Ramblers restart - How to restart activities in a COVID-secure way

This guidance was updated on 21 October 2020.

Ramblers activities, including group walks up to a maximum of 30 people, are continuing to take place in England and Scotland subject to any local restrictions.

However, all face-to-face, group activities are suspended in Wales from 6pm on 23 October to 9 November, in accordance with Welsh government guidelines.

Please see status updates by nation, and the FAQs below for more information.

In England and Scotland, Ramblers and Ramblers Walking for Health group walks are exempt from the restrictions on social gatherings and we will support those who want to walk together or volunteer. But remember, there’s no pressure to restart activities if you don’t feel ready. 

If you are ready, groups must follow the Ramblers’ Restart procedures and all government travel restrictions, to make sure activities are COVID-secure.

Thank you to all Ramblers volunteers and members for working together to gradually restart activities in a safe way. 


Group walks  

If you would like to restart group walks, these are the documents you’ll need: 

  • Risk assessment for group walks Walk leaders already carefully plan walks and work out alternatives routes when Plan A isn’t possible, making the experience safe and enjoyable for all.  We need to make sure there’s a record of this good work.

Please also read the FAQs below for more information about group walks. 

Path maintenance 

If you would like to restart path maintenance activities, these are the documents you’ll need:

Annual General Meetings (AGMs)

To help plan for your AGM in 2020-21, you'll need:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Group walks

Do we need to cancel our group walks in Wales, due to the ‘firebreak’ lockdown?

Yes. All Ramblers group walks in Wales are suspended from 6pm on 23 October to 9 November, in accordance with the Welsh government guidelines.

We will automatically add the word ‘Cancelled’ to the title of walks organised by groups in Wales on the Group Walks and Events Manager (GWEM).

Any groups in England with walks planned in Wales also need to update their walk listings manually. Please remember to update any local websites and booking pages too.

We will continue to monitor the government guidelines closely, and update you as things change. 

Why can larger group walks take place in England, given the ‘rule of six’ restrictions on social gatherings?

The government has confirmed that ‘organised physical activities’ such as Ramblers group walks can continue, as long as they are organised in a COVID-secure way. 

This is an explicit exemption based on expert scientific and medical advice, and reflects both the low risk of organised outdoor activities and the important health and well-being benefits of people staying active outdoors.

Considerable work has been taking place ‘behind the scenes’, so that we can restart larger group walks in this way. We developed a proposal to outline how our organised walks will be COVID-secure, and worked alongside government and partners to share best practice – including the ‘Return to Play’ team at Sport England, and sport scotland.

We have followed all of the necessary protocols, and put extra measures in place to reduce the risks of COVID-19 – enabling us to meet the guidance from central government. This means that we can continue to organise group walks for up to 30 people, as long as these follow our guidance on how to restart walks in a COVID-secure way

However, it’s important to remember that the decision on whether to restart is completely up to you and your group. We’re following the government guidelines closely, and will be in touch with volunteers if anything changes.

Things you must do 

We are planning to restart walks – what do we need to do differently?

If you are ready to restart group walks, there are six things that you must do: 

  • Ramblers Walk Leaders must have their role (and the groups they volunteer with) recorded on our system.  
  • Walk leaders must complete a risk assessment for each walk, using our checklist. Download the Risk Assessment - Word Docx / Risk Assessment - PDF
  • Walks must be advertised in advance - please see our insurance guide for more details. 
  • Groups must have a plan in place to limit group size up to 30 people.  
  • Groups must have a record of who has attended the walk to support contact tracing. 
  • Groups must follow the government guidelines on physical distancing

Do we need to cancel walks if new restrictions are announced in our local area?  

Groups across all parts of England, Scotland and Wales can continue to run walks of up to 30 people – following the Ramblers’ Restart procedures and government travel restrictions.

Our group walks are classed as organised outdoor physical activity, and continue to be exempt from the ‘rule of six’, in accordance with UK, Scottish and Welsh government guidance. While this means walks of up to 30 are an option, most walk leaders are understandably choosing to set much lower limits.

However, travel restrictions may have an impact on your group walks – you should not travel to or from areas on ‘very high’ alert.

This may mean that some walks need to be changed or cancelled – or that some members may not be able to attend (if your group straddles an area with different local restrictions). We encourage you to plan alternative, local walks where possible. 

Will my group walk be insured? 

Yes. Ramblers provide liability and personal accident insurance for volunteers. In order to be insured, there are a few steps you must take – you can find out more in our Insurance toolkit or in the document hub on Assemble. 

