There is more to leading a walk than just selecting a route and leading the way. You are responsible for the safety of the group and for ensuring that the members have an enjoyable day’s walking.
Below are some things to consider when leading, but please don’t let them put you off! Leading is fun, and walkers are always very supportive of new leaders. We are immensely grateful to all our leaders for the considerable extra time and effort they put in.
Recce the walk carefully, several times if necessary, until you are confident that it can be completed in the time available, allowing for coffee, lunch and comfort stops.
Be prepared to alter the route or abandon the walk in the event of bad weather, accident, injury or tired walkers. You should be aware of alternative routes and try to have a Plan B, in case the walk needs to be shortened for any reason. However, this may not always be possible, especially in the remoter parts of the moor.
If you are planning to walk on Dartmoor and will be within any of the military ranges, don’t forget to check the MoD firing programme, which you can find here.
Always walk at the front of the group, unless the walk is a very well-known one. It is tiresome for walkers if they have to stop at every junction and wait for directions from the leader.
Take a head count at the start and check numbers throughout the walk. Keep a close eye on the group and make sure that no-one is struggling. If there are 10 or more walkers and whenever visibility is poor, it is wise to appoint a back marker to ensure that slower walkers don’t fall too far behind and to alert the leader if there are any problems. The back marker should also be responsible for closing gates.
Always carry a mobile phone (with fully charged battery), and know how to summon help in an emergency.
If there is no mobile phone signal, you can still contact the emergency services by calling or texting 112. Watch this short video for essential information:
~ To summon the nearest Dartmoor Rescue Team, call 999 or 112 and ask for POLICE.
~ For the Air Ambulance, dial 999 or 112 and ask for AMBULANCE.
~ Have your precise location and grid reference ready.
In the event of any accident requiring medical treatment, you should inform the Secretary as soon as possible after the end of the walk. In addition, the Secretary should be notified of any alleged trespass, damage or injury involving a third party.
Don’t forget, the most important question for many walkers is: “Where are we going for tea?” A great day’s walking has occasionally been spoiled because we arrived at the teashop just as the “Closed” sign had gone up! When you have decided on a teashop, it is a good idea to call to check their closing time, and to let them know roughly how many people to expect and at what time. Some teashop owners will stay open late if they know we are coming. Some suggested teashops and their telephone numbers are to be found here.
What to do in a thunderstorm:
If thunderstorms are forecast, you should avoid walking in high or exposed areas, such as on the moors or the coastal path. Be prepared to change your route.
If you are out walking and it looks as though a thunderstorm is approaching, get down off high ground as quickly as possible and into a valley or dip in the ground. If you are unlucky enough to be caught out in a thunderstorm, make sure everyone in the group knows what to do to avoid a lightning strike. The basic advice is as follows:
~ spread out; do not huddle together
~ put poles down on the ground, well away from you
~ take off backpacks and put them on the ground well away from you – especially important if they have poles attached or if they are metal framed
~ sit, crouch or squat with heads tucked in. Make yourselves as small as possible and minimise contact with the ground.
~ keep still, keep calm and wait for the storm to pass.