The Walkers’ Rules

From walkers etiquette, to what to are some things that every walker should know.

We’ve all heard of the Countryside Code and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which give a set of rules for anyone using the countryside, to safeguard it for everyone. However, what are the real rules of walking? All those little things everyone should do?

We asked our Facebook fans and got a huge response, so here are their suggestions – some rather tongue in cheek – along with a few of our own…

On other walkers…

  • Say hello to everyone you meet – you never know when you might need their help. If they don’t return the greeting, you are allowed to chase after them until they do! There is enough space out there for all of us, as long as we respect it, and each other. We can all have fun, whether on two feet, two, three or four wheels or any other mode of transport, so don’t be transportist. (Sue T, Mark I, Jim B, Colin B)
  • When walking as a group, ensure all members of the group are within sight of each other. Don’t overtake the leader and appoint a back marker to bring up the rear to make sure no-one is left behind. Make stops as required to keep everyone together, and allow time for the slowest member to rest too before moving on. Like the US Rangers, never leave a walking partner behind! (John C, John N)
  • The anthropologist Jo Vergunst reminded us all that walking is a social discourse that locates aesthetic and ethical positions, reorienting the inter-relationship between humans, non-humans, landscape and nature. If you are a walker, you are a nicer person. That’s totally official. (Tim C)Walking uphill
  • When walking a steep uphill section and approaching a walker coming down, you must take a deep breath and switch gentle breathing just before passing in order to give a ‘this is effortless for me’ smile as you pass. Gasping may be resumed once the passing manoeuvre is complete, which may require considerable fortitude when passing a larger group. Conversely you must be overly cheerful to those you pass who are slowly wheezing up the mountain that you are gambolling down. (Yanni U, Mick J, Jen V)
  • When speeding up to overtake another walker you must maintain the same pace, regardless of terrain, until you are at least out of sight, and preferably on a different route altogether.
  • When walking with your partner, kissing gates are mandatory. This rule may need clarification to avoid potentially embarrassing incidents. (Leanne H)
  • When you meet a walker coming the other way, and end up awkwardly stepping in the same direction, don’t forget to ask ‘if they would like to dance’. That one never gets old… (Cathy C)
  • Always give way to uphill traffic and never hog the summit or footpath – use it as you would a motorway. If you must stop pull over to one side to enable free flow of traffic past you. (Jack S, Holly B, Sandie C)
  • Telling everyone how far you’ve walked via an app is in no way equivalent to telling them over a pint. At the very least, face to face conversation allows you to emphasis little details an app might miss, like your amazing powers of resistance for walking past two pubs in the first 4 miles. (Alan P)

On weather

  • ‘There’s no such thing as wrong weather, only wrong clothing’. If you didn’t take waterproofs on your sunny day walk, don’t complain when it rains – parts of the UK average 260 wet days A YEAR, so it’s pretty much guaranteed.
  • Turn back if the conditions get too bad. The path/hill/mountain will always be there to try another day. (Lynn W)

On food, drink and equipment

  • Take a map and compass and know how to use it. You didn’t think we would miss that did you? This goes even if you have any or all of the following:
    • a GPS device
    • a smartphone with maps on it
    • an infallible sense of direction
    • someone who vaguely remembers the route from 20 years earlier
    • a love for getting rescued
  • Take spare clothing especially if climbing hills, a penknife, a phone, an emergency mirror and a first aid kit. On a long walk always carry more to drink than you think you will need (remembering water for dogs) and some emergency energy supplies like jellybabies or flapjack for those ‘go on without me’ moments. (Graigytwrch W, Kevin B, Kayleigh M, Ben C, Michael F, Lisa M, Dave W)
  • Families of 6 *must* have matching brand new gear, including poles and gaiters. (Shiela D)
  • Ladies: remember the Shewee. Everyone else: don’t eat yellow snow! (Cathy C, John T)
  • When drinking from a steam, always check upstream a little beforehand. Noticing the dead sheep 5 minutes later plays havoc with your sense of wellbeing.
  • After lunch, check the bottom of your rucksack. Your ‘friends’ may have helpfully filled it up with rocks.
  • Always carry a small set of steps so that small children can be helped onto the top of trig pillars. (Mark I)
  • Don’t rely on your partner to have put your boots/waterproofs/sandwiches* in the car. *delete as necessary. (Frances I)

