We're always looking to encourage new walk leaders amongst our membership. Leading a walk might seem like a daunting prospect at first but, if you take things one step at a time and make use of the support available from the group, you'll probably find leading walks is much easier than you expected. You may even find you start to enjoy it!
Note: Walk leaders must be current Ramblers members or an independent qualified Mountan Leader or similar - this is to ensure that the leader and group are covered by insurance. This is for regular TBR walks and also those on holidays and weekends away.
The first thing you need to do in order to lead a walk, is choose a route. It's best to start out leading short, local walks in areas you know. Once you increase your confidence and build up important skills (such as navigation), you can move further afield.
There are plenty of online and paper-based resources for finding a suitable route:
- The Ramblers provide Ramblers Routes (more UK routes). You will need to register on The Ramblers website though, otherwise you get only limited access.
- The Links page contains a section on walking ideas.
- There are plenty of walking books available (there's even one available written by a member of the group).
- More walking route ideas can be found by searching the web.
If you need a map to help navigate, the group owns a collection of local maps for the use of members:
- 151 - Cardiff & Bridgend, Vale of Glamorgan.
- 152 - Newport & Pontypool.
- 164 - Gower, Llanelli.
- 165 - Swansea, Neath & Port Talbot.
- 166 - Rhondda & Merthyr Tydfil.
- 177 - Carmarthen & Kidwelly, Pendine & Laugharne.
- OL12 - Brecon Beacons National Park, Western Area.
- OL13 - Brecon Beacons National Park, Eastern Area.
- OL14 - Wye Valley & Forest of Dean.
- OL35 - North Pembrokeshire.
- OL36 - South Pembrokeshire.
We also have:
- Series of Valeways walk leaflets.
- Valeways Millennium Heritage Trail book of the entire 63 mile circular route and section leaflets.
- Navigation for Walkers by Julian Tippett - a how-to guide.
Having found a route that you like the look of, it is suggested that you reccy the walk before you lead it. If you are new to walk leading and are not comfortable leading the walk after your first reccy, it may be a good idea to do another. There's nothing wrong with doing more than one reccy, and some members have done four or five before they actually led the walk. Remember that it's much better to do several reccies and lead a walk well, than to only do one and make a mess of it.
It is a good idea to reccy a walk within a few weeks of leading it, as conditions can change significantly over time. Something that was easily passable in March may become completetly overgrown with nettles by July. Similarly, paths may not be as obvious as you'd expect and their route may have changed. It's also a good idea to have a backmarker who has recced the walk with you, in case the back of the group becomes separated from the front.
If you're comfortable with map reading and want to do a walk in a more remote area The Ramblers provide guidelines [download] to help you ensure you've considered everything important. For example, have you considered emergency routes in case the weather gets bad? Do you have the necessary equipment such as group shelters and first aid kits? Can you still find the route in poor visibility? Do you have a torch in case you are still walking after dark? There are always news stories about people getting rescued on the mountains in the UK because they were poorly prepared - make sure you're not putting yourself or others at risk.
Once you've decided on a route and reccied it enough that you're happy to lead it, you need to advertise it on the group's walk programme. This is done using the Ramblers Group Event Manager (which is described in another FAQ entry). Before you submit the walk however, you should read this page for guidance on advertising your walk.
The key to a happy group walk is to manage people's expectations - make sure prospective walkers know what your walk is like and whether it's suitable for them. Work out the distance using a map and string/roller/paper, an online mapping tool, a GPS receiver, or a smartphone application. There's really no excuse for adverstising a walk as 8 miles in length when it is actually 12; you also won't be popular afterwards! There are links to websites to help you assess distance in the sidebar. You should also mention the amount of ascent (if known), the pace you expect to set, and the type of terrain you are travelling over. Further, anything that may put people off coming on the walk such as traversing exposed ridges, scrambling, walking under waterfalls, crossing stepping stones, not walking on paths, lots of livestock, etc should be pointed out.
Note: The group has a history of providing interesting, well led walks, with very few incidents. However, the majority of those few incidents were the result of somebody turning up on a walk that was not suitable for them because it had been misadvertised. It is really important that you advertise the walk accurately.
There is an explanation of walk grading on the FAQs page. Please use that as a guide when determining the grade of your walk. The more the group is consistent in applying grades, the easier it is for members to find suitable walks.
Let people know if it's unsuitable for dogs, if there's a parking fee, if the start point is difficult to find. Please encourage walkers to meet up in Cardiff and car-share as much as possible. If you're not going to be at Fields Park Road car park (or other central meeting place) please ensure that someone will be there to meet and greet.
Before you are able to submit walks, you will need to register with the Ramblers Walks web site:
- Register with The Ramblers website - you'll need your membership number.
- They will add you to the list of members that can create and edit walks.
Having done that (it only needs to be done once), you can add your walk to the group's walk programme:
- Login to The Ramblers website and go to My account then Group walks and events manager (or straight to the GWEM page).
- Click on Add a walk.
- The form should be self explanatory, but help is available here if you need it.
- Some fields are mandatory and you won't be able to save until you've entered something.
- Please keep the Description field short (only one or two sentences). Put the full description in the Additional details box.
- Use an accurate start point from an OS map or from a mapping website (see the links in the sidebar).
- Underneath the walk start details section, there is a heading Add a meeting point that can be easily missed. Expand this and enter the details for the meeting point. If you're starting from Pontcanna Fields car park please enter the following information:
- Grid reference: ST166775.
