Hanging out in Ludwell

It was late afternoon when I walked down to the dog-walking field to pick blackberries. I’d just started, around a kink in the hedge and mostly hidden from the gate, when I heard lads’ voices. Curious, I thought, for so many to walk through here. They must be on their way to some gathering, to play football, although I don’t know where, as the fields have more of a slope than Oxford United’s old Manor Ground.

The voices passed me, and grew fainter until they seemed to be some way off… until I wambled up a slope and found the group lounging, smoking and cheering on two of their number, boasting rowanberry-red boxing gloves, in gladiatorial battle.

The group was still there as I walked back in the gloaming, and I felt slightly intimidated, as is right and proper for a member of the middle class to feel around groups of youths. I also felt a mite of outrage at this invasion of ‘my’ slice of quiet countryside, and wondered whether this was a usual haunt on a Monday afternoon.

I often see kids up above the Wonford Playing Field, hunkered down below the bushes, hidden by the distance and gradient. Did this group want even more privacy? Was their activity in some small way nefarious? Or are they just a bit more local, and they just wanted to try out some new boxing gloves?

It would be great if they could take up what Exeter City Council says the Valley Parks have to offer: “ample opportunities to experience wildlife and natural open spaces“. Maybe boxing in Ludwell on an evening in the tail of summer will be a seed sown.

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