This post was written by Liz Hibberd who attended our International Women’s Day Walk.

On Saturday 9th March, 30 women gathered in an outdoor shop in the centre of Manchester. Some knew each other, but many had come on their own, without knowing another soul. There was a palpable buzz in the air, that something exciting was happening, and it really was.

I’ve been part of the LHW community for several years now and it’s become an increasingly important space for me. I’ve made so many friends here and it’s given me the confidence to trust myself and to challenge myself. Knowing that the first timers were going to experience this gave me goose bumps!

But what were we doing!

LHW had partnered with Ellis Brigham and Salomon to host an International Women’s Day walk, to celebrate women and to create an opportunity to explore the outdoors in a safe and inclusive way. There are so many reasons why women don’t get outside as much as men and sometimes that’s down to not having people to go with and not being able to get out ‘exploring’ easily. What we wanted to do on the walk was to be visible in the outdoors and to get outdoors using public transport – I was so surprised to see how much there was to explore in such urban spaces. Understanding what barriers people might be experiencing and seeing how we might be able to remove them is a key part of being inclusive and welcoming.

We took the tram to Didsbury and after a bit of pavement walking, we hit the river and walked along the bank. We were very lucky with the weather, and it stayed nice and dry, giving us plenty of time to chat and get to know one another. There’s something special about walking that creates lovely moments to share and space to talk, and these connections are a vital part of our LHW activities.

At the lunch stop, perching on logs and smelling the wild garlic, Nic, our wonderful walk leader, started to tell us the story of local woman, Emily Williamson. Emily became frustrated with the plumage industry in the late 1800’s, as the fashion of feathers adorning women’s hats was having a hugely negative impact on the population of native birds. Not only was it decimating numbers, the workers, often poorer women, and young children, were working in unsafe and unpleasant conditions for a low wage. 

We continued our walk along the golf course and through some lovely green spaces until we reached our destination of Fletcher Moss Park where we heard the end of the story. Without the vote and with limited opportunity to be involved in campaigning, Emily encouraged her friends to sign a pledge not to wear feathers on their hats and to petition shopkeepers to stop selling the hats. They were successful in their attempts, forming the RSPB in 1904 and in 1921 the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act was passed, demonstrating the collective power of women.

The particularly poignant part of this story was that where we stopped for tea and cake was the actual garden of Emily Williamson and where she and her friends had met together to sign their pledge.

We arrived back at Deansgate in Manchester with more knowledge about local women who made a difference, feeling inspired about our individual strengths and a new collective of friends with similar interests, all while highlighting the importance of inclusion and visibility of women in the outdoors.

This walk couldn’t have taken place without the support of our partners, Salomon and Ellis Brigham and the super team at LHW HQ. Thanks so much for the opportunity to be part of something so special.

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