Mention of the name Morecambe and most people will think of the late great Eric Morecambe. But it is also a town on the west coast of England, and a huge bay. This 310sq km natural feature shot to fame back in 2004 after a number of Chinese cockle pickers drowned after the tide swept in. It is a treacherous place, full of shifting channels, quicksands and rivers that can change course by six, yes six miles within 24 hours. The quicksands have been known to swallow vans and tractors amongst other things and even today it still claims lives.
However, this deadly bay is also a place of rare beauty and a haven for wildlife and ironically one of the best ways to experience it is on foot around and across the bay. Crossing here by foot could be the last thing that you ever did if it wasn’t for locals who know the sands like the back of their hands. The Queen’s Guide to the Sands is a role that was created in 1548 and takes years of experience to learn the way that the sands shift every day. At the moment he has no successor and it is a knowledge that could be lost forever if no one steps up.
The Gathering Tide is Karen Lloyd’s journey around and across this dynamic sea and landscape. Her evocative writing weaves together the physical journey on and around the sands, across the dunes and out to the islands and one kingdom, that poke their heads above the 10m tides. There are glimpses back into her past, fond memories of growing up in the area and meeting up with people whose livelihood depends on this coastline. A chance meeting with a friend that she hadn’t seen for a long while opens the memories once again as they catch up with events that had happened in their lives. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read of a coastline whose beauty belies the deadly effect of the tides.