Ramblers Association - Walsall Branch

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					Ramblers Association - Walsall

                 WALK LEADING.

[Based on ‘Navigation and Leadership- a manual for
walkers’, published by The Ramblers].

Outline                                 Page 4

Walsall Group Walks.                    Page 5

Planning. (Choosing the Route).         Page 7

Checking it Out (1st Recce).            Page 9

Registering a Walk for the Programme.   Page12

Checking it Out (2nd Recce).            Page13

Two Weeks before the Walk Date.         Page14

A Few Days Before the Walk Day.         Page 17

On the Day of the Walk Itself.          Page 19

Doing The Walk Itself.                  Page 21

Conclusion.                             Page 23


Welcome to Walk Leading for the Walsall Branch of the
Ramblers Association.

Firstly we (the Committee and members of Walsall
Branch) would like to thank you for coming forward and
offering to lead a walk for us in our forthcoming
programme. Your efforts will not only assist with the
numbers of walks we can provide within the programme,
but will also enable you to show your colleagues some
places of interest that may well be unknown to them.
What’s more it gives you the opportunity to create a walk
that will ultimately have your own personality about it.
(Even if you take the walk straight from a Walk book,
the reason you chose it and the manner in which you
execute it will be unique to yourself, so don’t feel that
you have to create something from ‘spec’ to keep
everyone happy).

This document and the attached Walk Leader’s Checklist
have been provided to give you as much help as possible
as you develop your walk. The Leaflet is generic to the
RA, but these notes are designed to help you provide a
walk for the Walsall Group in particular. If you need any
other assistance/advice you can either obtain this from
the Ramblers publication – Navigation and Leadership –
A Manual for Walkers, or by simply asking any of the

other Walk Leaders in the Group who will generally be
only too willing to help.

If all this looks a bit daunting, - then PLEASE don’t be
put off, its meant to help you avoid making mistakes and
builds on the experiences of walkers in the Group and the
RA in general.

The following notes develop the stages behind creating
and leading a walk in slightly more detail that the RA
Walk Leaders leaflet, but please remember this is
friendly advice for the most part, not hard and fast rules
that must be obeyed to the letter, (at least for the most
part), so accept it in the spirit it is given, and don’t
hesitate to let us know when we can amend things for the

Walsall Group Walks.

Before we get down to the Walk Leading proper, we’d
like to draw your attention to the following statements
regarding the Walsall Group.

Walsall Group of the RA does not comprise two separate
walking communities (Main and Leisurely), but aims to
offer two different types of walks on alternate weekends
throughout the year that are open to all members (and
guests) to attend. The difference between the two options
is based on distance covered, pace, terrain, number of
stops and the distance travelled to the walk start. Outline

information is available in the Walks Programme, but
Walk Leaders will be able to provide further information
if contacted.

It’s important not to get diverted by the two categories of
walks that are provided within the Walsall Group, (three
if you count the occasional evening walks during the

In broad outlines what we have are fortnightly Main
Group walks that range from 10 -13 miles approx. in
length, can vary in terrain and location and are expected
to take around 6 hours to complete (not including
travelling and possible visits to local hostelries). This
requires a reasonable pace to be adopted by Walk
Leaders and maintained throughout the day. It doesn’t
mean a route march, but it does man generally keeping
moving especially when steep terrain reduces the overall
average walking speed.

The leisurely walks are not vastly dissimilar to the Main
Group’s Walks above, except that they are taken at a
more leisurely pace. Hence if they are to be
accomplished in a similar amount of time to the Main
walks they are generally going to be shorter, by up to
30%) or generally covering easier terrain, etc. Leisure
walks are therefore taken on with a thought for
maintaining the people’s interest as they progress at this
slightly more relaxed pace, so points of interest are more
important than they might be on a Main Walk.

Please be sure you know before you start which type of
walk you are aiming to provide - the Group will welcome
either types and do its best to accommodate you in the
programme, but providing the wrong walk for either
Group can be frustrating for all concerned. If you have
any doubts whatsoever you should contact the Walks
Coordinators (Names on back of Walks Programme) and
discuss what you have in mind and they will tell you
which category your walk best fits into.

