Subject Advice

Walking and u3a Walking exchange

Thank you for visiting the u3a walking and u3a walkers exchange page.. We have plenty of information and resources to help you. You can also register for the u3a walkers exchange programme.

u3a Walking groups are extremely popular and we would like to work to continue in that vein and build on the popularity of walking by suporting all our Walking Group Leaders, both new and experienced, to the best of our ability.

So, if you are thinking of starting a walking group in your u3a or are more experienced and want some ideas for walk themes or sources of walking routes please do not hesitate to get in touch. We will do our best to help and advise.

We also have FAQ Walking Groups which covers  all you need to know about General Walking.

You can also register for the u3a walkers exchange programme.

Meet the Subject Advisers - here to help

The team can be contacted via the contact form above, and details are also published in Third Age Matters magazine along with a contact telephone number.

Whatever your question or query we would then hope to pass this to the most experienced member of the team to give you the answer that you need.

So, if you are thinking of starting a walking group in your u3a or are more experienced and want some ideas for walk themes or sources of walking routes please do not hesitate to get in touch. We will do our best to help and advise.


I have been involved with u3a walking for the past 10 years in Cheshire. In addition to this, I have recently been appointed to the role of u3a Walking Subject Adviser.


I have been a Llandudno u3a member for 6 years with 10 years of hill/mountain walking in Snowdonia. I am Walk leader with 3 walking groups  with a particular interest in planning and mapping walks. I am Health & Safety First Aid qualified.


I have been a u3a member for  over 12 years and initiated the u3a Walking Exchange Scheme.

I am a Ramblers member and use OS maps and Outdoor Active to plan and lead walks, including many long distance routes.

Nordic Walking with Pauline

I have recently been appointed to the role of u3a Nordic Walking Subject Adviser.

A  member of Lancaster and Morecambe u3a which has nearly 100 members. Join us to find out more.  

u3a Walking Exchange

We have also started a new initiative and some early adventures have been undertaken by Jacky and others from Southport u3a while walking in the Peak District with Buxton u3a. In addition, other u3a’s have joined the scheme and exchanges are taking place. We have a great review from Francine, Southport u3a visiting Monmouth as part of the walking exchange. 

Our latest exchange was a 'multi u3a exchange' with Southport, Buxton and Isle of Man. 

Walking Exchange FAQs

If you fancy a walking break or even a one-off walk when passing through an area, please contact the u3a Walkers exchange team outlining the area you would like to visit and the types of walks you are seeking. We will let you know if a suitable u3a is listed and who the contact is. The rest will be down to the two contacts. We have prepared some simple guidelines to help you.

Please be aware - this scheme is for u3as / u3a members only.

The more u3a’s that register the more variety of walks will be available. So, if your u3a would like to walk some “pastures new” we encourage you to register. This will help us all.

u3a Exchange Stories

Southport u3a visits Monmouth

The idea that we could ‘twin’ our groups first occurred to me years ago when I was talking with some u3a members at the Monmouth Bee Festival.  However, without Jacky Carter taking the bull by the horns and organising the first exchange visit last year (with Buxton) my pipe dream would have remained just that!

When I first contacted Mike (Monmouth Walking Group Convener) he explained that their u3a has three walking groups:  Striders, Strollers and ½ day Walkers.

A quick phone call and many emails later,  we had the outline of Southport’s WG4 visit to Monmouth to walk with the Striders and I decided to take a small contingent of a dozen members in April – dates are important when you want to avoid school holidays and other events!  Once Mike had put forward a couple of his favourite walks that he was keen to take us on, we all read the Risk Assessment and agreed to abide by the Striders’ code of conduct.

With regards to accommodation, the simplest is to book a hotel which allows you to cancel at short notice up to the last minute – that way, should the weather turn bad, you can postpone the trip.  In Monmouth, we opted for the Premier Inn, which is very close to the town centre, yet provides free car parking.

Twelve of us travelled in four cars (car-sharing is very much a feature for WG4) and we met in front of the hotel before our first ‘adventure’ of the stay:  a drive up to the Kymin (a fabulous viewpoint) and a short forest walk.

After dinner and refreshments, the group were most disappointed to find there was no water coming out of the taps at the Premier Inn; the staff promised that it would be fixed by the morning.  Came the morning, still no water, and still more promises…  Five of our members decided not to walk, and we would keep in touch by phone during the day to establish whether we were going to stay at the hotel or go home - a sad prospect indeed.

