How walking along the Stray has changed the lives of hundreds of Harrogate parents

The Harrogate Advertiser, in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council and sister JPIMedia titles in Yorkshire, has launched a year-long campaign called Salt of the Earth to celebrate the power of small acts of kindness. This week we feature the Ready Steady Mums walking group.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 12:51 pm
Updated Monday, 16th March 2020, 12:52 pm

When it comes to being kind and making a difference, it’s not a case of reinventing the wheel - it is often the most simple, everyday things that can prove to be a powerful catalyst for helping others.

In Harrogate, simply going for a weekly walk around the Stray has been a tonic for dozens of new parents, who bring their babies along to get out of the house and make friends at what can be a very isolating and daunting time.

Ready Steady Mums has now been going for four years, and is run by a team of kind, community-minded volunteers who saw a need in the community to create an inclusive, fun and friendly social lifeline for parents.

Gemma Brown with her daughter Ellie; Matt Blackmore with his daughter Lilith, and group volunteer Juliette Leyland.

The simple act of going for a walk has created a whole community founded upon friendship, kindness and support for new parents who might otherwise find their worlds shrinking as a result of having a baby - finding themselves staying in more often, and losing some social connections.

Gemma Brown, who takes her six-month-old daughter Ellie along to Ready Steady Mums, said the group has made a massive difference to her life, and she praised the efforts of volunteers such as Juliette Leyland (inset) who selflessly go above and beyond to help.

Ellie is Gemma’s first child, and just being able to share experiences and chat to other parents going through the same thing has given her a real confidence boost.

Gemma said: “When my husband went back to work after having Ellie, I was suddenly thinking to myself, ‘what am I going to do now?’ I went from being really busy at work and being around people all day, to suddenly thinking ‘oh crikey, what do I do now?’.

Delighted to volunteer for the group: Juliette Leyland with baby Ellie.

“It is daunting, the prospect of being at home every day with a little baby, especially if it’s your first time and you’re wondering if you’re doing OK and if you’re going to cope.

“So it’s really nice to be able to share experiences with other mums and talk to other people going through the same thing. It gives you reassurance that you’re doing OK.

“When you are walking alongside other mums and babies, you feel part of a community, you feel supported. Juliette and all of the other volunteers are just amazing, they are so selfless in giving up their time to help others.”

Ready Steady Mums meets at St Mark’s Church at 10am on Friday mornings, before walking around the Stray and finishing back at the church for tea and cake, where babies can be fed and changed, then play while mums can have a chat and share experiences.

Matt Blackmore with his daughter Lilith.

Matt Blackmore, who takes his 16-month-old daughter Lilith along on the walks, said: “There is no pressure, if you want to come along and just have cake and tea, you can do - it’s relaxed.

“Some groups can feel a bit daunting at first, but this is just so friendly. It just has such a nice, welcoming environment, and I’ve made some really good friends out of it. It’s really good for the babies as well to interact with other little ones. I think having someone be kind to you, like Juliette or one of the other volunteers, makes you feel better.”

Juliette Leyland, who helps to run the group, said: “I’m always happy to meet someone in the car park if they are feeling nervous. It’s a really inclusive group, and no one walks on their own. When you’re walking with somebody, you’re not looking at them - you don’t have that sort of intense conversation, you’re just chatting as you’re going, and it’s not so pressured.

“You are concentrating on pushing your pram, and I think that helps to put people at ease. I love the group because all the mums and dads are really friendly, I like making cake, and I like giving and sharing my time.

Gemma Brown with her daughter Ellie.

“It’s a small thing for us to do, but I feel it’s amplified because we get feedback and thanks. A small act of kindness can be really appreciated by the mums and dads who come along.”

Anyone interested in going along on a Friday morning can like the Ready Steady Mums Harrogate Facebook page - click here to visit the page.

The life-changing power of Ready Steady Mums

One of the original founders of Ready Steady Mums, Vic Smith-Dunn, said the group supports people in more ways than many would realise.

She said: “Being a mum for the first time can be very isolating, everything’s all new to you and sometimes it can be difficult to find a reason or a purpose to leave the house. It’s important to know you are not on your own. Finding purpose in life and gifting your time and skills to support others is so rewarding.

"Setting up Ready Steady Mums was particularly meaningful for me as I had myself lived with postnatal depression for a year following giving birth to each of my three children.

“Because of my experiences I understand how hard it is to reach out to accept support and how sometimes even leaving the house is too big a challenge.

"Being able to use these challenging experiences to a positive end by offering care and understanding to others was so rewarding. Over the years I met so may amazing and phenomenal parents, walking the same path I had, and I have also made some fantastic lifelong friends along the way.

"The amazing volunteers who currently run it are definitely the salt of the earth, and I would highly recommend any new parent to go along.”

Harrogate MP backs campaign

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones is the latest to back the Salt of the Earth campaign, and hopes that it will inspire people to think even more about the simple ways we can all make a difference by being kind.

He said: “Being negative is easy and too often makes the headlines. That is why I support the Salt of the Earth campaign. It helps us remember that the many acts of kindness that happen every single day are actually just the normal, and brilliant way our community works. Day in and day out I meet people who support others through charitable work, doing their job to an exceptional level or simply looking out for friends, neighbours and even strangers.

“But I know this is just a small part of the whole picture. That is why it is so important that our local newspapers and North Yorkshire County Council are highlighting this through the Salt of the Earth campaign. Hopefully too, we will all feel inspired to think about what more we can do by reading of the examples of others.”

Join our campaign

Have you done something kind that you feel proud of, or know someone who has? We would love to hear all about it. Email: [email protected]