By LINDSAY SUTTON, author of ‘Sands of Time’
IT may be a labour of love for them, but the volunteer helpers are vital.
As the number of cross-Bay walkers has increased over the years, so has the need for assistants to the Queen’s Guide. With several hundred walkers on the go, it’s important that trusted and experienced individuals are there to help people on their way.
They blend in, chatting and informing walkers of the route and pointing out features around the Bay. But they always keep an eye out for potential danger – a patching of quicksand; stragglers who have fallen behind; anyone who might wander away from the chosen route; or for those perhaps flagging at certain points.
After all, it is a 3.5 hour trek and as we all know, the vast ‘wet Sahara’ that is Morecambe Bay has had its victims over the years, which is the very reason a Queen’s Guide was appointed in the first place.
Individual and group responsibility of those participating is essential, so that everyone can enjoy the exhilaration and the achievement of doing the ‘Great Trek.’ However, it’s comforting to know that guidance from volunteers is on hand, particularly when fording the channel of the River Kent. Not so much ‘Yee-hi’ as knee high on most occasions.
So, who are these volunteer assistants?
Michaels’ Partner Joanne Hales ensures all our social media and website are up to date for the Guide Over Sands Trust. Joanne and Molly are keen walkers and are very supportive to The Queen’s Guide Michael and shall be joining Michael on the Bay walks in 2021. Bay walk Bookings are managed via Michael and Joanne direct you can get in touch with them via – firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Grange side is former teacher Rick Worsey, who goes out with Cedric and Michael Wilson to recce and mark out the proposed route before each walk weekend. On walk days, Rick meets the party of walkers just off White Creek, ready to play a key role in marshalling the party across the River Kent and ‘home’ to Kent’s Bank Station at journey’s end.
Rick a keen sailor in the Lakes, and has a background in marine outdoor pursuits, and over the years has studied the ecology and the patterns of the Bay under the guidance of Cedric and latterly, with Michael Wilson. In themselves, they have passed-down knowledge from generations of Bay fishermen, and that is comforting for walkers.
Again, from the Grange side of the Bay, Michael Troughton will bring out the ‘back-up tractor’ on each walk. Michael is a retired mechanical engineer from Flookburgh. He’s a personal friend of Queen’s Guide Michael Wilson and has gained first-hand knowledge of the Kent and Leven estuaries, having been out shrimping and cockling with Michael. The tractor gives reassurance to walkers that in case anything happens to an individual, they can be assisted.
Again, from the Grange side of the Bay, Wayne Acraman will bring out the ‘back-up tractor or a Quad bike’ on each walk to support Michael Troughton. Wayne is a Part time Cockle Picker from Flookburgh. He’s also a personal friend of Queen’s Guide Michael Wilson, and is always on hand to help at any time. The Quad and Tractor gives reassurance to walkers that in case anything happens to an individual, they can be assisted.
From the other side of the Bay in Arnside, the guide’s other volunteers take the strain from the start of the walks. Having travelled by train round from the Grange side, Avril and Jon Trevorrow bring a wealth of experience to the task in hand. For nearly 20 years, Jon has been a crew member, mechanic, and navigator on the offshore RNLI lifeboat at Lytham St Anne’s, south of Blackpool, while Avril was one of the shore crew for the lifeboat station. When Avril and Jon, both keen walkers and mountaineers, moved to South Lakeland, they wanted to play their part in cross-Bay walks. They have done so on a regular basis, bringing their experience and knowledge to the role of volunteer helpers.
Bay fisherman Stephen Clarke brings his knowledge and calm disposition to the team. He lives on the Morecambe side of the Bay and has always been a spare-time fisherman while holding down his job as an inspector with North West Water, then with United Utilities. When he took early retirement, he asked Cedric to teach him all he knew about ‘fishing by foot’ in the Bay. Years on, Stephen fishes every week and puts his experience of the sands and channels to good use on cross-Bay walks as a volunteer.
Escorting walkers from Arnside to the sands often includes John Holland, who has known Cedric for nearly 30 years. John, a business consultant, became a firm friend of ‘Ced’ and his wife Olive whilst being on contract for BAE at Barrow. He and his wife Mary began to stay In South Lakeland, based at their holiday caravan at Holker. They explored the area and the coastal fringes of the Bay, which increasingly included the experience of doing the cross-Bay walks. John recalls: “Cedric then encouraged me to join the walks as one of his ‘wingmen.’ One thing led to another, and here I am still doing it, as and when I can.”
Joining the volunteers is John Woodward, who works in Lancaster, lives in the Furness area, and is celebrated as a pioneer of barefoot running. For more than 30 years he has been leading groups of runners crossing the Duddon Estuary and has now offered his services to Michael Wilson as a volunteer on cross-Bay walks.
The youngest volunteer on our team is Isla Daggett. Isla takes care of our Bay Walk certificates at the end of each walk. Certificates are available for a minimum donation of £1.50.
Then finally there is my good self, Lindsay Sutton. The official spec says: time-served journalist, TV and radio broadcaster, author and award-winning travel writer. But I prefer to dwell on the pleasure of having written the book ‘Sands of Time,’ which looks at the changes in and around Morecambe Bay through the eyes and experience of Cedric Robinson during his 55 years as Queen’s Guide. I have known Cedric for more years than I care to remember and have become a personal friend over that time. I act as a volunteer on the walks and I’m proud to have played a part in helping along the handover from Cedric to Michael Wilson.
And finally, let us pay testimony to all those other individuals who have helped carry the baton. For years, Mike Carter was a stalwart, a long and trusted helper who, unfortunately, had to take a back seat through health considerations.
‘Tractor John’ – John Barber to Grange folk, has used his skills in the vehicle department over the years to help keep Cedric’s old tractor up and running. John would drive it down to the sands for Cedric then to take over, either for a recce or to cross the Bay, with a final check, before meeting up with the walkers on the sands off White Creek.
Retired businessman Barry Keelan, who lived at Kent’s Bank, was a great help to Cedric too, until the pull of children and grandchildren led him and his wife Jane to return to their native Cheshire.
Such are the changes to the Bay walks, and to the personnel involved – but each one is remembered for their valuable contribution.
Images coming soon…..