MORE than 100 volunteers have signed up to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the countryside in a new safety marshal scheme.
The initiative is the brainchild of Jess Moreland and the Dovestone WI following devastating fires in Saddleworth last summer and this spring.
The volunteers – dubbed countryside safety marshals – will be responsible for being present and vigilant across the area and reporting anything suspicious to police.
They will work to assist emergency services and act as a deterrent to help protect the beautiful and beloved countryside.
Jess explained: “After the recent fires a lot of us had a real sense of helplessness and frustration that this was happening to our beautiful countryside.
“It is tricky due to health and safety to get civilians involved and we are limited in what we can do.
“We went along to have a coffee with the police and discuss how we could help – but little did we realise how much it would snowball.
“We put out a call to arms and in less than one week we had more than 100 volunteers signed up, which was a phenomenal response and shows how much people care.
“It is a safe, structured platform through which people can help look after our countryside.
“But it is not just about fires, it is looking out for litter, keeping dogs on leads and other things as well.
“If you are out and about, be aware and be vigilant. Report anything that you see that is suspicious.”
But Jess urged volunteers to remember: “Personal safety is paramount. You are not a trained police officer or firefighter.
“Do not attempt to extinguish a barbecue bigger than a bucket of water. Do not confiscate items from members of the public. Just report it to the appropriate services.”
Volunteers are advised to work in pairs, and to use information packs put together by Dovestone WI to explain to people about countryside etiquette.
They can sign up as part of a rota which will cover Dovestone Reservoir and surrounding areas and will initially run from June-October at weekends and in school holidays.
Or volunteers can dedicate whatever time they can manage alongside their outdoor activities in the area, such as walking, hiking, bird watching or sailing.
The scheme is being officially launched at Dovestone Reservoir on Saturday, June 15 and all are invited to come along to find out more and get involved.
Jess added: “You would be surprised by the number of visitors who don’t know how to behave in the countryside, such as around grazing sheep, closing gates, and keeping dogs on leads.
“Some fires are accidental so if we can prevent just one, we could make a huge difference.”
The scheme already has the backing of Greater Manchester Police and Fire and Rescue Services, as well as local businesses and individuals.
Donations have been made to help provide hi vis jackets for volunteers, printed leaflets and two large banners to go up at Dovestone Reservoir.
And it also has the backing of celebrity and countryside champion David Attenborough, who wrote back to Jess after she got in touch.
“Your volunteer safety marshal scheme sounds a most valuable initiative. I wish it every success,” says his handwritten note.
If you would like to put your name forward to be a volunteer, email email@example.com for more information.
A good knowledge of the area is useful. Children are welcome but must be under adult supervision.