A TWELVE-year-old boy trapped by the tide off Minehead beach was saved by the heroics of a brave lifeboatman.

The Bank Holiday Monday drama unfolded when the youngster became separated from his family as he walked along the foot of 800-foot sea cliffs between Minehead and Hurlestone Point.

His mother raised the alarm despite poor mobile phone reception and a full-scale search was launched.

Aware that the boy was upset and alone the dad dialled 999 for the Coastguard and the search and rescue team were despatched from Watchet and Minehead as well as the flank team from Lynmouth.

Coastguards met the dad of the missing boy in Porlock where he had agreed to meet his wife and children on completion of their walk and formed a search plan across the coast path on North Hill.

Minehead's Atlantic 85 lifeboat was sent out and within minutes managed to locate the boy marooned on rocks in a small cove a mile and a half west of the station.

Crew member Matt Legg swam ashore, fitted him with a lifejacket and swam him back out to the boat. The boy was landed at Minehead and reunited with his grateful family.

Minehead RNLI operations manager Dr John Higgie said the family had chosen one of the most inaccessible stretches of the coastline for their walk.

He added: “There are only rocks and boulders all the way along there when the tide is in.

"In places the sea comes in right up to the base of the cliffs and there are very few locations along the whole three-mile length where it is even possible to climb up to safety.

“A lifeboat was the only option this boy had of getting out of his predicament.

“Nearly every year we rescue people who try to walk along there without being aware of how high and how quickly the tide comes in and then suddenly find themselves trapped."

Dr Higgie added: "Two years ago we even organised our own poster campaign to make people aware of how the Bristol Channel’s huge tidal range can catch them out.

"But all we can really do is to urge anyone contemplating a walk beneath the cliffs to check the tide times before they set out so they know they will be able to either complete the journey or get back safely if they have to retreat.”

A broken telephone call was made from the mum to the Coastguard Control on the 999 system having sighted the lifeboats searching far below her, where she was able to give her direction of travel and approximate location.

Simon Bale of HM Coastguard Watchet said: "Using local knowledge gained by the Coastguards patrolling of the area on a regular basis, one of the search teams were able to access a extraction point above the path where it was suspected the mum and two brothers were, and came straight upon them, giving immediate casualty care due to the heat and sun, and exhaustion that one of the boys was suffering from.

"All three were picked up in a Coastguard vehicle and recovered to a place of safety where shortly after they were reunited with the dad and other brother back at the Minehead RNLI Lifeboat Station before returning to their holiday accommodation.

HM Coastguard would like to remind anyone venturing out onto the coast paths to take care, plan their route taking a paper or electronic map (with spare battery power available), checking tides and always telling someone where you are going and ideally letting them know the route and times expected back.