Gold in them thar hills?

The Lammermuir hills are the setting for a fund-raising venture by a local search and rescue team early next month.

Border Search and Rescue Unit, based in Kelso, hopes to raise more than 2,000 from sponsored walks and mountain bike rides on Sunday, October 7.

Usually held annually in the Cheviot hills, this year’s event will kick off from Watch Water Reservoir caf, near Longformacus.

The mountain bike rides are new for this year. There are three walking routes for all abilities: a 25km (15-mile) route for fit hikers seeking a challenge, a 16km (10-mile) route, both partly along the Southern Upland Way, and a five km (three-mile) family walk for all abilities.

The two routes for mountain bikers will be based around the longer walking routes and led by experienced guides.

The unit’s deputy leader, Stuart Fuller-Shapcott, said: “We moved it to the Lammermuirs to see if we can get a different catchment – and it’s something different.

“It’s very different country to the Cheviots, it’s more rolling and there are no steep inclines.

“We’ve introduced mountain bike routes – mountain biking seems to be catching on so we thought we would try it and see.”

Border Search and Rescue Unit covers from Carter Bar to Edinburgh and from the A68 to the east coast. The unit evolved from the Cheviot Walking Club in the early 1950s. It was recognised by the police in September 1963, and at that time was the only team in the whole of southern Scotland.

Numbering 29 members, including trainees, the unit trains twice a month, keeping first aid, outdoors and other skills up to speed. Members include a farmer, teachers, paramedics, a doctor and others.

Stuart continued: “We are very grateful to employers for time off. We are genuine volunteers – we give up our time for nothing and we don’t have a maximum time call-out.

“When [murdered primary pupil] Rory Blackhall went missing in Livingston, we were called out on the Friday night and it was Sunday evening when we got back.”

The team averages 18 call-outs in a year, not counting stand-bys

Stuart said: “Because of where we are, we get involved in all sorts of things. We can be recovering bodies – someone has described us as cross-country undertakers – or this year we had a search in Dunbar to find an 85-year-old woman, who we found inland.

“Generally, we do more searching than some northern teams who are often told where to find their casualty. Someone will have an accident and they (the northern teams) will go to them and rescue them. With us we will get somebody who hasn’t turned up and we have to search for them – and that’s a big difference.”

Stuart has been part of the team for more than 12 years, graduating from ‘foot soldier’ to the deputy leader’s position.

He explained how he became involved: “I have always been a keen walker. I met some of the guys out on a training exercise and it went from there.

“I feel I’m doing something worthwhile.”

Meanwhile Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team, which covers the Borders from the A68 to near Moffat, has organised a charity walk later this month.

The new 12 and five-mile walks on Saturday, September 29, will start from Traquair and explore The Glen, the valley between Innerleithen and St Mary’s Loch. The longer route will see hikers climb Glenrath Heights along an ancient drove road, pass through the gorge at Glendean Banks and return via Loch Eddy. The shorter route is suitable for children, school parties and less experienced walkers.

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