You’ve mentioned my volunteer role needs to be recorded. How do I do that? 

Please email us with your name, membership number, volunteer role(s), and the groups you volunteer with. Please copy your group chair or secretary into the email you send to us. 

Walk coordinators can also send a list of all the walk leaders for your group, and we’ll get everyone recorded in one go!

Should groups in Scotland have a designated Covid Officer to comply with sportscotland guidance?

Yes.  Our delivery officer, Jeannie Cranfield, has been acting as the designated Scotland-wide Covid Officer for Ramblers Scotland, however as we head into the next stage of this pandemic, we feel it makes sense to ask groups to appoint their own Covid Officer. Please be reassured that if your group is already keeping up to date with latest Scottish Government and Ramblers Scotland advice and following our restart guidance, you’re already doing the role.

We suggest that walk programme coordinators - with support from group chairs or committees - take on these modest extra responsibilities, if they can. The responsibilities are outlined here.

Risk assessments 

Why do I need to complete a risk assessment? 

If you’re a walk leader, you already do this before walks, even though you might not currently write it down. You think about risks, hazards and alternative routes you might need to use in to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable walk.

We just need to make sure we put this on paper from now on. It’s standard practice for the types of activities we do at the Ramblers, and is a requirement to meet government guidelines. It’s also part of our duty of care to you and everyone taking part in Ramblers activities.

We know that it is impossible to plan for every scenario! 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. The important thing is to consider the risks, any actions you will take to reduce them – and to fill in the risk assessment template to the best of your ability.

How do I complete a risk assessment?

We’ve put together a short risk assessment checklist to use as part of your normal walk planning and recce - Risk Assessment – Word / Risk Assessment – PDF

Tick the boxes that are relevant to your walk, and add any extra hazards or actions as needed. You don’t need to tick every box!

You must fill in the checklist for every walk you lead, and keep a copy for 12 months (either as a paper or electronic copy). This can be kept by you, or another volunteer in your group.

Ramblers Walking for Health schemes must fill in a new risk assessment to record COVID-specific details, in addition to your usual process.

Walk registers & NHS contact tracing

Should we keep contact details for NHS contact tracing?

Yes. You must keep a record of everyone on the walk, in case this is needed for contact tracing.

For Ramblers Groups – the best way to do this is to take a register using the Ramblers app. Remember – your walk needs to be added to the Group Walks and Events Manager (GWEM) to show on the app. If you choose to use a paper register, use our template.

Remember to explain to walkers that their details may be shared for this purpose, keep records securely, and delete or destroy them after 21 days.

If you are asked to provide walk contacts for NHS contact tracing, please let us know: volunteersupport@ramblers.zendesk.com (Ramblers groups) or walkingforhealth@ramblers.org.uk (Walking for Health).

How do I take a register?

See our guide on How to take a register with the Ramblers app or print off a copy of our paper register template

Remember to maintain physical distancing while taking the register. 

If you’re scanning membership cards – hold the phone at arm’s length, and ask the other person to hold out their membership card for you to scan. 

If selecting from a list or adding details manually – fill in the details yourself, and don’t pass your phone to others. More than one person can take the register on the app. We recommend asking other people with the app on their phone to help – splitting it between you will be much quicker.

If you’re taking a paper register, fill in the details yourself – don’t pass the pen and paper to others.

What if someone develops symptoms after the walk?

If someone on the walk later develops symptoms, they should apply to get a COVID-19 test and if requested, they should let NHS contact tracers know that they were on the walk. 

Walk leaders should not share walker contact details unless requested by NHS contact tracers.

If you are asked to provide walk contacts for NHS contact tracing, please let us know: volunteersupport@ramblers.zendesk.com (Ramblers groups) or walkingforhealth@ramblers.org.uk (Walking for Health).

Leading walks safely

Can we car-share or take public transport to the start of walks?

Please follow the latest government guidelines on travel and transport where you live: England / Wales / Scotland

Staying local will often be a good option, and we recommend planning circular routes which can be easily accessed on foot. 

If you do intend to use public (or other shared) transport – always plan your journey carefully, use quieter stations and stops, and keep changes to a minimum. Try to also consider the impact on car parks – existing parking problems are likely to be exacerbated due to current restrictions.

How should we manage a large group safely?

Walk Leaders should draw on their experience and pre-COVID good practice to manage a maximum group size of 30.

If you are expecting a large group, you must take steps to maintain physical distancing and ensure group safety. Take extra care at start and end points, and any pinch points such as gates and stiles. It may be helpful to split the group into smaller ‘pockets’, to make distancing easier. We strongly recommend appointing a backmarker (and middle-marker) for large groups.

