THE weekly column from Andrew Thomas.

One of the great institutions of the Lake District is the area’s mountain rescue service.

The Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, a registered charity, is the umbrella body for mountain rescue teams in Cumbria.

Its 12 member teams - Cockermouth, Coniston, Duddon & Furness, Kendal, Keswick, Kirkby Stephen, Langdale Ambleside, Patterdale, Penrith and Wasdale plus Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit (COMRU) and the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs - cover the entire Lake District National Park and Cumbria region.

All are heavily reliant on donations.

I cannot speak highly enough of these dedicated teams of volunteers, who are ready to go out in all weathers to help and assist those who have got into difficulties on the fells.

The Westmorland Gazette has supported local teams over the years.

There have been donations for equipment through the Gannett Foundation and in 2017 the Gazette’s Readers to the Rescue appeal on behalf of Kendal Mountain Rescue Team topped its ambitious £40,000 target.

The campaign sought to fund a state-of-the-art new vehicle that would act as a ‘mobile base’ for the team’s heroic volunteers.

From the first week, donations came flooding in to help pay for the vehicle that allows for better communication on rescues and increases the team’s chances of positive outcomes.

It was good to read last week that a recruitment campaign by Coniston Mountain Rescue Team had been successful with a number of applications from people to join the team and the supporters group which helps the team through things like hosting fundraising events and assisting around the base.

Meanwhile, it is always worth remembering that while the fells are beautiful and offer a great opportunity for hiking, they can also be extremely dangerous, particularly in winter and bad weather.

A new campaign by the Lake District National Park Authority to reduce avoidable accidents includes vital winter walking safety tips, while chair of the LDSMRA Richard Warren has urged those wishing to venture into the hills to prepare themselves properly and look at guidance and advice on