There are fewer risks in the UK countryside compared to most countries, but below we have highlighted a few that you should be aware of.
- Stinging nettles
Stinging nettles are very widespread in the UK and it’s likely you’ll come across these during a walk. The nettles are covered in tiny, needle like hairs. When you brush against a nettle, the hairs break off, penetrate your skin and sting you, producing a rash and itch.
How to treat: The stings can be easily treated with a plant called the ‘dock plant’. The plant contains chemicals that when rubbed over the sting neutralise it and calm the skin down. Conveniently the dock plant tends to grow nearby stinging nettles. It has a large leaf and a thick stem. Snap off a leave and the stem, rub over the affected area and you should feel relief within half an hour. The irritant is acidic in nature and so can also be treated with basic substances such as Aloe Vera gel or baking soda mixed with water.
- Thorny plants
Plants such as blackberry bushes, brambles, roses and holly all have thorns on them which can scratch your skin if you accidently brush against them. Avoid injuries by looking out for these plants and not walking through the bushes.
How to treat: If you get one of the thorns in your skin you will need to remove it. Using tweezers, fingernails or a credit card is the best way to remove a thorn. Ideally soak the area in warm water for a few minutes first as it will come out easier. If the plant has scratched you, pure petroleum jelly (Vaseline) applied to the cut can provide moisture that aids in wound healing. You may want to apply a plaster too.
It’s possible you may encounter some wasps during a walk. They mostly prey on other insects and tend to avoid humans as much as possible. The best thing to do with wasps is avoid them and it’s advisable to stay away from their nests, as they can get quite defensive if disturbed. It’s not a good idea to swat a wasp because when a wasp is injured it releases a chemical called a pheromone that attracts other wasps nearby. They best thing to do when encountering a wasp is to just walk away.
How to treat: If you are stung by a wasp, treating the sting with vinegar to neutralise the toxins or baking soda mixed with are both affective methods. However, you are unlikely to have these items at hand on a walk in which case using a penny is another very affective method of neutralizing a sting. Just hold the penny directly on the sting. For some unknown reason, the chemical reaction of your skin to the copper nullifies the poison.
- Barbed wire
Barbed wire is a type of steel fencing wire with sharp edges or points along the strand. It’s normally used to secure areas such as property, land and also used as a way of restraining cattle. Any animal or person trying to pass through or over it can get hurt. It’s important that if you come across any area with barbed wire surrounding it you should avoid trying to access that area.
- Electric fences
Electric fences are used to deter animals or people from crossing a boundary. They give off electric shocks to anything that comes into contact with it. Electric fences tend to look like thin wires that are attached to the posts surrounding an area. You’ll most likely see this round fields/areas with animals in. There should be a sign to warn people that it’s electric so you know not to go near it.
You’ll probably come across stiles during a walk as they are common in rural areas. Stiles allow access to adjacent areas or fields separated by a fence wall or hedge. They provide a passage through or over a fence or boundary. Be mindful of any muddy or slippery areas surrounding the stile and take it slow when climbing over them. It’s advisable that someone else offers you their hand to help you because they can be quite tricky to climb over, particularly if it’s muddy.
- Guidance on walking through fields with horses and cows
If you are walking through fields with horses and cows you should preferably walk a safe distance from them. Walk calmly and quietly because you don’t want to surprise them. If you feel threatened just carry on as normal, do not run, move to the edge of the field and take the next possible exit out of the field. If the animals have young with them be extra careful to stay as far as possible and walk around them. Walking between them can be seen as a threat and they can get protective. Cows are naturally inquisitive so if they approach continue to walk slowly and calmly.