Depending on the circumstances, you could also:

  • Use a pre-booking system - You could ask walkers to contact the walk leader in advance, or set up an event booking page (on Meetup, Facebook or a similar site) to manage this. Download our Guidance on Booking Systems to help choose the right option for your group. Remember to include clear instructions in your walk description so people know how to book a place too. 
  • Plan to split the group into two, with staggered start times - See the FAQ below for more information about organising staggered walks.

Can we organise a staggered walk, with smaller groups setting off at different times? 

If you plan to split the group with staggered start times, you must make sure that enough walk leaders are available to lead the walk safely. You should plan (and ideally recce) the route together in advance. 

Stagger start times appropriately to ensure physical distancing, and pay particular attention to the start & end points, and anywhere you plan to stop. Plan your rest stops in advance – it may be helpful to stay in contact with the other walk leaders to avoid the groups catching up or meeting where there isn’t enough space. We strongly recommend leaving a time gap between groups of at least 30 minutes. 

What if more than 30 people attend a walk?

If more than 30 people attend the walk, and you are unable to split the group – you should explain the current restrictions, and why any additional walkers will not be able to participate. Remember to invite walkers on another walk with your group!

Are children allowed to attend Ramblers group walks?

Yes – children are welcome on walks, but they must be accompanied by a responsible adult (for example a parent, grandparent or guardian). Remember that some walking routes may be more challenging for children – if in doubt, contact the walk leader for advice.

In terms of COVID-19, the virus can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces. Therefore, please pay special attention to children’s hand hygiene. Children still count towards the overall number of people on each walk.

How can we support people who are anxious about returning to walking in larger groups?

We understand that many people may be anxious about joining group walks during these uncertain times. Think about:

  • encouraging walkers to get in touch with Walk Leaders before the walk – to provide reassurance and talk through the steps they are taking to ensure the walk is COVID-safe.
  • updating your group or scheme webpage, to reassure people about what to expect on a walk.
  • sharing the Guidance for Walkers  

It is a personal decision whether to attend or not. There is no obligation or pressure either for walks to start, or for walkers to attend.  

Path maintenance and other activities

Path maintenance 

We are planning to restart path maintenance – what do we need to do differently? 

If you choose to restart path maintenance activities, there are 6 things you must do:

  • Make sure that team members have their volunteer role recorded on our system. 
  • Get permission from the local authority (for public rights of way in England & Wales) or landowner (for all other paths, including those in Scotland).
  • Follow the guidelines on physical distancing, and limit numbers where necessary
  • Keep a record of everyone, to support NHS contact tracing.
  • Complete a risk assessment for each task. Download the Risk Assessment - Docx / Risk Assessment - PDF.
  • Get your work signed off by the local authority or landowner.

Please download Ramblers Restart: path maintenance for more information.

Do we have to limit group size for path maintenance?

We’ve not placed a limit on group size, in line with government guidance on working outdoors – however you must assess the work site and limit numbers appropriately, so that there is room for everyone to work safely. Check with your team beforehand so that you know who will be available on the day, and can manage the group size.

What path maintenance activities can we do?

Path maintenance team leaders must think carefully about the tasks which can be carried out safely, and be flexible about new ways of working. The restrictions on physical distancing may mean some tasks (such as gate installation or bridge construction) are not feasible.

All activities should be included on your risk assessment (Risk Assessment - Docx / Risk Assessment - PDF), along with the actions you are taking to maintain physical distancing and keep everyone safe.

Tasks where team members can spread out along the path (such as vegetation clearance) may be easier to manage than work on gates or stiles – check with your local authority about the sort of work available for you to do.

If you have questions about specific activities, please get in touch by email.

Social events, meetings & training

Can we organise group social events, meetings & training?

When organising social events and meetings, you must follow the latest government guidelines, depending on whether you live in England, Scotland or Wales.

Meeting virtually might be the best option for your group. During the past months, Ramblers groups and areas have been connecting online – using tools such as Zoom, Whatsapp and Skype to carry out Ramblers business and stay in touch socially. Take a look at our guide on how to organise meetings online. 

If you do plan to meet in person, you must:

  • Understand the risks, and take any steps you need to stay safe.
  • Limit the group size in line with the latest government guidelines. Remember that group size restrictions may be different for indoor and outdoor gatherings.
  • Follow government guidelines on physical distancing, travel and transport.
  • Avoid sharing food, drink or equipment.

We strongly recommend choosing an outdoor location wherever possible.