A DAD who broke his ankle walking along a Bolton brook with his autistic son has heaped praise on teens who came to his rescue.

Gareth Davies, 37, who lives with his six-year-old son, Matthew, in Halliwell, had been walking for hours around Barrow Bridge, Smithills Estate and to the ‘hidden reservoir, in the sun on Saturday.

He decided to do one last loop, walking up Dean Brook towards the Cigarette Tunnel.

But the torrential rain a few weeks ago had damaged and eroded the path, making it unstable.

When walking along this together, part of the path gave way and the father and son fell 20 feet into the brook.

Gareth managed to protect his son and himself but his ankle became caught between two rocks. The dad was left trapped, in pain, and hanging uncomfortably backwards.

Gareth said: “My son slipped as the path had given way under his feet, he was attached to me so I got pulled down too but I managed to get him in front of me. He thought it was hilarious at first, he has no sense of danger at all.

“It was fine until we got to the bottom and my foot got stuck between two rocks which made me fall backwards with my ankle stuck in the rock. Luckily this was the only injury, it could have been so much worse.

“We started shouting for help straight away, we rang 999 first but there wasn’t any signal. That’s when a group of kids came and a retired fireman.

The teens managed to call for an ambulance but due to the terrain Bolton Mountain Rescue Team was called to assist. Crew members carried him down the river and to paramedics, who said it was extremely lucky he was found when he was as otherwise he could have been stranded for hours.

Gareth added: “The ambulance couldn’t have got as far as we were – we were about two miles from the nearest road.

“It took over three hours from them getting help for us to get out of there with mountain rescue.

“We were surrounded by trees so they couldn’t get an air ambulance for us, the paramedics said if we had just tried to call them they wouldn’t have been able to find us, and ultimately I could have died out there.”

He was full of praise for the mountain rescue team, and was amazed by the response of the youngsters who came to his aid.

Gareth is keen to track down his rescuers - he believes they attend Smithills, Sharples and Turton schools between them.

He added: "The way the group of kids looked after Matthew was unbelievable. He is such a handful with his autism, even some family members struggle with him,/

"But these kids kept him entertained and loved playing in the brook with him. It was so good to distract him from what was actually going on. They were only aged between 12 and 14."

Matthew loves the local wildlife and is a keen walker. But the path they took on the day was unfamiliar.

* If you know the children who helped Gareth and want to give them the recognition they deserve, email lyell.tweed@nqnw.co.uk