Outdoor UK challenge events
This guidance builds on the general events guidance and takes into account specific issues to consider when putting on outdoor challenge events in the UK as well as guidance on The Three Peak Challenge.
Many fundraising organisations raise funds from events based outdoors whereby individuals or teams are challenged to complete a course that is sufficiently compelling to attract sponsorship. Such events are often held in areas of attractive landscape including national parks and mountainous regions. Fundraisers and charities should be aware of the impact on local communities, infrastructure, and to the environment in putting on these events and take all reasonable steps to minimise these.
The impact on local residents, roads, other users, facilities, footpaths, wildlife and the wider landscape can be damaging, and can damage an organisation’s reputation if the event does not take steps to minimise their effect. Failure to ensure this could also risk other organisation’s being able to put on similar challenge events in the future.
It is a legal requirement for organisers to determine whether the event falls within the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (the Package Travel Regulations) and abide by them where appropriate. These apply where:
- The event comprises a pre-arranged package of any two of the following components: Transport or Accommodation
- Other tourist services accounting for a significant proportion of the package. Further information is available from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills
- The event is offered at an inclusive price
- The service covers a period of more than 24 hours or includes overnight accommodation
In some areas, bylaws may apply whereby permission must be obtained from the appropriate authority. Where available, it is important that local guidance and any site-specific codes are adhered to (such as those produced by Countryside Council for Wales or the local authority).
In consultation with local representatives, it is preferable for local wildlife and other conservation issues to be considered and laws must be abided by where they apply. The Countryside Code in England and Wales and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code in Scotland and the BMC Green Guide to the Uplands ought to be observed by all.
Many areas of the UK are used for agriculture, deer stalking, grouse shooting or other activities, and therefore organisers in England and Wales must liaise with land managers and obtain permission if necessary. You should also ollow the guidance in the Countryside Code to avoid conflicts with these activities (unless it is a public right of way, in which case it is good practice to seek permission, but is not a legal requirement).
In Scotland the position is more complex and, although generally there is no absolute legal requirement to do so, ideally organisers should liaise with land managers and obtain permission if necessary. This will ensure there is no breach of the requirement to exercise access rights responsibly. You should also following the guidance in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code - if in doubt, it is a good idea to take specific advice in advance of organising large scale outdoor events.
Where possible, it’s a good idea to actively involve land managers in the whole process of planning the event. Final confirmation of consent should be sent as a reminder to appropriate landowners/land managers. Where collections will take place at the event or en-route, it is important that organisations check whether a public collection licence is required, and obtain a licence where necessary. In Scotland, if it is proposed to carry out a public charitable collection at the event or en-route, it is vital that local authority permission is obtained in advance. It’s also a good idea for organisers to check that the area proposed is not a protected designation and that the event will not affect breeding birds or rare plants. Certain landscapes are more prone to damage and should be avoided.
Before organising an event and depending on the proposed venue, it is advisable that some or all of the following bodies are consulted:
- Local authorities, where necessary at County Council, Metropolitan Borough Council or District Council level, including staff responsible for paths and local authority-owned or managed locations such as country parks
- Rights of Way Department at the relevant local authority for footpaths, bridle ways and byways
- Countryside Department at the relevant local authority for country parks and other local authority-owned or managed locations. All landowners/managers or representative bodies over whose area the event passes: For example from private land owners and national parks, local police
It is important that organisers establish what permissions are required and then abide by these. If bylaws state that permissions are needed, these must be obtained. If initial approval is withheld for good reason, it is advisable that organisers relocate the event or revise plans accordingly. Organisers ought to notify emergency services of the event’s occurrence.
If other events are planned at the same location and time, whether local events or other fundraising events, you should consider liaising with the other event organisers.
Does the area have a heavy seasonal tourist influx? If so, it is important to understand that there will be many other users. Bank holiday weekends are best avoided. Organisers should avoid weekend events at busy locations, especially in summer months.
The maximum number of participants will be dictated by the permissions gained and local conditions, and it is important that these numbers are not exceeded – in some cases this will be a legal requirement that must be abided by under the licence agreement and/or insurance policy.
Events shouldn’t be organised that encourage excessive numbers in areas of sensitivity, and organisers should learn more about the sensitivities in the area they propose to use for the event. It is a good idea to seek advice from key organisations such as Natural England and Wildlife Trusts regarding issues of seasonality, archaeological sensitivity etc.
Finally, organisers should plan the event to avoid congestion. This may involve staggering start times for mass participation events, so that only small groups start at the same time.
Organisers should work closely with local land managers and other interested parties to ensure the impact of the event is minimal. In particular, the effect on footpaths and roadside kerbs of excessive numbers is extremely damaging.
