2020 Annual Review Mountain Rescue England and Wales
Foreword HRH The Duke of Cambridge
Opposite top: HRH The Duke of Cambridge © Chris Jackson. Main photo: Woodhead team members attend a casualty, close to Woodhead Pass © Woodhead MRT. Cover photo: Buxton MRT on a night rescue © Carney James Turner.
SEO Mike France
33 statutory agencies 2761 call•outs 2155 mountain rescue team deployments 2011 persons assisted without a mountain rescue call-out 4 NO CHANGE FROM 2018
I cannot sit here in April 2020, thinking about writing an annual review that runs from May through to April, without saying a few words about the pandemic happening around us. It’s been a fast-changing situation but, from the start of the coronavirus, we have endeavoured to give clear advice to all our member teams.
Our aim has always been to ensure we could continue to be there for the injured walkers and climbers who needed our assistance, and on call to find those who are vulnerable and missing from home, whilst also protecting our team members. Their health was — and continues to be — our priority. Our teams and regions have come together to share paperwork and plans, and information about their availability and resources, coordinated by a small ‘Covid-19 team’, meeting online weekly. Mountain rescue members have stood up to be counted. Beyond our own organisation, we have shared information with other volunteer search and rescue organisations — Scottish Mountain Rescue, Lowland Rescue and British Cave Rescue — in the belief that working together was the only way to ensure we could all manage the pandemic. Covid-19 may currently be foremost in our thoughts but, throughout the year, our team members have continued to give their time freely to help others who need their help. The incident statistics for 2019 are not yet finalised but the current figures show that we attended 2761 incidents — up again on 2018. During 2019, we visited every region to talk with the membership about what MREW does for its members and the feedback from that has produced some great ideas to take forward. In summer, the Peak District teams hosted the Princes’ Charity Day and Mid Pennine teams worked with the JD Foundation on their Charity Day. We help put together these annual events to give something back to the children’s charities supported by our Royal patron and some of our major funders. In September, we held our national conference, the first for several years and one of the best I have been to!
In November, we signed off a new constitution, taking our charity into a CIO — a major project which has taken about four years to complete. Looking at our work over winter, it’s fair to say it was another wet one, with a number of teams once again called in to support their flooded communities. Flooding has become a core task for mountain rescue, alongside supporting the police and ambulance service, and going to the aid of hill and fell walkers, climbers and mountaineers who need our help. Due to the coronavirus, this year we will have our first online AGM in May. This would have been my last, after six years in the role, but I agreed to continue for a further two years — little knowing what was around the corner with Covid-19! Finally, when this pandemic is done and life returns to ‘normal’, mountain rescue teams — and MREW — will need your support, perhaps more than ever, to enable us to continue supporting our communities across England and Wales. Stay safe and well out there!
100,000 volunteer rescuer–hours
Opposite: Upper Wharfedale team members attend a female walker on Malham Moor © Sara Spillet. Above: Duddon & Furness team members in action during their Peer Review weekend © DFMRT.
2019 A snapshot of the numbers since 1990
2 million volunteer rescuer-hours Approaching casualties and missing persons Since1990 37,000 + 35,000+ incidents 100,000 + volunteer rescuer-hours Last year 2,150 + 2,000 + casualties and missing persons per year incidents per year
ANNUAL TREND: OVER ALL TYPES OF INCIDENTS TO 2017
2000 1800 1600 1400 1200 1000
800 600 400 200 0
SEASONAL IMPACT: BY WEEK OF YEAR TO 2017
Call-out rate is predominantly influenced by fine weather and public holidays. More people enjoying fine weather equates to the expectation of higher incident numbers. The spikes surrounding the summer months are half-term holidays and Easter breaks.
* Absolute call-out numbers are not important here – the shape of the chart shows the relative week-by-week call-out pattern * Spikes at weeks 1 and 52 are due to ‘ambulance-assist’ call-outs (snow/ice affecting statutory ambulance attendance at busy times for them, over Christmas and New Year). There is also a slight rise in hill-walking incidents during this holiday period.
Organised mountain rescue in England and Wales dates back to the 1930s, and the number of incidents has grown over time with the growth in outdoor activities. Many teams have formed (and sometimes merged or divided) over the decades, to service popular areas, with 49 teams currently in England and Wales. In late 2019, Rob Shepherd , MREW Statistics Officer, analysed the data we have to see how the numbers have changed over the years. These were some of his findings.
MOUNTAIN RESCUE CALL-OUTS BY ACTIVITY
CASUALTY AGE GROUPS: PERCENTAGE OF SUBJECTS BY AGE CATEGORY
14 12 10
8 6 4 2 0 >4 >9 >14 >19 >24 >29 >34 >39 >44 >49 >54 >59 >64 >69 >74 >79 80+
HILL WALKING MISSING PERSON LOCAL INCIDENT MOUNTAIN BIKING CLIMBING/SCRAMBLING OTHER
RISING INCIDENT NUMBERS: SNAPSHOTS BY REGION
800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0
1997 2007 2017
UNHURT MINOR SERIOUS FATAL UNKNOWN
The graph shows how the increasing numbers differ by region, decade on decade. Some regions have seen an increase of 40% between 1997–2017 but others have increased 3-fold or more in the same period.
