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Getting started and walking safely

Getting started

So you are thinking of taking up countryside, hill and mountain walking? Walking in a group provides companionship and also the opportunity to be introduced to areas of countryside that you might not manage to see under your own steam. There are plenty of books offering guidance on walking, and group members will be pleased to give advice. Here are some pointers, but the main thing to say is that you will be made very welcome in the Manor Walking Club.


Walking is the most natural form of exercise. It is a load bearing exercise and is therefore beneficial to muscle and bone; it builds stamina and so is good for heart and lungs; it is also inexpensive and promotes good mental health. Any medical practitioner would agree that the benefits of walking far outweigh any negative effects of wear and tear. Retirement or flexible working give excellent opportunities to join in with this enjoyable activity. A midweek walking group is ideal for part time workers, home workers and shift workers.

If you have not been used to undertaking much exercise, then do see your GP for an MOT before starting.


If you look at our programme, you will see that the walks are graded A to D. For a D grade walk, think in terms of a fairly local walk, normally no more than 4 or 5 miles and generally flat - perhaps a Wirral Way walk. For a C grade walk, think in terms of Delamere Forest, the Sandstone Trail, and the Peckforton Hills for example. For a B grade walk, think in terms of the stiffer hauls over Moel Fammau and the Clwydian range. The A grade walks are usually in Snowdonia, on the Glyders, Carneddau and Snowdon itself for example though we also go to the Peak District. The A grade walks might involve some simple scrambling or boulder climbing, but nothing precipitous, and the walk description should make it clear.

The walks are typically between 6 and 13 miles long. For most walks, over a mixed terrain, the groups average about 2 miles per hour including all breaks. Therefore - for the longer walks - you need to get used to being out and about walking for four to six hours, of which all but about 45 minutes will be walking. The pace is 'steady', enabling conversation to take place. All walks on the programme have been previously reconnoitred by the leader to ensure they fit within the grading system and leaders will always flag up any significant scrambling and/or exposure. If you are in any doubt as to your capabilities for a walk remember to ALWAYS contact the leader or the Programme Secretary to discuss your concerns.


Of course for short D walks you will need no more than 'sensible' shoes or trainers and clothing appropriate for the weather.

For walks over exposed hills and moors, however, you will need to have footwear and clothes which are comfortable and which will protect you if the weather turns bad.

Safety and comfort are the imperatives for enjoyable walking, not style or labels.

The following items are normally regarded as essential for three season hill and mountain walking in the UK, i.e. spring, summer and autumn but excluding extreme winter conditions. (Winter conditions in the mountains require additional equipment, normally including ice-axe and crampons, plus the appropriate skills and experience. The Club never undertakes walks of this severity.)

The list below covers the needs for demanding and exposed mountain walks. For general countryside walking you can scale back on all this - have a word with a committee member or other Club member if you would like some advice.

  • Waterproof / windproof outer layer (including protection for the legs) (Hint for water-proof over-trousers - try to find a brand which unzips from the ankles sufficiently far to let you put them on over your boots. And as a further hint, if you have got a plastic carrier bag to hand on the walk then you can put your muddy boot into this before attempting to put your leg into the over-trouser. This facilitates putting the trouser on, and stops the inside of the leg from getting muddy. Having said that, in a howling gale you are still likely to fall over.)

  • Warm inner (base) & mid-layer(s)

  • Suitable footwear (see notes below) Choose good quality walking socks with padded soles.

  • Map, compass and watch (The group leader will have the relevant map, but you might find that an Ordnance Survey 1:25000 will enhance your enjoyment and understanding of the walk, and if you take a map you will need a compass in order to align it. (If necessary, look for a model which incorporates a magnifying glass in the base, to counter the effects of ageing on eyesight!). Electronic navigation devices can be useful as a back up and for interest but must never be used as the sole means of navigation.

  • Depending upon the nature of the walk, consider a torch / headtorch and whistle (useful for attracting attention in an emergency. The internationally recognised distress signal is 6 long blasts / flashes repeated at one minute intervals. The reply is 3 blasts / flashes.)

