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The ‘Eyes of the Coast’ get BIG wave of support  

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Area:
Wales
Programme:
Awards for All Wales
Release date:
27 10 2009

The Lleyn peninsula coastline will be a safer place to visit from this week thanks to a Big Lottery Fund grant to fund a National Coastwatch Institute watch station in Porth Dinllaen.  

The £5,000 from the Awards for All Wales Programme will fund equipment and training for the 30 local volunteers needed to run the project.

The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) is an entirely voluntary organisation keeping watch along the shores of the UK from its 40 stations based from Cornwall in the South West to Wearside in the North East. The aim of the organisation and its 1700 volunteers is to assist in the protection and preservation of life at sea.

Known as ‘The Eyes along the Coast’ the NCI is expanding its reach every year. Last year alone they reported over 700 incidents, provided 171,011 volunteer hours, had 1,628 active watchkeepers and initiated 52 RNLI lifeboat rescues. The NCI estimates that 52 lifeboats involved in rescues, had stemmed from NCI reports.

David Littlemore, Chair of the NCI in North Wales, explains: “Whilst high technology and sophisticated systems are aids to improved safety, a computer cannot spot a distress flare, an overturned boat or a yachtsman or fisherman in trouble. Other vulnerable activities like diving, wind surfing and canoeing are made safer with visual surveillance.

“NCI watch keepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. They are trained to deal with emergencies, offering a variety of skills and experience, all at no cost to the public.”

Funding for the NCI is managed by a Board of Trustees with a constitution agreed by the Charity Commission and relies heavily on local support. The North Wales branch of the NCI applied for funding from BIG and the £5,000 grant will enable them to open the 41st station in the UK and fourth station in Wales in Porth Dinllaen by spring 2010.

The Porth Dinllaen Coastguard Station has been abandoned for almost 20 years however over the last ten years the popularity of leisure activities from walking to surfing to fishing on the coast has increased dramatically creating demand for NCI presence.

The NCI is now actively recruiting the 30 volunteers from the local area needed to man the station and become a vital link in the security of our coastline.

The volunteers will undergo a thorough training programme with the goal of becoming certified Watchkeepers. The training checklist covers a wide range of activities from reading charts (sea) and ordinance survey maps (land) to what to do in an emergency and instructing the RNLI.

David Littlemore said: “As an organisation we’re completely reliant on volunteers and would urge anyone who is serious about getting involved with the NCI to get in touch.”  

The Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All Wales is one of the quickest ways to secure Lottery money. The scheme has injected grants of between £500 and £5,000 into a range of charitable, environmental, health and educational projects since its launch in 2001.

Highlighting the importance of the funding pot, Awards for All Wales Programme Manager, Bel Crewe, said: “This project is hard evidence that small amounts of money can have a big impact on a local and national scale. The new watch station with fully trained staff will provide crucial support to the rescue services in this popular tourist destination.

She added: “We are continually delighted with the range of creative projects which we are able to support and our flexibility to fund a wide variety of projects is one of the key elements that has made this programme such a success.”

The new easy-to-use application form, available in English and Welsh, can be downloaded, filled in and emailed direct to the Big Lottery Fund as well as being available in hard copy. Application forms are available from www.awardsforall.org.uk or phone 0845 4 10 20 30.

Volunteer case study

David Littlemore, became interested in NCI after moving to the area to make his holiday home his retirement home. Here he shares his experience so far…

“As a keen sailor, I spent most of my time away from work on the water or in a yacht club in North Wales and so on moving to the area permanently; I already had a long and established relationship with the sea, and those who guard it, such as the RNLI.

“The way in which the water is used has dramatically changed in the past 20 years, as the number of people spending their leisure time on the water has increased. This calls for more action to be taken for the safety of those that use it in their leisure time. Anyone can purchase a jet ski or rib, or go paragliding or water-skiing, without any safety training or license. Despite the increase in activity, the number of Coastguard stations and manned lighthouses has decreased. Once there were 160 manned lighthouses in the UK, now there are none. It is because of this that the demand for stations has become more important than it has in the past.  

“I was aware of four former Coastguard stations that were around the coastline, but had been closed and knew that they would be suitable for NCI stations. In 2007, we acquired the building at Porth Dinllaen, and began transforming it in to a fully operating station.

“Visual sighting is key to keeping an eye on the coastline. Coastguards are reliant on radar and so NCI have become the eyes and ears of the coast. Volunteers like me are qualified and trained to recognise danger and ensure that is it logged and reported to the Coastguard. Many of our volunteers are ex Coastguard Auxiliary who move to NCI when they can no longer climb up the steep cliffs.

“As a volunteer, I also am involved in educating the local community about being safe by the water. We work together with RNLI and the Coastguard to ensure the message is clear.

“The grant we have received from Big Lottery Fund is a great help to Porth Dinllaen, as we are able to purchase all of the equipment required to make it a real success, as well as making sure our volunteers are trained. The nearest Coastguard station is 30 miles away in Holyhead, so it is imperative that we are able to cope with any emergency and know what to report and how to get the information across.

“Following the success of setting up Porth Dinllaen, we are now looking at setting up watch stations to cover a very busy area of the sea at Anglesey, and one on the Lleyn Peninsula, plus a mobile unit.”

Further Information

English and Welsh language interviews available on request

Contact Zara Cottle or Lisa Hocken at Equinox Public Relations on Tel: 02920 764 100 or zara@equinox-pr.co.uk, lisa@equinox-pr.co.uk

Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  • The changes to Awards for All come after each distributor developed their funding programmes so they could offer specific small grants schemes that would better meet the needs of their sectors.
  • In Wales, the Big Lottery Fund is rolling out close to £1 million a week in Lottery good cause money, which together with other Lottery distributors means that across Wales most people are within a few miles of a Lottery-funded project.
  • The Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to Good Causes. As a result, over £23 billion has now been raised and more than 317,500 grants given out across the arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.

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