Joint Foundation Course in Mountain Rescue 2009.

For the fifth year running, the Team organised and took part in a fully residential Joint Foundation Course in Mountain Rescue based at the excellent facilities of the Bolton Scout District Bibbys Farm Scout Campsite & Activity Centre, at Heath Charnock, nestling in the foothills and reservoirs of the West Pennine Moors.

This weekend is totally supported by Bolton MRT, in terms of exercise venues, exercise casualties, equipment, vehicles & full course catering. With huge thanks to the four members of Bolton MRT Support Group, Gillian Gregory, Iain Clarkson, Teresa Gilliland – whose daughter Elaine is our Catering and Base / HQ Officer, and Johanne Lamb, who all attended to help over the weekend.

The weekend is aimed at new members of MRTS, i.e. of circa 6 – 12 months experience, and is intended to cover subjects not generally covered at a team level and to consolidate other topics and course members experiences to date.

The course instructors were drawn from the teams attending this years course and included a core group of very experienced instructors who have been associated with this course over the many years of its existance.

The full time instructors in residence team involved 3x from Bolton MRT, including the overall course organiser our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE, Mike Marsh, also organiser of the MR E&W Party Leaders course and guest lecturer on Irish Mountain Rescue Association training courses and Fred Taylor, our teams Equipment Officer for Stretchers and Rope Rescue and the MPSRO Water Officer.
From North East Wales Search and Rescue Team came their Team Leader Iain Ashcroft, and their Training Officer Richard Dobson, Rossendale & Pendle MRTs Deputy Team Leader Paul Heywood, their Training Officer Peter Goble, an NWAS Lancashire Emergency Ambulance Technician in his full time job and their Trainee Officer Ron Williams, the Team Leader of Cheshire Lowland SRT Joanne McClure, and finally not forgetting long term course supporter, instructor and valued friend of our team Simon Thresher from Calder Valley SRT.

Throughout the weekend full IT support culminating in an end of course DVD was provided by long serving Bolton MRT team members Steve Fletcher and Dave Healey, our Radio Communications Equipment Officer and one of our five Call Out contacts.

Team Callout list member Elaine Gilliland, who along with members of the Support Group and team call out list members Andy Kench and Dave Carter, who both helped on the Sunday, provided excellent course catering throughout the entire weekend, with every meal available on time, and endless hot and cold drinks whenever anybody asked, they even operated a daily flask filling service, and provided cheese on toast at 2.00am on Saturday morning! Very special mention must be made of former Team Call Out list member Sue Purtill, who left her farm, in her husbands capable hands, for the entire weekend to
help full time with the course catering. Excellent home made soups Sue.

…the ladies who did lunch, dinner & breakfast – Elaine & Sue…

28x Trainee MRT & SRT members attended this years course from four teams,

  • 6x from Cheshire LSRT, from our companion organisation the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue – ALSAR,
  • 4x from NEWSAR, North East Wales Search & Rescue
  • 6x from Bolton MRT and
  • 12x from Rossendale & Pendle MRT.

The trainees present were split into four groups each under an experienced course helper / instructor. The Trainees from our team were Ana ’Titch’ Toole, Marisa Venables, Doctor Clare Whitney, Judith Waltho, Doctor Sarah Drake, together they became known on the course as ’Garry’s Angels !” and Anthony Woods.

…Garry’s Angels…

More than one male team member from the other teams present mentioned how lucky Anthony was to be the only male amongst the five trainees in Bolton Team.

Friday evening activities began with a DVD of the previous years course, followed by a lecture on Professionalism and Personnel Requirements in MR.

…Garry Rhodes getting into the swing of things, with a lecture…

The usual night time search exercise then commenced locating objects in the adjoining fields. Given that the objects were cans of beer and packets of Haribo toffees, and despite the heavy rain, it came as no great surprise that the trainees found every can in the field.

