Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Ramblers Walk Grades

The Ramblers definitions for their walk grades are:
Easy Access - walks for everyone, including people with conventional wheelchairs and pushchairs, using easy access paths. Comfortable shoes or trainers can be worn. Assistance may be needed to push wheelchairs on some sections, please contact the group running the walk for details.

Easy - walks for anyone who does not have a mobility difficulty, a specific health problem or is seriously unfit. Suitable for pushchairs if they can be lifted over occasional obstructions. Comfortable shoes or trainers can be worn.

Leisurely - walks for reasonably fit people with at least a little country walking experience. May include unsurfaced rural paths. Walking boots and warm, waterproof clothing are recommended.

Moderate - walks for people with country walking experience and a good level of fitness. May include some steep paths and open country, and may be at a brisk pace. Walking boots and warm, waterproof clothing are essential.

Strenuous - walks for experienced country walkers with an above average fitness level. May include hills and rough country, and may be at a brisk pace. Walking boots and warm, waterproof clothing are essential. People in doubt about their fitness should contact the organiser or leader in advance.

Technical - walks for experienced and very fit walkers with additional technical skills. May require scrambling and use of ropes, ice axes and crampons. You must contact the organiser or leader in advance for further details.
It is clear that Leisurely and below are not applicable to our walks. Technical may apply to some of our A+ walks. For A walks and below, that leaves us with just Moderate and Strenuous.

Moderate walks are for experienced walkers with a “good level of fitness,” and Strenuous walks for those with an "above average level of fitness.” The population under consideration is “experienced country walkers”, or equivalently it seems, “people with country walking experience.” However, there is a big difference between the fitness levels of different walking groups, even in the same part of the country, and our walks are advertised nationally. It is difficult to see how we can make a worthwhile assessment on this basis.

Moderate walks may include some “steep paths and open country”, and Strenuous walks may include “hills and rough country.”  When does a steep path become a hill? When does open country become rough country? These are difficult questions to answer, but most of our walks contain hills by any reasonable definition, and it appears that they should be graded Strenuous.

Is an above average level of fitness necessary to walk up a hill? Only if the "experienced country walkers" under consideration have a very low level of fitness. The bar appears to be set very low here. These grades do not look very useful to our own experienced walkers.


  1. To avoid confusion these are not the grades we use!

  2. They are the grades that we use on the Ramblers site. Click Forthcoming Walks under Links on the right hand side of the screen. This brings up our forthcoming walks with their L, M and S grades. Click on the ? icon. This brings up the definitions of the grades above.

    The guidance that we offer leaders, however, differs from that above. We had an M with over 2,000 feet of climb on Sunday. This should have been S even according to our own guidance.

    Do you think that the grades that we publish on the Ramblers site are misleading, given the above definitions?

    If so, what, if anything, do you think we should we do about it?

  3. Huddersfield Ramblers need to provide guidance for leaders and walkers that gives a consistent message on how strenuous a walk is expected to be.
    Oliver has been asked to draft something for this.
    This blog is in effect a discussion forum. It needs to be made clear that the views expressed are not the position of Huddersfield Ramblers, but individual bloggers personal opinions

  4. On a separate subject, what is wrong with the clock on here? It is about 8 hours behind

  5. I have fixed the time zone problem. We were on the default, which turns out to be Pacific Time. I have changed that to GMT. BST is not offered as an option, unfortunately.

    There can be a fine line between fact and opinion sometimes. I have said, for example, that some of our walks have had a good turnout. You could say that is an opinion, and that I should restrict myself to giving the numbers. Alternatively, you could say that I am providing useful information.

    Nonetheless, I am trying hard to be factual and not to express opinions, particularly in the blog posts. If a blog post expresses a potentially contentious opinion, it should say so.

    As far as I am aware, the Ramblers Grades post is purely factual. It reproduces the Ramblers grade definitions (not to be confused with those on the Huddersfield programme), and makes some factual comparisons. I have not said whether the Ramblers grade definitions are good or bad, or right or wrong, or whether they are better or worse than those on the Huddersfield programme.

    If I do express a contentious opinion in a post, please say where and why, so that I can add a note to the text.

    There is a whole range of possible positions here. At one extreme, we could say that the Ramblers definitions are fine an that we should adopt them wholeheartedly. At the other extreme, we could complain about them vehemently, and refuse to publish our walks along side them. I am doing my best to sit on the fence here.

    Opinions are, of course, very welcome in the comments. I anyone has an opinion on this matter please tell us about it

    1. It is good to have a forum to debate opinions, or as with "good turnout" an interpretation of the facts. "Telling the story" that gives context to facts, is often what turns data in to information or knowledge..The fact that 20 people went on a walk could be ac good or bad turnout depending on circumstances. In the context of an average tunout of say 35 it might be bad, but if I also knew that it was in the Peak Distict in atrocious weather I might consider it quite good.

  6. At the bottom of the Ramblers giving the definitions of the L, M and S grades that we have provided it says:

    “Some of our volunteers use their own local grading systems. If this isn't explained in the walk description, contact the organiser or leader for details.”

    It appears that we can opt out of providing these grades and provide Huddersfield grades in the Additional Notes section of the walk description. Alternatively, we can give both Ramblers grades, Huddersfield grades, if we choose.

  7. It is worth noting that West Riding reproduce the Ramblers grade definitions next to our walks in their walks diary:


    I dismissed L on the grounds that we do not have any walks where it is possible to say more than six months in advance that boots and warm waterproof clothing are unnecessary.