Why Use A Walking Guide?

Feb 15, 2024 | General

walking group at older hill

Holiday makers roughly split into one of two camps: those who prefer the ease of buying off the shelf and those who like to be more independent. Although I’d put myself in the latter camp, I am not wholly self-sufficient. Money saved on planning an itinerary and booking accommodation and travel is immediately spent on paying for memorable experiences, often with expert, local guides. Over the years, our family has found and enjoyed the company of some fascinating and inspirational people: people who, through their passion, succeeded in turning a perfectly pleasant holiday into something unforgettable. Perhaps it is the positive impression these guides left that has inspired me to become a private walking guide, sharing the secrets of the Western Weald on foot.

Information overload

In some ways, with so many walking apps, guidebooks and free online resources, there has never been an easier time to explore the outdoors on our own. However, it is this same excess of information that also makes it harder than ever to find the right walk. Generic walking sites have to be all things to all people and all year round. This means they rarely consider how a route might change through the seasons. In comparison, someone with local knowledge would flag up that a particular walk is at its most beautiful in May, because of the carpet of wild garlic, and best avoided in winter because the same damp conditions preferred by the garlic mean mud up to your armpits from October to March.

 

map in hand out walking

 

As a walking guide, I’m driven by a desire to ensure visitors see the Western Weald at its finest. I want them to go home and tell others of its beauty. For that to happen I need to use the entirety of my local knowledge to select the best routes for the season, weather on the day, the group’s interests, and composition. Plans are normally made in advance, but a good guide will dynamically adapt a route to suit conditions on the day. I had to do this last year with a group of walkers from Holland. By email they had told me they were fit and regularly walked about 12 miles. However, it soon became apparent that this didn’t include hills! I adapted the walk plans and ensured the new routes were equally enjoyable.

“I come from the Netherlands and can walk about 20 km a day there, but that turned out not to be feasible in the UK because of the hills! Routes were adjusted (I think she knows every route there is) and we just made beautiful walks….. Have I already said we will definitely be back?!!”

Adapt & evolve

A guide’s adaptability is one of their biggest strengths. When the weather takes a turn for the worst, they know the shortcut home. If walkers are struggling, they know how to avoid the climbs and motivate. When the local pub is unexpectedly closed because of a lack of staff, they know an equally lovely watering hole just around the corner. In contrast, a sudden change in plans on a self-guided walk can spell disappointment.

 

sunset drink

Sunset Walk

If you were to plan your own walk on holiday, I’m sure it would be enjoyable. However, the chances are you would also miss several interesting things along the way. Yes, you can probably read about these in a guidebook. But who wants their head buried in a book while walking around the countryside? This is the beauty of being accompanied by an expert. You get to explore somewhere new, admire the scenery and learn something along the way. All the while being led by someone who is actually excited about the local history and geography, rather than just the words on a page. A good guide isn’t just informative, but enthusiastic, sparking interest in their guests not only to listen, but to learn even more.

 

For me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing others get as much enjoyment of the local area as I do. On a recent Walk the Chalk, my walkers were so captivated by the theme I almost didn’t need my plan. Their steady questions provided an entirely natural, sequential structure that showed total engagement. It was one of my most gratifying walks.

“I attended a “Walk the Chalk” walk yesterday. Malinka was so knowledgeable and helped us to look more closely at the chalk we were walking on as well as the surrounding landscapes and how they came to be there. Interesting and inspiring!”

Banish the family arguments

Walking somewhere new can prove challenging even for navigation wizards. I have a map reading qualification but still like to take a back seat on holiday.  New areas, map symbols and path markers can be confusing: all variables that can lead to stress. Variables that a guide can take away. No arguing over the map reading, the guide has it covered! Don’t know where you are? Well you don’t have to worry, just follow the guide. Desperately need the bathroom, but no toilets in sight? I’m sure your guide has a tip for that too. Guides are there to take the pressure to plan every step off your shoulders.

 

family walk

 

Even if planning is your thing, like me, the real beauty of a guided walk comes afterwards, when you go back to your favourite places, or go inside the restaurant the guide recommended and explore even further on your own. So, no matter what type of person you may be, a chilled improviser or meticulous planner, either way you can gain a lot from occasionally allowing yourself to just follow along!

Read more guest reviews of Rural Strides here

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