A NEW website has been launched to educate the British public about the serious dangers hiding in the UK countryside – with ticks topping the list as "nature's dirty needles".

This is no surprise, as enjoythecountryside.com is a collaboration between two organisations focussed on the issue of tick-borne human disease – the Caudwell LymeCo charity and Lyme Disease UK, hoping to raise awareness and provide support to people who have suffered the bites of "Britain's most dangerous arachnid".

Speaking at the launch of the website, Caudwell LymeCo founder John Caudwell said: "I am proud that my charity is launching this new website and I hope it will help reduce the number of people catching Lyme and other tick borne diseases in Britain.

"Every year, according to the NHS, two to three thousand people contract Lyme disease. That’s a staggering five to eight cases every single day. I hope enjoythecountryside.com will help others enjoy our natural beauty spots safely."

Although the website is driven by its mission to highlight the tick threat, it offers information on how to recognise, avoid, and deal with the various bites, stings and dangerous encounters available to the unwary traversing rural areas. Despite its encouraging name, a brief perusal of enjoythecountryside.com might well be enough to convince casual ramblers that a trip to the shops would be altogether safer.

Its advice ranges from how to avoid stepping on adders, to the safe removal of toxic hairy caterpillars, which plants definitely not to touch and how best to treat horsefly bites and bee and wasp stings.

However, the intention is that the website will grow to feature guest writers and celebrities offering ideas on how to enjoy the countryside, from foraging for natural foods to meditating or exercising.

Caudwell LymeCo CEO Veronica Hughes insisted: "Our aim is to encourage people to go out into nature and enjoy all its beauty through walks, sports and healthy activities whilst raising awareness of how to stay safe. Few British people would know what to do if they got bitten by a tick, which can paralyse or cause encephalitis; how to help someone if a bee sting leads to anaphylactic shock; or how to placate stampeding cattle."

Lyme Disease UK co-founder Natasha Metcalf said: "So many patients with tick-borne diseases in our support group caught their illness whilst, ironically, trying to improve their health by spending more time outdoors. We want to protect others from suffering from infectious diseases transmitted by ticks. Being forewarned is being forearmed."