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Cross Bay Walks - Guidance for walkers and organisers

Guided walks across Morecambe Bay - background

The recorded history of people walking across Morecambe Bay goes back many centuries. Until the coming of the railway in the 1850s, a trek across the sands by foot or horse drawn carriage was the only way of avoiding the lengthy and poorly maintained coastal road route. In order to reduce the many cases of drowning the first official guides to the Bay were appointed by the Crown in the 1500s, a practice which continues to this day.

Safety guidance and risk assessment

Morecambe Bay is the largest intertidal area in the UK and presents a number of well documented hazards to the ill prepared and unwary. Weather, tides, quick sands, unpredictable channels, remoteness and the speed of change in conditions all add to the risks. It is essential that anyone attempting to walk across the bay must seek the support of a competent guide with real experience of the bay environment.

In recent years the popularity of cross bay walks has increased exponentially with average group numbers increasing considerably and interest being expressed by different parties in organising and participating in the cross bay walk experience.

This guidance has been drawn up by Lancaster City Council with South Lakeland District Council following consultation with the HM Coastguard, Police and local operators as part of a cross boundary working group.

It is aimed at individuals and organisations wishing to organise public walks across the sands of Morecambe Bay. This guidance is not law in itself but provides a minimum benchmark that will help in demonstrating compliance with the duties placed on organisers by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and related regulations.

Operators are free to adopt alternative methods of operation so long as they can demonstrate a level of safety that is reasonably practicable.

The risk assessment is not an off-the-shelf tool and must be tailored to each walk.

Cross bay working group

In 2010 an inter-agency working group was established to provide advice and guidance to anyone wishing to take walking parties into Morecambe Bay. The group consisted of Lancaster City Council, South Lakeland District Council, HM Coastguard, Lancashire Constabulary, Lancashire Fire and Rescue and Walk Guides.The group produced the guidance and risk assessment documents published here.

These documents are tailored to the organisers and leaders of cross bay walks. We have published them freely for members of the public to see the risks that the group feels are the most pertinent to the people undertaking the walk and the environment which they are entering.

Last updated: 18 October 2016

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