Leading a Walk


If you are unable to lead a walk as planned due to illness, try to find another leader or advise a committee member.  


Remember the additional responsibilites as per your completed Risk Assessment form e.g. Walk register and maintaining social distance, see Ramblers Volunteer Zone: Coronavirus advice.

​The day before the walk

  • ​Be prepared to answer telephone queries from potential attendees.
  • Charge phone and GPS if using and check your personal gear and first aid kit.
  • If leading in a remote or upland area e.g. Dartmoor or Exmoor, check weather forecast www.metoffice.gov.uk and adjust the route as necessary.
  • If the weather is hazardous e.g.snow and the walk has to be cancelled, advise a member of the programme team so that the walk can be cancelled online.  If it is safe to do so, go to the start to let people know that the walk is not going ahead.

​At the start

​Arrive early, welcome walkers especially any visitors or new members.

Minimum number of walkers - this is at the leader's discretion and will depend on the route, terrain, and weather conditions.  Taking at least four walkers will ensure you can leave someone with a casualty, and send two walkers for help.  Before cancelling a walk bear in mind that people might have travelled a long way to reach a start point.

Appoint and brief the backmarker (if you don't already have one) preferably before your welcome talk.  Provide them with a map of your route if you can.  Count the party with the backmarker.

Introduce yourself and backmarker: give details of the walk route, the walk grade and pace, points of interest, refreshment and convenience stops, mileage and approximate finish time.  Highlight any places where extra care is needed. Introduce new walkers to the group.

Outline your expectations of how walkers can help: these might include

  • Keeping an eye on those behind, especially on any direction change to ensure those following know which way to go.
  • Paying heed to hazards and warning those behind.
  • Not walking in front of the leader. If people walk on without agreement they must understand that your responsibility to them has ended.
  • Help make sure messages re gates and electric fences are passed to backmarker.
  • On lanes generally walk on the right to face oncoming traffic, but before reaching right-hand bends be prepared to cross to the left to see and be seen better around the bend.
  • Give warnings to others in the group of vehicles approaching from the front or rear.
  • Making sure someone knows if stopping for any reason, preferably the backmarker.
  • Notifying the leader or backmarker if leaving the walk early. 

On the walk 

Some good practice points -

  • Set the speed at the advertised grade and continually assess the pace to ensure everyone is keeping together. Good leading means being particularly alert to those in the group who are struggling to keep up. Be aware of faster walkers unknowingly pushing the pace.
  • Not everyone walks at the same pace, especially on ascents.  If some are keen to push ahead on hills or over rough moorland, set meeting points and take the lead again on any re-group.
  • Plan refreshment stops appropriate for the walk.  On day walks it's usual to have a morning break, a longer lunch break and a short afternoon drinks stop. Make a point of having more frequent drink stops in hot weather.  Half day walks have only a mid-walk break. 
  • Always remember that those who are most in need of the refreshment break are usually the last to arrive.
  • Regularly check your route using your map and/or compass, it's easy to get distracted!  If you think you may have missed a turning, don't be afraid to stop and check or ask for help. Retrace the route if necessary.
  • Keep an eye on the weather and change your plans if needed.
  • Frequently check that you can see your backmarker.  It is your joint responsibility with them to ensure that gates and electric fences are left as found.  It is sometimes neccessary to ask someone to remain with a gate as walkers pass through, particularly in fields of livestock that might suddenly make a dash for freedom.
  • Manage the group over stiles and obstacles; through gates; along and across roads.

​Walking through livestock -

  • If cattle are blocking a footpath; you're within your rights and it's sometimes sensible to walk off the path around the herd, making sure you return to the footpath as soon as possible.
  • It's best to keep the group together whilst walking through or by cattle and always avoid getting between cows and their calves. ​Young bullocks and heifers often like to follow walkers across a field and may race around, try not to split the herd and if the cattle follow, just walk on slowly.​ 
  • Keep any dogs in the centre of the group, ideally surrounded by the walkers, to reduce any temptation to worry livestock or for the livestock to become too interested in the dog!  See also Ramblers Walking with Dogs for additional guidance for walking dogs near cattle.

The following link provide access to the Ramblers Toolkit where you might find  Walk Leader information useful.

Enjoy the walk.

​At the end of the walk

  • ​Thank everyone for coming. Encourage any non-members to join.
  • Let the Walks Programme Publisher, Alan Kimbell, know the number of walkers on the walk, including yourself and the backmarker, on 01404 45944.
  • Report incidents (injury or damage) to the Group Secretary Ted Swan on 01395 567450.


Ideally you will have recced the walk with the leader and be familiar with the route but often this isn't practical so the leader should brief you about the walk before the start or provide you with a map of the route.

  • Ensure gates, electric fences and other property are left as found.
  • Keep the back of the party in contact with the front.
  • Make sure no-one gets left behind and check nothing is left at stops.