Members of a West Cork family are making waves with stunning photos of their adventures on the popular coastal route the Wild Atlantic Way, reports Jackie Keogh
‘DISCOVERING the great outdoors can be a terrible cliché, unless of course you actually go and do it,’ said Skibbereen woman Tracey Wood Wolfe, whose blog Wild Atlantic Family is hugely popular on social media.
‘The blog came about by accident,’ said Tracey, an intrepid mother of two, who began innocently putting photos of family outings on her Facebook page.
It was in response to her friends asking questions – like where she’d been and if they’d be able to do it too – that she wrote her first blog.
The first of the 18 walks featured on her website was in Coomhola. From the stunning photographs – which are pretty inviting – Tracey’s friends thought they had been high in the mountains, but it was in fact an easy walk, suitable for a young family to do.
As with all her subsequent blogs, Tracey put a description of the walk – full of relevant information like how easy or difficult it is, where to go, how long it will take, what you need to bring, what age group it is suitable for, and whether or not dogs are allowed – online.
She had enlisted the help of a graphic designer friend and, after checking out several different blog software options, chose Squarespace because it is more geared towards photographs and allowed her to choose her own website name.
That is how www.wildatlanticfamily.com got its beginning in May of 2016. Since then, Tracey and her husband, Justin, and their two children, Roisin (13) and Lorcan (11), have been discovering the great outdoors of West Cork in earnest.
Tracey has the advantage of being a qualified PE teacher – and is currently teaching in the preschool for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder at St Patrick’s Boys National School in Skibbereen.
She works fives days a week and then – like busy moms everywhere – comes home to make the dinner, take the children to their music lessons or sports activities. For three months out of every six, Justin is away at sea as a marine engineer on cruise ships.
But, as she says on her website, ‘I’m a mum of two prone to cabin fever. I don’t like being stuck indoors. We have a small house with no garden, so I’m either in the kitchen and the kids are in the living room, or vice versa.
‘I don’t like the fact that when we are indoors technology has such a pull. Like most children, my kids would live on it, given the opportunity. The best way I find to get them away from it, is to get them outside.’
There is – it has to be said – an element of bribery in all of this. Tracey admits: ‘If we are going to a new place for a few days, we sit the kids at the computer and ask them to find a place they want to visit and usually it is an aquarium or pool and that’s our bargaining tool, because they get to enjoy that after the walk.
‘As a former PE teacher, I have always been really active, but my activity levels have gone up and down over the years, depending on our situation. But I have found since living here that the best way to stay active is to get out and walk, cycle or swim.’
Going walking has an added benefit. Lorcan has Systemic Onset Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and has to go for treatment in Crumlin four times a year, as well as trips to CUH every three weeks for an IV infusion of the drugs he needs to maintain his quality of life.
‘He needs to be as active as possible to increase his strength and endurance in order to manage his arthritis,’ said Tracey.
By being out and about, Lorcan keeps his joints moving, which reduces stiffness, helps to improve muscle tone, and keeps his body strong.
Because some of the activity can be difficult, Tracey said: ‘We do take regular rest breaks, as well as lots of food, snacks and a picnic. So if he’s had enough, we’ll stop for a hot chocolate. And I generally have a treat lined up for afterwards.’
Tracey is also conscious of that fact that at age 13, Roisin is getting older and that their time together as a family unit is precious because soon enough she will be off doing her own thing.
‘Like Lorcan, Roisin does moan like hell before we leave the house, but they are very proactive when we are out, and Roisin is usually the first to spot the way markers, and is pretty good at reading maps.’
Both of them like it more if the walk features a landmark, or a historical monument that they can go and investigate and learn about later.
A lot of the featured walks are in Co Cork because the Wood Wolfe family only get to go wandering at the weekend. But it’s like Tracey said: ‘We live in what I believe is one of the most – if not the most – beautiful places in the world.’
The Wood Wolfe family have recently spent five days in Connemara so more blogs will be added to the website shortly. And later this year, they will be holidaying in Donegal, where they will walk and cycle parts of the Inishowen Head Loop.
‘My geography is improving, slowly,’ said Tracey, ‘But the intention is to cover as much of the Wild Atlantic Way as possible.’