11 April, 2014

CASE STUDY: Creating a safer highway with the public’s help

How can the public be helped to spend their devolved funds on the best road safety measures?

An example for Bristol:

ZebraIn Bristol, all money for small scale highway improvements are devolved to the public. It works with 14 “neighbourhood partnerships” which discuss local issues at forum meetings.  The public can attend these meetings to express concern and suggest solutions. Highway issues are a common theme at these meetings.  In 2014-15, between £30,000 and £46,000 is allocated to each partnership for highway improvements.

The majority of highway concerns raised relate directly to road safety.

However, internally at Bristol City Council (BCC), there were concerns that the traffic schemes chosen by communities to address safety concerns were not always the most effective.  For some issues highlighted by partnerships, the chosen remedy has not been the most effective according to robust research.refuge_island_l2

Adrian Davis and I are public health academics and we started a project to help neighbourhoods address safety concerns on Bristol’s highways using the most effective measures. This involved finding peer reviewed and case study evidence for particular road safety measures, and assessing if the research was robust enough to include as evidence.

This information was then prepared for members of the public. It was summarised into easy-to-digest information for each remedy, and was written with no jargon, and avoiding an overbearing tone.  A brief description accompanies each traffic safety measure, with advantages, disadvantages, and most importantly, how effective the measure is at increasing safety.

For the widest possible reach, the information has been published on the Traffic Choices website www.trafficchoices.co.uk. The site groups highway safety measures into two main “problem” areas: crossing the road and preventing speeding.  By browsing these groups, it’s now much easier for Bristol residents to get a good idea of what highway schemes are available, and which one might work best on their road.  Each scheme is accompanied by a rough price estimate, so residents can establish what their partnership budget might afford.

DIY_street_l1To help improve engagement, and make the information more accessible, three videos have been produced, creating a more concise summary of the most popular safety measures.  One video was made for crossing, another speeding, and a final video to explain the neighbourhood partnership process in Bristol.  With “real-world” on-screen moving examples from Bristol, the videos provide a commentary on safety effects for each of the chosen safety measures and help to draw in viewers to use the site. The videos have been one of the most popular aspects of the project.

During the coming year, the website will be expanded with evidence on more safety measures requested by the public. It will also include a “live” tracker of issues currently logged by BCC, and will display the progress of any traffic schemes in development to help address these issues.

View the traffic schemes on Traffic Choices.

James Coleman, Bristol City Council 

1 April, 2014

Shaping up for a challenge to raise funds for RoSPA

Liz Lumsden is midway through training to walk the West Highland Way for RoSPA. In her latest blog, she tells how an injury threatened to derail the venture.

Liz takes in the fresh air during her walk.

Liz takes in the fresh air during her walk.

I’m just £1,000 away from being able to print and distribute 60,000 children’s books with a safety theme. I need the money by the end of May so they will be ready to give to children starting school in Scotland this summer. I’ve already sourced £15,000 for the project.

My son, Kenneth, and I have been training every week to complete a 50-mile trek to raise funds for this child safety project. Just when I thought it was going so well, injury strikes.

We’ve walked the first 27 miles of the Way together (as well as some local canal walks) and had some great mother and son bonding time. He’s not long moved back from London and it’s been great to spend so much time with him.

However, Kenneth started to feel a twinge in his knee after having done a few miles of walking down steep inclines. It was brave of him to insist he was going to be fit for our big walk on 25th and 26th April, but unrealistic.

During last week’s training along the canal out of Edinburgh, his knee became really sore. He had to get a lift home while I continued with the remaining 14 miles. So, the decision was made. He is really disappointed but there are only a few weeks left to get fit for the walk and we both knew it wasn’t going to happen for him.

Donald Lumsden

Donald Lumsden

What to do next? The walk still has to go ahead – we need the money to publish the book.

I didn’t relish the thought of completing this walk on my own. It will be over some very difficult – and remote – terrain.

I was telling my younger son, Donald, about his big brother not being able to join me and he “stepped up” and offered to complete the walk. This will be great. Donald’s done the West Highland Way before, albeit not covering so many miles in such a short period, but I am confident he can do it.

