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Do: Walking Mums London


Do: Walking Mums London

Jagoda Keshani has lived in London for a decade and became a mum last year. She recently launched Walking Mums London, which organises regular outings for mums (and dads) that get new parents out of the house and exploring with their babies. WLM caught her between strolls to ask about her new venture.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a regular London girl, wife and mum. I moved here ten years ago from Poland to develop my career and to find love. I work for the NHS and have been married for three years. Becoming a mother seven months ago completely changed my outlook on many things and gave me incredible confidence. One day I looked at my son and realised that if I could create something so complex and beautiful, in comparison, everything else in life would be a piece of cake! My brain never stops working and I am always buzzing with ideas. Until my son was born I just wasn’t brave enough to act on these ideas; I now have the confidence to do so.

2.What inspired you to start Walking Mums London?

Three main things contributed to this idea. Firstly, I felt a bit lonely after I had my son as my family lives abroad and I did not have many family-oriented friends in London at that time. I was a bit lost and I needed to meet more people with children and to find new friends who would understand what I was going through as a new mother. I attended some baby classes such as yoga and swimming, but it was all so concentrated on my son that I never had enough time to make meaningful conversations with other parents. I met my husband online and so I thought I would once again give the internet a chance. Despite finding lots of helpful advice online I was not able to find any groups that were just what I needed.

Secondly, I have always considered myself to be a bit of an explorer. I love to travel, discover new places and see exciting things. Maternity time is a great opportunity to get to know your neighbourhood. We travel so far sometimes to find interesting things but often forget what is hidden just under our nose.

Lastly, I was in great need of exercise. I had a good pregnancy but had gained over four stone by the end. I desperately wanted to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. As a new mother I found that it was impossible to incorporate regular exercise into my daily routine. There are some exercise classes for new mums, but I thought there must be an easier and cheaper way to keep active. One August afternoon after a beautiful walk with my mum, who was here visiting me, the idea of Walking Mums came to mind.

3. What makes Walking Mums London unique and how does it work?

After that walk I went back home and created a Facebook fan page and after a few weeks also created a closed group with the same name. We have now outgrown Facebook functionality as the group has nearly 600 members all over London. We have also been limited to only Facebook users which is not an ideal situation as many people do not like commercial social networks. For that reason we are going a step further and creating our own www.walkingmums.com website. We hope to launch it at the beginning of this spring to welcome the first warm days of a new season.

walkingmumsSimply speaking, Walking Mums helps parents to really connect over a low-impact fitness activity, for free, and that is what makes us different. We walk around London, discovering new places, talking about babies (or not talking about babies at all), discussing our non-parental interests, sharing experiences, finding great cafes and making lasting friendships. Studies show that we form deeper bonds with newly met people if we experience something together and make mutual memories. Walking around places we know well, or do not know at all, creates exactly that feeling. A lot of people nowadays hide behind computers and we do the exact opposite; we use the internet to go out and meet real people.

Every member of our group is welcome to create an event or join any of the walks created by others. I personally lead one or two walks each week. Everything takes place in a very informal setting. We understand that being a parent makes life challenging enough and so we try to be as flexible as possible. On the day of the event we meet at a starting point and usually walk around three miles. Babies relax or fall asleep in their slings or pushchairs whilst parents carry on the conversation. We stop if anyone needs to feed or change their baby. At the end of the walk, participants go for a coffee or lunch depending on the time of day. The group sets the pace of the walk. It can be anything from a slow ramble to a proper power walk. We also encourage members to bring ideas of fun activities or places to stop for the children to have a chance to crawl around and explore outside of their pram as the babies are all sorts of ages.

On our fan page we concentrate on travel information and tips including travel equipment, family walk routes, interesting places to visit and much more.

4. What have been some of your favourite walks and outings so far?

London is full of fantastic places and everyone can find something for themselves here. Personally I love canal walks as there is something very romantic about the water and barges. Not many people know about them and so the routes are usually very quiet. Regent’s Canal is definitely my favourite one. I also liked the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk which the group walked to honour the 17th anniversary of Diana’s death. This walk covers Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park and St James’s Park and totals seven miles. The Diana Memorial Playground is an excellent place for a fun afternoon with older children especially during the week as it gets quite busy at weekends. We have also discovered a very magical walk in Islington called New River Walk (a map can be found on our Facebook page, Walk 8).

5. What are your three top tips for getting out with small babies and toddlers

Get to know the Transport for London website well.

If you travel alone it is very important to make your way as ‘buggy friendly’ as possible. Not many people notice that at the bottom of the journey planner on the Transport for London website there are two very useful options: ‘Bus

only’ and ‘No stairs or escalators’. They do exactly what they say—make your travel easier but, please note, not shorter. Having a good book with you while using public transport may help to pass the time.

Check the place you are planning to visit.

There is so much information out there. Most public places such as museums and parks have wheelchair and pushchair accessibility information on their websites. I witnessed a mum of two trying to drag her double pushchair up the National Gallery entrance stairs not realising that the pushchair entrance with a lift was ten metres away. It’s a good idea to check before you visit.

 Travel light.

At the beginning of my walking adventures I was so scared of everything that I packed half of my nursery into my backpack. I am a sling lover and so I quickly discovered that it is not a good idea to carry everything with me. I limited myself to the essentials and it made my life much easier. I realised that I can get most of the things in a pharmacy on the way in case of a real emergency. I never really needed all those extra nappies, toys, bottles and so on anyway. It also reduced my time to get ready and leave the house, which at times can take forever.

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