In these unprecedented times, where many of the things we took for granted a few short weeks ago like visiting a friends or family house, going to or participating in a sporting fixture, even heading to the church or pub are out of bounds these days. All that is left, is to get outside for some brief exercise within 2km of your home. While many will miss the Siul Eile group walks in communities throughout Tipperary (over 4,000 participating in them to date), especially the opportunity to socialise with others in their community and to explore many of the forgotten paths on their doorstep, we still have the opportunity to get out for fresh air, witness nature coming to life in the spring air and it is also an opportunity to really slow down and examine everything in your immediate vicinity, taking a break from the rushing and racing that we had come to consider as “normal”.
Now that walking in a group is prohibited, we have to take advantage of all the routes that are within 2km of home, this website https://2kmfromhome.com/ gives an instant overview of the options available to you.
Depending on where you live you will likely have different types of routes to choose from. If in towns, you will likely be able to stay on footpaths for the duration of your walk, just ensure you adhere to the 2metre physical distancing as you are likely to come across other pedestrians on your walk. In villages you will probably be able to keep on footpaths for a large portion of your walk and to take full advantage a small bit of road walking on a quite country road is most likely a possibility. Rural houses depending where they are situated will have quite country roads or busy regional or national roads. The lucky few will have access to coillte property and may even get to climb a mountain.
The first thing to think of when planning your walk is safety. Given the current emergency arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital that your brief exercise doesn’t result in a call out for the emergency services as they are on standby to help the frontline HSE workers wherever they can. Here are some general safety guidelines to keep in mind:
Wear hi vis (even during daylight hours)
Use footpath if available
If no footpath, walk on right hand side of road (except when going around a right hand bend, cross over at a safe point before bend and return to right hand side after bend)
Keeping physical distancing in mind, walk in single file two meters apart
Use pedestrian crossing or traffic lights to cross road where available
When walking at night bring a head/hand torch as well as hi vis
Even though summer time is now with us giving greater daylight in the evenings, this can also catch people out as when they head out for a walk it can be fully bright, half an hour later twilight can set in, making it difficult for drivers to see walkers on the road. In Siul Eile we tend to avoid walking too much on the road in April evenings for this very reason, it is a similar situation in September as the evenings draw in.
There has been a 24% increase in road fatalities so far this year. RSA chairperson Liz O’Donnell, said: “It has been a shocking start to 2020. Road deaths have increased by 24% and it’s a trend we don’t want to see happening at any time.
“The roads might be quieter than normal but there are more vulnerable road users out and about. So, it has never been more important to practise good road safety habits.
“This is not a time for making unnecessary journeys, it is a time for taking extra care in everything we do. Drivers in particular need to slow down, put away your mobile phone and look out for vulnerable road users.”
With all that in mind, it is never more important to get out walking for your mental health, just be sure to take in the guidelines above and soon hopefully after we have flattened the curve and restrictions are removed, we can get back walking together and soak up all the trails available in our communities and my guess is by slowing down a few new walking gems will be uncovered right on our doorsteps as we really appreciate the beauty that is all around us.