Holidaymaker calls for causeway action

Emergency crews at the scene. Picture by Steve Miller
Emergency crews at the scene. Picture by Steve Miller

A woman who was stranded on Holy Island Causeway after being caught out by the rising tide has called for barriers to be installed to stop similar incidents.

Lavinia Edwards and her husband Keith, who were visiting the area on holiday, were trapped on the crossing on Tuesday, May 3, resulting in emergency services being scrambled to the scene.

Dougie Watkin

Dougie Watkin

The 47-year-old admits that she misread the safe-crossing times, but she told the Gazette that the pair would not have got into difficulty if barriers had prevented them driving onto the notorious stretch.

Lavinia, who has multiple sclerosis, has also responded to social-media users who have said that the couple should foot the bill for the rescue, which saw multiple fire engines, the Coastguard, the RNLI and the search and rescue helicopter from Prestwick called to the scene.

The Cambridgeshire resident said: “I think that barriers are needed, especially if you look at the amount of times that people have been caught out there. I admit that the barriers are not aesthetically pleasing but they could be life-saving. It should be like a railway crossing – when the barriers come down, you know not to cross.

“It’s okay people saying that we should be made to pay the bill for the emergency services coming out, but they didn’t need to scramble all of those vehicles. The water at its highest was about thigh height and when I spoke to the emergency services, they said that the water wouldn’t get any higher. I understand that they have to cover all bases, but it was a lack of communication because they didn’t need all of those vehicles in this particular incident. That money could be used to spend on barriers and they could save themselves a fortune on call outs if barriers were installed.”

Describing the incident, which occurred at around 1.20pm, she said: “We got to the point where we thought we were in trouble. I couldn’t get phone signal at first. It was scary to start with, but after the emergency services said that we would be okay, it wasn’t too bad. But afterwards, you look back and you think that it could have been worse and you realise how lucky we were. We got into a situation where we came part of the way across and we thought ‘do we carry on or do we turn back?’ The tide came in quickly.

“We were about 500 yards from the middle point where the refuge box is so my husband got out of the car and pushed it to get to the middle.”

The pair had their three dogs in the car – a Ford S-Max. They were able to drive off the causeway, supervised by local Coastguards, after the tide reseeded, but the vehicle has since been declared a write-off due to water ingress.

However, Mrs Edwards’ call for barriers is unlikely to be met with universal approval. In 2011, more than 100 island residents signed a petition opposing the installation of barriers. There are currently flashing signs encouraging people to check the tide times and containing information about crossing.

Holy Island is in the Norham and Islandshires patch of Coun Dougie Watkin. He believes barriers would be impractical, saying: “If we put barriers up, people would be able to drive around them – or you would have to have a barrier that stretched for miles. You would also have to operate the barriers manually because the tide times vary and they would be in an extremely exposed environment. Since the flashing signs were put up a few years ago, we have had a lot less incidents.”