Alan Ward tells us how people might want to improve their hill and mountain walking skills


We asked Cardiff based International Mountain Leader Alan Ward how people might want to improve their hill and mountain walking skills now that restrictions on travel and countryside access have been lifted. The hills and mountains are now open so what do we need to do next?

The upland areas in the United Kingdom are areas of outstanding natural beauty and journeying into and through these areas can be a wonderful experience. These opportunities can be more safely enjoyed by having appropriate knowledge and skills to venture out onto unfamiliar terrain but with the ability to return home safely at the end of the day.

Contact Alan for details of any of the courses outlined below – or email [email protected]

There are various schemes, with different levels available, but the two I’m involved with, and a training provider for are Mountain Training (MT) and the National Navigation Award Scheme (NNAS)

MOUNTAIN TRAINING is the national awarding body for qualifications in walking, climbing and mountaineering with schemes available for everyone to choose from. Let’s review the walking qualifications:

Hill Skills: A Hill Skills course is your key to getting started in countryside and moorland walking. No previous hill walking experience is required because the content of the course is aimed at beginners. If you do have some experience of hill walking but aren’t confident about planning walks, navigating and understanding the equipment required, then a Hill Skills course is an ideal way to learn.

Mountain Skills: A Mountain Skills course is an ideal choice for walkers interested in transferring their walking skills to more mountainous terrain. Ideally, participants would have some basic hill walking experience and have a reasonable level of fitness. Courses are run in the higher mountain areas of the UK and Ireland.

Lowland Leader Award: The Lowland Leader qualification has been designed for people who wish to lead groups on day walks in lowland countryside and woodland in summer conditions. The majority of the UK and Ireland is made up of this type of terrain so you’ll never be short of places to go walking.

The leadership opportunities for Lowland Leaders are varied and far reaching, from the South West Coast Path to the Great Glen Way; walking in lowland areas can be no less spectacular than walking high up in the mountains. And with campaigns such as Britain on Foot and Walking for Health proving really popular, there’s never been a better time to be a walking leader.

Hill and Moorland Leader Award: Get away from the paths and enjoy our wild places as a Hill and Moorland Leader. This qualification is ideal for walkers who want to learn the skills required for effective group leadership in the hill and moorland areas of the UK and Ireland.

Hill and Moorland Leaders operate in terrain that is generally more remote than that used by Lowland Leaders and not as steep or rocky as ground covered by Mountain Leaders.

Expedition Skills Module: The Expedition Skills Module is an optional module available to walking leaders. It’s an opportunity to increase your skills where you will be trained and assessed to lead groups on multi day camping expeditions.

The flexibility of the module makes it useful for Lowland Leaders, Hill and Moorland Leaders and Mountain Leaders in terrain and conditions within the scope of their respective qualification.

The Expedition Skills Module is ideal for those involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and/or Ten Tors training (among other things) because the skills covered apply to expeditions using commercial campsites as well as wild camping.

Mountain Leader Award: The Mountain Leader scheme is designed for people who want to lead groups in the mountains, hills and moorlands of the UK and Ireland. If you love being out in the mountains and want to share your enthusiasm with others, become a Mountain Leader and you’ll never look back.

Mountain Leaders operate the length and breadth of the country with all sorts of groups of people; from Scouts and schoolchildren to outdoor instructors and OAPs. The qualification is what you make it and there are countless opportunities for passionate Mountain Leaders.

National Navigation Award Scheme offers navigational training courses and awards to suit the terrain found across the United Kingdom:

Bronze Navigator AwardThe Bronze National Navigation Award is a practical hands-on award. It is aimed at people with no navigation experience whether you are new to the outdoors or have been relying on others, guidebooks or easy well-defined routes.

Silver Navigator AwardThe Silver National Navigation Award develops the navigation skills acquired at the Bronze level. It adds skills required to navigate to features and places some distance from paths and tracks. It teaches accurate compass work. It will also teach how to select the suitable navigational techniques to cross open country.

Gold Navigator AwardThe Gold Navigator Award builds on the skills acquired at the Bronze and Silver levels and adds techniques and skills for dealing with complex contour features both large and small.

Tutor AwardIn 2016 the NNAS launched the NNAS Tutor Award, a course for NNAS Providers and their Course Directors who teach navigation. It is a recognition that just because one can personally navigate it doesn’t follow that one can teach it! The course is open to anyone wishing to learn skills to teach navigation.

The course is a mixture of indoor and outdoor practical sessions and offers the opportunity for candidates to discuss their own methodology as well as learning new techniques from others.

Bigfoot Services Limited – Certificate #22885 Dated July 7th 2020

Visit the Bigfoot Services Limited website ( to view the range of Alan’s activities, future events, galleries, testimonials and how his Corporate Social Responsibility Policy helps to train mountain guides in the developing world where he donates his time free of charge to provide mountain training to those who have no access to this.