Morecambe Bay

Grange-over-Sands is located on the northern side of Morecambe Bay, a big estuary where you’ll find the largest expanse of intertidal mudflats and sands in the whole country, covering a total area of 310 sqaure kilometres.

Examples of other towns and cities located along Morecambe Bay are Barrow-in-Furness, Ulverston and Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria, and Morecambe (Poulton-le-Sands) and Heysham in Lancashire. The largest city is Barrow-in-Furness, with a population exceeding 56,000. All in all, roughly 320,000 people inhabit the Morecambe Bay coastal area.

The bay has always been important for those inhabiting its shores. Since time immemorial, it provided fish and sea food. Later, the area grew into a popular holiday destination. The bay is also used for ship building and submarine construction, which is an important source of income especially for Barrow-in-Furness.

Nature & Geography

Estuaries

The rivers Kent, Keer, Leven, Lune and Wyre all drain into Morecame Bay, and the shore area is is rich in peninsulas formed by the estuaries of these four rivers.

Reclaimed land

Morecambe BayA lot of the land right by the water are land that used to be submerged but was reclaimed by humans to use for agriculture.

Islands

The seven main islands of the bay – Barrow, Chapel, Foulney, Piel, Roa, Sheep, and Walney – are all located to the north. Walney, which is the biggest of them, marks the north-western corner of the bay.

During low tide, it is possible to walk to Chapel, Foulney, Sheep, and Piel. Please note that the tide can come in quickly and cut off your passage, so walking with a local guide is recommended, especially if you are heading for Chapel or Piel. Also, there is quick sand in the area which can be very dangerous.

A causeway links Roa Island to the mainland.

The docks system at Barrow-in-Furness connects Barrow Island to the mainland.

Wildlife

Morecambe Bay is a notable wildlife site, with animals living both on land and in the water. The salt-marshes plays a significant role in the aquatic food web and the delivery of nutrients to coastal waters.

Cockles hidden in the sediment are harvested for food by the locals.

The bay area is especially renowned for its bird life, and there is a bird observatory on Walney Island, the largest island in the Furness Islands group.

Ramsar wetland

Morecame Bay was designated a Ramsar Wetland in 1996, in accordance with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat. This is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

The Queen’s Guide to the Sands

The Queen’s Guide to the Sands is the royally appointed guide to crossing the sands of Morecame Bay.

Since ancient times, people have attempted to cross the sands, and locals have been aware of the inherent dangers of the rapidly moving tide and the unpredictable quicksands. To make the crossing a bit safer for travellers, Roman Catholic monks at the Cartmel Priory began guiding visitors across the flats.

King Henry VIII broke ties with the Roman Catholic church in the 1530s and closed down the monasteries on British soil. Therefore, a need arose to find other guides than the Cartmel monks. The first official guide to the sands was Thomas Hogeson, a guide selected by the Duchy of Lancaster and appointed on 29 January 1548.

The route across the sands continued to be an important transport path until the 1850s when the railway reached the Morecambe Bay area. With the rise of seaside tourism – largely fuelled by the increased accessibility offered by the railroad – crossing the sands became a pleasurable holiday pastime rather than something people did out of necessity. Today, crossing the sands is a popular challenge walk for charity events held in the summer season.

At the time of writing, the position of Queen’s Guide to the Sands is held by Cedric Robinson MBE, who was appointed in 1963. The Queen’s Guide to the Sand is paid only £15 a year but is also allowed to use the Guide’s Cottage at Kents Bank, a 700-year-old cottage owned by the Crown and managed by the Duchy of Lancaster. During challenge walks, Robinson frequently guides groups consisting of several hundred people across the sands. Most walks start either in Hest Bank or Arnside and go to Flookburgh Point or Kents Bank.

Wind farms

Morecambe BaySeveral offshore wind farms are located in Morecambe Bay, such as:

  • The West of Duddon Sands Wind Farm
  • The Burbo Bank Wind Farm
  • The Barrow Wind Farm
  • The Ormonde Wind Farm
  • The Walney Wind Farm

Natural gas

Discovered in 1974, Britain’s second-largest known natural gas field is located in Morecambe Bay, 40 km west of Blackpool. The gas is trapped in Triassic Sherwood Sandstone with a seal of Mercia Mudstone.

The field discovered in 1974 is today known as the South Morecambe Field, because a North Morecambe Field was found two years later, 13 km to the north. Commercial removal of gas from the southern field commenced in 1985, but it took until 1994 before production started at the northern field.

Natural gas has also been discovered in satellite fields in Bainds, Calder (Rivers), Dalton, and Millom (both East and West).

Bridge proposal

Discussion about building a bridge over Morecambe Bay to the fairly isolated northern shores have been going on for decades. One of the most recent suggestions has been to construct a 19 km (12 mile) long bridge flanked by turbines, stretching from Heysham to Barrow-in-Furness at the mouth of the bay.