He is 16 and still growing so his comfortable walking boots are now too small. A new pair will have to be bought and broken in.

By the time you read this, we will have done the middle stretch of the West Highland Way over the weekend, covering around 12 miles.

During the following weeks we will take every opportunity to don our boots and get out so we are fit for this major challenge.

Thanks to all who have donated to this great cause. If you haven’t yet, please consider putting even a few pounds into the fund. Donald and I really need your support. Please visit my fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/elizabeth-lumsden2.

When we begin our walk for real, we plan to feed updates into RoSPA’s Facebook page so you can all follow our progress at www.facebook.com/rospa.

19 March, 2014

What a picture!

RoSPA’s campaigns officer Helen Halls reveals the secrets of the Family Safety Week photo shoot.

Meet our Family Safety Week stars!

Meet our Family Safety Week stars!

How many times have you looked at photos of Kate Moss and thought “Modelling? Bah? Money for old rope!” Or seen shots of assistants standing around seemingly doing nothing more taxing than passing a prop or powdering an overpaid nose?

I thought it looked like a cushy job until I took on the task of setting up a photo shoot for our very first Family Safety Week.

We wanted good photos of real people, so the logical place to scout for models was within our own RoSPA family. Babies, children, nieces, mums and dads were all drafted in to be the faces of Family Safety Week.

With my models booked (okay then, railroaded) and Redfrost Photography’s Bromsgrove studio reserved, everything seemed to be going smoothly . . . too smoothly. Then, on the eve of the shoot, my ‘young dad’ got pulled into a meeting and my ‘grandma’ got sick. Cue a day of phone calls and charm offensives, all to no avail.

Thankfully, press officer Alison rounded up her mother-in-law and husband’s best man to save the day – and my nerves.

Plied with tea and biscuits, our models began bonding in Redfrost’s cosy kitchen as the shoot got underway – until curiosity began to draw them out, one by one, to watch the action in the studio.

It may look effortless, but modelling’s not easy. To get that one perfect image, you may have had to flash a smile 20 times, or move your leg slightly for 10 minutes until it’s in exactly the right place. But our amateurs took to it like ducks to water, especially young Sienna Mansell, who also helped out with prop management and babysitting Elijah Bullock.

Helen briefs, from left, Rich, Lachman, Alison and Virginia on exactly what shot she wants.

Helen briefs, from left, Rich, Lachman, Alison and Virginia on exactly what shot she wants.

And if I thought I’d just be standing around holding a pot plant, I was wrong. Marshalling models, sorting out props, discussions with the photographer and keeping things running to time all needed to be juggled. I even got dragged into a few photos myself.

The end result was all worth it. The photos are great. You can see some of them on our Family Safety Week website www.familysafetyweek.org.uk .

My thanks go to ever-patient photographer Richard (who had the added pressure of knowing his wife could go into labour at any moment) and to our Family Safety Week family – Elijah, Sienna, Zack, Jack, Katie, Jo, John, Alison, Ibi, Lachman and Virginia. You were amazing.

28 February, 2014

Fundraising trek is a family affair

Kenneth Hamilton tells us why he’s fundraising for RoSPA.

I have always known about RoSPA for as long as I can remember: my mum Liz has worked at the Edinburgh office for nearly 20 years. When I heard that she was walking the West Highland Way to raise money for the charity I was really happy to help.

Kenneth with his trusty Nordic poles!

Kenneth with his trusty Nordic walking poles!

I have wanted to walk the West Highland Way for a while but have never committed to it before. This will be a good opportunity for me to carry out the walk and help raise money for a RoSPA and Go Safe Scotland project.

My mother and brother covered the West Highland Way in seven days. We will be walking half of this journey in two days, so the pressure is on to get fit and fast!

I work out regularly in the gym and I have just taken on a challenge to do 10,000 kettlebell swings in four weeks. This will give me a physical (and mental) challenge to work through and complete, and will help with my strength before the walk.

