This is not a Health and Safety piece, anyone who knows me would realise this is then last type of blog I would ever write. However with a little bit of thought before you head out a walk your day can be so much more satisfying.
Here are some key tips and advice to ensure you are both walking safely and responsibly but also helping you enjoy the walk to its fullest.
I have written many times before about my love for the superb maps of our countryside (click here). I tend to use Ordnance Survey 1.25,000 or 1.50,000 maps but recently have been looking closely at the excellent Harvey’s maps for walkers. However based on the 1.25,000 O/S maps here are the areas you should understand
On the many circular walks I have on this website I have always provided a broad outline of what the walker can expect. There is a map with any key features and a route outline marked on, a start point, parking details, drinking details, how long in miles the walk is and most importantly details of the type of terrain you will be walking through. There is no step by step guide as I hope the walker will transfer the information on to a map and use it. It is certainly what I do.
One other thing that guide books do that I find irritating is give a time for a walk. Anyone who has been on a Navigation Course with me knows that I only ever provide a minimum time that a walk will take, never an exact time. There are just too many variables to take in to account. Quoting an exact time is too vague whilst suggesting a rough time (say 4 to 6 hours) is of no practical use. We all walk at our own pace and use up time stopping, slowing and doing our own thing on a walk.
The full details of the Countryside Code can be found by clicking here. I have outlined what I consider to be the most important issues although, in fairness, it is mainly just common sense and politeness.
* I would like to briefly elaborate on walking with dogs (it is something close to my heart) . In my opinion most people should be able to train their dog so they do not chase sheep – my own Border Collie came from working stock but will not chase sheep after some concerted training. She is alert and watchful in their company but sticks to my feet like glue. Nothing annoys me more than seeing dogs chasing sheep and ruining it for the rest of us. I do not blame landowners for their anger (although shooting dogs is draconian and unnecessary) but I also dislike the sight of some poor dog which is straining to race around being restricted by a lead. However increasingly sign posting gets in right – “dogs under close control” NOT “dogs must be on a lead”. However Open Access land restrictions on dogs (banning them or insisting on a short lead)) does also not make sense, it hardly harms the grouse for dogs to be walking along paths like their human owners.
Whilst on about dogs and livestock I have come across a couple of distressing occasions when cows have been wound up by dogs and stampeded/pressured walkers. The advice here is simple, release your dog from its lead, more often than not it is the dog that is winding up the cows, and then look after yourself. My wife, for one, will not walk anywhere where there are cows which is a shame.
Mountain Rescue Teams (MRT) cover our upland areas (and caving and coastal areas) on a voluntary basis and do an excellent job ‘rescuing’ walkers who have fallen and hurt themselves or suffered some other health problem. In an emergency they can be contacted by calling 999 or 112 and then asking for Police and then Mountain Rescue. There is also a new text service on 999 for use when a mobile signal is weak but you do need to register for it. Text ‘register’ to 999 and all will be explained.
However, with the increased use of mobile phones, there has been an increased number of unnecessary call outs and this not only wastes volunteers’ time it may also put at risk more serious cases that occur at the same time. There are 2 simple ways of cutting down these unnecessary call outs:
For further tips visit the MRT website here
After only a couple of walks all the above will be 2nd nature to the walker. They can then express themselves, start planning their own routes, their own challenges; who (if anyone) they would like to walk with, decide what they are going to take out on the fell, which shoes best suit them, whether to take on the winter snows and many many more ways to enjoy themselves. We are born to roam, it is in our nature to seek challenges and overcome them, success is important but not essential – what is essential is being out there and giving it our best shot. And yes part of the pleasure is an element of risk, that adrenalin buzz from being just a little close to the edge.
Wear the correct gear (it does not have to be expensive – good shoes/boots, waterproofs are the only essentials), take a map and learn how to use it and a compass if going higher and off track and everything else should be your choice. More and more people are enjoying our outdoors – be one of them!
Enjoy your walking
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