IT'S been another very busy year for the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association (UWFRA) and one which saw the team carry out its 1,500th rescue writes David Dennis.

THE 60 highly trained volunteers dealt with a total of 50 call-outs across Wharfedale, Littondale and Nidderdale and as far afield as Knaresborough and Ripon. The total was just seven short of their record two years ago. The very last two days of the year involved the team supporting the North Yorkshire Police in a lengthy search in the Harrogate area for a missing, elderly and vulnerable man, who thankfully was found, alive and well.

July was again the busiest month with 10 call outs, and surprisingly, November came next with six. July also had the team out five times in a week. A significant and encouraging trend is that the man hours needed for rescues is reducing each year. In 2013 it was 1,905 hours, while in the last 12 months, the total had steadily reduced down to 1,591 hours. This would have been much lower but for the Harrogate search which took up some 240 man hours. The team puts this down to new technology and in particular the methods that are employed 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 reduced the numbers needed on any individual call out, and it is now very rare that the entire team is needed for one rescue. In 2017, the biggest call out team involved 31members, when 21 students got lost near How Stean Gorge, near Harrogate. A most pleasing statistic is that this has been the fifth consecutive year that the volunteers have been able to stay at home with their families on Christmas Day.

Phill Nelson, Head Gardener at Parcevall Hall, who is also one of the team’s four controllers, 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 were needed rescuing – a spaniel called Chubbs who had fallen down a 60 ft 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’’.

The number of rescues in the Nidderdale area continued its upward trend, with 19 carried out over the year, including four at Brimham Rocks, and eight at Ilkley Moor.

"Searching for vulnerable people who had gone missing from their local communities accounted for eight call outs – the average over recent years," added Mr Nelson.

Caving rescues which as you would expect are long duration and require a lot of manpower and equipment. They included one when a caver was stuck underground at Swan Dike Pot Penyghent Gill. That involved 22 members taking a total of 200 man hours to get him out. And this, in addition to the support given from adjacent team, Clapham based Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO).

Mr Nelson added: "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."

Away from actual rescues, the team continued with specialist training as well as equipment and headquarters maintenance, usually held on Monday evenings. It is calculated that this behind the scenes work amounts to some 5,000 extra hours put in by UWFRA members.

In addition to all this team members somehow find time to perform fundraising activities and last year they excelled themselves attending shows and events in the area 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 inspired the Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge. The event, centred in Kettlewell, was held for its fourth time and raised a brilliant £7,000 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 on line . 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.

During 2017, the team hit the milestone of rescuing its 1, 500 person. A walker with a broken ankle above Arncliffe , a retired chartered surveyor from near Doncaster discovering that he had become famous overnight. He has recovered well and both he and his family have become dedicated supporters of the team.

The team reports 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 though their support ,donations and fundraising keeps us going.

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