Training exercise this dark and stormy evening

Gale force winds, low temperatures, driving rain, hail and the possibility of sleet and even snow was the weather forecast this evening, as team members gathered for our weekly Wednesday evening training exercise, to depart our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ at 19.30hrs.

A windswept Hordern Stoops car park on the high point between the moorland villages of Rivington and Belmont was the RVP.

Those present were split in to two hill parties; our seven probationers went with Alistair Greenough our Training Officer, and long serving very experienced Mike Marsh, who provided their instruction and guidance, whilst those deemed ‘more experienced’ formed the main party.

Both parties in worsening weather conditions were despatched by team members Phil Crook, Gary Melia and Michael Eddleston, in ‘control’ in the warmth, dryness and comfort of our Incident Control vehicle, to the exercise incident location of the steep sided moorland stream valley of Anshaw Clough, above Belmont, accessing it via Will Narr and Spitlers Edge.

Both parties were tasked with steep ground working with stretchers, or at least that was the plan until the weather considerably worsened.

Driving rain in the gale force winds were challenging enough, even when the rain turned to hailstones, then sleet and then briefly snow.

But when team member and Party Leader Mark Scott actually witnessed a nearby lightning strike hit the ground enough was enough, and in driving rain and sleet, all parties hastily retreated downhill by the quickest route possible, which was to the roadside pick up of Belmont Sailing Club entrance.

Given the conditions that those team members who attended this exercise were exposed too, albeit for a brief two hours, tonight’s exercise was declared a great success, with ‘most’ deriving a sort of ‘twisted’ pleasure in being out in such harsh weather conditions.

In total besides the three members in control and our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE who turned up late enough to miss the fun (He was in the search debrief meeting for the exercise start) – but he did play a part as a Land Rover driver to collect some of his wet team colleagues from Belmont, there were twenty one team operational members and seven probationary members actually committed to the ‘hill part’ of the exercise.

At the conclusion of the exercise, six team members went back to start the drying process with a lot of the very damp contents of our Land Rover Defender Mountain Rescue Ambulance BM4, which had been used on tonight’s exercise (they finally left our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ at 23.45hrs)