The Mermaid of Morecambe Bay
by Claire Potter
You won’t have failed to notice that wild swimming is all the rage. “It makes me feel so alive!” people exclaim. “I tingle all over afterwards!” they declare. And incredibly, the MALLOWS (Morecambe and Lancaster Lancashire Open Water Swimming) club has over six thousand members.
But next time you’re strolling along the prom and see a gaggle of them gathered in the sea, splishing and sploshing, squealing and squawking, stop and take a proper look.
I mean really look. Cast your eye carefully over the whole group and see if you can spot the one that’s different to all the others. The one without a bobble hat. The one without a brightly-coloured safety float. Silently swimming and swirling around them. Gracefully gliding and glistening through the water. Momentarily – blink and you’ll miss it – flipping and flaunting her tail through the air.
Yes! See if you can catch a glimpse of the Mermaid of Morecambe Bay.
It won’t be easy. She’s elusive. Mischievous. Sneaky. As slippery as a fish. She doesn’t want to be seen. But she can’t resist joining the swimmers. She loves their energy, their exhilaration, their company, moving between them with such joy and gymnastics. She takes risks, darting between their legs or momentarily tossing her tangled hair against their faces. Unaware, they dismiss that almost intangible swoosh of her tail against their skin as a slippery frond of seaweed. They dismiss that curvaceous shimmer of her hip above the water as the undulation of a wave. And when they happen to glance upon her exquisitely beautiful face, the thought “I’ve never seen that member of the group before!” slips through their mind and disappears as quickly as her, dismissed as a trick of the light.
Yet be assured, there have been notable sightings of her along the coast reported over the years, from Hest Bank to Half Moon Bay.
Most worthy of mention is that of a group of passengers on the Isle of the Man ferry in 1972 who claimed they saw her leaping alongside the boat. However, on further investigation, it was put down to motion sickness blurring their vision and making them a bit funny in the head. And as recently as August 29th 2022, a group of partying teenagers staying at Morecambe Lodge Caravan Park stated they arrived at the beach to catch her lounging on the rocks, soaking in the last warmth of summer as the sun set over the bay in glorious shades of red, orange and pink. This was, in the end however, put down to... being the wrong side of tipsy.
All too sadly, it is now rumoured that a Professor Andrew Barr-Stodd, from the department of Marine and Estuarine Biology at Lancaster University, is currently applying for funding to acquire 8km of shark netting used on beaches in Australia. It is said his aim is to entangle and capture the mermaid in order to “further the understanding of the eco-marine system of the area.” Whilst you might hope that his intentions are purely scientific – if cold-hearted – it is also rumoured that he was overheard at a dinner party, after a few sherries, boasting that his real goal was to make billions by selling her to the Eden Project for people worldwide to come and stare at her in a tank.
And whilst you might admit, if you were truly honest, that you’d be first in the queue, let’s hope that never happens. Let’s hope the Mermaid of Morecambe Bay remains forever free and frivolous, mysterious and mischievous. Something you can only ever hope to glimpse, not gawk at.
But next time, as I say, when you’re walking on the prom and you see those wild swimmers, just stop and let your eyes linger a while longer.
Because maybe, just maybe, you’ll spot her... The wildest swimmer of them all.