In our efforts to recruit new walk leaders we have been asked to clarify what are our expectations of them. To this end Mike and Paul have drawn up a list walk leader’s guidelines. This has raised some discussion to do with the distinction between requirements and recommendations and the terms of our insurance policy.
Like most similar groups we have a policy that includes civil liability insurance. Just as you would not fail to insure your house it would be foolish to run our group without insurance. However home insurance will cost many hundreds of pounds a year, less than £2 of your subscription goes towards our insurance. This is a reflection of the fact that the risks involved in running our group are very small but they do exist.
This insurance covers walk leaders for claims of negligence made against them by people on the walk or any other third parties. Additionally individual members are also covered for claims made against them. Our policy allows us to take guests out for a few walks before requiring them to join (and so pay the premium).
Whatever our opinions about “compensation culture”, “health and safety”, etc. we must be hard headed and recognise that we live in the world as it is and not as we wish it might be. If a claim is made against one of us, then, in the absence of any clear rules, the court will consider what that person could “reasonably have expected” of us. The problem with this is that it represents a moving and ever more onerous target. Over the last few years there has been a “ratcheting effect”, each year a different accident, another set of new best practices, a change in what “reasonably expect” actually means.
In our recommendations to new walk leaders we have suggested that they should pre-walk their walks prior to the day. This is in line with “best practice” and is the policy required by the Ramblers. However we have not made it a requirement. Our group started as a Youth Hostelling Group. For many years we have been away to hostels here and abroad where we are visiting new areas for the first time as a group. We map read walks which it would be unreasonable to expect us to have either pre walked, or health and safety assessed. Similarly when walking extended linear walks such as the Chiltern Way (OK strictly circular!) it would be unreasonable to require a leader to pre walk the more distant sections.
This is different from the way the Ramblers operate. The Ramblers seem to be moving towards running “Guided Tours”, we on the other hand wish to retain the possibility of running “Expeditions”. In the context of an afternoon walk in the Chilterns this may seem a bit absurd. Nevertheless when I recently ran another half day walk over at Pirton I varied the route from the previous one onto different paths because it would be more interesting and because I had never walked them before. Nevertheless these were public footpaths on which any one of you would have been free to walk on your own.
We need to know that you the members understand and agree with this policy.