Joint Foundation Course in Mountain Rescue 2014, hosted and organised by Bolton Mountain Rescue Team

For the tenth year running, starting on Friday evening 17th October and running through to the late afternoon of Sunday 19th 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, utilising all our vehicles and full course catering.

The excellent course catering was provided with huge thanks to five members of Bolton MRT Support Group, Iain Clarkson, Andrew Keyworth, 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)


Sarah Hindle
Sarah Hindle
Laura Tunnicliffe
Laura Tunnicliffe

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 and immediate past courses, 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, Alistair Greenough, our Team Training Officer, Nick Berry, Team Equipment Officer (Medical) Nigel Booth, Team Equipment Officer (Communications and IT) Steve Fletcher and our Treasurer Martin Banks.

From North East Wales Search and Rescue Team (NEWSAR) came their 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 Anthony Dawson, Team Leader Simon Lane and Deputy Team Leader Rick Lane, plus their Treasurer Mark Susca and Andrew Isherwood, all four from Cheshire SAR, Vice Chairman Paul Chamberlain from Norfolk LSAR who is also their Operational Team Leader, 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 Phil Crook, Matthew Hailwood, Michael Wakerley, Chris Weatherhead, John Dickinson, Diane Blakeley, Kris Kilshaw, Jess Ellsmore, Chris Tennant, Tony Dawson, Paul Copley, David Cook, 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 (Even valiantly battling through this years special ‘challenge’ of a Sunday morning powercut – see below)

A total of 22x Trainee MRT & SRT members attended this year’s course from four teams.

  • 12x from Cheshire Search and Rescue Team, from our companion organisation the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue – ALSAR
  • 1x from Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue Team; Elizabeth Hobday, an Accident and Emergency Nurse currently at Royal Bolton Hospital.
  • 1x from Bolton Mountain Rescue Team; Gary Melia, a former Bolton MRT Support Group member, and a full time Mens Hairdresser by profession.
  • 8x from Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue Team, also from our companion organisation the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue – ALSAR

NEWSAR and Calder Valley SRT who normally also attend with trainees only sent course instructors due to no eligible current recruits for this years course.

The trainees present, 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 bottles of beer with attached packets of sweets, and due no doubt to the relative clear conditions, though it was very wet underfoot, it came as no great surprise that the trainees found every bottle in the field fairly quickly.

A late Friday evening finish to the course programme at 22.30hrs, 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.

Our poor colleagues from Norfolk LSAR who had taken some six hours travelling time on average to attend this weekend, and just wanted to get some bed rest rapidly realised that sleep deprivation was to be a big feature of this course!

The morning dawned all too quickly, with a very early morning wake up call for breakfast at 07:00, 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 by Vice Chairman and Swiftwater Rescue Technician Paul Chamberlain from Norfolk LSAR, providing an instructive and informative lecture.


The arrival of a VIP visitor came next in Derek Cartwright, 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 Mark Evans who is the Community Resuscitation Manager for NWAS (Cumbria and Lancashire Area), and Andrew (Andy) Regrave, Regional Community Engagement Manager and Mountain Rescue Liaison Officer with NWAS (Manchester)
Next was the arrival of helicopters at 10.00hrs from the National Police Air Service, callsign ‘NPAS 23,’ from BAE Systems Warton, and at 10.30hrs Helimed 75 from the North West Air Ambulance, City Airport Manchester (Barton), both landing on site.


Subsequently Pilot Keith Armatage and his colleague Paramedic aircrew Rachel Childs and Luke McKenna from NWAA Helimed 75 G-NWAE (the red coloured aircraft!) and Pilot Dougie Allen, and Police Air Observers PC Mel Jeffrey and PC Andy Barlow, from NPAS 23 G-ALSU gave a great presentation on the work of Helimed and NPAS, the kit carried and the incidents they attend.


