Walk leading can be done by anyone; the aim of this guide is to give you confidence and advice.
The first step is to choose a walk. There are lots of books and an increasing number of websites with suggested routes and descriptions for you to hand pick, or for more flexibility and endless possibilities just make up a route yourself. There are some websites which help you to do this (see Resources section at the end) or there’s the tried and tested old fashioned method of working out a route on an Ordnance Survey map.
How long do you want your walk to be? Our group tends to average 2mph (3kph) including rest stops. Most walks vary between 5 and 15 miles (8 to 25km), though evening walks are usually only 3 or 4 miles (5 or 6km) so we can finish before sunset. Mid-winter walks tend to stay below 10miles (15km) for the same reason. Remember that if your walk is very hilly you will need to allow for extra time.
You need to ensure there is adequate parking at the start of the walk, as most people will drive even if it is accessible by public transport. A blue ‘P’ sign on Ordnance Survey maps marks the location of car parks, though these vary in size and suitability. Generally you will need space for around 20 cars. It is often possible to arrange to use car parks of community halls and other organisations for a small donation per car.
If you are planning a linear walk involving public transport it is often best to catch the bus/train at the start of the walk, rather than just missing it when you get back! Check timetables before you plan too far. On the subject of timetables, if you are doing a coastal walk it’s a good idea to look at the tide timetables for the day of your walk.
To put a walk on the programme you will need to log in using your registered emails and complete the online submission form, available at the submit walk page. It should only take around 10 minutes. Let the Walks Co-ordinator know if you have any problems. If you would like to limit numbers there is the facility to set up a pre-booking system. Once your walk has been approved you should check the website to ensure everything is correct.
For insurance reasons you must be a member of The Ramblers to lead a walk. It is your responsibility to update your personal data on the database to ensure your RA status is up to date, if you have any problems contact the Membership Secretary for help.
There has been a recent trend for people to put walks on the programme very close to the event. However, if possible it is better to submit your walk several weeks in advance – it makes the group look more active and allows people to plan their weekends!
The reccy is important to ensure you can find your way around the route, and to check for potential hazards or problems such as busy roads, impassable paths, a weekend market in your chosen car park, etc.
Remember that path conditions can change quite markedly with the seasons. It is good practice to reccy your walk with a potential backmarker so they become familiar with the route, but this is not absolutely essential.
Some people do a reccy before they put a walk on the programme, just to be sure, but others do it closer to the walk date.
The reccy allows you to consider:
PLEASE NOTE: If you are unable to reccy the walk beforehand, please ensure you are familiar with the route and confident with leading a group along it.
If after the reccy you need to change the walk details on the website, you should log onto the database and click on the ‘edit’ option (the blue man) next to the listing on the ‘Events Planner’. You will need to wait for the Walks Co-ordinator to approve the changes before they appear on the website.
This often worries people, but navigating paths and tracks in Hampshire is relatively easy, especially compared with more wild mountainous terrain, so it’s a great place to start learning. Ordnance Survey maps are usually very good, and your skills and confidence will develop with practice.
Any good map will have a scale. Ordnance Survey Explorer maps (the orange ones which are the most useful for leading walks locally), have a scale of 1:25,000. This means that 1cm on the map equals 25,000cm on the ground, which is 250 metres. This is useful to remember when considering the true distance between points on the map.
There should be little need for a compass in Hampshire as there are a lot of features to navigate by, but it may be useful if you are lost or not sure which path to take at a junction such in the New Forest where the terrain can look very similar. The compass needle always points north, so if you line the map up with the compass, such that the top of the map points north too, it will help you work out which way to go. There is little need to go into further depth for the purposes of this guide but you can find plenty of resources online.
Grid squares and grid references
Ordnance Survey maps are divided up into squares of 1km by 1 km (1 kilometre is about 0.6 miles, so 10km is about 6 miles), so a quick way to get a rough estimate of distance is to count how many grid squares you are crossing, though you need to take wiggles into account!
These grid lines have numbers, which are part of the National Grid Reference System. This numbering system means that any location in the country can be pinpointed by a unique grid reference. The walks submission form on the database allows you to pinpoint the starting point of your walk on an electronic map, so an understanding of grid references is less vital than it used to be. However, it is still useful to know what they are and how they work, especially in the unlikely event that you need to call out the emergency services.
The key on OS maps explains how grid references work, but the main points are:
This might sound scary but becomes second nature once you’ve done it a few times!
Recruiting a backmarker
You will need someone on the day to stay at the back of the walk and make sure no one gets left behind. The easiest way to find someone is to ask on a walk or social. Failing that you can use the Facebook page or send an e-mail to the group to ask for a volunteer.
Last minute checks
At the start:
If people phone to say they are running late, use your discretion. Most people don’t mind waiting a few minutes, but if they are to be a lot longer it may be better to let them know which way you are heading so they can catch up. Leaving your backmarker to wait and accompany them until they catch up is also an option.
During the walk:
No need to stress, enjoy yourself!
At the end:
After the walk
While out in the countryside, you and your companions should also follow the Countryside Code, which is basically common sense:
Respect other people
Protect the natural environment
Enjoy the outdoors
We have a dedicated page with advice and gudiance to bringing on our walks here.
The public right of way network in Hampshire is generally in a good state. However, you may still encounter issues such as paths being blocked by overgrown vegetation, a fallen tree or other obstruction, or broken stiles, signposts, gates etc. All path issues in Hampshire should be reported to Hampshire County Council via this link.
This will help to ensure that other walkers do not experience the same problems.
Ordnance Survey Maps online
This is a useful online tool which allows you to plot a route on a map, measure it’s length, and even export it to a GPS device, amongst other things. You need to pay a monthly subscription to access it, current prices here.
The Ramblers Association are currently in the process of building their own database of walks, with each walk being checked by someone on the ground before it is published. It’s free to RA members but you need to register. Ramblers Routes
There are many online resources on map and compass work – here is an example.
In addition there are many people in the group who have led walks and will be happy to help if you have any questions or need any advice, and you can contact the Committee at any time.
You can download some extra guidance in PDF format courtesy of The Ramblers;