Joint Foundation Course in Mountain Rescue 2013, hosted and organised by Bolton Mountain Rescue Team

For the ninth year running, starting on Friday evening 11th October and running through to the late afternoon of Sunday 13th October, the Bolton Mountain Rescue Team organised and took part in a fully residential Joint Foundation Course in Mountain Rescue based at the excellent facilities of the Bolton Scout Trust Bibbys Farm Scout Campsite & Activity Centre, at Heath Charnock, nestling in the foothills and reservoirs of the West Pennine Moors.

This weekend is annually fully organised and supported by Bolton MRT, in terms of exercise venues, arranging exercise casualties, supplying equipment, all our vehicles and full course catering.

The course catering was provided with huge thanks to seven members of Bolton MRT Support Group, Iain Clarkson, Andrew Keyworth, Julie Thompson, Gary Melia and Gillian Gregory who all attended to help at various times over the weekend, with Support Group members Sarah Hindle and Laura Tunnicliffe being full time ‘cooks in residence.’ (Thanks also to Bolton MRT team callout list member and Team President Bob Hutchinson who also assisted with the catering and food purchases)

The weekend is aimed at new members of MRTs and SRTs, with 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 member’s experiences to date.

The course also serves to increasingly demonstrate through its varied programme, multi agency, co-operative working with regards to operational incidents.

The course content revolves around mountain rescue techniques and experiences, but is always open to colleagues from our sister organisation, ALSAR (Association of Lowland Search and Rescue)

The course instructors and group mentors were drawn as usual from the teams attending this year’s course and included a core group of very experienced instructors who have been associated with this course over the many years of its existence.

The full time principal instructors and mentors in residence involved seven from Bolton MRT, including the overall course organiser, our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE, Mike Marsh, also a past organiser of the MREW Party Leaders Course and past guest lecturer on Irish Mountain Rescue Association training courses, Dave Marsh, our Team Training Officer, very experienced team member Alistair Greenough, Team Equipment Officer (Ropes and Stretchers) Nick Berry, Team Equipment Officer (Water) John Fletcher, long serving Bolton MRT member Gyles Denn.

From North East Wales Search and Rescue Team came their Team Leader Iain Ashcroft, and Deputy Team Leader Chris Griffiths, whilst from Rossendale & Pendle MRT came their Trainee Team Members Training Officer Ron Williams and their Trainee Team Members Assistant Training Officer Elizabeth Toft, Team Leader Simon Lane from Cheshire SAR, Team Leader Paul chamberlain from Norfolk LSAR and finally not forgetting long term course supporter, instructor and valued friend of our team Assistant Team Leader 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 Paul Brain.

Other Bolton MRT callout list members supporting this weekend at various times included our Life Vice President Alan James, Phil Crook, Team Treasurer Martin Banks, Stephen Kenworthy, John Dickinson, Naomi Horan, Paul Chisholm, Tony Dawson, Paul Copley, David Cook, Mark Scott, and Samantha McKay.

As ever the fantastic members of the Team’s Support Group, provided excellent course catering throughout the entire weekend, with every meal available on time, and endless hot and cold drinks whenever anybody asked. A record 39x Trainee MRT & SRT members attended this year’s course from seven teams.

  • 7x from Cheshire Search and Rescue Team, from our companion organisation the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue – ALSAR
  • 9x from Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue Team
  • 2x from Greater Manchester Police (Not a team as such, but rather two interested Officers from GMP Bolton Division)
  • 3x from NEWSAR (North East Wales Search & Rescue Team)
  • 7x from Bolton Mountain Rescue Team
  • 8x from Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue Team, also from our companion organisation the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue – ALSAR
  • 3x from Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team

The trainees present, including our seven were split into six groups, each under the direction of two experienced mentors drawn from Bolton MRT, Rossendale and Pendle MRT, Norfolk LSAR, Cheshire SART, Calder Valley SRT and NEWSART.

