The East Yorkshire and Derwent Area of the Ramblers Association (RA), arranges approximately 700 walks a year and to maintain this programme requires approximately 200 Leaders. Acknowledging some members are concerned about their level of responsibility whilst leading a walk, we are endeavouring to ensure responsibilities of Leaders are balanced with those of individual walkers on led walks. Importantly, although no formal training is required, experienced Leaders offer to share navigation awareness and skills.
This document explains how walks are conducted in our area, responsibilities expected of Walk Leaders, back marker and all walkers in a group. Nothing in this document alters legal responsibilities nor seeks to clarify any aspect of common law perceived to apply to walks. These notes are only applicable to walks graded easy to moderate.
"Good Practice" should be followed to ensure walks are organised and completed in a safe, responsible way. We essentially use "Good Practice" as meaning common sense that has developed over time and formed part of the Group's established way of operating.
All walks organised by Areas and Groups automatically receive civil liability insurance protection through the RA's national policy. This is designed to indemnify leaders and groups against claims for damage, injury or, death occurring during or, in consequence of a led walk.
DEFINITION - To be considered an official Ramblers walk and therefore protected by the civil liability insurance policy, all walks including coach rambles must be:
- Brought to the attention of the Area Programme Co-ordinator.
- Publicised in advance in at least one of the following: - Walks Finder, Area Programme, other printed programme or, the Group/Area website
- Have an authorised nominated leader; where appropriate a back marker; both being members; whom ideally, together or separately have reconnoitred the proposed walk.
You are personally responsible for ensuring you are fit and able and adequately kitted out to participate in a walk. Children under 15 years old can only participate if accompanied by an adult who will be personally responsible for the child. Conduct throughout a walk should be focussed on group safety.
- If you are unsure about your fitness level then try a short and easy walk first or consult your doctor.
- Ensure you are wearing suitable footwear and clothing for the walk.
- It is always advisable to carry wet weather clothing even if the weather forecast looks favourable.
- Protection creams and hats should also be used during periods of sunshine
- Always bring some food and adequate drink even if the walk includes a pub or cafe break.
- Read and comply with all advice and guidelines issued by the organisers.
- Follow all instructions given by your Walk Leader. It is your responsibility to behave sensibly and minimise the potential for accidents
- Walk behind the leader and in front of the back marker unless a Leader directs otherwise - but always remain within close proximity and vision.
- If you need to drop out for a comfort break make sure you tell the back marker.Going ahead of a Leader may be deemed as having left a walk and being uninsured.
- When walking on roads keep yourself safe from traffic and make others aware of any traffic dangers that you can see - walk on the same side of the road as the leader.
- It is a joint responsibility to leave field gates as they are found - follow the Countryside Code
- If you find the walk pace too quick promptly alert the leader or back marker so the pace can be adjusted.
- Carry some form of identification, including contact details of next of kin and if appropriate details of any relevant medical conditions in case of an emergency. If you have a special medical requirement or medication that might need to be administered during a walk, it is your responsibility to make someone aware who is willing and able to assist you.
- For emergency use walkers should carry a whistle and a small first-aid kit in case of minor injury.
- Dogs are NOT permitted on every walk - please check the programme. Dogs should be kept on a lead at all times and a short lead is compulsory when livestock are encountered or if walking on roads.
- It is courtesy to thank the Walk Leader at the end of the walk if you have enjoyed it
- To observe that participants are adequately equipped and attired for a walk - Leaders may refuse to accept those whom, in their opinion are inadequately equipped or appear unfit for the intended walk.
- Lead the walk, appoint a back marker if considered necessary e.g. based on numbers, terrain, weather conditions etc
- With the back marker, if one is appointed, to keep the walking group together.
- Be sufficiently equipped for an emergency e.g. first aid kit, whistle and a mobile phone to contact the emergency services.
- To oversee but share responsibility for dealing with an incident, accident or emergency
- In the event of an incident as defined by insurance guidelines, to complete an Incident Report Form to be forwarded to the Group Secretary for onward transmission to RA Central Office.
Planning the Walk
- Be familiar with the route by walking it beforehand, ideally with the back marker.
- Stay off roads as much as possible
- Before you set off check weather forecasts and in extreme circumstances consider cancelling the walk if you consider it is necessary for reasons of safety. Click Walks Cancellations for further information and Area Policy on this topic.
On the Walk
- Be early and welcoming – identify guests and new members - do a head count of those walking
- Tell everyone the distance, terrain and any sections where particular care is required.
- Advise that should anyone wish to leave the walk either by walking ahead or finishing early, they must inform the leader and that thereafter they will be entirely responsible for themselves.
- The party may become spread out, so try to avoid large gaps occurring by slowing down the pace and making frequent stops to allow those at the rear to catch up. Do not move on just as the back-marker appears since their need for a short rest will be greater than those at the front.
- Close up the party for complicated turnings, poor visibility or in woodland.
- When road walking or difficult roads to cross give instructions on a code of conduct. In general, walk in single file and on the right side of the road to face the oncoming traffic, crossing over to the left when you are about to approach the inside of a right bend.
- Consider wearing High Visibility clothing when leading the party along a road without a proper footpath
- When crossing open fields direct walkers to be no more than two abreast and in single file when crossing fields that are ploughed or in crop.
- Exercise care when encountering cattle (especially bulls, bullocks and cows with calves). Walk around them where possible to create a significant and safe buffer. Consider escape routes for those members who may feel apprehensive and need to be re-assured.
- After the walk, check everyone is accounted for and thank them for attending
INCIDENTS and EMERGENCIES
Very rarely does an incident occur – but in such situations It is best to use all resources and experience within a group, working together to resolve the problem.
- Nevertheless, the Walk Leader has specific responsibility for ultimately deciding on the most appropriate course of action, including resolving differences of opinion on how best to deal with an incident.
- In the event of an injury or, a medical problem, the Walk Leader in consultation with group members should decide who is best able to cope with the incident and others assist as best as they feel capable.
- If emergency assistance is required, call the services 999 or 112 [mobiles] if possible. Try your 'phone even if it shows no signal as another service provider may pick up a call. Be prepared to give as much information as possible to the operator; e.g. precise location, nature of incident and help required.
- A Walk Leader may use group members to seek help by going to a nearby village or premises. If help cannot be summoned in any other way, six blasts of a whistle at one-minute intervals is a recognised emergency signal.
- Members of a party should not become lost if following walking protocols. However if this occurs a leader shall take appropriate steps to recover the situation. Use of a whistle to indicate positions can be very effective. Avoid searchers also becoming lost by agreeing search methods, communications and turn back points to rejoin the main group.