Thursday, 31 January 2008


To most people a cow is something that produces milk, meat and increases global warming (so im told).
To the Coastguard, cows have caused us some interesting incidents, starting last summer when a group of girls staying at a local activity centre were on a night hike only for these four legged beasts to "scare" them, forcing them to take another route. Unfortunatley one fell over hurting her ankle and then a heavy rain storm caused them to get very wet and cold, off we went to find them, locating them on Godlingston Hill.
The next encounter was on Saturday when two small children walking up the road from the lighthouse were confronted by the group of cows shown above, no one was moving (cows or children) so John and Gareth who were on patrol offered a safe seat in the vehicle and drove the children and adults to the top of the hill.
The only other hazard is the other bi product of cows (im not talking milk!), as alot of our time is spent off road you can guess the mess that makes (i feel sorry for Avenue Garage), in fact we probably have the most fertile piece of tarmac anywhere in Swanage.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Shall we merge?

There was concern for a while when someone up the command ladder suggested merging the Swanage and St Albans teams in one location (probably at St Albans due to the land available). Another idea briefly looked at was moving both stations down to a new joint station at Coombe Corner, thankfully (not an idea I liked!) this plan was scrapped as no land could be identified and we then got assurances that the teams would not merge.
Today the Senior Management acknowledge that both stations are required, whilst only a few miles apart, readers will be aware summer traffic is a nightmare and getting between locations is a problem, both regularly back each other up at cliff incidents (Last Saturday night for example) so its important to leave things as they are.
The good news is whilst Swanage is having a new building, John and his team at St Albans are also having a major refit to bring their station up to date.

Sad News

Sadly the climber from Sunday's incident passed away in hospital yesterday, our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very difficult time.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Team Work

What a weekend, eight incidents in a weekend.... and its only January! (not normal). Even as I write this, Swanage Lifeboat has been launched to a fishing boat, monitored by the Coastguard team.
Three major cliff incidents one ending with smiles, hand shakes and a big thank you, two ending with serious injury and very sadly a fatality.
Under difficult circumstances every effort was put in and all involved showed professionalism throughout, thank you to you all... Swanage Coastguard, St Albans Coastguard,Portland Coastguard, Swanage Lifeboat crews, Rescue IJ & WB, Dorset Police, South Western Ambulance Trust you should all be proud of your efforts.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

A busy weekend

As many of you will know, the Coastguard, Lifeboats and Helicopter crews have had a very busy weekend, I apologise that there is no proper post today and hopefully normal service will resume tomorrow.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Looking for a new home

Having discounted the area around Durlston, the other emergency services were approached with a view to share a location. The most promising location was the Ambulance station in Queens Road,talks were started between the services but sadly an agreement couldn't’t be found and the idea was dropped.
Another idea at one stage was to leave the station at Peveril but have an office next to the Town Hall. Back in 1990 the Sector Officer for Swanage was based there and as this location had the space required it was submitted for approval, however working at split locations was considered to difficult and that was another location discounted.

Friday, 25 January 2008

United we stand.....but no strike

You may have read that some Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) staff may strike over pay conditions. The MCA is a small Agency with many parts, staffed by full time workers and volunteers (us). Pay talks for the Agencies full time workers has been going on for sometime and this is not the place to debate their dispute.
We are classed as volunteers, we do get a small payment for call outs and other bits like training, however the vast majority of time we do things voluntarily, this dispute does not include (to my knowledge) Coastguard Rescue Teams.
My reasons for this post is to confirm that any action by others in the Agency does not involve any of the team and as far as we are concerned its business as usual...24/7.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

A Good Holdfast

A ship needs a good anchor and so does a Coastguard rope rescue team! Over the last weekend the team came together to start training on some new rope rescue equipment, whilst based on the traditional set up we have some new pieces of equipment which will make life easier for us and all the other teams around the country. Once we have finished training on these new bits (which will be around March) the team will change from a cliff rescue team to a ROPE rescue team which means incidents inland can be considered. The picture above is the standard double stake hold fast which is the anchor point for the rest of the equipment to be attached to. For those about to engage in cliff activities, please don't worry you will be used as test bed should you have an accident, we are using the standard equipment until we have passed our assessments

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The long road.....

