I CAN’s CEO Virginia Beardshaw walks across Morecambe Bay to raise money as an I CAN Champion
Well, we did it. And ‘we’ is the operative word: it turned out that I was one of 420 people, plus a miscellany of over excited dogs of every shape, size and colour. We were guided by Cedric, the ‘Queen’s Guide’, who spends his summers taking groups across the perils of Morecambe Bay. Mary Hartshorne and Jonothon Wright from I CAN kept me company, along with a stalwart group of friends and family.
And it was a perfect day to be beside (or in this case ‘in’) the seaside: sunny with a slight haze but never too hot because of a gorgeous sea breeze.
We started from the beach at Arnside, the tide still running out as we walked around the headland, massed on the beach beneath it, and then set off across the bay. The sand glittered in the sunshine, but was reassuringly firm underfoot. No quicksand!
Very quickly we shed trainers and socks and began an extended beach walk, with waves the only missing feature. By then the sea had retreated to the far horizon, leaving us with miles and miles of sand, crisscrossed with occasional channels. The open space under a huge sky was immense – it felt like being an extra in a Hollywood epic. And what an odd feeling, to be in the middle of a space normally filled by the sea. Literally the middle of nowhere. The sheer scale of the emptiness was disorienting: I soon lost all sense of which shoreline was which, where the Lake District was and where Barrow-in-Furness was on the far horizon.
And then a wide channel stretched out before us. Cedric made us line up on the edge, and then, at his whistle, we waded through. The scale was Biblical; like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea in a film by Cecil B DeMille. We only lacked a burning bush. Though I’m not sure the Israelites would have recognised the Dachsunds gamely swimming alongside us.
As we paddled through I had my first (indeed only) brush with fear: I trod on a squishy flapping thing. The next minute Mary did too. What were they? Hapless flounders? Mine definitely got away, more frightened of me than I was of it, no doubt.
We walked on. The sands got drier. Tiny flecks of Marram grass and samphire began poking through. In time we were on the salt marshes near Kent Bank, Lake District peaks in the far distance, sheep grazing peacefully in the sunshine. Time to peel off from the masses and have a shady picnic on the shore. There, we watched the tide come in, engulfing all the sands again as it surged in.
Crossing Morecambe Bay was an otherworldly ‘out of time’ experience, quite perfect in its strangeness and its beauty. I have no sense of how long it took or how far we walked. The tracks we trod were created when crossing the sands on horses and carts were an infinitely easier way of reaching Barrow than to go round by land – as long as you avoided the miles of mud and quick sand that could do you in. Hence the Queen’s guide, whose job was to take travellers across in safety.
Now Cedric does it all for charity – in my case for I CAN in its 125th year. Thanks so very much to everyone who sponsored me on my Morecambe Bay adventure. And be inspired to go yourselves – it was wonderful, every minute.
If you would like to sponsor those who took part in the Morecambe Bay challenge, you can do so here, or if you would like to take part in a 125 Challenge yourself, please visit www.ican.org.uk/125challenge or email email@example.com for more information.