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 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 Steven Jones at NPAS HQ Yorkshire and PC Mel Jeffrey of NPAS 23 for very kindly arranging and agreeing for NPAS Warton to take part this Saturday.


Arriving at this same time, was the Pump Fire Appliance from GMFRS Horwich Community Fire Station, and a Pump Fire Appliance from LFRS Chorley Fire Station, with their respective crews and Watch Manager GMFRS Red Watch, Craig Lunt, and LFRS Watch Manager Dawson.


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

We would particularly like to thank the helicopter crews and Fire crews for making the children 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, Air Ambulance or ‘Fire Engines’ on Saturday!

The team and the course as ever, extends its thanks to NPAS, NWAA, GMFRS and LFRS 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 helicopters and Fire Appliances present.

Helimed 75 then departed a little earlier than planned to respond to an operational call.

Next up was long time friend and valued supporter of this course and Bolton MRT, PC Ian Crossley, a very experienced Police Missing Person Search Manager and POLSA (Police Search Advisor) 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 included many references to search operations known to many of the longer serving Bolton MRT team members present on the course.


An excellent lunch of baked spuds and chilli, set everyone up for the next split group sessions, with the trainees present being introduced to Mountain Rescue stretcher types covered by Simon Thresher of CVSRT, our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE, Ron Williams of RPMRT and Nick Berry and Chris Tennant both of Bolton MRT.

The other split group session was a casualty care session covering Casualty Care Primary Survey and Spinal Injury Management, including the use of Cervical Collars, Scoop Stretchers, Vacuum Mattresses, Long Boards and Head Blocks, under the expert instruction provided by Bolton MRT Training Officer and very experienced A&E Charge Nurse Alistair Greenough, and Bolton MRT Equipment Officer (Medical) Nigel Booth, who is also a full time GMFRS Fire fighter / Watch Manager.




By this stage, Bolton MRT team member Diane Blakeley was sending out a constant ‘Twitter’ stream of reports on the weekends activities, with a record number of re-tweets.

Late afternoon in darkening and very gloomy autumn skies, with the threat of rain, 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.

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This session started off late, as en route to the venue, some of the members and vehicles attending, came across an RTC, and rendered assistance up to the arrival of Police (Lots of crumpled car bodywork but no apparent injuries thankfully)

Conditions on the steep ground exercise underfoot were very slippery and wet, with a chilly damp wind, excellent in fact for the course!

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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.

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The patches of dead thistles managed to penetrate one too many of the nether regions and other delicate parts of some of those taking part, with the exercise concluding in slight rain with a short stretcher evacuation of one participating member with a medical issue, which resolved itself quickly.

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Its opportune here to thank Bolton MRT team members Matthew Hailwood and Kris Kilshaw who ‘volunteered’ to be the exercise casualties for this session and went on to put their complete trust and faith in the hands of the trainees present. Ahh their complete naivety is to be admired.

Most then returned to Bibby’s Farm where there followed an excellent presentation on the use of search dogs in the UK, by former Mountain Rescue Trailing Dog Handler Iain Nicolson, and current Mountain Rescue Air Scenting Dog Handler Alison Nicolson (with Search Dog Floss) – both of Bowland Pennine MRT, drawing on there many years as active and very successful Mountain Rescue Search Dog Handlers.


The ‘most’ bit at the start of the last paragraph can be explained easily, as Nick Berry and Kris Kilshaw, both departing the previous exercise venue in our Incident Control Vehicle, ended up transporting two hill walkers back to White Coppice, from the Belmont to Rivington road area, where they had asked Nick and Kris how to get back to White Coppice in the gathering darkness and light rain.

Both grateful women made an impromptu donation to Bolton MRT of £10.00 for the help given by Nick and Kris.

With such an intensive programme, the late evening meal break was very brief, with an excellent as ever three course meal served up to the over 45x people present on the course at this stage!