Plans for a move started a long time ago, various ideas were looked at but each one rejected for one reason or another. Six years ago efforts were stepped up at all levels of the Service, visits to estate agents locally were made, HQ staff entered into talks with various other services. Having discounted the possibility of staying at Peveril Point, one of the 1st locations to be looked at was the lighthouse at Anvil Point as this was close to some of our major incidents, however Trinity House were in the process of converting the old accommodation to holiday premises, add in the remoteness, the single track to the location, never mind an area of outstanding natural beauty, I'm glad this was quickly scrapped. The Country Park next to the visitors centre was considered but no land was identified and again its in the wrong location to drive through the town to get to.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008


This is the question I'm asked more or less every day...when is building work going to start on the new station?
Sorry to jump out of order with the posts, but I thought I should share with you that today I have received a copy of the final drawings that have now gone to the MCA for final approval. This is another step forward and Im told that subject to approval by Purbeck District Council, the next stage is the tender process, then hopefully the building will start.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Royal Fish

Did you know that Royal Fish are sturgeons, porpoises, whales and dolphins? ( In Scotland, porpoises and dolphins, and whales, measuring less than 25 feet from snout to the middle of the tail, are not Royal Fish.)

So what does this have to do with the Coastguard?

Yesterday as you may have read from our main web site the team was called to a report of a dolphin in distress by the stone quay. A department within the Coastguard called the Receiver of Wreck (ROW) normally deals with wrecks (Napoli and Ice Prince are recent example of their role) however Royal Fish is an ancient role that they are also responsible for and with over 10,000 miles of coast, local coastguard teams are sent to assess the situation, to protect the area and report back.
If it’s alive we normally liaise with the RSPCA but locally we have the wardens at the Durlston Marine Watch who are always keen to help. Sadly if it’s dead the ROW will arrange its removal that’s not before Coastguards have to measure and take details down for the Natural History Museum, who said this was all about search and rescue? For some excellent pictures see the lifeboat scrapbook who caught the incident as it developed.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Navigation to the Station.....Part 3

By now the clock has been ticking, it could be 10 to 15 minutes since you left the house, nearly there, Oh Broad Road Car Park, there is a little clue here, yes its a Car Park and those visitors don't like anyone overtaking as they think they are about to lose a parking space. Down to the entrance to the boat park and hopefully the attendant has done a wonderful job clearing the road, the last double bend and the station at last is in view. Into the building, kit up, wait for the others to arrive and we go again, this time in reverse, but this time we can use the blue lights and siren to get us safely through the traffic. (The photo was taken this week, if only it was always like that!)

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Navigation to the Station.....Part 2

The next challenge is the 3 sets of "puffin" pedestrian crossings we now have by the post office and down into Station road,round into Institute road and the "park and ride scheme", (sorry loading bay), the next challenge is the zebra crossing in the square which is often clear until you are about 1 foot away and once one person starts to cross, everyone joins in. After checking mirrors its off down the lower high street and through the various chicanes that appear whilst people pop into the shops, the nice thing here is that they are never the same twice! Hopefully there isn't a coach trying to come the other way outside the angling centre and its then down to the junction of Seymer Rd and another well known invisible zebra crossing which people seem to use these days.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Navigation to the Station.....Part 1

Its 2.30pm on a Saturday in August, the pager goes off, you phone in to discover a person is stuck on Ballard. Having grabbed your kit you jump in the car and that's the beginning of the challenge that most of the team face getting to the station. The most important rule is that we drive within the law, we are not exempt of the road traffic act just because we are attending an emergency, as with the fire and lifeboat crews we do have signs for our windows, however its often interesting watching the driver in front of you and seeing how often they look in their mirrors! of course they are not obliged to move over to let us pass but once they see the sign they normally do.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Peveril Point 2007

