Herts GOC attracts up to 15-20 members and guests each month. There are 7 "core" members. These are the people who turn up to events no matter what: rain, snow, drought, hurricane, nuclear holocaust, you name it, etc.
The group attracts mainly men, aged between mid-20s to young-60s.
Conversation flows quite naturally throughout the group, a constant burble of something. Topics can range from the most mechanical of cars, to the masculine of knitting, to the seriousness of international politics, to the frivolous of soap operas, to the fascination of photography, to the high culture of theatre, visual arts and music. And, of course, gossip about celebrities. Humour ranges from the driest of sarcasm to the smuttiest of Carry On films.
Herts GOC typically walks for up to 8-9 miles during GMT, up to 10-12 miles during BST. According to the disproportionately high number of members with GPS machines, the group's typical walking speed is 2.8mph.
The typical route is circular and uses mainly footpaths and bridleways. Roadside is minimised wherever possible, given more of it during winter. Herts' landscapes are very varied, ranging from hills, low chasms, undulating fields, prairies and... erm... motorways.
Starting points are normally free car parks. If we have to pay for parking, we do so as a last resort. Consequently, start points can be either in the remotest part of the county we can find, or at a railway station. Sometimes both. Walks always start at 11am and normally finish at 3pm (8 miles) or 5pm (12 miles).
For most walks, Herts GOC requires members & guests to bring a packed lunch and to wear sturdy boots. Lunch takes about 30-45 minutes. There are exceptions, e.g. walks in cities (when trainers are viable footwear) and the annual lunch walk (when lunch takes up to 3 hours).
Herts GOC tries its best to avoid routes that go past garden centres, on the grounds that to do so will result in immediate and mutinous shopping sprees. Walking with triffids is not particularly to the group's liking, although the group does tend to dally by railway lines, electricity pylons and churches. It's probably best not to ask.
You would not believe how often we hear this question...
For one person: a large sandwich, a banana, a packet of crisps, one more lump of fruit, a chocolate bar and at least 1 litre (2 pints) of plain drinking water.
As a rule, no. With a typical headcount of 15-20 people, pub lunches are unworkable for all events.
The sole exception is the annual lunch.
A boot with a heavy tread, at least 1cm (for all-year walking). Most of Hertfordshire is heavy clay. Any moderate rain in the preceding 24 hours turns it into thick, slippery mud. 48 hours of no rain bakes it into a semi-solid surface (in summer, it's a concrete-hard surface). Chalkier parts of the county are only chalkier; they still contain mainly heavy clay.
A trainer, or sports shoe, will offer you no grip, very little protection against natural hazards (e.g. tree roots, rough clay terrain), and no insulation against cold mud. A thick-soled trainer will suffice only for urban walks.
All footwear must have heels in good condition. The heel may be a little scraped, but when one side is worn more than the other, or the shoe's heel has collapsed, then replace the shoes.
In general, Herts GOC members tend to plan their routes on either an Ordnance Survey map or Google Earth, then test the route at least twice before inflicting it onto the members. The group requires its walk leaders to know where they are going, with only occasional reference to a map/GPS.
Most routes are well-worn routes, sometimes repeated after a gap of three years.
A walk normally contains a good field, a good view, a good gradient, and sometimes a water feature, railway feature or road feature. Walks normally end at a pub.
If you have any doubt about your fitness to walk at 2.8mph for up to 8-12 miles, then seek medical review.
The group offers no warranty at all about the fitness required to complete any of its events.
In short, your self-interest. Only membership of GOC will buy you the public liability cover that relates to walking on public rights on way.
If you think your home insurance covers you for this, check the small print. You'll be surprised what it won't cover...
Generally, we walk only on Saturdays. If we do an urban walk (normally in winter), we will consider doing it on a Sunday.
Our neighbouring groups - GOC Cambridge, GOC Essex and GOC Milton Keynes & Bucks - tend to walk on Sundays. Sometimes, they can walk close to, or in, Herts..! In addition, there is GOC London and GOC Home Counties Midweek. These latter two groups have more complex programmes of events.
If you want to offer a walk during the year, in the first instance, please speak to the group's co-ordinator at any of group's events.
If you want to offer a walk in response to an email from the group via GOC.org.uk, please follow the guidance in the email.
The group co-ordinator will typically want to speak to you over the telephone, or meet you at a future event, to discuss your offer. If you are new to the group, then the group co-ordinator shall need to discuss your experience in organising walks and your understanding of the GOC's Safety Policy.
The group plans its programme for the new year between October and December of the current year, but otherwise takes offers of walks all year round.