Restarting Group Walks: Guidance for volunteers

Group Walks

If you would like to restart group walks, and the current restrictions allow you to do so, these are the steps you must take:

  1. Record your role: all Ramblers walk leaders must have their role and groups recorded on Assemble. For Walking for Health schemes, please use the Walking for Health website.
  2. Complete a risk assessment: use our template to complete a risk assessment for each walk. 
  3. Advertise your walk: use the Ramblers website/app, your group or area website, your group or area public social media page, or printed programme to advertise in advance.
  4. Take a register: this is required to support NHS contact tracing. 
  5. Stay safe by physically distancing: follow government guidelines on physical distancing. Choose a limit that suits you and allows you to lead safe walks, within the government guidance.
  6. Appoint a Covid Officer for your group (Scotland only)

Resources to help you restart group walks:

Ramblers delivery officer, Sara, discusses some key questions about resuming Covid-safe group walks. You can also view the video on YouTube.


Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How can I record my volunteer role on Assemble?

Email with your name, email address, volunteer role(s), the groups you volunteer with and membership number (if you have one). Copy your group chair or secretary into the email you send to us too.

Walk programme coordinators can also send a list of all the walk leaders in your group, if they want to record everyone in one go.

Will my walk be insured?

Yes – unless Ramblers group walks are currently suspended in your area. Ramblers provide liability and personal accident insurance for volunteers. In order to be insured, there are a few steps you must take – find out more in the document hub on Assemble.

I don’t want to lead a walk for a large group – can I limit numbers?

Yes. We know walking in larger groups won’t be the right decision for everyone. We fully support groups (and individual walk leaders) to make the decisions that are right for you – including organising smaller groups walks, or choosing not to restart at this time. Many groups are choosing to lead walks of about 10-12 people, and you can decide what number works best for you.

Why have you introduced risk assessments?

Risk assessment is good practice for the types of activities we do at the Ramblers and is part of our duty of care to you and everyone taking part in Ramblers activities. It is also a requirement of government guidelines.

As a walk leader, you already think about risks, hazards and alternative routes in order to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable walk. We just need to put this planning on paper from now on.

We know that it is impossible to plan for every scenario and filling in a risk assessment does not make a walk leader more liable for incidents – nor will the insurance be invalidated if you don’t tick every box.

How do I complete a risk assessment?

You must fill in a risk assessment for every walk and keep a copy for 12 months (either as a paper or digital copy). This can be kept by the walk leader or another volunteer in your group.

Use the risk assessment checklist during your normal planning and recce. You only need to tick the boxes that are relevant to your walk and add any extra hazards or actions as needed. Ramblers Walking for Health schemes must fill in a new risk assessment to record Covid-specific details, in addition to your usual process.

Do I need to take a register for NHS contact tracing?

Yes. You must keep a record of everyone on the walk, in case it’s needed for NHS contact tracing. Let walkers know their details may be shared for this purpose, keep records securely, and delete or destroy them after 21 days.

For Ramblers Groups, the best way to do this is by taking a register using the Ramblers app. The register can be viewed on different phones at the same time, so to save time, ask other people to help take the register. Remember, your walk needs to be added to the Group Walks and Events Manager (GWEM) to show on the app.

For more information, see our guide How to take a register with the Ramblers app.

If you choose to use a paper register instead, use our paper register template.

What should I do if someone develops symptoms after a walk?

They should apply for a Covid-19 test and let NHS contact tracers know they were on the walk.

Walk leaders should not share walker details, unless requested by NHS contact tracers. If you are asked to provide walk contacts for NHS contact tracing, please let us know:

Can we organise coach rambles, car share or take public transport to walks?

This depends on the current government restrictions in your area. Check the relevant website for the latest travel and transport advice where you live: England / Wales / Scotland.

If you do use public or shared transport, please plan your journey carefully following government guidelines on safe travel and any measures required by the company you travel with.

Use quieter stations and stops and keep changes to a minimum. You should also consider the impact on car parks – existing parking problems are likely to be exacerbated due to current restrictions.

Staying local is always a good option so where possible, we recommend planning circular routes that can be accessed on foot.

How can I lead a larger group safely, and ensure physical distancing?

Many groups are choosing to lead walks of about 10-12 people, and you can decide what number works best for you.

Whatever number you decide on, you must take steps to maintain physical distancing and ensure group safety. Depending on the circumstances, this might include:

  • Splitting the group into ‘pockets’ to make distancing easier. Remember to take extra care at start and end points – and any pinch points such as gates and stiles. 
  • Remind everyone about physical distancing in your welcome briefing. Encourage walkers to say ‘we’re getting too close’, and to make any necessary adjustments during the walk – this is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Appoint a backmarker and middle-marker for large groups.

Can we make group walks member-only?

No. Ramblers group walks must remain open for new and potential members and be advertised publicly (on the Ramblers website, your area/group website, social media, or in a printed programme).

Many people have started walking for the first-time during lockdown so this is a great opportunity to help everyone find their feet!

What if someone challenges us when out on a group walk?

We understand people may be concerned if they see a large group on a walk. However, the government recognises the health and wellbeing benefits organised outdoor activity brings and walking in organised groups continues to be permitted – outside of full national lockdowns.

There are a number of things you can do to put people’s minds at rest:

  • Explain you are on a Ramblers organised group walk, which is permitted under government guidance and point them toward the coronavirus advice on our website.
  • Carry a copy of our letter of explanation, which explains why group walks can take place: EnglandScotlandWales

Why do groups in Scotland need a volunteer Covid Officer?

Appointing a Covid Officer is a requirement sportscotland has put in place for all sports restarting their activities. The purpose of this role is to make sure your group implements Ramblers Restart guidance and adheres to Scottish Government and sportscotland guidelines.

We suggest walk programme coordinators (with support from group chairs or committees) take on this role. If your group is keeping up to date with latest Scottish Government and Ramblers Scotland advice, you’re already doing the most important part of this role.

Download the Ramblers Scotland Covid Officer role description.

Coronavirus - what are the restrictions in my area?
Events. training and AGMs
Path maintenance, guidance for volunteers