Friday evenings proceedings commenced with an introductory DVD on Mountain Rescue followed by the end of course DVD from last years course, to give all a taste of what was to come.

Our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE then delivered a short presentation on the history of UK Mountain Rescue followed by a presentation on Professionalism and Personal Requirements in Mountain Rescue.

A night time search exercise then commenced locating objects in the adjoining fields.

Given that the objects were cans of beer and due no doubt to the excellent clear conditions, though it was very wet and muddy underfoot, it came as no great surprise that the trainees found every bottle and in the field.

A late Friday evening finish to the course programme at 22.45hrs, was followed by what we always describe as ’intense team member interaction under the influence of alcohol’ between all present on the course as midnight came and went. (and for some extended into the sunrise on Saturday morning!)

The morning dawned all too quickly, with a very early morning wake up call for breakfast at 07:30, with many a hangover in sight awaiting a full cooked breakfast.

With breakfast barely over, the first of the intense Saturday sessions started at 08:30hrs with a lecture on water safety awareness / bankside safety joint by Team Leader and Swiftwater Rescue Technician Paul Chamberlain form Norfolk LSAR and by Bolton MRT member John Fletcher, (A White Water Rafting Instructor) both providing an instructive and informative lecture.

The arrival of a VIP visitor came next in Derek Cartwright, Acting Director of Operations for the entire North West Ambulance Service, a Bolton man with a long service behind him as an Emergency Ambulance man (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, with much reference to major incident working, the assistance by MRTs in wintry weather conditions, and the acknowledged expertise of MRTs that NWAS very frequently calls upon.

Derek was assisted and accompanied in his presentation by David McNally (The son of our Life Vice President Tony McNally) who is the Community Resuscitation Manager for NWAS (Greater Manchester Area), an Operational Paramedic Manager and an Aircrew Paramedic with the North West Air Ambulance.

Next was the arrival of a helicopter at 10.30hrs from the National Police Air Service, callsign ‘NPAS 23,’ from BAE Systems Warton.

Arriving at this same time, was the Pump Fire Appliance from GMFRS Horwich Fire Station, a Pump Fire Appliance from LFRS Chorley Fire Station, an LFRS USAR Rope Unit appliance, and the entire on duty NWAS HART Team and their extensive vehicle fleet from their Trafford Park, Manchester, base.

All the trainees present were split in to various small groups, which in rotation went around the various vehicles, appliances and helicopter, to gain a close up appreciation of these important resources which we regularly work alongside.

All the trainees were given a very comprehensive briefing on working with and around NPAS helicopters by the crew of NPAS 23, with thanks to Pilot (Captain) Nigel Judge, and the two attending Tactical Flight Officers, Pc Ian McMillan and PC John Williamson.

Similar comprehensive briefings were given to all, by GMFRS Horwich, with thanks to Watch Manager Glyn McGann (A former Bolton MRT member) and his crew, LFRS Chorley, with thanks to Green Watch Manager Keith Armstrong and his crew, and LFRS Stuart Howarth, Crew Manager, Blue Watch, LFRS Urban Search and Rescue, and his crew, who brought along their Rope Team Appliance.

The full NWAS HART team and their very impressive specialist vehicle fleet attended, with thanks to On Duty Team Leader Stephen Ridgway and his colleagues.

The NWAS HART (Hazardous Area Response Team) who deployed to the weekend brought with them a ‘hidden extra,’ somewhat similar to the stacking inside each other ‘Russian Dolls,’ one of their attending vehicles was actually revealed to be the transporter for their ‘Polaris’ All Terrain Vehicle, so they actually attended with more vehicles than initially apparent!

We would particularly like to thank the helicopter crews, Fire crews and NWAS HART team, for making the children of some of the on site Scout staff and of some visiting Bolton MRT members, most welcome once their ‘formal’ presentations had ended. Quite a few children will have had tales to tell on Monday morning at school about how they sat in a Police helicopter, ‘Fire Engines’ and Ambulances on Saturday!

