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Forest safety warning after elderly woman trapped in mud with broken ankle

Thetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Thetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015

Nature lovers have been warned to take care at one of the region’s most picturesque tourist attractions and beauty spots after an elderly walker became trapped in mud.

The Little Ouse at Santon Downham. Picture: Rebecca MurphyThe Little Ouse at Santon Downham. Picture: Rebecca Murphy

The walker in Thetford Forest - which attracts many birdwatchers, mountain bikers and visitors throughout the year - had to be rescued by firefighters after she slipped by the River Ouse at Santon Downham, breaking her ankle.

The conditions were so bad that paramedics had to abandon their own rescue, fearing they too would become trapped.

She was eventually freed by firefighters in a boat, who travelled along the River Ouse in order to access her after being called to the incident at 12.17pm.

The rescue on Wednesday, March 14 also involved eight fire service vehicles, while an officer from the Forestry Commission was also in attendance.

The Little Ouse at Santon Downham. Picture: Rebecca MurphyThe Little Ouse at Santon Downham. Picture: Rebecca Murphy

Anne Mason, chairman of the Friends of Thetford Forest, said she was “very pleased the person was not more seriously injured”.

Although she stressed she did not know exactly how the woman became trapped, Mrs Mason said: “The Friends of Thetford Forest is all about people accessing and enjoying the forest - but whilst understanding it is a forest environment and you haven’t got to take any unnecessary risks.

“The trails are checked by the Forestry Commission and they are also checked by Friends of Thetford Forest volunteers.

“I don’t know what happened in these circumstances but if you stray off the marked trail, you take responsibility for that. The rivers are as much a part of the general forest as the dry tracks.”

Autumn leaves in Santon Downham, Thetford Forest, taken by Margaret Holland, of Henley Road, IpswichAutumn leaves in Santon Downham, Thetford Forest, taken by Margaret Holland, of Henley Road, Ipswich

In total eight fire service vehicles attended, with Thetford fire station leading on the rescue and crews from Bury St Edmunds, Woodbridge, Brandon and Ipswich also attending.

A spokesman for Suffolk Fire and Rescue said: “A woman slipped in the mud and dislocated her leg.

“The ambulance service were trying to assess her but realised they were getting themselves at risk and were concerned they were getting stuck.”

Thetford Forest provides a patchwork of pines, heathland and broadleaves over an 18,730 acre site.

It is the largest lowland pine forest in Britain and was created after the First World War to provide a strategic reserve of timber.

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