GAZETTE COMMENT: Reminder of what rural and coastal area is losing

Father Christmas hitched a lift from 202 Squadron at RAF Boulmerl.
Father Christmas hitched a lift from 202 Squadron at RAF Boulmerl.
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Father Christmas flying in to see the schoolchildren at Longhoughton First School via an RAF Boulmer Sea King helicopter is always a wonderful moment of festive and community spirit.

And we’re sure it’s not just the youngsters who enjoy it; anyone scouring the skies who spots Santa in his yellow sleigh is sure to crack a smile.

But this year’s festive flight is tinged with sadness because it is likely to be the last Christmas that it happens due to the forthcoming privatisation of the UK’s Search and Rescue service.

Despite plenty of assurances that the new helicopters are state-of-the-art and that a better service will be in operation under the new regime, many in north Northumberland are unsure how the new equipment can make up for the huge change in distance with the nearest helicopters to be based in Glasgow and Humberside, not Boulmer.

It remains to be seen how the new service – as well as the added pressure on emergency services in the county – copes, especially in a sparse and open landscape with both coastline and hills, which attracts locals and visitors alike.