On preparation and planning

    Walker planning the next trip
  • Check the weather forecast before you set out. However, it makes very little difference as you will invariably;
    a) decide you have planned the route and are going anyway despite the lashing winds and pouring rain or;
    b) still take all your waterproofs despite the promise of uninterrupted sunshine because you have already read the weather section
  • Consider making an early start. You know that walking up the mountain in the cool morning air is much easier than in the midday sun. You also know that it leaves more time later on if there are any problems, or there’s that next door summit to bag, and even that it would allow time for a quick pint in that nice pub at the end. However, right now your bed is really comfy and you’ll only be another 5 minutes… (Richard B)
  • Never plan to do anything else after the walk except having a pint and relaxing for a while. During the walk make sure you know where the nearest pub is from the end (learn what the map symbol PH means) and remember a full hip flask for use at significant summits. (Anna C, Jen V, Glenn P)
  • Always have a plan B. Should the worst happen know who is going to do what and the quickest way to a safe point. (Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team)

On safety

    Walking in mountains
  • Get Rescue Insurance before you go, it should be law. While rescue is free in the UK, it can get very expensive in some parts of the world, so make sure you are covered before you go. (Colin W)
  • Always tell friends and family staying at home where you are going and what time you expect to return. If you don’t have any friends, leave details of your route on the windscreen of your car when you park. If you don’t do either of these, remember a penknife for when you get your arm/leg/head trapped between two rocks… (Steph A, Steve T)
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Conditions can change in an instant! This is especially true in lightning storms where conditions can go from dark and wet to very bright and really, really warm in under a second. (Alison M)
  • Don’t take dogs through fields of cows with calves. (Scott N)
  • Likewise, don’t take children through fields with large muddy puddles, as the puddles will invariably attack the children.
  • Leave open gates open, keep closed gates closed, and if you do have to climb over a locked gate do so on the hinge side. (Pauline McG, Dai H). Casually opening the ‘locked’ gate while others are climbing over it is optional

On the environment and scenery

    Walking and photography
  • Take only photos and leave only footprints. (From ‘Nothing But’ by John Kay)
  • Wherever possible use gates and stiles not walls – there are not enough wallers to repair the damage. However, checking with your local waller before setting off could earn you a drink if they are a bit light on work. (Mike B)
  • Where possible have your lunch stop somewhere with a good view – even the worst of soggy sandwiches will miraculously improve in flavour. (Rob C)
  • Open your eyes and ears to the beauty and life that surrounds you. It’s not a race, so ensure you stop, look back and enjoy the view. (Kevin B, Freddy J)
  • Always take your own rubbish with you, and enhance the environment by removing someone else’s litter. In extreme cases you may return carrying more than you set out with, although we would recommend leaving burnt out cars to the professionals. (Hazel M)

On navigation

    Walkers navigation rules
  • Never set out on a walk without map and compass, and use them even if you don’t need them as practice. Get used to setting yourself navigational tasks, to build experience and confidence for the time you might really need it. Trust the bearing, even when beset with doubts and calls of ‘that looks like a path over there’ from over-enthusiastic friends. (John T, Jonathan S)
  • Never ever underestimate unknown terrain. An easy looking trek on the map may turn into the most treacherous one. This is especially true when anyone in the group says ‘There’s a route through the bog and then we’ll have an easy walk back’. (Jan P)
  • Remember, when you are on the summit, you are only halfway there. Although on the plus side it’s much easier to fall down a hill than up it. (Phil W)
  • Stay on the path – don’t deviate, even if it is more direct. That shortcut you want to take is like walking through the local wildlife’s house. (Kirsten R)
  • It’s never the top when you think it is. (Alan Hay)

What do you think – are there more rules that we should add? Tell us in the comments! For the moment we’ll end with this perfect summary:

‘The walk is the purpose not just the destination. Enjoy.’

Glyn W

Large group of walkers