We met Mike and three of his group members for a lovely walk around Herefordshire – the 8-mile Three Churches Walk - a very interesting circuit, as the churches are all unusual – but it rained from start to finish (good job we were able to take shelter for our breaks!).  Despite a welcome break in the lovely café, we all came back looking like drowned rats. 

Fortunately, Welsh Water had indeed fixed the problem and we all enjoyed hot baths and showers – and we decided to stay in Monmouth.  Phew!

By the evening things were looking up and we commandeered a room at the local pub, rearranged the tables and enjoyed a game and a quiz – our laughter must have convinced the other guests that u3aers are a riotous bunch!

By contrast to the drab Monday, Tuesday’s sunny weather couldn’t have been any better for our walk in Wales (the Gilwern Loop).  We were accompanied by another three members from the Monmouth group, all also very good company and we walked along the local canal, up into the hills and back through a gorgeous valley with its babling brook.  Along the way, there were several local sites of industrial heritage and we ate our picnic in a sunny spot, before returning to Monmouth and a spot of shopping!

Tuesday night was restaurant night, and once again we were joined by some of the Strollers who are a jolly friendly lot, so we are very much looking forward to welcoming them to Southport for the return exchange – date to be advised.

Before leaving Monmouthshire, we took a final walk near Symond’s Yat – a four-mile walk that took in forest tracks, King Arthur’s Cave, and the river Wye at Biblins Bridge.  The ferry wasn’t operating so we stayed on the west side of the river but nevertheless enjoyed a great walk. 

We all got home safe, dreaming of our next adventures with WG4, and the U3A…

Francine, April 23

Multi u3a Walking exchange -Southport, Buxton & Isle of Man

A multi u3a Walking exchange -Southport, Buxton & Isle of Man. This was led by the IOM walkers. 

This walk was from Glenmaye to Peel via Corrins Hill on a very hot day in early September. 

Resources and support in running your u3a walking group

Contact us

The team can be contacted via the contact form above, and details are also published in Third Age Matters magazine along with a contact telephone number.

Whatever your question or query we would then hope to pass this to the most experienced member of the team to give you the answer that you need.

Starting a new walking group OR becoming a leader

Start by thinking about some questions. We’ve included what other groups have decided to do but your group may well have different priorities.

If you have someone to discuss ideas with, all the better, most u3a walking groups are led by one or two people, with others stepping up to help lead walks as the group gets going

  • Why are you walking? Social/ fitness/ seeing new places, will help to determine the level of the walk, whether you include a lunch stop ( packed lunch or pub) and how far you want to travel from home.     Group A,  social group, meet in the morning for a 5-mile mile walk which takes about 2½ hours followed by a pub lunch. Group B All day walk 9miles, 6miles in the morning, eat packed lunch near a pub then a quick toilet & drink stop.
  • What distance do you want to walk? It should be roughly the same distance each time you go out so the group know what to expect
  • What Day and time? Have a look at your u3a’s other active group’s times and try to avoid clashing
  • How frequently will you walk? Monthly, fortnightly ( eg 1st & 3rd Wed) or weekly?
  • How far from home do you want to travel to start the walk? Do you meet somewhere to car share? Car sharing makes it easier to find a start point to leave the cars in country lanes. Group A limit themselves to 20mins from home and drive straight there, Group B meet in town carpark on Sunday morning (free) and car share to start point 40mins away.

Once you have planned your first walk, you can now publicise the launch of your group.

Allow a month from the 1st publicity shot to the date of the walk

  • Get your u3a chair/website admin/ group enabler to help, they can email all your u3a’s member list with details of the new group.
  • Newsletter article
  • Web site front page article and get your group page set up on the website ready to add details of the walk., your website administrator will be able to help with this 
  • Ask your website administrator for a Beacon account and for them to add your new group to Beacon.  See the Beacon Help sheet  for more information on the process.
Route Planning

There are many websites available that provide details of various levels of walks of all lengths. A good starting point is searching for (your county) walking routes, this will bring up various national sites, the most popular are listed below, but also look for your County Councils’ web site.

