This past weekend, Dartmoor Search & Rescue was called out to evacuate a young girl, who was hypothermic, from the moor. While searching for her, quite by chance, they stumbled upon a cyclist lying on the ground. When they checked him out, they found no signs of life, and they recovered his body, stretchering him off the moor.
There are several thoughts that directly follow this tragic incident, and they start with sympathy for the man’s now grief-stricken family. Next, the reality that the members of Dartmoor Search & Rescue are all volunteers, freely giving their time not just when called upon, but also for many hours of training. They go out for training every Wednesday night, irrespective of what the weather conditions may be.
Dartmoor Searc & Rescue is a charity, so if you can, please support them financially. None of us ever want to be in a position where we need to rely on them, but if we needed them, they would respond – often risking their own lives. To put it into perspective: in an emergency, we tend to call the police. When the police don’t have the skills, they call Dartmoor Search & Rescue.
Almost anyone can apply to join Dartmoor Search & Rescue, though not everyone will get through. If
accepted, you’ll have a year-long period as a trainee, where you do all the training, but won’t go on call-outs. Once a fully-trained team member, you may be called upon at any time of day, and in all weather. If anything, bad weather probably only increases the chances of a call-out.
To put their commitment into perspective, during the incident this past weekend, not only did they recover the body of the cyclist, but they also continued and found the original cause for the call-out, and safely got her off the moor, to safety.
Dartmoor is an incredible place. England’s last wilderness, the rugged landscape can, and has caught people out before. It’s one of my favourite places on earth, and I often suggest people go to the moor. However, it’s deceptive, too, and the weather can be unpredictable and highly changeable. The only reason Dartmoor Prison was built in Princetown was because if a prisoner managed to escape in mid-winter, there usually was no urgent need to go after them, as the guards knew the weather would get the escapee.
When you go to Dartmoor, treat the moor with the respect it deserves. I’ve no idea what the cyclist from this weekend’s incident died from, and ultimately, what he died from in no way changes the tragedy. I’m also not going to speculate about the cause of his death.
What I will say is there are things you can do to increase your chances of survival, should something bad happens, and would also make the Search & Rescue team’s job easier. That begins with thinking about what to do when things go wrong beforehand. Also, always plotting a route (and sticking to the route) when you’re going to cycle along off-road tracks, and share that route with someone who can raise the alarm if you’re not back when expected.
Also consider using a location-sharing app, and live-sharing your location with someone, but bear in mind that on much of Dartmoor you cannot get a signal, and make sure they understand that at times your position won’t update for a while.