Walk Leaders Handbook

UPDATED Sunday 29th November 2020, 10.45 pm, SFH

Specific guidance for Walk Leaders during the Covid-19 pandemic

Update following the 2nd Lockdown: Tier 3 covers Bristol, N. Somerset and S. Glos: we should neither travel nor walk outside this area while we remain on this level. 

These guidelines should be read in conjunction with Walking Guidance for Members, especially in relation to the Law of Six.

Before the walk

  1. Pre-walk and risk-assess your walk, preferably within a few weeks of the walk date.
  2. If you consider any aspects of your walk to be unsafe or unsuitable for a group walk (eg blocked paths, very slippery slopes, unsafe stiles, busy roads to cross or walk alongside without a pavement), you should re-route your walk to avoid such areas.
  3. Try to plan your walk to avoid busy, congested areas and ‘pinch points’ where you are likely to meet with other people on narrow paths and where stepping aside to allow safe passing space is impossible or dangerous (eg coastal paths at weekends in summer).
  4. Try to time your walk for days which are likely to be less busy, which may mean avoiding weekends, depending on the area of the walk and available parking.
  5. Ensure that you, personally, have familiarised yourself with the current Covid-19 legislation, information and advice on the NHS, Ramblers and SLR websites:
  6. Before advertising your walk, consider what should be the maximum number of participants, in the light of current legislation, safety and social distancing, and car parking requirements.
    Please read Walking Guidance for Members for conditions which must be met for groups to be exempt from “The Law of Six”, currently in force in England.
  7. Until further notice, and until Covid restrictions are no longer in place, all places on walks must be pre-booked, usually through the walk leader (see Walking Guidance for Members). The leader must compile a register of the names and contact details (mobile phone numbers and email addresses) of all walk participants for NHS Test and Trace purposes. This register must be kept securely for one month and then shredded.
  8. Ask walkers who book on your walk whether or not they have downloaded the NHS Test and Trace App and, if they have not already done so, encourage them to do so and to confirm this with you.
  9. When you are contacted by a member who wishes to register for your walk, answer any queries they may have about the walk and try to ensure that they have sufficient information to assess whether or not the walk is suitable for them.
  10. When you email walk participants with directions to the start of your walk, include:
    your mobile phone number;
    a reminder that they should carry their own personal First Aid Kit, to include a face mask / covering, their own latex or plastic gloves, and their own hand sanitiser;
    a reminder that, outside each household, there should be no sharing of equipment, food or drink;
    a reminder that social-distancing of 2 metres will be the norm throughout the day, including during the pre-walk briefing and during refreshment breaks;
    lastly, include a reminder that neither walkers (nor the leader) should come on the walk if they have any symptoms of Covid-19 or have tested positive or have had any recent close contact with anyone who has tested positive.

On the day of the walk

  1. Before the walk sets off, check those present against your register.
  2. Ensure social distancing in a safe, off-road space and away from other people while you introduce yourself (as necessary) and anyone new to the group.
  3. Briefly describe the route you plan to take, pointing out any potential hazards (eg busy road crossings), where and when you plan to have refreshment stops.
  4. Answer any questions from the group.
  5. Depending on the size of the group, appoint a ‘back marker’ or, at least, someone to be responsible for closing gates after the group has passed through them.
  6. Remind walkers of the need
    to maintain 2 metre social-distancing wherever possible;
    to allow others time and space to negotiate stiles and gates;
    not to share equipment, food or drink (unless they are of the same household);
    to sanitise their hands regularly, especially after handling gates or stiles;
    and to maintain respiratory hygiene measures (ie turning away from others if you feel you are about to cough or sneeze; cough or sneeze into a tissue which you then dispose of responsibly; sanitise your hands; if you are unable to reach your tissues in time for the cough or sneeze, then do so into the crook of your elbow NOT into your hands.)
  7. Check everyone has a face covering and hand sanitiser easily available in case social distancing becomes problematic.
  8. Lastly, remind everyone that this is a walk and not a race! Overall pace should be that of the slowest walker.

