Health & Safety Guide for Ramblers etc

Keeping Dry and Comfortable :
CLOTHING Generally

 O> 
Use the principle of layering when deciding what to wear, and preferably some of the layers should be of a technical fabric that “wicks” sweat away from your skin, and so keeps your skin surface warmer and dry.  With layering, as you warm up you can perhaps unzip a layer or remove and stow quickly in a daysac (see below), so that you do not overheat.  Similarly, the layers also help to hold trapped air between them to keep you warm on windy and cooler days.  There is usually a base layer, a zippable or light 2nd layer (or two); and possibly a fleece or fleece gilet and maybe a windproof outer.  In and close to winter season, each layer would probably be heavier; or could be repeated to build up the trapped air reserve that conserves heat.

 O>  Denim is NOT a good material when wet, so in conditions where there is rain/wind/chilling cold it is better not to wear jeans, as they can quickly lead to a case of hypothermia.  Most of our Oakleafe events are within easy reach of support if the need arises and are not of such a length that this usually becomes an issue, however.

 O>  During spring to autumn in particular, shorts are not always the “coolest” of wear for walking through even our Downland countryside.  Along the footpaths and bridleways there are likely to be : stinging nettles; brambles (often growing out to cross the path); and the increasing risk of Deer Ticks, that may carry disease (Lyme Disease).  So, longer trousers that can be secured into the socks or gaiters above footwear to prevent tick bite and scratches/stings might be better and so the coolest of options.

___________________________________________________________

If you wish to know more about Lyme Disease, we suggest that you visit www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk  
Lyme Disease Action: Striving for the prevention and treatment of Lyme disease and associated tick borne diseases.
___________________________________________________________

Waterproofs and Windproofs ~ Your Outer Shell

  O>  A good quality waterproof (not just shower-proof) and windproof jacket or anorak with a hood should be carried in your daysac. A cheap, lightweight cagoule will do the job; but, if you plan to walk regularly, consider a jacket made from ‘breathable’ material which allows sweat out but stops rain getting in.  This continues the concept of wicking sweat away as mentioned above in respect of wicking fabrics.

Trousers

 O>  See above regarding avoiding denim; and also be cautious when choosing to wear shorts

 O>  Tracksuit bottoms or everyday casual trousers are otherwise suitable.  Modern synthetic walking trousers are popular among regular walkers, since they are lightweight, loose-fitting, quick-drying and have handy pockets to store a mobile and maps, with secure, zipped sections to keep car keys/mobile/change safe!

 O>  Overtrousers or gaiters : it always seem to stop raining as soon as folk have struggled into their overtrousers.  Most have no pocket facility in them at all, which is a nuisance, as is their inclination to rustle in use and also to attract mud up the legs.  A good set of gaiters might be more appropriate and a longer top waterproof!!  

Head and Hands ~ Exposure and Sunburn

GETTING COLD/COLDER :
In extreme conditions, up to 40% of body-heat may be lost via your head.  So, when the forecast suggests a wind chill due to cool/strong winds, frosts and so on, do protect your head and ears.
 O>  A warm hat
of some sort is a good idea in winter and may be worn under a jacket hood if it is raining. 
 O>  Gloves
are also useful in cold weather, especially for those who have circulation problems (Raynauds in particular).  There are hand warmers made which you can hold inside a glove, but, once the catalytic reaction is started, they tend to run for 5 hours or more.

IN THE SUN
& HEAT :

 O>  When it’s sunny, do wear some form of sunhat ~ one that does not allow heat to build up too much, and consequently also for perspiration to run down into the eyes from your  forehead. 

 O>  Do use a reputable sun cream on any bare skin on arms. 

 O>  A good hat will offer shade not only to the eyes but also to the back of the neck. Quite short periods in the sun if you are not used to it may result in either sunburn; or sun-stroke/heat exhaustion. 

 O>  In strong sunlight, if you are out regularly, then a good pair of sunglasses to shade the eyes are invaluable to prevent later problems developing with the eyes.  