OK, so that enough of the background details, now let’s
get on with the walk itself and providing you with
whatever help we can.

Planning. (Choosing the Route).

Most importantly this is your walk, so you can decide
where it is to be and where it will start and finish. There
are a few guidelines to keep in mind when doing this
however, but most are basically common sense. The key
items to remember are:-

1/. Main Group walkers are usually prepared to travel
further the leisurely Group folks, so these walks need to
begin earlier and will finish later than other walks.

2/. Light is key to walking anywhere and you should be
aiming to get people back to their cars before the light

begins to fail. (secondly travelling back in total darkness
can be a strain on drivers after a strenuous day out).

3/. Leisure Group walkers prefer to travel shorter
distances that Main Group folks, so hence walks need to
be closer to Walsall itself, but can often start later as a
result of this.

If you need guidance on what is the current criteria
within the Group, (it can change depending on
membership, etc.) then always ask the Group’s Walk
Coordinators who will generally have a good feel for

Now for the interesting part, (at last), choosing were you
will be taking the walk and what you hope to see. Again
it’s a matter of personal choice really. If you like a
particular area, then that’s an option; if you think there
will be some unique features it’s possible to build a walk
around that, there may be historical connections,
industrial/heritage sites, transport opportunities or just
maybe spectacular views. Either way you can very often
obtain something close to what you want from a walks
book of the areas in question and then maybe tailor it to
suit your requirements. Alternately you might be able to
create a walk from maps and guidebooks alone.

People in the Group can be a great source of help in these
situations as they will know where the Group has been

and may even have an idea of the terrain, etc, in the area
you are considering, so don’t be afraid to ask them.
Circular walks are the most usual, but don’t be put off by
linear walks as although they do require a little more
planning they can be very rewarding as they open up the
options of using sections of Major Footpaths that have
often been created in areas of particular natural beauty.

Whatever you decide you’ll need to consider the overall
length of the walk in miles and how long it might take to
complete with a Group of people on the terrains
involved. If you keep one eye on the elevation during the
walk and the time of year in which you think it might be
best to undertake the walk, you’ll have some idea of
whether the folk you think might be interested enough to
come along will be capable of making it without being

Checking it Out (1st Recce).

Whilst maps and books are good starting points for walk
planning, (especially on dark winter nights), there is
nothing to beat going out and walking the actual ground
to see what it looks like for real. This can often be an
eye-opener since it will never appear as you expect it to,
(unless you’re very familiar with that part of the world of

Arrange a day for yourself and a colleague to walk the
whole route from end to end, and be prepared for this to

take a good deal longer in many cases than the time the
actual walk will take, especially on the first attempt. Be
prepared to miss turnings, get lost and abandon routes
that are just too tricky in reality, no mater how good they
sound in books or guides.

A word here about partners when leading a walk.

The word is that they are virtually as essential as your
compass, particularly when you are new to walk leading.
No only are they another source of eyes and brains, but
they can help with recording details of the walk that
would otherwise have a single person overloaded by the
end of the day. (Many Walk Leader pairs now employ
digital cameras, and/or hand held voice recorders to
capture navigation points that they may not see again for
several months). Also a second person is important for
reasons of safety, imagine what you would do if you had
a fall and happened to be off your intended route in a
spot where the mobile telephone signal was non-existent.
Obviously for female Walk Leaders going out alone to
recce walks, is not to be recommended no matter how
familiar you are with the areas and we would suggest you
ALWAYS take at last one other person with you.
Finally the second team member can also be the back
marker on the day of the walk itself, (unless the Walk
Leader cannot make it on the day for any reason – in
which case he/she should be able to successfully lead the
walk themselves). Many Walk Leader pairs like to
alternate the positions of Leader and backmarker to

ensure that both people benefit from the overall leading
This is where you’re going to need your navigational
skills, so you should be able to read a map and use a
compass as a basic requirement before you start. If you
have any problems with this are there are
map/navigational courses available within the Group
from time to time, or if you’re only slightly unsure then
obtaining the aid of a seasoned Walks Leader for the
initial walk through is always an idea. Do be prepared to
always be aware of where you are on the map. It’s alright
to follow instructions from a walks book, but as soon as
you miss a turning and have to make a decision on
whether or not to go back, if you don’t know where you
are then you’re likely heading for trouble.