Margaret Ruse, Walks Coordinator. 28/09/2020

General Guidance to Walk Leaders on preparing and leading a walk

 The Club has a set of local 1:25000 maps which you can borrow to help with planning: these are held by the Walks Organiser. There are a large number of local walking guidebooks with routes on the Mendips, Quantocks, Forest of Dean and Cotswolds and club members will have copies of these. We are willing to train anyone who would like more experience of planning walks and once a year we plan to run a training walk intended to enhance map planning skills.

For those new to leading the best way to learn is to pair up with an experienced leader and plan out a route together. Do ring a committee member if you would like any support in planning your walk. We encourage all leaders to walk out their route in advance, preferably within two weeks of the walk date so that hazards and potentially blocked paths can be circumnavigated. We expect leaders to encourage a volunteer to be ‘back marker’ and that leader and back marker have mobile numbers to call in the event of emergency. It is hoped Leaders can give their mobile number to walkers in advance so that problems on transport and walking can be minimized.

We try to strike a balance between not being too demanding of walk leaders and ensuring leaders provide the ‘duty of care’ that is expected of us. When preparing for a walk we hope leaders will carry out a range of checks to minimize risks. Although walking is low risk there can still be issues on walks and incidents do happen. Crossing busy roads is a good example – it’s so easy in a group of walkers to just follow the person in front, so if the risk assessment highlights a busy road crossing this should prompt the walk leader to remind the group on appropriate behaviour at the road. Additionally we need to protect our leaders as our walks are organised walks, those who organise and lead them are regarded in law as having an ‘enhanced duty of care’ to the people who attend. We therefore ask walk leaders to use the following check list when planning a walk to make sure we minimize risks: you can download this for each walk.

Risk Management document for each walk

Date:                           Leader:

Hazard How can the risk be controlled? What further action is needed to control the risk?
Hypothermia / exhaustion / heat exhaustion Brief walkers at start on appropriate clothing / protection / sun block / drinking fluids. Check all have right equipment. Keep eye on walkers and ensure group keeps together.
Not identifying risks en-route: slips and trips, traffic, vegetation etc. Walk leaders walk out route in advance, note potential hazards and warn walkers of hazards in advance.

Advice on weatherproof clothing and boots provided on web.

Walk leader during walk reinforces advice.

Leader and back marker carry mobile phones to summon assistance (phones are charged and switched on and numbers known to each other!).

Weather Check weather forecast and abort walk if dangerous. If conditions worsen, consider aborting the walk at appropriate points.
Slips and trips Check weather and warn via website of walk conditions. Remind those who need them to bring poles. Give those with balance / impairment issues time to negotiate hazards.
Traffic and cyclists collision risk Advise group of risk areas where to take particular care. Walkers warn others of approaching traffic/ cycles.

Leader and back marker wear hi visibility vests where route and time of day demands it.

Leader reminds of safe behaviour around roads and shared cycle routes at start.
Obstructing vegetation Identify on walk out and devise safe route / bring secateurs. Check en-route for hazards and avoid / bring secateurs.
Animals/ farm livestock No dogs with groups (except assistance dogs).

On walk out identify risks and plan safe routes

On walk advise avoiding strategy and walk quietly as a tight knit group.
Areas of water/ streams Plan route to avoid streams, other than very shallow. Plan route to keep away from open water Advise on safe passage.
individuals with potential disability Walk descriptions provided in advance for walkers to self-identify their limitations and appropriateness of walk.

Note any who inform leader of disability and advise on support.

Keep eye on those with disability as appropriate (particular awareness of hearing and sight impairment may be needed). Expectation of walkers telling leader in advance of any heath issue affecting ability to walk.

Rest as appropriate.

Injury from fall Plan route to avoid steep or slippery slopes.

Walkers advised to carry their own first aid kit and take responsibility for minor injuries.

Emergency contact telephone numbers to be carried by walkers.

Website should carry advice on whether walking poles are desirable for the walk.
Other hazards specific to walk

To encourage development of even better practice group leaders who have an incident on one of their walks are encouraged to report the details to the committee. You can download this form

Reporting incident of Health and Safety

Date and time of incident
Location of incident
Name of walk leader(s)
Names and contact details of witnesses  




Description of the incident:

What happened?

Who was involved?





Description of actions taken by group to solve the problem including any first aid or hospitalization  




Follow up actions: what and by whom? eg phone call / card / report to insurer  





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