West Coast: Blackpool and Morecambe Bay Coast


West Coast: Blackpool and Morecambe Bay

Nicholas Crane and the team explore the dangerous sand flats of Morecambe Bay under the watchful eye of an experienced guide.


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# Listen to the girl

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# As she takes on half the world

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# Moving up and so alive... #

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There'll always be a Blackpool. Still going, with the cheeky postcards,

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the whirl of candyfloss and karaoke.

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Here, the Ribble Estuary settles into the vast five-mile swathe of sand,

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perfect for deck chairs, donkeys, pack-a-macs and chips.

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# ..Walking back to you

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# Is the hardest thing that I could do... #

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Blackpool boomed as a fleeting escape for whole townfuls of workers from the Lancashire mills,

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people new to the luxury of holidays.

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Today, it's overrun with the lads and ladettes of Scotland.

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This is the seaside people like to be beside.

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I'm very proud of Blackpool. It's my home town. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else,

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I like it here.

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"Sand-grown" means that you're born and bred here.

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Near the sands or on the beach.

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I wasn't actually born on the beach, but that's what it means. Like a Cockney's born

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within the sound of Bow bells, a "sand-grown" is born in Blackpool.

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I remember coming here as a kid to the tower, and coming up here, I was quite frightened.

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I wanted to hold onto the side,

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I wasn't keen on the height at all.

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At this time of year, I've got to replace or check some 10,000 lamps on the tower.

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They get battered over the winter in the winds. One of my other jobs is...

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actually cleaning the Walk of Faith, a glass panel in the floor.

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It obviously gets dirty. It's 300 foot up in the air,

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so it's slightly different than a normal window to clean.

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It concentrates your mind when you're at 300 feet. If you make a mistake, that's it.

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If you're scared of heights, you won't get used to it. You can either do it or you can't.

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If you're not happy with it, there's no point trying.

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Coming up to Easter, when everything is kicking in and people are starting to come back to the town,

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there are noisy areas and places where crowds are a problem.

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But it's my town, I'm not going anywhere, it's a great place.

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But Blackpool's carnival atmosphere comes at a cost.

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With stag and hen nights turning the town into a binge-drinking capital

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and one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the UK,

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the cheeky postcard has caught up with the times.

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The Blackpool strip gives way

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to the magnificent Morecambe Bay.

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Over 120 square miles, the tides recede completely,

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exposing a dizzying expanse of sand flats and quicksands.

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It's a place of beauty, solitude and menace

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for our historian, Neil Oliver.

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There's a long history of people who have perished on the sands of Morecambe Bay.

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Most recently, it was a band of Chinese cockle pickers

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who were drowned when they were cut off by the incoming tide.

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Over the centuries, hundreds have died in the bay, but that hasn't stopped locals and visitors alike

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wanting to venture out onto the sands.

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You have to have respect for an area like this. It changes...

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every morning you get up and look out of the window.

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I study the bay, I study the tides, I like to look out there.

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I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

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I just think it's a wonderful place.

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Cedric Robinson knows the perils of the quicksands like no-one else. He's spent the last 42 years

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guiding walkers safely across the bay.

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This is one of the strangest landscapes I've ever been in, I think.

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It is a wonderful environment, Morecambe Bay,

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and I believe it is the largest tidal estuary in Britain.

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I mean, it is a dangerous place, but not if you're out there with someone who knows what they're doing.

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We'd better put a marker in here, I think. Just work it down into the sand.

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'Cedric still uses the traditional laurel branches to mark a safe route.

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'His knowledge comes with years of experience.'

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What are you looking for as you're putting these in?

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Well, with being on the sands all my life,

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I can read these sands like you would open up a newspaper in the morning and read it.

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And...it's only with following the sands and studying them, which I do.

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I live right on the edge. I get up and have my breakfast and I can look right across the bay.

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If there's a combination of high tides, heavy rainfall and strong winds,

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then it is a totally different environment to today.

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And distance is so deceptive when you're out here. So deceptive.

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A few years ago, there was four lads came to Morecambe,

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it was a summer's evening and they went for a stroll.

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Two of them were more adventurous and took their shoes and socks off and went out into the bay.

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Within ten minutes, they drowned.

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The distances are so great and the sands so flat,

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it's hard to believe how fast the tide can come in and how deep the waters can suddenly become.

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And that's the mistake it's just too easy to make.

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The infamous Morecambe quicksand forms in large dips, known locally as "melgraves",

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along the river channels after high tides.

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The sand becomes supersaturated with water until it can no longer support the weight of a person.

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Within a few strides of our safe route,

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the firm sand suddenly gives way.

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-Now, the stick's going further there, look.

-That's... That's amazing.

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Look at that, it's going in deeper, better still.

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Fantastic, look how it's moving!

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It feels like a skin of sand over the water.

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-Look at that stick going in now.

-Yeah.

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Eh? Oh, this is good here!

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I'm not pleased about how much you're enjoying this, Cedric.

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Let's have a look at Neil, where's he going?

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A little bit to go yet, Neil.

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I like being in this much danger. This is good!

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Oh!

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Wow! That's amazing, look at it!

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-Yeah.

-It's like breaking the skin

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-on a rice pudding or something.

-It is, yeah. Come on... Come on...

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Cedric's expertise is no mere hobby.

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So treacherous are these sands

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that a special appointment was made,

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Queen's Guide to the Sands.

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How did the post of official guide come about?

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Well, there was so many people lost their lives.

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This was in the middle 1500s, 1530s, I think it was, there was a petition got up and presented to the King,

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and from that time on, they were royalty-appointed.

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'Cedric is now the 25th

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'in the long line of guides

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'appointed ever since.'

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What happens when you retire?

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That'll be the saddest day of my life, won't it?

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I just enjoy what I do.

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But somebody has to follow in the footsteps of the sands guide.

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Hundreds follow in my footsteps every weekend.

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I just think it's a wonderful place, I have such a love of the bay,

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and...but respect as well.

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Nicholas Crane and the team visit the coastal areas of Blackpool and Morecambe Bay. They explore the dangerous sand flats of the bay under the watchful eye of an experienced guide and learn the skills involved in both cleaning and lighting Blackpool tower.


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