SARA lifeboat station rescue is no walk in the park

Our story takes place on a Saturday in a beautiful setting bathed in gorgeous September sunshine – but this was no walk in the park!  

Wearing full lifeboat rescue gear from head to toe, a team from the Severn Area Rescue Association set off to walk Dock-to-Dock from Gloucester to Sharpness – a total of 16.5 miles along the canal towpath.

Full lifeboat PPE specification:

  • Drysuit
  • Heavy steel-toe-capped boots
  • Full lifejacket
  • Protective helmet

Total weight: up to 20kg or 44lbs in old money

  • Suitable for lifeboat crew on the water:   YES
  • Suitable for long distance walks:   NO

In these pandemic times we have all heard of PPE but in case anyone has just arrived from Mars (or Westminster), it stands for Personal Protective Equipment (and not politics, philosophy & economics).

Sharpness Lifeboat Station - Old Dock House

The Severn Area Rescue Association – SARA – has its Sharpness Lifeboat Station at the Old Dock.  The Old Dock House is used as the station HQ and changing and store rooms etc.

The lifeboat boathouse is on the Severn shore on the other side of the Old Dock’s large basin.

The Old Dock House is 180 years old and highly exposed to the weather and tides.  It is now desperately in need of repairs to make it watertight and safe.

This iconic building is a much loved local landmark and is well worth saving even for those of us not planning to need rescuing from mud, water or even land.  But of course, no-one plans to need rescuing – and SARA have been involved in inland rescues and searches too.

You never know when you might need them!

Dock to dock challenge along canal towpath

For this fundraising challenge, five good men set on their way from Gloucester Docks at 10am on 26 September 2020.

Matt, Joe, Ed, Lee and David were accompanied the whole way by Hayley who carried the large bucket and gathered donations en route.

A two man crew in a lifeboat used the canal to trail the walkers.

Where’s the runner?

Another team member – Chris the runner – set off later in the day to run the 16.5 miles.  He was allowed shorts and shoes but still ran in the jacket and helmet!

The runner overtook the walkers around Purton and can be seen about to disappear past the towers above.

Fatigue turns to big smiles

The approach to and through Sharpness marina was very busy with barges and boaters.

As the crew reached the brick chandlery and the magnificent views along this stretch of the towpath, all eyes were on the finish line and the welcoming crowd visible ahead.

The obvious fatigue turned to smiles which just got bigger and bigger as they walked with a quickened step through the finish to applause.

The cool down. Hallelujah !

In the heat of the full rescue gear, one walker jumped into the cold water of the dock basin.  Then another.  Then there were three, then four.


The fifth man was missing but a callout was made and he soon arrived with an enormous splash.

All enjoyed a frolic in the water.

Not surprisingly, none of the bystanders joined them despite the blissful look on their faces.

Exhaustion and fundraising

Phew!  Hats off to everyone involved.  Now to get out of those boots…

Well done to the crew for completing this gruelling challenge.  The walk raised just over its target of £5,000 but more money is still needed to reach the overall target of £25,000.

SARA is run entirely by volunteers and funded only by public donations.

You can help to keep Sharpness Lifeboat Station operational by donating at:

More photos and info

More photos and full size images can be seen in Berkness’s Google Photos Album at:

Google Photos Album of SARA walk – the last mile!

For more info see SARA’s website at: