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Health and Safety Walking in the Countryside

Cows and Bullocks

CowsOne issue that seems to be a concern for many walkers is safely crossing fields with cows or bullocks. This is a legitimate concern as walkers have been killed or badly injured by cows. Fortunately such incidents are quite rare and predominantly involve walkers with dogs, or cows with young calves, or both.

If the public right of way you are following crosses a field with cows, stop before entering and evaluate the situation. Are young calves present? Note the position of the cows in relation to the path line. Look for possible escape routes. This brief risk assessment will help you avoid any incident through thoughtless action. If the situation looks threatening try and find an alternative route.

If cows have young note their relative positions. Do not go between a cow and its calf as the cow will perceive this as a threat to its young leading to aggressive behaviour. With all cows walk calmly and slowly so as not to alarm them and keep a reasonable distance and avoid splitting groups of cattle. Cows are naturally curious and will watch you and may start to follow you. This is not a threat, so keep calm and continue to walk purposefully towards the field exit point. If the cows are on the line of the path consider diverting slightly to create space between you and them. Although in this case you are technically trespassing you own safety is more important, but return to the public right of way as soon as you can.

If you are walking with a dog greater care is required. Keep the dog on a short lead walking close to your side and keep well clear of the cows. It is not advisable to enter a field with a dog where cows have calves. Should the cows charge, let the dog go as the cows will chase it rather than you and the dog will probably out-run the cows in any case.

If a curious cow insists on coming up very close to you turn and face it, waving your arms and shouting loudly. The cow is likely to regard you as it would the farmer and behave obediently; just don’t tell it to sit.

If you do experience a serious aggressive incident with cattle you should report it to the landowner, the Highways Authority and the Health and Safety Executive.

Ticks

tickWithin the UK ticks are normally found in woodland and heathland areas during the summer months. They are a potential health risk because ticks can carry Lyme disease. A tiny blood sucking arachnid, this little horror will attach itself to you as you brush past vegetation. Because it is so small and because it injects an anaesthetic as it bites the chances are you will not feel anything.  Check your skin and clothing periodically for signs of them, particularly in vulnerable areas such as the back of knees, armpits and groin.

If you are walking in areas where ticks are likely to be present dress for maximum skin coverage. Wear long trousers, not shorts, and a long sleeved shirt. Light coloured clothing makes it easier to spot them. Also do not wear open sandals but walking boots and preferably tuck trousers into socks. Apply DEET insect repellent to any remaining exposed skin.

If you do find a tick on your skin it should be removed immediately, but carefully. If you just wipe it off the head will stay in your skin leading to problems. Always carry specialist tick tweezers in your rucksack plus a small folding magnifier. Using the tweezers grip the tick close to your skin and pull gently without twisting to ensure all the head parts are removed. Check with the magnifier to ensure no parts remain. Once you are sure the tick is fully removed disinfect the local skin area. Don’t attempt to remove a tick by singeing or applying salt or creams as this will cause it to salivate into the wound increasing the risk of infection.

If you have removed the tick cleanly and quickly the chances of infection are low, but keep an eye on the skin for any sign of a rash spreading from the tick bite. Other symptoms are headaches, pains in muscles and joints and fatigue. If any of these symptoms occur seek medical advice immediately and you may have to take antibiotics. Untreated Lyme disease can lead to meningitis, inflammation of the nervous system and facial paralysis.

 

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