The team and the course as ever, extends its thanks to NPAS, GMFRS, LFRS and NWAS HART for their valued support and contribution to this weekend, and to the crews who attended and gave excellent presentations to those present on the work of their services. (All of course being rewarded by the now famous Bolton MRT cooked breakfast freely offered!)

The purpose of such guest organisations attending this course allows the trainees to interact with the crews and to ask questions specifically as to how the MRTs and SRTs can assist in working together with such important resources and assets. In turn the on duty crews attending were grateful of the opportunity to meet our members and display their varied equipment carried on board the helicopter, Fire Appliances and specialist Ambulances present.

Next up was long time friend and valued supporter of this course, Inspector Graham Peffers, a very experienced Police Missing Person Search Manager and POLSA (Police Search Advisors) from the Greater Manchester Police Specialist Search Unit, Tactical Aid Unit, who outlined the Police Service expectations of MRTs/SRTs, and his considerable personal experiences of working with MRTs/SRTs on operational search incidents and training exercises. His excellent presentation as ever, included many references to search operations known to many of the longer serving Bolton MRT team members present on the course.

Whilst half the course enjoyed lunch at a ‘split sitting,’ the other half were introduced to Mountain Rescue stretcher types covered by Simon Thresher of CVSRT, and our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE.

Groups then swopped over, with much banter to the poor second half, who had had to wait for their long arriving lunchtime!

Late afternoon in darkening and very gloomy autumn skies, saw all the course students undertaking a very 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.

Conditions underfoot were very wet, with a biting cold strong wind and light occasional rain, excellent in fact for the course!

For some of our trainee colleagues from Cheshire SRT and particularly (As you would imagine) Norfolk LSAR, this very steep ground stretcher handling work is a complete new experience and despite the sweating, grunting and sheer physical hard work and wet feet from the many boggy bits, (& the odd curse!) it was one they all thoroughly enjoyed.

Its opportune here to thank the two Explorer Scouts who volunteered to be the exercise casualties for this session and who put their complete trust and faith in the hands of the trainees present. Ah their complete naivety is to be admired.

All then returned to Bibby’s Farm where there followed an excellent presentation on the use of search dogs in the UK, by our Training Officer Dave Marsh, who is Secretary for NSARDA.

Dave was able to draw on his many years as an active and very successful Mountain Rescue Search Dog Handler with his (now sadly passed on) Air Scenting Search Dog Chi.

Dave also talked about his current experiences training to become a mountain rescue Drowned Victim Search dog Handler with his new dog, Trainee DVSD Search Dog Sasha.

With such an intensive programme, the late evening meal break was brief, with an excellent as ever three course meal served up to the over sixty people present on the course at this stage!

The sessions then continued with lectures from by Bolton MRT Mike Marsh and Team Leader Iain Ashcroft of NEWSAR, on the differences between lowland and upland search operations, and mountain rescue upland and lowland search techniques.

Bolton MRT long serving and experienced team member Gyles Denn, a former Forensic Toxicologist, then gave a very interesting presentation on ‘Forensic protocols within Mountain Rescue,’ which all present found to be extremely informative.

The very last lecture, demonstrating how intense this weekend was, commenced at 21.30hrs, with a practical table top search management exercise conducted by our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE which was based on two real life incidents that the Bolton MRT had attended, and finished at the late time of 22:30hrs, with all the trainees coming up with search plans which located (OK – in most cases!) the missing persons in each incident example. Well done folks – who needs Team Leaders and Search Managers!

The evening then descended into a “How much can you still drink before the sleep deprivation from the previous evenings’ caught up with you”, competition with this year ‘representatives’ of each team present vying with each other to gain the ‘respected’ battle honours of staying up till 03.00hrs in to the next morning! (And beyond for some!)