‘Serious Injuries’ are those that suggest a reasonable risk to life (or would suggest an overnight stay in hospital and is a better category to focus on, rather than fatalities. This category also gives us a good number for ‘lives saved’ (at least this number) – and represents a good few hundred per year.
Main photo: Snowdonia © Sean Wareing l Pixaby. Top right: Harrogate search involving UWFRA © Sara Spillet.
A president’s view
383 14% incidents were attributed to Human error ‘ ’
Ray Griffiths has been involved with mountain rescue for over 50 years, mainly as a member of Patterdale MRT and, for the last three years, as president of MREW. And he reckons that meeting so many of those involved in mountain rescue across England and Wales has given him ‘a wonderful perspective on the work of the charity, the service and everyone involved’.
I’d like to focus on three elements. They’re all someone else’s baby — but I think it’s part of my role as president to encourage and reinforce where I see good things happening. The first is the move to charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) status. This has involved a huge amount of work by MREW trustees, the executive officers and others. I’d particularly like to thank trustee Jake Bharier for giving MREW the benefit of his experience in governance. Both Jake and Mike France, our Senior Executive Officer, have done a sterling job in driving this change and engaging with mountain rescue teams at every stage. I hope that their investment in communications will pay off in the years to come as I think it’s been really good for the organisation. The second element is the work being done with the Mountain Heritage Trust (MHT) to develop a significant Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid. This is all about capturing the history and heritage of mountain rescue in England and Wales and I strongly believe that our heritage is a valuable route into understanding mountain rescue as it is now. By explaining what we’ve done in the past, we can show people today how much we need their support, both financial and practical. Two recent occasions brought this home to me. I was invited by Terry Tasker of MHT (and sister of Joe) to speak at a community forum at Malton in Yorkshire. Ian Hugill of Scarborough and Ryedale MRT also came along with a rescue vehicle and he was able to talk about the team’s work in York during flooding incidents. More recently, I was invited to speak to the Friends of Keswick Museum and had access to MHT archive materials and, via Peter Little and Stuart Holmes, some great Keswick MRT images. The audiences were typical cross-sections of
issues and guidance on how to provide support where needed. Mountain rescue volunteers have always needed to be aware of these things for casualties and their families and friends. There is often a need to come back and meet those who’ve been involved in saving a life as part of dealing with injuries, both physical and mental. To see us beginning to apply this experience to ourselves can only help, keeping people well and building our teams. So, as I say, another busy year in all sorts of ways. Thank you to everyone involved in keeping Mountain Rescue England and Wales moving on — and keep well in 2020.
‘interested general public’ and the history really captured their interest. The bid was postponed during the COVID-19 outbreak but, if successful, it will be the first stage in capturing key people and milestones on video, while also learning how to identify and archive the artefacts that tell our story. Finally, I’ve been impressed by the developments in mental health and wellbeing within MREW. The team behind the Rescue Benevolent Fund are very aware of the varied support that team members may need and, aside from the fund, Elaine Gilliland and others have been raising awareness of mental health. Their work has given team members the tools to identify the early signs of wellbeing
Opposite: Helicopter training © Carney James Turner. Inset: Ray Griffiths © Dave Freeborn. Above: Spot pick-up by Bowland Pennine MRT of a casualty with lower leg and chest injuries © Bowland Pennine MRT.
Keeping teams safe and operational
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Throughout the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, like every other business, charity and organisation, Mountain Rescue England and Wales and all its member teams have had to rethink how they operate. From the start, the focus has been on how best to protect our volunteer team members – many of whom are on the front line as NHS professionals in their ‘day jobs’.
the virus spreading among our team members. MREW was also able to exert some central purchasing muscle to source and distribute items of vital PPE kit to the teams. As far as possible in the outdoor environment, team members follow the standard guidance about washing hands and maintaining sterility. However, the very act of carrying a stretchered casualty to a waiting ambulance brings up to eight team members into close proximity. Those team members (and their families) might then have to self-isolate for up to fourteen days and this in turn reduces the pool available for the next rescue. And the next. Meanwhile, as training opportunities dried up, team members have taken to devising other ways to keep their bodies and minds fit and ready for action, often raising funds for their teams at the same time. These have included testing their rope skills with vertiginous teddy bear ‘rescues’ or donning mountain rescue kit, boots and a full rucksack, to climb the equivalent of the highest mountains in the UK on their own home stairs. Others have shared their regular quiz nights with colleagues further afield, for a bit of fun, or taken the opportunity to set up medical and search scenarios via online conferencing, testing their members’ medical knowledge and radio skills. However long this takes, teams and their members will always respond, where possible, to those who get into difficulty in the outdoors. One day, we hope, our beautiful hills and mountains will be open again but, until then, we’d like to thank all those who have supported us by heeding the advice and staying away. Stay safe! And stay well!