FOOTWEAR
Feet are often the first part of a walker’s body to suffer due to unaccustomed walking.  So, treat them with care.  Make sure that whatever footwear you choose is comfortable and appropriate for the event and weather/ground conditions predicted : 

 O>  Walking Boots with tough, moulded soles are often the best solution.  They protect the feet and usually keep them warm and dry; whilst providing grip and support for the ankles.  They should be considered essential equipment for traversing steep slopes or for walks in very rough or remote areas.   Boots are available in ranges from summer weight (fabrics and Nubuck® mixed); and up to full-leather (heavier) all-season models.

 O>  Walking shoes are a lighter alternative, offering a tough protective sole with good grip, but they offer little or no ankle support.

 O>  Good quality trainers are a cheap and lightweight solution preferred by some walkers on sunny days. They are fine for urban walks and walks along good paths in good weather; also better for Nordic Walking on smooth to lightly undulating ground surfaces (but not advised on very rough or remote areas).  They are usually not waterproof (some are Gore-Tex® protected); and generally give limited support and protection  The availability of Gel soles/heels do make these useful for many Nordic walking events.  

O>  Walking sandals for summer use have solid soles suitable for a variety of surfaces but give no ankle support and virtually no protection from undergrowth, grit or sharp rocks ~ so the walking area should be carefully considered before use.  Useful to allow the feet to breathe between sections, however. 

O>  Wellington Boots give excellent protection against poor weather and mud; but most have poorer grip on slippery surfaces in comparison with walking boots; and also may make feet hot and sweaty or prone to blisters if the feet can literally slide about within.  Ones to consider ~ Hunter® or similar are designed on the last of a riding boot and although more difficult to get on and off, they do provide good grip around the leg and foot as a result; or Muck Boots®.  The latter offer similar good grip around the foot and leg, but are neoprene-layered outer construction and so warmer.  Some Muck Boots are designed for working in concrete yards at stables and do NOT offer very good support on muddy terrain, whereas others have soles nearly as good as (say) a Vibram® or similar on walking boots.  They are quite expensive but last fairly well with regular walking use from autumn to middle-spring or as the ground conditions determine.  They do keep feet warm in frosty/snowy conditions!!

SOCKS :
Two pairs of socks, a heavier outer layer and a smooth inner layer-sock ~ may help prevent chafing and blisters.

VISITING PUBS and other PLACES en route : 
In time when ground conditions are wet/muddy, do take a spare pair of shoes to change into before having a pub lunch; or wear plastic-bags as overshoes if you cannot conveniently remove boots.  Some pubs provide a supply of bags at their entrance; in others there is a convenient place to remove the boots entirely and you can bag them to keep them with you if completely out of eyesight  

CARRYING the LOAD

A small rucksack (or daysac) of say 15- to 25-litres capacity may be useful for carrying water or snacks which you may need on the walk.  We try to stop about halfway through each walk for refreshment, a drink and perhaps some fruit  (a banana-break).

There are also single-shoulder sling designs now which are becoming popular, more like a game-keeper’s bag.

WHAT TO CARRY :
 

Some water and perhaps a snack tor two; some first-aid supplies including any prescribed medications for asthma, hay fever and so on; a Tic-Pic for eventuality of having a tick biting or holding on to you; waterproof layers as above; waterproof bag(s) for mobile and the like; also ~ a set of folding secateurs have proven useful, but, please, NOT a machete!!  If likely to be returning in dusk or dark : a torch or better-still, a head torch; and maybe a reflective gilet (day-glo)

WALKING POLE(S) : 
These can really assist progress and stability in rough country.  Trekking poles, as with proper Nordic Walking poles, do reduce the stress on hips, knees and ankles.   When it is muddy, they can help you to get around sticky obstacles without getting in the mire completely.  A folding variety that can be carried easily on the daysac might be considered.  One or Two ?  At least one, if not two, walking poles when walking on mud, snow or ice, can greatly assist in creating additional stability : with a pair of poles you are effectively walking like a quadruped, which can be a considerable help.

