Blaze Trails is a walking community made up of parents who support each other to get outdoors and go walking with their babies launched by Katy O’Neill Gutierrez in July 2020. It aims to improve individual parents’ confidence, their mental and physical health, and their sense of belonging in their local communities through supporting parents to start or take part in their own local walking group, providing practical information on walking with babies, and partnering with local and national organisations.
Why was Blaze Trails created?
I wanted to get out walking with my baby and other parents and couldn’t find a local group so I started my own.
The pandemic had such a huge impact on new parents, with many experiencing birth trauma, isolation, loneliness, postnatal mental ill health, and barriers to getting outside - pandemic aside, parents still face many of these issues.
I realised that getting out walking, at first by myself and then with other parents, had a massive positive impact on my mental and physical health, and I wanted to support other parents to experience these benefits.
As soon as I started Blaze Trails and shared our adventures on social media, other parents from across the country started getting in touch to ask if I could help them set up their own groups.
Members and organisers from across our community told us and continue to tell us that they desperately need free, peer-led spaces to come together, make friends, and achieve brilliant things for themselves (with their baby in tow!).
We’ve now opened 54 local parent and baby walking groups across England, Wales and Scotland.
How important is the social element of Blaze Trails?
It’s integral to what we stand for, and something that our members tell us is essential, as you can see from the feedback we receive:
“This group was a total sanity saver during my maternity leave, when Covid-19 was looming large and I was feeling lonelier than I ever had! Every walk boosted my mood, reminded me that we were all going through this together, gave me a laugh and usually something delicious at the end.”
“To me, the overriding difference between Blaze Trails and any other baby or toddler group is the simple fact that it isn’t really for babies and toddlers at all. It’s for parents, parents who love the outdoors, and it just so happens to be beneficial for the children too.”
“During my maternity leave myself and my baby (now 13 months) joined a few Blaze walks. I always finished each Blaze walk feeling uplifted from both being active and having a good chat!”
“These interactions make me feel a little more ‘me’ and a little less ‘Mum’; which in these all-consuming days of early parenthood isn’t something that happens often, nor easily.”
What would you say to other people thinking of starting their own group or changing something in their local areas?
- Ask for help, invite other people in your community to take part and join your team.
- Keep it led by people with lived experience of the challenge you’re tackling. To make sure our organisation stays true to what our community wants, we ask parents about their needs, desires and challenges regularly through our community platform, on social media, through events, and we conduct annual user surveys.
- Don’t wait until things are perfect, just start. I started my own walking group in north west London in 2018, but properly launched Blaze Trails in July 2020 as the restrictions were beginning to lift after the first Covid-19 lockdown and our network grew really rapidly, with parent-led groups popping up all over the country.