Some of that focus has necessarily been on getting the vital #stayhome message across to the general public. In late March, the threat of imminent lockdown combined with the instruction to continue taking daily exercise, led to walkers and tourists heading en masse to the hills and beauty spots of England and Wales. One mountain rescue team in Cumbria had to deal with a female walker who had been self-isolating on return from Italy and, in North Wales, the busier teams — whose incident figures are already higher than anywhere else in the UK — report real problems with tourists getting into trouble, taking risks, getting injured and taking up space in ambulances and hospital beds. Clearly, we needed a much stronger message and mountain rescuers echoed the words of Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Slattery, chairman of Cumbria Local Resilience Forum when he noted that ‘a national emergency shutdown of businesses and schools is not an excuse for a holiday.’ That stronger message was to stay local and away from the mountains. And, largely it worked. Over the Easter period (and since), call-out numbers reduced dramatically. In the Lake District, for example, between 23 March and 21 April, there were just three incidents, compared to around 40 for the same period in 2019. From an operational point of view, the priority has been resilience, making sure that as many team members are as available as possible for call-outs, if and when they occur. This has meant using online platforms for meetings and the postponement of training at local and national level, to reduce the chance of
Opposite page: Woodhead MRT awaiting a helicopter evacuation for a casualty © Woodhead MRT. Right: Mountain rescue vehicle illustration © Judy Whiteside.
#BeAdventureSmart: here for the long term
without a mountain rescue call-out 2018 & 2019 4
Mountain rescue has been a partner in the campaign to #BeAdventureSmart for over two years now, working with national park authorities, tourism organisations and lots of other outdoors organisations to educate the public in how to ‘make a good day better ’ by being better prepared.
In 2017, MREW teams covering key outdoor adventure areas recorded a rapid rise in call-outs. From 2016 to 2017, North Wales saw a 23% rise from 470 to 580 with one team passing 200 call-outs over the year. In 2017, Lake District teams dealt with 543 incidents — 25% up on 2016 (436). It was recognised that the only way of reducing call-outs, assuming that the numbers of people going to the hills would continue to rise, was to tackle the significant number of so-called ‘avoidable’ call-outs. #BeAdventureSmart launched in Wales in 2018 before rolling out in the Lake District and is gradually being picked up by other regions. ‘Avoidable’ is defined
as those call-outs resulting from being lost or overdue as a result of inadequate preparation and research (eg. weather), or not having the right equipment (eg. a torch) or necessary skills (eg. navigation). There are three key questions at the heart of the campaign: • Do I have the right gear? • Do I know what the weather will be like? • Am I confident that I have the knowledge and skills for the day? The emphasis now is very much on communication and education to get people thinking before they set off into the outdoors. ‘It’s easy to reach those who are
already engaged with mountain rescue or experienced walkers and climbers,’ says MREW SEO, Mike France. ‘The challenge is to communicate with families and other groups who just want a good day out. Gradually, we’re finding ways to get to those who just visit our national parks for a holiday or short break and might decide to climb a hill as a last minute decision — it’ll take time and we need to work with accommodation providers and lots of other partners, but we’re in it for the long term.’
ADVENTURE SMART WALES (OR MENTRO’N GALL CYMRU) Adventure Smart Wales was launched in March 2018 as a pan-Wales initiative aiming to promote the safe enjoyment of Wales’s natural outdoor resources, part-funded by the Welsh Government with additional contributions from Snowdonia National Park Authority, British Mountaineering Council, Welsh Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Welsh Sports Association. The Welsh mountain rescue regions were also involved as partners alongside outdoors organisations such as National Trust Cymru, Welsh Cycling, the Royal Yachting Association and the RNLI. The campaign’s message was simple: come and enjoy the iconic and beautiful Welsh countryside and coast but take a little time to plan your day. ‘The emphasis is very much about making a good day better,’ says Phil Benbow, Llanberis MR team member and former chairman of North Wales Mountain Rescue Association (NWMRA). ‘We’re not criticising or dictating but working together to reach as many visitors as we can. We want to give them the sort of advice that will make them more self- reliant and better prepared for the outdoors.’
#BEADVENTURESMART: LOOK OUT FOR THE LEAFLET The idea for a public safety information
leaflet was developed in 2010, with support from Cicerone Press and, with a national version created in 2017, around 200,000 have now been distributed in England and Wales. The focus on planning and preparation is consistent with the #BeAdventureSmart campaign. Nick Owen of Langdale Ambleside MRT has led this for the Lake District teams. ‘It’s about encouraging people to enjoy the mountains by planning and being prepared. If we can just get people to think about key things before they set off, they can keep themselves safe and we can reduce the number of avoidable call-outs that are putting our voluntary service under growing pressure.’ Please look out for the leaflet in hotels, tourist information centres and outdoor shops, and support MREW by passing on the #BeAdventureSmart messages.
Opposite page: A Cockermouth team member abseils down to a seriously injured casualty on Pillar Rock © Cockermouth MRT.
Left: Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Toddbrook Reservoir. Opposite: MREW SEO and Woodhead team member, Mike France (left) explaining the situation to fellow team member John Halstead. Images © Carney James Turner/Buxton MRT.
291 11% incidents were attributed to Poor decision making ‘ ’
When reports began to come in, on Thursday 1 August 2019, that heavy rain and thunderstorms had badly damaged the wall of Toddbrook Reservoir, it was very quickly declared an emergency, with residents of Whaley Bridge in imminent danger should the dam collapse. Peak District mountain rescuers were at the heart of the rescue operation.
seven days, clocking up several thousand volunteer hours for team members. Those seven days highlighted a couple of things. First, the value of having teams of highly-trained, specially-equipped water rescue personnel on standby. Widespread flooding over recent years, across England and Wales, has shown time and again that our water rescue teams provide a key resource not just in their own communities but beyond, and this was evident in Whaley Bridge too. Second, the support and appreciation offered to team members was palpable, the community spirit alive and well, with individuals and businesses offering food and drink, as well as donations, to those involved. Not for the first time, faced with what could be life-changing consequences for their communities, mountain rescue volunteers had stepped away from their own lives and given their time to help.