Anyway, seize the day. walk the route, note where it’s
not as expected and where you might need to make
adjustments and bring back all the information you can
for the Walks programme. Also check the sort of items
listed in the Leader’s checklist, rest stops, escape routes,
pubs, etc. (if you do include a pub on the route its best to
check out beforehand that they will accept ramblers, as
some don’t). At the other end of the scale some are
willing to allow you to eat your sandwiches on the
premises – if you buy a drink at least – if they are not
serving food. Its always worth asking as many are very
hospitable and if the day turns out to be cold and damp
the inside of a pub can be very restoring - providing you
don’t stay too long.

Registering a Walk for the Programme.

The chances are that unless you’ve already done the walk
before at sometime, after a single recce’, you’ll be about
80% sure of what the final walk will be, so you can
usually put the information forward to the Walk
Coordinators for inclusion in the programme. If its any
less than this then you should perhaps try it again, if
possible, before submitting the details. Ultimately the
Walk Coordinators are going to need information to
include not only in the Group programme, but also in the
RA web site as well.
The web site is meant as a way of allowing more people
to have visibility of your walk, so there is quite a bit of
information needed to complete this site. There is a
template available, (also in this pack), that tells you all
the information that is required and only takes a few
minutes to complete and pass on to the Walks

Keep an eye out for the 6 monthly Walks Meetings in the
programme and if you can’t attend in person then let the
Coordinators know by telephone, email, etc. around that
time, as if you delay then there is a good chance your
walk will not find an available slot in the forthcoming

Checking it Out (2nd Recce).

Once the stage of submission and acceptance into the
programme has been completed it’s a good idea to
prepare a date for a second recce of the walk,- one
nearer to the date you when you plan to undertake it with
the Group.

This is usually necessary for a variety of reasons,
1/. To refresh yourself about the walk and its variations,
(remember it might be a few months between the first
recce date and the actual walk date on the programme).
 2/. To implement any changes you decided on last time
and check their impact on the overall timings of the walk.
 3/. To ensure that in the period since you last did the
walk none of the features, facilities, etc. you want to
include has been changed by either the seasons or by any
other means. (Typically, paths can get cropped over;
pubs can close; timetables for transport may alter; as may
the opening times of exhibits).
This is the time when previously taken notes,
photographs can come in handy for determining how a
walk should run following several weeks during which
you have altered things around in your mind.

Two Weeks before the Walk Date.

As the actual day of the walk draws nearer there are
several steps to consider that are not related to the
geography of the walk at all, but are very important to
ensure that everyone who wants to come along has the
best chance of dong so.

Briefly these are as follows:-

1/. Walk publicity is handled by a committee member
and the Walk Coordinator will be able to put you in
touch with them. You should do this a minimum of a
fortnight before you walk is due and make them aware of
what the walk is about and be prepared to answer a few
questions about any special features on the walk that can
go into the local newspapers to help attract others in the
area to attend.
The Walk Leader’s telephone number accompanies the
article in the paper, but not their name or any other
details and anyone who sees the walk and wants to make
enquiries will then come directly to you for more

2/. Answering enquiries from non-Group walkers who
have seen the publicity in the newspaper can be
interesting, and it’s often the case that people with
limited walking experience have poor insight into what

the indicated mileage of a walk means in real terms.
Some may be concerned because they believe it to be
longer than they think, whilst others may be too
ambitious and be considering taking on something that is
completely beyond them. It will be necessary to question
anyone who contacts you from outside the Group to
determine if they are going to be up to the walk you are
putting on.

