Gorge walking

Includes: Gorge scrambling, ghyll scrambling, rhyll walking, burn walking Outdoors, Adventurous activities, Land

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Walk, climb and get wet!

At the end of a gorge walk, girls will be able to say they've climbed up waterfalls, jumped into pools and completed all sorts of wet and wonderful challenges.


An adventurous activity involving walking along a riverbed, pool-jumping and going over waterfalls.

If you fancy something more challenging – give canyoning a go!

Gorge walking is an adventurous activity and should follow the adventurous activity policy and procedures.

Approved: 22 February 2022
Version: 2.1
Content owner: Adventure team

Planning checklist

If you're working with an external provider or external instructors to run this activity outside the unit meeting space, follow these extra steps. 

  • Arrange for a home contact. Leave any route or other relevant details with your home contact and complete a home contact agreement form. Let them know if you make any changes to your plans.
  • Tell your local commissioner.
  • Tell the activity provider about the ability and experience of the participants and any disabilities, access needs or health conditions that need to be considered when running the activity.
  • Choose a reputable and licensed activity provider (where applicable).
  • Check the qualified adults hold the correct qualification to be able to run the activity (see the information below).
  • Get copies of the instructor qualifications and public liability insurance of the activity provider before you book.
  • Ask for a copy of the providers' safety guidelines and risk assessment.
  • Make sure you have the correct ratio of participants (girls and volunteers) to qualified adults (those running the activity). This is different to the ratio of leaders to girls.
  • Check with the venue that they have the correct equipment and, if needed, specialist clothing that will meet the requirements for your group.
  • Source any specialist equipment or clothing needed to run the activity not provided by the venue, and make sure this is in good condition and fit for purpose.
  • Check that any equipment is suitably insured by the provider and agree what happens to the equipment if it gets damaged.

Some venues might ask for a disclaimer or waiver to be signed for each person taking part in the activity. This is something which parents/carers must sign on behalf of their child. You can do this along with the consent form. Parents and carers should be given sufficient information from the provider along with the waiver so they can make an informed decision to sign it or not. Leaders can only sign disclaimers and waivers for their own personal participation.

The provider you are using must be registered with the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority or, if in Northern Ireland, Adventuremark, which ensures that the instructor qualifications are appropriate for the area.

Get a copy of these qualifications before booking.

We advise that the equipment is provided by the professional body running the activity.

If gorge walking abroad, the above qualifications and regulations may not be applicable. The leader will need to make enquiries about the reputation and safety standards of the activity provider. Contact your international adviser or outdoor activities adviser, or email [email protected] for more guidance.

The provider must be licensed by the Adventurous Activities Licensing Authority. To confirm the provider’s listing and what activities they are covered for, see the AALA.

You can verify the quality of a provider by checking it has one of the following endorsements: AALA, Adventuremark or LotC ((Learning Outside the Classroom) Quality Badge for adventure. AALA and LotC aren't applicable in Northern Ireland, but Sport Northern Ireland confirm the implementation of Adventuremark as a suitable adventure activity accreditation scheme for activity providers in Northern Ireland.

Keep an eye on current and predicted weather conditions as water levels in rivers and streams can rise rapidly following rainfall on hills and fells. As this activity is dependent on weather conditions, providers may need to cancel at short notice. Check your chosen provider's cancellation policy.

If the expected depth of the water is likely to go higher than the knees' of the participants, then girls must:

  • Be able to swim 50 metres and have good water confidence.
  • Be able to keep afloat for 5 minutes in the clothes normally worn for the activity.
  • Be paired up, stay in these pairs and be responsible for watching each other (the 'buddy' system).

Girls may fulfil these rules wearing a buoyancy aid or life jacket when either is required for the activity.

Buoyancy aids should be worn for this activity, unless a life jacket is recognised as best practice by the qualified instructor. 

Helmets must be worn by all participants in this activity.

We advise that the equipment is provided by the professional body running the activity.

If a girl has a medical condition that will affect her ability to swim, tell the instructor and take steps so she can take part safely.

The leader must:

  • Make sure that safety rules and alarm signals have been explained to the girls, as well as the need to obey instructions immediately.
  • Make sure any required buoyancy aids or life jackets are used and correctly fitted.
  • Follow water safety guidelines and ensure that the responsible adult helpers are familiar with them.

Inspect water for signs of visible pollution, for example rubbish, blue green algae or chemicals.

Make sure girls and parents are aware of the dangers and symptoms of Weil's disease and what action to take if they suspect infection. On the day of the activity, advise participants to cover cuts and grazes with waterproof plasters to help prevent infection.

Guidance on weather warnings 

Leaders are responsible for completing a risk assessment for the walk and deciding if it's safe for a group to complete it. If a weather warning is issued for the area where your walk is due to take place, you must update your risk assessment. The result of this risk assessment will inform you as to your next steps which may include cancelling or rescheduling your walk, considering an alternative route that may be safer or proceeding with your initial plans with additional mitigations in place.

Risk assessments should be updated, and a clear plan of action agreed in regard to the weather warning to ensure the group’s wellbeing and safety. If re-routing the walk due to a weather warning you should ensure that you have thoroughly risk assessed the alternative route and recorded this risk assessment – normally we would expect ‘escape route’ options to be identified in advance.

If the weather warning is issued during your walk or is worse than expected, you must do a dynamic risk assessment. That will result in whether you continue, cancel, or re-route your walk to keep the group safe. A deviation from a planned route due to unforeseen circumstances does not require a recorded risk assessment.

The ratios below are given as a maximum and ratios must be considered as part of the risk assessment, this may lessen due to any medical conditions, physical ability or other factors.

Leadership team ratio

As this activity will take place outside of your usual meeting place the leadership team adult to child ratio is mandatory.

  • Rainbows: not a Rainbow activity
  • Brownies: not a Brownie activity
  • Guides: 1:12
  • Rangers: 1 Girlguiding leader

Qualified adult/participant ratio

The qualified adult should determine what size of group is safe. There must be enough qualified adults to ensure the safety of all participants.

This will be determined by any limits placed on their qualification or permit, or by the rules of their operating organisation as well as the risk assessment. It should taken into consideration the location, weather and experience of both the qualified adult and other participants. This risk assessment should be assessed by the leader and any concerns raised to the qualified adult.

Girlguiding expects a ratio of 1 instructor to 8 girls/participants for this activity (this ratio applies to adults taking part as well as younger members), plus a minimum of 2 qualified adults.