South Bank Ramblers
Walk Leaders’ Checklist July 2018
SOUTH BANK RAMBLERS HAS MANAGED TO ESTABLISH A VERY POPULAR WALKS PROGRAMME AND WE ARE SO GRATEFUL TO THE GROWING LIST OF PEOPLE WILLING TO LEAD WALKS.WE ARE ALWAYS HAPPY TO SUPPORT PEOPLE THINKING OF LEADING AND WE HOPE THAT THIS INFORMATION IS HELPFUL TO BOTH NEW AND ESTABLISHED LEADERS.IF IN DOUBT ABOUT ANYTHING PLEASE GET IN TOUCH WITH THE WALKS COORDINATOR.
Getting a walk into the programme
South Bank normally publishes three programmes a year, each covering 4 months. Booking for walks to be offered opens about 3 months before the start of each programme, and the booking period is usually about 5 weeks. You will be notified by email of the copy date, and will be able to choose a date and enter details of your walk using our ‘Walksface’ booking calendar. When you join the Leaders’ list, the Web Manager will give you a username and password allowing you to login to Walksface. Detailed guidance on how to describe your walk is available online, and the Walks Co-ordinator or the Web Manager will be happy to offer help. You can book a date for your walk and then input full details later, as long as everything is complete before the copy date.
Before offering the walk
Choose a walk that interests you, and that you can make interesting to the group – it can be a walk taken from a book or a website, or a walk of your own devising, and can be urban or rural.
All our walks must be accessible by public transport, usually by tube or rail. Identify both start and return stations and check train times. Detailed guidance on checking and submitting transport information is given online within Walksface. Think about the walk in relation to the season – day length, likely weather etc. – can you get the group safely back to the station before dark, even if they walk more slowly than you had hoped?
Think about large groups when designing the walk. Most South Bank walks attract around 20-25 people, but groups sizes are increasing and turnouts of 50+ can happen, especially at popular times such as Bank Holidays and the Christmas period. The simpler the walk, the easier it will be to manage a large group. Suggestions for simplifying a walk are included in the guidance note Well Attended Walks.
Recce the walk – walk the full route, noting any problems or hazards, and considering large group issues as discussed in Well Attended Walks. Identify loo stops & lunch venues. If choosing a café or pub, make sure that you find a picnic spot nearby for those who have brought their own food. Assess the level of difficulty, trying to put yourself in the position of a relatively inexperienced walker, and note key features of the terrain, such as hills, stiles, mud, etc. Measure the length of the walk – use either a map measurer or a device such as a GPS tracker. Note the times at which you arrive at key points. Decide the overall grade of the walk by thinking about the pace of the walk, the distance and the difficulty of the terrain.
As a general rule, there are not sufficient funds to reimburse recce costs, but we may be able to help in special cases. It is for leaders to judge in each case whether it would be reasonable to reclaim these expenses taking into account the actual costs involved and their personal circumstances. Contact the Walks Co-ordinator to apply.
Shortly before the date of the walk
About 10 days or a week before the walk you should:
Unless your first recce is quite recent, we advise that you walk the route again to make sure you can lead confidently without losing your way, and to check for changes, such as blocked or diverted paths. If you have chosen a particular pub or café as a lunch stop, this is a good time to speak to them, let them know you will be coming with a group, and make a provisional table booking if needed. Explain that you will confirm numbers on the day. Get a copy of the menu if you can.
At the start of the walk
Either catch the train specified in the programme, or make sure that you arrive early at the station designated as a meeting point.
Have your mobile phone with you, switched on and fully charged. Be prepared to take calls about the walk, and check for text messages. Bring Ramblers membership forms and affiliation forms for distribution.
Identify a competent back marker (there are usually other walks leaders on the walk who may be willing to help.) Ensure they have a copy of the route, and that their identity is clear to all on the walk. Also make sure the back marker has a mobile and has your phone number. If the group is very large, you should also ask someone to volunteer as ‘middle marker’. The middle marker can carry out tasks like waiting at turns to indicate the change of direction when the group has become strung out.
