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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.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Why I'm going to visit an open farm on Sunday 10 June

How helping out on a friend's flower farm in north Yorkshire has inspired me to visit more British farms. Words by Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Tour de Yorkshire bunting and bikes along the route.
I’ve been run ragged by deadlines so when there’s a break in my schedule, I asked my friends in Yorkshire if I could come and stay for the weekend to do some of their outdoor chores. Over the years their home has been a huge solace to me – a muddy or verdant playground depending on the season. Whatever the weather, most trips involve very dirty boots.

My friend, Fleur, is flower-crazy and has recently set up a business flower farming. What used to be a pony paddock is now a cut flower farm. There are neat rows of beds dug across the field; trees and hedges planted to break the wind's force and a rabbit fence that really works.

Which is why on a hot Saturday morning she's got me standing in one of the compost bays pitching well rotted compost into a wheelbarrow. My mission is to feed the delphinium, the peonies and two other massive beds of what will be cut flowers. I think the difference between people who know plants, and people like me who don’t really, is that they see stems and think it’ll grow better if given food (aka compost) whereas my default position is that my plants probably need watering. https://fleursgarden.com

Over the course of the weekend I turn two compost bays, to heat the pile up, and cart more than 40 barrows of muck around the garden. I also help her husband planting more yew hedge and then we repair any of the compost bays that need patching up. It’s hot, but sociable work when Richard's there. Most of the time I'm on my own listening to the bird song, spotting abandoned pheasant eggs, enjoying the green vista or avoiding digging up toads.

Fleur's Garden compost bays, made from palettes, near
her neighbour's chicken farm.
But it’s that first hour, trying to pace myself that I remember as next door’s farmer of hens and ducks comes out with her pull-along egg trolley laden with eggs to drop off at her honesty egg shed. We get talking, and not just about the wonderful weather (it’s 21C in north Yorkshire in May, hotter than Ibiza). The topic up here is how to find reliable, hard workers and the impacts Brexit is already having on farming.  I sense she is very impressed by my work ethic as she learns that I’m planning to battle with compost for the weekend and not even stop to see the Tour de Yorkshire phalange flash past. At least that’s the impression I’m trying to give. I desperately want my friend’s farming neighbour to think that British women can be good workers. 

And in the midst of my attempt to people-please I suddenly realise that it’s a long while since I heard a farmer’s views on any platform other than TV’s Country File (a family habit). Because Brexit is set to have such a huge impact on farming, it’s a shame that we don’t hear enough detail about what farmers are up to on more media channels. Which is why open farm Sunday on 10 June is something to look out for. Run by LEAF an organisation trying to deliver more sustainable food and farming (leaf stands for Linking Environment and Farming) it’ll be a good way to find out more about British farming.  This is how LEAF explains the role of the modern British farmer:
As well as producing nutritious food, farmers also grow crops for medicines and clothes, as well as crops used for fuel and building homes.  Farmers care for over 70% of our countryside, manage vital resources like water and soil, maintain miles of footpaths and hedgerows and provide homes for wildlife.
Most Open Farm Sunday events are free and farms of every type and size take part offering a range of activities – in fact there is something for everyone to enjoy with loads to see, do and learn.  On LEAF Open Farm Sunday you can learn more about how your food is produced as well as….discover why worms are so important for the soil, why there wouldn’t be much fruit and veg without bees, and how farmers look after animals like cows, sheep and pigs, and care for wildlife too. You can also see science in action, including how farmers use the latest technology to farm sustainably and maybe take a peek inside a state of the art tractor.  On many farms you will be able to take a farm walk or guided tractor and trailer ride, follow a nature trail and of course, talk to the people that make this all happen, the farmers!

Fleur's Garden is a flower farm. Early May, when
frosts are no longer feared, is the time planting
can start.
Farmers are fascinating when they talk about what, and how, they farm and feel confident enough to share with someone they may never meet again their rationale for doing these things. My London friends often complain that they are stuck in a like-minded ghetto, so a trip to a farm might be an eye-opener. It always is for me.

  • To find farms are opening near you on the 10th June visit www.farmsunday.org.
  • If you are in the Leyburn-Bedale area of North Yorkshire (bigger towns are Northallerton and Darlington) do go and see Fleur’s Garden. If you're getting married or want flowers for a party or special flowers for a grave you can contact her and spend a day in her garden cutting all the flowers you want. https://fleursgarden.com. You'll need to email first, fleur@fleurbutler.co.uk 

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