Cumbria

Tractors to cross Morecambe Bay sands for Diabetes UK

Bob Dickman on his tractor
Image caption Bob Dickman's tractor is a reconditioned 1954 Grey Ferguson model

Anyone passing Morecambe Bay next month could see the unusual sight of a group of vintage tractors being driven across the sands.

After spending more than 40 years in the tractor business, Bob Dickman, from Brampton in Cumbria, is using them to raise money for Diabetes UK.

The 81-year-old has recruited 20 volunteers to take part in a sponsored crossing of the treacherous stretch of coast, and hopes to raise £2,000.

The tractors will be driven through the River Kent, which will be knee-deep at low tide and one of the most hazardous parts of the journey.

The 17-mile round trip is expected to take three to four hours and will be fully guided, the area being notorious for quicksand.

Cedric Robinson, who has been the Queen's Guide to the Sands at Morecambe Bay for 50 years, described it as the "most dangerous highway in Britain".

However, he added: "If you're with someone who knows what they're doing, it's safe as houses."

Experienced guide of more than 20 years Alan Sledmore will be taking Mr Dickman and his convoy across the sands on 2 June.

"If you can get across one day, it doesn't mean you can do it the next," he said.

"It depends on the tide and how much water is in the rivers. Most tractors will get across, but the main hazard is quicksand."

Tractors are used regularly to fish Morecambe Bay's shallow waters for its most famous delicacy: shrimps.

The tractors have been known to sink in the quicksand before, Mr Sledmore said.

If people or vehicles begin to sink, the Coastguard will be called to their rescue.

'Inspiring'

Those taking part in Mr Dickman's crossing will drive vintage tractors made by Anglo-American company Massey Ferguson.

Mr Robinson said the shallow waters they would encounter on the journey could pose a problem to the old-fashioned vehicles.

"The tractors they're using are low-set - water will get in everywhere," he said.

But Mr Dickman, who will be driving a reconditioned 1954 Grey Ferguson model, said the vehicles were "a massive part of Cumbria's heritage".

"The tractors were enormously popular from the 1950s onwards and are still in use today," he said.

Image caption The notorious Morecambe Bay sands require great care when crossing, whether by foot or by vehicle

"Massey Ferguson is part of my own, personal history. I worked for the company for over 40 years."

The money raised will fund a research project into type one diabetes conducted by King's College, London.

Mr Dickman said he chose to support Diabetes UK "after seeing the impact that diabetes has had on family and friends' lives".

Type one of the disease is caused when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas which create insulin, the hormone that controls sugar levels.

Kate McKie, Diabetes UK's regional fundraising manager for north-west England, described the initiative as "inspiring".

"I think this will be a very memorable day for anyone who takes part or goes along to watch the convoy cross the notorious sands of Morecambe Bay," she said.

The crossing will start at Cark Airfield, near Flookburgh, and head south-east across the bay to Hest Bank, before returning to the start.

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