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Terrain Zero Activities


(Published February 2021 replacing April 2020)


This guidance provides information related to all activities taking place in Terrain Zero, and should be used to support planning for activities such as trips to the local park, local hikes and more adventurous activities which are within the terrain zero areas.   

What is Terrain Zero?

All land is classified as either Terrain Zero, Terrain One, Terrain Two or Specialist Terrain. 
The definition of Terrain Zero can be found in Policy Organisation and Rules (POR)Rule 9.28. 

Rule 9.28 Terrain Zero Definition   

a. Terrain Zero describes terrain which meets one of the following criteria:  

     i) Meets all the following criteria:  

  • is below 500 metres above sea level; and  
  • is within 30 minutes travelling time from a road which can take an ordinary road-going ambulance or a building which is occupied (such as a farm) or another means of summoning help (such as a telephone box); and  
  • has no steep slopes or rocky terrain ,where a slip may result in a fall (routes or areas where the average person would need to regularly use their hands at least for balance if not for actual progress. This does not stop people from using their hands as an aid to confidence.)   


     ii) is a road, or path adjacent to a road, on which you would expect to see traffic.  

b. Activities undertaken in Terrain Zero must follow the guidance within Terrain Zero Activities. 


Types of activity

There are a wide variety of Terrain Zero activities which may be suitable for your section to take part in. When planning your activity, you need to think about what age range the activity suits, location, weather and access to equipment, etc. 

Here are some ideas you might want to try: 

  • Trips to the local park
  • Nature walks
  • Wide Games in the park / campsite
  • Orienteering Games
  • Incident Hikes
  • Hill walking

Although these activities do not require the activity leader to hold an activity permit the activity leader must still have the appropriate skills and knowledge of the activity taking place and be capable of putting together appropriaterisk assessmentsand activity plans. 

Some activities (such as incident hikes, off road biking, expeditions, hill walking) in Terrain Zero will require different planning and preparation than others and will require a greater level of knowledge and skill to operate safely. 


Planning activities in Terrain Zero

When delivering any activities in Terrain Zero the leader must ensure that: 

  • a clear plan is in place for the activity
  • a safety plan is in place in case of an incident or emergency
  • the activity is suitable to the age and ability of the participants
  • risk assessment has been undertaken and appropriate measures in place to reduce risk, and that this is documented and clearly communicated to those involved 
  • there is appropriate supervision by a person who has sufficient skill/knowledge of the activity being undertaken (this may be more than one person depending on the activity and the size and needs of the group)
  • appropriate adult to young person ratios are adhered to
  • participants are briefed, with clear boundaries which everyone understands
  • participants are given instruction on how to use any equipment safely
  • an InTouch system is in place

It is important to ensure that when planning all activities care is taken to consider the additional risks in these activities including: 

Additional considerations for some Terrain Zero activities 

Some activities such as (such as incident hikes, off road biking, expeditions, hill walking) will require additional planning and consideration of: 

  • Route planning

Routes across all terrain should be planned carefully, including the planning for escape routes which are also in Terrain Zero. Download the suggested route plan for use when in the hills is available.

  • Navigation

Leaders should ensure they have the appropriate knowledge and equipment to navigate safely across any terrain their activities are on, especially where visibility becomes poor due to changing weather. 

  • Water hazards

Leaders should be aware of Water hazards on their planned activities and for the most suitable crossing point for their group, which might include changing the route and looking for a better alternative; such as a bridge. If there is no better alternative consider elements such as Fast Flowing water, steeps banks, drops, deep areas and fallen trees. 

  • Supervision of the activity

With these additional considerations you need to think about the key skills the individual will need to supervise groups. This will include navigation, group management, knowing what to do in an emergency, knowledge of the equipment being used and clear communication. There is no requirement to hold a hillwalking permit to operate in terrain zero but the skills this will assess can still be useful in these environments. People can bring the skills for supervising groups in terrain zero from many areas of life and this could come from them having developed their skills personally or completed some external training. The skills and experience required will vary depending on the activity and level of adventure the group plan to do within the terrain zero environment. 

Approving activities in terrain zero 

The District Commissioner is responsible for approving all activities, further guidance on this is available atFS120015 Approving Activities – Guidance for Commissioners, but the best place to start is checking with your Group Scout Leader (GSL) or District Explorer Scout Commissioner (DESC) what the approval process is for the activities you are planning. Check the rules and guidance for the activities you are undertaking 

Rules relating to activities in terrain zero

Rule 9.28 Terrain Zero Definition

Additional information

  • Support and advice

Further advice can be sought from hillwalking permit holders and assessors, Assistant District / County Commissioners (Activities). 

  • Training and development

Training and development opportunities are available within the Scouts, through local hillwalking teams, working with hillwalking permit holders and assessors or through local campsites. 

Training and development opportunities are also available through external providers, including skills courses and leadership training provided by Mountain Training UK. Check out our joint infographic to view the routes for skill development.   

  • Technical publication

If you require any technical information on the items, these can be found in the technical manual which is: Summer Hillwalking: Hillwalking by Steve Long ISBN: 0-9541511-0-0