The Boot Guide
The standard for accessible walking
Welcome to The Boot Guide, principles and a badge for accessible walking routes.
We are currently seeking your thoughts – have a look at the ideas below and make broad comments or complete the consultation questions.
The Boot Guide considers a range of areas for accessibility and builds on the great work of pioneers in access such as Miles Without Stiles, Access the Dales, The Ramblers, The National Trust, Canal and River Trust and Forestry England, the Youth Hostel Association – and many more.
The Boot Guide considers barriers to physically accessing, and comfortably completing, walking routes as well as how inclusive they are for people with protected characteristics, defined in the Equality Act 2010 as: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. It may also be necessary to consider inclusion for families with small children.
Boot Guide routes will go beyond not discriminating against protected characteristics to actively encouraging diversity and proactively making people feel welcome.
The Boot Guide suggests criteria, that if met, could become a kitemark for walking routes.
Route creators and writers could use the kitemark to highlight walk accessibility and the facilities available, and to create new routes with these accessibility criteria in mind. The criteria may also be used by land owners or bodies such as National Parks, AONBs and local councils when developing walking infrastructure.
The Boot Guide Accessibility Criteria
The Boot Guide assesses the accessibility of a route based on the following criteria areas:
- Path quality
- Food and drink
Each of the criteria areas have three attainment levels that broadly correlate to:
1. not accessible,
2. some accessibility – with restrictions,
3. fully accessible.
- On road parking, no parking.
- Off road parking or designated parking bays.
- Public transport stopping close to the route and the timetable allows time to do the walk and get public transport back. And off road parking.
- Sections of the route are indistinguishable on fields, woodland, moorland or mountains.
- Obvious paths and tracks and well trodden paths across fields.
- Fully well maintained and even walking surface.
- Not all footpaths and bridleways are signposted.
- Roads, obvious tracks and public footpaths and bridleways are all signposted.
- Fully waymarked.
- Map only, no information or description about the route or area.
- General description of the route and a map marking key features and facilities.
- Good turn by turn instructions, good map and extended information about the conditions, facilities, hazards, difficulty and grading.
- Entry fee and/or membership required to access route.
- Free entry to walking route, majority cannot access the route without paid for parking.
- Free parking, free entry, free toilets.
Food and drink
- No food or drink available.
- A place to get refreshments (may be seasonal – ice cream van).
- Places to eat with a choice of refreshments.
- No toilets
- Toilets only at the start/ end of an over 3 mile route, or only at one point on the route
- Toilets at the start and finish and on route (or toilets at the start and end of a 3 mile and under route)
- No attention given to protected characteristics
- Some attention given to some protected characteristics.
- Each of the above criteria areas have been considered from a protected characteristic perspective.
Assessing the criteria
Some of the criteria are straightforward and readily observable, such as parking, public transport or cost. Other criteria, such as information and inclusion may require additional checklists and tools in order collect the full range of evidence to judge the route against the criteria. These should be developed by people with lived experience of the protected characteristics.
The Boot Guide criteria could be a self assessment process where route creators can self identify their boot grade. Or the evidence for the criteria could be supplied to a panel, made up of people with lived experience of the protected characteristics, to approve before a boot guide accreditation can be awarded.
Representing the criteria
Walking routes that score ‘3’ on all criteria could be awarded the full Blue Boot (or similar) as a quality mark highlighting of accessibility across the full range of criteria. Walkers of all backgrounds would know that their needs would be met on a Blue Boot walk.
Routes that do not achieve the full Blue Boot, which would be the majority, could receive a break down of the criteria with the score for each and a note outlining what level of accessibility applies to that criteria, for example:
Access does not equal easy. Whilst for many people walking long distances would be difficult or painful, for others the length and severity of the route is not what makes walks inaccessible. It is important therefore not to conflate route difficulty with route accessibility. Knowing a route’s difficult is however an access issue.
We do not want to pave the countryside and mountains – as inclusion activities have been accused of previously. We want more accessible routes in more places. And if a better path would the difference then that would be an obvious solution. Access though is a much wider issue than infrastructure.
Not all routes will achieve the full Blue Boot – fully accessible status. But if routes were given a Boot Guide assessment then individuals would better understand the limitations of the route and whether it would be suitable for them. Route creators would undoubtedly make routes accessible to more people by considering the criteria – even if they do not achieve the full Blue Boot. And if we could get to 500 or 1,000 full Blue Boot routes across the UK, then that would provide a great selection of routes where walkers could expect a standard level of accessibility.
The Boot Guide and everything on this webpage is an idea and we are seeking your input. Please be generous with your views and let’s see where this takes us.