Planning a successful walking route requires a combination of research and knowledge. You need to know what the terrain and conditions are going to offer, and you need to understand your own ability, and any safety implications. This is far easier to get right when you are planning for yourself than if you are writing a walking route for someone else. My role as a freelance outdoor writer requires me to do a fair amount of walking route writing, for both country walks and urban walks. Today I share my top tips on how to plan a walking route, for someone else.
Walking route planning
- Have a map to hand and understand how to use it. Online mapping tools such as OS Maps are great for route planning but understanding the basics behind the calculations is also really important (this understanding is best gained through training and your own experience). You should also include a map with your route description (copyright and licensing restrictions may apply).
- Consider everybody who might use your walking route and label it accordingly. For example, safety for young children (e.g. cliff edges), accessibility (e.g. wheelchair friendly paths), height gain (with regard to fitness), terrain (e.g. boggy ground) and experience (with regard to navigation skills).
- Visit the location and walk the route yourself if you possibly can. If you absolutely can’t, seek local advice about the suitability and safety of your chosen route. National park rangers, countryside rangers and local visitor centres are usually all willing to help.
- Include useful additional information. This will help the environment you are recommending as well as your readers. Giving preferred parking, toilet and refreshment options can relieve traffic on narrow roads, ensure that human waste ends up in the right place and help support local businesses.
- Think carefully about the environment you are recommending. As an outdoor writer you have significant influence. You might be in a position to recommend alternative routes to overcrowded trails, encourage people to travel by public transport or car share, or just take extra care when it comes to wildlife and ecosystems.
Make walking fun
I have given my final tip a paragraph of its own. If we want to encourage people to get outside and enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, we need to make sure they enjoy their experiences. Walking routes found in magazines, guide books or online may well be someone’s first exposure to walking as a hobby. These obviously need to be accurate but they also need to include elements of fun. The more fun people have, the more likely they are to try walking a second time. We can’t control the weather but we can point out entertaining features and facts along the way. We humans are great collectors so anything you can suggest for people to find or notice will add their enjoyment.