Many people will recognise Michael Wilson’s name. As the King’s Guide to the Sands he has become a well-known figure across Cumbria and further afield.

Taking on the mantle from Cedric Robinson - who had the honorary role for more than five decades - he guides thousands of people across the bay every summer to raise money for charity.

As part of the role he gets to live in a cottage on the shore at Grange-over-Sands (he hasn’t been able to move in since taking over the role in 2019 as it needs renovating) and an annual payment of £20.

So he continues to fish, just like his father and grandfather before him. He can trace back the fishing line six generations, all working out of the Cumbrian village of Flookburgh where he lives with partner Joanne and two sons. 

Michael is proud to be known as one of the Tractor Men. “We are Tractor Men, we are not boat men,” he said.

“This side of the bay the tide goes out and leaves 120sq miles of sand so it’s not practical for us to have boats. We set nets to catch the fish when the tide is in and when the tide goes out we fish the nets. So, we work a bit differently this side of the bay to Morecambe.”

He says there are only three Tractor Men left fishing the bay.

“The fisheries have knackered us,” he said. He believes that the only reason he hasn’t been stopped fishing in the bay - particularly after the disaster in 2004 when 23 Chinese cocklers died - is because it is a public highway.

It’s something he knows only too well in his role of King’s Guide to the Sands, saying it’s the most dangerous highway in the UK.

“When the cockling disaster happened they licensed cockling and musseling in the bay. There are 150 people on the licence, but you go out on the bay tomorrow there will be two of us fishing.

"They are waiting for the cockles. There are people from all over the world on the waiting list, people from Ukraine, Poland, Wales, Scotland who have got permits to come but our sons can’t get a licence.

"We have applied and been told it will be another decade before they get their licences.

"Overnight the fisheries have killed the heritage of it all. Without that cockle and mussel permit you can’t make a living. I’m shrimping at the moment. You can catch as many shrimps as you want.”

The list of walks for 2024 is published on December 5 with booking the following month,