..the Trainees starting their wet search exercise…

…the masses awaiting to open their rewards…

What has previously been described as ’intense team member interaction under the influence of alcohol’ then took place between all present on the course. Soon the ’games’ started, including picking up a cornflake packet placed on the floor, in your mouth without your hands touching the floor. Easy until the cornflake packet starts getting cut down in size. Most trainees and staff taking part stayed in the competition until the packet was merely an inch high. The girls were beating the lads hands down with some ’very athletic’ bending over without falling over moves. Then Bolton MRT played its ’Joker,’ and in stepped Steve “I’ll show em how to do it” Fletcher, with the grand final being won by Bolton’s Steve Fletcher who managed to bend over, and pick up a single cornflake off the floor without his hands touching the floor ! Just try it yourself.

…Steve Fletcher showing how nimble he is…

…the crowd can’t believe what they are seeing…

The ’Which Team will stay up the Longest Competition’ was inconclusive, as by this time it was proving difficult to find a sober judge.

The morning dawned all too quickly, considering some had retired to bed at the late hour of 04.30hrs! With many a hangover in sight, Johanne Lamb’s lasted all day apparently, whilst Elaines kicked in around 09.30hrs in the morning! and a very misty and wet morning greeting everybody. A trip to Bibbys Farm Pond was first on the days program where the use of water throwlines was practised with team members Fred Taylor, Steve Fletcher and Andy Kench providing target practice in the water, followed by waterside body recovery exercises. Trainee Claire Whittaker of Rossendale & Pendle MRT shall remain eternally anonymous as the person who demonstrated to all others that when you throw a water throwline to someone in distress in the water you are meant to hold onto one end of the throwline!

…Claire Whittaker, hasn’t quite mastered holding onto the rope…

…you didn’t want to be doing that Claire…

Due to operational reasons the planned for arrival of the Lancashire Constabulary Air Support Unit helicopter was cancelled, but the Greater Manchester Police Air Support Unit helicopter proved that low cloud, mist and a bit of rain was no problem, and after a few attempts to get to Bibbys they finally made it,what the promise of bacon butties will result in when made to an ASU crew! India 99 the GMP ASU McDD902 Explorer helicopter was of great interest to the trainees taking part, with the crew answering the many questions put to them.

…GMP ASU India 99 arriving at Bibby’s Farm…

The team and the course as ever extends its thanks to GMP ASU for continuing to support this weekend.

The purpose of such helicopters attending this course allows the trainees to interact with the air crew and to ask questions specifically as to how the MRTs and SRTs can assist in working together with such important airborne assets. In turn the aircrew of the helicopter attending were grateful of the opportunity to meet our members and display the capabilities of their aircraft.

…one of our scout casualties, on the Troll Alphin stretcher
demonstrating how India 99 can carry a MR stretcher…

With the departure of the Police Helicopter the course then had a VIP visitor in Derek Cartwright, Director of Emergency Operations for the North West Ambulance Service, a Bolton man with a long service behind him as a emergency ambulanceman (Paramedic) and Operational Area Manager with GMAS / NWAS, and much experience of working directly with MRTs. Derek kindly outlined the importance NWAS puts on its close liaison with MRTs and such partnership workings.

Then came a surprise presentation, when Bolton MRT team member Dave Healey was presented with a 10 years Mountain Rescue Service Certificate by Derek Cartwright, emphasising to the trainees present the dedication and commitment that Dave has shown in reaching this milestone.

The day then continued with a series of lectures and mini practical exercises, with casualty care sessions coming under the expert instruction provided by

  • Bolton MRT member & very experienced A&E Charge Nurse Alistair Greenough,
  • ex Bolton MRT member and now NWAS (Manchester) Emergency Ambulance Technician Iain Peel,
  • Dave McClure Medical Team Leader of Cheshire LSAR and a Senior Anaesthetic Practitioner and
  • Peter Goble (RPMRT) an NWAS (Lancashire) Emergency Ambulance Technician.

Late afternoon saw all the course students undertaking a rigorous 2 hour ’steep learning curve’ on a very physically demanding introductory session to steep ground stretcher handling work, in the confines of Noon Hill Gully on the edge of Rivington Moor.

