When considering your final route design, don’t forget your responsible and sustainable ethos. It is important to:
Keep the route appropriate to the event activities and the ability of your participants - do not use a route suitable for experienced walkers when organising an event open to participants with minimal walking experience.
Keep in mind aspects of erosion and impact to sensitive landscapes and wildlife when designing your final route. Try to choose a robust route on existing and/or approved trails and paths that are suitable for your event activities to minimise the impact on fragile vegetation and aggravating unstable, badly eroded trails or known access problems - particularly if the weather has been bad in the build up to the event or even on the day. Where robust routes are unavailable or inappropriate for the event, discuss other alternatives with the land manager such as spreading out participants across a wider area by carefully placing control points, or consider reducing the limit on participant and spectator numbers and dividing them into small groups that leave at different intervals.
Where possible, safeguard wildlife habitats and sensitive landscape as well as land management activities by directing participants and spectators away from such areas using waymarking, stewarding and in some cases temporary fencing.
This is essential before the finalised route is signed off. Following the completion of stage 1, you should have contacted the appropriate land managers whose land you wish your route to travel through. Agreeing a final route may involve a walkover with the land managers to delineate sensitive areas, notify about land management operations and to create an agreement on particular conditions of use.
The mountains and countryside areas of Northern Ireland offer peaceful recreation opportunities to frequent users and visitors alike. Therefore, the use of any existing trails, whilst recommended, should be done with respect to other users. If your event is unavoidably held on the same date and in the same location as another event, try to contact the event organiser prior to the date to determine and resolve any potential conflicts or problems that may occur.
You should also consider land management operations which may be carried out at the same time as your event, such as agricultural or forestry operations. You should consult with the land manager to get land management information specific to your chosen venue.
Think about existing facilities and services for staff, volunteers, participants and spectators. Where facilities are inappropriate or do not exist, consider the ease with which temporary facilities and services can be provided without creating an impact to the area. In addition, think about checkpoints, rest stops and feed stations for your participants as well as first aid stations and access points for emergency services.
Carry out a risk overview and decide on contingency plans in case of issues such as access, poor weather and other unforeseen circumstances. These are likely to be a requirement of your insurance policy. Your contingency plan should consider alternative and diversion routes, venue changes and cancellation protocols.
Waymarking and stewarding are important ways to ensure your participants stay on the correct route and do not get lost, follow short cuts or widen eroded routes by walking on vegetated margins. They ensure that sensitive habitats are safeguarded from participants and spectators.
The type and amount of waymarking you choose will depend on the ability of your participants, the type of activities and the route used. You should also talk to the land manager to agree on the most appropriate type of waymarking or stewarding for the venue. If the event is focused on participants with minimal outdoors experience, using a designated and well waymarked route (Ulster way or a local walking route) is important to keep the participants safe, on the correct route and give them confidence that they are going the right way. Conversely, if your event is targeting participants with greater outdoors experience and requires aspects of map reading or orienteering, waymarking will be kept to a minimum to preserve the skilled aspect of the event. Consider how the amount of waymarking you use will detract from other users experience of the outdoors.
There are no set rules on waymarking, however, the use of temporary, removable waymarking (such as plastic or laminated card arrows, sawdust marking, glow sticks, signs on posts or stakes) is often more acceptable than painting (including spray painting or chalk based paints) or other permanent markings on structures, rocks, roads, walls and paths. An alternative to waymarking is to locate stewards at key points or junctions to ensure participants do not get lost or choose the wrong route. Your stewards should be well trained and knowledgeable on the event and any safety and environmental protocols. You should also consider stewards with first aid or other skills relevant to the activities and area.
This project is funded by Sport Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and is supported by Mourne Heritage Trust, Leave No Trace, National Trust, Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Scheme, Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership and Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust.