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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 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.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

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, 8 April 2012

Margate gets its mojo back

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here are some thoughts on art, sand, chips and shells at Margate. This post is by Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about books and blogs).  

Margate isn't the only seaside place to slip out of fashion.

Spain's Torremilinos was all the rage in the 1960s (Monty Python mocked it as the Costa del Sol's home of spam and chips); there was Paxos in Greece as the place for your bit of fun in the sun during the 1970s. Where did you go in the 1980s (Kenya?) or 1990s (if Thai backpacking try Alex Garland's The Beach) or 2000s (Croatia) - all subject to tourist trends.

But when the visitors move on towns - even countries - can suffer horribly too. That's what Margate was finding. With it's lovely sandy beach it had been the perfect Victorian resort. Plenty of East Enders - and other Londoners - were still happily visiting in the 1950s and enjoying the famous funfair, Dreamland (closed since 2003). But each year things seemed to go a little more downhill. In the 2001 census it was a place of high unemployment, and even now as you walk around it's very obvious the B&Bs are filled with social tenants, not holidaymakers.

Have you been?
But suddenly Margate's THE place to visit again.
In 2012 the new Turner Contemporary exhibition was opened which offers a Tate-art experience (white walls, small labels, a caf downstairs), and expansive sea views out to the Isle of Thanet windfarm. The first exhibition is fabulous - as it should be for JMW Turner had strong links with Margate.

Tie that exhibition to a really friendly place, a super fast train across Kent to St Pancras and the knowledge that this is the town where Tracey Emin grew up and you have plenty of reasons for taking a trip.

Nell, 11, just wanted a day trip featuring ice cream and chips (both eaten on the beach). I also wanted a beach that allows dogs to tear around (until 1 May) and Pete suspected we'd all love Turner and the Shell grotto. Turned out he also found a pub to watch West Ham beat Bolton 4-0 too. What's not to love about a quickie to Margate?

Where in the world?
However, it turns out you can't be anywhere else when you're in Margate.
I tried, but it is a uniquely British experience. However the Shell Grotto offers a fantastic puzzle - who could have built an underground temple decorated with 4 million shells without anyone noticing? Despite English Heritage listing it as a Grade 1 site, theories are varied. Although my instinct says this is obviously a Victorian fake (my dad didn't do end of pier exhibitions for nothing you know!) it's fun to hope that it is really a Phoenician temple built in the second half of the first century. These traders (busy trading tin from Cornwall and on to the Continent lived in an area roughly where the Lebanon is now.  For examination of the evidence see Patricia Jane Marsh's booklet The Enigma of the Margate Shell Grotto.

Over to you
What do you think is fun to do in Margate? Or which UK seaside towns offer a little taste of the places other travellers like to visit via planes?


Anonymous said...

Gotta get us there!!!!
Awaiting your travel guide, Nicola!

nicolabairduk said...

From Facebook - this post inspired heated debate about carbon travel...
Howard: Easter here in Norfolk has been a load of fun without the hydrocarbon penalty! Who wants to live in london? It's a city and as such has a massive per capita carbon footprint (once support services are taken into account) compared to a rural existence... Just saying...

Nicola Baird My experience of Norfolk is villages without shops, train stations without connecting buses, dire health services, obsessions with supermarkets, blatant racism towards east europeans, few organic farming attempts, massive private estates and a super-dependence on cars (which drive far too fast on narrow roads). Of course I've only ever visited rather than lived there - but I suspect it's the way one lives, not where one lives that equates to a low carbon footprint or not.

Howard "I am surprised at this, as rather than being a rational deconstruction of the carbon issues involved, it is rather more of a series of unsubstantiated prejudices against rural life! Having spent some time studying the energy inputs per capita required to sustain individuals in cities and in rural areas, it is evident that much higher inputs are required to sustain a population living at the kind of density one finds in a city. hence my point.

Nicola Baird "But Howard, there are such interesting things going on with urban growing, pooling resources etc - plus work within walking/cycling distance in cities worldover. I think you were right, but as the world is now city-centric (whether you like it or not) the answers have to be finding more ways to make cities more sustainable. Which study do you recommend I look at? BTW I grew up in the countryside and now keep hens in the city - I like both places, but have consistently found cities more liveable.

Annie "As a person who has spent most of her life in cities and now lives in the country... it's really hard for me to imagine how life in cities is not more efficient per capita than the way people in wealthy countries live in rural areas. Surely there are economies of scale in every sector, lower housing footprints, lower daily travel, etc. I don't want to be stuck in an unsubstantiated opinion but you would have a lot of proving to do to me.

Howard " I did analysis of the inputs some years ago as part of a uni research project I was assisting - I havent got the figures to hand as I have been to sleep a few times since (!) but the sheer energy requirements of the infrastructure required to allow humans to be packed so artificially densely was the prime issue. You and Nicola are both right - it IS possible to squander huge amounts of energy living like a city dweller in the country in a wealthy area, but that is increasingly not the case. There is more flexibility in the country to respond to changing energy costs, for example by reducing travel, reducing heating, growing more food and using more local produce, composting and recycling waste on the property. The big issue is there is not space for everyone to live like that - which begs the question as to how we should view the impending crisis - sheerly in terms of energy, or as one of population as well? It's a very unfashionable view nowadays, but nonetheless valid.

Nicola Baird "All the things you mention Howard can be done in towns quite easily (esp if you add in roof, window box growing etc). I found this diagram from Growing Communities which source super local (ie, if you get veg from it none is air-freighted, some only 5 mins cycle from my house). Diagram tries to establish how much food can be grown locally. http://www.growingcommunities.org/start-ups/what-is-gc/manifesto-feeding-cities/explore-food-zones/