The seas of the Fylde Coast can change in a flash, from calm and tranquil to fierce. They have a force and a might that will always win and you should never underestimate the power of the sea. Every year thousands of people get into real, life-threatening difficulty all around our coastline. They may be washed out to sea, pulled under by a strong rip current, or simply get into the water when conditions are dangerous.
The huge flat sandy beaches of Lytham are delightful to enjoy, and you should be beach aware when using the sands and saltmarshes of the waterfront around Fairhaven Lake and against the Green. Heading towards the River Ribble estuary you would be best advised to keep to dry land.
This area is particularly prone to the formation of sandbanks, which are probably the number one thing which would catch most people out. The tide retreats a long way in the river mouth, and comes in exceptionally quickly and so conditions can be very dangerous.
The sea carves deep channels in the sand, which shift and move on a daily basis with each tide, particularly so during the heavier winds. When the tide comes back in, the water rushes through these lower lying channels and creates islands which easily cut unsuspecting people off and leave them in danger. Often, the bank can be too long to outrun, which makes for a wade through what can be deep and fast moving water.
On an incoming tide always watch what is happening behind you and be aware of your exit route back to the top reaches of beach.
The other thing that can be very dangerous is wave dodging. Mainly in the winter months when the tide is very high with the wind against it, it blows the spray and waves up above the sea defences. There are points along this coastline, especially in the Blackpool stretches, where people have been washed into the sea and have drowned, so never underestimate it, and always keep your dogs on a lead and away from the edge.
At the entrance to each bathing beach you’ll find safety notices like this one on the right which was photographed at Fleetwood. Make sure you read them before using the beach, and observe the guidance that they give.
Plus, these tips are provided by the RNLI to keep you safe on any UK beach:
* Wherever possible, always swim at a lifeguarded beach.
* Go to www.goodbeachguide.co.uk to search for listings throughout the UK and ROI.
* Always read and obey the safety signs, usually found at the entrance to the beach. These will help you avoid potential hazards on the beach and identify the safest areas for swimming.
* When on a lifeguarded beach, find the red and yellow flags and always swim or bodyboard between them – this area is patrolled by lifeguards.
* Never swim alone.
* If you get into trouble stick your hand in the air and shout for help.
* If you see someone in difficulty, never attempt a rescue. Tell a lifeguard, or, if you can’t see a lifeguard, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and HM Coastguard (HMCG) are the government organisations responsible for preventing loss of life, continuously improving maritime safety, and protecting the marine environment in the sea around the UK.
HM Coastguard Search and Rescue team are based out of Fleetwood (in the same building as the RNLI) and cover from the Cartford Arms area on the River Wyre through to Blackpool. There is also a team based in Lytham (in the big car park after the sand dunes on Clifton drive) that looks after Blackpool to Tickle trout on the river Ribble. The are normally the intial contact when you ring 999 and will attend both beach and sea incidents.
Typical beach safety signs
In the Ribble estuary you can clearly see channels and sandbanks forming which are dangerous on an incoming tide.