An Irresponsible Bit of Fun  2nd September 2014

Out at the Lookout we get asked many questions. People frequently point to the West Country and ask “Is that France over there?” or “Do you sell ice cream? But the question that is most often asked is “Do many people get stranded over on the Worm?”

It’s a fair question but I think the answer is expected to be in the high numbers and when you consider how many people cross over it is surprising that the honest answer we give is “Very few.” It that is the case the questioner may well quietly wonder why on earth we are there. The important question should be “How many strandings have you prevented?” and that is something we cannot answer.

The Lookout is manned every single day of the year and, yes, that includes Christmas Day. We ensure that the notice board at the start of the path down to the causeway displays the opening times and, more importantly, the closing times. We answer questions and we give advice.

It is not practical to count the number of people that make the crossing and check the same number returning, neither is it possible to see people at all parts of the Worm. The first part of the island consists of a high ridge and it is the hidden south side that gets the sun, good for basking holiday-makers. We are also looking head on, rather than side on, so the far, Outer Head is out of our view. The best we can do, during the last 45 minutes, is check on the gradual exodus and hope that this human traffic reminds everyone that it is time to leave.

The evening watches are the most difficult because we are looking directly towards the setting sun, last evening was one of the trickiest. Two people, fortunately wearing white tops, were seen walking up to the ridge. It was too early to alert them by siren but we then saw them walk the ridge as three silhouettes. They walked to the far end and, to our dismay, crossed Low Neck and Devils Bridge. They were running around so they were obviously capable of making a speedy return when it became necessary. Time was passing and they seemed to be unaware of urgency. The sun made visibility very poor for us and it was often only possible to occasionally see them as silhouettes – this was very worrying. The causeway was due to close at 7.05 and their time was running out. Then they started their return, they were between Devils Bridge and Low Neck but making slow progress. There was only one now wearing a white top and it seemed that the other two had now crossed Low Neck. Mal and I were quietly shouting through the binoculars for him to get a move on. As if taunting us he made a slow crossing and disappeared behind the ridge. With relief we saw the first two appear on the ridge, later followed by the third. Mal sounded the siren and it attracted their attention but it just didn't seem to induce them to adopt a sense of urgency. Eventually and when they could clearly see the, by now very narrow causeway they started moving. One displayed a bit more urgency than the others who were now showing a somewhat casual demeanour.

The siren was again deployed

Their reluctance was puzzling.

Meanwhile two ladies had reached the top of the path in front of the lookout and it turned out that one of them was the girlfriend of one of the stragglers, she was attempting to phone them. By now it was past 7.05 and it was very fortunate that the waters had not yet met. They made their crossing successfully but they were lucky, the causeway eventually closed at 7.25 but could easily have closed at 6.45. When Mal spoke to them it turned out they were local and so should have known better but it was clearly just ‘a bit of fun’.

An irresponsible bit of fun.