SD 454 786 )

Places visited :          Arnside Pier, Blackstones Point, The River Kent, Grange over Sands.

Walk details :              6 miles, 40 ft of ascent, 2 hours 50 mins.

Highest point :           When crossing the railway bridge at the end !

Walked with :              Myself, Loes and the dogs, Dylan and Dougal (plus about 350 other people).

Weather :                      Sunshine and summer clouds, warm air, warm water.

                     

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. Licence number PU 100034184.

 

I had the opportunity to "Walk the Morecambe Bay Sands" on May 7th this year, something I've wanted to do for such a long time.

When the Friends of the Lake District announced that they were organising a trip, I signed up to take part.

It was classed as a Sponsored Walk, so along the way we were encouraged to raise money for this good cause.

Morning mist as I woke early in Loweswater . . . being up this early is not exactly a frequent event for me !

- - - o o o - - -

Morecambe Bay is on the diagonally opposite side of the Lakes

to Loweswater, so an hour and a half journey was in prospect.

 

I checked the forecast in order to get an idea of what to wear.

The Grange over Sands forecast suggested a cloudy day

so an extra layer was packed.

 

- - - o o o - - -

Loes and I set off over Whinlatter, where we witness a partial cloud inversion, or maybe it was just low cloud over the town.

Loes had 'Walked the Sands' a few years back but would accompany myself and the dogs today and be in charge of transport,

well at least get my car from the start point to the end point, so that we could get home again easily.

As we drove into Arnside at 9am the forecasted cloudy skies looked decidedly blue.

The meeting point for the walk was on the promenade at Arnside.

Loes would accompany myself and the dogs on the start of the walk, but would then double back and meet me after the crossing.

In the mean time she had friends living in Grange, on whom she planned to call for a chat while she waited.

I signed on at the Friends' tent ready for the walk.    The man in the hat and yellow top was Michael Wilson, the Queen's Guide to the Sands.

- - - o o o - - -

Safe passage over the estuary was the originally the responsibility of the Priories of Cartmel (for the River Kent) and the Priory of Conishead

for the Ullverston crossing (the River Leven).  Following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, a local Charity was set up

by the Duchy of Lancaster to ensure a guide was always on hand for these dangerous crossings of Morcambe Bay.

From 1963 to 2019 that guide was Cedric Robinson MBE who had held the position for over 50 years

and who was really responsible for the creation of the 'walk' as a recreational event.

That's where we're heading . . . Grange over Sands, some three and a quarter miles away across the estuary.

You can't walk directly there, due to the deep river channel and the chance of quicksands, so our walk would be nearly double that length today.

It took a while for everyone to arrive,

so we gathered on the old pier at Arnside and enjoyed a drink from the local cafe while we waited.

The pier was built to moor up larger boats that were used for coastal trading in the olden days.

It was originally paid for by the railway company as the 'new' railway viaduct had blocked access to the old wharf up river towards Milnthorpe.

The viaduct carries the West Coast Line from Lancaster via Sellafield, St Bees and on towards Carlisle.

There would no doubt be walkers on that train who would have parked their vehicles at the far end of the walk.

With their arrival the walking group would be complete and we would be ready to go.

The tide was still falling as we set off on the walk.

The first instruction was for everyone on the walk to gather at the far end of the promenade,

which would neatly split the walkers from other visitors to Arnside.

The Queen's Guide is now Michael Wilson, who has taken over the responsibility after the recent death of Cedric Robinson.

Like Cedric, Michael is also a Flookburgh Fisherman, well versed with the tidal waters of the estuary.

He would give us an introduction to the walk and a few basic pointers on what to do along the way.

Loes insisted on a photo of myself at the start of the walk

( just in case I got lost along the way ?? )

Team talk done it was time to be on the move . . . "Tide and time wait for no man" as they say.

First we must walk down river to the end of the headland.

We passed the coastguard building along the way.

The coastguard are responsible to sound the siren on a fast rising tide to warn of the arrival of a tidal bore at the village.

The siren is sounded approximately 15 to 20 minutes before the water is expected to arrive, as the bore can be up to a foot high

and so water levels can change rapidly and be a problem for people working or playing in the river.

We were joined today by Michael's partner Joanne, who was riding Cedric's own horse.

She had a fellow rider on the piebald horse and it turned out that this was the first 'crossing' that the new horse had undertaken.

Together they would stay with the group for the whole journey.

Plenty of folk were taking pictures . . . not just me !

The group spreads out as we walk down the coast, past the house at New Barns.

On this section of the walk the problem was not water but the slippery nature of the muddy rocks and pebbles that we had to occasionally cross.

Loes would turn around shortly and head back to the car, leaving me to walk on with the dogs.

- - - o o - - -

 

Sadly this 'walker'

who set off across the sands

never manage to make it

to its destination.

 

- - - o o o - - -

The long line of walkers, casual estimates suggested 300 to 400 people,

set out across the estuary from relative safety of Blackstone Point.

If you want to count them then click on the link and have a go yourself.

Click here or on the photo above for a larger version of this picture

The safe route has been marked out in advance by the guide using traditional twigs stuck in the sand.

With this number of walkers, we stop occasionally to re-group.

The walk is also accompanied by a fisherman's tractor . . . for rescue and insurance purposes should anyone become unwell on the walk.

Our Guide has several helpers with him today, all in yellow Sands Trust t-shirts.

Off again towards the main river crossing.

Along the way I actually met several friends from the Loweswater area who were also doing the walk.

First photo of (the backs) of Caroline and Richard.

