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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.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Midnight walk

Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of many 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 whatever the weather. This post is from Nicola

It’s 10pm and I’ve just got back from taking Lola and Nell on their first dusk-to-dark nature safari. We crossed the common at dusk dodging puddles left in the ruts of 4WD while admiring the mist that had hangs like a willow the wisp across this area making it feel very spooky. But this isn't a ghost walk, so to cheer the children up we walk on the road past Norton Cottage where the owls are shouting out for company and then out into enough open space to see the full moon rising, and then getting caught up in the hornbeam trees.

Hearing the owls reminds Lola of the time we were camping by Ullswater in the Lake District and she was woken on a wet night by a hungry owlet barracking its parents for food. Owls don’t fly when it’s wet – presumably because the voles don’t show – so this poor owlet would have had two choices: pester power or munching up its sibling (assuming there was another in the nest). Lola was too sleepy to realize this and just sat up in her sleeping bag to say loudly, but politely, “Please can you stop making that noise.” I think it worked, anyway we all fell back into a very fretful sleep and the next night the little owl wasn’t so persistent.

The big block is a mile best walked anti-clockwise. It can be busy but at this time of night on a bank holiday Saturday there are only two cars. As they pass we press ourselves into the verge, me hoping they’ll dip their lights when they see my pale trousers. But when the road is restored to its usual tranquility we get to see lots of bats using the silvery lanes as if they are they are selecting insects from the pick and mix counter.

We then turn right and out into the country with a stubble field to our left and hay-scented golf course on the right. Wherever there’s long grass on the roadside verge the crickets are up for it, shouting and partying. But all’s quiet in the stubble tonight: yesterday there was a couple working the north west corner by the passing point with a huge metal detector. I think all they got was mud on their boots.

As it grows dark the golden light shillueting SPELLING the far hedgerow closes down the colours into a grey blue and then inky night. On the golf course the grass is now soaked by dew and the moon gaining enough strength to give us moon shadows.

"It looks like the moon is a planet," said Lola teasing me, she knows I get very mixed up dealing with the solar system. Nell agrees and I resolve to learn them once and for all - I'm sure there's a nymonic SPELLING where John Likes Susan's Violet Eyes to help me finally get those planets under control.

Then just as the kids grow tired and we can spot more stars than planes (hard near Stansted Airport on a bank holiday weekend) we are over the five-bar gate and into the farmyard. Here the children turn on their torches so they can dodge the giant puddles and avoid the pond. Now we are on the final straight – strolling up the lane arm in arm listening to a neighbour’s teenagers celebrate GCSE results with a loud – and good – rendition of I would walk 500 miles by The Pretenders. It's a good choice!

Back home Granny Fiona is mystified by a walk in the dark: the terrace is her night time limit. Yet when pressed she says she enjoyed night fishing as a child on Strangford Lough, in Northern Ireland, and coming back by the moonlight with the oars dripping phosphorescence. Our midnight safari is not nearly so glamorous, but what a fine way to end a summer’s day.

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