…stretcher handling course…

…the view from afar…

Malcolm Pritchard of Cheshire LSAR summed up this fast paced and physically demanding session for most by stating, “I’m tired out, my legs and arms are aching but I’ve enjoyed every bit of this session.”

…Iain Ashcroft, TL of NEWSAR, thinking he’d rather be at home with Becky and new daughter Eleri…

For some of our trainee colleagues from Cheshire LSRT this very steep ground stretcher handling work is a complete new experience and despite the sweating and sheer physical hard work (& the odd curse!) it was one they all thoroughly enjoyed. Its opportune here to thank the two young Scouts from 5th Bolton Scouts, who volunteered to be the exercise casualties for this session and who put their complete trust in the hands of the trainees present. Ah the innocence of youth !

The evening lectures with a surprisingly still alert and attentive audience introduced guest lecturers Sgt Simon Wilkinson and PC Angela Hanby, two very experienced Police Missing Person Search Managers from the Greater Manchester Police Specialist Search Unit, who outlined the Police Service expectations of MRTs / SRTs.

Next came former Bolton MRT and current NSARDA Secretary Dave Marsh, a former NSARDA Air Scenting Dog Handler, teamed up of course with his dog Chi, who whilst with the team had three successful finds. Dave gave an overview of search techniques and the effectiveness of the different types of search dogs in mountain rescue and ALSAR environments to the delegates.

…Dave Marsh explaining the benefits of search dogs…

This session was followed by former Bolton MRT member, and now Forensic Officer with the Home Office, Gyles Denn who gave all an introduction to Forensic and Crime Scene Protocols as applicable to MRT / SRT operations. Gyles during his time with the Bolton MRT produced a document on this subject which a number of MRTs subsequently adopted.

…Gyles Denn giving a fantastic lecture on forensic awareness…

A very informative and somewhat uniquely presented session was then covered by Cheshire LSART member Geoff Robert on Coroners Inquests. Geoff is Her Majesty’s Assistant Deputy Coroner for Cheshire, and presented his session as if it was an actual Coroners Inquest, basing it upon a real incident attended by Cheshire LSART, and calling upon Cheshire LSARTs Team Leader Joanne McClure to give evidence. Which all present, including the instructors found to be of great interest.

…Geoff Roberts gets the award for the ’Audience is listening’ with his Coroners Court lecture…

The evening was rounded off by a lecture from MR (E&W) Press Officer Andy Simpson, also TL of RPMRT, on “What Mountain Rescue – England & Wales Does for You”.

…Andy Simpson gives Dave Healey his finest Paddington Bear stare…

The very last lecture, a practical table top search management exercise conducted by our Team Leader Garry Rhodes was based on two real life incidents that the Bolton MRT had attended and finished at the late time of 22:30 Hrs, with all the trainees coming up with search plans which located the missing persons in each incident example. Well done folks, who needs Search Managers !

…eyes down look in and try and work out where the missing person is…

The Evening then rapidly descended into a ’how much can you drink before the sleep deprivation from the previous evenings caught up with you’ competition this year a Bolton team member once again remained up till last. With energy still amazingly to spare Bolton MRT members Doctor Sarah Drake and Elaine Gilliland challenged NEWSAR to a just after midnight early Sunday morning cross country run ! followed by a race around the Scout Centre Obstacle Course. Soon outpacing NEWSAR our girls proudly maintained the good name of Bolton MRT.

…Ana ’Titch’ Toole looks lovingly at the photographer hoping they’ll fill her jug up…

Sunday morning saw another early full English breakfast, or is that Welsh ? for our NEWSAR colleagues, to line everybodies stomachs for the morning and early afternoon sessions, which included 5x search& rescue practical exercises. With the casualties very realistically made up by team member Steve Nelson’s wife Steph, a beautician, who produced a go,brry looking fractured leg and some very convincing neck and shoulder bruising.

