Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Morecambe to Steal Some Northern Limelight

Dancing a jig of delight, Eric Morecambe

If the comedian Eric Morecambe were alive today he would probably be doing a familiar jig - you know the one, skipping with one hand behind his head and the other behind his back - at the news that Morecambe Bay is a step closer to becoming the next natural wonder of the north.
Morecambe (Eric that is) would probably argue that it already is. A keen ornithologist and fisherman, who took the town’s name as his own, he knew all about the 120 square miles of flat sands, the fish, the waders and wildfowl it attracts, but now a local protection group has cleared the first hurdle to securing £2m of Heritage Lottery Funding which will further raise the Bay’s profile and boost the local economy.

The Morecambe Bay Partnership’s Headlands to Headspace scheme – Eric might have helped with the wording of that – has been awarded a development fund grant of £100,000 to further their plans for the area which include protecting its natural diversity, celebrating its cultural heritage and raising awareness of its significance to the UK as a natural tourism attraction.

As the largest intertidal area in Britain - a wide horse shoe shaped mouth where four estuaries meet - the landscape is patchwork of saltmarshes, tidal islands, shingle and wetlands, surrounded by coastal towns stretching from Morecambe in Lancashire to Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria. The famous British painter J M W Turner appreciated the Bay’s unique light, yet it is often bypassed by modern-day tourists following Turner on their way to the Lake District. If the partnership get their way, that will change.

They hope to develop local railway stations as hubs to the Bay’s key sites which wiattracting more visitors into the area providing much needed additional income for the 200,000 people who live and work around the Bay. It also has plans to support education projects with an emphasis on the oral history of the area and the traditions of fishing as well as its maritime and combat history.
Susannah Bleakley who co-ordinated the bid on behalf of the partnership said:
“As the project develops, we want local people to learn about how special Morecambe Bay really is, to share our excitement and get involved in projects to look after the Bay.  We really hope that the significance of the Bay will be much better appreciated as we develop these projects over the coming years.”
Sara Hilton, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said:
“This imaginative scheme will draw together the threads of proud cultural histories and precious natural heritage that permeate Morecambe Bay, aiming to create a future where local communities are directly involved in conservation activities whilst new opportunities are created for visitors from near and far to explore, enjoy and learn about this fascinating landscape.”

If successful, Eric’s memorial statue could be in danger of losing its status as one of the town’s leading attractions. Who knows what he would think about that but if ever there was a comedian used to sharing the limelight it was him, Morecambe and Morecambe though, doesn't have the same ring to it.

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