Morecambe Bay Guides – Lancashire
Knowledgeable local guides have escorted travellers across Morecambe Bay for centuries.
Spanning the coastline of northern Lancashire and southern Cumbria, Morecambe Bay has dangerous quicksands and fast moving tides. Until the Reformation in the sixteenth century, guides were provided by local religious institutions. Conishead Priory was responsible for the Leven Sands (in the Leven estuary) between Ulverston and Cark, and Cartmel Priory for the Lancaster or Kent Sands (in the Kent estuary) between Kent’s Bank and Hest Bank. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Duchy of Lancaster assumed responsibility for appointing the guides, making its first appointments in 1538.
The guides were provided with lands from which they received revenue. They also occupied a house each rent free and received a small salary from the Duchy. Salaries for the guides were met from revenue from lands which the Duchy received at the Dissolution, but these were gradually granted away.
The posts were always much sought after, as they conferred status amongst local fisherman. In 1873 an inquiry into the appointment and duties of the guides was instigated by a local justice. In 1876 the Duchy asked the Charity Commissioners to prepare a scheme to control the guides; this scheme remains in force today and responsibility for the Guides is devolved to the Trustees of an independent charity – Charity for Providing Guides Over the Kent and Leven Sands.
The guides’ duties were marking the channel each day with a safe route and acting as guides when crossings were possible. At the time of the 1949 Survey of Public Routes, there were arguments as to whether a path could be defined. Eventually it was agreed that it should be left to the guides to determine routes, due to the unpredictability of tide, wind and weather.
Nowadays, guided walks take place between May and September each year. Times vary depending on the tides. The walk, which currently starts from Arnside and ends on Kents Bank, is very dangerous and should not be undertaken without the official guide. For more information see www.morecambe.co.uk//walk.html