Competition time between teams and team members soon followed, first off was the cornflake packet game (you had to be there) with very bendy men and very bendy women, competing in the leg splitting quarter and semi finals which resulted in the all action, final end game, between a fifty one year old male member of Norfolk team (who could barely walk the nest day!) and our very own, all flexible, impossibly bendy twenty year old Jess.

Honours fell to our very own Jess, Champion of Champions for 2013!

Threading the broom handle saw some interesting competition ‘positioning,’ with some stomach churning surely double jointed elbow and wrist work by Elizabeth Toft of RPMRT, and our very own Richard Moss proving the old adage, that we all like a good laugh!

Next up came some interesting moves with a magazine, couples and a rope circle (Again you had to be there!) followed by table rolling seeing further champions (And bruises) claim victory! Eventually sleep deprivation won and bedtime beckoned.

Sunday morning saw another early full English breakfast (or is that Welsh for our NEWSAR colleagues?), to line everybody’s stomachs for the morning and early afternoon sessions, which started with an outdoor session covering water throwline practice, with as usual much fun and mickey taking to be had with the many unfortunates who flung bags every where but where intended, and the few who forgot to hold on to the end of the rescue line!

Next up came Bolton MRT member Steve Fletcher, that font of all knowledge regarding radio communications use in search and rescue operations.

10.00hrs saw the arrival of the North West Air Ambulance helicopter, Helimed 72, from City Airport Manchester (Barton), with all the trainees split into two groups, spending equal time with Helimed and a casualty care session covering Casualty Care Primary Survey and Spinal Injury Management, including the use of Cervical Collars, Long Boards and Head Blocks, under the expert instruction provided by Bolton MRT members and very experienced A&E Charge Nurse Alistair Greenough, General Nurse and soon to be Accident and Emergency Nurse Samantha McKay, Intensive Care Nurse Naomi Horan and Casualty Care Trainer Gyles Denn.

Captain Chris Redfern and his colleague aircrew from NWAA Helimed 72, (Doctor and two Aircrew Paramedics) gave a great presentation on the work of Helimed, the kit carried and the incidents they attend.

Captain Chris Redfern, as the Instructor Pilot for all Bond Helicopters Air Ambulance operations, not only gave an insight in to his work with helimed, but also his varied experiences as an RAF Pilot on Wessex SAR and tactical transport helicopters (84 Squadron RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, and 72 Squadron RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland) and on Chinook operations in the UK and recent conflicts in the Middle East.

Every year a considerable amount of time and effort by our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE is expended in arranging to get the NWAA Helimed helicopter (And similarly the NPAS aircraft) involved, and this year we would like to acknowledge the support of Ian Lockhart, Service Delivery Manager of the North West Air Ambulance Charity Trust in gaining approval for Helimeds involvement, and to Captain Chris Redfern for very kindly arranging and agreeing to take part this Sunday.

All course members then took part in six practical search & rescue exercises, in the Lower House area of Rivington, organised and co-ordinated by Bolton MRT member Mike Marsh, with the casualties again being our friends from the Scouts, with Bolton MRT providing two team members to oversee each exercise site, brief and debrief on each groups activities.

With the exercises concluded a debrief session took place, attendance certificates were issued and then thanks and bunches of flowers were presented to Bolton MRT Support Group members Sarah Hindle and Laura Tunnicliffe, for feeding us throughout the weekend.

Laura and Sarah also received a special Certificate of Thanks for their appreciated efforts.

It was then time for the ’World Premiere’ of an excellent and highly entertaining DVD that had been filmed and edited throughout the weekend nonstop by Bolton MRT members Steve “why take one digital picture when one thousand will do” Fletcher, Mike Marsh and Paul Brain, with Simon Thresher taking on the role of Executive Director.

Valued Team supporter and much appreciated friend Carl Silver also provided considerable photographic material from the two days with the team on the Saturday and Sunday of this course. (With sincere thanks to him for allowing us to use many of his pictures to accompany this report)

A comprehensive, ever developing, training manual was yet again produced for this year’s training course with copies handed to all the trainees and instructors present. (With thanks to Bolton MRT Mike Marsh for undertaking this year’s revision of the manual) At this point it is also appropriate to thank Bolton MRT Treasurer Martin Banks, for his assistance in arranging the printing this manual.