  • First aid kit – lightweight and simple (suitable contents could include, a crepe bandage, medium Melolin wound dressing, safety pins, safety razor blade, plasters, fabric dressing strip, alcohol free cleansing wipes, tweezers, Paracetamol, lipsalve, etc.)

  • Adequate food and drink – drinks bottle – flask of hot drink in cold weather.

  • Rucksack to carry it in (A 25/30 litre bag is suitable for a 'day' sack. Rucksack covers are also available, but a cheaper alternative is to put your bag contents into a heavy duty bin liner and then put that into your rucksack. Shoulder and waist straps are available on some models, but are only likely to be needed for larger bags where they can aid balance and load distribution. You should also include something to sit on during stops - something to prevent you from getting wet and, preferably, something comfortable. (Strips of the rolls of foam used under sleeping bags are a cheap option.)

Unless summer weather conditions are warm, dry and settled it is advisable to add:-

  • Hat and gloves (bear in mind that summit temperatures are usually much lower than the sea level temperatures)

  • Spare warm clothes (extra layers for very cold conditions or emergencies) (a spare, dry, pair of gloves is a real treat)

  • Again, depending upon the nature of the walk, consider a survival bag. (The group leader will have a bivvy shelter if it is thought necessary. Survival bags are like large, brightly coloured, heavy duty bin bags and are worth including if the walk is in a 'wilderness' area)

  • High energy emergency food - only intended for use in an emergency (Kendal Mint Cake is the traditional high energy emergency snack, but many people opt for chocolate!)

  • Re-sealable plastic bags to keep equipment dry.

Depending on the season and the nature of the walk, consider the following as well:

  • Gaiters (Can be a matter of preference, but desirable if the walk is through snow, mud or long wet vegetation)

  • Insect repellent

  • Sunglasses

  • Sunblock / sunhat (Increasingly relevant)

  • Other useful items include:-

  • Mobile phone (but note that in many remote areas, reception is unavailable)

  • Walking pole(s)

Equipment Notes:-

Jeans are far from ideal because they are heavy, cold and uncomfortable when wet. They should be avoided except for low level walks in fine weather.

Footwear – The choice of footwear depends on the seriousness of the route, but good quality, good fitting comfortable boots, are probably the most important part of your kit. Trainers do not support and protect the feet and ankles adequately; modern light-weight mountain walking boots do – don’t buy heavier boots than are required for your intended level of activity, take advice from a good specialist retailer and try on as many types as possible. Ask to have your feet measured and take your favourite walking socks with you to the shop. Alternatively ask the retailer to recommend suitable socks before trying the boots on.

Many boots are fitted with a Gore-Tex waterproof lining. These linings are very effective but they do break down, typically after two or three years.

Replace your boots if the tread is worn. You will need good grip on slopes.

Finally, make your purchase from a store which will let you try the boots indoors at home, for a possible return if they are unsuitable. You will want to avoid expensive mistakes.

Walking pole(s)

Walking poles can give additional support, balance and security and they can also be used to reduce the pressure on joints during long downhill stretches. Two poles can be used, and are particularly helpful, during long distance walks when they are used with a snow-skiing action.

Walking pole etiquette - don't wave them about whilst you walk, keep them to yourself. Do not carry them horizontally with the points facing backwards. Take particular care when climbing over stiles - avoid poking the eyes out of your fellow walkers. (And stow them away when scrambling, as they get in the way)


If you do not have a friend or partner to accompany you on your first walk, then never fear! Do not let that put you off. The groups are invariably mixed, and the group leader will make a point of ensuring that you are introduced and 'looked after'.

Walking in a group

As mentioned above, walking in group provides companionship as well as the chance to be introduced to areas of countryside that you might not have reached under your own steam.

