20 Aug 2020

Advice is not to go on 2020 Fort Walk

Walkers are asked not to attempt the traditional low-tide walk to St Helen's seafort from the beaches of Bembridge and St Helen's this year, after advice from the Isle of Wight Safety Advisory Group, the Director of Public Health and other local organisations. 

The customary event last took place on the weekend of the 3-4 August 2019 and attracted an estimated 4,500 people, a big increase on a reported 2,000 walkers in 2018.

In previous years Bembridge RNLI volunteers have had to rescue casualties who have been caught out by the rising tides and uneven ground, but this year an additional concern is the need for social distancing to prevent spread of coronavirus in the pandemic.

This weekend, as in 2019, Island Roads will introduce controls on parking and access at Duver Road, St Helens and nearby roads to ensure that parking along the narrow road does not block access for residents and emergency vehicles.

  But the advice from the emergency services is still for walkers not to come to Bembridge and St Helens for the fort walk this weekend.

Guy Addington, Regional Water Safety Lead for the RNLI, said: "This year, for safety, we urge fort walkers not to make the trip.

" RNLI volunteers have to launch lifeboats regularly to rescue those in trouble in the water at the fort walk.

"We don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun but we very much want everyone to make it home safely after a day at the beach, and there are serious risks associated with this event.

“The Isle of Wight has so many beautiful beaches and walks which you can visit safely. Please enjoy a day out at one of these locations instead, and please don’t put yourselves, volunteers and key workers at risk when we are already stretched by the coronavirus crisis.“

The Isle of Wight Safety Advisory Group is made up of representatives from the emergency services, the NHS, the Isle of Wight Council and other agencies. The group's main role is to advise on the management and safety of public events.

A spokesman for the group said: "The fort walk is an informal event with no organiser that usually takes place over one or more suitable tides in the summer.

"The only way to get to the fort is to cross a very narrow strip of shingle, and it would be impossible to do this safely except in very small numbers.

"Climbing around the fort itself would also be difficult while staying safe, and the shore and parking areas can become crowded.

"Given the thousands of people who now regularly turn up to this event, our clear advice to them is please, stay away this year, and enjoy one of the many safer beaches on the Island instead."

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  • The Isle of Wight Safety Advisory Group is made up of representatives from the emergency services, the NHS, the Isle of Wight Council and other agencies.
 
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