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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.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Hadrian's Wall Path - following Roman footsteps

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. Instead of lazing on family holidays guest poster Pete May took his family for a very long walk along Hadrian's Wall. It not only gave his family a taste of life as a Roman, it even got his young daughters walking the whole way across England (the secret is don't rush!).
Pete and daughters Nell and Lola had different views about cows
on the footpath at the early and late parts of the 84 mile long walk.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path is one of the most thrilling long-distance walks anywhere in the world and now there's a new booklet to help you conquer it. The route is only 84 miles long  - a lot easier to walk than to make - and you won’t have any problem remembering when it was built, as the accompanying walkers’ bus is the AD122.

Hadrian’s Wall Path by Mark Richards is a comprehensive guide to the path, with full directions, maps, and information about all the towns and places to stay on the route.

Real Roman remains. Some can even be clambered over.
We started our walk at Arbeia fort at South Shields, where the foundations of the Roman fort can still be traced and several rooms have been reconstructed. There’s no wall left in Newcastle, but the thrill of seeing your first section of wall at Heddon-on-the-Wall and then the angular Brunton Turret is unforgettable. Some superb Roman forts can be seen on the walk, including Chesters with its well-preserved bathhouse with alcoves for robes, and the foundations of a Roman bridge across the Tyne. The museum there has many excellent statues and gravestones too.

History, wildlife, fresh air, geography... looking at how little the girls are
it's amazing to think they walked the 84 miles. We broke it into several mini
holidays (yes, we call walks holidays) and rewarded walkers with hearty pub meals
of chips at the end of the day.

You soon realise what a massive project the wall was, with regular mile castles and turrets designed to control the border between Roman England and Scotland. In places it is still taller than an adult, though it would once have been three times bigger. There are massive earthworks too, with the Vallum ditch visible on the south side and a ditch to the north. It’s hard to believe, but many of the conscripts manning the windswept wall would have been from places as far afield as modern-day Iraq.

Nearing the end - the Solway Firth.
The most stunning section is the central section over remote crags, where the famous Sycamore Gap (used for filming Robin Hood) is situated.

  • At Housesteads fort there are intact communal Roman toilets, which will certainly stimulate some family lavatory humour. 
  • The fort at Vindolanda was unforgettable as we saw archaeologists digging up a Roman sandal and a cow’s skull used for target practice. It’s here that old Roman messages on papyrus have been found in the waste ditches referring to “Brittunculi” (wretched little Brits). 
  • It’s worth trying the Twice Brewed Inn too for good beer and rooms. 

The fort at Birdoswald was another highlight. After going through Carlisle the walk ended with the beautiful sweeping estuary of the Solway Firth and for the adults, a well-deserved pint.

Blog guest poster Pete May on the Hadrian's Wall path - he liked to make
detours to wherever football was being played!
One very useful aspect of the book is that it covers Hadrian’s Wall Path from both west to east and east to west, so that you can start at either South Shields or Bowness-on-Solway. It can be completed in one week or a more leisurely fortnight - but whatever your pace those 84 miles will feel like you’re walking with the Romans in Britain.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A trip to Italy, crossing Umbria

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. Sometimes talking and reading about a long walk can inspire a family adventure. For example tracing the route of St Francis of Assisi via a new trekking book inspires guest poster Pete May to ponder the joys of long, slow walks  & tasty Italian treats.

Long-distance walking has long been a love of Around BritainNo Plane and the Italian equivalent of our slow walking can be found in the Rev Sandy Brown’s new guidebook The Way of St Francis — a pilgrimage through the green heart of Italy, taking in Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio.

During winter evenings I like to read travel stories – a recent discovery was Tim Moore’s cycling adventures on a wooden bike with the most rudimentary brakes (!) around super-mountainous Italy on the route of the Giro D'Italia 1914, Gironimo. Now here’s another way to discover Italy - by reading The Way of St Francis. The book covers the full 550km pilgrimage, known as the Via di Francesco, visiting key sites from the life of St Francis of Assisi. It starts in Florence, famous for art, leather bags and the Duomo (as seen in the film A Room With A View), goes through St Francis’ home town of Assisi and finally ends in Rome with a tour of the seven pilgrimage churches.

It has 28 stages and takes a month to walk – working on a budget of just over 50 euros a day.

Spiritual nourishment
Seattle-based author and ordained minister Sandy Brown described the pilgrimage as, “being about a state of mind” at the guide’s launch at Foyle’s new(ish) bookshop at 107 Charing Cross Road,  London.

“It’s about turning your back on your old life and focusing on the beyond, the past and the future,” Rev Sandy Brown, The Way of St Francis

Brown showed pictures of stunning gorges, forests, sunflower fields, olive groves, a Roman waterfall and villages clinging to mountainsides. Sandy said he felt much closer to the spirit of St Francis through seeing the chapel where he received his stigmata and the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi where he was buried.