So far my mum and I have practiced every second Sunday and will continue to do so until the day of the walk in April. On the first practice run we walked from Linlithgow, along the canal, to Falkirk train station. My fitness was fine but I did get a pain in my knee and just made it to the train back home!

The second training Sunday was a few miles longer. We walked the first part of the West Highland Way and we will continue to walk each subsequent part so that I will have actually completed the full journey.

Kenneth makes a quick pit stop while in training for the West Highland Way.

Kenneth makes a quick pit stop while in training for the West Highland Way.

I tried out Nordic walking poles and was very surprised how much they helped with speed and release of pressure on the joints, I will definitely continue to use them and would recommend them to anyone.

Although the first part wasn’t very difficult I know that it will get harder and the extra miles each day will be quite difficult. So I will continue to work out at the gym and we will both continue walking every second weekend.

I’m raising money for a RoSPA/Go Safe Scotland project my mum is working on. It’s a book which will be available initially to all children starting school this summer in Scotland. The Birthday Party has been written by award-winning children’s author Linda Strachan. It is part of an initiative to provide safety education for primary school children.

If you would like to sponsor me please visit, www.justgiving.com/Kenneth-Hamilton and “gieze awe your money”.

3 February, 2014

The West Highland Way to fundraising

The training plan has been drawn up and we’re off! My oldest son, Kenneth, has decided he will accompany me on a 50-mile walk to raise funds for RoSPA.

LizWalkWe will walk the second half of the West Highland Way in April. We’ll cover 25 miles each day, from Crianlarich to Fort William. The entire 96 miles of the West Highland Way winds through some spectacular scenery, but this final section involves some tough wee hills such as the appropriately-named “Devil’s Staircase”.

I have walked the entire Way twice before in the most amazing weather. Some days have been really warm but others resulted in me having to pour the water out of my boots at the end of the day – and put them back on soaking wet the following day!

I hope we will be lucky with the weather. At least we won’t have any midges to contend with – too early in the year. It’s going to be a real challenge, however, to cover this section in two days as I’ve only previously managed to complete it in three and a half.

All money raised will go towards the printing and distribution of a fantastic new resource which will be available initially to all children starting school this summer in Scotland.

The Birthday Party has been written by award-winning children’s author, Linda Strachan, and follows a group of children as they prepare (safely) for a birthday party at home.

It will see the beginning of a family that will become familiar to children in Scotland when a further series of eBooks are developed as part of the Go Safe Scotland initiative to provide safety education for primary school children.

Loch Lomond - one of the many breathtaking views which Elizabeth and her son will encounter on the way.

Loch Lomond – one of the many breathtaking views which Elizabeth and her son will encounter along the way.

It is important to set the scene as early as possible, so children start to think about safety and become responsible for their own actions in a manner that does not stop them enjoying a wide range of everyday activities.

So, back to the training plan: Kenneth and I have begun with a nine-mile walk along the canal and will work up to a full 25 miles from Linlithgow to Edinburgh leading up to the challenge on 25 April. As Kenneth has never had the opportunity to complete the West Highland Way before, we are going walk the first sections of it as part of our training programme too.

If you would like to donate, visit my JustGiving page or text WWHW50 £2, WWHW50 £5 or WWHW50 £10 to 70070.

Elizabeth Lumsden, RoSPA Scotland and Northern Ireland community safety manager

27 January, 2014

A Walk on the Safeside

I was a child in the 1970s, when, as the cliché goes, we had to make our own entertainment.

A young Helen Halls.

A young Helen Halls.

Growing up in a small Yorkshire town, I played outside, walked to school and was off on my bike for hours. Mobile phones hadn’t been invented, so my parents couldn’t call to summon me home.

Being out and about from an early age, I learnt about risks and keeping safe largely through experience, though I was in the Tufty Club and did my RoSPA cycling proficiency test.

Helen now as RoSPA's campaigns officer.

Helen now as RoSPA’s campaigns officer.

