M6XJP walks walks across Morecambe Bay for the RNLI

The RNLI Cross Bay Walk, also known as the Morecambe Bay Walk, took place on the 25th June.

The Lifeboat Amateur Radio Society established a special event station at Holker Hall, the finishing point for the walk, under the callsign GB5RNLI. However, we also, rather fiendishly, thought it would be a good idea to send Chris (M6XJP), our Treasurer, on the walk as our roving reporter. He and his wife bravely tackled the event and here is his story (also have a look at his image gallery) – thanks Chris (and Mrs Chris)…

The weather in Morecambe Bay isn't always good

Visit Chris' (M6XJP) pictoral record of the event

It was a damp, grizzly, light battleship grey day as I pulled back the curtains rather earlier than planned following a very pleasant evening in Ye Olde Fighting Cock Inn.

Earlier in the year at a monthly club meeting (Southport & District Amateur Radio Club), Derek (G7LFC), our ex Chairman and Chairman of the Lifeboat Amateur Radio Society (LARS), asked for volunteers to assist with a Special Event Station to be run in support of the annual RNLI Cross Bay Walk.

This walk is advertised as a demanding 8 miles, depending on the tide, across the treacherous Morecambe Bay Flats between Arnside and Kents Bank. The walk is ably led by Cedric Robinson, The Official Queen’s Guide to The Sands, to whom we were all most grateful for our safe passage.

As a competitive yachtsman of some years (sixty seven but don’t tell anyone) and life-long supporter of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) how could I refuse.

As the days went by Derek kept mentioning that what would be really great would be a Special Event Station/P. I was convinced (or should the word be “conned”!).

Amateur Radio operator Chris (M6XJP) gets ready

Visit Chris' (M6XJP) pictoral record of the event

The equipment was kept simple, the trusty Yaesu FT 817, integral battery with a 20AH slab as power back up. I also took the Yaesu VX8 (submersible!) with its higher capacity battery as a back up rig. The antenna was a one metre length of copper pipe with an MFJ ground plane conversion kit mobile antenna base strapped to one end. The actual antenna was my dual band mobile off the car. The completed antenna kit with its RG58 patch lead was then strapped to the side of my waterproof rucksack.

Our plan was to stay Friday night in Arnside – my wife had decided to take part in the walk as well – have a leisurely morning for a mid-day start across the road and get the train back from Kents Bank at the end. All very civilised but we had not accounted for Network Rail who had decided to repair the Kent Viaduct across the flats that weekend. We had to get up early, breakfast, drive to Holker Hall on the other side and get an RNLI bus back to Arnside!

At this stage may I pay tribute to the RNLI staff at Holker Hall, Lisa Connor, Laura Hickman-Sparkes and Liz Sparkes. The organisation was tremendous as they had to cope with the change in logistics and some three or four hundred willing walkers.

The Hughes Family (G7LFC, M3LFC, M6BUB and M6COV) together with colleagues from our Southport club and Merion ARC (MW0RHD and MW3RHD) were busily setting up the base station at Holker Hall, GB5RNLI.

And so, having been bussed to the start, it was time to register – and here thanks go to more RNLI staff, Tabea Heckrodt, Jayne Morris and Jean Raffaelli for their speedy and efficient check in and registration. It was also time for a radio check – 59 both ways.

...Go! RNLI Cross Bay Walk starts

Visit Chris' pictoral record of the RNLI Cross Bay Walk

At 1245 BST we set off in wet and low cloud base conditions in a south-westerly direction around the coastal path/beach for about 1.5Km. We then turned inland along a lane and through the caravan park for another km until we reached a small rocky cove on the edge of the Sands. Here we waited for the last of the ebb  – time for another radio check and still 59 both ways.

It was now time to get our feet wet as we set off in a large group across the bay. The sand was quite accommodating so a brisk pace followed. We could see Kents Bank on the other side through the cloud. It didn’t look that far – however, after a short while we took a sudden turn to the left and headed out to sea, walking parallel to the coast – Isle of Man here we come!

It soon became clear that the crossing would not be a direct one. After about another forty minutes, a grateful right turn towards our goal and a couple of “catch up” stops, we reached a true waters edge – a gulley. This was the remains of the River Kent at low water. How deep? We were soon to find out. A quick briefing by our illustrious guide – form up in extended line – and into the unknown. Not as cold as we thought it would be and only just over the knee in depth.

RNLI Cross Bay Walk - What a place for an Amateur Radio QSO

Visit Chris' (M6XJP) pictoral record of the event

Having been calling at times throughout the crossing with no result other than checks with GB5RNLI as to our progress, I received a response from Dave M6DHV whose QTH was on Walney Island. Regrettably, as we were about to set off on the controlled gulley crossing, time for a QSO was limited but thank you Dave, your call made it all worthwhile.

Once through the water the going became harder. The sand was much softer and there were several patches of the famous quicksand to skirt. Another left turn out to sea and then a right turn and we were back on track.

After about another hour we were off the sand and into a grassy area criss-crossed by many gullies, which we had to cross ourselves. A further tiring hour later we reached the coastal path on the Kents Bank side. Five hundred metres further and we were at Kents Bank Station.

RNLI Cross Bay Walk - Made it

Visit Chris' (M6XJP) pictoral record of the event

A quick review of the distance with the Guide’s team  – with a wry smileon his face “about eight miles” – did I think it was further? Yes , a little. The sight of the coaches to transport us back to Holker Hall were most welcome. Yet more brilliant organisation by Lisa and her team and we were back at Holker Hall enjoying a cup of hot tea and some local parkin.

Would we do it again? The answer is yes and we would recommend the Cross Bay Walk as a novel way to raise funds for a most deserving service that is financed solely by charitable means. The hope was to raise £10,000 and I am sure it will be achieved once all the sponsorship money and donations are received.

So finally, thank you RNLI North (Lisa, Tabea, Jayne, Jean, Laura and Liz) for organising a splendid day and good luck with your future events. Jayne, Laura and Liz require special notice as they participated in the walk as well.

Of course, I could not finish without thanking Cedric Robinson and his team for guiding us safely across the treacherous Sands. It is also worth contemplating that he goes out the tide before and establishes brushwood markers along the potentially safe route for that crossing, and he does it week on week on week.

To my fellow Radio Amateur colleagues, if you are interested in matters maritime and wish to support the RNLI via your hobby may I encourage you to examine the Lifeboat Amateur Radio Society (LARS) website and perhaps you will find time to enrol. We raised over £2,600 in one week in January!

Thanks Chris, that was excellent. Please take the time to view Chris’ excellent pictorial record of the walk in our RNLI Cross Bay Walk gallery.

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