Lucky escape for cliff plunge Marley

Joseph Bulmer

Dramatic rescue near Ilfracombe as terrier falls from cliff edge.

SHAKEN dog walkers have praised rescuers after the coastguard, RNLI and the Chivenor helicopter helped save their pet after he plunged over a cliff near Ilfracombe.

Two-year-old border terrier Marley had been walking with owners Nick Jones and Maciej Skulski on the coastpath to Lee Bay on Saturday afternoon when he ran towards the edge at Flat Point and disappeared.

Despite hours of searching by their 12-strong group and then members of the Ilfracombe and Mortehoe Coastguard teams plus Diana Lewis and volunteers from North Devon Animal Ambulance, he could not be found.

Searchers thought they heard a bark at one point, but as darkness fell and a chill wind howled, the hunt had to be abandoned.

The next morning Nick climbed down as far as he dared, calling Marley’s name and was delighted when frantic barking replied.

The coastguards returned and with assistance from Ilfracombe lifeboat, on exercise nearby, tried to pinpoint the location.

It was not until the Chivenor rescue helicopter arrived – also on a training exercise – that he could finally be tracked down and the coastguard cliff rescue team were able to descend the rock face and bring him up.

There were tears of joy as the little dog was reunited with his owners and Nick said: “All our gratitude to everyone who helped bring Marley back safely, we are just so grateful for everything they have done.

“They are all volunteers and it just means so much. We have learned our lesson, obviously – we won’t be letting him off his lead on the coastpath again.”

The group had been on holiday for the weekend from Bristol as part of a surprise birthday party.

Diana Lewis said Marley turned out to be in good shape, apart from being cold and stiff after spending the night on a small windswept ledge.

“The coastguards had used this as a training exercise and their skills are really put into action when they do an animal rescue,” she said.

“This happens so frequently on the North Devon coast, it’s a wonderful area for dog walking but it’s also extremely dangerous – please keep your dogs on a lead when you are on the coast path.”