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Angling Trust volunteers save elderly dog walker

Angling Trust volunteer bailiffs Steve Allen and Vanessa Warner. (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

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Two Angling Trust volunteer bailiffs have saved the life of an elderly dog walker who got stuck up to his chest in a river.

Area co-ordinator Vanessa Warner and fellow volunteer bailiff Steve Allen had stumbled across a pair of trainers and a dog lead at the top of a steep bank at a river in Northampton when they heard a commotion in the thick reed beds below.

The pair had been on the lookout for illegal activity at a stream at Mill Lane that runs from Pitsford Reservoir through Northampton before joining the River Nene.

Vanessa, a recent recipient of an Angling Trust Volunteering Excellence Award, said: “Somebody must have been looking out for this man because no one really goes down there. Being on a VBS (Voluntary Bailiff Service) patrol probably saved this man and his dog. He was so very tired and cold when we got him out.

“After seeing the trainers, we beat down a path through overgrown weeds and nettles.Peering over the reeds, we were amazed to find a grey-haired chap unable to free himself from the river and with water up to his chest.

“He told us he had been trying to free his nine-year-old dog, who had become trapped in the reeds, when he fell from the bank into the river. He had been in the water for about 30 minutes when we found him and he was feeling very cold.

“We kept the man calm as we lay down across the nettles to grab hold of his leather belt. After a few attempts we were able to free him sufficiently to enable him to scramble out of the water to the safety of the bank.

“He was still worried about his dog, so we then freed the tired, scared animal from the reeds further downstream.

“We suggested to call an ambulance, but he declined, saying that he just wanted to get himself and his dog back home, and promising to seek medical assistance later if needed.”

The volunteer bailiffs had an eventful trip, as they also removed eight illegal crayfish traps and setlines, safely returning one pike.

Steve said: “If we hadn’t been there at that time, there could easily have been a totally different outcome, as he was in a really difficult situation. There was no chance of him getting out on his own, and he was hidden from view.”

Karen Hinson, the Trust’s national volunteers manager, added: “Well done to Vanessa and Steve for their heroic action that day, another example where our volunteers have gone above and beyond to help others.

“While I am extremely pleased that everyone involved came away relatively unscathed from this incident, I think it also serves as a reminder of how hazardous our waterways can be, even at this time of year, and the caution that is required, particularly when alone.”