Today, many children are ferried to and from school/activities and spend free time online or on a games console, so they don’t get the opportunities to experience risk that we old goats had. 

Plus, the rise of the internet has led to new dangers online.

Which is why LASER (Learning About Safety by Experiencing Risk) centres are a great idea, giving children the opportunity to experience risk and learn how to stay safe in an interesting, interactive way.

As RoSPA hosts the LASER Alliance, I was lucky enough to get a tour of Safeside, Birmingham’s LASER centre.

The Safeside 'village'.

The Safeside ‘village’.

Run by West Midlands Fire Service, it boasts a full-size indoor street scene featuring a road crossing, bus, train, canal, car, home, pub, dark alleyway, police station – and more.

Children learn about many aspects of safety via scenarios, activities, videos and discussion. They work with presenters, guides and even students from the Birmingham School of Acting.

Safeside presenter Dave Bailey.

Safeside presenter Dave Bailey.

It’s a practical, at times shocking, but fun way for children to get to grips with real life issues and consider what they should do in those situations.

And it works: presenter Dave Bailey tells us of children he first met at primary school who come back to the centre in their teens.

They often tell him about situations where they’ve used what they learned at Safeside – it really has saved lives.

If you’re a parent group, nursery, SureStart or school, I’d really recommend organising a visit to Safeside.

To find out more about Safeside and its activities , click here.

Helen Halls, RoSPA campaigns officer.

20 January, 2014

Rowing for Richard

Last summer, Amelia Goodwin and three friends took to the Thames to raise funds for RoSPA in memory of a friend who had died in an accident. Here, she shares her story in a bid to raise awareness and more funds for a campaign:

Amelia and friends celebrate after completing The Great River Race 2013!

Amelia, pictured in the middle wearing a blue neck scarf, and friends celebrate after completing The Great River Race 2013!

The Hampton Sailing Club decided to raise money for RoSPA in memory of our dear friends Alison and John’s son Richard Hollands, who died in March 2013, aged 32.

We wanted to do something to help after the sad news that Richard had died in an accident. In the words of Alison, Richard’s mother, this is why:

“Our dear son Richard’s untimely death was caused by a fire in his West London flat, which started whilst he was sleeping.

“In memory of Richard, we will be working with RoSPA on a campaign related to the dangers of fire for young people living in flats in London.

“We aim to raise awareness of the need to fit smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as other causes of fires, to help ensure other parents do not suffer in the way that we have.”

Ellen, Jane, Annabel and I rowed The Great River Race, London’s 22-mile river marathon, on 7 September, 2013.

We were in a classic wooden Thames skiff, beautiful, but older and heavier than today’s racing skiffs and with no sliding seats!

It was a spectacular boat race up the River Thames, with over 300 crews from all over the globe. There was every level of competitor, from those who enjoy fun, fancy dress and charity stunts, to serious Olympic-level teams.

And they're off! Amelia and friends put in some hard graft in memory of Richard.

And they’re off! Amelia and friends put in some hard graft in memory of Richard.

The race cannon started at 12.10pm in Greenwich and we hoped to beat our previous time of three hours and 40 minutes, luckily without the rain and thunder from the year before.

Friends cheered us on and we had a lump in our throats as we passed The Rutland Arms, a favourite place of Richard’s at Chiswick Bridge, where we heard a cheer from a large group of Richard’s close friends, including Martin and Katy.

Another emotional moment spurred us on when we arrived at Richmond Bridge soon after 4pm, where John, Alison and their grandson Rex cheered us along for the final stretch.

We were so pleased to beat our previous time by 16 minutes and finished at Ham House in three hours and 24 minutes. I’d like to thank everyone so much for their support, we raised over £1,200 for RoSPA and we couldn’t have done it without everyone getting behind us to cheer us along.

If you would like to support our life-saving campaign with RoSPA, visit our JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/Amelia-Goodwin1.

Amelia Goodwin

17 January, 2014

Watch your blind spot! It’s time for team work

Whether you’re a cyclist or a lorry driver, when it comes to the rules of the road, with a little bit of teamwork, both parties can learn to exist safely alongside each other.

