03 August 2023
Travel to Holy Island with caution this summer
Despite ongoing calls for Holy Island visitors to adhere to safe causeway crossing times, incidents of cars getting trapped on the causeway continue to occur, posing a serious threat to life.
Visitors who don’t adhere to the safety warnings not only put their own lives in danger, but also those of the emergency services as well as islanders who are unable to leave or access Holy Island until their stranded cars are removed. As a part of Northumberland County Council’s ‘Love it Like its Yours’ visitor management campaign, the council has joined forces with HM Coastguard and the RNLI to urge people not to cross the causeway outside of safe tide times.
Further measures are being implemented to help combat incidents, these include new signage to bolster the existing safe crossing times signs, visible on both sides of the causeway. People can also access safe crossing times on the Northumberland County Council and Visit Northumberland websites, and add the times to their smartphone calendars. In addition, RNLI volunteers will also be on hand throughout the summer to advise drivers when it’s safe to cross.
Martin Lowe, HM Coastguard Area Commander for North East of England, said: “We rescue people from the causeway all year around, but we definitely see the most incidents during the summer months, when we have lots of visitors to the island.
“It is very easy to get caught out, so you should always check the safe crossing times first and you should never drive over the causeway when water covers the road – tides do not come in and out in a straight line and you can easily find yourself surrounded and cut off from dry land.
“We understand it is inconvenient to have to wait for the tide to turn, but the alternative is much worse, and every year we rescue people who are discovering this firsthand. If you see anyone in distress at the coast, call 999 and ask for the coastguard.”
HM Coastguard and RNLI volunteers work together throughout the year to rescue those who get stuck between Holy Island and mainland Northumberland during high tide.
Nick Ayers, Regional Water Safety Lead at the RNLI, said: “It is disappointing to see that incidents on Holy Island continue to occur, despite our best efforts to raise awareness of the dangers.
“Our message to motorists visiting the island is ‘don’t chance it’ as you can’t outrun the North Sea. Please, check and comply with the safe crossing times, posted at each end of the causeway. “We’ve also set-up a Holy Island task force, made-up of RNLI water safety volunteers from Berwick and Seahouses. Visitors will spot the team throughout the six week holidays, relaying useful information including the crossing times at the island’s car park.
“When in doubt, please speak to Holy Island locals in shops and cafes or check the crossing times online. If the water has reached the causeway, do not attempt to cross it as it gets very deep around the centre of the crossing.”
Holy Island is located in the North Sea, a mile from the mainland and cut off twice a day by fast, incoming tides. It is therefore essential that visitors check the crossing times before they travel.
Molly Luke, HM Coastguard Station Officer at Holy Island, said: “The summer holidays in July and August are our busiest months, our visitor numbers go up significantly and the causeway can become very busy.
“It’s wonderful to see so many visitors, most of the local community enjoy the busy months but, unfortunately, people do end up needing our help.
“As the only emergency service team on the island, we can get called to a wide range of issues when the tide is shut. When the tide is shut, it is shut and no one can get on or off the island without the help of the coastguard, or a local boat – that’s not always truly understood by visitors, who can get quite a shock to see the sea cover the causeway.
“It’s why it is crucial we are all based on the island, and ready to respond to any call for help.”
Councillor Gordon Stewart, Cabinet Member for Looking after our Communities and Chair of the Fire Authority said: “We continually work in partnership with the RNLI and HM Coastguard to ensure visitors have all the information they need to enjoy a safe trip to Holy Island.
“We want everyone to take home good memories, so please don’t drive to Holy Island without first checking the safe crossing times. The same applies to visitors walking across the sand flats at places like Budle Bay and Holy Island - please be careful as the tide rises quickly. By following this simple guidance, we can help to protect lives and help ensure a visit to this special place is memorable for all the right reasons.”
Andrew Fox, chair of Visit Northumberland, added: “As we enter the summer holidays, we’re expecting visitors from across the region and beyond to make their way to Holy Island over the coming months. “While we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors to Northumberland’s popular tourist destination we’d like to remind people to adhere to the safe crossing times in order to stay safe and so everyone can enjoy what the island has to offer.”