Walking Group Leader Award (WGL)

The Walking Group Leader Award (WGL) qualifies you to take groups of people walking in the UK. It does not cover remote or mountainous terrain.

Cloud patterns over Gayle Moor, Yorkshire Dales  © Catherine Speakman
Cloud patterns over Gayle Moor, Yorkshire Dales
© Catherine Speakman, Nov 2008

This article details the remit of the award, how to register for it and what exactly it covers. This article has been produced in conjunction with the Mountain Leader Training Association (MLTA).

VIDEO: Walking Group Leader Award


The Course 

The Walking Group Leader Award was introduced quite recently as a rung below the Mountain Leader award. The ML is a longer and more complex course than the WGL. ML holders can guide walkers over any UK terrain, including into the mountains in summer conditions. WGL holders can't lead over terrain that is overly remote, steep, rocky or mountainous. 

Acceptable WGL terrain is difficult to define – mainly because everyone has different ideas of what is, for example, 'remote' or 'steep'. Even the difference between 'hill' and 'mountain' is open to interpretation: the Oxford English Dictionary calls a hill somewhat vaguely 'a natural elevation of the earth's surface, a small mountain'; in Scotland 'a hill' usually refers to more mountainous country, while in Ireland rounded hills can be called 'mountains'. 

By the end of your WGL assessment, you should have a clear understanding of where you are qualified to lead walkers – really it just requires common walking sense - and, if you are ever in doubt about the suitability of walking terrain, you can contact your relevant training board for advice. 

Here follows a description of WGL terrain: 

WGL terrain is open, uncultivated, non-mountainous, high or remote country, such as

upland, moor, bog, fell, hill or down. Walking areas should be enclosed by well-defined geographical or man-made boundaries such as classified roads, and should not merge with mountain regions or involve steep or rocky terrain. The WGL scheme doesn't qualify you to cope with winter conditions (ie snow and ice) or to use rope work. The walking areas you guide over must be easy to exit in a maximum of three hours - either to a road accessible to traffic, or to a refuge that would provide shelter and from which help could be summoned.  

The main aspects of the WGL course are group management, navigation, emergency procedures, access and conservation. Training and assessment courses are three days long, so half the length of ML courses. Many people use the WGL as an intermediary stance on the way to becoming an ML instructor. If you do intend to go on to take the ML afterwards, consider taking an ML training course instead of a WGL training course (if you have the relevant experience), followed by WGL assessment and then ML assessment.


James Martin - WGL holder at  ©
James Martin - WGL holder at

Award Holder Profile - James Martin 

“I am presently an Instructor for Call of the Wild, an outdoor activity provider in the Brecon Beacons. I have been instructing for seven years and have qualifications to lead caving (Level 1 Cave Leader), hill walking (WGL) kayaking (Level 2 Kayak Coach), climbing (SPA award) and gorge walking. My next aim is to gain my Mountain Bike Leader award and ML assessment.

The Mountain Leader training course was split between South and North Wales, and enabled candidates to experience both high moorland and mountainous terrain environments. I chose to attend a Walking Group Leader assessment as a progressive step towards gaining my ML award. The main differences between the WGL and ML are that the ML involves leading in more remote and greater mountain environments, taking remote camping trips and protecting clients safely on steep ground using ropes.  

The WGL assessment was fine, it wasn't too intense: a two day assessment consisting of an overnight camp, an expedition including preparing route cards and navigation, group management and environmental issues. On the ML assessment you do some micro-navigation: tracking down less obvious features. In the WGL assessment the features are usually more obvious and easier to find. We also discussed controlling a group and a bit about wild camping.   

The WGL is a fairly easy award to get. You just have to log a minimum of 40 quality days. Having completed an MLS training course I would recommend taking the WGL assessment as a practice for the full ML assessment. I did my WGL assessment with Mountain Water Experience ( and they were very good. It was all happy days really.”  

Be aware that WGL terrain can have its own navigational challenges! Navigation on WGL is different to ML navigation, rather than easier. We had a very high defer rate in the first year of the WGL as folks possibly elected to go for an 'easier' award and came unstuck! Typical ML navigation involves short legs between fairly identifiable features; WGL navigation can rely far more on subtle contour interpretation over longer 'legs'.

Andy Say, Executive Secretary of the MLTE

How to register for the WGL:

You need to be at least 18 years old, with a minimum of 12 months hill walking experience. When you register you will get a log book. Log your walks to date in it before your training course, so that your course director can assess your experience. You need to log 20 walks. If you have done lots more walks than that, log routes that demonstrate the breadth of your experience.

To get a logbook:

Training, consolidation and assessment:

Both WGL training and assessment courses can be run over three consecutive days or two weekends and involve a minimum contact time of 30 hours. 

If you have already completed ML training, you don't need to attend or apply for exemption from WGL training although you will need to re-register for the WGL. You will have to show your walking experience encompasses WGL type terrain though. 

Because candidates should already have plenty of hill walking experience, WGL training courses emphasise skills that you would be unlikely to have learnt without expert guidance, and works on perfecting your existing skills. 

At the end of your WGL training course your course director will agree a personal action plan with you to carry out before your assessment. There is no time limit for this 'consolidation period' but you must feel confident in your abilities to lead walkers over the terrain defined by the scheme before your assessment, and should have logged a minimum of 40 hill walking days in three distinct areas of the UK or Ireland.  

Use the consolidation period to practice the skills you learned during training, and consider assisting a suitably experienced leader on some guided walks.   

A WGL hill walking day:

Log walking days which involve you: 

  • taking part in planning and leadership
  • using navigation skills
  • experiencing terrain suitable to the WGL scheme
  • increasing your knowledge and practising your skills
  • paying attention to safety
  • spending at least 4 hours walking
  • planning/dealing with adverse weather conditions

Wide experience as a hill walker in several different regions, in varying weather conditions, is a key element to becoming an effective walking group leader. 

Camping within the scope of the WGL scheme takes place in terrain that is sheltered and within easy walking distance of roads and habitation.

The syllabus:


  • Walking and route finding
  • Navigation
  • Hazards and emergency procedures
  • Equipment 


  • Group management
  • The overnight experience
  • The upland environment and access
  • Conservation
  • Environmental knowledge
  • Weather
  • Background understanding of hill-walking in the UK

More information

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4 Jun, 2009
This is great. Does it cover helping people to cross the street, or is that the advanced level?
4 Jun, 2009
Why so negative?
5 Jun, 2009
Short or long answer? The short answer is that you don't need a certificate to go for a walk.
5 Jun, 2009
Couldn't agree more. You don't even need a certificate to take payment and lead others on a walk (unless they're under 18 and its an 'adventurous walk' (when you'd do well to get an AALA license). What you might want to do is ensure that you have some way of demonstrating that you were actually competent to do that should the solids hit the fan; but you can do that without a certificate. Interestingly we moved away from the term 'certificate' many moons ago; we award a dated report on competent performance along with a logbook to record ongoing experience and training subsequently. Hey come on over to the other thread!
5 Jun, 2009
My aunt is a leader for HF holidays - comfy middle-class ramblers doing nice gentle walks (by the standards of what hardcore UKC types might consider to be a walk). Much of what she's involved with is planning routes in advance to ensure that everyone in the group is comfortable with the level of the walk, and with group management. You might find it hard to believe, but there are people who go on these holidays who find 6 miles over open countryside a challenge. It's important that groups are managed in such a way as to ensure that everyone has a good time. You're right to say you don't need a certificate to go for a walk. But having a wee bit of training beforehand can help leaders and their clients have a good time.
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