Typical items to establish early on are:-

A/. Have they walked before, and if so how far and how
long ago.
B/. Do they have any disabilities or complaints that
might impede them on such a walk? (Steep climbs will
leave most people breathing heavily, but if they haven’t
done anything of the sort previously they might want to
consider this before deciding to come along).
C/. Do they have suitable clothing this type of walk?
(Boots, waterproofs, etc.) Remember if they arrive at the
meeting place without suitable attire you are within your
rights to firmly decline from taking them along,
especially if you are certain the terrain will render them a
liability to themselves and the Group as the walk
D/. There is an ongoing discussion about bringing dogs
on Walsall RA walks and the current policy is that this is
not permitted, (with the exception of guide dogs). There
are many reasons for this, but the most obvious is that
suburban animals tend to behave very differently when in

the countryside, especially around farm animals and
although the responsibly rests with the owner, there is
opportunity for the entire Group to be put at risk by dogs
running out of control,. Secondly there is a much higher
likelihood of problems when passing through farms
when dogs are brought along as they will tend to incite
the local farm dogs across whose territory they are
moving. Therefore the answer to their question has to be
NO even if it means otherwise suitable walkers have to
decline to come along.
E/. Do make sure you tell anyone that they need to bring
along there own refreshments and mention that the pub
stop - if there is one – is not necessarily going to be long
enough for a full-length meal.
F/. Transport can be tricky for some folks especially on a
Sunday, so check they can at least get to the meeting
point. If they don’t have their own transport then you
may have to consider if any of the Group will be able to
give them a lift.
G/. If anyone wants to make their own way to the actual
walk start, then you can arrange this with them, but tell
them that the walk will start from that point at a
particular time, and that if for any reason they are late
they may miss it. This may encourage them to come to
the meeting place in Walsall to begin with to avoid
getting lost looking for the starting point, in which case
you will need to remind them that the leaving time from
there is precise too and if they are late arriving they could
also miss the walk. If people pick up the walk from the
RA web site then they may already live in the area the

walk starts from so it would not be practical for them to
start in Walsall, so you may have to take some time to
ensure they have accurate directions to the walk start, (it
might even involve a map reference if you want to be
certain you have given them the best chance of finding
the exact starting location).

H/.Obtain a telephone number from them in case the
walk is cancelled then you can let them know in good
time to avoid them having a wasted journey.

A Few Days Before the Walk Day.

As the day of the walk approaches it’s sensible to start
getting together the items you’ll need to have with you
on the walk in addition to the usual gear you would take
if simply attending a walk led by someone else. This is
likely to be largely down to personal taste, but one or two
things are essential and a few might prove to be very
useful before the walk is finished.

Typically, you need to have with you a book/pad to
capture the names of all those who attend on the day.
This helps with remembering the names of any new
people who come along and also allows you to obtain a
good head count before you start.
There is also a requirement to find some room for the
basic first aid kit that Walk Leaders are obliged to carry.
Additionally you’ll need your route and associated maps
unless you are very sure of the ground and its likely

condition, a compass in case you have to take action to
divert from the planned route for some reason, (or you
feel you might have taken a wrong turn). At least one
mobile phone is a good idea carried by either Leader or
backmarker, and you may want to include a couple of
whistles if you feel that the walk needs some basic
contact to be maintained between the front and back of
the Group at certain stages, (if so you’ll need to work out
a code of some sort with your walking partner before you

On the day before the event and even on the day itself its
always useful to try and obtain a weather report of the
area you plan to walk in, as severe weather conditions
even days before a walk can result in difficult conditions
prevailing that will need to be negotiated and could
extend the length and time taken for the walk).

The other item you might find useful to have prepared
earlier is some copies of the route between the meeting
place in Walsall and the start of the walk itself. These
needn’t be extensive, but it’s worth bearing mind that
people have the most difficulty in the last few miles
leading to start of a walk than at any other time on their
journey. Hence it’s best to keep the instructions fairly
short for the majority of the journey and save the details
for helping folks find the parking place at the walk’s

On the Day of the Walk Itself.

Assuming all of the previous has happened and the day
of the walk arrives how do you handle it and what do you
need to remember?

Firstly, be sure to arrive early at the meeting place so that
any early arrivals are not left wondering if the walk is
still on and reaching for their mobile phones. It’s also
useful to be there as folk arrive as it gives you a chance
to assess how many are arriving and how many vehicles
might be involved in the journey to the start point.

