Very Little In Life Is Free

Apr 22, 2024 | General

walk advert

Very little in life is free…… As we contend with the rising cost of living and grasping tentacles of government, never has this statement felt more true. However, we should not forget that many simple pleasures in life have no price tag. Precious moments with loved ones are free, as are: the kindness of strangers, wonder of stargazing, joy of smelling fresh flowers, and the health benefits of taking a walk. Other than perhaps clothes and shoes (unless you prefer to walk ‘au naturel’….and who am I to judge!), it is free to put one foot in front of the other and enjoy the great outdoors. Yet everywhere I look at the moment people are charging for walks.

How much?!

At the lower end of the scale it is an annual membership subscription to a walking group. However, it is increasingly common for people to charge by the walk. £10 per person for a mere 5km led walk apparently being quite acceptable. At the other end of the scale, special interest walks with an expert cost anywhere between £40-300 for a couple of hours. What’s more people are happily paying these sums.


walking booking


As an insured and qualified walk leader I should be cashing in on this bonanza. Yet the reality is that I struggle to reconcile making money from walking. I lead walks for the love of it. The ‘it’ being the whole package, the physical process of walking, the exploration, research, and crafting of interesting walks, as well as the meeting new people. I fear that money will separate rather than unite my community of walkers, change the walk dynamic and potentially result in me falling out of love with the activity that otherwise brings me joy.

Balancing The Books

However, the reality is that exploring, research, marketing and leading all take time and cost money. It’s not a huge amount (if you don’t attach a value to my time) but there is insurance, training, books, maps, transport and first aid kits to name but a few. This has not gone unnoticed by friends and some walkers, with several either telling me that I need to charge or saying they would like to pay. However, the dilemma is how to balance my finances, principles, and pleasure.


Pile of Books


After much contemplation of the issue I have come up with a matrix of solutions. Through the winter, I have been busy researching and trialling some themed walks, which I hope will be of interest to visitors as well as locals. My thinking being that I myself don’t mind paying for a guided walk on holiday, if my experience is being enriched by someone sharing their knowledge of the local area. As you might have seen, these so far include a landscape literacy walk about chalk, one that casts the light on flint, night walks and another that focuses on our magnificent yews and their association with graveyards. Walks in partnership with local businesses, also passionate about the Western Weald, like Langham Brewery also fall into this category.


briefing a walk

Cancel Culture

From experience, I have additionally learnt that people are most likely to cancel a walk or no show in summer. It is simply too easy for people to book a free walk and then change their mind at the last minute when offered a day at the beach or a BBQ instead. The alternatives in winter are less tempting and I’m just as happy to stay home when it is raining! Therefore, to help focus people’s minds when booking I will be introducing a small charge for all walks between 1 June and mid-September. If people feel this disproportionate, at least I too will get to enjoy a day at the beach. However, come autumn, the majority of walks will revert to being free of charge once again.

Value For Money?

To those, who perhaps, like me, are not sure about paying for a walk around their local area, I will leave you with this anecdote from a trial of Walk The Chalk earlier this year. When I asked one lady if she would have joined me had I charged £5, she replied “no I would not have paid, but that would have been my loss”… she had thoroughly enjoyed the walk, learnt a lot and definitely now thought it well-worth £5.


If you’ve enjoyed this post you may also like: Why Use A Walking Guide


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