Identify a place that you can talk to the whole group (without blocking entrances or pavements). This may not be at the station.
A script for use at the beginning of the walk in available in Walk Leaders Information – Introduction points for leaders, on the South Bank Website.
When the group is assembled, introduce yourself, explain that you are leading the walk for South Bank Ramblers, welcome the walkers and outline the walk, including details of loo stops and lunch arrangements.
Check whether there is anyone who has not yet joined Ramblers. Explain that non-members are welcome to try out one or two walks, but will then be expected to join.
Count the participants and remind them to let you or the backmarker (or middle marker) know if they have a problem or need to leave the walk. Get the back marker to do a second count.
If lunch is at a pub or café, find out how many are planning to have lunch, and phone the pub or café to confirm numbers, do any necessary pre-ordering, etc.
During the walk
Frequently check that you can see your backmarker and have communication with them. Allow for regrouping and catching up as required.
Set a pace that is suited to the fitness and capabilities of the party and matches the advertised grade.
Be friendly and make a point of chatting to newcomers – but be careful not to get distracted from checking the route.
Allow time for stops at points of interest.
Manage the party over stiles, through gates and forests, and through difficult conditions. Ensure that roads are crossed safely. Wait as necessary while the group is negotiating obstacles.
Allow sufficient time at short stops for slower walkers to catch up and rest.
Check numbers after lunch and at all major stops
At lunchtime, give non-members a chance to join or affiliate as appropriate.
At the end of the walk
It’s not usually possible to guarantee a finish time. If all or most of the group are returning by the the same train, however, try to time the walk so as to arrive at the station about 15 minutes before a train, so as to avoid a last minute rush in which some people could be left behind. Even if you are likely to miss a train, do not encourage the group to run or walk at a potentially dangerous speed.
The walk, and your formal responsibility for the walkers, normally ends at the train or underground station. Let the group know when the walk has ended. Make sure everyone knows how to get home and thank them for coming. And thank the back marker!
Dealing with incidents and emergencies
Whilst walking is one of the safest outdoor activities, occasionally incidents arise and this information is to help you and to ensure we are covered by Ramblers’ insurance.
Serious accidents or emergencies:
In case of serious accident or medical emergency, your most important duty is to get help from the emergency services. Dial 999 (or 112) from your mobile phone as quickly as possible, and follow their instructions. If there is no mobile signal, send (ideally) two people for help, first making sure that they can pinpoint the group’s location on a map. As soon as possible after the emergency has been resolved, remember to report it to Ramblers HQ Led Walks Officer on 020 7339 8519, and to the South Bank Group.
Do not feel obliged to go beyond your competence in attempting first aid. Your priority is to get help as soon as possible, and follow the instructions of the emergency services.
South Bank Ramblers will pay for first aid training for any leader who wants to become a first aider. We also provide basic first aid kits. Contact the Walks co-ordinator or the Chair for more information.
Judging what constitutes an ‘incident’ can be difficult but any incident that has an impact should be reported. If in doubt, contact the Chair or Walks Co-ordinator for advice.
Ramblers provide us with insurance cover for walks in the programme (and walk recces) but as a consequence they have a requirement that we complete a standard form where there are incidents and accidents. Follow the advice given in Dealing with Incidents and Emergencies, which you will find in the Walk Leaders Information section of the South Bank website. Make yourself familiar with this advice, and make sure that you carry a paper copy of the Incident Report form with you on every walk.
If you have any doubt as to how to proceed after an incident, please contact the South Bank Walks Co-ordinator or Chair for advice.
If the incident is major (eg. A serious accident requiring emergency medical help) report it to the Ramblers HQ at the earliest opportunity on 020 7339 8519, and report it by the quickest means to the South Bank Chair, or Walks Co-ordinator.
AC 15/02/15; 09/08/15; 16/08/15; 04/10/15; checked 26/06/16
Updated 05/10/16; 19/10/16;23/10/16; 05/07/18