a group of the
Leading Group Walks
….. some guidelines for walk leaders
The Ramblers has recently published a consultation document on walking and insurance. Ramblers is attempting to standardise good practice throughout the country and plans to introduce some ‘simple processes’ to reduce the risks associated with organising walks. New guidelines will be issued in early October 09.
The proposals are:
In order for a day walk, including coach rambles, to be approved as a Ramblers activity and covered by the civil liability insurance, it is proposed that each walk must:
In order for walks which are part of a holiday (any trip involving an overnight stay) to be approved as a Ramblers activity and therefore covered by the civil liability insurance, it is proposed that the holiday must:
Bromley Ramblers’ committee has responded to the consultation, broadly welcoming the recommendations but pointing out that it may not be possible for a backmarker to take part in a recce/walk-out with the walk leader, or on a separate occasion. If this were to become compulsory, the number of walks in our programme would clearly suffer. This view has been accepted by Ramblers.
But, we need to be ahead of the game, so could all walk leaders please ensure that a back-marker is appointed on each and every walk (unless the number taking part is so small that a back-marker might not be needed).
The following are guidelines for walks.
These guidelines have been produced for those intending to organise and lead Ramblers groups on walks. Even local walks demand careful planning and co-ordination, and it is wise to make sure that you have covered every eventuality.
The guidelines cover:
Where can I walk?
Walking on roads
Where can I walk?
A right of way is not the path itself, but your legal right to cross land along a certain route: in some cases a right exists although no path is visible.
There are several different categories of rights of way.
Public Footpaths are open only to walkers, and may be waymarked with yellow arrows.
Public Bridleways are open to walkers, horse riders and cyclists (although cyclists should give way to other users) and may be waymarked with blue arrows.
Restricted Byways are open to all non-motorised users including vehicles such as horse-drawn carts. They may be waymarked with plum-coloured arrows.
Byways Open to All Traffic can be used legally even by motorists. Although most of them are inaccessible to ordinary motor vehicles, you may encounter off-road vehicles like 4x4s and trials bikes.
By law, rights of way should not be obstructed and can’t be diverted or closed simply for the convenience of the land owner. Unfortunately, many local authorities do not adequately fulfil their legal duties, and on some paths you may encounter problems with illegal obstructions, badly maintained path furniture and misleading signs. Where a path is obstructed, you are entitled to divert around the obstruction, or to remove it (provided you have not gone out specifically to remove the obstruction).
There are also numerous other paths open to the public. These include:
Established permissive paths, towpaths, off-road cycle routes and most areas of access land are shown on Ordnance Survey maps.
Planning the walk
Advertising the walk
On the day, before the walk
The form indicates that a voluntary donation would be welcomed to support the production of the Group’s walks programme (50p is the norm, but any contribution is welcome). It also states that the Ramblers Association (and the Bromley Group) accepts no responsibility whatsoever for claims arising from the activities of participants on the walk.
Just before you are ready to start off - and without appearing officious - make sure that:
Before setting off - introduce yourself as the leader of the walk and give a brief oral description of the route, together with details of the lunchtime break and the estimated length of the walk and its finishing time. You could also include anything interesting to look out for.
Ask someone to act as a back-marker (preferably, someone who knows the route as well as you) and make sure he or she is known to the party, and that everyone knows the back marker's function: to close gates and to ensure that no member of the party falls behind unseen. However, it is the leader's responsibility to ensure that contact is not lost with the rear of the group.
Give instructions on a code of conduct if there is any road walking involved. (See the later section on walking on roads).
Also advise the party not to walk more than two abreast when crossing fields that are ploughed or in crop.
If sheep and cattle are likely to be encountered, dog-owners should be advised at this stage, and should be prepared to put their animals on a lead when asked to do so.
On the walk
In reasonable weather, lunch should not be rushed: for many, eating out of doors is one of the most enjoyable aspects of open-air recreation. 45 minutes to an hour should be ample. Before leaving your lunch site, ensure that litter has been cleared up and check that nothing has been left behind.
Dogs do not have to be on a lead on public paths as long as they are under close control. But as a general rule, a dog should be kept on a lead if their owner cannot rely on its obedience. On a bridleway or byway this could be especially important as you may meet horses and a dog owner could be liable for damages if the dog causes an accident.
Within a few days of the walk you will need to send any donations collected to the Group’s treasurer and the signed list of walkers to the membership secretary.
Insurance and safety
Walks organised by Ramblers Areas and Groups automatically receive third-party insurance cover, provided the leaders are Ramblers members, through the Association’s national policy. This is designed to protect leaders against claims for damage to property and for injury or death which might have happened on the walk. Please note that this policy does not provide personal accident cover.
Recording and reporting incidents
and Minor incidents and injuries
Some commonly asked questions:
What about non-members on walks and walks for the public? Organising led walks and walking-related activities for non-members and the general public is a perfectly legitimate Ramblers activity which can help further our charitable aim of promoting walking; contribute to our footpaths, access and countryside work; and help promote a positive and attractive image. Ramblers volunteers involved in such activities are therefore fully covered by civil liability insurance and the presence of non-members on walks in no way invalidates the insurance cover for the walk leader or for other members on the walk. Walk leaders have identical responsibilities to members and non-members alike.