All these sessions took place in and around the buildings of the Scout Campsite complex, our Team Leader and Course Organiser Garry Rhodes deciding that the torrential rain was too much even for his usual delight at seeing trainees put through their paces whatever the weather ! Or alternatively as more than one wag was heard to mutter loudly, maybe Garry’s just getting a bit soft in his old age! A surprise final exercise was then sprung on all the trainees involving two exercise casualties.

A big thanks to the Explorer Scouts of Chimera Explorer Unit (Giants Seat) for putting our trainees through their paces by acting out the role of exercise casualties and concerned friends.

With the exercises concluded a debrief session took place, attendance certificates were issued and then the ’World Premier’ of an excellent and highly entertaining DVD that had been filmed and edited throughout the weekend nonstop by Bolton MRT members Dave Healey & Steve “why take one digital picture when one thousand will do” Fletcher. Team supporter and friend Carl Silver also provided much photographic material from his days with the team on the Saturday and Sunday of this course, bravely enduring the wet conditions of Sundays exercises to obtain pictures for the DVD.

Garry Rhodes our TL, as per last year, wanted a special certificate for attending this years course as it was the 22nd Foundation Course in MR he has attended in his time in MR, 1x as a trainee, and 21x as an instructor Please will somebody remember this before next years Foundation Course and make a special certificate for the course next year! Mike Marsh is also catching up on the number of Foundation Courses he has attended, along with Paul Heywood of Rossendale and Pendle MRT, thats also a lot of late nights and beer drunk!

A comprehensive, ever developing, training manual was yet again produced for this years training course with copies handed to all the trainees and instructors present. At this point it is appropriate to thank Bolton MRT member Steve Nelson for his assistance in printing this manual & very special thanks to P & M Printers of Warrington who printed 40x copies of this full colour manual completely free for the use of course members.

Thanks also to the weekend Scout staff at Bibbys Farm who hosted us and had to contend with the usual raucous MR late night activities, both planned and unplanned!

Thanks also to Sue Purtill and particularly Teresa Gilliland, who are going to give instructions to the rest of the Bolton MRT members on how to make Garry Rhodes keep to a timetable after scaring him into keeping to the mealtimes planned for the course!

Finally thank you to Cadburys Chocolate who knowingly, or unknowingly !, through Malcolm Pritchard of DHL and of course Cheshire LSART, who delivers for Cadburys, ’apparently’ sponsored the weekends course by supplying it (us) with the biggest bag of Chocolate Buttons you have ever seen, and more Chocolate Easter Eggs than even our Ana Toole could get through in a year! How many Chocolate Buttons can Ana Toole stick on her forehead? – the answer is 16x

…Paul Heywood’s group…

…Jo McClure’s group…

…Richard Dobson’s group…

…Simon Threshers’s group.

Next years course is at the same venue and will be held over the weekend of Friday 15th – Sunday 17th October 2010, with all four participating teams from this year due to take part.

If any member of any MRT other than the usual attending teams are also interested in coming along to this well established course, with a history going back to the MPSRO courses which started in 1982 and a format which has been constantly developed since, then please contact Bolton MRT Team Leader Garry Rhodes at for details of booking onto the 2010 course.

The following comments are just some of the many made at the end of course debrief by the trainees present:

  • “The friendliness of all of the staff made it easier to learn and accept feedback.”
  • “Damm good food and Rossendale beer.”
  • “The determination of Garry to make us search in every climatic condition!”
  • “Waking up in the wrong room!”
  • “Soggy.”
  • “Increased awareness and appreciation of other teams.”
  • “The differences on this course between the Mountain and Lowland teams were non existant and mainly just terminology.”
  • “Cameraderie and new friends.”
  • “The food!”
  • “Great Support Staff, thanks.”
  • “Coroners Court was excellent.”
  • “Great mentors and trainers.”
  • “Team work and team building, excellent.”
  • “Excellent venue, excellent lectures, excellent variety.”
  • “Sharing skills, (including beer drinking!)”
  • “Learnt a lot from the weekend.”
  • “Helicopter !!!!”
  • “Organisation of the weekend superb.”
  • “Specialist lectures were excellent.”

What are you waiting for, book a place for next year.