- Location details: Pontcanna Fields car park is at the end of Fields Park Road, off Cathedral Road in Pontcanna. Also provide a link to the How Do I Get To A Walk page (right click on that link and select Copy link address - or whatever your browser's equivalent is - then paste it into the Location details box).
- Under the Key details heading, do not change the Restriction (leave it as Public). If you change it, the walk will not show up on the TBR web site and will only be visible to members on the Ramblers Walks site if they are logged in (which is unlikely to be the case most of the time). If you really wish to restrict your walk to group members, put a *MEMBERS ONLY* prefix in the walk title, or put it on as a social event.
- If the Mountain Safety Policy applies to your walk then please add a link to the policy (right click on that link and select Copy link address - or whatever your browser's equivalent is - then paste it into the walk information box).
- Once you have filled in the forms, submit the walk and it will be reviewed by the Walks Planning Officer. If there are no problems with the walk, it will be approved and appear on the web site.
- You can edit the walk later but, if it's already been published, the Walks Planning Officer will have to review any changes before they show up on the web site. If you want to make any last minute changes it will be best to contact the Walks Planning Officer directly.
Please note that whilst most walks will be approved without an issue, the Walks Planning Officer may refuse to publish your walk. If this happens, the Walks Planning Officer will contact you and explain the reason. The most likely reason is that the date clashes with other, similar, walks. In general, the group encourages a range of walks during the week and, sometimes, even on the same day, however:
- Attendance on mid-week walks is generally low and it is rare that two mid-week walks would be approved on the same day.
- Attendance on Saturday walks is also generally low and, whilst two walks of different types (e.g. easy and strenuous) would normally be allowed, two very similar walks may not.
- Attendance on Sunday walks tends to be higher and there is a greater chance that two similar walks would be allowed on the same day, but this depends on other factors.
If the Walks Planning Officer does ask you to move your walk it is because they feel it would impact negatively on another walk. Please accept their decision - they are only doing their job.
In the week or two before your walk check for things that may affect people and update the walk information as necessary:
- See if there are any big events on in Cardiff that might make travel difficult.
- If you're leading a Rail Ramble, check for alterations to timetables or replacement buses.
- Check the weather and be prepared to cancel or alter your route if the weather might make the walk risky (e.g. high winds and poor visibility on exposed mountain ridges).
If you need to cancel or alter the walk, please do your best to make sure people know:
- Update the entry in the Group Walks and Events Manager (contact an Editor to ensure that the update gets published).
- Post in the Facebook group detailing the issues or changes.
The group has two boxes of useful items for leaders to use on their walk. These boxes contain:
- A set of two walkie-talkie radios.
- A first aid kit.
- An emergency shelter for up to twelve people.
- A high-viz vest/tabbard.
- A pair of secateurs.
Taking and using these items is not a sign of weakness or being a poor leader! Losing half your group is a sign of being a poor leader. Suffering from exposure due to being stuck/lost/injured when you could have been protected, is a sign of a poor leader. Taking these items is a sign of being prepared for problems, not expecting them.
Whilst people attending walks should have made their own plans for getting to the start point, printed directions from the meeting point can be very helpful (if you will be there) - especially if the route is complicated.
Once you arrive at the start point and the group has prepared for the walk, explain what the walk involves and what the escape options are (if appropriate). Make sure walkers understand if a walk is going to be remote, exposed, challenging, cold, windy, wet, etc. It is also recommended that you ask walkers to let you know about any relevant medical conditions before you start walking - especially if the walk is in a remote or inaccessible area where emergency services may struggle to reach you.
If someone turns up in unsuitable clothing, or is otherwise poorly prepared for the walk, you can refuse to let them join you on the walk. You can't stop someone from following you if they're determined, but you should explain that it's for their comfort and safety as well as that of the rest of the group. You should also make it clear that you will not take responsibility for them if they follow you - nor will you endanger the rest of the group. If you're uncomfortable with this, or have any trouble, ask for back up from a committee member or an experienced leader who's with you. Remember, whilst you are in charge of the group, adults must take responsibility for themselves.
It's up to you to make sure everyone stays together and is comfortable. Count the group before setting off and periodically check that everybody is with you. Avoid letting the group get too strung out - wait at points where people can go wrong (branches in the footpath, poor visibility, and especially in urban areas). If you're waiting for walkers to catch up make sure that people at the back get to have a breather as well.
Sometimes it will be necessary for a walker to give up on the walk (e.g. due to illness or overestimating their ability). If this happens, make sure they can get to a place of safety easily - preferably with an escort. Make sure you have each others' phone numbers and get them to let you know they got back safely.
If one of your party is injured or there is another emergency, use a mobile phone to call 112 and ask for the ambulance, police, or mountain rescue as appropriate. Send at least two others for help if there is no mobile signal. Remember, even if your mobile phone has no signal, you should try to make the call to the emergency services as other networks may still transmit the call. When calling the emergency services remember:
- Stay calm.
- Describe the nature of the emergency.
- State the location accurately.
- Answer any questions clearly.
- Be patient. Your call will be prioritised and handled as quickly as possible.
- The emergency distress signal is six quick successive whistle blasts or torch flashes.
The Ramblers provide some case studies of walks where things went wrong and what can be learned from them. These are fairly extreme examples, but they are real life events and show how good practice can prevent problems and stop an incident escalating.
It's normal to head to a pub or coffee shop after the walk for a drink (time permitting) before returning home. This isn't mandatory, but will normally be appreciated.