Lyme Bay Coastwatch
Part of the National Coastwatch Institution
Eyes along the Coast
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NCI Lyme Bay – History In 2009 Clive Edwards, a former member of Her Majesty’s  Coastguard, mentioned to the NCI Chairman Jon Gifford that he thought that an abandoned Admiralty Look-Out above Cogden Beach on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast would make a useful NCI Look-Out for Lyme Bay, plugging a gap between the existing NCI Look-Outs at Portland Bill and Exmouth. Jon agreed, but protracted negotiations over the next six months between a private landowner, the National Trust and the NCI ultimately reached stalemate, until they were rescued by Mary-Lou Sturridge, the former owner of the Graucho Club in London, who had recently purchased a cliff-top hotel at Burton Bradstock, near Bridport, and offered the NCI a temporary location for a pre-fabricated building to use as a Look-Out pending re-development of the hotel. Mar-Lou’s offer coincided with a presentation that same evening in January 2010 about the work of the NCI to be given by Jon Gifford to the Bridport & District Tourism Association.  Thanks to Mary-Lou, Jon was able to announce the proposed launching of a new Coastwatch station at Burton Bradstock, to be known as NCI Lyme Bay  Jon’s presentation resulted in the support of the Tourism Association and from Billy Bragg who offered not only to put on a fund-raising gig but also to allow the proposed Look-Out to be connected to his electrical supply.  It also resulted in eliciting the support of retired Air Marshall Sir Chrsitopher Coville, chairman of Westland Helicopters, who offered to chair the NCI Lyme Bay steering group, and from several of the local Bride Valley parish council chairmen who backed the planning application. Following a small grant and interest-free loan from NCI central funds, the look-out building, essentially a prefabricated wooden summerhouse, was delivered in the only serious summer gale of 2010, which resulted in the erection of it being delayed for ten days.  Nevertheless NCI Lyme Bay was able to operate its first watches, kept by Station Manager Clive Edwards and his Deputy William Knapman, on 31 st  July 2010, exactly six months after Jon Gifford’s presentation had first announced the idea. Within a matter of weeks fund raising efforts by Jon Gifford  had procured both a large donation from the Cooper Dean Estate which, coupled with several smaller amounts raised by Sir Christopher Coville, enabled the station to be fully equipped with all the kit they needed save for radar within a couple of months of opening; Meanwhile Clive and William  had been busy recruiting prospective watchkeepers, running training watches and organising off=the-job training locally during the forthcoming winter.  They were very fortunate during the first few weeks of operation in recruiting a dozen well qualified and experienced people, including three qualified NCI watchkeepers from other stations who’d moved into the area, a former Auxiliary Coastguard in Charge of a Cornish station, a former member of the Special Boat Service, a retired RNLI Inshore Lifeboat cox’n, former RN and Merchant Navy officers,  a Canoe Lifeguard and no less than five  yachtmasters including one who was an experienced yacht-delivery skipper with an up-to-date VHF Radio Operators Certificate who was qualified to take on the VHF Training to NCI standards This well-qualified and experienced team were all not only able to quickly qualify as watchkeepers themselves, but also to coach the dozen or so novice recruits who applied to join.  This coaching extending not just to on-the-job training but all of them volunteered to attend the winter off-the-job training and coach the novices on a one-to-one basis, providing tremendous help to Clive and William, and their newly appointed NCI Lyme Bay Training Officer, David Bowen. By 2012 NCI Lyme Bay had established a strong management team lead by Clive with William Knapman, Graeme Gemmill, David Last and David Bowen providing the impetus that saw the station awarded declared Facility Status in May that year, and the formation of an Emergency Response Team which was to prove its worth in no uncertain terms following a major and tragic rock-fall at Freshwater which lead to the Lyme Bay ERT turning out in full strength at the request of the Coastguard to clear people off every beach from West Bexington to Lyme Regis! The same year, 2012, saw the four Dorset NCI Stations, including NCI Lyme Bay, being awarded the coveted Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. In July 2013 Clive Edwards stood down as station manager of NCI Lyme Bay to run the Merchant Navy Associations “SeaVue Watchkeepers Afloat” Scheme, to be succeeded by William Knapman as station manager. On Valentine’s night 2014 there was a violet storm which completely wrecked the look-out at Burton Cliff and deposited the roof in Billy Bragg’s front garden!  Temporary watchkeeping facilities were provided by Clare Reeves, a senior watchkeeper, from her home overlooking Charmouth Beach whilst a new more permanent Look-Out was being commissioned and sited on National Trust land overlooking Hive Beach at Burton Bradstock The new purpose-designed Look-Out was officially opened by NCI President Jon Gifford on 31 st  May 2014. Clive Edwards NCI Lyme Bay