A warning sign has been fitted to the rear nearside corner of all CEMEX haulage vehicles, alerting cyclists to the danger of passing along the inside of the vehicle.

A warning sign has been fitted to the rear nearside corner of all CEMEX haulage vehicles, alerting cyclists to the danger of passing along the inside of the vehicle.

The grind of the daily commute is enough to make anyone retreat into their own headspace when stuck in a traffic jam or negotiating a tricky manoeuvre, but it is in these moments when accidents can and do happen.

Recently, we have witnessed a rise in the number of cyclists killed or injured on our roads, particularly in London, where six cyclists lost their lives in a two-week period. Statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed a 10 per cent rise in the number of cyclists killed on Great Britain’s roads, with 118 dying in 2012. The number of child cyclists killed doubled to 13 and the number of seriously injured cyclists rose to 3,222.

So what can be done? Well, it seems wise to follow the lead of the Metropolitan Police Service which has teamed up with insurance group RSA to encourage lorry drivers and cyclists to view the hazards of the road from each other’s point of view. The “Exchanging Places” video aims to enforce the law and provide essential road safety advice for both parties on correct cycling, driving and pedestrian behaviour to help avoid collisions and in severe cases, loss of life.

Here’s the challenge: how to enjoy the health and environmental benefits of cycling without resulting in injury or death. In quite a few cases, cyclists have lost their lives or have been seriously injured in collisions with HGVs, especially when the vehicle is turning left at junctions.

A variety of initiatives are underway to address this issue.

On its vehicles, for example, CEMEX is using additional mirrors, warning signs, cameras and sensors that trigger audible warnings when a cyclist passes on the nearside while the left indicator is on. The firm also gives cyclists the chance to get into the cab of a large vehicle to see the road from the driver’s perspective, and cyclist safety is covered in its driver training. In November, it hosted a roundtable discussion on how LGVs might be made safer for cyclists, attended by representatives from the road safety, cycling and construction communities.

A raft of cycle safety measures aimed at HGVs have been announced for London by the DfT and Transport for London (TfL). Under national legislation, most HGVs are required to be fitted with safety equipment such as side guards or low skirts that protect cyclists and other vulnerable road users from being dragged underneath the vehicle in a collision.

Here at RoSPA, we would also like to see safety devices including side guards, proximity sensors and visual aids to be included for all new tippers and skip lorries. And cyclists have their part to play too: try to position yourself where lorry drivers can see you i.e. avoid travelling down the inside of the vehicle at traffic lights, and wear hi-vis clothing. The Highway Code’s rules for cyclists says to wear a cycle helmet and light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in the daylight and poor light, and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark. By law, cycles must have front and rear lights switched on in the dark and be fitted with reflectors.


Just how vital is it then to create a coherent safe network for cyclists? Answer: very. As the popularity of cycling increases, more and more people will be taking to the streets, which is why we need to redouble our efforts to ensure everyone stays safe. This is where the introduction of appropriate cycle lanes and tracks, linking quieter streets, and developing routes alongside rivers, canals and through parks (where possible) can all play a part. Such networks can be created by building dedicated cycle tracks alongside roads – this has been crucial for safer cycling in countries such as The Netherlands.

The introduction of more 20mph schemes in our towns and cities are also a good move and are proven to significantly reduce casualties. Where cyclists and vehicles cannot be separated, the setting up of segregated, marked cycle lanes are advised, but they must help cyclists safely negotiate junctions – usually the highest risk points on the road. It’s not enough to have cycle lanes along the road that simply disappear at a junction and then re-start on the other side of it. Along with boosting the provision of cyclist training, drivers should also be reminded to keep their speed down, watch out for cyclists (make eye contact) and give them enough room on the road. And cyclists should ride in a responsible and considerate manner, making sure they follow the rules of the road, just as motorists are expected to do. No-one is blameless here; both parties have a key role to play in helping to reduce accidents and casualties on our roads.

