Over the years walking has brought me great pleasure and if I’m honest, some pain too (usually in the form of blisters and aching limbs but also occasionally psychologically when I’ve found myself misplaced!). Gaining my Mountain Leader award was one of my proudest moments 🙂 Through walking I have learned a lot about myself and the great outdoors. I’ve had opportunities to walk abroad and to lead guided walks for families in the UK. For me it can be a place of sanctuary where I can be myself and re-energise. Walking is great for any ability and you don’t really need that much equipment to get started apart from a decent pair of footwear.

Walking has taken me to many places both at home and abroad

Here are 10 tips to help you get started and stay safe

1)      Look after your feet. Wear shoes that are supportive and suitable for the terrain. Sore feet make for a much longer walk! Comfy feet = happy walker 🙂

2)      Dress appropriately for the weather. There is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing choices. A few thin layers are far better than 1 thick jacket as you can adjust your temperature more easily. If you are likely to get hot and sweaty then synthetic materials are much better than cotton. You can get cheap wicking t-shirts and fleeces that are just as good as more expensive ones.

3)      Wear a hat (a warm one in cold conditions and a sun hat when it’s warm). A hat will make a huge difference to your temperature. You lose a lot of heat through your head so by covering it up you will feel much warmer. When it’s hot a sun hat will help to keep you protected and cooler as you are often a lot more exposed when out walking.

4)      Consider your safety. It you are going hill walking be prepared and take the right kit, plenty of water and some food. Leave your route plan with someone so if things do go wrong people know where to start looking for you.

5)      Know how to summon help: if something has gone seriously wrong and you need to get assistance from Mountain Rescue you should call 999 or 112 and ask for Police, Mountain Rescue. To attract attention on the hill give 6 short blasts on your whistle, wait a minute and then repeat. Keep this up until you hear someone return the signal (and keep going until they reach you).

6)      Check the weather forecast. This will help you decide on appropriate clothing (though it’s always worth packing a light weight waterproof jacket regardless of the forecast as weather can change suddenly and it’s often much cooler than you think when you reach the top of the hill). Be prepared to adjust your route if necessary. For example, if strong winds are forecast then perhaps you are best leaving your ridge walk for a calmer day and opting for a lower level route. Check out Mountain Weather Information Service (www.mwis.org.uk ).

7)      Take notice of your surroundings. Stop and appreciate the views, it can be very satisfying to turn round every now and then to look how far you have come, especially if you are walking up a big hill. Soak up the energy. Don’t wear headphones – this is for your own safety as well as the fact that you are missing out on the sounds of nature.

8)      It’s good to stretch to yourself but know your limitations. This includes your fitness level and also your skills and experience. Knowing the basics of map reading and how to take a grid reference are a good idea.

Knowing how to read a map is a really useful skill

9)      Respect the environment. Take your litter home. Don’t pee anywhere near or in water courses. Leave gates as you find them. Don’t clamber over walls, use gates or styles wherever available.

10)   If you are not confident at leading your own walks then join in with others. There are loads of groups or organised walks available such as local walking groups, the Ramblers, HF Holidays, U3A and National Trust. You could also hire a Mountain Guide who will be able to tailor a walk to your needs and provide a personal touch

Happy walking and I hope to see you on a hill sometime soon!

If you would like to brush up on your map reading skills or fancy your own guided walk get in touch to discuss how I can work with you.

Useful websites:

Walking Britain Useful information and list of walks of varying lengths and difficulties

Mountain Weather Information Service Check out the weather for the area you are going to

Safe in the Hills Really useful information provided by Kirby Stephen Mountain Rescue Service

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