Major Incident was declared and the multi-agency operation picked up pace, with RAF Chinook helicopters from RAF Odiham delivering a steady stream of giant sandbags to shore up the dam wall and a large number of powerful pumps to help reduce the water level. Peak District SRTs and Mod 2 Water First Responders were deployed on twelve- hour operational standby downstream. ‘Our task was to assist with evacuation, where possible, and then carry out search and rescue operations in the aftermath of a dam failure’, says Mike. ‘Should that happen, it was calculated that the surge of water would take about 60 minutes to reach New Mills, the next significant habitation downstream. It was a tense few days for everyone involved!’ In the end, disaster was averted. The water level was reduced and engineers were able to examine the extent of the damage. The incident had lasted for
Whaley Bridge is within Kinder MRT’s operational area. The water team was initially put on standby, while one of the team’s Swiftwater Rescue Technicians (SRTs), local to the dam, went to assess the situation. Eventually, all seven Peak District teams were involved, with three of the region’s Duty Controllers managing the incident, two at Whaley Bridge and one off site, with neighbouring teams on standby. ‘Initially, the team was involved with Buxton MRT, setting up a rope system to allow safer access to the walkway over the damaged slipway,’ says Mike Potts, of Kinder MRT. ‘We then worked with the other emergency services and engineers on the initial sand-bagging operations to help divert the flow of water away from the damaged section.’ With continuing torrential rain in the dam’s catchment area hindering efforts to reduce the water level in the dam, a
Dam collapse at Whaley Bridge
Rescue: river deep, mountain high...
100,000 volunteer rescuer–hours 2011 persons assisted
2019 was a busy summer for peak time TV coverage of mountain rescue, with several MREW teams appearing on ITV’s Rescue: River Deep, Mountain High series. The eight-part series featured a range of mountain rescue teams from England and Ireland along with Cairngorm MRT from Scotland, Humber Rescue and the Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club.
fundraising in Lancashire, members of our team — which wasn’t featured in the series — heard from the public how they enjoyed the series and liked seeing what we do. It was a real boost for our day and we’ve joked about having an ‘As seen on TV’ sign up next time!’ The last word goes to Mike Potts of Kinder MRT: ‘The series was a fantastic showcase for our work and the response on social media was overwhelming. It’s
featured the rescue of a lost walker on Dove Crag. The final incident was a complicated winter rescue of one of Patterdale’s own, Ed Dowcra, after he fell from an ice climb. ‘That particular rescue also involved Penrith and Kirkby Stephen teams,’ says Mike Rippon, Patterdale team leader, ‘and the Go-Pro footage clearly showed the challenges of stretchering a badly injured casualty on steep ground in
Broadcast nationally, at peak time on Friday evenings, the series used Go-Pro and similar video footage from actual incidents plus follow-up interviews to tell a range of stories. ‘We became aware of the fantastic work of the volunteer rescue teams from a story we saw from Kinder MRT,’ says series producer and director at Goldhawk Media, Bernadette Bos. ‘We made contact via MREW and others and found that there was a lot of material available. Once we started collating the Go-Pro footage — some of it night time situations and a lot in ghastly weather conditions — we were astounded and deeply moved by the generosity, heroism and tenacity. To be honest, I was moved to tears seeing the struggles, the time it took to rescue unfortunate climbers and walkers, and to see the gratitude and relief of those who were rescued. I admire all the rescue teams greatly.’ At least one Peak District team, usually Kinder, Buxton or Edale, was featured in each programme and Dr Steve Rowe of Edale MRT appreciated the opportunity to take part. ‘It’s fantastic that we were able to share our work, done at all hours of day and night, in all weathers, and not seen by the public,’ says Steve. ‘This series demonstrated the real human stories behind our rescues and the challenges we face. That we have such a provision of voluntary rescue is a real testament to all those individuals involved, and their families, friends and employers.’ Patterdale MRT from the Lake District featured in three programmes: the first showed a rescue on the Howtown side of Ullswater and involved the team’s Rigid Inflatable Boat while a second
been great to show people what we do and how we do it, and to get across the message that this level of professionalism and dedication is provided by entirely unpaid volunteers. ‘Thanks to Berny and her team at Goldhawk for the work they’ve put into this. We continue to film our call-outs in the hope of a future series!’
winter conditions. The Goldhawk crew interviewed Ed for the programme and it was great to see him looking well and talking about being on the receiving end of rescue.’ The series did a good job of promoting mountain rescue as a whole to a wide audience. As Peter Shanahan of Bowland Pennine MRT commented: ‘During
Opposite and above: Screen grab of Patterdale team members in action, courtesy of Goldhawk Media.
