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Hengistbury Head watchkeepers celebrate year of surveying the sea

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Hengistbury Head watch volunteers are marking 12 months in operation
Hengistbury Head watch volunteers are marking 12 months in operation

HENGISTBURY Head’s Coastwatch is set to celebrate its first full year operating from the lookout on Warren Hill.

The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) is a voluntary organisation and registered charity which provides a visual watch along the UK's coasts and is marking its 25th anniversary.

HHNCI is one of the charity’s busiest with 75 qualified watchkeepers and 28 trainees, involved in 51 incidents with more than 33,000 vessels logged in nearly 12,000 hours of watchkeeping duties up to the beginning of November.

Next year it is aiming to gain its ‘declared facility’ status which will officially recognise the station as a member of the UK’s search-and-rescue operations.

The station wants to install remote cameras to cover blind spots to the east of the head and along some parts of the beach.

The lookout base on Warren Hill
The lookout base on Warren Hill

Brian Roberts, one of the founding members and the first station manager, stood aside in September having achieved his aim of opening a Coastwatch station on the top of Hengistbury Head and is now a happy watchkeeper, trainer and honorary president.

Peter Holway is currently the acting station manager, supported by deputy station managers and founding members Ed Essery and Chris Lloyd-Smith

Peter said: "The dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism of all our watchkeepers, coupled with the fantastic support we are receiving from the local community and further afield, have led to Hengistbury Head NCI becoming an established and welcome fixture over the past year.

“We now look forward to building on that success in order to improve the vital service we provide to the fishing community, leisure boaters and visitors to the head.”

Good working relationships are being formed with search-and-rescue partners, the local fishing community and sailing clubs and BCP Council.

Running the HHNCI costs around £10,000 a year and relies entirely on voluntary donations. Significant funding and support has been received from Tesco, Waitrose, The Priory Church, Christchurch Sailing Club, Winton Christadelphian Church and the Freemason Lodge of Meridian.

The group’s own volunteers have raised funds through concerts, half-marathons and selling calendars.

Spokesperson Caroline Walker said: “The A&T article in the summer brought us interest and support for which we are very grateful and as a now-established station with a large following, being able to update everyone on our progress through the local press enables us to continue to maintain and grow our support network and bring in vital donations.”

Further information can be found at www.hhnci.org.uk.

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