Organised events can be used as a vehicle of good for the environment and land management practice through the promotion of the local environmental agencies. It is good practice for event organisers to promote the environmental organisations that look after the land they are using by raising awareness of their work and encouraging support. You should also encourage the Leave No Trace philosophy: leave no trace of the existence or passing through of the event.
Leaving litter comes at a cost to the local community. This applies to both participants and organisers and will therefore include clearing any signage or other evidence of the event. Recycling should be encouraged where possible, and participants briefed about the environmental and land management issues on the route, the damaging impact of shortcuts or crowding and the need to keep to paths.
- The provision of toilet facilities and their accessibility (see below); fouling in a public place is an offence in some areas and circumstances
- Water supply and whether this needs to be provided
- Making a payment to land managers to offset the environmental impact and cover the cost of ongoing maintenance. If asked for, reasonable costs (such as for administration) should be paid
It is also a good idea to find out where the following are located:
- Sites for base camps (must obtain landowners’ consent for use when there is no public right to establish such camps)
- Public telephones
- Local Accident Emergency departments
A high influx of people puts a heavy demand on local facilities, particularly toilets, which should be taken into consideration when assessing numbers. It’s a good idea to encourage participants to make use of alternative facilities before arrival at their rendezvous. If toilet facilities are not available, organisers should provide them where possible. If toilet facilities cannot be provided, participants need to be directed to the ‘Where to go in the Great Outdoors’ leaflet which provides information about toilet provisions. Finally, it is advisable for organisers to consider the carbon footprint of the event and encourage shared transport or public transport where appropriate.
Local farmers can be the worst affected by outdoor fundraising events. It is therefore advisable that organisers respect that the area will almost certainly be a working landscape where people live. In particular, be aware of activities such as lambing, sowing or harvesting, and the need to leave gates as they were found and not climb over walls or fences.
A high influx of vehicles puts a heavy demand on the local infrastructure and has a considerable impact on the environment. This ought to be taken into consideration when assessing numbers, and participants should be encouraged to minimise the number of vehicles at an event, where possible, for example by arranging for parking and bussing in participants.
It is good practice for organisers to make themselves aware of the environmental sensitivities of the area they wish to use. This will inform you of the participant numbers that can be accommodated without damaging environmental interests. It is advisable to take advice and work to the limits that may be set by conservation agencies and the permissions granted by the landowners/managers.
Organisers should consider informing local communities and parish councils of their event, for example by placing notices on local news boards, sending letters to residents, etc. It is a good idea for organisers to suggest viewing points for spectators and encourage participants to use such areas.
Any damage should be reported to local land owners or land managers. Organisers should aim to use local suppliers to ensure that the communities affected by the event receive some benefit. Organisers ought to show respect for others and encourage participants to do so.
Vehicles should not be parked in a dangerous position or where it causes any unnecessary obstruction of the road(parked on bends, near the brow of a hill, in front of access points such as gateways, at passing points or blocking farm tracks or narrow roads).
Organisers should complete a full risk assessment before undertaking an event of any size as well as take account of, and where reasonable make provisions for, participants with a disability. Risks to the safety of the participants and those with whom they come into contact should be clearly defined, within the boundaries of any given event. Failure to do so may leave organisers liable.
Where the statutory responsibility of safety is that of a local authority or designated body (e.g. lifebuoys by the side of a canal), it is important that organisers take reasonable steps to ensure these safety mechanisms are in place.
Where participants require the use of vehicles, it is good practice for organisers to:
- Plan for compulsory rest stops and planned journey timetables that recognise road safety, especially legal speed limits
- Remind participants to check they have appropriate insurance
- Give clear guidelines for how many drivers will be needed (whether they are participants, staff, etc) and minimum driver numbers, and the resting times to be taken
- Give advice on routes and approximate timings, with emphasis on not speeding to make up time
- Implement a policy to remove the time pressure element. For example, an agreed time can be allocated for all drives, to discourage speeding and irrational driving. Normal road safety laws apply. Advice can be given on what type of vehicles would be most suitable for the event
- Encourage participants to ensure they have sufficient insurance
- Give advice on contingency for breakdown, tyres, windscreens, etc.
It is important that organisers are prepared to deal with accidents, emergencies or poor weather conditions as a matter of course. If the event is in the summer months, organisers should be aware of the fire hazard potential, and the fire service should be alerted of your presence and all participants carefully briefed. Organisers may wish to introduce a no smoking rule.
Local contact numbers of hospitals/doctors/emergency services etc. ought to be given to all marshals/stewards and participants. In the event of an emergency that cannot be dealt with by the marshals/stewards, the local police should be called by dialling 999.
