RECORD numbers of water rescues were reported locally as thousands of sun-worshippers basked in the weekend’s heatwave across the New Forest and Christchurch.
Swimmers cut off by the tide and a paddleboarder who fell ill were among emergency call-outs, while firefighters had to tackle more blazes caused by barbecues and campfires despite the ban.
The sweltering conditions led to some breaking the rules to swim near Beaulieu at Hatchet Pond, the New Forest’s largest area of fresh water. Hundreds also gathered at the river at Balmer Lawn in Brockenhurst.
Last Friday afternoon, the national park authority urged people to keep out of New Forest ponds.
Sheer numbers saw several beaches in Christchurch, including Mudeford and Highcliffe, occasionally register as the busiest ‘red’ rating on BCP Council’s Beach Check app.
At around 4.20pm on Saturday, Lymington and Southbourne coastguard rescue teams were sent with Mudeford RNLI to a paddle boarder who had suffered a cardiac incident at Stanpit Marsh, north of Christchurch Harbour.
Two lifeboat crewmembers helped the casualty who was airlifted by the Coastguard
rescue helicopter before being taken by ambulance to hospital.
Lymington’s coastguard rescuers also went to the aid of three swimmers caught in a riptide off Lepe Beach around 6pm on Sunday.
One was winched from the water by the rescue helicopter before being taken by ambulance to hospital. Helped by lifeboat crews, the coastguard team recovered the other two swimmers, who did not require any further treatment.
A Lymington Coastguard spokesperson told the A&T its rescue team had responded to 12 emergency callouts over the weekend, describing it as “a record”.
Most incidents involved inflatable craft being blown out to sea by the wind.
“The coastguard urges all users of inflatable rigid craft – whether they be kayaks, canoes, paddleboards or bodyboards – to be aware of local on-the-scene weather conditions and tidal states and to plan their passage accordingly,” the spokesperson said.
HM Coastguard responded to 340 emergency callouts UK-wide on Saturday.
This exceeded Friday 31st July’s 329 which had been the largest amount in a day for more than four years.
The crowds provoked anger on social media at the amount of vehicles parked along New Forest verges as hundreds visited popular beauty spots.
Firefighters responded to at least two incidents involving barbecues and campfires on open land, despite a ban due to the hot conditions. Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service had warned the south of England would experience an amber wildfire risk over the weekend.
Crews from Christchurch tackled a blaze involving several disposable barbecues and a campfire in Cranemoor Common at Hinton Admiral last Friday evening.
Firefighters from Beaulieu had to extinguish a small bonfire at Dibden Enclosure around 10.40pm on Sunday. Police and Forestry England were informed.