On Wednesday 18 October a flight crew and a Merlin helicopter from the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) provided assistance to the National Trust South West in moving underslung loads of aggregate at Glastonbury Tor.
The top of the Tor is being eroded due to the number of visitors that the site receives annually.
Whilst a long-term plan is devised to protect the feature the Trust wants to put in place some protective measures that will last a few years.
To that end CHF’s Merlin, captained by Lt Fred Durrant RN and piloted by Lt Tristan Rowan RN with Aircrewmen Sgt Graham Smith and Sgt Julian Marchant, lifted nearly forty tons of stone and deposited them on the Tor.
At the pick-up point at its base and on top of the Tor were members of CHF’s Mobile Air Operations Team who managed the loading and unloading.
These trained helicopter handlers are used to working in the dangerous conditions around and under working aircraft. A Merlin has a downdraft of over 70 mph.
Once the stone had been deposited on the Tor and the Merlin had withdrawn Rebekah West a National Trust Area Ranger with the assistance of enthusiastic National Trust volunteers were on hand to un-bag and to begin to spread the stone.
The photographs showing the day as it unfolded were taken by Royal Navy award winning photographer PO Si Ethell. He captured aerial imagery from one of CHF’s 847 NAS Reconnaissance Battlefield Wildcat helicopter which was flown by Maj Ian Moore RM and Lt Dan Burnett RN.
Due to the proximity of onlookers and of nearby dwellings and buildings Lt Cdr Tom Cackett, 846 NAS’s Executive Officer was present throughout, ensuring the safety aspects of the flying.
He said that it was a rare privilege to undertake community related tasks, especially on such an iconic site that has such meaning to many in Somerset, especially those who work and fly out of RNAS Yeovilton.
The Commando Helicopter Force has always had a special place for Glastonbury and its Tor and whenever there is an event to celebrate the Tor is the main landmark on the flypast route where ‘we always dip a wing in salute’.
To work on a project with Rebekah and the national institution that is the National Trust has been a real pleasure.