There’s a reason the midwives and health visitors keep telling you to get out of the house at least once a day and I’m pretty sure it has something to do with mental health. Whether you have just become a parent or not, a daily dose of natural light, some fresh air and a bit of exercise does wonders for your wellbeing, but there are added bonuses for new parents: exposing little babies to natural light also helps them differentiate between night and day, which is essential to them (eventually) learning how to sleep at the right time.
As well as a refreshing opportunity for self care and reflection, both urban and countryside walking can be great CPD, regardless of your subject or phase. Below are just a few ideas from our community about how they have benefitted from independent or organised walks in their local areas.
Teach First West Midlands Action Network have begun to organise a series of ‘wellbeing walks’ for their ambassadors. If this includes you, get into contact with our West Midlands Representative and Tweeter, Charlotte Bell (@cslbell), or explore the WM Action Network Facebook page.
Buliding a local community of ramblers can be a really sustainable way of maintaining your wellbeing both during parental leave, but also if and when you return to work and need a regular burst of fresh air at the weekend or in the holidays.
Opt for a sturdy sling option for your first walk, with a waist belt, which lifts some of the weight from your shoulders.
Chat to the organisers about buggy accesibility of countryside walks like these – some will be suitable for all terain buggies, some won’t be, but there might be some willing regulars to help you over any bumps or styles that might pose a problem.
Guided Walking Tours
Discover a new area of your home town through a guided walking tour – many of which are offered free of charge, or for an end of tour tip. Local tour guides can offer fascinating insight into the streets you have walked every day from a historical, literary, social or economic perspective and this is all learning that you can link to your subject and take back into the classroom with you if and when you choose to return.
If you can’t find a tour that suits you, explore your local library, many of which stock guides that offer a variety of themed walks with interesting information for you to stop and read along the way.
Failing this, many cities are scattered with blue plaques giving you more information about notable people and events associated with different streets and buildings. Armed with a smart phone and decent coverage, you can learn about figures that you may never even have heard of before!
Take lots of photographs on your walk – these are great for classroom display and can inspire your students to visit the same places, or give them a concrete visual to better understand the topics and texts you are teaching.
Duke of Edinburgh Award
Many schools offer the DofE award and scouting out decent walks in your area can be hugely helpful to either the leader of these trips, or whoever it is that is going to begin running the programme at your school (maybe you when you return?)
Even if you have nothing to do with the programme currently offered by your school, DofE leaders and Geography teachers are always looking for extra bodies to supervise camping and field work trips – showing an interest in this area could land you a free trip to Iceland or the Lake District!
Pay attention to the logistical aspects of your walk that would make organising a trip like this easier – travel, youth hostels, the distance and intensity of your walks.
Finally, you have time off that doesn’t coincide with increased travel fees and everything being booked up at peak prices! Make the most of this off season time and take the whole family to a destination where you can walk, relax and immerse yourself in some subject development.
This might be recreating your Lizzie Bennett/ Kiera Knightley fantasty; walking the entirety of Hadrian’s Wall, or getting up close and personal with those ecosystems and food chains you’ve only ever taught through a text book.
Travelling with very small babies that co-sleep, can sleep in buggy bassinets or moses baskets, can be much easier than travelling with older babies who have fallen into more of a routine or need cumbersome travel cots. Smaller babies are also much easier to carry around in slings/ backpacks for longer walks and are much easier to cater for in terms of regular stops for breastfeeding/ bottles.
If you’re not up for walking the day after you’ve given birth (!) you can still spend time planning and gathering inspiration. One of my favourite Radio 4 Books and Authors broadcasts was described as ‘a literary ramble through the Yorkshire moors‘, and discussed the impact of the British landscape and Yorkshire Moors on the English literary canon. Not only did it give me a new reading list, it also got me reflecting on the gothic genre and Freudian concepts of the id, ego and superego and how these are reflected in inside and outside spaces in literature.
Lots of podcasts can be downloaded as apps on your Smartphone – perfect for catching up and for hands free listening when you’re busy feeding, or just too tired to move!