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Hill and Moorland Leader training

Learning to be a better walk leader all in

Julian Goode of Goode Walks on Hill and Moorland Leader training in Snowdonia

Taking a Mountain Training course to become a Hill & Moorland Leader might seem a bit left field when you run a business as a walk leader in Essex – very clearly Lowland Leader territory, as is the whole of East Anglia, London and most of the south east.

But it’s been on my radar since passing my Lowland Leader assessment in late summer 2021, as a very worthwhile qualification to add to my roster, for three specific and connected reasons.

So at the start of last week I set off early on Monday morning towards Snowdonia, ready to start my training course with Mountain Training provider Phill George, based in the village of Llanberis – famous for many things, including being at the foot of Snowdon and the starting point of the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the summit of Wales’ highest peak.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, despite (and I like to pride myself on this) being pretty well prepared. I’d had two trips to south Wales over the previous month, spending time in the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains, to put some hill miles into my legs; I’d re-read the Mountain Training ‘bible’, Hillwalking by Steve Long, which is the official handbook of Mountain Training’s walking schemes and covers everything on the award syllabus (which I’d also read, and re-read); I had all the right kit I’d need over the three days of the course; and I’d done other background recommended reading on the weather, Snowdonia flora and fauna… and a lot on navigation.

And I’d thought again about why I was doing it and wanted to go past training, pass assessment and become qualified as a Hill and Moorland Leader. The first reason was definitely confidence, and some sort of self ratification and personal challenge. A lot of the walking I did in my thirties and forties was in typical hill and moorland terrain: in the Peak District, and then the lower reaches of more mountainous areas of Scotland, the Lake District and Wales. But was I as competent as I thought I was, and able to bring that competence into eventually leading groups in the hills?

Which leads nicely into the second reason for testing myself, the skills benefit, across all the areas covered by the Hill and Moorland award. The most notable are probably navigation and leadership – and it stands to reason that if I was better in both those areas I’d bring lots of plusses into my walking business taking individuals and groups for guided walks, and leading corporate team bonding away days from here in Essex.

But there are plenty of other areas covered, such as route planning and hazard avoidance, equipment, group management, weather, and then access land, conservation & environmental knowledge that all have a bearing on how you work in the outdoors industry anywhere, lead walks in any terrain at any time, run courses and operate as an outdoors business owner.

And then that leads into the third reason – expanding the business, in two respects. It gives Goode Walks the chance to broaden its offering over time, to offer more of the same, but in a new terrain in lots of new places across the UK. And it also opens up even more potential freelance opportunities to work with other outdoors providers, on top of what I’m already able to offer as a qualified Lowland Leader.

The good news is that the course was a great experience. Phill George is an excellent provider, just my sort of trainer, able to pass on a wealth of knowledge and experience in a calm, confident and almost subliminal way. The rest of my training group – Jane, Sian and Chris – were great company, and we had a very enjoyable three days, doing things we never thought possible, especially in terms of micro navigation, night navigation (aided by an amazing super moon when out on night two, east of the Pass of Llanberis), and just feeling blessed to be out in such amazing hill and moorland terrain, with great views, in great (and thankfully not too hot) weather.

I’m already looking onwards and upwards. Buoyed by Phill’s post-course feedback, I feel ready to try and slot in my assessment course sooner than I’d planned – if possible before I embark on A Really Goode Walk in the autumn. And then there’s seeds sown of taking on the Mountain Leader qualification, even though there are two elements – wild camping and rope work – that are just outside of my current comfort zone. But if an experienced Mountain Leader tells you that you could do it, who are you to argue?

And just as with the Hill and Moorland award, the same three reasons would apply for taking on the Mountain Leader course. It’s all good for me and for Goode Walks. And that’s what it’s all about when you want to help everyone else to enjoy the great outdoors.

It gives Goode Walks the chance to broaden its offering over time, to offer more of the same, but in a new terrain in lots of new places across the UK

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