Walk Leaders Notes


Choosing The Walk.

Your route may be provided by the organiser, it may come from an archived coach sheet (ask the Rambles Secretary or see https://shdrc.co.uk/coach-sheets/) or you may have come up with the route yourself.

If you find problems with the route then discuss them with the organiser. If needed try and come up with ideas to avoid specific problems or possibly suggest an alternative route.

If you provide your own route then help the organiser by starting the walk on the route he is planning to take to the destination rather than asking him to make a detour. It is important that the drop off is legal and safe - take account of clearways and double white lines.

Also try and find out what other walks are planned. It is always best to have a good spread of walks across the grades as this gives more choice to the members and helps to even out the numbers across the walks.

Plan for the possibility of problems (foul weather, illness of a walker) on your walk - identify short cuts or possible “escape” routes.

Allow for the possibility of changed conditions between reccy and walk e.g. nettles, brambles and bracken on less frequented paths in summer or stream crossings and sloppy fields after a wet spell.

Plan short stops for breathers and longer stops for refreshment - any obvious shelter?

Make a checkpoint list showing what time you expect to be at a particular point.

Also allow yourself some extra time on the walk in case of problems. 

If possible allow time at the end of the walk for a tea shop or pub.

Let the organiser know of any “extreme” conditions that should be noted on the coach sheets - this could be scrambling, paddling streams or even just a steep climb.

Before The Walk.

A first aid kit must be carried - one is available in the coach bag for each leader.

A thermal bag is available - this is recommended but optional. Maybe you have your own (or similar) or possibly another member of your party will be happy to carry it.

You should have the Club’s emergency phone number - 07513424101 - and you should have registered your mobile phone number on the emergency phone. Where possible get mobile phone contact numbers from other members of the Club as mobile phone reception varies from place to place and by service provider.

In winter always pack a torch.

If you use maps printed from the internet and/or a GPS to navigate then please make sure you have a compass and mapping available (an original OS Map or printed) showing the wider picture as you may need to divert or your GPS may fail.

Remind yourself or confirm with the leader where the coaches will be parked and what the leaving time is.

The organiser will give you a list of names of people who plan to come on your walk. If you see a name on the list who you think might struggle on the walk or see someone not suitably equipped for the grade of walk it is best to have a word with him or her. It is in the Club guidelines that a leader can refuse to take a member on the walk if they have good reason.

At the start do a quick head count - it may differ from the list as people have a habit of changing walks without telling the leader.

If the party is fairly large then try and get someone to “backmark” to make sure no one ends up too far behind. If possible, reccy the walk with someone who will also be on your walk, and he or she will then know the route.

On The Walk.

You are in charge! But you are not on your own. There are usually other experienced leaders on the walk with you. If there is a problem on the day - either identified by you or highlighted by someone else - it should be discussed and a decision made as to how to solve that problem.

One issue might be weather or ground conditions on the day. If the weather or the forecast weather is fairly awful consider changing or shortening the route. If icy conditions would make it dangerous or deep snow would hamper progress consider changing or shortening the route. As a leader it is your decision and you should not feel pressured to do the planned route if you deem conditions would make the walk unsafe or if it would make your day too stressful. Consider an alternative route a few days before your lead if conditions may force you to reconsider the planned route. You may experience ice, snow or flooding after starting on the planned route - again be prepared to turn back or alter the route accordingly.

Make sure your mobile phone is switched on.

The Club guidelines expect members to not forge ahead and not to leave the party without the knowledge of the leader. You can though allow for flexibility. For example people climb at different rates so, if conditions allow and the people can be relied on, allow them to walk ahead and to wait at an agreed and obvious point. Let people know what you expect and what you will allow before the walk.

At various points on the walk do a head count to assure yourself all is well.

Make sure that you have the whole party together at junctions of paths or in villages where people might get distracted. And as leader try not to get distracted and so miss possible “split points”.

On the hills in mist always keep the party together even if it means stop-start walking.

