Step Forth Buggy Walks began in Falkirk in 2009 when just a few mums and their babies went on a 30-minute walk from a local health centre.
A decade on and with four Buggy Walks established in the area, approximately 180 people now take part in the walks every month.
Buggy Walks are Health Walks for parents and guardians and their babies. They provide a range of benefits including social interaction, physical activity and emotional, peer support.
And on Saturday, at a birthday and reunion bash at Callendar House and Park, mums spoke of how the weekly walks had made a difference to the early days of parenthood.
Mum-of-two Theresa Halkett, who took part in the walks in 2011, said
I love walking and this was ideal exercise for me with my baby.
It’s free and even on the days you were most tired, when perhaps your child had kept you awake, the fresh air does wonders and really does make you feel 100 times better.
Buggy Walks were so good for my wellbeing as a new mum. It was great to meet other mums who were experiencing the same situations. It was uplifting and I always looked forward to the Friday walk. I made friends there; we are still friends now and so are our children. We continue the tradition of walks and outdoor play.
Supported by us and managed by Falkirk Community Trust, Step Forth started Buggy Walks when local health visitor Carol Barclay met Step Forth development officer Barbara McConnell.
Research at the time showed 20 per cent of new local mums had suffered from depression or feelings of isolation.
The Buggy Walk project aimed to give support to parents and their babies, allowing them to chat to each other, their health visitor and get exercise and fresh air.
Dr Bridget McCalister, GP at Antonine Medical Practice where the first walk started said: “During the pilot, the health visitors noticed that mums involved with the Buggy Walks had an improved mood.
“Today, I still hear laughter and chatting coming from the room where the mums meet for coffee after the walk; it always sounds like good fun.
“There is not one negative about Buggy Walks. Walking is fantastic exercise, and, when you are a new mum, you need other new mums to talk to. It’s also great for the children, and new friendships are made so it’s really an invaluable service.”
In 2012, Falkirk’s Buggy Walks won an award from NHS Health Scotland, and the local walking network continued to grow.
Mum Kelly Cameron, who walked with her son Zander on and off for two years said: “Buggy Walks paid a vital role in my life physically and mentally by giving me a place where I felt safe to make friends and be myself.
“The benefits for me were that the walks were easy to access and the walk leaders and Barbara were so supportive and amazing. The other classes I attended with my little one never gave the option to talk to other mums but this did. You walked and chatted then went for coffee but you were still doing exercise. It really made me feel like I achieved something.
“Overall it’s been an absolutely amazing experience that I can’t thank Barbara and her team enough.”
Paul Finnie, Sports and Recreation Manager at Falkirk Community Trust said: “Buggy Walks have been a great success story for Step Forth. We’ve had such positive feedback from so many parents telling us how much the walks mean to them, their children and their families.
“We’d like to thank the great network of volunteer Walk Leaders we have, and would warmly welcome any new parents to join their local Buggy Walk.
“We look forward to the next 10 years of Buggy Walks in Falkirk.”
Ian Findlay CBE, Chief Officer at Paths for All said: “Walking together in a friendly group really can have a profound impact on people’s lives. It benefits not only our social, mental and physical health, but also connects us with our communities.
“Buggy Walks are a perfect example of how a weekly walk and talk can make all the difference, especially to new parents who can feel overwhelmed or isolated.
“It’s been a pleasure to support Step Forth through the years and watch the local Buggy Walk network grow. It’s also great to hear how many parents, not just in Falkirk but throughout the country, have continued to lead active lives with their families and children as a result of being involved with Buggy Walks.”
To find a Buggy Walk near you, or for information on the training and support we can offer to help set one up, click here.