Well first of all, check out the pic on the right; Morecambe Bay is stunning. It's a wonder of nature. At high tide a vast expanse of sea, at low tide miles of glorious golden sands and meandering streams. The first problem is the quicksand. It's impossible to spot and once you're in it, you're in it. And it starts really close to the shore with people regularly getting into trouble within 100 yards of Arnside Prom. Couple that with a fast incoming tide and the scenario becomes unthinkable. Many people have been rescued with the tide lapping around their faces and all credit to the rescue services for putting their own lives at risk.
|But it was fine 5 mins ago...|
Staying safe on the Fells. Let's face it, the majority of people who head our way each year are coming to enjoy the fells in one form or another. And I can't say I blame them. When I first saw them I fell instantly in love and I am never happier than when I'm out there hiking. But they are a dangerous place to be; they're tougher than they look, the weather can change within minutes and they're very unforgiving. Here's a few dos and don'ts to help keep you safe.
DO make sure you're properly equipped, I've put together a short but not exhaustive list here. I don't care if it's lovely and sunny when you set out, trust me, that's no guarantee of it remaining that way, so take your waterproofs. It's also a lot cooler on the tops of the fells than it is in the valleys so take some warm clothing with you, it's not an unnecessary burden, it's a life saver. Don't imagine that it's only the big accidents that have the potential to kill you; a sprained ankle combined with inadequate clothing and an inability to call for appropriate help and direct them accurately to your location can, and does, kill people.
DON'T rely on an iphone app, or a street satnav, to get you around on the fells; there's often poor and/ or inadequate signal and the batteries run down pretty quickly. If you must rely on electronic gadgetry then get a proper GPS system; no, they're not cheap, but they could save your life. If, like me, you can't afford something that flash then a simple map and compass will suffice, but only if you know how to use them. There's plenty of help available online - like this useful video from Trail magazine, but if you're still unsure the ask the assistant in the outdoor goods shop to demonstrate it to you. Possibly a problem in some High Street chains, but not if you go to somewhere like Fishers in Keswick.
|A less attractive lakeland view.|
- Stick to the paths. Much of the Lake District is open access so technically, you can walk where you want. But erosion is a massive problem which the volunteers at Fix the Fells are constantly battling. You may think you're only one person so what harm can it do, but how many other people think that over the course of a year?
- Close the gate behind you. Much of the land is still actively farmed so if you open a gate, close it again afterwards.
- Take your litter home with you. Scenes like the one we found next to Haweswater are thankfully rare, but the fells are literally littered with tissues, sweet wrappers, plastic water bottles, fag ends, fruit skins/ peels and a myriad of other detritus. There's a misconception that banana skins and orange peel will soon compost away, but they don't. Why is it so hard to just take it home with you? The Wombles of Wimbledon do not spend their summer hols clearing up the Lake District; if you drop it, someone else needs to pick it up, and that's usually a hiker with a conscience, a love of the fells and a bit of space in their rucksack.
- Keep your dog under control or on a lead. The fells are a fantastic place for your dog to get a good run and they may never have chased anything in the past, but you still need to keep a close eye on them. On two occasions I've personally witnessed dogs chasing sheep with stressed and upset owners trying to get them back, but it's too late then. Even if they don't actually reach the sheep the stress and shock can cause pregnant ewes to miscarry. As I've mentioned before some local farmers are considering closing permitted paths to protect their livestock, and who can blame them after stories like this.
As I said way back at the start, every single visitor to Cumbria is most welcome, all I ask is for people to stay safe and take care of the landscape. Have a happy holiday!