Members of the North East’s ‘voluntary emergency service’ are ready to hit the road thanks to a four-figure grant from the region’s biggest building society.

The Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team provides a search and rescue service across a 3,000 square mile area which stretches from the Scottish borders down to Sunderland, and across from the Northumberland coast to the border with Cumbria.

The service uses three 4×4 vehicles to enable members and vital lifesaving equipment to get to incidents in all terrains, with two being kept at Pegswood Fire Station near Morpeth and the other one based at Rothbury Ambulance Station.

And now, a £3,000 grant has been provided by Newcastle Building Society through its Community Fund at the Community Foundation to cover the three vehicles’ fuel costs for the next 12 months.

The Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team receives no statutory funding and has to raise around £40,000 every year to meet its running costs.

Its 45-strong team of volunteers is available at all times of the day and night, every day of the year, and by the middle of 2020, it had already been involved with 74 incidents, compared to 83 through the whole of 2019.

Ninette Edwards, fundraising officer with the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team, says: “We cover the largest geographical area of any Mountain Rescue Team of our type in the UK, and have volunteers living right across the area to enable us to respond as quickly as possible.

“As well as carrying out mountain rescue operations in the hills, we often work alongside the police when they’re searching for vulnerable missing persons, and we have recently been involved in supporting the Fire & Rescue Service with the recent wildfires on the Simonside moors.

“In the current climate, not only are we unable to run a lot of our usual fundraising activities, but because of social distancing rules, we can’t have as many people in our rescue vehicles as usual.

“This often means that more of our volunteers are having to use our personal vehicles to reach incidents separately, which increases the costs that they have to meet as we each pay for our own fuel.

“As well as the costs of carrying out our duties, there are always unavoidable running costs to meet in terms of replacing or renewing equipment, so knowing that our fuel costs for the year are being covered by this generous grant from Newcastle Building Society means we know we can focus the resources we have elsewhere.”

Siobhan Younger, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Wooler branch,

adds: “The Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team are as vital as any other emergency service in this area and their unstinting commitment to their community is inspiring. We know that they’ve had a tough time during the pandemic, but have still dealt with a huge number of incidents, helping people over a wide area.

“Since we officially opened the Wooler branch back in February, we’ve enjoyed a very warm welcome into the community, so it’s pleasing to be able to give something back by supporting such a worthwhile cause.”

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which was set up to offer grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Society also made a

£100,000 contribution to the £1m appeal set up by the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation for its Coronavirus Recovery and Response Fund.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.