Seriously injured climber rescued at Anvil Point is charity CEO

Volunteers from Swanage RNLI, the local coastguard and air ambulance have been praised by the head of a national charity, who they recently rescued from a cliff at Anvil Point near Swanage after a climbing accident.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of the homelessness charity Shelter, was abseiling down the rock face on Friday 28th January 2022 when she fell and sustained an open fracture to her ankle.


She’s currently being treated in Southampton Hospital.

Climber being rescued from the rock face

Polly Neate, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, being lowered to the ground by a coastguard, while guided by a RNLI volunteer

“A privilege to meet the ultimate charity volunteers

Polly told Swanage.News:

“I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this country’s unique charity sector: the often unseen millions of people who – whether as donors or volunteers – make a better world for everyone.

“Being rescued by the RNLI and the coastguard saved my life. It was also a privilege to meet the ultimate charity volunteers.

“Imagine if these brave, highly skilled and committed women and men weren’t giving up their time for us? Unthinkable, not only for me personally and for Swanage, but for the millions who depend on volunteers up and down the country.”

Climber transferred into the inshore lifeboat
RNLI/Becky Mack

Polly said that being rescued by the RNLI and the coastguard saved her life

Flown to Southampton Hospital by air ambulance

As previously reported by Swanage.News, coastguard teams from Swanage, St Albans and Kimmeridge were able to lower her down on ropes, from where she was strapped in a stretcher and put into the Swanage inshore lifeboat.

Polly was then transferred to the all weather lifeboat and taken back to the lifeboat station.

A South Western Ambulance crew met her at the jetty and drove her to the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, which was waiting at Prince Albert Gardens in Swanage. She was then flown to Southampton Hospital.

Climber put onto stretcher at bottom of cliff
RNLI/Becky Mack

Polly was brought down the cliff by the coastguard and then strapped into a stretcher by the RNLI

“Big up the RNLI, they are absolutely brilliant

Speaking to the charity news website, Third Sector, from her hospital bed, Polly said:

“Big up the RNLI, they are absolutely brilliant and an absolute advert for the sector.”

She also thanked the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance charity and the coastguard teams:

“The whole charity sector saved me – the woman who winched me down the cliff was awesome.”

RNLI Swanage lifeboat rescue of climber at Anvil Point (

The easiest and quickest way to get Polly to hospital was by sea and air from this part of the coastline

Coastguard vehicle and Air ambulance at Prince Albert Gardens
Kimmeridge Coastguard

The coastguard and air ambulance ready to get the casualty quickly to hospital

“90 minutes clinging to a cliff with an open fracture”

Posting on Instagram, Polly said:

“I was so excited about my climbing weekend in Dorset. And it was exciting I guess…90 minutes clinging to a cliff with an open fracture, @htclimbinglife saved my life and brilliant Kerry from @maritimecoastguard and @swanagelifeboat rescued me. Sparing you the pic of my ankle covered in screws and scaffolding.”

“I ended up banging into the rock

In the interview for Third Sector, Polly, an experienced climber, explained more about how the accident happened:

“The abseil swung really badly and I ended up banging into the rock and broke my ankle.

“I didn’t even realise what had happened – I knew I was swinging, but when you swing on an abseil you have to really think about your hands, because you can’t let go of it, obviously or that’s the end of that, so I was really concentrating on holding on.

“It was only when I looked down that I realised I’d broken my ankle.”

Air ambulance at Prince Albert Gardens
Swanage Coastguard

“It’s incredible what you can do when you have to”

Her husband, a climbing instructor, tied the abseil off, ensuring Polly was safe, but she was left hanging, braced against the cliff to stop herself swinging again.

She added:

“If someone had said to me ‘can you hold this position on a cliff for an hour and half?’ I’d have said no, but it’s incredible what you can do when you have to.”

Polly Neate has been the chief executive of Shelter since 2017 and previously spent five years as chief executive of Women’s Aid.

Shelter says it campaigns not just for the right for everyone to have a roof over their head, but the right to somewhere safe, secure and affordable. There’s a Shelter advice service based in Bournemouth.

Watch the RNLI rescue video

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