Walk Leadership training day - a personal view

Glasgow Group member Yvonne Flynn took part in a new Ramblers Scotland Walk Leadership training day. Here is how she found it…..

FINDING the venue was the first challenge. I thought I knew the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow well… but the Library? I’d never heard of it. After a few very wrong turnings and some stops to ask for directions I found it, tucked away behind the Kibble Palace. Phew.

And I’m so glad I did. The Walk Leadership course is a new initiative by Ramblers Scotland to develop the skills and confidence of walk leaders, whether they’re newbies like me or old hands. It’s been made possible by £50,000 funding from SportScotland.

This day-long introduction to walk leadership was a pilot - and places had been snapped up pronto by the 16 delegates gathered. They came from Ramblers clubs across Strathclyde, with yours truly the sole member flying the Glasgow flag. Interestingly, while I have yet to lead my first walk some of my fellow classmates had been leading A walks for years.

Our trainer for the day was Katy Robinson, a project officer from Ramblers Scotland who seemed to know a thing or two about leading people on walks. She was engaging, knowledgeable and had brought a lot of cakes.

After an overview of walk leading in Ramblers (average age 64, generally been leading 8 years, mostly leisurely or moderate walks) she got us to work in groups on what made a good walk and thinking about where on earth we were supposed to find ideas for new and interesting rambles. Themed walks caused a stir with one lady’s suggestion for a ‘murders in Glasgow’ walk getting my vote. Watch out in the next programme. We were then put through our paces on what we had to do before, during and after a walk. It was interesting that every group seemed to approach publicising and signing up for walks differently. We also record names and emergency contacts differently too and this caused some debate. We covered responsibilities and recces, best practice and backmarking. And then emergencies and insurance. By now we were dwelling on all the things that could go wrong instead of what almost always goes right. Yikes. Was I really cut out to be a walk leader?

If I had any doubts they were quickly dispelled. The afternoon session had us outside, each taking a turn at being leader. A range of scenarios unfolded with some excellent theatrical performances by my fellow classmates. A heart attack? Phone 999. A deer fence blocking the route? Turn back. Somebody arguing about the way to go? Sorry pal, this is my walk. A torrential downpour? Time for waterproofs folks. I was enjoying myself now. I could do this.

So what did I learn? That leading a walk for Ramblers is important and worthwhile if we are to keep clubs like Glasgow alive and well. That leading a walk needs thought and planning but with people on your side, it’s not such a mountain to climb. That leading a walk you’re comfortable with is fine, but there are lots of opportunities to develop as you build confidence. Next up for me will be learning First Aid and navigation skills. My walk leader’s journey has well and truly begun.

The next Walk Leaders’ training is in July. Why not give it a go?