THE Westmorland Gazette today launches a campaign to support the work of the heroes of Kendal's Mountain Rescue Team.

The 'Readers to the Rescue' appeal aims to raise £40,000 in order to pay for a state-of-the-art new vehicle that will act as a 'mobile base', allowing for better communication on rescues and increase the chances of positive outcomes.

A charity wholly dependent on volunteers and donations to survive, Kendal MRT needs the support of the community to replace an outdated minibus.


"We regularly replace our vehicles," Kathryn Jackson, deputy team leader for Kendal MRT said. "We have four vehicles. The one we're replacing this time round has always been our crew bus so it's just a minibus essentially. At the minute we've got a radio repeater on it and that's all the tech we have on board.

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"The tech has moved on so much and that's just not suitable for it."

The set-up in the Renault Trafic that will be replaced comprises of a laptop, small screen and a table. The communication it offers is not always reliable.

Gavin Willingham, equipment officer for the team and the man who oversees much of the IT work, said that the new vehicle will enable whoever is manning it to control an incident as effectively in the field as they would be able to in the team's Busher Walk base.

"Normally people sit in the base room and they use these two screens and two computers but sometimes on a long job it's better for them to be out on the hill so people can come and talk to them," he explained. He added that the current vehicle was 'quite small' and 'not very practical'.

The new all terrain van will include a computer system with essential mapping and call-out software installed on it, a big screen for efficient team briefings, a table, monitors and radios.

"It will also have to carry standard equipment that we need," he said "To transport people from A to B, it will need to carry a stretcher and act as an ambulance. The focus is on a control vehicle but it has also got to be a practical vehicle."

He added that as technology progressed, he knew of other teams in the Lake District and Peak District that were updating their control vehicles.

Around 40 volunteers make up Kendal MRT, which is one of the 12 teams that belong to The Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association (LDSAMRA). Where necessary, the 12 teams will often help one another out on rescues, meaning the new mobile base will benefit a wide patch.

Team members offer up substantial amounts of their time, attending regular training sessions and responding to call-outs at all hours and in all weather conditions.

Call-outs vary from those who have got lost on the fells or slipped and fallen to helping more vulnerable members of society who may live in remote locations that are inaccessible by ambulance.

They are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and most of the volunteers are balancing their voluntary work with regular employment.

"They have a willingness to just drop everything," Ms Jackson said, talking about the dedicated team."They put a huge number of hours in and try and make sure people are safe and get the best outcome for an incident. It's humbling to see."

And Richard Warren, chair of LDSAMRA, said: "The teams themselves, I think I am qualified to say, they are all heroes and heroines.

"Mountain rescuers tend not to want to blow their trumpets, they just want to get out there and do their job and then go home afterwards. I am always amazed how committed mountain rescuers are."

Matt Benson, the team's deputy training officer, said that the new vehicle would give the team on the hill full communications, without risk of losing touch with rescuers.

"When we're out on a remote call-out we don't get radio signal," he said. "We don't pick up the details from the base. We're kind of isolated.

"The better systems we have, the more success we are going to have of finding someone quicker."

Mr Benson, a team member for the past four years, said that the work the varied group of committed volunteers undertook was essential because it could not be replicated by other emergency services.

"We're a voluntary organisation," he explained. "Everything is done just on the goodwill of people coming in. We have limited funds coming through and we want to provide the best service we can to people. A big drive for Kendal and the Lakes is tourism so we want the people coming in to stay safe and be able to enjoy the area and we want to be there to help if something goes wrong for people."

And as well as the regular stream of tourists and local hill walkers, extreme events have thrown into light the importance of having a top-of-the-range vehicle.

"The demands of us are getting more," Ms Jackson said. "I think Storm Desmond was a really good example of the expectations of us in an incident like that. It's expected we'll perform at the same level as the other emergency services. When the technology is there people's expectations are that we'll use the best available technology."

She said a fully-equipped new vehicle would make a 'big difference' to the team.

"Those are the two key things with this vehicle," she said. "It allows us to keep in contact, keep the information up to date and make the right decisions. It gets people in the right place at the right time which makes things faster and hopefully saves lives."

To donate to the Readers to the Rescue campaign please send cheques, made payable to 'Readers to the Rescue', to Sara Royle, 1 Wainwright's Yard, Kendal, Westmorland, LA9 4DP. You can also drop money into the Gazette's office.

If you have been helped by Kendal Mountain Rescue Team and would like to share your story, please contact Sara Royle on 01539 790260 or email