Penny Brockman (MREW Finance Director), Simon Thresher (MREW Vehicle Officer), Elaine Gilliland and Steve Nelson (Bolton MRT), John Halstead (Woodhead MRT) and Paul Hudson (Dartmoor SRT Tavistock) were invited to join in the baking fun, at an event designed to throw the spotlight on the staff and volunteers from charities and organisations who dedicate their time over Christmas. The one-off BBC TV special culminated in a Christmas party, hosted by The Duke and Duchess — with special guests, cookery legend Mary Berry and Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, on hand to help out with the Christmas menu. The Duke and Duchess were also involved in the kitchen with the party prep. Throughout the programme, Mary prepared some of her favourite Christmas recipes for viewers to try out at home as she helped prepare the festive party food. Viewers saw the Duchess of Cambridge and Mary travel to Liverpool to visit The Brink, the UK’s first dry bar set up by Action on Addiction to provide a safe space for people who are suffering from addiction. The Duke of Cambridge and Mary visited The Passage, the UK’s largest resource centre for homeless and insecurely housed people. Established in 1980, The Passage has helped over 130,000 people in crisis through its NOVEMBER 2019: Mountain rescuers join charity guests for a Berry Royal Christmas with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
resource centre, homelessness prevention projects and two innovative accommodation services. Along the way, they met the inspiring people whose lives have been changed by the help and support these charities provide, especially at Christmas time. Mary also joined The Duchess of Cambridge behind the scenes at RHS Wisley, including a tour of Wisley’s new play garden, inspired by the ‘Back to Nature’ garden she co-designed at the Chelsea Flower Show to inspire children and families to get outside and experience the benefits of the great outdoors. By all accounts a good time was had by all. And there was plenty of cake to be had. The programme aired on 16 December 2019. Top: The Duchess of Cambridge and Mary Berry. Right: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Mary Berry and Nadiya Hussain. Images supplied by The Royal Foundation.
APRIL 2019: Prince of Wales visits Langdale Ambleside base The visit was just one of several stops across Cumbria for the Prince of Wales, with the team joining Pirelli Tyres, the Hawkshead Relish Company and the Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories in an eclectic itinerary. Wearing an official MREW supporter badge, and guided by team leader Nick Owen and chairman Mark Bains, the Prince had a variety of scenarios unfold before him en route round base. He heard how technology has changed the way mountain rescue teams operate with a demonstration of the mapping software developed by Duddon and Furness team member Dave Binks, and the SARCALL incident logging platform devised by Ogwen Valley team member John Hulse.
From here it was out to the back yard, via the enviable drive-through garage — and a chat with Roger Pickup and his search dog Ted — where a cyclist had apparently gone too fast down a local track, impacting a boulder mid-thigh. Courtesy of Casualties Union and some expertly applied make-up, the Prince got to see how the team would treat a C-spine injury, chest and possible pelvic fractures, a mid-shaft femur fracture and a bloodied forehead. Then it was back inside for a demonstration of CPR using the Autopulse, overseen by team doctor Les Gordon. This equipment enable team members and successive medical personnel to continue working on a casualty whilst CPR continues automatically — the record being six hours. The Prince also met former casualty Justin Hale and his wife Ruth Braithwaite for a private chat. Justin had been fell running alone when he had an accident which knocked him unconscious. When found, many hours later, he was severely hypothermic with serious injuries to his sternum, ribs and spine. Finally, it was a quick round of handshakes with team members and guests before the Royal visitor was off on the next leg of his itinerary. ‘I am full of admiration for all the work you do,’ he said, adding that we were very lucky indeed in this country to have ‘all these different mountain rescue teams’.
Top, left to right: Autopulse demo; the Prince meets Nick Owen, Mark Bain and LDSAMRA chair Richard Warren; casualty treatment in the back yard. Above: Roger Pickup with Search Dog Ted. Images © Paul Burke.
News snips from around England and Wales Marathon runners raise over £10,300 for Mountain Rescue England and Wales A huge thank you to our five runners for their dedication
to training, fundraising and running on our behalf! Tim Wainwright, Ian Sadler, Lee Stones, Chris Liston and John Ealing took on the challenge to run the Virgin London Marathon in 2019, and certainly did us proud. It is thanks to the generosity of our Royal patron, HRH The Duke of Cambridge that we have been able to offer these places each year and this is a huge fundraising opportunity for us. We had three runners lined up for April 2020 until the event was cancelled so here’s hoping for a swift return for this and other events in the not-too-distant future.
News snips from around England and Wales WellChild helps support seriously ill children and their families, enabling many terminally ill children to leave hospital and return home, often wheelchair-bound and requiring 24-hour attention, whilst also supporting their siblings and parents. Child Bereavement UK supports children who have experienced death in their family and provides training to professionals across the spectrum of child bereavement. Twenty-four team members from across the Peak, alongside instructors from Lea Green, helped out at the various activities, enjoying the day as much as their young guests. Needless to say, the youngsters couldn’t get enough of the fun either. A brilliant and inspiring day. As one team member said: ‘the sort you come away from with a very different perspective on life’. Every year since 2009, Mountain Rescue England and Wales has entertained the young people and their families from some of the charities under the patronage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, to enable these often very poorly or disadvantaged youngsters to take part in a day of adventure they might not otherwise experience. In 2019, it was hosted by teams from the Peak District and based at Lea Green near Matlock. JUNE 2019: Another successful day of fun-filled, outdoor activities for some of the children’s charities supported by the Royal family.
