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The leader walk recce - why, when and how!

This past weekend Emma and myself have both been out and about on recces for future walks. Emma was checking out a new route to High Force waterfall and I was exploring the paths around Ilkley Moor for her walk this Sunday.

High Force

The walk recce is an important part of the YTO leader process. It very helpful to already know whether to go left or right at a junction! It makes managing groups much easier, we get to chat with you instead of having our head in the map, minimises the need to make sudden route changes and helps keep everyone safe.

We don't always need to recce. If it's a familiar route, that won't change from month to month, such as the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales, there's no need. Though we will, of course, pay attention to the accessibility of reaching the parking spot and how the weather will impact on any water crossings.

Most YTO routes are planned and plotted using the information we have about an area, where it's best to park, the distance we want to cover and the points of interest or beauty we want to include.

New routes need checking. As with most areas of moorland, the paths on Ilkey Moor don't always correspond to the map, their direction can change , extra paths are created, some disappear and others become impassable through erosion. Sometimes the route that you imagined would be very pretty, is just a bit grim and it gets scrapped.

Some routes we know well, will need a refresh recce after they haven't been walked for a while. On farmland, paths become easily overgrown with nettles and weed, the location (and mood!) of livestock needs considering.

Time and distance is a factor too. Our leaders often use the OS app to plot routes, and sometimes it lies. There have been times when a 10 mile route is actually 12 miles or an 8 mile estimate barely hits 6. When we advertise a walk that we don't yet know (because we love to offer you variety and newness!) it's important to us that the description is fairly accurate.

Scoping out the parking is important to. Does the drop pin take you to where we think it does? Is the parking spot accessible and safe? How does the parking impact on the route plan?

Obviously on the day of the walk, things can change and we need to come up with an alternative plan. Cows can move fields, farmers can lock gates, streams can be in spate, stepping stones can become flooded and the weather may mean it's not safe to go high.

No leader is infallible. Sometimes we all have to double check a waypoint, miss a path because we are chatting or walk a bit of the route we haven't checked yet (we just know this path HAS to be better than the one we took on the recce!)

So, if you've ever wondered how we know that it's the gate not the stile, that the higher path is a better option than the lower, despite the hill, this is why.

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