Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team and Wordsworth’s 250th anniversaries re-imagined after the lockdown

PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 July 2020

The Langdale Mountain Rescue Team in action

The Langdale Mountain Rescue Team in action

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Events to mark two notable anniversaries in the Lake District this year had to be shelved but the cancellations led to innovative and creative celebrations.

Windermere GP, Dr Paula Cook has been recognised for her work during the pandemicWindermere GP, Dr Paula Cook has been recognised for her work during the pandemic

Paula will win you top marks for her safety tip: carry spare clothing. But she’s trumped by Mark whose favourite mountain is the lofty Dove Crag (792m). Both are outscored by Mo with 50 years of service.

We’re playing Rescue Team Trumps, a zany version of the popular card game which features cartoon characters based on the real members of the Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team. It’s been launched to mark the 50th anniversary of the team, a date which was due to see the televised light-up of the Lakeland fells.

Their golden jubilee, though, is trumped five-fold by William Wordsworth who was born 250 years ago. That landmark was to have been celebrated by a host of events centred on Rydal Mount near Ambleside, the poet’s home for most of his life.

Instead, on a website which has won thousands of admirers around the globe, a Hollywood actress, a national treasure, and a rock band member are among more than 200 fans reading their favourite poems by Wordsworth.

Rescue TrumpsRescue Trumps

The Mountain Rescue’s big event was to have been in April when BBC Countryfile were planning to film the lighting-up of the most famous of all mountain silhouettes, the Langdale Pikes. Hundreds of walkers, runners and climbers had signed up to carry torches and lanterns over Harrison Stickle, Pike o’Stickle and Loft Crag as part of the spectacular illumination.

Instead, with team members and hikers alike confined to their homes during lockdown, deputy team leader Sarah Anderson invented the card game which filled the long hours of indoor isolation – and raised money for the LAMRT as well.

Based on cartoon sketches by caricaturist Chris Ryder, Mountain Rescue Trumps has entertained old and young alike. In there, among the human forms, are Mavis the team Landrover (years of service, 12; safety tip, drive to arrive) and Sim Man, (favourite mountain, Helvellyn), the latex model used by the team to practise their medical skills, including CPR.

But in the real world, the most points have been scored by Mo and Paula. Mo Richards started going out on rescues with the team in 1970, though she didn’t actually become a team member until 1973 when women became officially accepted in the role. Since then she has served as Equipment Officer, committee member, sorted pagers, and she was awarded an MBE for her mountain rescue work in 2010.

Wordsworth’s family attended a ceremony at Westminster Abbey before lockdown but other celebrations were postponedWordsworth’s family attended a ceremony at Westminster Abbey before lockdown but other celebrations were postponed

Along with fellow team members Dave Barrington and Geoff Bowen, she was recently presented with a 50 year certificate to mark her dedicated service.

Rescue Trumps and rescue team colleague Paula Cook, a GP in Windermere, has just been recognised by the High Sheriff of Cumbria for her exceptional contribution to the community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She has been at the forefront of planning the revised responses to emergencies on the fells for all the mountain rescue teams in Cumbria, including her home team of LAMRT.

‘Rescuers need to be kitted out with full protective equipment to protect them, their casualties and our community which has meant some changes to the way teams operate,’ Paula said. 

A team doctor with LAMRT, she has been out on several rescues recently so she has experienced the new procedures herself.

Paula, who said it was very humbling to receive the award, explained how the LAMRT needed to think about how they protected team members in the outdoors given that PPE is designed for use in a hospital or indoor environment; how they responded to rescues safely, thinking about the kit they used, and supporting changes in the way they operated.

‘It meant thinking about PPE in high winds, wet weather, hot weather. We had to work through all that to get the balance right to make sure the kit was effective when we were carrying out rescues.’

She explained that the team encouraged people to look at the Adventure Smart website to match their fell-top ambitions to their own capabilities given the weather and the conditions.

‘We want visitors to consider our local community and treat our environment with respect, so we can do our job safely.  But everyone in mountain rescue remains passionately committed to helping all who need help on the hills.’

The volunteer team attends around 100 incidents every year, which range from a twisted ankle on an easy path, to serious accidents or fatalities on cliffs and very difficult ground.

A man of the mountains, who would pack dozens of fell-top miles into one day, William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth on April 7, 1770. His homes included Dove Cottage and Allan Bank before he moved to Rydal Mount with his wife Mary and sister Dorothy. He died there in April 1850.

The Wordsworth family, who still own the house at Rydal Mount, were planning a number of celebrations to mark the occasion. They did manage to attend a memorial service, with the Wordsworth Trust, at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey early in the year, but all else was cancelled: family gatherings at Rydal, a family walk to lay a wreath on the poet’s grave in Grasmere, hosting poets in residence at Rydal Mount, and a special “Milestones” version of the annual Wordsworth prize for young poets they have organised for eight years.

But Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the four times great grandson of the poet, came up with a scheme for a virtual celebration which, he says, has been a success beyond his wildest dreams. He set up a website, wordsworth250.com, onto which he would upload recordings of people reading their favourite poems. Each is a separate, stand-alone 
YouTube video.

It began with Stephen Fry reading The World Is Too Much With Us. He’s been joined since by actors Hugh Bonneville (Intimations of Immortality) and Tom Conti (To Sleep); broadcasters Davina McCall (Written in March) and Kate Humble (To the Cuckoo). Legendary Hollywood star Leslie Caron offered It is a Beauteous Evening. And there have been poems set to music and sung: William H Macy, the American actor and film director (She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways), and Boff Whalley from the rock band Chumbawumba (My Heart Leaps Up).

There are readings from many members of the Wordsworth family: Christopher himself, and his mother Susan; and the younger generation including Alice Wordsworth, Bella Christie, Alfie Paice and Thea Aitchison. And there’s an archive recording of the Rev Christopher Wordsworth (1879-1965), the poet’s great grandson, reciting It is a beauteous evening.

‘We have more than 200 submissions from all over the world so far,’ says Christopher. ‘There are young people, writers, actors, musicians, even our head gardener at Rydal Mount, Helen Green. We were overwhelmed by the response; it has been beyond our wildest dreams.

‘It has means people throughout the world have 
been able to share in the celebrations. William was a true was a revolutionary whose work and thoughts are still relevant today. His ideas, and his expression of the beauty of the world around him, have an eternal appeal.’

New plans

The Rydal Mount Wordsworth Young Poets’ Prize will be awarded in the autumn term. Rydal Mount hopes to host some poetry readings later this summer. Go to rydalmount.co.uk for details and to watch and listen to the poetry readings, visit wordsworth250.com.

The LAMRT hopes to stage the felltop illumination event either this autumn or next spring. To buy Rescue Team Trumps, go to:

rigu.co.uk/rescue-team-trumps-adventure-smart-mountain-rescue-card-game.

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