At the end of February 2015, twenty excited WMS members made the journey (once again capped at 63mph!) to visit the Somerset and Avon Cliff and Mountain Rescue team.
We were cordially welcomed to Swallet Farm, a 17th century farmhouse nestling in a rural haven, with cool beers and a warm fire by the team’s main co-ordinator, Duncan. He explained the drill for the weekend and gave an overview of the valuable and difficult work the voluntary team does; after a couple of cheesy pizzas, we went to bed, excited for an insight into the team’s workings.
Waking up bright and early, after a hearty fry-up rustled up by our very own WMS President, we were split into groups and put through our paces in different pre-hospital care scenarios. Moulages included an anaphylactic car mechanic and paralysed fallen roofer. Being out of the classroom and in the windy outdoors made hacking our way through the well-known ABCDE approach much more challenging and realistic and so these were interesting and useful learning scenarios.
We spent the afternoon practising the searching techniques employed by the team (seeking Crunchie bars instead of casualties) and pushed our boundaries by abseiling off a 40 foot scaffolding structure. We then got our hands dirty getting to grips with the team’s specialist kit; the vacuum pack stretcher was a huge hit, being described as both warm and cosy..!
After a steaming mug of tea and biscuits three, we donned heavy boiler suits, grabbed our head torches and were treated to a surprise tour of the local caves; an amazing experience! Nowhere else can darkness like this be experienced! While in the underground network, we “found a casualty” and had the difficult task of extracting him. We managed about 5m; nothing compared to the 500m of cave network the Avon and Somerset Team sometimes have to deal with when rescuing cavers in distress.
We returned to the comfy and cosily lit interior of our abode, Swallet Farm, in time for a scrummy dinner and a few drinks around the living room fires. An exhausting but brilliant day!
On Sunday, the Team put together a real treat for us; forty members of the Cliff and Mountain rescue team assembled at Swallet Farm to conduct a training exercise, which we were invited to take part in.
After dividing into four rescue teams, we were able to locate, stabilise and extract three of the four casualties, however the fourth had fallen thirty feet into a pit of loose ground. We were inspired watching the slick Somerset and Avon team assemble and work together to extract the casualty; a humbling experience to be part of.
After a jovial debrief, it was time to make the 63mph journey back to the Big Smoke. A fantastic weekend was had by all; many thanks to the Somerset and Avon Cliff and Mountain Rescue Team.