Extreme Angling and a Rescue

Something that happened last Saturday brought home to me just how long it has been since I was involved in an incident at Worms Head. My new ‘career’ there seemed to have started quite dramatically and people were beginning to think that it was me who was attracting incidents, but suddenly all the excitement stopped and things were much more relaxed. Which is far from a bad thing.

The biggest part of the job is making sure that everyone who crosses over to The Worm are sufficiently informed of the tide times and so return safely and full of excitement about their adventure. You can break it down and say that it is just a walk but it is more than that, it has a rather special charm. We talk to a great number of the public who come from all corners of the world and I think I speak for all watchkeepers when I say that we feel pride when people express their delight at their visit to our little peninsula at the end of Gower.

Saturday was a day full of promise, the weather was exceptional and the light on Rhossili beach gave amazing clarity over the four and a half miles to Bury Holmes at its far end. As we were driving down the track we could see that the causeway would either be clearing or flooding, either way it was likely that there would be no emergencies. We park a short distance from the lookout and walk the last few hundred yards, it was 9.45 and the sun was warm. The routine is always the same, one of us goes round the left hand side of the hut while the other goes to the right, checking the emergency telephone as he passes. I took the left and went on to the cliff edge to check the causeway. A fisherman had established himself in the middle of the partial flood so I presumed the tide was receding but on checking I was horrified to find that the opposite was true. The current as the water gets deeper is extremely strong and will easily sweep someone away and the causeway is tricky enough to walk over when the tide is out. One slip could be fatal.

I hurried out with the siren and gave a long blast but he didn’t turn his head, it was a quiet and clear morning and unless his hearing was impaired it was not possible that he hadn’t heard. I gave him another blast and then a third. This time he turned and made his way to shallower water, he was wading up to his thighs, his situation was critical. He found a rock, stood on it and cast his line once again, this man was determined. With the causeway flooding if he were to fall he would have been carried away and although the lifeboat station is quite close the lifeboat is crewed by volunteers and have to be summoned, by the time they would be on the scene they would be searching for a body. I persisted with the siren until he moved out of danger. He continued to fish but in another area and closer to the shore.

Whilst I was doing this I had noted that three people were walking along the unflooded part of the causeway towards the island. The tide would have receded again by five in the afternoon so it was not critical and they may have intended to spend the day there. Not exactly wise as there is no shelter from the sun over there but they were not in immediate danger. Half an hour later we saw them scrambling over Low Neck then walking over Devils Bridge.

We had many visitors and we were soon engaged in a tourist information role which I enjoy because the more you talk about a place, the more you learn. A lady who has a connection with our particular NCI station had come in with her annual gift of a tin of biscuits and we had a very pleasant conversation.

Then I noticed the three young people making their way back along Low Neck. Soon they would be on the Green waving to get attention. But no they carried straight on onto the causeway and soon were starting an attempt to wade over. I ran out with the siren yet again and they turned back while Grant, my fellow watchkeeper informed the Coastguard. Horton Inshore Lifeboat was summoned as was the local Cliff Rescue team. The strandees waited patiently.

As always as soon as the Cliff Rescue team arrive the public are curious and soon assemble to have a good view of the action. The lifeboat arrives, and in no time three embarrassed lads are landed and emerge into view to make the walk of shame to the clifftop and the awaiting audience. One can’t help feeling sorry for them. They are not the first and certainly will not be the last. Our presence at the lookout has reduced the annual number of rescues required from about 25 to about 10 a year.

It’s good to know the effect we are having.

Grant then fills in the Incident Report and happens to look back to the last stranding and remarks that on that occasion last November I was one of the watchkeepers on duty. After nine months it was about time I had another one!