14th June 2017. Fresh from his re-election last Thursday, West Dorset MP Sir Oliver Letwin officially opened the NCI Lyme Bay satellite station at Charmouth on Saturday.
The Charmouth station, which has been providing a weekend and bank holiday service since May 2016, is based in a Napoleonic lookout just above the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre. The station provides complementary support to the main NCI Lyme Bay station at Burton Bradstock, covering the inshore sea area between West Bay and Lyme Regis. Although it has already been operational for a year, it has just passed its probation period and volunteers were keen to see it opened officially with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Along with Sir Oliver, others to attend the event on Saturday included the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell; High Sheriff of Dorset John Young; Lyme Bay NCI chairman and former High Sheriff of Dorset, Jennifer Coombs; former High Sheriff of Dorset Sir Philip Williams; and senior members of the NCI and other emergency services. Also attending were Chairman of Charmouth Parish Council, Peter Noel, and other members who have given their support to the station, as well as members of the local community.
The NCI provides eyes along the coast, monitoring maritime radio channels and maintaining listening watch. Visual surveillance monitors seaborne vessels and vulnerable activities such as wind surfing and kayaking. Locally, the volunteer watchkeepers also provide a valuable service to members of the public advising on walking routes, tides and general sea conditions. The NCI maintains works closely with HM Coastguard, reporting any emergencies and, if required, co-ordinating with other search and rescue services such as the RNLI at Lyme Regis.
The lookout was built in 1804 by the Customs and Excise Service against the backdrop of the Napoleonic threat and smuggling. It was used throughout the 19th century by the Excise and Coastguard services, which were taken over by the Admiralty in 1856. It ceased being used as an observation post in 1909 and Charmouth Parish Council took over the lookout in 1945, using it more recently as a beach hut
The photograph (courtesy of View News) shows National Coastwatch Institution volunteer Mike Seaman and Sir Oliver Letwin MP cutting the ribbon at the Charmouth lookout