New members FAQ

Welcome! The Saturday Walkers' Club is a little different from other walking clubs as our walks do not have leaders - they are 'self-led'. What's that? Read on.

How does the Club work?

Volunteers publish walks on this website, and everyone is invited to come along, join the walk, and walk with the group.

There is no cost (other than your travel to join the walk), as our club has no membership, no booking, and no fees.

The walks have no leader. You can walk at your own pace, in the company of other club members, or on your own, as you wish.

However, you should bring a copy of the written walk directions, a GPX file, or a map of the route so that you can find your own way if necessary. These are all available for free on this website for you to load on to your device or to print out.

In the jargon, these walks are self-organising. The club publishes a date and time on this website for a particular walk, so that like-minded people can walk together. Within this framework, you take part in one of the club's walks at your own risk: nobody else is responsible for you.

For a longer introduction to the club and its philosophy, and a brief account of its history, see About our Club.

How does 'self-led' work?

The walks are self-organising, meaning that there is no designated walk leader and no contact numbers. You are responsible for finding the way yourself, using your own copy of the walk instructions, or a GPX file downloaded to your own device, or the printed map, as relevant.

Although groups will generally stick together to some extent, don't rely on other walkers to wait for you if you fall behind. Even if you are in a group, try to follow the directions or GPX yourself, and query other walkers if anything looks wrong. (The people striding out in front do not always know where they are going...) If you get lost it is best to backtrack until you know exactly where you are.

The system might sound haphazard but in practice it works well. Smaller groups tend to stick together, with people taking it in turns to navigate. Larger groups often split up, allowing you to choose between a faster or a slower pace. It is much more flexible than a led walk where everyone has to follow the walk leader's pace.

The walk instructions assume that you will be stopping for lunch at a pub and one or more will be suggested. You can of course bring your own food, but please do not try to eat this on the pub's premises: find a quiet place nearby and then rejoin the others in the pub for a drink if you wish. There will also be a suggested tea room or pub near the end of the walk.

How are the walks chosen?

The walks are chosen by a group of volunteers from the more than 400 walks on our site and published a week or so beforehand on This Week's Walks. Regular walkers bookmark this page and refer to it during the week for the following weekend's walks. Some walks are published on the site well in advance, but most will be put on the site in the Sunday to Tuesday before they take place, so it is always worth checking mid week to see all the walk options for the coming weekend.

How do I get to a walk?

It is a feature of the club that the walks are public transport friendly. Nearly all the walks start and finish at train stations, typically about an hour or so from central London. On a few walks you might also need to catch a bus to/from the station.

The volunteers post details of the train to catch for a walk, giving the times from a London terminus and usually a few intermediate stations, plus ticket advice for non-circular walks. They check that the outward and return journeys are not disrupted by planned engineering works, but it is obviously your own responsibility to check the connecting train or tube services from your local station.

You can of course drive to a walk. On a non-circular walk, check that the start and finish are on the same train line. Also, consider parking at the end of the walk and then travelling to the start by bus or train: this method works particularly well if you can do this by joining the recommended train.

How many people come on your walks?

Because there is no advance booking, no-one can be sure how many people are going to turn up for a particular walk. You can get a general idea by clicking the Recent Walks or Walk Reports buttons at the top of the This Week's Walks page. Typically around 6 to 20 people turn up for a walk; usually more on Saturdays than Sundays, and (obviously) fewer in bad weather. It's always possible that only a handful of other walkers will turn up, but this certainly won't be the case if you choose a popular-sounding walk in a well-known area (eg. the South Downs) on a fine summer day.

If you need more information to help you decide which walk to choose, go to that walk's page on the site and read its Introduction (and perhaps look at its Feedback page too).

Can I bring a teenager or child?

Yes. It doesn't often happen, but children are welcome. However, as our walks have no leader, they must be accompanied by an adult (i.e. 18+) who is responsible for them. If the child can't manage the pace, you may find that you fall behind the group at times.

