So you want to lead a walk.

A guide for leaders

The Club hopes that the advice and information given here will assist new leaders of walks as well as being a useful reminder to the more experienced.


Most walks are within 1 hour’s drive of Cambridge; they can be further away, e.g. to the coast, in the summer.

How long?
This varies depending on which ‘day’ and A, B or C group you are leading , it is best to ask the programme secretary for advice.


Most groups meet at the starting place for the walk and you will need to give details to your Programme Secretary at least two weeks ahead, including a grid reference and, where possible, a postcode for satnavs or a ‘what three words’ location guide. These details will usually be posted on the Club’s website or circulated on paper slips. The Sunday ‘As’ historically, (i.e. pre-Covid), met at Harvey Road and are keen to provide a pick-up in Cambridge. Car drivers will need clear instructions on how to get to the start. Most walk leaders will provide a mobile phone number and anyone wanting to join the walk is asked to text in advancc that they intend to come. This is very helpful if last minute changes are required to the day’s walk – such as arise from extreme heat or cold, illness or road works!

Except when using public transport, there will need to be adequate parking at the start of the walk and you may need to ask permission if using village hall or church car parks etc. It is customary to make a small donation per person when using such facilities.

Some walks have a pub stop at lunch-time. Most pubs serving food will not allow us to eat our own food inside but may occasionally allow a packed lunch to be eaten outside, providing we all buy a drink. It is essential to check with the publican beforehand. On no account should Club members consume their own food on pub premises (including the garden) unless explicitly given permission by the landlord – and please never consume your own drinks. In order to avoid potential problems, it is important to let walkers know what the arrangements are for lunch before or at the start of the walk. It is useful to investigate if there any facilities we could use in bad weather e.g. bus shelters, church porches etc. Seats in recreation grounds can also be useful.

If you plan to eat at a pub please contact the publican in advance and check that they can accommodate the numbers you expect on your walk. It is advisable to get hold of a menu and arrange to phone through orders early on in the walk itself – either at the start or coffee stop. ‘Figures of eight’ walks are great as you may be able to start from a pub car park and leave the publican to collect lunch orders before you start walking.

The actual route can be taken from a book of walks (see following list), downloaded from the internet or planned using a map. The OS (Explorer) 1:25000 maps, which show all the rights of way, are ideal. These maps make it is easy to check that the proposed and actual distances walked are the same! Be aware that some paths on the map may not be visible on the ground. Try to include a variety of scenery and points of interest e.g. churches, country houses. Ideally arrange the lunch stop more than halfway through the walk to allow for afternoon fatigue! The OS app is great for planning walks as it allows you to check distances accurately.

A walk may be planned and walked out months in advance so try to walk it out again a few weeks beforehand to check for any problems. Nettles and crops can grow quickly in the summer and bridleways can be very wet in winter.

When checking out your walk look for suitable morning and afternoon drink stops – which can offer suitable undergrowth for loo stops!

Members may well telephone the day or so before to ask for details of parking etc. if these are not posted on the Club’s website or printed on the programme card.

Finally, experienced leaders are very willing to assist new members in planning their first walk. The programme secretaries can help with contacts.


What equipment is needed?

  • A map covering the whole walk, and any notes/books of walks.
  • A compass – if you know how to use it!
  • A torch and whistle are useful, as is a mobile phone if you have one.
  • GPS can be useful in tracking your route on a ‘recce’ and helping keep you on track. The OS app is very helpful for planning routes.

At the start of the walk

Gather people together, checking that everyone booked has arrived. Give brief details of the walk, the lunch stop, (including information on any possible pub stop and where people with packed lunches can consume them) and an estimated time of return. If eating at a pub please circulate the menu with a pen/clipboard so that people can write down their choices. This makes it much easier when phoning through advance orders – either at the start of the walk or mid-morning break. Figure of eight walks can start from a pub car park – and it may in these cases be possible to order food directly with the pub at the start of the walk, but this will have to be arranged in advance. In any case, give the pub an idea of the time you expect to arrive for lunch.

Do a head count, including your own, and if there are 12+ ask someone to be the ‘back marker’. It is advisable to ask someone who is reasonably fit! They may have to walk quickly if any problems arise. Ask walkers to keep a look out for those behind, particularly at turnings off the path, and let you know if anyone is delayed.

During the walk

YOU control the speed of the walk (in theory!). Try not to let the group get too strung out. If it does, stop to allow walkers at the back to catch up – and check that they are OK before setting off again.

Club members are requested to ensure that they carry details of a contact person with them, such as in a purse or rucksack pocket, in case of a medical emergency.

At coffee/tea stops

Give people some idea of how long the stop will be, 10-15 minutes usually. A 2 minute warning of departure is a good idea. Count heads before setting off – is anyone still in the bushes!!

At the lunch-stop (if using a Pub)

Make sure ALL the group know what, if anything, has been arranged with the publican and what time you want to leave – not everyone will use the pub. It is a nice gesture to thank the publican on behalf of the group. Please make sure that everyone is aware that no-one should consume their own food on pub premises unless the landlord has given permission; in no circumstances should Club members consume their own drinks on pub premises.

At road and rail crossings

Busy roads and level crossings require care. Please warn your group well in advance. On roads, single file walking is essential, and the road may need to be crossed more than once to help cope with ‘blind’ bends. Level crossings involve especial attention. If there are full or half road traffic barriers, please be aware that the barriers drop just 8 seconds after the warning lights start. Although the actual trains come through much later, there is still the risk that someone might be caught by the barrier if they are slow walking over the crossing! Please consider walking on the left hand side of the road whilst going over a half-barrier level crossing.

At places of interest

Allow a few minutes to look around churches etc, by all means point out interesting details but avoid a learned lecture!

Accident and Incident Reporting

It is the walk leader’s responsibility to record accidents and incidents. The Club maintains a register of accidents and incidents, which is held by the Club’s President. Any accident or incident must be reported to the Club’s President by the walk leader.

  • Accidents are those that require medical treatment at the time by the emergency services, local doctor, first aider or Club member or result in professional medical treatment at a future date. Accidents such as minor cuts, stings and bruises do not need to be reported.
  • Incidents are of a non-medical event such as escaping livestock, damage to a fence or stile, accidental trespass (which has been noticed), dispute with a publican or another member of the public involving Club members etc.

If in doubt about whether to report an accident or incident then consult the Club President.

At the end

Please make sure that everyone is still with the group – believe it or not, but occasionally we have lost someone en route!

It really will not be so bad – and the next one will be even easier!


From the Cambridge Group of the Ramblers Association

  • Walks in South Cambridgeshire (covers villages close to Cambridge)
  • Walks in East Cambridgeshire (covers Ely, Newmarket area)
  • Walks on the South Cambridgeshire Borders (covers Saffron Walden, Royston, Steeple Bumpstead, Sandy etc).
  • The Complete Fen Rivers Way (covers the entire route from Cambridge to Kings Lynn,with a number of circular walks along the way). This is particularly useful for linear walks accessed by the train.

A walk from one of these is ideal as a ‘Starter’.
Available from:  Cambridge Tourist Office and some from Saffron Walden Tourist Office. Mail order (please send a cheque for £5.00 per copy, payable to Cambridge Group, Ramblers Association to Lisa Woodburn, 140 Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge, CB1 7AJ).

Tourist Information Centres, Heffers, Waterstones etc. also have books of short walks available.

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