The end of the line for guided walks

Alan Sledmore.
Alan Sledmore.

Cross bay walks guide Alan Sledmore has expressed sadness after completing his final guided walk across the bay.

Alan, who has led walkers across Morecambe Bay’s treacherous sands for 21 years, was under investigation from Lancaster City Council for health and safety breaches, which they said included allowing children to ride on quad bikes.

He has now decided to accept a caution over alleged health and safety failings on the proviso that he doesn’t organise or guide any further cross bay walks.

He said: “I’m just glad things have come to an end. I think its obscene what they have done.

“It’s not me I feel sorry for, its the charities that have lost out. The investigation not only affected me but also the whole team of volunteers who were pitted against each other.

“It was an awful exercise. The kids loved having rides on the quad bikes and if the parents didn’t want them to, they didn’t have to go on the bikes.

“It’s going to put people off volunteering because if you do something for a good cause and this happens, you are going to be put off. I shall still be doing cross bay walks, but on my own.”

Alan and his team of volunteers led 160 people from Hest Bank to Humphrey Head, Flookburgh on Saturday for his last guided walk.

He said: “It was a fantastic end to the 21 years of doing cross bay walks.”

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.

A spokesman for Lancaster City Council said: “Lancaster City Council has not prevented any guide or organiser from doing guided walks across Morecambe Bay and wants to see successful events taking place, but they must be done safely and if we receive complaints that they are not, we will and must investigate.

“While it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual guides to ensure the walks they lead are safe, we will work closely with them to ensure they fulfil their legal duties.

“In the event that serious concerns are brought to our attention we must investigate as the enforcing authority in relation to activities that take place within the Lancaster district.

“It would be a dereliction of our legal duty to ignore complaints and concerns and, in the event that an accident did occur, we would rightly be questioned over our failure to act.”

Other guided cross bay walks are still due to take place this summer.