The Walkers’ Rules

The Walkers RulesWe’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 uphillWhen 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

  • Walker with a mapTake 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 tripCheck 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 mountainsGet 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 photographyTake 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 rulesNever 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 from Glyn W

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

Large group of walkers

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45 Responses

  1. John Herberson

    “Say hello to everyone you meet”

    I hate this about hill walking. Everyone says hello as if we’re best friends forever just because we’re both out for a walk. Please find your own business!

    1. Janette

      What a misery you are John H. Saying hello or good morning doesn’t entail being friends for life, just being pleasant to other humans as you pass by. Thankfully not too many people have your view on life

    2. a l l y

      Growing up being taken on walks on the Scottish hills, I noticed that people just grunted a sort of, “Aye” as they passed. None of this namby-pamby helloing! Don’t know if they still do that, or if Scotland’s been taken over by polite southerners. Been living near the Lakeland fells for 18 years and have got used to pretending every walker on the fell is a long-lost chum. It’s painless, if a bit silly.

  2. yvey

    When you walk you become a part of nature; smell the scent of the fox, hear the sky lark hovering high in the sky. Respectfully sample a few ripe seasonal fruits (providing you know which are edible). Notice the badger trail,. Enjoy the beauty of all weather conditions while walking yourself to a fitter and healthier you. It’s always been the simple things that really matter…we just forgot to notice.

  3. Rosaleen

    When planning a group walk make sure that it ends at a pub that serves real ale, this applies even if you don’t drink beer. Thirsty walkers can get a wee bit grumpy if the beer’s no good. If they start throwing ropes over tree branches it’s time to run… provided your legs can still manage it

    Always car share. We’re out to enjoy the beautiful environment so let’s keep our impact upon it to a minimum

  4. Great set of rules! Although the only one I follow conscientiously is the fourth one down: “When walking a steep uphill section and approaching a walker coming down…” 🙂

  5. Pingback : The Walkers Rules - dannah

  6. Having marched all over the world (22 years Parachute Regiment!) the only things you leave behind are fear and footprints!. And when you have to take a ‘dump’, bury it deep!.

    1. Tim Smithson

      Great respect to you Vic….I have also marched all over the place imitating a pack horse..however ,now do it for pleasure at a more enjoyable pace!! ( you’ll know what I mean)..You’re advice regarding the “dump thing” is very important as one of my spaniels has a thing sniffing it out! Won’t go into details..but it can ruin a good day out…take Vic’s advice…if you have to go bury it deep or even deeper…cheers Tim

  7. Jim S

    If, when passing through a farm yard or similar, you are told “don’t worry, my dog is very friendly” make sure that you know the date of your last tetanus jab before proceeding. 🙂

    1. Tom

      Can be used to signal for help (reflection) or even to start a fire. Of course both require it to be a day when the sun is out!

  8. Gordon

    Make a realistic estimate of the time it will take you – nothing worse than returning in the dark. It goes with the ‘start early’ suggestion.
    Time can be estimated from map: 12mins per km, + 1min /10m up + 5 mins per hour (Naismith’s rule). For a full day +15mins for lunch. Assumes a reasonable level of fitness.

  9. Gordon

    New leather boots? Short walks local to home before venturing further afield. Then get them wet ASAP and allow to dry on your feet – they will fit much better – moulded to foot shape.

    1. The ‘official’ one is as an emergency signalling device, but of course they are also really useful for checking if there are bits of lunch stuck in your teeth or re-arranging your face/hair if a particularly attractive Mountain Rescue volunteer is coming to your assistance…

  10. Aptitude Design

    Not so sure about these Pub Stops: what was so bad, that one need drown his sorrows? A picnic lunch, I say. Anyone who cannot read a map ought not leave home without his mother.

  11. jazz

    And if you have a dog use a stick and flick (dog poo). Please please do not bag it up and the leave the bag hanging on a branch!

  12. Graham

    “When walking a steep uphill section and approaching a walker coming down…” Not always possible if you are really struggling. Alternative strategies are to stop, turn around and enjoy the view. Or look down, scowl and kneel down to tie your lace that you’ve just noticed has ‘come undone’. Both methods give you a little time to get your breath.

  13. Cathy

    I agree with not hogging the path or trig points. Walked to the top of many a summit and not been able to get to the top for a photo, which only take a few seconds. Ben Nevis was a prime example!