In 2007 the team had 115 incidents around the patch (Middlebere farm to Dancing Ledge). With almost half in the Studland area, Peveril Point is no longer the centre of operations that it once was. With incidents all around the area and the problems of getting to Peveril during the summer, the Agency agreed that the station was no longer viable. The map which is displayed outside the station shows the different type of incidents we dealt with in 2007, Blue - Marine, Red- Medical, Orange- Cliff Rescues, Yellow - Pollutions, Green - Misc.. The green dot in the left hand corner relates to the incident on the river Stour in Blandford, where sadly the lady died trying to rescue her dog, Coastguards attended to assist in the search.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Peveril Point 1842

Back in 1842 the role of the Coastguard was very different, the main task was combating smugglers, and rescue work was only a small role in those days. The road and several properties were built by the Coastguard to guard the bay and the treacherous Peveril tide race, the lookout was sited so it guarded the ledge and also had a good view across Poole bay and around to the west of the Isle of Wight, linking in with stations at Bournemouth and the Needles. Coastguards would set out on foot patrols over night and meet Coastguards from the St Albans and Studland whilst patrolling the cliffs, back then Peveril Point was the centre of the action. Reading the history it was a hard life and to ensure the men didn’t get to friendly with the locals they were often moved on to another station after 2 or 3 years.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The Office

The hub of the station is the desk, this is where the station log lives and details of all incidents and actions of the team are recorded. As with all Government Agencies the flow of paperwork is steady and at the end of the month there are several "returns" to complete. Now the trailer has returned inside the building, this does limit the space, good thing I'm slim!

Monday, 14 January 2008

The Galley

Every Ship has a galley......The Coastguard has a long history based on naval traditions, whilst the building is called a "station" not a ship we do have a galley and yes it could be considered a throw back to Nelson's time. Nelson didn't have a fridge and kettle, but I expect there was a little more room to prepare that all important refreshment for the crew , in fact its easier to sit inside the vehicle to drink your tea! As ever we are grateful to both the Lifeboat house and Police station for that welcome area to rest should the need arise.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Arch

One of the ideas was to redevelop the existing station, perhaps to build into the roof , plans were started however abruptly stopped when the "man from the council" stated although the building is not listed, it lies in an area of outstanding natural beauty (this was before the coastline got awarded its World Heritage status). Whilst building work could be considered, we couldn't do any thing with the arch as it has historic importance, this basically stopped any progress with that idea as its the arch that causes us access problems to the building, and when coupled with access problems to Peveril Point (will cover that in the future) the Agency stated to look again elsewhere.The arch is something and its a shame its now tucked away out of public view, there are a few examples left around the country as most stations built in the 1800's followed a standard design, however they are becoming rare.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

The Tardis

With the vehicle removed, it give us access to our lockers and allows room to change into our protective clothing. Behind the trailer is our working desk where all the admin is done, from the picture it does look a little cluttered and what does not help at the moment is the arrival of all our new rope rescue equipment. This new equipment is a huge step for the Coastguard and brings in the latest equipment currently on the market, over the next few months we will be practising with the new bits but will have to use the old equipment for rescues (the two sets are not compatible), once happy with the operation of the new equipment and a final examination we shall move on to the new and remove all the old......more room again!

Friday, 11 January 2008

Its a tight fit....

The building constructed in 1842 was designed to house a Board of Trade rescue cart, a small extension added in 1982 improved the space a little but with the arrival of a long wheel base Nissan and the return of the trailer, space is basically nil. To enable the team to get to their lockers, the vehicle has to taken out. There are no facilities at the station for the team, not great having been out for 6 hours on a search!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

The explanation

Having fought for 6 years to get a new building for the Swanage Coastguard Team, I (the Station Officer) thought it would be nice to record for future generations the building of this new asset for the people of Swanage.
Having consulted my web site expert on the best way forward to record such an event, he suggested I put together a "blog" what?

Well here goes, rescuing people does seem slightly easier but over the coming days and months, I will hope to explain why we needed to move and when the work starts, the construction of the building.

Ian Brown Station Officer HMCG Swanage