What 3 Words is also useful to find the start point for a walk

These will usually give you a “thumbnail” of the route but will need transferring onto a proper Ordnance Survey map before you tackle the route. As you develop your route-planning skills, it is often far more rewarding to plan your own route.

You will probably know some local walks and it is good to use these to start with as people will be familiar with the route and feel confident about joining the ramble. There are a vast range of options these days, but physical paper maps are still a must-have.

OS Landranger maps 1:50 000 are a good start for route planning, they show all the footpaths, bridleways and byways and are helpful for planning a loop walk.

OS Explorer maps 1:25 000 show field boundaries and gives you a much clearer picture of where the path goes “on the ground”.

The OS App allows you to put any map purchase on your pc or mobile FOC. They also offer a choice of monthly or annual subscription which provides national map coverage on your pc or mobile.

This is useful because your phone can use GPS to show where you are on the map when you are walking.

Another useful App for the phone is OS Locate which will give you the exact map refence at the point you are standing with your phone.

Minimising risk

A new much simplified risk assessment checklist is provided by the  by the Third Age Trust.

Check your route a few days before you lead the group walk if possible, conditions can change dramatically from memories of a previous year, land owners have been known to clear ditches and leave the debris all over adjoining footpaths

The OS website lists some danger points to check when planning a route

When walking over particularly hazardous paths it is useful to have a “spotter” at the front of the group, this would probably be the walk leader, looking for badger holes, wobbly stiles, barbed wire etc. and alerting following walkers to the hazard.

The roadmap out of lockdown means that walking groups are able to resume activities again and when following their National Governing Body guidance (for all organised walking groups including u3a, the NGB is The Ramblers,) they have been exempt from the rule of 6.

The Ramblers guidance for ensuring walkers enjoy a safe walking experience has remained much the same since last year, in that prior to each walking group session the Group Leader/Convenor must:

  • Remind members of hygiene requirements, for example, to bring hand sanitiser, face masks for use if visiting any indoor facilities and not to share refreshments.
  • Make every effort to observe social distancing when walking, particularly when passing through gates and over stiles
  • Keep a record of each member attending the ramble for purposes of track and trace which must be kept by the Group Leader for 21 days
  • Remind members not to participate if they are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms
Medical condition of members

This is an area that is very much open to discussion and there are no set policies within the u3a. As an organisation u3a do not ask for details of members’ health, but as leaders of physical activity groups, we do take some responsibility for the safety of our group and could therefore expect to be made aware of any serious health issue that could affect a member while on a walk.

Examples could be a member that has angina and carries medication for their condition or a diabetic that could possibly suffer from hypoglycaemia.

One solution would be to simply ask members to let you know if they have any conditions that may cause issues during a walk, that way they can make you aware in the best way they see fit, most would probably prefer to have a quiet chat about something before you head off, but others may email you, be very careful the email doesn’t inadvertently get forwarded.     

Safety & First Aid

Safety and Planning 

With the best of planning, accidents do still happen and there is a wealth of information on The Ramblers website. Please have a look at the website for planning a safe walk.

All walks should have the risks assessed using the Walk Leaders Risk Assessment Checklist which can be downloaded from the Third Age Trust web site. This is a simple checklist which can be used to ensure that any risk areas identified on the walk have been noted and action taken to mitigate those risks. Wherever possible a reconnaissance of the walk should be completed which will help to identify risks and in completing the Risk Assessment Checklist.

Calling the Emergency Services and providing the precise location

In the worst-case scenario, if there is a serious medical incident that requires the emergency services to be called, they will need the exact location of the group.

Paper maps that you can read a grid reference from are still the most reliable way to provide a location, and the mobile phone App OS Locate will give an accurate map reference.

Many people are now using the what3words app on their mobile  

Looking after your member  

For all but quite simple accidents it is recommended that the emergency services are called to the incident.

Simple first aid advice can be found on the British Red Cross web site.

It is recommended that in the case of an incident that one member stays with the injured member looking after their welfare as far as possible. A second member should then contact and deal with the emergency services.

Next of kin & emergency
When members sign up with the u3a, they should provide full contact details for themselves and emergency contact details, but typically less than a quarter of members actually do this. It is reasonable to ask for this information before you head off into the hills, in case of needing to contact someone if an accident occurred.  

