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Planning Your Route - How to Plan Your Walk
There are so many walking trails and hiking routes to experience in the UK. From lofty mountains and country footpaths to lakeside walks and stately homes, we are literally spoilt for choice. While there is plenty variation in the type of terrain you can cover, the British weather also plays a part when it comes to planning a walk. The sheer volume of UK walking routes and unpredictable weather can make planning for a day hike a bit more difficult.
Deciding Where to Walk
So you’ve consulted your local guidebooks, your ordnance map and your GPS tracker and you’ve decided which walking route you’re going to do. Before you set off there are questions that you need to ask about what you may come across.
Which walking route are you planning to take?
If you haven’t completed your intended hiking route recently, take a guidebook or a map with you. Research the area so you are clued up on places of interest, that way you won’t miss anything. You should also pay careful attention to the walking route itself. Are there any sections of the walk that could be affected by the weather such as rivers or becks? It’s good to anticipate the possibilities so that you can plan alternative routes.
How many miles will you cover?
It’s important to consider the mileage that you’ll be walking. How long will it take you to complete the walk from start to finish? Remember to think about the fitness level of yourself and others as it may take longer than you think. Also, consider the fact that strenuous terrain could slow you down. All these things can increase the time you will need to complete the walk.
Does your walk involve a climb?
How high does your route require you to climb? How steep is the assent? If you’re reaching a significant height, remember that the air will drop along with the temperature, so take some extra layers of clothing. In icy and wintery conditions, really consider your safety if you’re planning to tackle a route with steep terrain. If you are unsure of your capabilities, it’s probably best to wait for friendlier weather conditions.
What other challenges might you face?
Does the route require you to cross rivers, walk across boggy ground or negotiate mountain ridges? These types of challenges pose an extra risk that you should plan for. For example, is there a safer way to cross the river? A bridge, stepping stones or a shallow crossing point? Have you planned in extra time to get yourself across that muddy bog? Are you and the others in your party comfortable with walking on mountain ridges? Traverse mountain ridges can offset your balance and require a calm approach. You should consider these scenarios before you set off, as it will help you avoid dangerous situations.
How long will your route take?
Timing your walk is important. It’s very easy for a hike to take longer than expected and in some cases, this can pose a risk to you. These are the following questions you should ask yourself when you’re estimating how long your walk might take.
How many hours should the walk take?
If you’re planning to walk a route that is popular then you will probably come across guides that give you an estimated time of completion. You should also consider Naismith’s rule:
3 miles (5 km) = 1 hour every 1000 ft. (300m) = and EXTRA 30 minutes
What should you allow extra time for?
Guidebooks and the Naismith rule will give you a generic time estimation but there are other things that will impact how long your route will take:
- Your own fitness and stamina
- The fitness and stamina of those around you- you’ll travel at the pace of the slowest person
- The weather- you’ll walk slower if it’s wet, windy or wintery conditions
- The terrain. If there are scree slopes, boulders and other challenges you will have to take your time
- Rest stops and breaks
When does the sun rise and set?
Take a look at the weather forecast and make a note of the estimated sunrise and sunset so that you can ensure you’re walking in daylight hours.
What time do you plan on starting your walk?
When you are more aware of how long your walk will take and the sunrise and sunset, you can accurately establish what time you need to start your hike. Remember to allow enough time for travelling to the start of the route.
Planning for the weather
What’s the weather forecast like for the day and location?
Wet weather and cold temperatures won’t put a stop to your plans. However, it should influence your clothing choices and you should consider how bad weather could impact your day. Similarly, if hot weather is forecast, remember to pack sun cream and wear lighter clothing.