A TEAM of North Yorkshire mountain rescuers which faced its busiest ever year has paid tribute to moorland gamekeepers for playing a key role in its success.
The last 12 months saw Scarborough & Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team receive 80 call-outs - the most calls it has taken from people in distress in one year during the organisation’s 50-year history.
Two-thirds of calls came from people in difficulties on the area’s vast tracts of upland heath and left rescuers relying on the expertise of gamekeepers who manage the remote landscapes for grouse shooting.
The team’s incident controller, Ian Hugill, said that the expansive moors with few identifiable features or landmarks made rescues difficult on many fronts, but tapping into gamekeepers’ knowledge of the terrain had proved invaluable.
Mr Hugill said: “They are our eyes and ears and often the last to have seen those who go missing. Their all-terrain vehicles help get us on to the moors and can take casualties to the roadside. We frequently ask for help in opening private gates for our 4x4 ambulance.
“Lack of buildings and shelter on the moors result in hypothermic casualties. It’s not just the injured, but those who have stayed with them that need our assistance.
“Another problem is establishing mobile signal and even if there is one, it’s not easy for people to describe their location. Again, it is the keepers who manage this land that can come to the rescue.”
Owner of Spaunton Moor in North Yorkshire, George Winn-Darley, said he was pleased his gamekeepers were able to play a role in rescue operations.
He said: “We are acutely aware of our pivotal role and are very proud to help. The mountain rescue team spent several days on the estate in November searching for the body of a missing person, who was eventually found by a keeper. I am indebted to George Thompson and his under-keepers Anthony Orr and Bradley Collis for all their support.”
The gamekeepers have donated £1,400 to the rescue charity in the last year, from collections during the grouse shooting season and the sale of charity auction prizes.