As we gear up for an extended weekend and as more and more people plan to visit the outdoors, it is worth making yourself aware of the simple steps you can take to stay on the ‘Right Side of Outside’ – WalkNI’s latest campaign to try and ease some of the issues at our outdoor sites due to the sheer volume of people visiting since the start of the pandemic.
Whilst the campaign wants the public to celebrate and explore the glorious outdoors available to us across Northern Ireland, it has teamed up with Influencer, Annette Kelly from Little Penny Thoughts, for its latest video, urging people to be aware of the pitfalls of failing to plan ahead, not dressing appropriately, understanding the basic safety essentials and the consequences of not adhering to the rules of many hotspots.
Most recently, we have seen the devastating images of how the wildfires have had a destructive and lasting impact on the beautiful surroundings of the Mourne Mountains and the wildlife that calls it home. Such fires are only one of many issues that can have a negative impact on the outdoors, with many walkers and tourists unaware of the role they play.
Martin Mullan, Training Officer at Mourne Mountain Rescue commented: “Given recent events in the Mournes, we feel that this campaign is more important than ever. We are blessed with an astounding landscape and the outdoors especially during lockdown has presented a great way for the public to escape. But as we approach our peak season, we encourage people to plan ahead. In the mountains and the outdoors in general, whilst beautiful it is, it is not for those who are unprepared. Risks can never be totally removed and accidents do happen even to the most experienced. That said, there are many simple measures that can reduce the risk to ensure the safety of those that wish to enjoy the outdoors the right way.”
Walk NI wants to encourage more people to plan better for the outdoors and understand its risks. The idea of setting off into the mountains without so much as a trail to follow, let alone a plan, might sound romantic, but it’s not sensible.
Whether it is a long or small walk, you should not only know in advance where you want to go, but have a clear idea about how long it will take to complete and how to get back to your car in an emergency. You’ll also need to wear appropriate clothing and footwear or else simply don’t go. Simple things such as packing food, water and a map if needed, can help you stay within your limits and skill level.
The outdoors can be very unpredictable, and the terrain, weather and daylight can change in an instant. So, it’s a good idea to plan how to get back to your car if the weather conditions turn bad; plus let people know where you will be and how long you will take, as they can raise the alarm if needed.
Dawson Stelfox, Chair of Walk NI’s parent company Outdoor Recreation NI adds: “Familiarise yourself and your family or walking buddies with ASSIST – the Mourne Mountain Rescue plan, that can be applied to all settings should an accident outdoors occur.
“The majority of people do not choose to get lost or into trouble, but even the most avid visitor can never be too prepared. Plan your activity, stick to safe routes and activities and make sensible, safe choices. I want everyone to have an enjoyable experience each time with the outdoors, but as the wildfires in the Mournes demonstrates, human error can be costly.
“In addition, go early to get a car parking space and be mindful of where you park. Don’t let your dogs near livestock and please bring your dog poo home. Plus avoid open fires and light a BBQ in designated areas only. Also remember to bring your litter home. All of these simple steps will make a massive positive impact on everyone’s experience.”
The Right Side of Outside campaign will roll out over the coming weeks and focuses on informing people to help them make the right choices in the outdoors. For more information on how you can prepare for your next visit to the outdoors visit WalkNI’s blog.