Finally, don’t succumb to the myth of thinking you’re a perfect driver! We should all refresh our skills regularly, and an easy way to do this is to join one of RoSPA’s local Advanced Drivers groups – see www.roadar.org.uk for details.

And if you’re going to be in the Birmingham area on February 25, why not join RoSPA at its 2014 Road Safety Conference? It will consider how to make roads, behaviours and environments safer for the increasing numbers of cyclists. A full programme is available to view here: www.rospa.com/events/roadsafetyconference/.

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety

18 December, 2013

Have yourself a safe little Christmas

“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening…”

Never leave burning candles unattended and make sure they are extinguished before going to bed.

Never leave burning candles unattended and make sure they are extinguished before going to bed.

Oh yes, Christmas is nearly here! And amidst the chaos of present wrapping, food shopping and house decorating, I can see many a parent tearing their hair out over the never-ending “to do” list…

But where there’s a will, there’s a way…Good preparation is key to ensuring that your festivities are not cut short by an accident, because, let’s face it, no-one wants that! It may surprise you to know that you are 50 per cent more likely to die in a house fire over Christmas than at any other time of year. Why? Well, a combination of smoking and drinking alcohol are well-known risk factors, but candle fires also claim many lives. According to the latest Fire Statistics Great Britain, in 2011/12, there were around 1,000 candle fires in homes across Great Britain, resulting in nine deaths and 388 casualties. Christmas trees, decorations and cards were also shown to be a fire risk and responsible for 47 house fires. This is why it’s important to do the following:

  • Keep decorations and cards away from fires and other heat sources such as light fittings
  • Don’t leave burning candles unattended and make sure they are extinguished before going to bed
  • Never put candles on Christmas trees
  • If you have old and dated Christmas lights, now is the time to consider buying new ones which will meet much higher safety standards
  • Don’t underestimate the danger of overloading plug sockets. Different electrical appliances use different amounts of power, which is why you should never plug into an extension lead or socket, appliances that collectively use more than 13 amps or 3,000 watts of energy. Otherwise, it may overheat and cause a fire.

And don’t forget those smoke alarms! Is yours working? Have you tested it recently? It could just save your life. But think twice before deciding to remove its batteries to kick-start that new gadget or toy you’ve just opened – find a safer alternative – buy batteries for your gifts in advance.

On the big day itself, it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of Christmas and momentarily forget about the bags of opened presents left at the bottom of the stairs or the mulled wine warming on the stove. But the kitchen is a hotbed of activity, particularly on Christmas Day, which is why cooking should not be left unattended. Likewise, children should also be kept out of the kitchen and away from items such as matches and lighters. Did you know that falls remain the biggest cause of home accidents – involving all age groups? Simple things, such as keeping staircases free of clutter and making sure extension leads and cables are not strewn across the living room floor can help limit the risk of someone tripping over and injuring themselves or others.

Take a moment to look around your home from a child’s point of view. This will help you to spot potential hazards.

Take a moment to look around your home from a child’s point of view. This will help you to spot potential hazards.

It is also worth taking a moment to look around your home from a child’s point of view. Not only will this allow you to see potential dangers from a new perspective i.e. a hot drink balanced on the edge of the coffee table, but it is also a reminder to “think ahead” to keep little ones safe in your home this Christmas.

There have also been cases where children have swallowed bulbs from Christmas tree lights, so it is not a good idea to let them play with items on the tree. Young children are particularly at risk from choking, because they examine things around them by putting them in their mouths. Peanuts, for example, should be kept out of reach of children under six. Even a burst balloon or button cell battery could be a choking hazard to a baby or toddler, which is why you need to buy toys that are appropriate for your child’s age range.

It might be tempting to let a child play with Christmas novelties around the home, but these are not toys, even if they resemble them, and they do not have to comply with toy safety regulations. Give careful thought to where you display them; place them high up on Christmas trees where they are out of the reach of young hands.

No-one’s saying to go over the top and take the fun out of your Christmas, but these are just some of the things you can do to help ensure that your festivities are not cut short by an accident.

