One of the best days of the summer for me, was a gorgeous cool-blue July Saturday morning on the prom, prom, prom at Arnside. The day was perfect – blue hazy skies; a light breeze. You could feel the excitement and anticipation – after all, this was a Cross Bay Walk, led by none other than the Queens Guide-Over-Sands, Cedric Robinson; legend in his own lifetime and a bit of a celebrity in these parts. We just had to go and shake his hand… We’d lived in the Lakes for 13 years now, and the walk had always been on our ‘to do’ list. There we stood, in front of the war memorial, with a couple of hundred other folk, a few dozen dogs and kids, kitted out with hats, sunscreen, and an eclectic combination of flip flops, some in ‘proper’ walking gear and sticks, and others in good old bare feet. We were all raising money for the Bay Search & Rescue – so another good reason to walk, – the charity that kept those men & women who bravely respond to call-outs in their own time and pluck people out of these now infamous, dangerous sands of Morecambe Bay. Beautiful, awesome, stunning and amazing wildlife habitat: lethal to humans: approach with care.
We stopped at the local shop to buy cake, coffee and pies – the essentials of life, although the discussion did also skirt around not drinking too much coffee as obviously there are no loo stops on the way in the middle of the Bay. No trees to hide behind for a sneaky pee. But at 9am on a Saturday morning, you’ve got to have a brew that’s for sure.. The welcome sounded and off we went… a long snake of people, round the coast and the cliff-tops through the caravan parks and congregating, waiting for our turn to climb through the narrow gap in the trees and spill out onto the actual sands themselves, like eager little ants onto the beach below. The sun beat down, and a lovely breeze blew across the Bay as a few hundred of us began the fantastic walk across this amazing landscape, with the biggest of skies and beach ahead of us, views out to the Isle of Man and beyond…Those of us who had any shoes on soon took them off and walked barefoot for the rest of the day, that lovely, amazing feeling of bare feet on sand, hard on the ridges, and soft on the shale; the broken cockle shells coarse on the bottom of our feet and the mud patches cooling and soothing us. We walked as if we were led by Moses to the Red Sea, and when Cedric pulled us all to a halt in front of one of the deep channels, he slowly lifted his hand to pause us all; waiting for the safe time to cross, – we held our breath, almost in unison, as if it truly was about to part in front of us….
Alas, part it didn’t – time to wade in… and on a day of soaring temperatures into the 80s, that wade in the water was bliss indeed – thigh deep; kids on shoulders, or swimming in the channels; dogs of all sizes loving the chance for a swim; and walkers, old and young, squealing with the softness of the water lapping around and soothing our swollen, overheated red feet. We enjoyed 3 of these channels and in between experienced the very strange sensation of patches of quicksand which I can only describe as balancing precariously on pieces of cardboard, on top of very watery puddles which feels likely to pull you under at any moment… we all talked and shuddered at the power of mother nature and the stories these sands could tell… thank goodness for Cedric, our careful, wise and experienced guide.We walked and talked, and the dogs ran and swam. The kids walked, gathered crabs and shells, and we ate our snacks and drank plenty. The conversation flowed between family and friends, and new chats with strangers brought together in a common cause, talking, laughing and even singing together. Toward the end, it was more of a desperate plod, as we sweated under the mid-day sun, walking over the marram grass at Kents Bank; climbing our way up and over to the railway crossing, dreaming of cold beer. There we all met up with Cedric, ever cheerful, not even broken out into a sweat, greeting us at the gate, signing his books, and we quietly limped to the railway station for drinks & ice cream. We collapsed in a heap and gently sat sweating in the only shade we could find, as the mud dried to sand and we flexed our bare, sore feet.
The sun beat down…we eventually clambered onto the train, chugging over the viaduct, and round to Arnside. That cooling beer underneath the umbrellas outside the Albion, overlooking the sands we had just walked, felt like the most satisfying moment in a long time. It had been quite a day…
Jane Watson is an occasional writer, fell-walker and singer. By day, she’s also Marketing manager for the National Trust.