Leading a Walk?

Home 9 Leading a Walk?
How do I meet my duty of care to my walk group?

You should provide a walk description for the Newsletter containing enough detail for a walker to decide whether they should participate. You should also be able to direct the way around the walk route. And, in the unlikely event that they are required, you should have a plan for how you would contact the emergency services.

Remember that our club walkers are independent and self-sufficient adults. Given adequate information about the walk, they are expected to have the competence and self-reliance to safely undertake it. 

Any children included on a walk are always under the direct supervision of their responsible adult walker.

What details should I include in my walk description for the Newsletter?

The walk description should contain enough detail for walkers to make an informed decision as to whether they are capable of the walk. So, include details like the walk grade, distance, overall climb, and estimated walking time. Also add any hazards specific to that walk eg cliff edges, uneven footing, or water crossings, plus any particular capabilities required of the walker. Route profiles may also be helpful if there is a significant amount of climb over the day. 

Depending on expected walk conditions, you should mention any special items that may be helpful eg poles, gaiters. If a car shuffle is required, this should also be included in the description. Sensitivities around COVID are likely to persist for some time, and members may choose not to join walks involving car shuffles.

To help you, a Walk Description Form and examples of walk descriptions are available from the website under “Forms”. If you are not sure what to write, more experienced club members will help you to put your walk description together.

When do I need to send the description to the Newsletter editor?

The deadline for submission to the Newsletter will be the 15th of the month prior to the walk. The description should be sent to Gbcnewsletter1@gmail.com. It will be published in the Newsletter for the month of your walk.

How much paperwork is involved in leading a walk?

We try to keep the paperwork to a minimum! You just need to provide a Walk Description for the club Newsletter by the 15th of the month before your walk. You also need to list your walk participants on an Activity Attendance Form. There is a space on the Activity Attendance form for walkers’ mobile numbers, as having these can be helpful in case of last-minute glitches on the day. Your walkers should have already provided their numbers to you when they asked to join your walk. 

The Walk Description Form and Activity Attendance Form are available from the website under “Other Stuff”. 

There is also space on the Activity Attendance Form to record any minor injuries occurring during the walk. In the rare and unfortunate event of an injury to a walker that requires medical attention, you will also need to fill out a Special Incident Report (please contact the Club Secretary for a copy of this form as soon as practicable on your return). This will assist with any subsequent insurance claim.

Why do we need an Activity Attendance Form, and what do I do with it after the walk?

The Activity Attendance Form assists the committee to keep track of walk group numbers and popular walk routes, is a record of minor incidents to help future risk management and provides independent confirmation that a walker was present on the day in the event of an incident.

The Activity Attendance Form is also where your Visitors sign off on Acknowledgement of Risk. This is important, as it indicates that the Visitor has read and understood the Awareness of Risk section on their personal Visitor Form, as well as having considered the risks before choosing to sign.

After the walk, a copy of the Activity Attendance Form should be forwarded to the Activity Coordinator by hand, via gbushinfo@gmail.com, or mailed to the club’s PO Box. All forms are kept by the Activity Coordinator for 12mths; those involving Special Incident Reports are retained for 4yrs.

How many walkers should I have in my group?

The number of walkers in your group will be your decision. A minimum of four walkers is enough to run an activity from a safety perspective, and even the most experienced leaders prefer not to take more than 20 people in a group.

Must I take everyone who asks to come on the walk?

Not at all. You may decide to take a smaller group, especially for your first walk. For your first walk you may also choose to limit the group to walkers you know well. And all leaders have the right to refuse walkers if they have doubts about the walker’s capability, or their willingness to follow the leader’s instructions.

On the day of the walk, where do my responsibilities begin and end?

Your responsibility begins when the group steps out at the start of the walk and ends when they complete the walk. The walk finish may be in a different location to the walk start. 

Car shuffles that are a necessary part of the walk route should also be arranged by the walk leader. Note that these come under the club’s fuel reimbursement guidelines.

Must I organise car-pooling to the walk start?

Organising car-pooling to the walk start is not the responsibility of the walk leader.

All walk participants are responsible for getting themselves to the walk start and back home again at the end of the activity. Walkers may arrange between themselves to car share to and from the walk start if they wish. If they choose to do so, any compensation arrangement is between them and their driver.

What other general preparation will I need to do before walk day?

Become familiar with your planned walk route “on the ground” by scouting it as well as noting where you have mobile coverage. Also find out about the impact – if any – of seasonal factors eg flooding, planned burns (plannedburns.ffm.vic.gov.au). 

For non-urban walks, become familiar with alternate routes to the start and finish of the walk, as well as other access points along the walk route. This extra knowledge can be helpful in case of an emergency. 

You will also need to let your walk participants know where the walk starts and the meeting time.  You may add this information to the walk description in the Newsletter or send it separately to your walkers closer to the time of the walk. 

A comprehensive Day Walk Leader’s Checklist may be found on the website under “Other Stuff”. The checklist is in the form of a timeline, and many leaders find it helpful to their walk preparation as well as on the day of the walk.

Is there anything else I should think about before my walk, in case of emergency?

There are a couple of very useful steps you can take before your walk that will help a lot in an emergency. When you scout your walk, take note of where you have (and don’t have) mobile coverage on your own device. Also list places where there is access to the walk route that could be used by emergency services, including details such as locked gates.

The club already has written plans of action for many regular club walks, and training materials are also available for new leaders. The essentials are providing First Aid, contacting emergency services, and keeping an eye on the welfare of the rest of the walk group. 

We take great care over planning our club walks; emergencies are rare, and we take a team approach to managing them. Which means that it won’t be down to you alone, you do not have to do everything, and other walkers in your group are there to help you. As they will.

What emergency contact numbers do I need to collect from walkers?

There is no requirement on the part of the club for you to collect emergency contact details from walkers for each activity.

Each walker is responsible for carrying a completed Emergency Information_Walker form in an easily accessible place in their backpack. Each walker is also expected to have set up available Emergency SOS features, including emergency contacts (ICE) and essential medical information, on the lock screen of their smartphone.  

Should I organise afternoon tea after the walk?

The leader is under no obligation to arrange afternoon tea after their walk. However, facilitating a brief social gathering to wind up a day in the bush is valued by most members and is a positive contribution to the club culture.

The arrangement may be as simple as a BYO cuppa to be enjoyed in the shade of a tree at the walk finish, which is very popular with members. Or you may choose to arrange a booking for afternoon tea at a local café. Anything in between is also welcomed!

Do I need to wait until everyone else has left before driving off when the walk is over?

There is no absolute requirement for this on the part of the club. The great majority of day walks are in non-remote areas, most walkers carry mobile phones, and assistance could easily be summoned if there was an unexpected problem with a car. 

However, sometimes there is no mobile coverage at the walk start/finish. And, in that situation, leaving a walker behind with a dud vehicle does not quite gel with a club spirit of mutual support!

On that basis, we ask leaders to apply common sense and discretion regarding the timing of their own departure from the walk finish.

Must I write a walk report for the Newsletter?

There is no requirement to write a walk report for the Newsletter. Having said that, we strongly encourage you to do so. Most members enjoy reading these, whether they have participated in the walk or not. They help to make the club more attractive to potential members and are an important contribution to club culture.

A report may be presented as a photo-essay or a poem, as well as the more usual written section accompanied by photographs. You may also ask for a walk participant (or participants) to “volunteer” to provide it!