The Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team will be forming a vital part of the provision for the safety and wellbeing of thousands of spectators that will flood into the Holme Valley for the Tour de France Grand Depart in July.
The assistance of the volunteer team was requested by West Yorkshire Police who are controlling emergency provisions for the route as it passes through the region.
The team has been been tasked with covering the route between Holmbridge and the summit of Holme Moss – an area where upwards of 60,000 visitors are expected to jostle for places to view the race.
The Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team has been working closely with Tour organisers and the police during the months running up to the race, as it is in a unique position to provide a large number of medically trained personnel who are equipped and experienced in operating on the moorland areas and steep ground bordering on the route as it passes up one of the biggest climbs in the Yorkshire leg of the route.
A spokesman for the Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team described the challenges the team will face on the day: “We will be covering an area which is expected to receive a huge number of visitors and yet has very limited access both for the spectators to get in and out, and for emergency access if anyone needs assistance.
“As well as having personnel stationed at intervals along the race route, we are also looking at the ways people may try to gain access to vantage points on Holme Moss – we expect a number of people may try to short-cut over the moors to avoid the crowds on the designated walking route. The Pennine Way and Black Hill are possible areas for concern, as well as footpaths from Yateholme and Snailsden.
“A lot will also come down to conditions on the day – we will be looking out for a huge number of people who will be out in the elements for an extended period of time, be it heat and sunshine or winds and torrential rain – any extreme of weather could bring its own challenges. We can’t predict what the weather will do and with that quantity of people on-site we are almost certain to encounter a few who aren’t prepared for the conditions.”
The team expects to muster in the region of 50 volunteers and at least four vehicles which will have access beyond the roadblocks that will be in place. It will also be running its own radio communications across the area, and will be in direct contact with the police and ambulance services.
“We have designated space for a few vehicles within the cordoned “blue light” area at the summit of Holme Moss, and we are also planning to have vehicles at Holme Village, as well as a large quantity of people on foot spread across the area. We should be in a position to get to anyone in difficulties relatively quickly, despite the unprecedented logistical issues we will be facing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event so nobody really knows how it will pan out, but we are preparing to meet the challenges.
“We are also expecting to have a large number of people accessing and leaving the area for a day or two around the event, so we shall probably have a presence up there for a few days at least.”
The Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team regularly provides emergency cover for outdoor events across the region, including sponsored walks, mountain bike races and fell races, but the size of the Tour de France will eclipse them all.
“It’s like nothing the Team has ever been called on to deal with before, but the basic principles we operate by will be the same, just on a much larger scale. In the end it’s an event which is great for the region, and we hope all the visitors can come, enjoy their stay and the race in safety, and leave with memories of a unique weekend.”
The Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team is currently fundraising to complete the purchase of Marsden Fire Station as their new headquarters. The team negotiated the purchase of the building from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service following its closure as an operational fire station.
A deposit has been paid and the team is now in residence in their new building – which is providing vital garage space for their specialist vehicles, equipment storage and drying facilities, a training room and an operational control room.
However an outstanding balance of £20,000 still needs to be raised before June next year to secure the building for the future.