The Upper Wharfe Fell Rescue Association column with David Dennis

The Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue team continue to chalk up major landmarks. Photo: Sara Spillett.
The Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue team continue to chalk up major landmarks. Photo: Sara Spillett.

We have had many landmarks and milestones in our 69-year history, ranging from two royal visits, the many years of patronage by the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire to our 1,000th call out – and last year our 50th dog rescue.

Our latest milestone took place above Litton, where a visitor to the Dales had a nasty fall, resulting in a serious leg injury.

The man found himself a part of the team’s history – as our 1500th person to be rescued.

Graham Sugden 62, a retired chartered surveyor from Campsall near Doncaster had been enjoying a short walking holiday with his wife based at the Falcon Inn in Arncliffe.

The team had to administer painkillers to enable him to be placed on a stretcher before carrying him down the fell to an awaiting road ambulance.

Sadly the couple’s stay at the Falcon had to be cut short with Graham ending up at Airedale Hospital instead, but nevertheless it had been a most memorable visit for them.

Graham said: “What a relief it was to see the ‘cavalry’ coming over the hill to the rescue in the form of a dozen members from the Fell Rescue Team. So professional and understanding of our predicament caring with my injury.

“The experience of sledging down the fell strapped to a stretcher with a broken ankle in a splint will stay with me for a long time.

“I can’t thank you all enough and I am looking forward to being recovered so I can accept your offer of a visit to your headquarters in Grassington to meet you all again and to have a tour of the building.”

Times have certainly changed for the team since our formation in 1948 when in our first year of operation we had just seven call outs, which involved missing walkers, stranded climbers, a dog, some sheep, two cows in a mineshaft and the sad task of retrieving two fatalities from a light aircraft crash.

Call outs for today’s team is now approaching 60 a year.

This is a national trend with a study by Ordnance Survey showing that last year teams in England and Wales dealt with 1812 incidents – an increase of 170 from the previous year. 360 of these were serious or fatal.

A remarkable figure came to light in the survey, showing that there were only 14 days in the year without a Mountain Rescue call out somewhere .

The survey also suggested that possibly 500 of the call outs could have been avoided.

Our own survey shows a much lower percentage and we attribute some of this to the awareness of visitors to the safety measures generated from the tremendous support the team is given by the local press and media.

Our conclusion for many of the call outs was sheer bad luck, but of course we totally agree with the survey that ongoing initiatives to educate people on the steps they should take to ensure they enjoy the Dales but avoid becoming another mountain rescue statistic.