The sessions then continued with lectures from Bolton MRT Mike Marsh, and Team Leader Simon Lane of Cheshire SART, on the differences between lowland and upland search operations, and note taking, briefing and debriefing on search operations.

Reflecting the times we now live in, all present were then shown a DVD on Terrorism Awareness, and how we can be the eyes and ears of our communities to report suspicious activities.

GMP Police Officers PCs Jane Wilcock and Melanie Jackson, then visited the course to say hello to everybody, and reminisce about their time as Trainees on last years course.

They departed shortly afterwards, very kindly and thoughtfully leaving behind a big bag of chocolates for everybody on the course.

The very last lecture, demonstrating how intense this weekend was, commenced at 22.30hrs, 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 23:15hrs, 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!

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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 late till the early hours of the morning.


Cheshire SART capitulated at 03.00hrs soundly beaten by the young threesome of Bolton MRT team members Matthew Hailwood, Michael Wakerley and Kris Kilshaw, who decided that a five mile local walk was in order, returning to Bibbys at 05.00hrs!


Prior to this, the Late evening / early morning competition time between teams and team members had started, first off was ‘table rolling’ with a very commendable performance by Sean of Cheshire SART, given his recovering hand injury (Yes he put back the recovery and healing time a little bit after his exploits!)


Next followed 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 Cheshire’s ‘Jesus’ and our very own, all flexible, impossibly bendy Kris Kilshaw.


Honours fell to our very own Kris Kilshaw, Champion of Champions for 2014! (Redeeming himself from his 2nd place billing in the now infamous cream cracker and marsh mellow competitions of the 2011 Couse)


Very late Saturday evening saw Ron Williams of RPMRT bring everybody ‘to order,’ for a little celebration ; a birthday cake with candles was promptly brought out and trainee Elizabeth Hobday from RPMRT suddenly found herself celebrating her 21st Birthday with everybody on the course, as we all sang her ‘Happy Birthday.’


There was no lie in on Sunday morning, with an ‘area’ power cut resulting in the buildings alarms going off at 07.00hrs wakening everyone from their slumbers.

With no lighting, no electricity and no water or sewerage (both pumped) things were looking dire (or somewhat ‘bunged up’ depending on your viewpoint) but the location of a stand pipe at least sorted out the water problem, so it was cornflakes and smelly sweaty bodies all round!

Team Leader Chris Griffiths of NEWSAR gamely went on without his power point presentation (still no electricity) to cover Forensic and Crime Scene protocols at Search and Rescue incidents.


With thanks to the local Electricity Engineers, power was restored by 09.00hrs and following Chris’s lecture, all finally got their full English breakfast to line their stomachs for the rest of the morning and early afternoon sessions, which carried on with Bolton MRT member Steve Fletcher, that font of all knowledge radios and IT thingies, regarding radio communications usage in search and rescue operations.

A short comfort break, then saw all depart for the Lower House area of Rivington, where they were met by the NWAS HART team from Manchester, and three of their very impressive specialist vehicles, with thanks to on duty HART Team Leader Justin Mawtus and his colleagues.


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


A seventh site, with Paul Chamberlain of Norfolk LSAR instructing, consisted of 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!


During this time at Lower House, Rivington, the course was visited by Bolton MRT Deputy Team Leader Chris Greenhalgh, Bolton MRT and SARDA Ireland North, newly operationally graded DVSD Dog Handler Dave Marsh and DVSD Dog Sasha, and Bolton MRT / SARDA Wales Trailing Dog Handler Steve Nelson, Navigator Elaine Gilliland and Trailing Dog Boris.


With the exercises concluded, all returned to Bibbys, for lunch and a course debrief session, attendance certificates were then issued and bottles of wine were presented to Bolton MRT Support Group members Iain Clarkson Sarah Hindle and Laura Tunnicliffe, for their particular time input in to the weekend and for feeding us throughout the course.

It was then time for the exclusive ‘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, and Paul Brain, with Michael Wakerley taking on the role of Executive Producer.

