When the tide goes out, so does Cedric”, chuckles a bemused Cedric Robinson MBE, quoting friends and those that know him well.
The 86-year-old has been Queen’s Guide to the Sands in Morecambe Bay for 56 years, the 25th royally-appointed guide in a line that dates back to 1548.
For more than half a century he has helped to ensure that hundreds of thousands of people have safe passage across the often dangerous, shifting sands of the bay, whilst raising millions for charities across the globe in the process.
Last week, it was announced that Michael Wilson, a fisherman from Flookburgh on the Cumbrian side of Morecambe Bay, would be taking over from Cedric as official guide.
A double hernia operation last year means Cedric has to take things a little easier.
Cedric, however, is quick to point out that he isn’t “fully retiring” and will continue to work as an ambassador for the Cross Bay Walks.
“I’ve gone up in the world!” he said.
“I won’t be leading any walks, but I’ll be helping to assist and promote them.
“Lord Cavendish and Dickon Knight from the South Cumbria Rivers Trust came to see me and praised me for all the years I’ve been guide.
“Then they told me that the Duchy of Lancaster had dropped out of funding The Queen’s Guide, and that they’d like me to choose a new guide.
“That’s never happened in the history of guides.
“So I left it for a week to think.
“Because it’s dangerous on the sands, someone coming in from outside would not have a clue, and the only thing I could think of was a young fisherman.
“I know them all in Morecambe Bay, but the one I chose was Michael Wilson from Flookburgh.
“So they had a meeting with him and he accepted.”
Cedric had already chosen the dates for the 2019 walks, which start in May and run through until September, when the crossing is safest.
Recently, however, Cedric says the bay has changed.
“The rivers are different,” he said. “They’re deeper and faster flowing. There’s more quicksand.
“You need to spend a lot of time out there to get the measure of it.
“It’s been happening for quite a number of years now.”
Part of the role as guide is to test the routes for crossing.
Cedric recalls a time when he was out on the sands with a retired teacher, who ‘went up to his waist in quicksand.’
“Luckily a fisherman from Morecambe named Steve was there, and if you’re there right at the beginning, you can get people out.
“But the walks had to be cancelled because of this and then we kept having to cancel because of the conditions.”
Cedric says he’d rather please people than disappoint, but if it’s too dangerous he has often had to say no to crossing.
“You have to be devoted to it.
“When I left school all my pals wanted to get a trade.
“Fishing wasn’t classed as a trade back then.
“But that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
“We used to fish at night. After getting back from one of the dances in Morecambe, we’d go onto the sands in the dark.
“I’d be sitting in the cart using matchsticks to keep my eyes open but the horses knew what they were doing.”
His love for Morecambe Bay is evident.
“As a fisherman you’re out there in the morning, and that sun when it comes up and goes around, and if it’s quiet...you’re out there, it’s only you, you look back at the shore and see the villages and the smoke twirling up from the chimneys.
“But equally there’s no shelter out there and the east winds are bitterly cold.
“I’ve loved it all. I thought I could go on forever. But at least now I can do a bit more fishing with my friends.”
Cedric has written nine books on his life in Morecambe Bay and in May, will be given Freedom of the City of Lancaster, in recognition of his role as Queen’s Guide to the Sands.