Lentil stew, mushrooms, wine and hazelnut chocolates - Umbrian-style treats
perfect for eating after a long walk, wherever you are walking. www.lenticchiacastelluccio.it
is an Umbrian agricultural cooperative with beautiful pictures of flower-drenched Italian fields.
Feasting too
Another great attraction of the walk is the superb food and drink Umbria has to offer over slow evening meals, such as Umbrian wine, chocolate, bread, pasta, lentils and cured meats.

The Way of St Francis is a very practical guidebook, with full directions, maps, altitude profiles and information about all the shrines, churches, towns and places to stay on the route. It’s more than a physical trek though. Brown remembers coming to the upper gate of Assisi: ”When I looked down at the Basilica of San Francesco my eyes filled with tears. It was a powerful moment of joy of accomplishment and an overwhelming spiritual connection with the simple beauty and meaning of this place.”

  • The Way of St Francis by Rev Sandy Brown is published by Cicerone, price £16.95.
  • Pete May is part of the Around Britain No Plane family. His latest UK travel book is The Joy of Essex, or see his Joy of Essex blog.
Over to you
What slow walks and slow food make you dream up travel adventures? And where - or what - do you recommend?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Talking about a fashion revolution with university students

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook so it's always exciting to meet people with the same sustainability goals but a very different approach. Here's how pomegranates, onion skin and happy silk worms make such a beautiful contribution to fashion via the clothes of Kitty FerreiraWords from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Zivile - Q: are the jacket and top your own products?
Valerie Goode: Yes the blue jacket and white peace silk shirt are both my label, Kitty Ferreira. I often wear my own products – you never know who you are going to meet.
What's it all about?
Kitty Ferreira is a sustainable fashion brand from London which has been wowing London and Brighton Fashion Week audiences. It's not just the fabulous clothes from Kitty Ferreira founder, Valerie Goode, it's also the way she makes them, and the reasons she sticks to chic sustainable fashion.
"Fashion is the second most polluting industry (after oil). To understand more watch a movie called The true cost 
Valerie Goode, MD and founder of Kitty Ferreira. 
University students with Valerie Goode from Kitty Ferreira sustainable fashion.
At the end of October 2015 I invited Valerie to talk Kitty Ferreira to my fashion-loving blogging students and this is the result:

Dila - Q: What's your inspiration?
Ethics and the natural world. My background is Caribbean and the brand is named after my grandmother. I looked at the land and the way she relied on it to feed herself, clothe herself and heal herself and I looked at my own experiences and tried to blend the two – boardroom to bar style. I wanted something you can wear to work, and wear out in evening… it’s not frivolous style. Take a look at my interview with BrightonFashion Week here.

Perside - Q: Do you have to know people to succeed in the industry?
It's extremely competitive and that’s even more reason why you need to stand for something. Fortunate that there is talk of ethical fashion throughout media and it is becoming more and more mainstream. Even the larger retailers are taking on sustainability in supply chains – H&M, and a few weeks ago M&S (see article here). 

When I started I had to forget almost everything I’d learnt throughout my 12 year career fashion buying. All my contacts became obsolete. I had to start from scratch and source a sustainable supply chain, sustainable fabrics, and find sustainable processes and procedures for production. 

When running a business you can’t be focused on what the barriers are. I try to have positive attitude. It helps to align yourself with experienced professionals, but I don’t always think this is the only way to get in. If like me you knew no-one in ethical fashion, my work has allowed me to meet people who do, like Lucy Siegle, who invited me to The Observer Ethical Awards and have her wearing my dress, likewise MBA professionals and investors. I wouldn’t worry about who you don’t know, rather who you would like to know.

 I wouldn’t worry about who you don’t know, rather who you would like to know.  
Valerie Goode, MD & founder of Kitty Ferreira

Valerie Goode from Kitty Ferreira looked to her Caribbean roots for inspiration for her fashion brand. She says that pomegranate can be used as a super natural dye for high end fashion. She uses it on upcycled silk and peace silks (that don't harm silk worms) to make clothes of the most cheerful, glowing yellow. 
Lannay Q: Why pomegranates?
I was looking for a wow factor. It’s the reason why I’ve been able to achieve a lot in short time. I wanted to incorporate an ethical practice and natural procedure so using natural materials to dye fabrics was a no brainer. I settled on two materials because of the beautiful colours. On the high street your wouldn’t see these colour ways. When we are designing colours we are looking at the white skin – you can see (on mywebsite/lookbook) that these colours suit darker skins v well. It’s two fingers to that side of that industry!  Fashion needs to be more representative. I did a catwalk with models of diversity so there were disabled models, bigger than average models, different ethnicities at the Ideal Home show 2014 - and my garments go up to size 26

Go follow Kitty Ferreira
Let's hope more of the public hear about the Kitty Ferreira brand and are as inspired by it as these university students were by Valerie's visit. 
You can read more about Valerie Goode at this blog I posted on islington faces in July 2015. Or follow what she's up to on social media...