Make it clear how long each stop is for. If you are stopping for lunch or refreshments in a village, or you have allowed time for the party to explore somewhere, make sure that they all know at what time and which place they are expected to be back to continue the walk..

The Club supports the Countryside Code but it is the individual member’s responsibility to be aware of it and follow it. As a leader you should ensure that any gate opened is closed. Other than that you may wish to remind members and explain to new members about the Code’s principles - Respect and Protect - and its specific messages especially walking in single file through growing crops.

If you are ahead of schedule then you can spend longer at the refreshment stops or carry on and have more time at the destination. Don’t add a bit extra to the walk. People have chosen your walk based on the mileage and height on the coach sheet and might struggle with any additional effort.

If you are behind schedule consider short cuts or shorter stops. Not everyone in the party may be able to pick up the pace. If you are going to be late and you have mobile reception ring the Club’s emergency phone. If there is no answer try again and/or try an alternative number or send a text message, as this sometimes will work when voice calls don’t. Sending someone ahead to the coaches is what we did in the past and is still an option if it doesn’t create a risk for them or the rest of the party. In extreme cases it might be safer and more sensible to cut the walk short and arrange to be picked up rather than continue a walk and end up with exhausted walkers in darkness. Safety first. Enjoyment second. Finishing the walk come hell or high water is a distant last!

At the end of the walk it is best to take the party back to the coach. If members do wish to stop off at a pub or a cafe, make sure they know where the coaches are parked and emphasise the need to be sat back on the coach at the time stated on the coach sheet.

After The Walk.

If there were any problems on the walk caused by members whether unintentional (the walk was too hard for them) or intentional (forging ahead) please report this to the Rambles Secretary. It’s better that things are nipped in the bud rather than have to be dealt with after several leaders and parties have been inconvenienced or annoyed.

If any member helps out particularly let the organiser know and we can give them a mention in the coach announcements. It’s also worth mentioning if anyone falls in a bog!

Also if there were other problems - blocked paths, snappy dogs - let the Rambles Secretary know and these can be reported directly to the Local Authority or via the Ramblers Association.

Return the First Aid kit (and thermal bag if taken) to the organiser.

Accidents Will Happen.

You should have a first aid kit with you, which can be used to help with minor injuries such as cuts and bruises.

In some cases the injury can be more serious such as a fracture.

If you are close to a road or a building and the injured party is mobile enough then it is probably best to get to the road and if needed ring for an ambulance. If you need to get back to the coaches people can be fantastically helpful in an emergency so it may be that you will be offered a lift but don’t be afraid to call for a taxi - the Club will reimburse you.

If it is too far to risk further distress or if the injury makes the patient immobile then it will involve contacting the emergency services.

Mobile phones mean that it is often possible to contact the emergency services in situ. If this is not the case then a couple of people will need to hotfoot it to get a phone signal or to somewhere with a landline. Ring 999 and ask for Mountain Rescue - if this is not available in the area then ask for the Police. You will need to give details of the injuries and an exact location for the incident down to a 6-figure grid reference. Also give them any contact phone numbers.

Ring the Club’s emergency phone to let us know about the incident, to keep us up to date, to ask for assistance if you need it and to let us know when you expect to get back to the coaches.

The OSLocate App automatically adds your location (Grid Reference) to a text or a mail so, if you have a smartphone, make sure you have this downloaded, and use it if needed.

Be aware that a text may get through when voice calls will not connect.

If it is a large party and someone else is expert enough then it is as well to let most of the party carry on with the walk but with the aim to return to the coaches via the quickest route. At least 2 people should stay with the patient to administer any first aid that will help but the main aim is to keep the patient warm, dry and comfortable until professional help arrives. 

If needed, you should assist in the rescue, which may mean being miles away from the coaches late in the day. If no lift is available try and find a taxi (you will be reimbursed). If you are near a main road and you can get in touch with the organiser the coaches may be able to come and pick you up.

In all cases it is the well being of the unwell or injured walker that is most important.