Social walks: Guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic for leaders and participants

Updated 28Mar2021 - up to 30 on walks

For the duration of Covid-19 restrictions, we may be able to arrange occasional walks, limited to (currently) 30 participants including the leader, and implementing social distancing, but we are unlikely to be able to offer anything approaching a full programme. Before offering to lead a walk, or applying to book a place on one, you should read and be willing to accept current government requirements (see here), guidelines issued by the LDWA National Executive Committee (see here) and this page. Bear in mind that you will be spending several hours with people who might be infectious without being aware of it, and satisfy yourself that you are willing to accept that risk.

Controlling the number of participants

Leaders: we must not exceed whatever limit is currently set by regulations: six (including the leader), or 30 if you are willing to complete a risk assessment and delivery plan. If you are willing to lead a walk contact the Walks Co-ordinator to agree a date and provide him with details. To minimise the unpleasantness of having to turn away anybody in excess of the permitted number, the starting point may not be published, but you should give sufficient detail to allow potential walkers to judge whether they wish to come (e.g. "a walk of c20 miles in the area between Wendover and Great Missenden with c3000 feet of ascent, much of the route being in woodland"). You should be willing for your contact information (email address or telephone number) to be published in an email to members and in the LDWA walks database.

Participants: you should contact the leader only if you are confident that you wish to book a place on the walk. If you subsequently find that you are unable to attend, you should notify the leader, giving as much notice as possible, to give an opportunity to fill vacancies. If you are informed that the maximum number of participants has already been reached you may, if you wish, ask the leader to pass your name and email address to the Walks Co-ordinator so that you may be given advance notice of a subsequent walk.

Leaders: you should accept the first five or 29 bookings received (subject to any cancellations and filling of vacancies) and inform participants of the start point and any other necessary details not previously published. An attendance list (and risk assessment, if applicable) should be emailed to the Walks Co-ordinator in the usual way, together with details of anybody who had to be turned down and requested priority on a later walk.

General notes

It is a requirement that to be covered by LDWA insurance a walk should appear on the walks database on the LDWA website. However, the first notice of a forthcoming walk will be by email to primary members of the group, so that they can have priority in booking a place on the walk. Details will then be added to the database at a later stage (but before the date of the walk).

Primary group members who have been turned down for an already filled walk can, if they wish, be given priority on the next available walk for which details have not yet been emailed, by being informed of the new walk a few days before an email is sent to all members.

The above protocol aims to be as fair as possible to primary members of the group, but may be revised in the light of experience. We appreciate that members who do not receive our bulk emails will be disadvantaged but, unfortunately, there is no obvious way around that in current circumstances.

Social distancing

Whilst social distancing remains a requirement, group walks will be a much less social experience than in normal circumstances. We would continue to request that you keep spacing to at least two metres; the government has only reduced this requirement in circumstances where two metres is not possible. It is, after all, likely that you will be breathing at the same person's back for, possibly, hours at a time. We do not expect leaders to police distancing: it is up to each individual participant to comply.

Be aware of what is happening in front of you, and be ready to stop when the person in front does so. It is always good practice, if the route ahead is not obvious, to check that the person behind you is in view, but this is particularly important with social distancing, as it may be less easy than normal for the leader to keep track of everybody.

Bear in mind that queuing will be necessary at gates and stiles and that gestures that are normally courteous, such as holding the gate open for the person behind you, may not be compatible with social distancing. The leader should bear such matters in mind when devising the route and may find it desirable to keep gates and stiles to a minimum, as they will slow progress to a greater extent than normal.

Leaders: as stated in the NEC guidelines, you should also design your route to avoid narrow paths as far as possible, particularly if it is not possible to step off the path to allow others to pass. Back-tracking to permit passing will not be easy with a socially distanced group, and it is unfair to expect the person coming the other way to retreat. Avoidance of narrow paths will, if anything, become even more necessary if social distancing remains a requirement when the number that can participate in a group walk increases. Imagine how you would feel if, when walking on your own, you encountered a large group coming the other way on a narrow path.

Risks of infection

The guidelines published by the LDWA National Executive Committee recommend carrying hand sanitiser and using it after touching surfaces that could potentially be infected, such as gates and stiles. Touching path furniture with hands can often be avoided by using, e.g., a piece of stick, or a foot. Use of hand sanitiser is a matter for individual participants to decide for themselves, but bear in mind that you could be at particular risk if eating after touching an infected surface.

You should bear in mind that circumstances may arise where humane considerations have to take precedence over Covid-19 precautions. Given the potential small size of the party, if a member of the group should suffer an accident, or be unable to continue with the walk for any reason, any participant should be prepared to give such help as required, though maintaining social distancing if at all possible.