Walking in open countryside

Includes: Outdoors, Nature and the great outdoors, Walking, Land

Age:
4+
Print this activity pack

Explore the great outdoors

Walk in open countryside and experience the thrill of discovering new places.

Overview

To take girls walking in open countryside, more than half an hour from an accessible road or refuge, you will need a leader who holds the appropriate Girlguiding walking qualification or above. You can hold or gain this qualification yourself, find another leader or use a local activity provider.  

Open countryside covers walks in non-mountainous areas that meet all the following criteria:

  • Open, uncultivated, non-mountainous high or remote country
  • Areas enclosed by well-defined geographical or artificial boundaries
  • Areas of remoteness that are easily exited in a few hours
  • Areas where movement on steep or rocky terrain is not required (in either a planned or unplanned situation) and there are no serious water hazards
  • Areas typically not more than 600 meters above sea level
  • Routes must follow paths or linear features that are both marked on a map and clearly visible on the ground

If you are unsure of the classification of the countryside where you are planning to walk, contact your local walking adviser or outdoor activities adviser. Check out the information on our walking safety page as well. 

Walking in open countryside is an adventurous activity and should follow the adventurous activity policy and procedures.

Approved: 5 May 2021
Version: 1.0

Content owner: Adventure team

Planning checklist

If you or another member of your leadership team is running the activity at an external venue/location, 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 about any changes to your plans.
  • Tell your commissioner.
  • Get a copy of the public liability insurance of the activity provider before you book.
  • Check you hold the relevant qualification (if one is needed) to run the activity and let your commissioner know you plan to run it yourself. If you aren't sure, speak to your local adviser to check.
  • Check with the venue that they have the correct equipment and, if needed, specialist clothing that will meet the needs of your group.
  • Get 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.
  • Ask for a copy of the venue's safety guidelines and risk assessment (if relevant).
  • Make sure you have the correct ratio of participants (girls, leaders and volunteers) to qualified adults (those running the activity if a qualification is needed). This is different to the ratio of leaders to girls.
  • Consider the ability and experience of the participants and any disabilities, access needs or health conditions and plan the session accordingly.

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. 

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.

If all of the group are over 18 or the group is walking within 30 minutes from an accessible road or refuge, then the group leader does not need to hold a qualification.

However, if any member of the group is under 18 and the group is walking further, the group leader must follow one of the following routes:

Group leaders must either:

  • Hold the Girlguiding Walking Scheme Level 2 Award
  • Appoint a suitably experienced adult deputy
  • Plus they must walk the route beforehand, or else submit the route plan in advance to a Mountain Leader Award holder who is approved by the Girlguiding Walking Technical Adviser – your country/region walking adviser or the Girlguiding outdoor team walking specialist will be able to provide contact details. Alternatively, you can contact Volunteer Support.

Alternatively, group leaders must hold one of the following qualifications:

  • Girlguiding Walking Scheme Level 3 Award
  • Mountain Training UK (MTUK) Hill & Moorland Leader Award (HML)
  • MTUK Walking Group Leader Award (WGL)
  • MTUK Mountain Leader Award (ML)
  • A higher National Governing Body (NGB) qualification

All group leaders must hold a recognised first aid qualification with a minimum of 16 hours training and assessment, if possible with an outdoor element.

However, the group leader must hold the MTUK Mountain Leader Winter award if the group is planning to walk where ice or snow is prevalent or forecast, any member of the group is under 18 and the proposed route is further than 30 minutes from an accessible road or refuge

If the NGB award holder is a Girlguiding member, this qualification should be listed on GO and the qualification must have been re-validated for use with Girlguiding in the last 5 years.

If the NGB Award holder is not a Girlguiding member and the activity is not taking place at an AALA approved activity centre, you should contact Volunteer Support for further advice.

If walking abroad, the above qualifications and regulations may not be applicable. Contact your walking adviser, or contact Volunteer Support for more guidance.

Training opportunities                                                   

Discover the great outdoors and gain confidence to lead your girls with our in house walking courses  and the Girlguiding walking scheme. You can also use Mountain Training  NGB awards to take girls walking.

Young Girlguiding members walking in open countryside must be supervised by an appropriately qualified adult.

All equipment must be suitable for the walk or expedition being undertaken. You must carry essential first aid and emergency equipment.

If using a commercial provider: if anyone in the group is under the age of 18 and the group is walking further than 30 minutes from an accessible road or refuge, the provider must hold a licence from the Adventurous Activities Licensing Authority (AALA). To confirm a provider's listing and what activities are covered, visit the AALA website. You can verify the quality of a provider by checking it has the Adventuremark or LotC Quality badge for Adventure endorsements.

AALA and LotC are not 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. Otherwise, you can contact your local outdoor activities adviser to recommend an approved provider.

Adult to child ratios

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: 1:5, at least 2 adults
  • Brownies: 1:8 
  • Guides: 1:12 
  • Rangers: N/A, with leader permission

Groups of Rangers or girls taking part in Duke of Edinburgh expeditions may walk in open countryside without an adult leader, but must be supervised by an appropriately qualified adult. This supervisor ensures the participants’ safety and wellbeing during the walk, but does not have to be with the group at all times (for example when being supervised on a Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition). See more guidance on Guides and Rangers walking without a leader.

Qualified adult/participant ratio

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

The number will be determined by any limitations placed on their qualification, permit or the rules of their operating organisation as well as the risk assessment. This should take into consideration the location, weather and experience of both the qualified adult and other participants. The leader should assess the risk and any concerns must be raised to them.

  • A group size of 4-8 is recommended. Girlguiding Walking Scheme Level 2 and Level 3 holders must always appoint a competent adult deputy and this is recommended for all leaders.
  • A qualified adult may supervise more than one group simultaneously. They will determines the number of and size of groups that they can safely manage. The qualified adult retains overall responsibility. Further guidance on remote supervision can be found in the publication Remote Supervision Guidance Notes from Mountain Training.

Forms