Be prepared: Scouts’ motto helps couple escape clifftop emergency 

Be prepared: Scouts’ motto helps couple escape clifftop emergency 

“Be prepared” was the motto learned by 58-year-old Eric Albery when he was a young Scout growing up. 
Coastguards supporting Margaret Albery on the clifftop

Fast-forward through the decades to 2023 and that attitude made the difference when a slip on a wet Welsh coastal path left his wife, Margaret, with a broken ankle, stranded on the cliffs, miles from help in the pouring rain. 

The couple, from Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria, were enjoying a four-day trip to Cemaes in Anglesey when disaster struck shortly before lunchtime on 31 July. 

But thanks to their preparedness – which Margaret credited to Eric’s time in the Scouts – they were able to summon help and keep warm and safe until the local coastguards arrived. 

Less than two hours after the alarm was raised, Margaret was picked up by the HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Caernarfon – her first ride in a helicopter – and flown for treatment at Ysbyty Gwynedd hospital in Bangor. 

Margaret (61) and Eric were on the return leg of an eight-mile hike across sloping ground, with walking boots and waterproofs, when the rain started. 

Margaret and Eric Albery
Margaret and Eric Albery 

Margaret recalled: “I had just said to Eric we needed to be careful and it was slippery underfoot – and then lo and behold I went over.  

“We tried to get me standing but that was making me feel faint and sick. We were about 2.5 miles from the end of the walk and it was very clear I could not wait there.” 

There was no phone signal where Margaret had fallen so Eric helped her into a survival bag to keep warm and headed back to where he last remembered getting reception. 

Margaret said: “I thought this was a bit over the top but I got in – it's surprising how cold you can get.” 

She was worried about Eric also slipping as he went for help, while he was more concerned about the threat to his wife of hypothermia. 

After dialling 999 and getting through to the Coastguard, Eric used his handheld GPS to give a position to help guide in the Coastguard Rescue Teams from Cemaes and Moelfre. 

A father and son from a passing family stayed with Margaret until the first coastguards arrived, gave her a check-up and wrapped her in blankets. 

“They were absolutely wonderful,” she said. “They assessed me as much as they could and looked at how to get me out of there. But it was too treacherous for the team – they could have hurt themselves and me.” 

The helicopter was called in, landed in a nearby field, and in about 10 minutes had delivered Margaret safely to hospital. 

The only downside was the backdraft blowing Eric’s favourite hat over the cliff. 

Margaret added: “What I have learned is to be very careful about the weather. We do get a lot of wet weather but on a walk like that I would now be very careful. You have got to have the right gear, your mobile phone and a pen and paper. 

“I am buying for my children a survival bag and whistle. You need the right gear and have got to be sensible.” 

The Senior Coastal Operations Officer for the area, Dave Humpherson, praised the Alberys for their attitude. 

He said: “No matter how careful you are, sometimes things go wrong and you’re in trouble. That’s when having just a few items of kit in your bag can make all the difference to what happens next. 

“Margaret and Eric could keep warm, dry and get help quickly, so that what could have been a dangerous situation was instead calm and manageable.  

“If you can, it’s also worth letting someone know your route, departure time and when you expect to get back. And if you do get into difficulty, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.” 

Read more tips for keeping safe on cliff and coastal walks here


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