In poor visibility or difficult terrain the leader needs to ensure that the group keeps together. Everyone should carry a whistle but even these are not an infallible way of keeping contact when the wind is in the wrong direction. For safe completion of a walk, it is recommended that walkers do not proceed ahead of the leader. Where there is a large group or if the walk is complex, the leader will nominate a 'back marker' who will normally be kept within the line of sight.

Now the sensitive subject of 'calls of nature'. A thoughtful leader will have noted the location of public toilets near the start of the walk, and pubs or other facilities which are passed during the walk. However, for the B and A grade walks especially, these opportunities are less likely. Some walking groups announce a 'Gentlemen forward / Ladies back' and it is wise to take advantage of this, especially if the walk is heading out onto exposed hill tops.

If you need to make your own arrangements, then make sure you tell someone, preferably the leader. It is all too easy to find that the group has inadvertently gone on without you.

(Incidentally, taking a 'Pit stop' or 'Comfort break' are common euphemisms)

Having decided to join the walking club, look at the current programme. Decide which walk you would like to start with, then contact either the programme secretary or the walk leader in order to ensure that the programme details are correct. Tell them that you will be new to the group and note the rendezvous point.

Arrange to arrive at the 'E' or 'W' rendezvous at least five minutes before the published time. The time stated on our programme is the 'set off' time and we leave promptly unless we hear of a traffic delay for example. Meeting at 'E' or 'W' gives the opportunity for you to be introduced whilst the car share arrangements are being made. Incidentally, the contributions towards travel costs are made at the end of the walk, before the return trip.

(Members are provided with the locations of 'E' and 'W')

We ask that you carry a few personal details with you including an emergency contact number.


Having hopefully covered any queries you may have, it would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that even given every care whilst out walking, accidents can and do happen. Usually they are minor slips and trips with little or no damage apart from to one’s dignity. Within the group someone will usually be on hand to offer first aid supplies and/or simple first aid measures and most people will then carry on walking. In the event that the injured/ill person feels they cannot carry on walking they will always be accompanied back to the walk start by another member/s.

Guidance given to members should a more serious incident occur is to:

  1. Remember to keep calm

  2. Render any first aid if you feel you can

  3. Ensure the rest of the group is safe

  4. Confer amongst you to confirm your exact location

  5. Appoint a communicator to call the emergency services, preferably a person who knows the Phonetic Alphabet. (Eliminates the need to repeat letters when giving grid references, eliminates errors. The number 0 (nought), should be pronounced zero.)

The number to call within the United Kingdom is 999, request POLICE, they will connect you to Mountain Rescue if required. If you are walking elsewhere in Europe you can call 112 and follow the same procedure. An excellent guide to making an emergency call is to follow the CHALET procedure:

C Casualties – number, names (and, if possible, age); type of injuries, for example, lower leg, head injury, collapse, drowning etc.

H Hazards to the rescuers – for example, strong winds, avalanche, rock fall, dangerous animals.

A Access – the name of mountain area and description of the terrain. It may be appropriate to describe the approach and any distinguishing features such as an orange survival bag. Information on the weather conditions at the incident site is useful, particularly if you are in cloud or mist.

L Location of the incident – a grid reference and a description is ideal. Don't forget to give the map sheet number and please say if the grid reference is from a GPS device.

E Equipment at the scene – for example, torches, other mobile phones, group shelters, medical personnel.

T Type of incident – mountain, aircraft, train, etc. Be prepared to give a brief description of the time and apparent cause of the incident.

  • With the arrival of the Emergency Service be guided by them as to whether the injured party can be (sometimes not possible) or needs to be accompanied to hospital.

  • Contact the injured party’s next of kin/emergency contact and supply as much relevant information as you are able.

  • Ensure the safe return of the rest of the group members back to the cars


Always remember though that walking is still one of the safest exercises. If you take the time and effort to follow the preparatory advice above and walk at the grade level for your fitness you are unlikely to encounter any difficulties or accidents.

So now you are ready to go, and the Manor Walking Club wishes you many happy miles in the countryside, on hills and mountains.