Coastwatch News – October 2013 – Malcolm Craven

You Name It, We ‘ll Try And Do It

It’s beginning to appear that one of our ‘general duties’ is to act as a contact point to help with happenings on the Coast Path. This year has been a particularly busy one in that respect, everything from a general information bureau, to a lost property office, a refuse collection centre and a casualty clearing station. You see there are not many telephones on the Path and mobile reception is generally bad or non-existent

It all began very early, before we were properly open even, when one of our lady trainees fell on the Path down near the gate to the road by the Beach and broke her ankle. Being an N.C.I. person she did the job properly, fracturing it in more than one place, and giving Patrick, who was with her, the opportunity to practice his First Aid skills, mobile telephone (he failed this – no reception) and how to organise a rescue by helicopter. Thankfully the lady is now well on the mend and, we hope, is undeterred and, by next year, be a fully qualified Watchkeeper. Dedication is what we need.

Later on another unfortunate lady fell at a stile near the lookout and broke her arm, already written about in the saga of the Dog Spade. This has since been replaced to the relief of our dog owning members who bring Fido down to the Lookout with them where he or she (the dog not the Watcher) uselessly chases seagulls. Not surprisingly as the Path is prime dog walking country they figure a lot in our usual day’s watch, owners calling in for a chat.  Well behaved dogs are welcome, and drinks of water  are free – for the dog, that is, as we have no fresh water,  only that provided from our rainwater collecting system

I was in there the other day when I heard the familiar  ‘click click’ of a dogs nails on the floor and, looking down, there was a somewhat elderly canine looking at me expectantly. Before we could strike up a conversation a lady’s voice intervened to ask if, by any chance, any one had handed in a red dog lead the day before. This solved a puzzle I had been pondering – why, when I opened up, had a large red strap been reposing on the desk in front of me. It seems a passerby had found it the previous evening and handed it to our Watchkeeper. While we are not a repository for found property which should go to the Police, in that case the Watchkeeper on duty, seeing it of little monetary value, had obliged by holding it. So a happy ending for dog and owner. But let me emphasise –  we cannot be responsible for lost property.

But people lose the strangest things. Lost children are well catered for. There are instructions about what we should do, there are forms to fill in, there are procedures to follow. However lost parents are not covered! This is what happened the other day when David heard someone at the door and found two young boys, aged about 10 and 12. ‘Please Sir’ they said ‘We’ve lost our Mum’. Well, David thought about it for a moment and, in his mind, went through all the instructions we have to cover seemingly every eventuality. Lost children – yes. Lost parents – no!

These two boys could not be persuaded that they were lost, insisting that they knew where they were but not where mother was. They had become separated on Porthbean Beach which cannot be seen from our Lookout.  David’s problem was that he cannot leave the Lookout to search and could not escort the boys to any other place of safety. They gave him Dad’s mobile number, so he rang that. No answer – Dad was probably in Portscatha where there is no signal.. What to do next.? Well the lads were probably about 10 and 12 and had shown considerable common sense so far. They said they knew their. way home and either Dad or Mum was sure to be there by now and, in any case, they knew where the key was hidden. The tide was out so they could walk across the beach. to the village and would be visible to the Lookout for most of their walk home. So, giving them his name and the phone number at the Lookout, David let them go on their way.

All ended well. At the end of his watch David drove into Portscatho, found the house and checked that the boys were home and safe. Another satisfactory conclusion

Are we a refuse collection centre? Certainly not, but even this came my way the other day. A couple walked down to the top of the cliffs just below the lookout and obviously intended to sit and admire the view for a bit. A moment or so later the man re-appeared carrying a red plastic bag. He came to me and said he had just found it dumped on the cliff, packed with empty beer cans, and empty wine bottle and the remains of someone’s picnic!

Can you believe it! Someone had been down to this beauty spot and just left their rubbish! They even had a good plastic bag to carry it home in but had been too inconsiderate and lazy! The gentleman now with the bag asked if he could leave it at the Lookout while he and his wife sat for a while and said that, when he returned to the road, he would call in and collect it – which he duly did. It takes all sorts to make this world.

As I write this we are coming to the end of our period of the school holidays when we do three hour shifts instead of two and a half.  The extra half hour does not make a lot of difference to your shift but, added together, it means we can stay open from 9.30am to 6.30pm instead of hauling down the flag at 5.00pm. This last holiday period has seen excellent weather and the beach has been crowded at 5pm, so it would have seemed wrong to remove the safety cover early and go home. I know it is voluntary but you do get to feel some responsibility for others while you are up there.

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