Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team column: Saving lives come rain or shine

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Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team (CVSRT) has been saving lives in wild and remote places since 1966.

That’s 50 incredible years where members of the community have come together as a team of volunteers to give their time freely with one sole objective - help others in need, no matter who they are, what time of day it is or what the weather is like. But why?

On November 29, 1965, Mr Robert Akrigg, a 55-year-old reservoir keeper set out in treacherous conditions to check the water gauges from the Gorple Cottages near Hebden Bridge, but never returned. Water Board employees accompanied by the police, local farmers and estate keepers were joined by Mountain and Fell Rescue Team members from across the North of England to begin the search in earnest.

As the week progressed, the search mounted in intensity and by the third day, more than 300 people were searching the moors and stayed from first light until dark without success. With the passing of days, the hope of finding Mr Akrigg alive diminished. However the searchers never gave up.

Throughout the search, the wintery conditions were relentless with biting cold wind, causing an icy ‘smoke’ over the whole moors. Tragically Mr Akrigg wasn’t found during the search and it was only when the heavy snows of that winter receded (some 65 days later) that his body was discovered.

As a result of this tragedy, an inaugural meeting was held in early 1966 at Hebden Bridge Council offices with more than 30 people attending. At the meeting, Mr Wally Keay (a former leader with Wharfedale Fell Rescue Team) said: “There’s nothing heroic or romantic about being in a rescue team - just five per cent inspiration and 95 per cent hard slogging. The first priority of a new team is; training in navigation and first aid.”

During this meeting, Calder Valley Moorland Rescue Association was formed and it sought the help of Hebden Bridge St John Ambulance Brigade to assist with the first aid training.

This year, we celebrated our 50th anniversary and marked this very important milestone with a series of events.

Our aim during 2016 was to remember our origins, previous members and incidents (which total nearly 1,000 since our formation), celebrate team successes and achievements, reinforce our commitment to the community through training and education, raise funds for the future and, finally, celebrate and have some fun!

We can safely say that we have achieved all our objectives.

CVSRT would like to thank all our families, friends, employers, previous members and the many supporters who have helped to make this year such a memorable one for everyone who is, or has been, connected to the team over the last 50 years.

It is only with everyone’s support and donations that we can continue to provide the essential life-saving emergency service to you all.

It costs around £40,000 a year just to keep the team operational, all of which is raised through donations from the community and local businesses - we receive no direct government funding. Everyone in the team is unpaid and any specialist equipment, training courses and new vehicle replacement requires additional funding on top.

In summary, 2016 has been another busy year for our operational and non-operational team members with a staggering 12,659 voluntary hours to date dedicated to training, public events, fundraising and not forgetting over 70 callouts this year assisting the statutory emergency services with numerous lives saved.

Rescue team members come from all walks of life, from all age groups and professions, and from all parts of our operational area. We have a set of essential criteria and desired qualities all candidates must meet for their own safety and fellow members. However for the right person these are achievable.

Recruitment for our 2017 intake is currently open and we are inviting applications from anyone wishing to be considered for the next training programme.

Alternatively, if you would like to get involved with our active supporters group or volunteer as a training casualty or dogsbody, please get in touch via our website. Full details can be found online. Be inspired and get involved.

Visit www.cvsrt.org.uk.