The guidance here is very clear and should be followed to ensure we adhere to the now very strict rules on Data Protection. The u3a Beacon email system has been developed to hold contact details and emails in a secure manner and a help sheet on Beacon is provided below:

Beacon help

Beacon Help

The U3a have a national members’ database which is called Beacon,  you will need to get familiar with this application to be able to add members to your group and use it to contact them about your activities.

Start by speaking with your website administrator who will give you a login & password for Beacon, choose your local u3a from the dropdown and login, then click on Groups to see all the groups within your u3a

walking 1

Scroll down to your group, if the administrator rights have been set up for you, the group will be in blue.  

If it is a new group you have set up, the website/Beacon administrator will set you up as leader, if you are taking over or helping lead an existing group, ask the current leader to use “make leader” to give you access to the group (see below)

  • walking 2

    Double click on the blue group name and the Group Record for your group will open

    Walking 3 a

    This is where you can add a few details about the group, then click on the Members tab, to see the members of your group, if it’s a new group you may not have many members yet, but as people enquire about the group, you can Add member by name

    You’ll get a long drop-down list of everyone in your u3a and you can add them to your group, if anyone else has offered to help lead the group, you can use “make leader” to give them admin rights to the group ( They will still need their own Beacon login though).

    As you add members to your group, you will see their address and telephone number, this forms part of the u3a data protection GDPR process and this information should not be copied to your personal filing system (paper, phone contact list, spreadsheet etc ) without their consent.

    walking 5

    When you have added members to your group, you can Select individual members or Select All to send emails to.

    Their emails will appear in the top window and will be sent as a BCC ( Blind Carbon Copy ), which means that when they receive your email, they won’t see other members’ addresses, again this is an important requirement of GDPR and should be the method you use to email members.

    One limitation of Beacon email is that pictures can’t be inserted into the body of the email, you will need to attach them as files (usually JPEG is best).


u3a Insurance liability

Insurance liability for those individuals leading a walk.

The u3a insurance policy is very comprehensive, particularly for a walking group, it covers injury to a walker by another walker, the most common type of problem, often where a walker may stumble and the following person trips over them. Note: it does not offer personal accident cover if a walker injured themselves. See below

Summary of insurance cover provided for you by the Third Age Trust

Background information.

The cover will indemnify all u3a members against any claims which you could become legally liable to pay as a result of accidental injury to or death of any person. Also for accidental loss or damage to material property not belonging to you which arises or is caused in connection with the ‘business’ of the U3A.

Legal liability can arise in a number of ways but by far the most common is negligence. The cover is not provided for pure accidents where no legal liability has been established.

How does this apply to Group Leaders?

The policy is set up to protect all U3A members and includes ‘member to member’ cover so if someone is injured undertaking a U3A activity and legal liability could be proven, the insurers would deal with any claim.

Does the cover apply to events in members’ houses?

Yes, it does.

Are we covered whilst out walking or any other strenuous or outdoor activity?

It does, but it is not an automatic personal accident insurance and it would have to be shown that the U3A agents or members had been negligent in causing the injury. It is not necessary to carry out risk assessments and we are not required to have trained first aiders and it is recommended that an ambulance is called instead to any accident.

Transport/ Cars

U3A members can offer lifts to other members and accept money towards petrol costs without compromising their insurance cover. On a coach where one member is injured by the actions of another, they would be covered but in other vehicles that vehicle’s insurance would be expected to be the provider of cover.

Non Members

The cover extends to people trying a couple of activities prior to joining, providing that someone monitors the situation and it is not allowed to continue indefinitely. On an occasional basis with the approval of the committee, a friend or spouse may attend a meeting or outing, but this cannot become regular. If members wish to take a dog on a walking group there is no problem if the committee agrees it. Similarly, a carer may attend as long as they do not come as an individual and there is committee approval.

The cover extends to speakers invited to general or occasional specific interest groups, whether paid or not. It does not cover paid employees who if used should give assurance that they have their own public liability insurance in place for a minimum of £2 million.


The cover is now extended to Europe.

Those leading physical activity groups do not need a professional qualification but it is expected that they would be experienced.

Activities on inland waterways without the use of any engine is covered.

It is not necessary to get members to sign in at monthly meetings.

This is merely a summary of the full policy details which can be accessed on the Third Age Trust website to which any member can refer.

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