Be aware of slips, trips and falls on ice or snow this winter.

Be aware of slips, trips and falls on ice or snow this winter.

If you head over to our Twitter and Facebook pages, you can help us to share some of our top Christmas safety tips with family and friends. Each picture features some of the many members of staff which make up the RoSPA family – and one very familiar face! We are currently running a “12 days of Christmas” countdown to Christmas day, so why not take a look?

And if you’re heading outdoors this Christmas (fingers crossed that we might get some snow), take note of the driving conditions and be aware of slips, trips and falls on ice or snow. See our winter safety hub for more details.

Have a happy time and enjoy the festive songs! “Our finest gifts we bring Pa rum pum pum pum…”

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

5 December, 2013

Sioned Rees: My accident was a wake-up call

I love mountain climbing. Ever since I can remember my father has always dragged me along his long hikes around the local mountains of South Wales where I was brought up. I grew to love walking and I have always especially loved the beautiful sights from the summit of Mount Snowdon.

Sioned’s first successful Climb up Mount Snowdon.

Sioned’s first successful Climb up Mount Snowdon.

Prior to my accident, I had attempted to climb Snowdon twice. The first time the weather was dreadful, but it was my 18th birthday and I was determined to reach the top. We didn’t make it and we were defeated by the weather. However, my second attempt was successful – my father and I scrambled across ‘y grib goch’ and we reached the summit!

On June 17, 2013, I had a spontaneous idea to climb Snowdon. This crazy idea involved me going dressed as I was, and unprepared for the conditions. As I approached the top, I was exhausted, but I went to find a quiet space along the summit. It was a little ledge tucked out of the way of the crowd of people gathered at the top. I sat down and lay quiet watching the spectacular views…

I wasn’t prepared for climbing up Snowdon. Not in the clothes I was wearing nor the equipment I had with me. Neither was I prepared to suffer the exhausting after effects of climbing so high so spontaneously. I fell asleep on the ledge I was laid on. Suddenly, I woke to find myself falling. Next thing I remember is being freezing cold and not being able to see a thing for the fog surrounding the mountain. Sixteen hours later I mustered enough strength through my shivering to scream for help but got no reply. I gather I must have fallen asleep or been out of consciousness for the next few minutes or so, enough for the fog to clear, and I was just about able to see the path, the ‘pyg’ trail. I saw some people walking and managed to shout a few times for help. This time I got a reply and one of them started running towards me. “Help, I’m stuck,” I screamed. They said they would call for help, and they did.

A photo of Sioned’s rescue.

A photo of Sioned’s rescue.

Twenty hours after I first fell, The Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team had managed to climb down to find me. I don’t remember much detail but my gosh was I glad to see them. The RAF Mountain Valley Rescue team then turned up, and apparently it was piloted by Prince William. Finding me was half the battle as they didn’t know where I was. I was found 300ft short of the summit.

I was taken to hospital where I found out I’d suffered multiple spinal fractures as well as a fractured sternum and gouges to rival the Grand Canyon. I lay flat on my back for almost two weeks. I then learned to walk again following an operation to insert two titanium rods into my spine. I have learned never to go ill-prepared and always to let someone know where I am going, and what my plans are! The main factor contributing to my accident was my little preparation and the fact that I hadn’t told anyone even though I felt prepared. I didn’t realise the danger I was putting myself in to.

Sioned walks for the first time since her accident.

Sioned walks for the first time since her accident.

My recovery has been long and difficult. At the time of my accident, I was in my first year of a nursing degree. Now my hopeful career of nursing has had to be put on hold while I recover. I miss my old student life and would like to raise awareness of the dangers of climbing mountains unprepared.

Sioned Rees

Some guidance from our leisure safety manager David Walker:

Sioned has been very brave in sharing her story. Rescue operations of people who have misjudged the dangers while climbing mountains or who were unprepared for the conditions are common and there are lots of sources of advice for climbers, hill walkers, and mountaineers, available from the British Mountaineering Council.

RoSPA’s advice is to be prepared for the terrain and always have a plan B.


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