The Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association column with David Dennis

Our dedicated volunteers commit their time to take part in training.
Our dedicated volunteers commit their time to take part in training.

This month Phill Nelson, one of our three controllers, gives a broader view on Mountain Rescue as an organisation. In the early days when Mountain Rescue Teams (MRTs) began, in the 1930s, the focus and the reason for their inception was to assist people who ventured out beyond the villages and roads and got into difficulty.

UWFRA began in 1948 when a group of Grassington locals with various backgrounds began to assist people in difficulty on the fells and caves of the Wharfedale and Nidderdale area.

Fast forward 70 years to 2018 and UWFRA along with many other teams throughout England and Wales have changed beyond recognition, but the underlying ethos of helping those in difficulty still remains true.

As the years rolled by the team has found itself having to adapt to the changes in technology and equipment.

To look at itself and how it operates, the skill levels and training requirements for members has increased as we try to be best placed to provide a voluntary service with professionalism.

Aside from the callouts within our own area, UWFRA is one of four teams that make up the Yorkshire Dales Rescue Panel, This panel allows a cohesive response to any larger incidents that may occur in the North Yorkshire area.

The flooding of York city was one of those occasions, but on a scale which reached beyond just the boundaries of county. Teams from other regions across England and Wales also responded.

England and Wales, Mountain Rescue (MREW) is organised into Regions, as such if one region requires further help for an escalating incident it can request resources of both people and equipment from the other regions.

Major incidents may last for days, such as the floods in Carlisle, it then allows a planned response that can be effective from start to finish.

UWFRA sent water trained technicians along with rafts and a Land Rover to help the public evacuate safely from Carlisle.

More recently, when the “Beast from the East” hit the UK sending much of the country into a standstill, UWFRA was responding to calls from the Ambulance Service to assist in transferring patients from their homes to the waiting ambulance as access was impossible due to iced or blocked roads.

This was in addition to the normal callouts the team would be expected to respond to.

There is no doubt that in 2019 Mountain Rescue is part of the bigger picture of national resilience, when help is needed teams are called upon to assist the Police, Ambulance or Fire Services when and were we can. This does place a bigger strain on our service as we are totally funded by donation.

UWFRA requires £50,000 per year just to meet the running costs of the organisation and to maintain the statutory training required for the Water team and Blue light driving as examples.

Dedicated volunteers commit their time to take part of all the training requirements and practices enabling them to become better rescuers which hopefully will produce a better outcome for those in need.