the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team (TVMRT) has two new Land Rover ambulances, thanks to donations and years of fundraising, writes Sally Gillespie.
The rescuers officially brought their latest specially adapted vehicle into service at Horsburgh Castle, near Peebles on Tuesday.
TVMRT vehicle officer Ray Smith said: “To see a volunteer mountain rescue team replace its two aging vehicles with two state-of-the-art models within the space of a year is a fantastic achievement. Many people have helped make the completion of these vehicles possible and this demonstrates the dedication and commitment of our team members to serve their local community.”
The new vehicles replace TVMRT’s existing Land Rover ambulances which had been in service since the late 1990s.
The first new ambulance, Tweed Alpha, was completed in August last year after a £10,000 donation from the Robertson Trust.
And the second, Tweed Bravo, was unveiled publicly on Tuesday after a £20,000 donation from St John Scotland.
Each vehicle cost around £42,000 to buy and convert, and team members have been fundraising over the past 10 years to gather the extra money needed for the project.
The Lord Lieutenant of Tweeddale, Captain David Younger handed over the keys to Tweed Bravo to the team at Tuesday’s ceremony.
He said: “Today sees a major step forward in the forty-odd-year life of the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team with the launch of this extremely well equipped and specially converted Type 130 Land Rover, the second of its type to join the stable. The modifications were largely driven by Ray Smith with the help of Morrison & Murray, the Galashiels engineering company, who between them faced considerable challenges, particularly with regard to the stretcher bed.”
He thanked the two funding charities, saying: “Without the generous help of these two bodies, mountain rescue operations in the Tweed Valley would not be nearly as comprehensive or efficient, and casualties would be exposed to greater risk.”
The old Land Rover ambulances could carry two team members and a casualty on a stretcher, whereas the new models will carry nine people with rescue kit or five rescuers and a stretchered casualty.
Although now partly funded by the Scottish and, from last month, the UK governments, TVMRT remains reliant on donations to meet its costs of more than £18,000 a year. The 40 highly trained volunteers are on call 24 hours a day, year-round to help lost or injured people in mountainous or remote areas. They cover around 2,500 square miles from near Moffat to the A68 road, to the English border and up to Edinburgh, and last year the team was called out to 26 incidents.
A search-and-rescue helicopter crew from Royal Navy Gannet on a training exercise in the Peebles area on Tuesday also dropped by to familiarise themselves with the team’s new Land Rovers.
Capt Younger thanked HMS Gannet for “the superb work that they perform in all weathers in support of the team and to the considerable benefit of casualties”.
TVMRT team leader Steve Penny thanked the charities, local people who had supported the team and team members for their efforts.