The walk heads out on the sands . . . in the direction of the Heysham Power Station ten miles away across Morecambe Bay.

No . . . we weren't going to walk that far !

In mid bay we became aware of some other people on the opposite bank.

These were also marshals for the walk who had crossed earlier to check the sands.

Time for another stop to re-group.

Our group of Loweswater and Lorton friends, drawn together today by the same walk.

Richard and Caroline on the left, their friends, Mike and Pip from Grange over Sands (centre) and Pam and her husband Mike, to the right.

It was suggested I might like to be in the picture too, so cameras were swapped and Pippa took the photo.

- - - o o o - - -

Once everyone was together, instruction was given and the group moved off again . . . this time into the river.

Being low tide the water wasn't too high but there was an appreciable current.

It would only get up to knee-high mid channel today as the river was quite wide and therefore shallower at this point.

Mid channel the conversation level has risen with excitement

and the sound of quite so many legs splashing through the water at the same time will be an endearing memory.

The larger dogs were fine . . .
. . . but smaller ones sometimes had to be helped across.

There were six golden retrievers on the walk today and it was the river crossing that really excited them.

They had great fun splashing around and chasing each other as we all walked through the water.

Getting shallower now as we approach the western bank of the River Kent.

We made it across . . . but by no means dry-shod . . . but the crossing was done as we gathered on the slightly elevated sand bank on the opposite side.

The last of the walkers crossed the river section . . .

. . . and then peace descended on the river once again . . . and no-one was left stuck in the middle !

There now just remained the walk back up the other side of the River Kent to our destination . . . Grange over Sands.

The goldies had so much fun together on the crossing that I thought a picture of them all together might be a nice idea.

Getting six excited dogs to all sit for a photo was easier said than done.

But being retrievers it was just about possible, even if they didn't all look at the camera at the same time.

In no particular order . . . Dylan, Dougal, Meg, Inca, Maggie and Luna.

Owners Chris and Jane completed the picture.

- - - o o o - - -

 

More wherries marking the safe passage

as we gradually get closer to Grange.

 

This particular marker held a pair of sandals

which had presumably been dropped

on this or an earlier crossing.

 

When the owner reaches the other side

they may have a problem walking the promenade

as there was no chance to go back and collect them.

 

- - - o o - - -

Michael checks the time, as he chats to one of the Friends' staff, Stuart Clayton, who also walked the sands.

The main group arrive safely on the western bank of the river.

Time to wash any sand from your shoes and take to the grass that lines the edge of the estuary.

Still a short way to go, but it is plain sailing now.

Just pay attention and don't fall in the mud at the last minute . . . that includes you, the dogs.

We reach the other side, where the 'Friends of the Lake District' officials met us and offered us completer's certificates.

In the envelope too was information about how the sponsorship money raised today would be used in the future.

- - - o o o - - -

The walk was now complete but we continued the short distance along the prom towards the centre of Grange.

Signs on the walkway gave an idea of the view visitors could see.
I've superimposed the blue dots on, it based on my Gps track.

What was very interesting was that our route and in particular the river crossing, bore no resemblance to the Ordnance Survey map of the channel.

Apparently several years back the deep water was much closer to Grange, which goes to show how important a local guide is for such a journey.

The sands of Grange over Sands are now further out in the bay, as slow moving water has allowed marsh grass to grow close to shore.

The extent of the grass is also changing, so maybe the channel will move again and the sand reach the sea wall once more at some point in the future.

The building you see in the photo is the Grange Lido.  In its heyday it was the place to come and swim and spend a day with friends.

Sadly now it has closed and is a shadow of its former self.

It featured in the recent series of 'The Bay' drama on television if you think it looks familiar.

However help is on the way and there are plans to refurbish the site and bring it back into use.

Money has been raised locally and the builders are starting to drain the pool ready for its refurbishment and re-opening in the not too distant future.

Signboards on the promenade give us local information . . .
. . . including plans for the 'new' lido.

I'm meeting Loes here in Grange so this is as far as I go today.

Time to cross the railway bridge and meet her on the other side.

Physically the highest point of the walk . . . as I cross the bridge and look down on the Bay and the old lido.

A local street pays homage to the previous Queen's Guide to the Sands.
All this walking is hungry work, so Loes stop and find some lunch.

May I recommend the 'Clare House Sandwiches' and a pot of tea for two.

- - - o o o - - -

We walk up into town to Loes' friends Hilary and Paul's house where the car was parked.

They have a fine view of Morecambe Bay and the River Kent estuary from their front window and actually saw us crossing the sands today.

Loes's photo of the large group of walkers on the last part of the crossing, before we reached the end of this classic walk.

 

This was a charity walk, organised by the Friends of the Lake District

and was managed by Michael Wilson and the "Guide over the Sands Trust"

Prior to the walk I set up a fundraising page which is the page is still open to donations till the end of June 2022.

Your help in reaching my fund raising target would be most appreciated.

Click on the link if you feel you can help me support this worthwhile Lake District Charity.

https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/fundraisers/loweswatercams-morecambe-bay-walk

 

Should you wish to do the walk, the Guides are planning about nineteen crossings over the summer of 2022

including fundraising walks for the Save Grange Lido organisation and other charities. 

Please contact the Sands Trust yourself for the latest information about the walks and how to join them.

- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with my Panasonic Lumix Gx8 Camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

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Previous walk - 17th June 2017 - South to Arnside Knott 

A previous time up here - 1st May 2022 - Dean Scarecrow Festival