Who are you and what on earth are you up to?!
I’m Beth (short for Elizabeth) and in June 2018 I found myself at a crossroads in life. I had just graduated from university as a mature student, I had no job and, for the first time in more years than I can remember, no dependants. I was free to do whatever I fancied, and I fancied exploring Britain whilst fundraising for charity. The aim was to walk as much of the coast of Britain as practical, plus some long distance inland paths, raising awareness and money for the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue, Mountain Rescue England and Wales, and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
So on 3rd October 2018, after giving the keys of my home back to my landlady and putting my possessions into storage, I began my epic fundraising trip from Tower lifeboat station, Victoria Embankment, London. Since then I have walked clockwise around the coast, clocking up many hundreds of miles (see my Blog posts for the running, or should I say walking, total), walking 10-12 miles a day and having a physical rest day every 4th. I am doing this full-time, solo and unsupported; I have no partner or support team in the background helping me with the huge amount of admin work involved in a project like this or with logistical issues of getting to and from accommodation. I am the walker, the fundraiser, the project manager, the route planner, the PR officer, the social media officer, my own moral support. The only support I receive is from the kindness of strangers offering me their spare rooms, food, clothes washing facilities, and transport for me and my rucksack.
About my 3 chosen charities
The Association of Lowland Search & Rescue
The Association of Lowland Search & Rescue is the UK’s governing body for the 35 UK Lowland Rescue teams. ALSAR set the training standards that they have to reach, and the code of practice that they use. They are members of UKSAR, alongside Mountains Rescue and the RNLI, providing official Search and Rescue coverage “From Hill to High Water”, whenever requested.
They work with Police to locate people who are deemed to be in any danger from bad weather, ill-health, age or their location, for example missing children or dementia patients. Many teams also work alongside the Fire Service for flooding, wildfire SAR and drone support at major incidents.
These teams are highly trained and equipped to search across any terrain, administer medical assistance and recover the missing person to safety. They form the backbone of the unpaid Search & Rescue services in the UK with Lowland Rescue covering 33 police authorities, Mountain Rescue covering many mountainous and moorland areas, and Coastguard Rescue covering the coastline.
Key points (from the LR Association Incident Report for 2017) include:
• There were over 1350 operational members and 580 non-operational members;
• Resources included 52 dogs, 75 vehicles, 45 boats, 18 drones, 79 bikes and 41 canoes and kayaks;
• In total there was over 60,000 person-hours of incident activity (22 person-years);
• In 2017 there were 1,234 incident callouts including assists and 1,147 of these associated with searches for missing people;
• Based on the full economic costs of a police officer (National Policing Guidelines 2015) the total value of the Lowland Rescue Services provided for incidents alone would be £3.6 million. This excludes all costs associated with training and equipment.
Currently, funding is used for training of the local teams, bringing them to a recognized national standard, and provision of materials to support online learning. However, they are about to undertake a large dog training program with an aim to deliver 100 ground scenting search dogs nationally. They are also invested in future research for finding missing people, be this the pioneering use of Drone technology or the creation of unique scent bottle kits for trailing dogs. They are a registered charity, run entirely on a voluntary basis, on a par with Mountain Rescue and the RNLI.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution
The RNLI is the largest charity that saves lives at sea, through lifeboat search and rescue, lifeguards, water safety education and flood rescue. It operates around the coasts of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man as well as on some inland waterways.
The RNLI has 237 lifeboat stations and operates 444 lifeboats, plus lifeguards operating on more than 200 beaches. Although the lifeguards are paid by local authorities the RNLI provides equipment and training. The Institution also operates Flood Rescue Teams (FRT) nationally and internationally (iFRT), the latter prepared to travel to emergencies overseas at short notice.
Giving these lifesavers (most of whom are unpaid volunteers) everything they need and deserve – from boots to boats – is costly. It cost £176.5M to run their lifesaving service in 2017, mostly funded by legacies and donations.
Mountain Rescue England and Wales
Mountain Rescue team members are on call 24/7/365 to recover climbers, lost walkers, and injured and sick casualties. But they also help search for missing children and vulnerable adults, on and off the hills. They search river banks and swift water, and wade chest-deep through flooded urban streets. They also rescue a huge number animals from all manner of inaccessible places. Like Lowland Rescue, they are run entirely by volunteers and rely on donations to do their vital work.
Mountain rescue teams are called out through the police, via the 999 system, to assist the statutory services – police, fire and ambulance. They also work with the Air Ambulance and HM Coastguard helicopters as well as the search and rescue dog associations and cave rescue.