Howdy, Day two of the mini series on walking. Questions.....Do I ever feel unsafe? Have I ever been in a scary situation? What about security when walking? I am assuming these questions relate to me being a lone female walking in remote areas therefore making myself vulnerable to possible attacks, rather than the possibility that I might fall and break a leg. There are a lot more lone male walkers than there are female. I can see that some people might think it is a foolish thing to do, to walk across the country on a 'make it up as you go along' route, with my exact location not known to anyone.
I think that to understand why I feel confident enough to do this, you need to know a little bit more about my background. I was born the eldest of three, mother had to go to work and I was left in charge of getting my siblings up in the morning and ready for school. When mother was poorly I was kept off school and took over the running of the household. I learnt how to look after things from an early age. I left school at 15 and got a job, I wanted to earn my own money. Yes, I was still a bit shy, but I knew I could conquer that by throwing myself into whatever I was doing. I left home when I was 18, got a flat and a job and so began my independant lifestyle. No more running back home to mum for help. I took responsibility and made some big decisions of how I wanted my life to turn out. I worked and saved up for a deposit on my first house at the age of 27.
It was a bit scary to take a job working in an all male environment, but my confidence grew and moved on in leaps and bounds, as I had to quickly learn how to assert myself. At 37 I was confident enough to make the decision to take birth control one step further and make it permanent, I asked for sterilisation. Not many childless single females were asking for the operation at that time. I did, and got it.
After working with men for many years, I have a pretty good idea of what makes them tick. I can talk to them on their level, use their language, even swear like they can if needed. That's what happens when you work alongside men as their equal. It can go either way though. You either leave the job because you can't hack it, or you think stuff it, I want this job and I am not going to let them bully me.
I can pick up on bad vibes via their body language, I see the warning signals, and I get a gut feeling when I don't like a particular person, I keep out of their way. I have parked up in truckstops and city centres and gone for a drink with other drivers. I wouldn't say they were all gentlemen, the majority were, but you always get one or two who think you are easy meat. I would get back in my cab and tell them to bog off. I have also spent many a night in my truck, parked up in isolated laybys all over the country. Once I pulled the curtains round no one knew there was a lone female inside. So you can see, I am pretty clued up where men are concerned, it's only the balls which are missing.
So, let's get back to walking. Do I ever feel unsafe? No. Have I ever been in a scary situation? No. The way someone walks can tell you a lot about them. I walk with a purpose, I walk tall with my head held high. I appear to be a confident walker who knows what she is doing. I look all around me as I walk, I take note of what is on my right, and my left. I glance over my shoulder to see if there is anyone in sight behind me. If someone is coming towards me, I eye them up, I look at their face. I make eye contact and check them out, do they look ok, or do they look dodgy. I tend to say a quick hello, and if there is room I give them a wide berth, and stride on. A few seconds later I will look behind me to check they are still walking away from me. If they look ok, I might stop for a couple of minutes and exchange a few pleasantries. Sometimes, if I feel comfortable talking to them and they seem quite nice I will chat a little longer. I would never tell anyone where I am going to be that night if I am staying out. Sensible really. I always go by my gut instinct, and have never been bothered by unwelcome attention while out walking.
On the other hand, if I was walking with my head down, feeling nervous, worried that someone might jump on me, I would be giving out all the wrong signals. People would pick up on that and I would be an easy target. Besides, how can you enjoy a walk if all the time you are panic stricken when you meet strangers. If you play the helpless female you leave yourself wide open to anyone who wants to take advantage. If you wise up and look them straight in the eye, and demand respect, you are quids in.
If you worried all the time about what might happen, you would never go anywhere. I feel more vulnerable walking alone in a big town or city, than I do walking alone in the countryside. When I am in big wide open spaces, I feel safest. I take extra care when walking through large woods or forests, because there are more places for someone to hide, but it's very unlikely that I would come across a raving perverted monster, more likely to be another walker just like myself.
It's not a good idea to take more money than you actually need with you, or credit cards if you don't intend using them. I carry a few pounds in cash in a small purse in my back pack, anything more and I have a secret place. It is not a good idea to carry a weapon, because it can be used against you. I am not going to go into personal safety here, because that's a whole new ball game, and you will have your own ideas about that. There is a massive possiblity that neither of us will ever find ourselves in a life threatening position, so don't dwell on it, and don't let it spoil your walking.
It goes without saying that you should carry a mobile phone while walking alone. If you slip and hurt yourself you might need to call out the emergency services. The only problem is that there isn't always a signal in the hills and mountains with some of the networks. Some phones have a GPS tracking device, mine doesn't. You might need to enlist the help of another walker if you find you are imobile. The best thing you can do is to not let yourself get into that situation in the first place. If you feel the terrain is too demanding and you don't have the experience, don't try and tackle it alone. Go with someone else. I would never have gone up Helvelyn via Striding Edge in the lake District on my own, I went with a group of people.
If you are not very confident when you start going out on walks, you will find that you begin to feel more confident the more you do it. Stay local if you are not sure you want to go too far from home. Start with a couple of miles, build it up slowly, three miles, four miles. Most people who walk at a brisk pace walk at three miles per hour, that's on the flat. Up and down hills takes a bit longer.
I just want to add a note to yesterdays post. I mentioned that my jacket cost me £30. I could have spent more by buying one with a detachable fleece lining. I decided not to because the best way to keep warm is to layer up. Wear an ordinary fleece top on top of your two or three teeshirts, add a sweat shirt or a body warmer if needed, at least you can take a layer off if you get too hot.
We'll have a look at map reading tomorrow.
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