A MAN trekking the length of Britain’s coastline to raise awareness of a hereditary nerve disorder had to be rescued after he became stuck in mud halfway up a cliff at Barton.
Barney Lee (20) got into difficulty just below the Hoburne Naish holiday park, off the A337 Christchurch Road, near Chewton Bunny, around 3.45pm last Wednesday – nearly two months into his expedition to cover about 6,000 miles.
Called My Long Walk Around Britain, the trek is intended to highlight Hereditary Neuropathy with liability to Pressure Palsies (HNPP), a degenerative condition from which Mr Lee himself suffers.
Last Wednesday’s mishap came as he made his way along the beach between Barton and Highcliffe, intending to catch a ferry from Mudeford to Bournemouth where he had accommodation for the night.
He began to follow what he believed to be a footpath running below Hoburne Naish, having seen bootprints along it, but this became less clear as he progressed.
He slipped and tripped before sliding down a steep slope and landing in thick mud about halfway up the cliff, sinking up to his left knee and his right ankle.
“I managed to get my right leg out, but I couldn’t get my left leg out as there was nothing to find a purchase on or grip onto to get myself out of it,” Mr Lee said.
“I got my phone out, but it said no signal and there was also no mobile data working, so I thought, I’m really screwed now!
“I started yelling for help in three short bursts, then a space for a bit and then three more short bursts, but no one seemed to have heard me.”
Deciding to try his phone again, he found it now had a signal so called his father and, aided by an Ordnance Survey app on his phone, was able to give his exact location.
His mother alerted the coastguard after receiving a text he had sent while struggling to get a signal, and the rescue organisation rang him.
A Lymington team was dispatched, along with counterparts from Southbourne and Poole, with a cliff rescue specialist among them.
“They set up ropes to get someone down to me, but then they realised they needed to move the ropes to another position,” Mr Lee said.
“While they were changing the position of the ropes, I thought I would have another go at getting myself out.
“I had thought of spreading my weight out and wriggling my way out, but didn’t want to do that when no one was there as I had feared getting my face stuck and suffocating or getting my arms stuck.”
Conveniently, in his backpack Mr Lee was carrying what he called a “poo trowel” which he used for taking care of business if nature called while he was nowhere near any facilities.
He used this to dig out his right foot, which had once more slipped in up to the ankle, and dig hand and footholds to help pull himself out. By this time, his right leg had gone into spasm after being stuck in the same position for some time.
Having freed himself from the mud, he was lifted up to the clifftop by the rescuers in a specialist rescue sling.
He was given a cup of tea to warm up and Hoburne staff allowed him to use a shower to clean off the mud. One of the residents also hosed down his boots.
“I kind of looked like the Thing from Fantastic Four, covered in mud which had dried up and cracked,” he continued.
“The coastguards were absolutely amazing – it’s really good to have that service with all those people working to keep us safe.”
Although suffering no significant ill effects, Mr Lee from Derby was left with a bruised knee from the pressure the mud exerted on it. He also took the day off on Friday when he was hit by exhaustion.
Covering an average of 17 miles per day – barring rest days – he is expecting to complete his challenge by October next year.
As well as paying towards the feat, funds raised will be put towards research into the little-known condition which affects the peripheral nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the muscles and cells that detect touch, pain and temperature.
Having suffered symptoms such as paralysis in his hands since he was 16 years old, Mr Lee was diagnosed with HNPP about eight months ago. He decided to set out on his quest after the condition forced him to quit his plumbing and landscape gardening jobs.
For more information about the charity trek and how to donate visit www.barneylee.co.uk.
Mr Lee can also be contacted via his My Long Walk Around Britain Facebook page.