Thursday, 22 July 2010

They're my woods and I'll walk if I want to!

When I first moved to Summersby Road in Highgate, one of my work colleagues looked up my flat on Google Earth. "You lucky thing!" she said. "You are literally going to live in the woods!"

It's true. The block in which I live is surrounded on two sides by the edges of Queen's Wood, one of the four ancients woodlands in Haringey. I can get into the woods via an entrance a few steps from my front door, and it's fair to say I have totally fallen in love with the place. It is splendid in every season, and its unkempt, natural state (much less manicured than neighbouring Highgate Woods - though I love that too), means that I have spent a lot of time there over the last 4 years. Indeed, I'm a 'Friend of Queen's Wood' - the organisation recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary.

It's strange, however, when I tell people this. I often get a very negative reaction, especially from women. "Is that safe?" they ask. "Should you go there alone?" Someone even said recently "Wasn't someone murdered there once?" (I don't know, I'm not one for subscribing to 'Grisly Murders Monthly' - first edition comes with a miniature Peter Sutcliffe).

The fact is, I've always felt very safe there. I walk with my daughter, or by myself, and think thoughts. And those thoughts are not 'Hmmm...I wonder if I am going to be raped and murdered today?'

That said, my female neighbour was flashed at in the woods last week when walking with her son. I have advised her to tell the local safer neighbourhoods' team (the police, to you). I await to see what reaction she will get from them, and whether they will advise her not to walk in the woods without a big strong man to protect her...

I say this because I was recently working as a backmarker on Walk London, and we were traversing the beautiful Parkland walk (we're not short of scenic places to stroll around these parts!). A woman was walking with me and she said "It's great being back on the Parkland walk. I used to come here all the time, but a local policeman told me never to come here alone again, it was too dangerous."

This made me very angry. It would make the job of the police a lot easier, I suppose, if women all deigned to stay at home, because surely by stepping out of our front doors we are asking for it, massively. How incredibly stupid. Maybe the police should concentrate on catching criminals, and the justice system should be improved so that we get a higher conviction rate for rape, rather than imprisoning women with fear serving as bars.

Screw that - I'm off for a walk in the woods. Alone.