Images courtesy of Monty, Glossop MRT.
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THROUGHOUT THE YEAR: A big thanks to all those who raise money for mountain rescue Our fundraisers are amazing, whether they’re baking sticky buns on our behalf, hosting fundraising events or taking up the challenge to do something extraordinary in the name of mountain rescue. And there’s no doubt about it, some of them go the extra mile. Literally.
In April 2019, Mark Rickaby walked the 268 miles of the Pennine Way, which chases across the rugged backbone of England, and he did it alone, in extremely challenging conditions at times. He battled poor visibility, hail, rain and snow in the first week, and a painful knee towards the end. His tent became so waterlogged, he was forced to abandon his plan to do the entire journey with his ‘home’ on his back and resort to the somewhat drier comforts of B&Bs. Leading up to the event, he tells us he had battled anxiety and depression, just to get to the start line. But he made it, arriving in Kirk Yetholm two weeks after he set out, a ‘different man to the one that left Edale’. Since October 2018, Beth Wickes has been walking the entire coastline of Britain for Mountain Rescue England and Wales, Lowland Rescue and the RNLI, solo and unsupported, relying on the kindness of strangers to ease the cost of accommodation and food. By mid-March 2020, her seventy-fifth week on the road, she had walked 3040.94 miles, walking six days in every eight, up to twelve miles a time and meeting up with mountain rescue team members where she can. Her travels are on hold for the moment but we hope to see her out and about again soon. Tina Page had ticked off 716 of the 1000 mountain summits of the British Isles she was planning to run over 365 days, when the coronavirus
Top left: Mark Rickaby at the start of his two-week challenge © Mark Rickaby. Top right: Beth Wickes, proudly sporting her Mountain Rescue Supporter badge an her way round the British Isles © Beth Wickes. Right: Tina Page with Langdale Ambleside team members at their Ambleside base © LAMRT. disrupted her plans. She is also raising funds for Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England and the BMC Mend Our Mountains campaign. She too has visited rescue team bases en route through the hills. Hopefully both Beth and Tina will be back on their travels soon. Meanwhile, we’d like to say a huge thank you to all our fundraisers, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing to raise awareness. Every penny counts and we can’t do what we do without your support.
THROUGHOUT THE YEAR: Peer review continues to hold a mirror up to teams The MREW Peer Review process entered its fifth year in 2020, and continues to go from strength to strength, with seventeen teams now reflecting positively on their respective outcomes. The idea is to encourage teams to hold a mirror up to themselves, their training and operational practices and even their paperwork and admin. Ahead of a weekend’s review, teams receive a question set about which forms the basis for a discussion at the start of the two days. The second day is usually a training exercise, featuring a typical scenario — not infrequently interrupted by a real-time call-out! The reviewers are members of other teams who volunteer their time to observe. Tim Cain oversees the process. Five years in, ‘early adopters’ are already conducting mini-reviews, he says, ‘to chart the progress made since their own reviews and there’s a growing appetite for sharing good practice across our community.’ With more teams set to join, this can only be a positive thing for mountain rescue and the casualties we care for.
Above: Upper Wharfedale in Troller ’s Gill during their review © Ed Poulter.
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LATE 2019: Cornwall search and rescue team becomes two Cornwall might not be a place that immediately springs to mind when you think ‘mountain rescue’ but this furthermost south-western tip of England doesn’t have just one mountain rescue team but two. With one of the largest operational areas in England and Wales, the team has been operating as two sections since its formation in 2003, broadly following the Truro (west) and Plymouth (east) postcode areas. But, due to the logistics of recruitment, training and responding quickly across their ‘patch’, in late 2019, two new charities were formed: East Cornwall SRT and West Cornwall SAR, with bases located in Bodmin and Redruth, equipped and ready to respond independently. More complex mine rescues run jointly to allow more coordinated working with Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service. ‘There have been many challenges in splitting a well-established team in half,’ says Jim Gallienne, from East Cornwall, ‘but, as the two new teams consolidate and grow, the benefits to the people of Cornwall will be apparent. We have between 40 and 60 incidents a year, predominantly missing person searches and, with an area extending from Land’s End in the west to Bude in the north, it can take two hours on a good day to get from one end to the other — about 88 miles and not a motorway in sight, but almost that again to get through it in summer! Trying to get volunteers to maintain the enthusiasm to travel to and from training and call-outs — sometimes running over several days — meant we had a high turnover of members. Add to that the cost of fuel almost doubling since 2003, and factoring in members’ finances and time meant we had to change. Above: Preparing for the stretcher lower of an injured walker at Cheesewring, Bodmin Moor (East Cornwall) March 2020. Inset: Rescue of an injured female from Golitha Falls, East Cornwall. August 2019. ‘The benefits to the people and visitors are already apparent, with better response times and local membership. Time and again, ‘mountain’ rescue has been proved to be a transferrable set of skills as relevant to Cornwall as anywhere else — unusual at first but now a respected and well known emergency service across the county, by our statutory partners and the public. Both teams have worked hard to meet the local operational needs, and we look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues regionally and nationally, albeit under two new badges.’