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.

Next year’s course is at the same venue and will be held again as ever over a full weekend in October 2014, with all six MRTs / SRTs who currently attend already pledging their attendance next year.

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 2014 course.

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

  • Learnt a lot of new and useful skills.
  • Comradeship.
  • The lectures were superb.
  • Team bonding.
  • Full on weekend packed with informative guest speakers, interesting theory sessions, and relevant practical sessions.
  • The practical exercises which gave us the chance to get things wrong and learn from that.
  • The chance to get to know people from other teams and discuss their techniques and their ethos.
  • Gaining confidence in speaking out.
  • Doctor Dick’s entertainment.
  • Opportunity to extend knowledge and skills and see how that fitted in to the wider rescue world.
  • Richard and Mark’s ‘broomrance.’
  • Working together using each others strengths and weaknesses.
  • Meeting Bolton’s TL.
  • Bolton’s TL is a God! (webmaster: Really?!!!)
  • Team bonding.
  • Lack of sleep due to socialising.
  • Being able to put theory in to practice.
  • Excellent.
  • Serious focus on skills.
  • Excellent weekend, enjoyable, liked the balance of skills and lectures, very good learning curve.
  • Leading the parties on Sunday.
  • Seeing Doctor Dick at his best.
  • One of the best ways ever to spend a weekend, lots of laughs.
  • Very good and well worth it.
  • Interesting to meet other teams from the rest of the country.
  • The opportunity to see other emergency services.
  • Really enjoyed myself.
  • All fab! Especially the practical exercises.
  • Scenarios and agency visits.
  • Being challenged and overcoming fears.
  • Extremely tiring and good food.
  • Really enjoyed the steep ground work.
  • A chance to compare notes with other MRTs.
  • Sunday’s exercises were a good way of consolidating skills.
  • Excellent presentations.
  • Full respect to your teams, a jam packed varied course, and a clear demonstration of a skilled, professional and dedicated service.
  • All the Police Partnership Teams (GMP)would benefit from this.
  • A lot of fun with some great people.
  • Heaving a ‘casualty’ up a 60 degree slope.
  • Great people, great training, great course.
  • Training, training, training – all good.
  • Met a lot of positive people who are professionals and like to share their experiences, perfect.
  • Lots of practical skills.
  • Full on immersion learning.
  • Putting training in to practice.
  • A great weekend all round.
  • Very informative and enjoyable.
  • Too many positive experiences to put down in writing.
  • A lot of time and effort put in by Bolton team, and for that thank you.
  • The food was superb.
  • Sleep deprived and physically broken!
  • Helicopters!
  • Absolutely loads of fun, would definitely do it all again.
  • Team building and good fun.
  • Joint agency team building.
  • Good …. No …. Great!
  • Friendliness of Bolton MRT.
  • The whole weekend was enjoyable and inclusive.
  • Awesome.
  • Great company and educating about many aspects of search and rescue that will assist me in my Police work.
  • I got a lot out of the stretcher exercise.
  • Being welcomed in to the MRT / SRT community.
  • Learning about the excellent knowledge and outstanding skills the mountain rescue teams possess.
  • Richard’s singing!
  • Saturday night games!
  • Good team working on the hill.
  • Good constructive feedback throughout the course.
  • A fast paced, non stop, 48 hours of fun and a little pain.
  • Watching the cornflake game.
  • Professional.

At the end of the course, the team as usual was faced with taking all the teaching, training and technology equipment back to our Ladybridge Hall Base/HQ, and cleaning inside and out all six of our vehicles used on the weekend.

To those from Bolton MRT involved in organising this course we extend a huge thanks to all our team members who had been on the weekend and gave up even more of their time to undertake this important task.