Ordinary walkers who are Ramblers members are also covered by the policy while on Ramblers walks. Non-members are not covered by the policy, and therefore walk at their own risk, except in the case of non-members who are attending up to three “taster” walks with a view to joining the Ramblers. In practice, however, ordinary walkers are much less likely to be the subject of a claim than walk leaders.
For membership recruitment reasons The Ramblers’ Association strongly encourages Groups to run their regular walks programmes on a “members only” basis, with non-members welcome on up to three “taster” walks with a particular Group. However, this has no bearing on civil liability insurance and should not deter volunteers from activities that further other Ramblers objectives such as promoting walking to the wider public.
Do walk leaders have to take a register of all walkers? No. The Ramblers’ Association’s insurance company has suggested that a register of walkers is beneficial because it records everyone who was present on the walk, but it is not a condition of the insurance policy. In the case of a claim (which could occur some time after the actual walk), such a register could be useful in case there was a dispute about an individual’s presence on the walk or not. However, the insurers recognise that it is burdensome to record attendance in this way and it is not a condition of the insurance policy. The Bromley Group encourages leaders to ask all walkers to complete an attendance form, which can be obtained from any of the walk co-ordinators.
Are walk recces (‘walk-outs’) covered? Yes. Carrying out a recce of a walk is part of good practice and a completely valid volunteer activity.
What if a Ramblers member volunteers for another organisation? The insurance only covers members participating in recognised Ramblers activities as described above. If the activity is jointly organised with another organisation, members will be covered by the Ramblers insurance. But members aren’t covered by Ramblers insurance if they undertake independent activities on behalf of another organisation, for example leading walks for a local authority or a commercial holiday operator. If you’re asked to do this, you are advised to check with the organisation concerned that you will be covered by their own civil liability insurance.
Are members covered for administering first aid if someone gets injured? Yes. If someone is injured on a walk, there is no barrier to providing first aid. In fact, it could be argued that by not providing some form of first aid, a Group is being negligent. It is not necessary to hold a first aid certificate in order to give assistance. All that is required is that the best is done by those present to provide assistance until qualified care arrives.
Can a walk leader be held personally liable for an accident or other incident on a walk? No. Any walk organised by a Group or Area or by Ramblers staff forms an integral part of Ramblers’ Association activity. A claim might be made on the grounds of the action (or inaction) of one particular volunteer such as the walk leader, but any such claim would be directed to the Ramblers’ Association, not to the individual.
What should walk leaders do if an accident occurs and someone is injured? A form can be obtained from the Group Secretary. This should be completed in full and returned as soon as possible. Contact details are listed at the end of these guidelines.
When walking on roads, follow the advice in the Highway Code: use the pavement if there is one and safe crossings wherever possible, help drivers to see you, and where there is no pavement walk on the right, facing oncoming traffic, crossing to the other side before sharp right-hand bends. Take special care on country roads with no pavements where traffic may be moving very fast. Walk in a single file.
The leader and back-marker are recommended to wear reflective arm bands on the left arm on any walk involving road walking.
Other livestock can often be deterred from following you too closely by turning to face them with both arms raised. Don't brandish a stick, as this may excite them, and use an ordinary speaking voice rather than shouting. Don't lead a walk between a cow and her calf!
Walking for everyone
When taking people with disabilities on your walks, you should bear in mind the following points:
Right to Roam:
The new rights of access apply to mapped areas of mountain, moor land, down land, heath land and registered common land and gives the public the chance to legally explore away from the beaten track.
The best way to find out where the right of access applies is by looking at a new Ordnance Survey Explorer Map. All the maps have all been updated to show access land. Lookout for the access symbol on the front.
You may come across the symbol when out in the countryside, for example on fence posts to let you know when you have reached an area designated as access land. You can also find out more about where you can go by checking at the Countryside Access web page (www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk). This site is also the best place to find information about any local restrictions which may apply to the right of access.
What you can do on access land? Most recreational activities that are carried out on foot, such as walking, bird-watching, climbing and running.
What you can't do on access land? Camping, cycling, horse riding, motor sports and the driving of any vehicle other than a mobility scooter or buggy.
Can you always walk on Access Land? No, not always. Farmers and landowners have the right to close their land sometimes, usually for reasons of nature conservation, land management or public safety. If access land is temporarily closed, it will have a ‘restriction’ placed on it so there is no public access. This will show on the online map (www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk) in red and details about the restriction will be in a list below the map. Land that is marked with red hatching means there is limited public access and you should check the restrictions list below the map for more details. It could simply mean that you can’t take dogs on the land or that it is closed one day of the week.
Are dogs allowed? You can normally walk with a dog on open access land. However, sometimes there may be a ban on taking a dog or it may need to be kept it on a lead due to sensitive wildlife. Access land marked in yellow on the maps means you can take your dog, but if it is marked in red hatching, you should check the details of the restriction to find out if dogs are affected.
Fixed leads no more than 6 feet long must be used at all times near livestock, and from 1st March to 31st July as this is the ground-nesting bird season. You may also find that dogs are excluded from lambing enclosures at lambing times.
Walk Leader's Forms and useful docs.
Walk Record Form This form is to record the details of those taking part in a walk
Walk Input Form If
you can lead a walk in the next Programme please complete the details using this online
form after discussing and choosing a date with the Walk
Quick Guide to Mapping, the Compass and Rights of Way A really useful Word document used on the Navigation Course that explains the maps we us, how to use a compass and map together and what 'Right of Way' means to a walker.
This page was last updated 15-02-2018