Welcome everyone as that arrive, especially any
newcomers who will be a bit apprehensive about walking
with a group of strangers and take time to explain the
details to the start point to any of the drivers who might
ask, (don’t rely solely on your route notes as these can be
misinterpreted if not accompanied by a check against a
road map). Introduce any new people/non-RA members
to the Group generally and ask everyone to make them
welcome throughout the day. Tell everyone what time
the walks is beginning from the start point and give
anyone who feels they might get lost you mobile phone
number. At this point you may want to check with any
first time walkers that the gear they have is sufficient for
the walk you are leading and if necessary discourage any

who are obviously without sensible attire as mentioned

Let folks decide how they want to travel and with whom
and only intervene if there is a stalemate developing.
Generally as cars are filled they can be sent off to the
starting place, but Leaders should always be the last to
leave after allowing for anyone who arrives right on the
departure time.

Once everyone is catered for and parked cars are secure,
Leaders can set off to the starting point with any
passengers they are going to carry. (Remember you don’t
have to arrive at this point before anyone else, so it’s not
necessary to attempt to overtake those that have stared
ahead of you. Once they arrive at the staring point they
will not be moving off without you ).

Upon arrival at the starting point, and whilst everyone is
preparing for the walk you can ask everyone to sign-on
so that you can check numbers against those expected
from the meeting place and also against any who have
offered to come straight to the starting point. If there are
toilets nearby then point these out to people and if not be
prepared to make early arrangements in the wild during
the first mile or so of the walk if possible.

With this accomplished its time to give the Group a bit of
information about the walk itself, outlining the route,
pointing out any items of interest they can expect to see,

rough timings for rest stops, and information about
completion times. Check that everyone is happy and
understands what will be involved and answer any
questions that might arise. Finally take a quick head
count and if everyone is ready, including the backmarker,
then you can begin walking!

Doing The Walk Itself.

This is where you can show everyone what all the
preparation was about and let them enjoy the walk you
have prepared. Don’t rush them through it, but keep up a
steady pace making sure you are fully aware of what is
happening to everyone behind you.

Keep an eye on you back marker and if necessary have a
system of signals available so that you can allow folks at
the back to catch up from time to time. If people are
lagging behind then adjust the pace or if you do have to
pause and wait for them, be sure you wait long enough
for the last person to have a break before pressing on.
Failure to do this can mean those at the tail end walking
continually without a chance to recover and their pace
will then tend to get gradually slower as the day
progresses and subsequent wait time swill become
If you have points of interest to talk about then its best to
wait until everyone has caught up with you before
starting to describe them, thereby allowing everyone to
have something of a break while you speak.

Take special care on roads, particularly with a large
party. It’s usual to walk facing the oncoming traffic, but
on occasions this may be risky, particularly at the summit
of a hill or on a blind bend. Make sure you have thought
these situations out before the day so that you can take
the safest route without too many crossings and re-
crossings of the roadway by the party. Always try to
ensure people are aware of their position when walking
on or crossing roads,- it’s easy for those following you to
be distracted by conversations or scenery and thus
become oblivious to the fact that they are at risk from

Be alert for other dangers that you may encounter and
make notes about these on your recce’ along with the
best ways of dealing with them. (Crossing railways,
fords, fields containing various types of animals, farm
yards, etc.).

Finally as the walk draws to a close, make sure everyone
is still moving along steadily and that there are not minor
injuries causing one or two problems among the Group,
(Blisters, twisted ankles, previous injuries causing
discomfort, etc.).People will often plod on rather than ask
for a break and this can result in minor problems getting
worse due to being untreated.
If you can, make sure everyone is OK when the walk end
is reached and that they are comfortable with the
arrangements for getting home. (they have a lift, know
the way, etc.).


This may all sound a long-winded and complicated, but
as has been mentioned it’s meant as friendly advice to
make Walk Leading as much a pleasure as simply
walking itself. You don’t have to follow all the advice
necessarily, but if you don’t take a good proportion of it
on board in one form or another you may find that your
first Walk Leading experience is also your last.

Enjoy the Experience.

Dick Turton.

{This booklet will be revised using new
information/experiences from Walk Leaders as this
becomes available}.