There’s nothing to be scared about when walking in the countryside, but there’s no need to take risks either. After all, even the most challenging walk should be an enjoyable and fun venture that leaves you in one piece. Let’s run through some of the safety basics before walking:
First up, get planning. If you’re a beginner don’t dive straight into a difficult or overly long route. There’s no one to impress and nothing to prove. If you decide to tackle a longer walk, make sure you’ve worked out various points along the way where you can escape if you need to cut things short. Also, wherever possible, let someone know where you’re going and don’t rely on your mobile phone: network coverage isn’t always great, especially in hill country. Ensure that before you set out, you have a map and a compass and know how to use them.
Make sure you know what weather you can expect and take heed of any warning from the Met Office. We’re lucky here in the UK; we talk endlessly about the weather, but we don’t experience much in the way of extremes. What we all know is that it can change within minutes, especially if you’re heading into hills or remote areas, make sure you have the following with you :
- A waterproof Jacket.
- Waterproof trousers.
- Good walking boots or shoes with support for your ankles and good solid treads.
- Good-quality thick socks (some walkers swear by wearing more than one pair of socks, but be warned, this can lead to more friction around your feet and therefore , more blisters!)
- A spare fleece or jumper : always go for several layers if you have to keep warm.
- A waterproof rucksack , containing a litre water bottle and enough food for your walk.
You may have noticed an emphasis on waterproof there, but this is Britain we’re talking about! Keep an eye on the sky for rain, mist or fog, but remember that strong winds can be a hazard too , especially on hillsides. Obviously, if conditions are anything less than clement, make sure you have gloves and hat in your kit (40 per cent of body heat is lost through your head).
It has to be said, especially when walking on the lowlands in good weather, that you don’t need a lot of expensive walking gear. Good boots are always a sound investment and it’s always better not to wear jeans because wet denim takes a long time to dry out, which can lead to chafing, generally avoid wearing cotton items as these can soon absorb sweat, making you clammy and uncomfortable. Opt for thin synthetic layers that wick moisture (to you and me that means taking it away from the skin and drying quickly).
Walkers are usually a responsible lot. A happy knock-on effect of rambling is that the more you walk through the beautiful countryside , the more you care about it and the people who work , rest and play there.
The general rule of thumb is to leave the countryside as you found it. Here are few guidelines to being a responsible walker. Once again, they may seem obvious, but you’ll be amazed how many people forget the basics:
- Don’t go clambering over fences and walls that often can be easily damaged. Find the nearest stile or gate instead.
- If you do pass through a gate, make sure you shut it behind you. Of course, there are some instances when they’re supposed to be open , for example, to allow farm animals access to water, but in most cases country gates are meant to be closed.
- If you’re walking with your dog, keep them under control, which largely means having them on the lead or at the very least near to you.
- Respect the wildlife around you. It’s illegal to p ick wild flowers, unless you have the landowner’s permission. Besides , it’s always better to leave beautiful blooms for your fellow walkers to enjoy, rather than to snaffle them for yourself.
- There is one thing you should definitely take home with you – your rubbish. Don’t drop it and certainly don’t bury it. Pop it in your bag and take it with you. For a little extra good karma, why not pick up litter that people have so casually carelessly discarded.
- Safeguard any water supplies you may come across, making sure you never pollute streams, rivers, ponds or lakes.
- Guard against any risk of fire, be it a stray cigarette or camp fire. If you really need to boil a cup of coffee on the move, consider buying a portable stove, but again, take care.
- If you’re crossing a farmer’s crop , walk in a single line or around the edge of a field to minimise the chance of damaging precious harvest.
- Respect the privacy of people living in the countryside; you wouldn’t life it if someone traipsed through your garden, pausing to peer through your windows. Remember this is where people live and work, not a museum or theme park.