The youngest ones had parents very obviously at hand, either taking the opportunity to sunbathe on the grass, or sheltering under the trees. Many of the older ones seemed to be alone. Camilla, aged 7, was swinging on the tyres with her friend Sam. Her mother sat a discreet distance away, flicking through a magazine, but keeping a watchful eye on the pair.
"I don't go anywhere on my own because then my mum will think I've been stolen away," said Camilla. "She always wants me with her. She tells me not to go near strangers nor speak to them, just walk away, or say 'sorry I'm not interested'. I think I should be allowed out on my own when I'm about 12 or 14. I don't get very scared but sometimes I think someone is round the corner and they are going to get me."
Esra, two years older than Camilla, was also playing with a friend in view of her mother. She had read all about the recent murders in the newspapers. "Those boys were only little and that place was a bit obvious, they were in the woods by a river where no one was around," she said.
"I think people think there are more nice people in the country than in the city. I'm not allowed out on my own except sometimes to get bread, and I walk home from school but it's really near. It's because there's so much danger now and you can't trust everybody. I go to Brownies and we are doing road safety and about if people come up to you in a car, walk on."
Neither Esra nor Camilla felt that their parents were being unreasonable, but Tania, 13, felt she was now old enough to go out alone. "I'm only allowed to walk home from school and then there are always people round me. I have arguments with my mum about it sometimes but I know it's because she doesn't want me to get hurt. It's because I could get kidnapped. She gives me rules about the roads, cars, dirty men - streetwise things. Most of my friends can go out late at night on their own, 'til gone 10pm. I think I should be allowed out on my own by now, I can look after myself."
Wayne, 11, was allowed far more freedom to roam. "I have as much as I can get," he said. "I'm with a grown-up today but I come here on my own, too. I can be out when it's dark, the time changes from 6.30 to 10pm."
Matthew, 8, could play in the playground below his flat but was not to go outside the gate. "I'm allowed out until 8pm in the summer. My dad sometimes comes to see if I'm there. A man tried to touch me three weeks ago, I said 'get off' and my friend kicked him."Reuse content