The Yorkshire Dales is renowned for having some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country, so it is hardly surprising the area attracts legions of outdoor pursuits enthusiasts.
But that inevitably brings a degree of risk – because even the most diligent enthusiasts recognise things can sometimes go wrong – and since 1949 a team of volunteers has been constantly on hand to respond with expert help for those in danger.
Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association can date its history to 1948, to formalise the organisation of cave rescue volunteers who had operated on an ad hoc basis in the area.
As the years passed, so did their accommodation, which featured an old railway parcel van, which became known as ‘the hut’, a name still applied to today’s rather better home.
The parcel van gave way to a railway signal box and then in 1972 the site was sold for housing, forcing a move that saw the group move to a new building in 1976, the first in the country built specifically to house mountain and cave rescue staff.
The significance of that development is reflected in the fact the building was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1978 and the association remains based there, albeit with three extensions now built to accommodate an increasingly sophisticated organisation.
Many owe their welfare – and in some cases likely their lives – to the dedication of those who are willing to respond when others find themselves in trouble and in the last few weeks incidents needing their help have included walkers with injured ankles, missing vulnerable people and climbers.
Assistant warden Clare Canty said the association comprises around 60 operational volunteers, each with their own skill set, which include doctors, a vet, caving and climbing experts, along with divers for water rescues.
“Most of our team are very active within their given area and know there is an inherent risk, so at some point we may be in need of rescuing,” she said.
“We like to give our skills and between us we have a huge amount; it is enthusiasts giving something back. We also learn lots of new skills.”
Operating a rescue service costs more than £50,000 a year, which is raised through donations and fund-raising events, including an annual three peaks walk.
Pubs and businesses in the district also offer support by putting donation boxes on their counters and bars. That ensures when expert skills beyond the scope of conventional 999 services are needed, there is always someone available to help.