More watchers needed

Ken Harcombe, Andy Rose, Nicola Allatt, Bill Tyrer and Stuart Macgregor
Ken Harcombe, Andy Rose, Nicola Allatt, Bill Tyrer and Stuart Macgregor

The watchkeepers who monitor the seas of the Fylde coast every single day are appealing for more volunteers.

From their lookout post at Rossall Point, the group is part of a vital team whose hard work helps prevent potentially fatal accidents at sea.

The observation tower in Fleetwood is the only National Coastwatch Institution station in the North West – but, despite having around 30 volunteers who come from as far away as Bradford to help keep it open all year round – it is in need of more.

Ken Harcombe, who said his love of birdwatching was one of the reasons he started volunteering at the tower, said: “We report to the Coastguard if anything happens.

“We ring them and tell them and if they need any support then we are here.

“If we just save one person a year then it’s all worth it.”

Because of their position in the tower, he said, the watchkeepers are well-placed to help guide lifeboats to a casualty – particularly when large waves make it difficult to navigate from sea level.

But they also help to spot people who are about to get in trouble, and can act before they end up in harm’s way.

“We are looking out for vulnerable people,” he explained.

“You can get gullies up to 6ft deep.

“On a nice sunny day a person could walk out there and you’re not thinking about the tide and you have no idea about the conditions.”

In such cases, the volunteers in the tower can spot people in danger of being cut off by the tide.

Another volunteer, Andy Rose , said: “Primarily, we are concerned with people on the beach, small vessels and lilos – that sort of thing.

“The tide comes in at between 3.7mph and 3.9mph, so it’s quite a fast tide. Most people are oblivious.

“We are looking for people walking their dogs or taking a stroll who aren’t aware.”

But the demands of having someone on watch every day – including Christmas Day – from 10am until 4pm, or 6pm during the summer months, means they need plenty of volunteers to help out.

And as the group appeals for new recruits, one recent addition, Nicola Allatt, said she is proof you don’t need experience to get involved.

“I finished my training just last month,” she added.

“I’m a piano teacher and I had no nautical experience whatsoever.

“But there’s training here and at the nautical college, so now I know a lot more.”

Anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer is invited to go along and meet the watchkeepers.

Volunteers are required to commit to two or more shifts a month.

n For more information, visit the website at www.ncirossallpointfleetwood.co.uk