FIVE stranded walkers had to be plucked to safety by an RAF helicopter after getting into difficulties on hills straddling the Scotland and England border.

They were spotted by the chopper huddled in long grass in darkness as the weather began to deteriorate on a remote section of the Pennine Way in the Cheviot Hills.

The group - comprising two 50-year-old fathers and their three teenage sons - had become disorientated after trying to take a short cut off the hillside when they realised they were not going to reach their destination.

The alarm was raised with Mountain Rescue at 8.20pm on Monday when a 19-year-old male was unable to continue due to leg problems.

When rescuers arrived on the scene one of the 50-year-olds had developed chest pains and all five were showing signs of hypothermia to varying degrees.

Borders Search and Rescue United said the group were poorly equipped to tackle their intended 25-mile walk from Wooler in Northumberland to their homes in Byrness close to the Scottish border which they described as an "ambitious target'.

They added the group were fortunate to be spotted by the helicopter when they were as an hour later it would needed to have been grounded due to the weather conditions.

Rescuer Damon Rodwell said: “The group appear to have underestimated the challenge they had set themselves and started a bit later in the day than they should have. No doubt the they’ll take away a couple of lessons from their day in the hills, and will be better prepared for their next adventure.

"Anyone heading into the hills at this time of year should pack a torch and spare batteries, even if they expect to be down before nightfall. It’s all-too easy to lose time through poor weather, injury, fatigue or navigational problems, and being out on the hills in the dark in October without a torch is a serious matter.

"The forecast for the night was pretty grim with dense cloud and heavy rain, and the group were very lucky to be spotted by the helicopter when they were. An hour later the weather had closed in and the chopper would have been unable to fly.

"Walkers shouldn’t underestimate The Pennine Way. It’s difficult to follow in places, especially in the dark, and can be extremely boggy and hard going between Lamb Hill and Chew Green." The two dads and the sons two aged 19 and a 15-year-old only had seven hours of good light to reach their target after setting off. They reached the Cheviot Summit at 3pm and the long ridge-walk past Windy Gyle and along to Lamb Hill refuge hut consumed the remaining hours of daylight.

After a discussion in the hut, and taking into consideration the fact that they were still ten miles short of their objective, carrying only one torch and inadequate clothing, they arranged to cut the adventure short with a pickup at the road near Chew Green, about four miles further on.

The Pennine Way south of Lamb Hill is indistinct and boggy, and within half a mile the group had become disorientated. One of the 19-year-olds was unable to continue with leg problems, and the group put in a call to Mountain Rescue at 8:20pm.

Border Search and Rescue were scrambled, and with worsening weather forecast, a helicopter was requested from Boulmer in Northumberland.

Twenty two members of BSARU congregated at Pennymuir hut in the Kale valley. Two groups deployed onto the hills between south of Lamb Hill by Landrover and a third was preparing to make its way to Chew Green to sweep northwards when the bedraggled party was located huddled in long grass by the helicopter and transported to Pennymuir.

The group were treated and monitored by BSARU medics for an hour and a half before being taken home by police.

Northumberland Mountain Rescue were also preparing to make their way to Lamb Hill from the English side opf the border when the walkers were found.