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This is an old revision of PlanningGuidedWalks from 2009-06-26 17:05:32.
Planning and leading a guided walk

Shelagh Lewis, of Madeley Living History and CBA West Midlands, has provided the following guidelines for planning and leading guided walks. She is an experienced guide herself, and is currently involved with the "Gorgeous Walks" programme in the Ironbridge Gorge Museums.

To charge or not to charge? stonehenge
This depends very much on the purpose and nature of the walk and by whom it is organised. I lead some guided walks as part of my job and these are usually free as they are designed to open the eyes of locals to the delights of their area and to encourage them to get out and about. However, if you are leading a walk in your own time and have done all the planning, advertising etc. in your own time you need to take this into account and most people are happy to pay a small charge of £2-£3 per head for a well-planned walk.

If you have been asked to lead a walk by a group (e.g. a local history society or a WI) ask for a set fee if you are doing this in your own time (as opposed to doing it as part of your job).

In advance:
• Make sure you have any necessary permissions to walk your chosen route.
• Make sure you have reconnoitred the route THOROUGHLY and RECENTLY. Footpaths can be diverted and routes are not always maintained.
• Make sure you are genned up on points of interest. Even if the walk is just covering a specialised theme (e.g. archaeology or flora & fauna) try to make sure you are aware of other important points of interest that you are likely to be asked about – if a memorable event took place 200 years ago at a point along your route people will expect you to mention it.
• Prepare a risk assessment.
• Insist on advance booking. Put a limit on numbers (depending on how many you think you can cope with) and make sure those booked provide contact details. Do not be afraid to cancel if insufficient numbers book – a day or so before should be adequate notice.
• Prepare a brief information sheet so people know what to expect. This should give:
o What aspects of the route you plan to cover (e.g. archaeology, natural history).
o Time of departure (to be stuck to).
o Clear directions for reaching the point of departure.
o Length of walk.
o Expected duration of walk.
o Level of walk (easy, moderate, challenging).
o Suitability (e.g. for children or those with walking difficulties) & whether dogs are allowed.
o Clothing advice (remember one person’s ‘sensible shoes’ is another person’s ‘city casuals’).
o What, if anything, they need to bring (water, sandwiches, notepads & pencils, binoculars etc.).
o Your contact information.
• Decide on the level of information you wish to communicate. The local history society will expect a higher level of information than will the WI or than people who have come on a generally advertised walk.
• If possible prepare a map of the route and a set of notes covering the points of interest you will be flagging up on the walk but do not distribute in advance.
• Depending on numbers booked and how confident you feel try to persuade a friend to come along to act as ‘whipper-in’ at the back and keep an eye open for possible problems.

On the day:
• Make sure you have all the equipment you need (e.g. a mobile phone [switched on], basic first aid equipment).
• Arrive in plenty of time so you are there to greet everyone.
• Before you start check that everyone has arrived but do not wait more than 5 minutes after the advertised time of departure.
• Check that everyone can hear you.
• Ask them to tell you if they have any problems during the course of the walk (e.g. cannot keep up or cannot hear).
• Give a brief rundown of how you will be running the walk (e.g. stopping at points of interest).
• Tell them if you will be handing out a set of notes at the end of the walk. Do not hand them out at the beginning or people will read these instead of listening to you or it will rain and they will all want second copies at the end!
• Set the pace (dawdlers can ruin the timetable) but check regularly that you are not ‘losing’ people. No guided walk should exceed the pace of the slowest participant but sometimes people do need to be encouraged to keep up.
• Do make sure that nobody strays from the permitted route and that all gates etc. are closed behind you.
• Warn them clearly if approaching a potential hazard and ask if anyone needs a hand (e.g. to clamber over a style).
• Try not to talk to them as a group ‘on the hoof’. Only the people nearest to you will be able to hear and you will end up having to repeat yourself – also people will get annoyed.
• When you reach a point of interest stop and wait for everyone to catch up before you make your points. When you finish make sure they set off as a group.
• Encourage questions. If someone asks a question you can’t answer simply say politely ‘I can’t tell you out of the top of my head but if you write down your email address or telephone number at the end of the walk with a note of your question I will be happy to look it up for you’ (and make sure you do).
• Encourage comments. These events can often be a useful two-way process and locals can be very helpful in fleshing out your information. If someone corrects you or adds to what you have said just say ‘thank you very much I didn’t know that – it’s so helpful to have people who can supply these local titbits’.
• Be careful that one or two keen people do not ‘attach themselves’ to you and monopolise all your attention. This is very common but tends to annoy the less pushy people in the group.
• You cannot be expected to be an expert in all aspects of the route but some people will assume you are – just be polite and respond with ‘I am afraid that isn’t really my field’. However do make sure that you haven’t tried to give the impression that you are the complete polymath!
• Do not despair if you get someone who is just trying to catch you out with awkward questions or to ‘get one over on you’ by trying to show their superior knowledge about something. This is a well-known and recognised type and the other people on the walk will recognise them and rally behind you. You just have to grin and bear it or, if feeling really evil, say something like ‘good heavens you are well-informed – perhaps you would like to lead the rest of the walk and give the group the benefit of your expertise’. This is nearly always guaranteed to floor them!

At the end of the walk: Thornborough
• Say a few words to round off the event. Thank them all for coming and say you do hope they have enjoyed it.
• Hand out any notes you have made for them to take away with them. People really do appreciate this. They might want to refresh their memories about points you made during the walk or do the walk again, perhaps with friends.

And finally…
• These walks should be fun for you as well as for the people you are guiding so try to relax.
• Every time you run one of these walks you will learn something new that you can add to your repertoire for future use.
• BE PREPARED & make sure you have done your homework – the most successful and effortless-seeming walks work because they have been well-prepared in advance. It is a fallacy that such things can ‘just happen’!


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