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Mike has been a member of mountain rescue for almost fifty years, having joined Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team in 1970. Since then, on his way to the national ‘hot seat’, he has taken up a variety of roles within his team, the Peak District region and nationally, from party leader, to team leader and regional incident controller, through fundraising officer to chairman of Mountain Rescue England and Wales (with the advent of the MREW CIO, that title has changed to Senior Executive Officer). He has also served mountain rescue as a search dog handler. ‘I feel genuinely honoured and humbled to receive this award,’ says Mike. ‘As a mountain rescue, you are used and committed to turning out as and when required in order to help others.To have that work recognised like this is a real honour – not just for me but for all mountain rescuers who selflessly turn out when everyone else is going home’. JUNE 2019: Queen’s birthday honour for MREW SEO, Mike France MBE
FEBRUARY 2020: Lake District mountain rescue lands prime Monopoly spot
The first landmark to be announced on a new Lake District Monopoly game was revealed in February, with mountain rescue featuring on the Electric Company utility slot. A number of charities will get to Pass Go on the new board, following a public vote that drew over 2000 nominations. Lakes chairman Richard Warren, said it was a huge ‘honour ’ to have been nominated by the public. This unique version and twist on the world’s most famous board game will feature more than thirty Lake District landmarks in place of more familiar spots like Mayfair and Park Lane. Many of the Chance and Community Chest cards will also be themed and the tokens given a Lakeland twist — including an umbrella! Appropriate that mountain rescue should feature in the utility spot, being such an integral part of the Lakes community. Get ready to throw that dice!
JULY 2019: Mountain rescue at fundraising polo match
Our Royal patron the Duke of Cambridge and brother Prince Harry took to the polo field to play the King Power Royal Charity Polo Day, raising awareness and over a million pounds for fifteen of the charities they support. Mountain Rescue England and Wales was one of those charities. The event, in Berkshire, brought together distinguished guests from around the world.
Photo: Supplied by the Royal Press Office.
News snips floods from around England and Wales
FEBRUARY 2020: Storms Ciara and Dennis wreaked havoc in communities across the UK, but particularly in South Wales, West Yorkshire and the Lake District. Mountain rescue teams are increasingly called to support their communities in times of flooding. Specialist swiftwater units within the teams are trained and geared up to respond when needed, often outside their own teams and regions – helped hugely in their efforts by the £5 million Department for Transport Inland Rescue Boat Fund, launched in 2014.
In the same month that the Ciara and Dennis hit, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that thirteen mountain rescue teams and one regional organisation would be amongst the fifty charities to receive funding for essential search and rescue equipment. £202.757.16 would be shared between Bolton, Cornwall, Dartmoor Plymouth, Dartmoor Tavistock, Derby, Duddon and Furness, Kinder, Kirkby Stephen, Oldham, Penrith, Scarborough and Ryedale, Wasdale and Woodhead teams, and the North Wales Mountain Rescue Association. ‘Our rescue boat teams carry out vital work to keep our rivers, lakes and inshore areas safe’, said Shapps. ‘These inspirational charities and their dedicated volunteers save lives every day, and this additional funding will ensure they have the craft, equipment and resources to provide these services year-round’.
MAY 2019: North West Lions Clubs help fund water incident trailers After the Storm Desmond floods of 2015, which badly affected communities in the north west of England, the Lions Clubs North West District offered to support mountain rescue teams in both Lancashire and Cumbria. The result was two identical, fully-stocked water incident trailers, each costing £30,000. The trailers, were immediately put to use for training purposes, ready for major flooding responses when they arise. Located centrally, they are available to all the teams. In May 2019, a ‘project completion’ event on the River Leven at Newby Bridge was attended by senior representatives of the Lions North West District and joint teams of swiftwater rescue technicians from Cockermouth, Langdale Ambleside, Kendal and Bowland Pennine.
Team members battled through the night along with North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, after villages were cut off at the height of the flash flood and the main road from Richmond was washed away and a bridge collapsed on Grinton Moor. MREW ambassador Alan Hinkes (a North Yorkshireman himself) returned two days later with team members to help coordinate the recovery, checking properties in the area, distributing food parcels and other essentials, and to document the damage. ‘This was a classic example,’ says Alan, ‘of how mountain rescue teams help not just in acute situations — such as during the storm or on a rescue in the fells — but also in a more soft manner, helping a supporting the local community.’ JULY 2019: Swaledale team members helped with the clean-up after flash floods in North Yorkshire
Opposite page, centre: Severn Area Rescue Association team members help deal with flooding in South Wales following Storm Dennis © SARA. Top inset: Holme Valley team members supporting Calder Valley SRT in Mytholmroyd after Storm Ciara © Pete Farnell. Bottom inset: Upper Wharfedale team swiftwater unit at Pately Bridge ©UWFRA. Top and centre: Keswick team members dealing with the early morning evacuation of a caravan park after Storm Ciara © Keswick MRT. Above: Ogwen Valley team members support flood operations in Llanwrst after Storm Ciara © OVMRO.
Photos: Alan Hinkes.
