From one woman’s desire to stay outdoorsy as a parent, grew Blaze Trails, a national network of parent & baby hiking groups getting outside together.
I closed my eyes, feeling the fresh winter air on my cheeks, my walking boots planted firmly on the trail – relishing a moment of calm and feeling present amongst the trees…
“Oh god, the baby’s done a poo!”
My partner’s yelp brought me back to reality with a bump. We were halfway through a 4-mile hike in Hertfordshire’s beautiful Chess Valley – something we wouldn’t normally think twice about doing, but this felt different. We were on our first proper ‘boots on’ walk as a family of three, new baby Cleo tucked into a baby carrier at the ripe age of 4 months.
I’ve always loved the outdoors and when I became a parent, I was adamant I’d stay adventurous – I just needed to figure out how it worked with a baby in tow. It felt a bit daunting at first, especially when faced with our first nappy blow-out in mid-winter. But through starting small, initially over-packing for every eventuality, and taking lots of wild family selfies to show Cleo when she grows up, we started to love hiking with our baby. No matter how bad a night’s sleep we’d had, getting out for some fresh air in nature really soothed us. Cleo would look up at the trees or snooze and we’d have a rare chance for a proper chat, reconnecting with each other.
I started organising country hikes with my local friends and their babies. We liked baby groups but often they were focused on, well, the babies, and it was hard to have a conversation with another mum. So, we stuck the babies in slings or pushchairs and got outdoors together. Up hill and down dale, we walked. We created strong bonds with each other and would arrive home knackered but happy, and like we’d achieved something for ourselves.
I created Blaze Trails to support more parents to get outdoors together – I knew there must be other outdoorsy folk out there who just happen to have kids and want to keep exploring. Since we launched the second group after mine in September 2020, our parent-led network has grown to over 30 local parent and baby walking groups around the country, with over 4000 members. Turns out this baby hiking thing is a thing.
Getting out walking with others throughout this last year of Covid has been a lifesaver. I had my second daughter just before lockdown no.1 and whilst I wasn’t new to parenting, raising two tiny people with very little support during a global pandemic was overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. New parents have been knocked-for-six during Covid – from birthing people labouring alone with partners only being allowed in for short visiting windows, to experiencing social isolation and a lack of support during a crucial time for them and their babies.
As the world opens up again, we’re seeing a surge in new groups starting – people are so keen to connect and enjoy the outdoors. It makes me incredibly happy to see all the photos coming in each week of parents from Carlisle, to York, to Bedfordshire, to Sussex, getting out with their babies in tow. They remind me of that first walk we took with our little one and make me feel so excited for these families’ adventures to come.
We’re launching a national survey this month to find out more about what walking means to other parents – Please take part to share your voice: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CSMTRWD.