Friday, 22 February 2013

Confident about walking

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.
Toodle pip.




20 comments:

  1. I thought about whether I was nuts walking alone for well over an hour in isolated countryside....I had my phone on me, but no reception whatsoever. There is no answer to this for me except that I want to keep up my country walks and statistically I will probably be fine...it is a bit like flying- one knows it is safe but it is still worrisome.

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  2. I wholeheartedly agree Ilona...I feel safer out walking than in any town. I'd be more worried about slipping and breaking an ankle ..always take my phone now as I realise that some routes are very sparsely travelled. Looking forward to your post on map reading..I sometimes get it wrong and have to rely on my "inner pidgeon" LOL

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  3. I spent a lot of time on my own in unfamiliar areas when Chris was away in the Royal Navy..I walked tall,with a strong gait and stride,and looked people in the eye. Walk around as though you own the place,and people will believe that you do.
    Jane x
    PS I'd suggest carrying a whistle for emergencies too.

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    1. Great idea to have a whistle, especially when phone don't work and you need to get someone's attention.

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    2. Very useful suggestion Jane, thanks. A lungfull of air expelled as an ear shattering scream, would work as well.

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  4. There is one bit of this post which I dont agree with, "it's only the balls which are missing". I definately think you have "the balls" Ilona. I've walked in the country and made numerous trips to London on my own and had a great time and no problems. Do you remember the Val Doonican song, 'walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye'. Good advice.

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  5. These are such helpful posts Ilona, please keep them coming. You are very right about trusting gut instinct and having confidence (which is developed from experience).

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  6. Good morning from Jan.Great post.Love your positive attitude.I think the 'think lucky and you'll be lucky' idea is true.Expect trouble and you'll find it,or it will find you.Need more positive people around.Happy walking.

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  7. Hello Ilona from House fairy
    Interesting stories.
    Can you do one on how you keep warm in winter with using so little electric? Please:)

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  8. When my son was in scouts they always walked with a whistle. Most areas have rambling societies and our council has guided countryside walks to get people started off or who are nervous to start with.

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  9. Ilona, I enjoyed reading this post..your safety precautions are good for anyone, not just those who may be walking alone.
    You made me smile when you mentioned "easy meat", for sometimes that is how we ladies feel when we are approached by some ruthless pushy guys.
    Looking forward to your map reading post, since I'm always the navigator for any group I may be out with, whether driving, walking or meandering. I may learn something new from you.

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  10. Thanks for your answer to scarey situations. I believe that if you walk with purpose and hold your head up high that it shows you are confident. I am glad that you have never encountered any problems out walking, whether they be from the opposite sex or whether you injured yourself. It's great advice and thanks again for sharing that.

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  11. How right that is! Never look a victim (which you aren't anyway). I've done a lot of walking alone on the moors, otherwise I'd never have gone out at all. I did the canal walk on my own, as everyone had gone when I arrived at the start. Also cycled as close to the coast as I could around the Isle of Man but that's like going to a very hilly Toytown!

    You meet nice people, people you'd maybe never get to talk to if you were with anyone else. It is however great to do a walk with a similar minded companion, great fun, particularly a Swedish couple I met on my intended solitary around the Isle of Man Coastal Path, when I met them the second day We had a very happy few days after that.

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  12. Hi Ilona, me again. I dont know if this will be of interest to you or any of your would be walkers but I thought I would let you know Lidl have offers on hiking kit on monday. I have the walking socks at £2-49 a pair and love them, they are very comfortable and give a lot of support. They also have a wind up torch for £3-99, I have had one similar to this for years and its saved me loads in batteries also its always available, a quick wind up and off you go.

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  13. Yes, always walking with purpose and looking confident is half the battle and gives you confidence as well as showing confidence to everyone else. I may be wrong here, but I have an idea that even if there is no mobile phone signal it is still possible to dial 999 for emergencies. Perhaps someone could enlighten me on this. I also think it is possible for a mobile signal to be 'tracked' to you in some circumstances. Either of these would be of help in a desperate situation. Does anyone know? Ann x

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  14. I so admire your confidence. I will give this a try in baby steps. As a younger woman I was continually harassed when I my own and I suppose I have learned to be overly cautious. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, it is so helpful!

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  15. your readers might like to know that even if there is No signal with YOUR network provider I'm reliably informed that when you press three nines (999) the other providers are 'duty bound' to pick up that call and transmit it to the best of their ability. So do not worry if you appear to have no signal, the signal will get through and sometimes they can triangulate the call between cells to narrow down your location. It's always good to be able to tell the emergency services a rough grid reference (if you have an OS map then you can give the grid reference of where you think you are) and it's the Police who can call out the Coastguard or the Mountain Rescue people.
    happy walking everyone!

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    1. Would that be possible throughout the UK though where there is absolutely no mobile reception on any network? We've been to places where no one has a signal and these would be just the sort of places popular with walkers who may get into difficulties....

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  16. Carrying a whistle on your journeys might be a life saver in situations where you have walked a solitary path and had an accident. A whistle will be heard for miles down wind, so could attract help to where you have fallen or hurt yourself. Your mobile phone alone could always run out of battery and then a whistle as back up would be a very good idea.

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  17. So many good points! As a woman who has always worked with men, I agree with your comments. I am married, but hubby and I each have our own pursuits. When I used to run, I'd head off and tell him generally where I'd be going and what time I'd be back. I loved hill runs in the country. He does the same if he's going on a long bike ride. Being intimidated to go out for long treks on your own never crosses our mind. I have always run when out of town on business too. I always check with my business contacts and the hotel staff for the best routes. In the Virgin Islands, I expected to be stopped by men looking for money. So I carried two quarters in each of my many pockets and pulled them out and gave them over saying "it's all I've got on my but you can have it," then I trotted away. I generally ended up giving over a dollar per run. That might sound weird, but if you run into trouble, that's two temporary friends you have made! I've never felt scared. The bigger danger is inattentive drivers who don't look for anyone on foot!

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