National conference hailed a success
503 missing persons searches
September 2019 saw team members heading to Leeds for the first dedicated Mountain Rescue England and Wales conference for seven years. Previous UK-wide events, hosted jointly by MREW, Scottish Mountain Rescue and Mountain Rescue Ireland, had been hugely successful so this was a high bar to match. Mountain Rescue Magazine Editor Judy Whiteside gives an overview.
importance of risk management, the development and maintenance of digital security, and the need for legal awareness in documentation. Just when delegates thought they had heard and read all there was to hear about last year ’s rescue in Thailand of the young football team trapped in a flooded caving system, Jason Mallinson came along to prove us wrong. His fascinating talk about his experience as one of the rescue party was delivered in a suitably croaky voice, thanks to his inhalation, during a recent cave diving operation, of the so-called ‘caustic cocktail’ sometimes associated with the use of rebreathers — caused when the absorbent material used to remove carbon dioxide from the breathing gas, is inundated with water — demonstration were it ever needed of the risks involved. Dave Bunting MBE later succeeded in lightening the mood, capturing the after dinner crowd with his tales of leading in extreme environments. Plans are underway for the next MREW Mountain Rescue Conference, hopefully in September 2021 which, says Julian, will ‘reflect whatever issues are important to our members and the wider SAR community. So, as with this one, we will go out to the membership, asking for input then craft a conference which reflects the wishes and concerns of our team members’. We can’t help but think that a certain coronavirus Covid-19 — and its impact on mountain rescue teams, financially, operationally and perhaps emotionally — might feature quite significantly.
The concensus was that the weekend was, indeed, a resounding success with accolades and thanks quickly tumbling in. Three hundred delegates and speakers converged on the Headingly Campus, joined by colleagues from Scotland, Ireland and Lowland Rescue. They were joined by representatives of the statutory emergency services, partner agencies and government and just under fifty exhibitor staff, many of whom attended the lecture sessions too, fully engaging not just with the membership but the very essence of mountain rescue. The event was sponsored by Integro, MREW’s approved insurance broker, with Simoco sponsoring a delegate pack of goodies and Helly Hansen providing each delegate with their classic base layer. A huge thank you must go to them, along with the exhibitors and programme advertisers for their support. The decision to return to Leeds proved the right one. ‘It’s central to the UK,’ says Julian Walden, who headed up a strong MREW conference team. ’There’s good train, plane and rail access. But, more importantly, we went there because of their enthusiasm and the shared ethos and culture of the Leeds Carnegie team. As outdoor specialists themselves, they understood our community well. Long before the weekend, team members were invited to throw in ideas, resulting in a speaker programme which incorporated a wide range of key topics under the four main threads of Training, Medical, Working with Outside Agencies and Governance. The latter proved particularly salutory with regard to the
Opposite (main photo) and right: Conference images © Cameron Walden. Opposite top: Ogwen team members working with the Coastguard helicopter © OVMRO.
Charm, curiosity and a great nose
294 11% incidents were attributed to Inexperience ‘ ’
Gone are the days when almost all search and rescue dogs were Border collies. Today’s dogs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with different breeds bringing different temperaments, aptitudes and skills to their work with mountain rescue.
John Coombs, a dog handler and member of Edale MRT, has worked with a variety of breeds over more than 20 years. ‘I’ve had two collies, Spider and Flash,’ he says, ‘two German Shepherds, Bonnie and Biscuit, and then, more recently, English Shepherds, Shola and my current dog-in-training, Dottie. ‘There’s a lot we don’t know about how the different breeds react to rescue situations and how they do what they do but it’s always fascinating watching them develop.’ Border collies have been bred for the hills and deal with mountainous terrain really well. Their key advantages are drive, curiosity, energy and the desire to please. ‘It makes a big difference if the dog is happy to be independent of the handler as then you can concentrate on keeping yourself on your route and safe,’ says John. ‘Spider once found a volunteer body during a training exercise while I was having my lunch — he just went off and did the job himself! Border collies also have amazing charm and charisma — Spider and Flash were a great draw when the team was out fundraising.’ A browse of the search dog websites will also show Labradors, Retrievers, Spaniels and other gun dog breeds. ‘These have good instincts but they need to be healthy and not too big,’ says John. ‘Spaniels are very energetic and can be a bit obsessive but their work with police and border control shows that they’re great on a scent. It’s probably true to say that a lot of SARDA handlers are a bit obsessive too!’ Pointers and Lurchers are proving to be good for air scenting and can be trained for avalanche situations with some, including Biscuit, John’s German
Shepherd, even working in water rescue situations to find casualties underwater. ‘German Shepherds can be a bit disturbing in their ability to sense people in trouble,’ says John. ‘I know that they were used to find casualties in No Man’s Land during the First World War and I wonder if this has almost bred into them that sixth sense.’ That focusing of a dog’s natural abilities is one thing that makes training and working with a search dog such a satisfying part of mountain rescue. ‘I’ve learnt to observe each individual dog and then develop them from what I see,’ says John, ‘and I think any handler will learn from their dogs too’.
Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England is one of several search dog organisations which operate across England and Wales. These comprise SARDA Wales , SARDA South Wales , Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dog association and NSARDA (which represents associations in the UK, Isle of Man and Eire). Both air-scenting and trailing dogs are used to search for many different types of missing people, through every sort of terrain and weather conditions.
Opposite, main photo: Watching and waiting: John Coombs with Search Dog Flash, one of his Border collies. Inset: Dave ‘Benny’ Benson with Search Dog Brock, his Lurcher. Above left: John with Flash. Above right: Search Dog B iscuit, the German Shepherd. Photos courtesy of John Coombs and Dave Benson.
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