RNLI: How to stay safe on the Wirral coastline

With three sides of our Wirral peninsula having beautiful coastline, locals and visitors alike flock to our beaches all year round, especially during the spring and summer months when walking out to Hilbre Islands or exploring our beaches is too irresistible. The RNLI & HM Coastguard urge us to be aware of the lurking hidden dangers and how we can best keep ourselves safe, Andy Brown, Deputy Launching Authority volunteer at West Kirby Lifeboats explains more.

Wirral has the second biggest tidal range in the UK, up to 10.5 meters of water flooding in at the fast pace of 5 knots, with water rising anything up to an inch a minute, it’s very easy to become quickly trapped, find yourself in the water or even knocked over by the flooding tide.

Our beautiful and unique location has other hidden dangers, high sandbanks can easily offer a false sense of security on a flooding tide, one minute you’re relaxing and enjoying the moment before quickly realising the water has surrounded you, leaving you cut off from land and stranded on an ever-decreasing piece of sand with no safe escape route. Wirral beaches have many mud holes, especially around Hilbre Islands & Leasowe Bay, they’re frequently moving location, not always easy to identify and can, if you’re not careful, trap you very easily.

RNLI New Brighton lifeboat crew on their return from rescuing a female casualty on a sea defence wall.
Credit: RNLI/Gemma Gill

Here are the key safety guidelines from the RNLI & HM Coastguard when visiting our coastline:

Have a Plan:

  • Plan your route especially when visiting Hilbre Islands, following recommended guidance that can be found at local notice boards, check the tides, weather, and make yourself aware of local dangers, RNLI or HM Coastguard will always be willing to offer advice
  • Take appropriate clothing, remember it’s British weather and pack refreshments
  • Carry a communication device, mobile phone or VHF radio
    Self Help:
  • If you find yourself unintentionally in the water, try and stay calm, don’t thrash about as this can easily exhaust you, lay back, extend your arms and legs and ‘Float To Live’, giving the Lifeboats the best chance to rescue you.
  • Mud Holes can be dangerous, again stay calm, spread your weight across as much of your body as possible, don’t thrash about as this can tire you out, and can force you deeper into the mud.
  • Please remember, the moment you think you or someone else is in danger, don’t hesitate call 999 and ask for the Coast Guard

We’re blessed to live in a beautiful part of the world, it’s fantastic to see many of us enjoying our local coastline, hopefully this helps to do that in the safest way possible and always remember your local RNLI & HM Coast Guard teams are available 24/7, 365 days a year when required.

This timelapse video by Geoff Oldfield of Mersey Images, shows the tide coming in at Leasowe Bay.

Geoff explains hios background and the method he used to produce the video. “I have been a photographer for many years and strangely enough the lockdown got me interested in other aspects of photography that I hadn’t done before, so hyperlapse and macro started the interest.”, he said.

“I got interested in drone photography about 5 years ago as I was stunned by some of the aerial footage that was being aired on tv programs. Once started, I progressed with it and embarked on trying to make it as a professional drone pilot by attending a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) course, which was quite expensive (about £1600 for the three-day course.), Geoff explained. “That was three years ago. Have renewed my PfCO through the CAA each year but have not generated much income from it, as there are others out there, without the PfCO, who were doing local jobs for next to nothing.”

Geoff told us about his interest in the tides on the Wirral coastline, “I have been a scuba diver for about 45 years and have been an active member of Merseyside Branch 5 of the BSAC as an instructor. Knowing about tides etc is a fundamental part of scuba diving, particularly in Liverpool Bay.

“Over the years, our diving club has raised thousands of pounds for the New Brighton Lifeboat, so I know the team there very well. Anything I can do, to not only assist them, but prevent folks from getting into difficulty along the coast is something I like to do.”, He continued.

Geoff told birkenhead.news about the filming technique he used to produce the videos, “When we see something in real time through our eyes, it is simple to understand. Taking a still picture, captures a fraction of a second. Capturing a video in real time is done by a camera taking multiple pictures over a period of time.

“The number of pictures required to do this is called the ‘frame rate’ or the numbers of pictures per second, usually 25 or 30 frames per second, although it is possible to take more frames per second, which can provide footage that can be slowed down, yet remain smooth and not “jumpy”. However, this is only slowing things down by 50% or so.

“Hyperlapse is the opposite, however. When you have a feature that lasts a long period of time, like the incoming tide video, which took 1 hour and twenty minutes to record. Using the normal frame rate of 25 frames per second would mean over 150, 000 frames would need to be slowed down, which simply isn’t practical, when you need to keep the finished video to around 2 minutes. The solution is to time the shots to about 1 shot every 2 seconds = 30 frames per minute = 3000 frames for 100 minutes. Then render them at 25 frames per second, which provides a fairly smooth timelapse or hyperlapse lasting 100 seconds for 2 minutes.”

West Kirby RNLI responded to a distress call made after two women found themselves cut off by a faster than normal incoming spring tide.
Credit: RNLI/David Edwards

Main Image: RNLI Hoylake lifeboat ‘Edmund Hawthorn Micklewood’ launches after a personal locator beacon (PLB) alert was triggered. Credit: MS Photographic

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