Edale Mountain Rescue Team celebrates 65 years

“We’ve saved lives and we’ve saved limbs”.

By Lucy Ball
Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 7:00 am

For 65 years Edale Mountain Rescue Team has been helping those lost or injured in the Peak District National Park and surrounding area.

The group had humble beginnings back in 1956 when the volunteers had just one stretcher and some basic first-aid equipment kept at the Nags Head pub in the village, as well as six whistles provided by the Peak Park Planning Board. They also had to make their own way to call-outs by bicycle, train or hitching a lift.

Now the lifesavers, who are all still volunteers and are on call 24 hours a day 365 days a year, have a fleet of five team vehicles, extensive professional equipment, an instant callout system and their own communications network taking them to a whole new level of lifesaving from how they first started.

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In 2008, Edale Mountain Rescue Team chairman Rob Small was pictured with a commendation the team received from South Yorkshire Police following floods in 2007.

Dave Torr is the 12th team leader to take the helm of the mountain rescue team.

He said: “We have grown so much over the years, we cover a huge area supporting both Derbyshire and South Yorkshire emergency services and the work we do saves lives and saves limbs and I’m so proud of everything we have achieved and we will continue to do."

The Mountain Rescue Committee had been in existence since 1946, but this was not a formally organized body. With the new National Park which was created in 1951, more and more people had started to discover the Peak District, and this statistically created more incidents in remote locations so a more formal structure was required.

Sixty-five years ago in 1956, the Edale team held its first ever exercise which was organised by Fred Heardman, the landlord of the Nags Head Edale and Tom Tomlinson, the first full-time head warden of the newly formed Peak District National Park.

John Bather, Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire; Ian Bunting, Edale Mountain Rescue Team leader; John Capewell, Lafarge Cement’s special projects manager; and Rob Small, Chairman of Edale Mountain Rescue Team, at the new base opening in 2007

It used to be a requirement that you could only become a member of the mountain rescue team if you were a park ranger but over time that rule has changed with anyone who passes through the training now able to become a member.

Currently there are 43 full time members who are always on call, and eight going through their training.

Dave said: “ All our volunteers get a tremendous buzz when we save someone who without our intervention may have died or had lifelong injuries. It’s that feeling that helps us to go out in the dark and the cold and the wet and look for lost and injured people.”

George Garlick was the first official team leader for Edale Mountain Rescue in 1964. Since those days, the team has had 12 team leaders in total. The longest serving team leader was Tony Hood, who held the reins for 10 years, from 1983-1993. He continues as a team member today and has completed an amazing 47 years with the team.

Lord Mayor of Sheffield Jacki Drayton is helped by Edale Mountain rescue after a 'fall' on Burbage rocks in March 2007

In 1986 the team moved to its current base at the cement works in Hope.

At the time the works were owned by Blue Circle Cement and they gave the team the use of a lean-to which was then improved with two portable cabins donated by the NHS.

Dave said: “For the first time in our history all our equipment was stored in one place, slightly dusty but safe and dry, and we were extremely grateful.”

In the early 1990s the team got its first vehicle, an ex British Telecom Ford Transit van, affectionately known as the ‘Custard Bus’ due to the bright yellow colour favoured by British Telecom at the time.

Fred Heardman, the landlord of the Nags Head Edale and Tom Tomlinson, the first full-time head warden of the newly formed Peak District National Park in 1956

The vehicle was rigged out to transport all of the team’s equipment including the stretcher - up to this point the team had had to rely on team members using their own transport.

In 2007 the cement works – now owned by Lafarge – kindly offered the team bigger premises which was officially opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire John Bather.

The team is one of the busiest in England and Wales and last year, 2020, was the busiest year on record for Edale MRT with a total of 158 callouts.

“We saw a massive increase in the number of callouts when lockdown was lifted last year and we think we will see the same this year,” said Dave.

"With no holidays abroad happening people are realising what wonderful surroundings they live in and want to go out and explore which is great but too many people aren’t prepared enough for a day on the hills and come out in fashion trainers, no torch or proper map and compass and rely too much on their smart phones.

Edale Mountain Rescue Team

"We know that until you need us you probably don’t think about mountain rescue but you could keep yourself safe by making sure you plan for the worst on every trip."

Coivid restrictions have made things tougher for the team especially after such a busy year as blankets and sleeping bags need to sit for 72 hours before they can be used again. This has not always been possible so has meant more money being spent to bring in not just PPE but extra equipment.

Dave added: “No one could have ever predicted the year we have just had. The team members and the support from their families has been amazing and doesn’t go unrecognised and I’d like to thank everyone past and present for helping us to still be where we are today so we can go out and save lives.”

To find out more about the team, see their website – https://edalemrt.co.uk/.

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