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Keeping safe when out exercising this winter

If you’re making the most of Wirral’s amazing coastline and countryside as you exercise during this lockdown, we’ve got some tips to help you keep safe while you’re out.

As well as taking precautions to try and avoid coronavirus, there’s some key things you can do to look after yourself while you’re out and about this winter.

At the moment, being prepared means you’re not only looking after yourself but you’re doing what you can to minimise the risk of adding extra pressure on our emergency services including the RNLI and the Coastguard.

You can currently exercise at parks, beaches, countryside, open spaces, public gardens and extra care should be taken at all of these but especially around the coast and around water – with colder temperatures providing more likelihood of water freezing over.

Be prepared

If you are going out, even if just for a short walk to stretch your legs, take a fully charged phone with you, wear suitable shoes and clothing and take a face covering to wear in any enclosed spaces.

When going out onto the water, always wear a lifejacket or another personal flotation device and check any equipment you are using is in good working order.

Remember to pack hand sanitiser, just in case there are no handwashing facilities and check if other services, such as car parks and toilets, are open to visitors or have an alternative plan if the place you intended to visit is too busy.

Plan your route

Knowing your route can help if you get into difficulty, so you can identify where you are if someone needs to find you. If you don’t have a pre-planned route, take a map or consider installing an OS locate app on your phone or using an app like what3words. What3words has divided the world into 3m squares and given each square a unique combination of three words - easy to say and share, and as accurate as GPS coordinates. For example Wallasey Town Hall is media.drift.flow Find out more and download the app.

When planning a coastal route, you also need to check the daily tide times to make sure you are giving yourself plenty of time.

Try and make the most of the daylight hours and try to avoid walking in the evening where possible. If this is unavoidable, only use well-lit areas such as key paths or roads and avoid taking a route that is alongside water.

Be aware of your surroundings

When out exercising, whether that’s cycling, walking, running or horse riding, stay clear of the edge of riverbanks or cliffs. These could be unstable, particularly after bad weather, and could give way.

Take time to read and recognise warning signs or COVID-19 information signage and remember to keep at least two metres apart from anyone outside your household (except your support bubble).

Only do any activities, including water activities, you have done before and know you can do safely. If entering the water, be aware of the conditions and your capabilities and only enter the water if it is safe to do so.

Top Tip

Around the coast, thick mud is another danger and in Wirral there are some known areas (although you should be wary at all coastal locations) to be careful of when visiting.

At Leasowe Bay there are patches of mud surrounding the rocks on the beach behind Leasowe Golf Club and that should be avoided by all walkers and horse-riders.

If visiting Hilbre Islands, similarly there are some areas that should be avoided and to do this, the correct route should always be taken. You can find out more about the correct route and how to safely visit Hilbre on the council’s website www.wirral.gov.uk/hilbre

Keep dogs under control and children close by

Keep your children as close to you as possible and use the opportunity of being out to teach them to stay close and not to go on to any ice.

Dogs should also be kept on their lead if you are walking or exercising near ice. Don’t throw sticks or toys onto the ice. If there was an accident, dog owners should not go onto ice or into the water to rescue them but should instead move to somewhere that the dog will be able to climb out and then call them towards you so they can get out.

If you see an animal in distress, call the RSPCA and, if needed, they will request the fire service.

Keep in touch and know what to do in an emergency

Check your signal strength when you are out and make sure you know who to call in an emergency.

In an emergency call 999 or 112 or 000 and ask for the Coastguard (coast) or the Fire and Rescue Service (inland).

If you fall through ice or get stuck in mud:

  • Stay calm
  • Shout for help
  • Spread your weight as much as possible

If you are stuck in mud, to spread your weight, sit down as it will stop you sinking further.

If you have fallen through the ice, you can spread your weight by spreading your arms across the surface of the ice in front of you and if the ice is strong enough, kicking your legs to slide onto the ice and lie flat on the ice and pull yourself towards the bank. If you cannot climb out, you should keep as still as possible by pressing your arms into your side and keeping your legs together.

Additional safety advice about what to do in an emergency can be found online at www.rnli.org/safety and the Royal Life Saving Society UK website.

Please remember that you must not go out for exercise if you are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms, are self-isolating, are sharing a household or support bubble with somebody with symptoms, or have been told to self-isolate after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

When getting out and about, always remember to follow the countryside code and act responsibly at all times.

The tips in this article have been pulled together thanks to information shared by RNLI, The Coastguard, Ordnance Survey and The Royal Lifesaving Society UK.