Rescue volunteers responded to three incidents in seven days, helping lost walkers and a cyclist in Northumberland.
The beginning of May has certainly been busy for representatives of the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team (NNPMRT) and North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team.
At 5.10pm on Saturday, May 7, the teams were activated by Northumbria Police to assist in the search of two walkers. They had become disoriented in thick mist surrounding the Simonside Hills. From the information received, it was suspected that the walkers had taken shelter in one of the two huts between Harwood Forest and Hepple Whitefield – along the route of the Sandstone Way and Border County Ride.
Two team members were swiftly despatched to drive the rough track up to Whitefield Hill. The walkers were located in one of the shooting huts with the gas fire on to warm themselves up and were grateful for the assistance. A police 4x4 was used to transport the walkers back to their car at Simonside Forest car park and the incident involved eight team members for two hours.
Then, at 2.05pm on Monday, May 2, a group of nine walkers and two dogs were unsure of their position on the Salter's Road at the eastern edge of the Uswayford Forest – one of the most remote parts of the Northumberland National Park. Luckily for the group, the passer-by they asked for navigational support was a Mountain Rescue team member who ascertained they were 6km off their desired route heading towards the Breamish Valley, rather than their intended goal of climbing Windy Gyle.
Given the time and location, a decision was taken by the team member to shuttle the group in his nearby 4x4 back down the Usway Valley to the track heading south to Barrowburn over Middle Hill. The group then walked back the last few kilometres to Barrowburn having not made the summit of Windy Gyle. The team member waited at Barrowburn to see the group coming safely down the hill before heading home, having almost certainly avoided a search for the full team later in the day and possibly into the night. The incident involved one team member for two hours.
At 8.31pm on Sunday, May 1, the teams were contacted by Northumbria Police after a cyclist had become lost in the Kielder area. Initial indications suggested that the cyclist was near to Riccarton. The Mountain Rescue mobile phone GPS technology, SARLOC, was used to try to locate the individual, but phone signal in the area made the attempt unsuccessful. The Border Search and Rescue Unit and Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team were also put on stand-by while the police drove some of the roads. After half-an-hour, contact was made with the cyclist confirming his location, allowing a police vehicle to transport him back to his starting point at Kielder Water. The incident involved two team members for an hour.
NNPMRT and NOTMRT provide a search and rescue service in the Northumbria Police area. The operational area covers 2,159 square miles and includes the whole of Northumberland and the conurbation of Tyne & Wear. Both mountain rescue teams operate jointly on a call out, as a single body. Both teams are solely reliant on voluntary donations and grants from charitable trusts. The funds generated cover the costs of training; maintenance, replacement or upgrading of equipment and vehicles; general running costs including fuel; and, insurances. Fund-raising is as continuous as training. Mountain rescue team members are on call, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.