A-Z activities

A-Z countries

What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Friday, 18 May 2007

We're tree huggers today


Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of loads of countries without adding to climate change (with needless emissions from aeroplanes) or having to waste hours of holiday time in airport terminals. We hope our adventures inspire you to take a Grand Tour of your neighbourhood. This post is from Nicola and Lola (Nell is on the far left of the pic with her friends).

Just when we were deciding which digital camera to take on our trip, who was going to housesit and planning our leaving party we discovered that nearly 20 trees were to be cut down along the avenue we walk along to school every day. We were so shocked that it was easy to set up an instant action to try to stop our council doing this.

The council says the trees (mostly Raywood Ash which look like Rowan) have to go for health and safety reasons. Translated this means that they might drop a twig on a passer-by's head, which could be fatal. It is hard to imagine them as killer trees when Drayton Park is a nightmare of building, construction vehicles, groaning cement mixers and through traffic.

Lola takes over: “In Islington there aren't that many trees, so these are especially important because they are on a big road with big grey buildings opposite. The only bit of greenery along Drayton Park are the trees that the council wants to cut down. The department cutting the trees down is actually supposed to be looking after Islington's trees. I don't think that's right,” said Lola to one of the newspapers. “When it's spring they flower and it's really nice, when it's raining you can shelter under them. When it's sunny they give you shade. So they are useful all year around. So why the council wants to cut them down I do not know. I always walk to school so I've become very attached to those trees, they are like my friends. They always brighten up my day, and they help tackle climate change.

Admittedly Lola and Nell did nearly get into trouble because they were late for school on Thursday 17 May. This time it was because they were giving out flyers to all the people who walk down Drayton Park towards the Arsenal tube. The flyers made it easy for people to ring the council or contact the man responsible for cutting down the tree. As a result his emailbox was swamped by pleas and opinions from outraged residents. Lola was relieved not to be told off by a Year 6 teacher. When he heard she was busy campaigning his answer was that it "was better to save trees than to be early for school!"

At 4pm that day Nell and some of her friends set up a pop-up tent under one of the doomed trees. We added bunting and waved homemade banners saying “We love Drayton Park’s trees” for photographers from the two local newspapers, The Islington Gazette and the Tribune. It felt a bit like being one of the characters in Lauren Child's book, What Planet Are You From Clarice Bean? when Clarice's family camp up a tree to stop it... being chopped down.

About 20 people turned up for this press call including our brilliant local Green Party councillor, Katie Dawson.

Two hours later, back at home, my email box had fantastic news: a message from the council saying the trees would be cut down in September, instead of tomorrow. We were all so pleased to get a three-month breathing space.

It’s amazing how citizen action can work when you are lucky.

Lola and Nell would be devastated to see this avenue cut down, but they couldn’t believe there were no plans to replant any of the so-called killer trees in that street.

They were also shocked to learn that in lots of countries in the world you run real risks protesting. We wouldn’t have dared do this if we lived in Zimbabwe or the Democratic Republic of Congo or Iraq. Twenty years ago we wouldn’t have dared do it in South Africa or Chile. I think our save-the-trees day helped us realise how very lucky we are to live in the UK. The Grk novels (eg, Grk and the Pelotti Gang) for 9-12 year olds by Joshua Doder are a good way to get this message over to book worms too.