u3a - Walking


 Contact the Adviser

Welcome to the new home page for Walking Groups in the u3a.



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.

We are all very aware that walking within our u3a’s has always been an extremely popular activity and we would like to work to continue in that vein and build on the popularity of walking by supporting 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 look forward to hearing from you. Terry Dykes

Background of Walking Group Subject Advisers

My name is Terry Dykes and 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.

 terry dykesTerry Dykes

  • South Cheshire u3a member for 10 years and ex Chair of Holmes Chapel u3a
  • Walk Leader for 10 years
  • Planning and mapping walks with Memory Map
  • St Johns First Aid qualified
  • Cheshire East footpath volunteer

However, this will not be a solo task since I will have the full and active support of Kevin Millard from the Midlands and Bernard Owen from North Wales both of whom have kindly agreed to join the team as Walking Group Advisers. We hope that this team will have a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer u3a Walking Group Leaders across the whole of the UK.

Our collective knowledge and experience goes from starting a new walking group, tips for the more experienced group leaders on how to make walks more interesting to taking a group of walkers into the high peaks with all the associated issues of sudden weather changes etc.

kevin millardKevin Millard

  • South Leicestershire u3a member for 4 years, in which time I have started 3 new groups
  • Keeping up to date with Covid rules
  • Planning and mapping walks (I use walk4life £5p.a.)
  • Avoiding Midlands mud!


bernard owenBernard Owen

  • Llandudno u3a member for 5 years,
  • 10 years of hill/mountain walking in Snowdonia.
  • Walk leader with 3 walking groups
  • Planning & Mapping walks
  • Health & Safety First Aid qualified.

Walking in Snowdonia

snowdonia 1   snowdonia 2


Cheshire Peaks and Plains


 cheshire peaks 1  cheshire peaks 2

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.

We are all very aware that walking within our u3a’s has always been an extremely popular activity and we would like to work to continue in that vein and build on the popularity of walking by supporting 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.

Starting a new walking group

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, this 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 5mile 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 you 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 web site 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

Becoming a joint leader and/or taking over an existing group

Many group leaders have carried out their role for several years, taking on the responsibility of steering their group in what they see is the right direction, arranging all the activities and dealing with finances and communication with group members.

The problem with this model is when the leader is no longer able to continue with this role, maybe through ill health, family commitments or relocation.

Many u3a groups are now run by two or more leaders who share the responsibility and with sensible use of technology, this model is far easier now to put in place.

Beacon emails

Most walking groups share the planning and leading of walks and these people may well be happy to be given “Leader” status on the Beacon email system.

See the Beacon Help sheet for more information on the process.

When they have been given a login and password, they will be able to access the group’s emails and be able to send out details of the walk they have planned,

Website updates

You may have a keen photographer in the group, that would be happy to take responsibility for sending pictures and a short report to the newsletter editor, often the editor will also post pictures on the website, but if your photographer is confident, they could do this too.

Formation of new walking groups

As existing walking group leaders get older, they may not feel able to continue with the high mileage routes they used to enjoy.

In several u3as, through passing leadership of the group over to other existing joint leaders, these older leaders were free to be able to set up a new walking group aimed at those members that preferred shorter routes and fewer stiles.

This model has huge benefits for all, generating new groups and providing choices for members as their mobility changes.           

Route planning

There are many web sites available that provide various levels of detail 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’ website

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 huge 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 give 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.

Group A use a website called walk4life , a £5 p.a. pc friendly website site that gives access to all OS maps. There are thousands of walks nationally on the site which can be searched for by location. It also allows walks to be easily plotted and saved. They print the route A4 and use this in conjunction with the full OS map of the area.


Minimising risks(inc Covid)

A new much simplified risk assessment Ramblers Risk Assessment for walks has been issued by The Ramblers and its’ use within u3a agreed 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.      

First Aid

With the best of planning, accidents do still happen and there is a wealth of information on The Ramblers web site

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, but many people are now using the what3words app on their mobile  

Next of kin & emergency contact details

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.  

Communication strategies within the group and Data Protection

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

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. 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 or grandchild 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.


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.