More than 50 people assembled on the Tarka Trail next to the RAF base in Chivenor to say their farewells

Dozens of people lined the Tarka Trail today (Thursday) to bid a fond farewell to Chivenor's search and rescue helicopter service.

Today's Sea King training flight was supposed to be the last before the service transfers to a private company in St Athan, South Wales, but the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has now asked the RAF to provide cover for an extra seven days.

The helicopter returned to base from an over water training sortie at lunchtime, and was greeted by loud cheers and appreciative waves from the assembled crowd.

Pupils from Southmead Primary School walked down to the Tarka Trail to join in with the farewell, which included crew members walking over to the edge of the base to wave back.

In its latest statement, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "Operations from our new St Athan base will commence within the next few days.

"Our joint transition plans with the RAF always made provision for several additional weeks of service out of Chivenor if we needed it. In this case, an extra few days is needed to make very final preparations for go live. We are excited by the capabilities of our new SAR helicopters operating out of St Athan. Our crews, many of whom have transferred from the RAF, are looking forward to getting started."