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 on Friday night 9th October to Sunday 11th October 2015, with all six MRTs / SRTs who currently attend already pledging their attendance next year, and at least twenty Trainee places already provisionally booked!

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 2015 course, that’s if we have any spare places!

The following comments are just some of the many made at the end of course debrief by the individual trainees present, in answer to the questions;

  1. Give two positive experiences you will take away with you from this weekend.
  2. What did you most enjoy about this weekend.
  3. In a few words sum up your weekend.

And the replies were;

  • I’m more confident in team leading skills and communications.
  • Sharing experiences and techniques with other teams.
  • Its hard to believe the enthusiasm, passion, and determination of the instructors and mentors.
  • Nigel and Rick had to be the best.


  • Nigel and Rick as mentors took charge of our group, and worked with our various strengths and weaknesses, they wee patient, tolerant and knowledgeable.
  • I saw the “bigger” SAR family.
  • I enjoyed the variety of high quality inputs.
  • Very steep learning curve, huge respect for those in other teams.
  • Left me ‘buzzing.’


  • The helicopters gave ‘bragging rights!’
  • Different people, different skills, all keen to learn from each other.
  • The casualty handling was all hands on and as such a good learning experience.
  • I enjoyed the stretcher work on steep ground.
  • Very interesting and at times an exciting course.
  • Enhanced appreciation of team work and other teams skills and experiences.
  • There was positive and constructive feedback at all times.


  • It was full on.
  • I had an enjoyable time working and training in a different part of the UK.
  • Total team integration, everybody got along and made the course really special.
  • Loads of fun.
  • Shared goals, teamness and supportive.
  • I had a fantastic weekend, the content was really good.
  • I learnt new skills to transfer over in to lowland rescue.
  • Simon Lanes note taking lecture!!!
  • Working hard, playing harder.
  • Sean’s outfit choices.


  • Socialising with other teams.
  • Having the chance to practice all roles on the scenarios.
  • Interesting to see how other teams operate.
  • Learning a lot through the practical exercises.
  • The way all participants worked in a very professional manner.
  • I would do it all again.
  • A very intense course, giving back what you put in.
  • Great team bonding in a controlled environment.
  • I learned I can function with very little sleep.
  • The approachability of the mentors.
  • Derek Cartwright should have his own TV show!
  • Food excellent!!!!


  • Stretcher handling exercise was just superb.
  • I enjoyed the company of the trainers, mentors, organisers and catering staff.
  • I was made to feel welcome from the outset.
  • It was very well organised especially with all the specialist resources.
  • The mentors were always positive, educational, honest and constructive.
  • The overall camaraderie.
  • The organisers coped very well with the knock on effects of delays.
  • the Rice Krispie cakes.
  • I enjoyed all of it, overall good.
  • Lots of laughs.
  • I gained confidence in my own knowledge and physical fitness.
  • The Ambulance talk was very informative and interesting.
  • I loved the Search Dog session.
  • Great weekend with a great bunch of people.


  • Fantastic support and mentoring given by professional and knowledgeable members.
  • Informative, educational, good fun, a great time !
  • I developed an appreciation of the skills and expertise involved in mountain rescue.
  • The social aspect was very enjoyable.
  • The last session on Saturday night gave me an understanding of the planning process involved in a search operation.
  • Scenarios were excellent on Sunday.
  • A well organised weekend.
  • Food was fantastic.
  • People on the course were friendly with a great sense of humour.
  • Catering facilities were the greatest.
  • Brilliant venue.
  • It was good to be pushed for time.
  • the final day scenarios were brilliant, full on, relevant, interesting and varied.
  • I enjoyed the Saturday stretcher handling course.
  • Enjoyable.
  • Learnt new skills and refreshed some existing skills.

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 Colleague Bolton MRT team members who had been on the weekend and gave up even more of their time to undertake this important training task.