Remember that details of the location will need to be provided in the event of an emergency, including, where appropriate, a grid reference.
It is important for organisers to be aware of all local telephone numbers relating to the Emergency Services, including local hospitals with a casualty department and doctors.
Emergency services are unable to provide specific safety cover, however, they may be able to provide advice. Qualified First Aid cover must be in attendance at appropriate points for organised events.
Be transparent at all stages of the advertising process, and at the point of registration, if a level of fitness or training is required for safe participation. This includes stating if GP authorisation is required.
It is advisable for participants to be made aware of the degree of difficulty of the activity they are registered to undertake so they can make an informed decision about their own capabilities. You may want to reserve the right to refuse permission for a potential participant, but you need to be aware of consumer legislation which can make such terms unfair and of discrimination laws which can make such terms unlawful.
Issues you may wish to consider include:
- Age – is the participant under 18? If so, any relevant insurance, CRB or Disclosure Scotland implications must be abided by. Organisers need to form a view as to the age at which people under 18 may participate without being accompanied by a supervising adult
- Health - is the participant on medication? Does the participant have any current health problems? Participants should be encouraged to seek medical advice where necessary
- Experience required
- Fitness – ensure that advice has been given on fitness levels and training required for the event
At registration, it is good practice for participants to be made fully aware of potential environmental impacts and the way in which the organisers have worked to minimise them. Consider sending terms and conditions for the event to identifiable participants prior to departure. Terms and conditions should be signed and returned by identifiable participants before the event.
The fundraising organisation ought to emphasise the importance of appropriate training and equipment to participants, and a full kit list given to each participant/team far enough in advance for them to borrow/purchase any necessary items. It is a good idea for information about the need to check kit to be included in event terms and conditions, and participants shouldn’t be able to proceed if their equipment is not adequate.
It is important for the fundraising organisation to be clear when the participant is eligible to take part in the event – when they have paid a minimum or a certain percentage of the money, for example. Recovery of any outstanding money from participants should be made as soon as possible after the event, and if monies are not collected within the specified time frame, organisations ought to contact the participant and request money to be submitted. If payment is still not forthcoming, it is worth organisations giving consideration to the amount outstanding, the time and effort that may be required and the potential reputational risk to the fundraising organisation when deciding upon a further course of action.
Marshals/stewards have a critical role. It is importantthere are competent and appropriate marshals/stewards with appropriate skills. They should be appropriately located at major junctions and at places to protect sensitive areas on the route.
Local knowledge is important and organisers should seek sufficient expert support, where appropriate. Marshals/stewards are not to be considered as an alternative to the emergency services but can give valuable advice to organisers in the event of an incident and could prevent a call to the already stretched emergency services and mountain rescue teams. It is good practice for all marshals/stewards to be recruited in good time and given clear written instructions well in advance of the event.
The organisers ought to meet all the marshals/stewards immediately prior to the event for a final verbal briefing. It is important for marshals/stewards on the route to be in communication with the marshals/stewards at the start and be fully briefed on the event, and the incident procedures.
It is advisable for senior/lead marshals to have evidence of competency such as Swift Water Rescue (SRT Unit 1) and Mountain Instructor Award, where appropriate.
Marshals/stewards should keep written records of all relevant communications with participants during the event. Participant records need to be held at control points where participants’ disclosed medical information, if provided, is available.
All communications between marshals and organisers ought to be routed through a central control point that is fully briefed, scripted and trained to handle emergency situations.
Finally, participants should be briefed to respect and act on the advice and instructions given to them by all marshals.
It is important that organisers have a plan to cover every eventuality that may reasonably be anticipated, and brief all concerned to understand exactly what is expected of them. A Major Incident Plan should be prepared in case of an emergency.
In particular, determine who will be responsible for dealing with the press (ideally one of the organisers or a senior member of the fundraising organisation’s staff). As part of the plan, organisers should ensure that appropriate members of the organisation are aware that the event is taking place. Don’t underestimate how quickly the media can get hold of a story. It is best practice for a communications strategy be formed as part of the Major Incident Plan.
Bear in mind that weather in the UK is at best unpredictable and dramatic changes may result in your participants being at risk. Organisers and participants should, as a matter of course, prepare for extreme weather conditions (e.g. hot, cold, wet, foggy, icy, snowy, floods) and establish safety considerations.
It is wise for organisers to be prepared to close down the event and make arrangements for information provision in the event of a cancellation due to circumstances such as extreme weather conditions. Shut down plans should be ready to put into action before the event. It is a good idea for the organisers to make sure that everyone – from marshals to participants and supporters, where appropriate – knows and understands the procedures to follow for the close-down of an event.