By Josine Baines at
One question that I am asked frequently is “how do you find all the walks?” I think that most people realise that when I am not walking with clients, I spend A LOT of my time finding new routes, walking them several times, risk assessing them……before they get added to my repertoire!
Naturally it all starts with a map. I start with a good old-fashioned Ordnance Survey Pathfinder paper maps (actually they are the slightly laminated, waterproof ones) and I simply lay it out on the table. If it is an area local to me, I will often be familiar with some of the pathways, so that provides a useful starting point. If it’s a new area, I usually have an idea of where I want the route to cover (e.g. a particular hill, café, place of interest). I spend a bit of time scanning the map and making a mental note of possible routes that might work, pinpoint a potential starting point and off I go!
The first time I walk a route, it NEVER turns out to be the final route that makes it on to the repertoire list. It is often the case that pathways are too narrow, overgrown, pass by a smelly sewer, diverted/closed……….or as happened recently, I may even come across a field of “legally loose bulls”!……..so I have to find alternative routes.
Footpaths are a bit like stars in the sky (the more you stare the more you see) or neurons in the brain (the more you use them, the more connections you are able to make)………when I first look at a map I tend to see a clear/obvious walking route. When I actually go out and walk, that’s when I suddenly find all the other possible routes (short cuts, alternatives, variations for another day). A single route can end up becoming several walks. And that’s before they have been done in the opposite direction!
On average it takes me 3-4 times of doing a route to become familiar with it (and all the variations). But it’s not just knowing the route. I need to consider the terrain and whether it is suitable for my walkers (how steep, how muddy, how many stiles, are there likely to be cows?), parking restrictions (there is no point in finding a fabulous walk in the middle of nowhere if the only parking is isolated spots along a narrow country road), facilities (or not as the case may be). And I don’t always get it right! I have tried to find “mud free” winter walks only to have people slipping and sliding on road ice. I have found lovely river walks with parking, only to find that when we arrive the spaces are filled with people pumping up their paddleboards (this was in February – not what I expected!).
People are sometimes surprised that I use traditional paper maps. I’ll be honest that I do use other tools too! Strava is really useful for tracking a walk as well as distance, elevation, time it takes. I also use the Outdoor Active app instead of the paper map when I am out and about, as it’s much easier to get out my phone than hold a large map when I’m walking. BUT I do ALWAYS have the paper map in my rucksack, for when the app freezes, or my phone runs out of battery, or technology just doesn’t work!
Do I walk alone? Usually, yes. It’s difficult to concentrate and notice the terrain or spot the alternative footpaths when I am with someone else. I do always have Barclay, my black Labrador, to keep me company though!
Many people do not realise the amount of work that goes into to getting a walk ready for my group – but I know my walkers appreciate that I do the groundwork first – so all they have to do is turn up with their poles and walk with a lovely group of people!
Lead Instructor and Business Owner
NORDIC WALKING TONBRIDGE