BOOKING IN :


 O>  DO, please, let us know if you are planning to join us on an event, that way we have a real idea whom we might be waiting for.  If you have not let us know and all others have arrived with a few minutes to go before the published start-time, then our groups might have moved off already.

 O>  THEN, if you cannot come ~ do text to the walk leader (the mobile number for this is on the briefing webpage, or failing that to Nigel by text to 07930 738034) so that they are not waiting unnecessarily. 

 O>  In any event, unless we hear specifically from you, we will only typically wait for a late arrival for 5 to 10 minutes at most, or else the timing is spoiled for the whole group.

 O>  So, please do make every effort to gather by the meeting time (usually 10 minutes before the walk start).  


HEALTH & SAFETY

Each walker is asked to read this section carefully

 O>  Each walker is responsible for his or her own personal health and safety. 

 O>  Please advise the organisers and Walk Leader should you have any health/medical problem you believe they should know about. 

Road Walking.
 

 O>  We try to avoid walking on roads and lanes as much as possible but when we do please walk in single file, and on the right side of the road to face the oncoming traffic, crossing over when you are about to approach the inside of a bend.

 O>
  Please do NOT walk more than two abreast when crossing fields that are ploughed or in crop.  We try to follow the footpath route where possible and clearly marked rather than the headlands (edges of fields); although sometimes the latter is the only option where tall, standing crops are right across the official path route and farmers have made no provision to reinstate a clear public-path route.

 O>  Some paths are getting more overgrown as some landowners do not clear them and the local authorities have reduced budgets for such maintenance.  It is beneficial for Clubs to walk such routes occasionally, maybe trimming back some overgrowth at pinch-points; but at times it can seem like a jungle clearance exercise.  Please do be patient as the Leader clears or clarifies the path route for you!

 O>  Well-behaved dogs
are very welcome on walks, usually on a lead.  Your dog must be your responsibility and you must keep him/her on a lead especially when sheep and cattle are encountered.  Pubs are often unwilling, or constrained by their layout and Environmental Health rules relating to food-places, to allow dogs in; although we do try to clear the way beforehand so that we have a suitable place where the dogs can be with us, especially in hot weather. 

 O>  We do follow the Countryside Code : including showing respect to landowners, livestock and wildlife encountered along the way
This would result in the following along the paths of our routes :  making only memories; taking only pictures (and/or removing some rubbish/debris encountered!); and leaving only footprints behind after our passing.

 O>  We try to walk at the pace of the slowest walker so if you are an expert walker, please remember, it is not a race!  We stop regularly in order to keep the Group generally walking together, or at least in sight of each other; and try to let the last one in have sufficient rest before moving on. 

 O>  Hills are not a race
, either.

 O>  At the end of the walk, some stretching of leg muscles may help to avoid later aches, otherwise.

 O>  Do check any bare skin for ticks or the aftermath of tick-bites,
especially having pushed through high bracken or even crops.  If you do find signs of a bite or have a red and itchy are of skin, do consult your GP as swiftly as possible so that suitable measures can be taken to avoid lasting effects after a bite.  When pushing through long foliage or crops, keep hands and bare arms lifted above the line of foliage as much as possible.   See Lyme Disease Action above in search for more information regarding this section.

 O>  We shall walk WHATEVER THE WEATHER. 
But call us if you have any doubts ~ having first checked this website.  

 O>  Paths may be slippery, muddy and wet.
  You MUST take responsibility for your own health and safety; and you may wish to consider personal accident Insurance.

 O>  Walks are usually half-day events; from 3.5 to 7 miles in length, depending on the group you are joining (the Briefing will fully advise the expected distance, ascent and duration).  

 O>  Make sure your car is securely locked with all valuables stowed out of sight BEFORE we set off.