Dog walker’s advice after rescue from a seaside cliffhanger 

Dog walker’s advice after rescue from a seaside cliffhanger 

A walker who was rescued from a cliff-face after trying to retrieve a dog which went over the edge has urged people in the same situation to call the Coastguard instead. 
Josie and Marley the dog

An HM Coastguard rope rescue team brought Josie and pet Marley to safety during the incident in June at Falling Sands, near Beachy Head, East Sussex. 

She has praised her rescuers and advised dog walkers to keep safe and resist the temptation to get involved in what can be dangerous situations. 

Josie explained how the incident began: "We were walking down from the very top of the Downs after being off-lead for about an hour when Marley just took-off across the large grassy fields toward the cliff, completely ignoring all recalls.  

"The hill was steep where we descended, so I had planned to put Marley’s lead on when the ground levelled out, still around 200 metres away from the edge.  

"When I arrived at the edge, I saw he had tumbled about 40 metres down the cliff onto a large plateau and was working hard to try and find a way back up to me. 

"I was completely shocked that he had covered such a huge distance, across flat ground, prior to reaching the cliff-edge – then gone straight over!" 

Coastguard rescue teams at Falling Sands, near Beach Head
Coastguard rescue teams at Falling Sands, near Beach Head

Josie added: “Because Marley was still close to the top and uninjured, I decided that self-rescue would be the quickest – and least embarrassing – option.  

“I asked an onlooker to keep sight of Marley while I used a well-known access trail to descend a short distance, then I left the track to find a way across to the plateau where Marley was stranded.  

“When I reached Marley, he was overheating and unable to follow me back out to safety, meaning that all my ‘self-rescue’ had done was set us back over an hour and make the situation more complex.  

“I asked the onlooker to call for help, as the steep, unstable ground made it impossible to carry Marly out on my own.” 

Falling Sands, near Beachy Head
The view down the cliff at Falling Sands, near Beachy Head

The alarm was raised at about 10.45am on Sunday 18 June. Ropes were set up at the clifftop and rescuers sent down, helping both Josie and Marley ascend to safety by about 12.35pm. 

The operation involved Coastguard Rescue Teams from Eastbourne, Newhaven and Birling Gap, with the RNLI’s lifeboats from Eastbourne supporting from the sea below. 

Josie said: “After experiencing the care, speed and expertise that the rescue team employed that day, I am confident that Marley would have been retrieved in half the time, had I immediately called 999 and asked for the Coastguard.” 

Marley the dog
Marley the dog safe at home

HM Coastguard Officer in Charge Trevor Cutler said afterwards: “Dogs are our four-legged friends, and we completely understand the instinct to try to save them when they’re in serious trouble, like going over a cliff or getting into difficulty in the sea. 

“Going to the aid of a pet can easily create more danger for the person trying to save them, however, so our advice is to stay where you are, keep an eye on the animal, and call 999 and ask for Coastguard. 

“Our Coastguard Rescue Teams know what to do and, like this incident at Falling Sands, can make sure dog emergencies end safely without putting human lives at risk too.” 


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