When it comes to mountain rescue skills and knowledge, Lancaster University alumni are certainly at their peak.
More than a quarter of the current Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team (BPMRT), the organisation which carries out search and rescue operations pan-Lancashire, are former Lancaster University students.
Out of the current membership, many of whom are on call 24-7 for 365 days a year, 12 have actually been educated here on campus.
“Eight call-out and four support team members have Lancaster University degrees,” says long-standing Bowland Pennine MRT member Nick Mattock, now a Hutton-based police officer who lives in Lancaster.
“There has always been a strong link between the university and the team but now approximately 25 per cent are ex-Lancaster graduates which is pretty amazing.”
And the reason for the big draw, explained Nick, who studied HR Management and Organisational Studies at Lancaster University Management School from 1998 to 2001, was that many team members were, at the time of joining, also members of the Lancaster University Hiking and/or Climbing Clubs.
And, as a keen member of the University Hiking Club, Nick went on a Bowland Pennine MRT course at their Dunsop Bridge training centre.
“It’s almost like a grown-up game of hide and seek – someone gets lost and you find them,” said Nick. “I ‘hid’ for the team as part of the training exercise and then somehow found myself a rescue team member.”
It was, he added, a natural progression to contribute back to an organisation that had helped and supported him and many other students.
“Lancaster University is so popular with outdoorsy people and it is so near the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales for climbing and walking,” added Nick. “It also has a great reputation for geography and environmental sciences. Plus Lancaster University people do seem to stay around the area due to this superb location. It’s a fantastic place - big enough to have everything but small enough not to be a big city. People really grow to love the area and put roots down.”
The team, formed in 1980 with the amalgamation of two other Teams formed in 1963, has a vehicle and training base near Garstang, a vehicle base at Penwortham and a Headquarters and training premises at Smelt Mill Cottages, Dunsop Bridge in the heart of the Trough of Bowland.
On average they answer 50 to 60 call outs a year in both urban and rural Lancashire. The majority of ‘shouts’ are fell walkers and climbers who have ‘come a cropper’ but the team are also called on to assist the police in tracking down children and adults who have gone missing from home.
They also field their three Land Rovers to double up as ambulances in snowy and icy conditions – reaching the parts other vehicles cannot reach. In severe icy weather the team, many of whom are highly trained medical technicians, have been known to don crampons and stretcher someone to safety.
They provide support the county’s Fire and Rescue Service from time to time with, for example, moorland fires.
They have also played a significant part in various major incidents including the Morecambe Bay Cockling Disaster rescue operation in 2004, the Grayrigg rail incident in the southern lakes and the recent motorway incidents with hundreds of vehicles trapped in the snow.
“There’s no pressure on you to be a member – if you didn’t like the work you wouldn’t be there,” said Nick. “Getting up in the middle of the night to help people isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But we have a good track record and it feels good afterwards when you have done a good job.
“And, of course, as you can imagine there’s great camaraderie and a good social side. We are a very close-knit group.”
The team usually recruits in the autumn each year and, after the initial training, there is a two-year probationary period. New Lancaster University (and other) applicants are always welcome.
Team Officers may be contacted via our website page:
Lancaster University alumni team members include:
- Nick Mattock (from Yorkshire), HR Management and Organisational Studies at LUMS, 1998 to 2001
- Pete Shanahan (from London) currently a post-doctoral researcher at LEC, PhD in Soil Science, 2009 to 2012
- Alison Nicholson (from Durham) MSc in Environmental and Ecological Science, 1997 to 1998
- Rob Gilder (from Cheltenham) MA in Social Work, 2005 to 2008
- John Wickham (from Buckinghamshire) International Relations with Strategic Studies, 2002 to 2005
- Clive Shelley (from Lewes, Sussex) Environmental Science 1974
- Frances Shelley (from Ilkley, Yorkshire) Health Studies and Public Health 1994
- Sarah Beattie (from Hertfordshire) BA Hons and Diploma in Social Work, 1993 to 1996.
- Jon Holmes (from Sunderland) BA Hons Jnt Law & History 1991
- Tessa Franken (from Holland) BSc, MSc and PhD in Psychology, 1999 to 2002
- Chris Bracchi (from Rhyl, North Wales) Social Work, 1995 to 1998
- Matt Sagar (from Burnley) Computer Science, 1997 to 2000