Staying Safe when Walking Coastal Paths
Here's some safety advice for your next trip to the coast.
Planning and Preparation
- Let someone know where you are going and what time you are likely to be back - that may be the accommodation you're staying at or friends or family at home.
- Plan your route and make sure that you can read a map to be able to accurately report your position if you get into difficulty.
- Plan a walk that suits your fitness level and find out more about the section you plan to walk.
- Be aware that the surface of any coast path varies considerably.
- Take a mobile phone, however remember coverage can sometimes be patchy - in remote areas or at quiet times you may not see another person for some time if you are in difficulty.
- Check the weather forecast before you set out.
- Take appropriate equipment (map, compass etc)
- Wear suitable clothing - water and windproof, and good footwear with reasonable treads. Avoid jeans as they take a long time to dry and have a high wind chill factor. One or two walking poles give extra stability.
- Take something to eat and drink even if you expect to get somewhere in time to refuel.
- Protect yourself from the sun - a cool sea breeze can hide the sun's strength.
If walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, look out for the small signs with the location and grid reference that are on many fingerposts and signs along the route.
Cliff Top Caution
- It may be tempting to go close to cliff edges to peer over, but you should stay back from them as some cliffs overhang or are unstable, and this is not always obvious.
- Rock falls and landslides are part of the process of erosion that has gone on for millenia. Although they are more likely to occur after heavy rainfall or storms,they can happen at any time.
- Be aware that on the coast, mist, fog and high winds are more likely and can prove very hazardous.
- If you take a dog with you, keep it under close control - the same applies to children who may not see the danger in a cliff edge.
- Don't disturb farm animals or wildlife - walk around cattle where possible, especially if they have calves. Cattle can react aggressively to dogs - if this occurs, let your dog off its lead.
- Informal or unsigned paths leading down to beaches may prove dangerous and are best avoided.
- Keep to the path and follow advisory signs and waymarks as the route may have been altered because of dangerous landslides or rock falls.
Much of the footpaths on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path follow the cliff edges around the coast so great care should be taken and if there are high winds consider whether it's even safe to be out walking at all.
Beware the Beach
- If you are crossing a beach, make sure you know the tide times so you won’t be cut off. The sea comes in and out twice a day so it's possible to get cut off by incoming tide or forced up against the cliffs.
- Beware of steep, shelving beaches and large waves. If a large wave hits you, it is possible to be swept out into the sea.
- Avoid sitting or walking directly below cliffs on beaches - there's always a risk of rock fall.
- Don't climb over landslide or rock fall debris, especially after wet weather.
- Stay away from steep dune faces as erosion from high tides may have resulted in them becoming unstable.
- Always pay attention to warning signs; they are there for your safety.
- If you are looking for fossils, don't hammer into the cliffs as this can cause lasting damage and be dangerous.
Admit to yourself and others if you get things wrong and seek advice or help if needed.
- Turn back if the walk is too strenuous for yourself or anyone in your group.
- See BBC Tide Times for the latest information on tides in the UK.
- In the UK, in an emergency dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
- Heed the advice of the Coastguard - although storms are exciting to watch, the high waves and risk of cliff falls can make this very dangerous.
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