Its been a bit of a week for Scout my trainee Mountain Rescue search and rescue Border Collie. On a training exercise Monday night, Scout had to find a hidden person, Paul Richmond, a friend who regularly gives up his Monday nights to act as a body for Scout. He set off searching woodland as he normally does, trying to detect any scent from a human in the air and unknown to me, picked up the scent of two people lost in the woods, without a torch and unable to get out to safety.
Scout still has a year of training to do, but he performed, exactly as he should, returning to tell me he had found some people then making multiple runs between them and me guiding me to their location. They were a little scared and desperate to get out of the woods. Scout an I escorted them out and then Scout continued on with his search to find Paul, eventually locating him and bringing me to his position.
It’s a big moment in his development, he did what he had trained to do, without thought or hesitation. I am so proud of him.
Looking back at the photos from 2016 I came across this one taken of fellow team mates on a very cold January Sunday at 08:00 hours at Soldiers Lump triangulation pillar on Black Hill.
The reason why we had got up at an ungodly hour on a cold, frozen, snowy day was to walk in the dark, across the moor from Holme Moss Transmitter Station and set up a transmitter station and checkpoint at Black Hill for the fell runners taking part in that years Trigger Race from Marsden to Edale.
Woodhead Mountain Rescue team members man all the checkpoints and provide safety cover, especially needed on days like this picture shows. The fell running community are great supporters of Mountain Rescue and this is one way that they raise funds for the team; donations that are badly needed.
Winter is still holding back in England, but it will arrive and with winter comes accidents and people in distress. Already this year Woodhead Mountain Rescue have rescued a lost walker in harsh winter conditions and rescued a badly injured climber in the middle of the worst storm this year.
All this takes money, not to mention the time members of any Mountain Rescue team give voluntarily, leaving jobs and family to go and help total strangers. Money is critical in a voluntary service. It buys fuel for vehicles, provides funds for premises and training, and buys specialist kit for team members. Team members also buy their own kit too and the fuel to get to a callout. Each year a team knows it has to raise enough money to remain operational, if they aren’t there, who else is going to go out and find a lost walker, rescue the injured climber. That amount can be anything from £25000 upwards. It’s a lot.
Raising the money takes various forms. Team supporters, without whose help teams would not be able to function, hold collection days at local venues, sell merchandise, provide hot food and drinks at fell race events. Pubs and shops put a collection tin on the counters for locals to drop the pennies into. Local children raise funds through village fairs, school events. Local and national businesses provide donations to buy equipment.
All donations are welcome. One of the most treasured is from the people teams are asked to go and help. Mostly individuals who send a cheque and a thank you note; those are really nice to read. Sometimes, as in a recent Mountain Bike accident, friends of the injured party do something special, like cycling the Pennine Bridleway to raise funds for the team, a really wonderful way to give something back and fantastic to receive. One person sells a special beer and has raised thousands another sells neck buffs with team logos on. Team members play Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, Guy Fawkes in their communities at traditional events and helps raise funds. People give through websites such as Just Giving which increases the amount donated with Gift Aid. Donations range from the thousands to a 50p coin pocket money from a child. It all helps.
To those who give, it makes a huge difference to someones life, literally. Without your donations Mountain Rescue could not do what it does. What you do is vitally important.
A few years back Alison and I were walking up Cut Gate on a cold autumn day that had a wind cutting in to you with icy strokes. As we approached Mickleden Edge Alison wandered off to have a look at something and I carried on a little then waited for her to catch up. As she approached me she seemed to be walking slowly and a little ungainly. I asked her if she was OK and she said her legs were tired and she had no energy, she said this with a slurring voice. We had not been out that long and the day was dry, but it struck me that she might be suffering from light hypothermia. I got her out of the wind and gave her some hot tea to sip and cake to eat, whilst putting on a few extra layers. I could see the woods around Langsett Ranger Station, it was ridiculous this could be happening, we had hardly walked any distance, Alison had recently run the New York Marathon so was not unfit, but here we were dealing with the effects of wind chill on the human body. Alison recovered quickly and we made our way back to Langsett. It turned out that some medication she had been given had thinned her blood making her more susceptible to cold.
Norah Leary was not so fortunate. The seventeen year old rambler from Sheffield froze to death on Broomhead Moor on the 14th December 1937. A rescue party made up of police, local people and gamekeepers, found her body beneath a 10ft snow drift. The report, above, from the Manchester Guardian on the inquest gives further details. A photo here shows the rescue party bringing the body down Mortimer Road towards Ewden Beck. The clothing on the rescue party would have been very similar to the clothing worn by the ramblers.
A recent rescue of a walker near to the Cut Gate path could have had a very different outcome if Woodhead Mountain Rescue had not found them in time. A day walk in good conditions had turned into a life threatening event in harsh winter conditions with snow and sub zero night time temperatures. Being correctly equipped can make the difference between getting home safe or not at all.
The Dark Peak makes you pay for simple mistakes, especially in winter. The area can be at its most beautiful at this time of year, it can also be at its most brutal. So far the winter has been mild, many of us had wished for better winter conditions, hopefully it will come, for there is nothing better than walking across moorland in snow with a blue sky above.
Scout has been with us one month now and has settled in really well. The other two dogs Monty and Olly are gradually accepting him although Olly still remains to be convinced Scout is a keeper. But this does not seem to phase Scout in the slightest. He has a firm personality and a strong character, he refuses to be bullied by the other dogs and is gradually ingratiating himself with them. He is happy to be part of their gang or spend time on his own.
Scout has gradually increased his levels of activity and interest. At first he showed no real interest in toys but now is gathering quite a collection. Still the best toys seem to be toilet rolls and egg boxes, oh and soil, he likes soil. He sleeps through now and is on the way to being house trained, but more work needed on that.
This coming month is a big one for Scout. Tomorrow he will be able to go out for the first time and walk around. So far he has had car journeys and visits to shops and offices and people, all good for him, sights and sounds, smells and touch. He has coped really well and shown no signs of distress. Tomorrow morning he goes for his first walk around the common. Lots of trees and grass and smells. Lots of other dogs too so he can start to join a wider community. Only 15 minutes of walking for him, twice a day to make sure he does not strain his limbs.
Next weekend he attends his first SARDA training camp up in the North Yorkshire Moors. He will attend puppy class, learing obedience, getting ready for his first tests. Walking to heel, staying put and the biggy passing a stock test where he has to ignore a flock of sheep.
Later in the month he takes on his first fund-raising work for his team Woodhead Mountain Rescue. He will be at Sheffield Train Station collecting for team funds. Then a few weeks later he is at Scholes Gala helping raise more funds. A busy time.
Well we are finally on the way to becoming a Search and Rescue Dog Handler with the arrival of this little fella on Friday evening. This is Scout a Border Collie puppy dog from Derek Scrimgeour at Killiebrae Sheepdogs. He is pretty neat and full of energy, which includes jumping over steps, falling down staircases and getting under our feet at every opportunity.
At the moment its just a puppy life for him, the real training starts in a little while, but he already respondes to his new name, the original was Killiebrae Jigg. In the months and years to come we both have a huge amount to learn and hopefully put to good use out in the hills and mountains.
He already has a sponsor, Wapentac will be looking after certain aspects of his health and well being which is really nice. I just have to fend for myself.
If you want to know more about SARDA the Search and Rescue Dog Association have a look at their website here at the SARDA website