Another busy year for Dales rescue team

Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association

4:54pm 12th January 2018

It's been another very busy year for the Grassington-based Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association (UWFRA).

A team of 60 highly-trained volunteers dealt with 50 call-outs across Wharfedale, Littondale, Nidderdale and as far afield as Knaresborough and Ripon in 2017.

The total was just seven short of their record two years ago and the last two days of the year involved the team supporting North Yorkshire Police in a lengthy search in the Harrogate area for a missing elderly and vulnerable man.

July was again the busiest month, with 10 call-outs and five of them in just a week.

UWFRA has also reported a "significant and encouraging" trend showing that the man-hours needed for rescues are reducing each year.

In 2013, they totalled 1,905 hours, and last year, the total had steadily reduced to 1,591 hours.

The team attributes this reduction to new technology and particularly the methods used to speedily form a rescue team and how the rescue can be controlled and streamlined to readily deal with ever-changing circumstances.

Technology has also helped the team by reducing the number of volunteers needed on a call-out and it's now very rare that the entire team is needed for one rescue.

During the year, UWFRA also rescued its 1,500th person, a walker with a broken ankle near Arncliffe.

He's recovered well and both he and his family have become dedicated supporters of the team.

Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association on Ilkley Moor

Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association helping an injured climber on Ilkley Moor

Team controller Derek Hammond said: ''The biggest category of rescues has been due to injuries, with 19 of these being to the lower legs. Overdue or lost rescues were down to five and again a pleasing figure demonstrating that safety precautions and preparation methods are being practised.

"Fatalities were again at two, a new low in recent times. Good news for animals as well, as only two needed rescuing - a spaniel called Chubbs who had fallen down a 60ft hole near Pateley Bridge before being returned uninjured to its delighted owners and a dog with its owner who had become trapped on a ledge near Bolton Abbey.

''Nidderdale rescues continue to rise, with 19 over the year, of which four were at Brimham Rocks, and Ilkley Moor had its fair share of eight. Searching for vulnerable people who had gone missing from their local communities accounted for eight call-outs - the average over recent years.

"Caving rescues, which as you would expect are long in duration and require a lot of manpower and equipment, there was just the one when a caver was stuck underground at Swan Dike Pot, Pen-y-ghent Gill, with 22 members taking some 200 man-hours to get him out. This was in addition to the support given from adjacent team CRO, the Cave Rescue Organisation.

"Two call-outs in two hours was a challenge, but luckily both were in the same area - first, a walker with a suspected broken leg on Ilkley Moor and then an injured child on Otley Chevin. In both cases, the team treated the injury before stretchering to an awaiting road ambulance."

Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association's training facilities

Training facilities at Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association's headquarters in Grassington

Derek added: "Away from actual rescues, the team continued with specialist training, as well as equipment and headquarters maintenance, with Monday evenings being the regular time. It is calculated that this behind-the-scenes work amounts to some 5,000 extra hours.

"In addition to all this, team members somehow find time to perform fundraising activities, and last year, they excelled themselves attending local shows and events spurred on by the need to fund our recent major building extension costs - even more time away from their families.

"The major fundraising event was again the UWFRA Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge, in its fourth year and bringing in a brilliant £7,000 of much-needed funds for the team. This year's event, which again will be held on the last Saturday in June, is well into its planning stage and bookings are now available online.

''A sad day was remembered when members attended a memorial church service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Mossdale Caverns caving tragedy when six young cavers lost their lives. We were the lead organisation on this dreadful day in caving history and still have members today who took part in the attempted rescue.

"The team has a very healthy mix of young members, several having joined during the year, and the long-standing members who, of course, have such rescue situation knowledge of the Dales above and below ground.

"We continue to strive to obtain the best technology we can afford to add to our own expertise and dedication, and we are always so grateful to members of the public who through their support, donations and fundraising keep us going.''

More information about the team at

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