  14. Nick

    Always drop a pound in the mountain rescue collection box at the end of the bar. They are all volunteers who receive no funding from central government, but they are the ones you’ll expect to come and rescue you if you get yourself in trouble.

  15. Keith Giles

    Similar to lunch with a view, when I’ve got my Scouts out walking, the rule about lunch is ‘Lunch is a place and is not a time’. Oh, and never use the R word, it’s precipitation, talking about it makes it happen.

  16. Mary O'Shea

    Savour the journey and the company, for many the peak is the destination, but its the journey and conversations one remembers. Somehow, moments on the hills can’t be captured by photos, despite all the panoramas we endeavour to take. A few good hiking tunes or dance warm-ups prove popular on the hills and though, best not to scare off the local wildlife.

  17. Bruce

    I remember getting into an argument with a very opinionated National Trust warden in the Lake District over the “leave gates as you found them” rule, having just walked thorough and left open an open gate. He was convinced I should have closed it and told me so in his no nonsense, aka rude, manner. His assumption, perhaps, that I was a “townie” and knew nothing of the countryside. I could see his point of view but couldn’t agree with the way he put it across.

  18. Moira

    Substitute pubs for tearooms. It should not be assumed that all walkers are hardened ale drinkers – we would much rather be rewarded with tea and cake for our efforts at the end of a walk!

  19. Joe

    Start and finish your walk from a Youth Hostel. A great breakfast before you go, a warm reception (with real ale!) on your return. Expertise and friendship also on tap. If the post walk stories go on longer than planned, you can then avoid the drive home by staying for the night.

  20. Ladies, make sure you are fit enough to squat without falling over. Also, suggest doing a quick search of your chosen area for nettles. (You should be on the high side of a slope to avoid boot contamination.) If bushes are thin it may be necessary to ask a friend to create a diversion.

  21. Tom Martin

    Never pass a flushing loo without using it. Or, always plan your route to pass at least one flushing loo (which may be in public house or tea shop).

  22. Peter Lewis

    Some great advice given, saying hi is a must, as an ex coastguard, a walker and motorcyclist I have said hi to thousands of people I have never met before and may never again, but it makes you part of a very big group of friends, who will always be there for you in your hour of need.

  23. Martin

    Very iffy about leaving details of route and expected return on view in the car park. Thieves patrol such places, and they’ll love to know they’ve some hours to get away…… and I would add…

    Remove all items of value from cars, or at the very least lock them in the boot.

  24. Geoff Buck

    In theory it sometimes seems a good idea to extend your planned walk before you’re even halfway. In practice it is never a good idea; fatigue doubles for every extra km!

  25. a l l y

    I need a new rule, but I don’t know what it is.

    How do you handle this situation? You’re enjoying walking alone (with or without a dog) when, at a place where two paths meet, you find yourself walking in step with a stranger. After you’ve shared a few pleasantries you realise, to your horror, that you may be obliged, as a well-mannered British person, to walk with them /all the way/. How do you escape without offending them?

    When this happened to me recently, I stopped at a place where the path was nice and flat and slightly downhill, and explained, “well, this is the place where I always run all the way down!” And off I ran. (Fortunately I’m quite fit and could run out of sight without collapsing.) But I kept wondering if he thought I was only doing it because either I didn’t like his company, or worse still, because I was afraid of him.

    1. I think is this rule you need to refer to:

      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.

      Choosing a short run seems a perfectly reasonable option. Just increasing pace runs the risk of developing a competition, but the other option is a sudden need for a tea break, to take some photos, have a quick lie down or faking a broken leg. One must consider the potential embarrassment level of these activities compared to the awkwardness of compulsory small talk with a stranger.

      My plan B has been to identify which path they are taking at the next fork, and take the other one. The extra 3 hours walking is nothing compared to a 20-minute discussion on weather.

  26. Love this post, had to share it! My wife and I were reading them out aloud and laughing so much at several of these, as we can relate to so many of them.

    Even had to bookmark this page to show others for a chuckle for many of these simple truths!

  27. kim

    Carry a spare pair of spectacles. Theres nothing worse than knocking them off your face when pulling your hood up or scratching your head with the end of your pole and not seeing where they land!

  28. Cath Prisk

    Bring hats, gloves and a hot drink! And make sure all small people with you have too…

    Also teaching small female people how to go to the toilet outdoors is a lesson they will be grateful for all their lives

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