Few sights are more complelling than a frosted moorland scene, or a soothing seascape beneath a chill winter sky. A wintry stroll, either to walk off a hearty pub lunch or in advance of one, is also one of the best ways to enjoy such settings, and Devon has not shortage of rural and rugged views.

With the allure of fresh air and cool light, outdoor activities such as riding and sports have a particular draw, but it’s important to be conscious that winter activities present certain hazards that we’re keen to avoid in order to minimise your chances of needing the help of Devon Air Ambulance.

Trips and falls

Devon’s rocky coast and Dartmoor and Exmoor are incredibly lovely, and few sights are more spectacular than those that can be enjoyed from the top of one of the tors or from a rocky vantage point. But even those who are sure of foot have been tripped up by unexpected gusts of wind, icy patches of rock, or simply not quite getting the expected foothold. Simple slips can turn a pleasant outing into a broken ankle, which can soon turn a bad situation into something quite complicated.

If you are heading out and about and plan to head off-piste and onto the cliffs, outcrops, or any of Devon’s other high points and highlights, then there are some simple steps to take to ensure you don’t take a misstep.

The right weather

A shift in the weather can turn a sunny stroll into something much less pleasant if you take a tumble – especially if you are somewhere exposed and potentially hostile like Dartmoor or Exmoor. Although it’s great to be spontaneous, planning the timing of your outing is important to get the best of the weather if you can. Fog, mist, high winds, ice, snow and rain are typical of winter weather and can make walking treacherous - even for those with a great deal of hiking experience. A simple weather check can help minimise the chances of a mishap and would be a far more pleasant walking experience too.

The right kit and clothing

Of course, many an experienced walker would say there is no such things a bad weather, just the wrong clothing and kit. Naturally it’s best to prepare for your winter expedition – no matter how modest - with the appropriate layers and weather-ready gear. And if you are planning to head further afield than a post roast Sunday stroll permits, a compass, a good map in a weather-proof mapholder, torch, adequate provisions and a first aid kit are just a few of the basics that  experts recommend.

The right planning

The simplest thing you can do pre-walk is let someone know where you are going and how long you will be. That way if your plans do go awry, and you’re out of range or phone battery, then someone can raise the alarm.

Equestrian accidents

Horse riding is very popular at any time of year, but icy conditions and limited daylight hours can make riding more dangerous. As with walking (above), taking the same precautions when you head out are essential, but it’s important for country drivers to be mindful too. When the sun is low in the sky and visibility it poor, it can increase the chances of not seeing a rider, or startling a horse. Therefore, it’s important to drive with caution around country lanes and be considerate when passing a horse and rider by giving them ample space and travelling at a low speed.  

Road collisions

Unfortunately, we attended 179 trauma incidents involving injury to a cyclist, vehicle driver or passenger in 2017, all of which turned possibly an ordinary day for an individual and their family into one that is memorable for the wrong reasons.

Although traffic collisions are hard to predict, unfortunately they contribute significantly to our statistics. As well as the usual sensible steps  all drivers should take there are some straightforward things to consider to reduce the chances of a collision that are arguably distinct to winter travel. These are:

Planning for adverse weather conditions

Weather passes through the West Country quickly, and a sunny day can quickly turn to an icy deluge that tumbles off the moors. Being cautious with stopping distances in rain, snow and ice, particularly at speed, is an essential consideration when negotiating a county with more miles of road than virtually anywhere else in the UK.

Shorter daylight hours

Dark winter mornings and short afternoons can mean the sun is very low in the sky at crucial driving times such as on the commute. This can be dazzling in certain weather and can make driving difficult, so having that extra level of awareness is important.

Winter in Devon is a beautiful and enjoyable time of year and we hope the likelihood of your needing our services are minimal. All the same, one or two simple steps are often what stand between a normal day and a tragedy.

Have you been airlifted by Devon Air Ambulance? Patient stories are confidential, so unless we hear from you we aren’t able to share yours.  Contact us if you would like to tell us about your experience.

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