Missing Swanage dog Lucy returns home after giving coastguard the slip

Two coastguard teams and the Swanage Lifeboat crew had given up hope of finding Lucy the dog, stuck 150 feet up the cliff above North Beach in Swanage in Dorset, when she turned up safe and sound at her home on the other side of town, wondering what all the fuss was about!

The five hour adventure for Lucy, a cross breed, on Monday 16th October 2023 was, according to Swanage Coastguard station officer Ian Brown, one of his team’s most demanding cliff rescue operations in a long time.

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Lucy the dog with Sid
Helen Kimber

Nothing to see here – Lucy (left) and Sid (right) look all innocent despite causing five hours of mayhem for the coastguard, the RNLI and their owner!

“Horribly stuck in all the gorse thickets”

It all began when Lucy’s owner Helen Kimber took her two dogs for a walk along the beach at the north end of Swanage Bay. Helen said:

“Our other dog Sid is not off the lead ordinarily but a friend told me that he would be fine at North Beach because, ‘Nobody can get up the cliff’. Famous last words!

“Sid soon scrambled back down but Lucy got scared and kept climbing up, barking and getting horribly stuck in all the gorse thickets.”

Swanage coastguard on the cliff above North Beach
Swanage coastguard
Swanage coastguard on the cliff above North Beach
Swanage coastguard

The Swanage and St Alban Coastguard teams did their best to rescue Lucy off the cliff but soon it was too dark and dangerous to continue

“Lucy was so scared”

The call came into the coastguard at 5.30 pm of a dog stuck on a cliff below Ballard Down near North Beach and the teams from Swanage and St Albans were deployed.

Swanage Coastguard station officer Ian Brown said:

“When we arrived, we could see that the cliff was really difficult to access because of all the gorse, so we had to hack it all back, which took about an hour. Rope equipment was set up and we were able to send a coastguard down the cliff to search for Lucy.

“With the rising tide, the Swanage inshore lifeboat was requested to provide safety cover at the bottom of the cliff. However Lucy was so scared that she couldn’t be persuaded to go to the coastguard.

“By now it was about 8.30 pm, getting dark and too dangerous to be on the cliff, so despite our best efforts, we had to stop the rescue attempt and stand down the lifeboat.”

Lucy the dog reunited with owner
Swanage coastguard
Lucy the dog reunited with owner
Swanage coastguard

Lucy makes her own way home and is reunited with her relieved owner Helen Kimber

Suddenly appeared

However this doggy tale doesn’t end there. Most of the coastguard team had returned to the station but two went back to get their cars from the Ballard Estate, where they had parked earlier.

Then much to their surprise Lucy suddenly appeared and ran straight past them.

Ian Brown continued:

“They called us to say that they had just seen Lucy, so we all set out again to catch her. By this time she had gone down Ulwell Road and had now made it to Shore Road. Despite gallant efforts of capture, Lucy made it past us all and disappeared into town.

“The team continued to search the town but then it occurred to us that she may be heading towards home, so a couple of us drove to her address near Swanage Primary School and sure enough she came running towards us.

“When she saw us she ran into an alleyway, so we had to get back in the car and stay out of sight. We were then able to ring the owner, who was still in town looking for Lucy, that her dog was actually sitting by her gate!

“After five hours, Lucy was able to be happily reunited with her owner. We normally have to rescue dogs that have fallen down cliffs, not up them, but in the end it was a good outcome.”

Lucy the dog
Helen Kimber

Lucy takes a nap on the sofa – after all, being chased by coastguards along the seafront is exhausting!

Coastguards train for cliff rescues

While the coastguard is normally tasked to rescue people in trouble, they do go to the aid of dogs, because if they don’t, the owners will usually do so and that can end badly.

The coastguard teams regularly train to go down cliffs on ropes and know the terrain of the local coastline.

Lucy the dog with her owner
Helen Kimber

Lucy and Sid enjoy being back home with their owner, who says she won’t be returning to North Beach with them for a while!

“What a triumph!”

Lucy and Sid’s owner Helen Kimber said:

“I’d like to express our gratitude to the coastguard teams from Swanage and St Albans.

“Their dedication and diligence, which was well over and above the call of duty, was staggering. I know for us she is a much loved member of the family but in all honesty she is ‘just’ a dog, and yet they didn’t stint in their efforts to get her back.

“When we feared that we would have to leave her and go back in the morning, one of the team told me that he had worked 11 years for the coastguard and had always achieved a result, and he was gutted that on this occasion it hadn’t happened.

“When we eventually found her – outside our back gate – he said to me, ‘See – 11 years and we got the result after all’. What a triumph!”

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