Life-saving mountain rescue charity appeals for volunteers

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A life-saving charity is appealing for new recruits to ensure it can continue in its vital work on Cumbria's fells.

Penrith Mountain Rescue Team, which covers the biggest patch of any Lake District mountain rescue team, is hoping to increase its numbers before the end of the summer.

It is calling for people within a 20-minute drive of Penrith who enjoy fell walking and have good navigation skills to consider how they could make a difference.

The team, who are entirely voluntary and respond 365 days per year, 24 hours per day, would like to have a total of about 40 volunteers, about 10 more than it currently has on board.

It can be life-saving. Unfortunately there are times when we are also recovering bodies.

But deputy leader Vic Seed said: "It's a question of getting people of the right calibre there is no set limit on the amount.

"The main thing we are looking for is experienced hill walkers who want learn new skills and help other people in the district.

"Obviously it's quite a time commitment. You have got training, a bit of fundraising and there is the call outs."

Penrith MRT attends an average of about 50 call outs a year, operating across a huge patch stretching from the Scottish border to the North Pennines ando High Cup Nick above Dufton in the south, and between the north-eastern fells of the Lake District and the Northumberland border.

Vic said: "It can be life-saving. A lot of our call outs are relatively simple but there have been times when what we have done has saved people's lives.

"Unfortunately there are times when we are also recovering bodies."

The service also extends its rescue criteria to searching for vulnerable people and flooding incidents, and works closely with Patterdale and Kirkby Stephen MRTs.

The team consists of people from all walks of life including teachers, medics, ex-servicemen and women, and people who work outdoors.

Vic, a teacher at Appleby Grammar School who lives in Orton, has volunteered for several years.

He's always liked the outdoors and decided to follow in the footsteps of his father Bernard Seed who was an RAF mountain rescuer.

He said there is a great sense of satisfaction in the work and camaraderie between members.

"Some of the things you see and do together build quite a strong team," he said.

"It's a good opportunity for people who like the outdoors and love walking. The main thing we expect is that they are happy to be out in all weathers and are able to navigate.

"We get all sorts of people. It's not who you would expect necessarily that shines at the end of it.

"It'a the attitude and keenness to learn that's the most important thing. That is where some of our most valuable members have come from."

Last year saw eight new members sign up with some going on to complete a year-long probation.

Climbing isn't an essential skill. Some interest in first aid will be of use but training is provided.

The rigorous programme of training throughout the year covers casualty care, off-road and blue-light driving, radio communications, search management and swift water rescue.

Training takes place twice a month - once on a Sunday and on a Wednesday night.

Additional training occasionally takes place and there are usually about four or five fundraisers a year to helped raise the £20,000 needed to ensure they can continue to function.

Visit www.penrithmrt.org.uk for more information.

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