Over the last few days, it has become apparent that we need to explain why and how we have come to the decision that for the moment at least GOC walks should be for groups of no more than six members.
Since we restarted our activities, the regulations with which we have to comply have changed twice. Several weeks ago, the government announced that gatherings of up to 30 people would be allowed. A few days later, The Ramblers issued guidelines stating that organised walks of up to 30 people were now permitted. Initially, we took this at face‑value. Unfortunately, when we got into the details, we discovered that what the large print giveth, the small print taketh away! The guidelines went on to say that in order to make such walks Covid‑secure, a number of precautions would have to be taken. In addition to recording the contact details of all attendees, we would have to ensure that an appropriate risk assessment was carried out and implemented, we would have to ensure that all our walk leaders were appropriately trained, and compile a register of approved leaders.
Having informed members and group coordinators that we could now hold walks with up to 30 participants, we quickly took steps to ensure that risk assessments were being carried out and recorded. However, with gatherings of up to 30 people being allowed more generally, we took the view that this was as far as we needed to go.
More recently, with the number of Covid-19 infections beginning to rise, the government announced that with effect from 14th September, with only a few named exemptions, gatherings in England, whether indoors or out, would once again be restricted to a maximum of six people. Initially, we believed that our walks and other activities would fall under these new regulations. Indeed, I emailed members to this effect. We were therefore surprised to learn that the Ramblers had announced that their guidelines had not changed, and that organised walks were one of the exemptions.
I immediately consulted with the other board members. We took the view that in order to claim this exemption, we would need to fully comply with the Ramblers’ guidelines. At present, we are not doing this. We have never required our walk leaders to undergo formal training, nor do we have measures in place to ensure that risk assessments are being implemented.
There were other considerations too. For example, the age of our members puts many of us at higher risk from Covid-19. With all this in mind, we decided that, for the moment, we should err on the side of caution and revert to organising walks for groups of no more than six people.
We did not take this decision lightly. As trustees, we have a duty of care both to our members and the wider public with whom we come into contact, and to uphold the good standing of the club. May I also assure you that we do not want these current restrictions to apply for any longer than is necessary. Accordingly, we will discuss the matter fully at the board meeting on 2nd October, to see if there are practical steps that we can take that would enable us to accommodate larger groups on our walks.
Please note that this applies to England only. We have left it to Dave Archer in Scotland and to Al and her colleagues in Wales to ensure that they comply with the relevant regulations there.
I would like to apologise for the confusion, and assure you that we will do everything we can to return things to normal as soon as possible.