It’s June on Hampstead Heath. Just past one of the swimming ponds, past the big tree with the weird, crooked branch, we run into a walking group. Blaze Trails are mums finding solace and solidarity by taking their babies and toddlers on hikes. We ambled with them, chatted with them, and tried to stop little Evie from sitting on the microphone.
Back row (from left): Stephanie, Daniela, Helen, Julia, Anna. Front row (from left): Levani, Becca, Katy (founder), Jo, Bethan. Pictured below: Adina
Levani: I joined when my little boy was about three months old. I found Blaze Trails during Covid. And it was the best thing to do on maternity leave.
Adina: I like going for a walk with people. And being outdoors. Not having your phone. Not being in a rush. In London you’re so overstimulated all the time.
Becca: It’s the best entertainment. Literal natural entertainment.
Bethan: There’s some quite good science around about the benefit of being outside, and the physiological impact that time in green spaces can have on you. One researcher described it as ‘nature’s aromatherapy’.
Adina: I think I’m calmer when I am outside, and babies co-regulate with us.
Jo: And you can just strap your baby in and go out. It’s kind of a mini break. But with your baby still with you.
Helen: Walking’s noticeably good for the babies too. They are much happier.
Katy: And it can be quite nerve-wracking going for a walk, particularly as a new mum. But if you do it with other people, it gives you that ‘we can do it’ feeling.
Levani: I find it really daunting to leave the house with the baby, but Blaze Trails gives you that motivation to get out.
Bethan: It’s very lonely having a little child, and quite boring.
Stephanie: I think adult socialisation is very important, so it’s not always baby talk. On this walk today I’ve had some of the most adult conversations I’ve had since being on maternity.
Adina: Blaze Trails is good for your baby, and good for you. I was told by the psychologist at the hospital where I delivered, if you’re ok and feeling good, then the baby is ok.
Stephanie: I think it’s about owning something. Before I had children, I owned cycling. I owned running. I owned walking out the house when I want to. I owned myself. Now I’ve got children, being able to go on a walk, I own that. I can still feel my own identity.
Bethan: I’ve violently clung to my own identity. I had a difficult pregnancy. It was highly medical and I had lots of complications. I just became a pregnant person. That was just what I was. I was nothing else. Coming here does remind me, ‘oh yeah, I’m someone’s mum’. It’s nice to be reminded of that identity in a positive way, rather than some of the negative associations of being a woman and a mother.
Stephanie: Especially, for me anyway, it’s about mental health. Coming along today has lifted my spirits, and it’s the highlight of my week to be honest with you. I haven’t had many highlights since giving birth as it’s always about the baby. Blaze Trails touches in many corners.
Katy: After Covid, the evidence is really clear that services for parents have not recovered. There are baby groups but they’re expensive. And out of reach for a lot of parents. Statutory services have been cut. Softer services, like free baby groups run in community halls… a lot of them haven’t come back since Covid.
Stephanie: Blaze Trails is much needed in every single community.
Katy: It feels like communities have lost the fabric of all those little, small things that kept people going and made people feel like they had a community locally.
Levani: Finding other mums who get you, finding your village and having that support, it’s so important. I couldn’t wait to go on maternity leave again to become a Blaze organiser and walk with other mums.
Daniela: Just seeing them grow.
Jo: I think seeing them be amazed by the smallest, little things. It really slows you down and makes you be amazed all over again.
Anna: It’s exciting to experience the amazement they have. That innocence.
Julia: Seeing her develop is just amazing. I’m just proud of her every day really.