Evolving the Walk Leadership Project for Scotland’s ‘new normal’

Back in late February, I joined Ramblers Scotland to guide the Scottish Walk Leadership Project during its fourth year, while my predecessor John Nicholls is seconded to a new role as Ramblers GB learning manager.

It’s fair to say that things haven’t quite gone as I – or any of us – could have expected in the three months since then. 

It’s been a tough time for the nation, and a challenging moment for the project, which will inevitably need to evolve as Scotland gradually moves towards a new normal.

A new workplace
I thoroughly enjoyed my first fortnight in the Scottish office, with John patiently taking me through how the project has helped new and existing walk leaders expand and share their skills and knowledge.

Firstly, I must say how impressed I’ve been to learn of the achievements of our walk leaders and the project to date; offering free walk leadership, navigation, first aid courses and mentoring - all topped off by the Ramblers’ bespoke Scottish Walk Leadership Pathway.

In March, I loved meeting many enthusiastic Ramblers at the Scottish Council in North Berwick. I also observed a Walk Leadership Essentials training day, ably delivered by David Webb - one of our seven volunteer trainers and a key player within the Edinburgh Young Walkers and our Scottish Council Executive Committee.

Then, just as I was about to don my walking boots, take my next steps and head for the hills (so to speak), lockdown came along and all group walks and volunteer activities were put on hold. I’ve been working from home ever since. 

A group walk in Kirkton Glen. Photo by Lucy Wallace.

Remote working
It’s fair to say that my initial excitement about being able to move from bed to desk in five minutes quickly wore off. Instead I have now established a healthy early morning walking routine, getting up and out to get the best of the day before logging on.

Despite having my immediate family around me – my husband and 13-year old daughter working/learning from home - and support from colleagues online, the last two months have been a fairly isolating experience.

On the upside, it has given me the chance to research the project and do lots (and lots) of thinking and planning so my time has not been wasted.

One of my first achievements was writing the annual report, giving me a deeper insight into the project. It has also been a pleasure contacting our volunteer trainers as we embark on a review of our Walk Leadership Essentials and Next Steps training courses. I come from a background of volunteer development and was delighted to hear their enthusiasm for delivering more training as soon as we can. 

What next?
Despite the immediate uncertainty, I will do everything I can to work with our skilled volunteers to boost training for walk leaders, build knowledge, skills and confidence, and enable more walk leaders to move through the Walk Leadership pathway. Ultimately, supporting groups to run more diverse and attractive walk programmes. 

Our training going forward will look different, but the project will remain as important and exciting as ever. It is likely to include online walk leadership learning resources and webinars to support our volunteers remotely, as well as more outdoor learning opportunities (with social distancing).  Now is a good time to review our Walk Leadership Essentials and Next Steps training courses and the role of our volunteer mentors who support new walk leaders.

It will certainly continue to be an interesting and challenging journey, and I will be keeping in regular contact with our 1,300 Scottish walk leaders in the coming months. Please stay in touch with me too, and feel free to email me at walkleadership@ramblers.org.uk.

For more details on the Scottish Walk Leadership Project, click here