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  • Mat Rees

Making a stand

In the woods behind my house there is a set of wooden steps that run down to the river. These are the typical sort of wooden steps that you find outdoors usually in woodlands, with planks embedded lengthwise and side-on in the slope, wooden stakes either side holding them in, and the earth pilled in behind it. Alongside the steps, running from top to bottom are additional runners to keep the compacted earth in place. They're a wonderful, simple creation to stop you slipping down the hill when the earth becomes a mud bath in the winter. Last year, while out walking with the dog, I noticed one of the side runners had broke and become dislodged. I carried on walking, thinking little more about it. I didn't know how to fix it or who to tell, and figured it was probably someone else's job. A few weeks later, after countless more people had walked up and down the steps, I discovered that, with no runner holding it in place, one of the lengthwise planks had also become dislodged. Still not knowing what to do, I ignored that, too. With no plank to hold it up, the earth simply collapsed and ran down the hill, putting pressure on the steps below. Over the next few weeks, as many more people continued to walk up and down the steps, further planks and runners became dislodged, until the point now – where it's close to simply being a slope again. All that hard work that someone put into building those steps – to providing a safe, secure method of allowing others to go up and down that hill – had disappeared. It could of course, be built again – but at a much bigger cost, and with a lot of extra hard work. If only, I thought, I had spoken up and told someone when that first runner came free. It could have been put back in place quickly, and the whole set of steps kept together. It wasn't my fault the first step came out, I thought. But I could have prevented further damage if I'd told someone earlier. I could have stopped that from happening. Later this year, the club will be implementing a new, more robust inclusivity policy with the aim of providing more support to those who experience harassment, abuse and inequality. The onus will be placed on every single one of us to be more considerate of the words we use and the actions we take. It's no longer enough to simply say, 'well, that's who I am.' They are your words and deeds, and they have consequences. And responsibility will also be placed on each of us to take action where we see instances of discrimination or harassment. If you witness any form of abuse or sexual harassment, for example, please speak up and tell someone. The person on the receiving end may not feel as comfortable or as able to do so. We are a welcoming, inclusive family and we want to keep it that way. If you see a broken step, it's up to you to do something about it before it's too late.



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