As the country continues to combat the spread of Covid-19, there has been an unprecedented surge in the numbers out walking. This of course led to all the popular walking car parks in the country bursting at the seams last weekend, requiring gardai to be called in a number of areas. Since then many of these car parks, particularly in the uplands have been closed, the government have introduced new restrictions to flatten the curve including limiting outdoor social gathering to four people unless from the same household and also an increase in park rangers and gardai in public parks to ensure physical distancing is being observed. Mountaineering Ireland have also requested its members (over 13,000) to stay off the hills and mountains.
These measures no doubt will help to alleviate the scenes witnessed at the popular walking car parks all over the country. However as much as the authorities have put these extra measures in place, it is really up the citizens of the country to make the correct choices when deciding to get some outdoor exercise that will help to really flatten the curve. Along with Mountaineering Ireland we are urging everyone in the hillwalking community to stand together (metaphorically) and stay away from the hills. Now more than ever the country needs to come together, sporting clubs all over the country have suspended their activities for the greater public health, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs due to social distancing requirements,it is only right that hillwalkers fall in line and indeed lead by example to the thousands of new people who have turned to hillwalking as a pastime. Another reason to forego the hillwalks for the time being is to not put unnecessary extra pressure on the mountain rescue volunteers and other emergency services. Accidents can happen anyone at anytime with lower leg injuries coming downhill the most frequent reason for calling emergency services. These services are currently dealing with the greatest threat our country has ever seen and could do without coming to rescue of those pursuing a recreation activity in this time of crisis.The hills are not going anywhere and if everyone abides by the restrictions together at the same time, the quicker we can get out of the current serious situation and normal service will resume for everyone.
All is not lost however as regards walking, we do have to keep our mental health in check also otherwise the only walking we will be doing is up the walls!! The secret to getting our walks in, minding our mental health and avoiding the popular walking destinations is to stay local. Ideally no car is required where you can step outside your front door to begin your walk. If that is not possible as some houses are alongside busy or dangerous roads then drive a short distance for a safe walk either on a quite country road or using footpaths in towns or villages. The vast majority of all the Siul Eile walks are using the under utilised environment in towns and villages which includes footpaths, lanes and quiet country roads. Without fail on almost every walk we have been on someone in the group pipes up “I have never been here before” even though most of the participants will live only 2 miles over the road. In the modern world everybody is rushing and racing and rarely has time to go off the beaten track. Whenever we set up a new community walking group, we go out and find 8 different routes in that community, these routes are all risk assessed to ensure they are suitable for walking. With Spring in the air, it is a great time to be walking anywhere as gardens, bushes, trees are all coming to life, you will discover parts of your community that you have never seen before or haven’t traveled in a long time and be amazed at the changes that are occurring right on your doorstep. In these changing times we don’t need to travel all over the world to witness something new, all you need to do is step in and surprise yourself as what is down that lane less traveled in your own community. We will continue to update our calendar with community walks from each of the 13 Siul Eile groups around Tipperary until this crisis is over.