You are welcome to use our website to organise slower-paced child-friendly walks.

Can I bring a dog?

Yes. It doesn't often happen, but dogs are welcome, and assistance dogs are very welcome. Please be aware that not all people are 'dog people' though, and wouldn't appreciate a dog running between their feet while walking. Please read the The Rambler's advice for taking dogs on a country walk beforehand, paying particular attention to 'sheep' and 'cows'.

You are welcome to use our website to organise 'dog-friendly' walks.

Is there a contact number?

Sorry, no. The club has no officers. But you can always leave a comment on the walk post, and someone else who is going will usually respond.

How do I prepare for a walk?

Check the weather for the area and choose appropriate clothes and footwear. Other walking sites can give you far more information about this. Walking boots are usually best in winter; trainers a reasonable alternative in summer. Depending on the season and weather forecast, come prepared for sun, rain, mud, etc. Bring a hat and plenty of water in summer, and food if you prefer not to have a pub lunch. Plasters or 'second skin' for blisters is a good idea too if you are new to walking (or your shoes are new to you).

How do I get a copy of the route?

For the most comprehensive information you should bring a copy of the written Walk Instructions. If you have a mobile device which can display PDF documents you don't need to print a paper copy. Note that some of the HTML-format walks have additional features allowing you to control exactly what gets printed. Even if you have chosen one of the Book walks and have a copy of that volume, check the walk's page on the website: there may be more up-to-date directions which you can print or download.

If you have a GPS smartphone, you can download the basic route of each walk (in GPX or KML format), although it will not necessarily include all the walk's variations. This file is intended to be used in conjunction with the home page for that walk, which will tell you background information about the features to be seen on the walk, as well as practical data about the trains, lunch and tea places, etc. For all walks you can print a map of the route from the "OS Map" link on each walk page.

Please be aware that all material downloaded from our website can be freely used for non-commercial purposes only: see our Copyright page for full details.

What about train tickets?

Use a Railcard, GroupSave or other promotions publicised by the train companies to reduce the cost of train travel. Nearly all of our regular walks are covered by the Network Railcard, which costs £30 for 12 months and gives one-third off most off-peak rail journeys in the south-east for you and up to three adults travelling with you. Check the Network Railcard website for full details and restrictions.

How will I meet up with everyone else?

If you travel from the London terminus, look around you for other walkers before departure, or on the train. But walkers are often scattered in small groups throughout the train and are often not obvious until arrival at the destination station. There the group should be easily visible as it assembles on the platform (on many rural stations we are almost the only people getting off), and we usually introduce ourselves to each other before setting off. As our walks do not have leaders, we do not have a contact phone number for you to call, but in our experience it is almost never necessary anyway.

What if I miss the train?

If you miss the recommended train and decide to catch a later one, check the walk details to see if there is a short cut or some other stratagem to help you catch up the main group. At worst you should meet them in the lunchtime pub where you can join them for the rest of the walk.

How do I leave feedback?

We like to know how many people turn up for each walk so that we can judge if we are offering too many or too few. Please check the Recent Walks section after a few days and add a brief comment to the walk if no-one else has yet done so.

We greatly appreciate feedback from fellow-walkers so that we can keep the walk details up to date. If you notice anything wrong or ambiguous about the walk instructions, or would like to say something about the lunchtime pub or afternoon tea room (for example), please go to that walk's Feedback page and add a comment there. We will try to fix problems before its next posting as a club walk, and your feedback will also alert anyone planning to do the walk independently.

Do you run weekends away, holidays, or social events?

Club members occasionally post details of short walking holidays and social events on This Week's Walks. Generally a small group will arrange a weekend away, book seats at a theatre, etc, and invite others to join them. These events are open to all. The event's organiser will make it clear what you are expected to do if you want to come along.


Last Updated: Mar-19 by Andrew.