Thursday, 31 July 2008

The wonderful world of wikis and web 2.0

My fiance sometimes works in schools with children. The other day he came home and said he learnt a new word that day from the kids and challenged me to 'translate'. The word was 'Neek'. And I knew exactly what it meant: it's a conjunction of the words Nerd and Geek. So perhaps meaning a Super Nerd, or whatever. The point was that Andy thought it was an apt way of describing me, or my latest project.

I've recently been immersed in the book: Wikinomics by Dan Tapscott (left). It's a history, critique, and celebration of Web 2.0. It goes into heaps of detail about how the web is changing and consumers are becoming prosumers and an important part of the creative process.

At about the same time I discovered Square Space - a platform for creating one's very own Web 2.0. It's full of widgets and wonderdum which allow you to piece together your own website or should I say 'platform' as websites are for losers - according to Wikinomics. So anyway, I tried it out for myself and got busy with the tools and functions and quickly realised that it was the answer to what I've been looking for and satisfies all that is good and great about Web 2.0. So hooray, ecoescape members will soon have their very own networking site which will grow organically and in line with what they want. Let's hope they like it! And I'll continue in my Neekness.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

UK Holidays - Sold Out this Summer?

This story on Travel Mole highlights the surge in demand of UK domestic tourism this year. Good news for the environment and our lower carbon economy. And, of course, good news for the economy overall as travellers opt to support UK businesses.

UK holiday accommodation in July and August will sell out completely over the next few weeks, a leading domestic operator forecasts.

Self-catering company Hoseasons says areas such as Dorset, Somerset, the Isle of Wight and parts of Wales are selling out fast in addition to summer favourites Devon and Cornwall.

The rise in UK holiday bookings is put down to the strength of the euro, wider economic uncertainties and a reluctance to fly after increased fares and problems at airports with delays and baggage handling.

Last summer was also a wash-out is many parts of the UK due to flooding.

Hoseasons chief executive Richard Carrick said: “We have found that more customers than ever before want to jump in a car with the family and avoid the hassle and increased costs of an overseas break. Our message is that if you still want to just pack up and go, book now to avoid disappointment.

“This isn't solely an economic issue however, a growing number of holidaymakers are also rediscovering the joys of a UK break.

“There is a real ‘feel good factor’ amongst holidaymakers with the success of truly British events like Wimbledon and Glastonbury, combined with the great weather, all helping to demonstrate what the UK has to offer.”

VisitBritain chief executive Tom Wright said: "The findings from Hoseasons that the UK is set to have a great year as many operators see strong late demand for British holidays is great news for the British tourism industry.

“In the current economic climate, we are finding that Brits are taking another look at holidaying at home and are surprised by the range of experiences on offer.

“There are still some fantastic breaks out there, but we would suggest that if people are considering a domestic break they don't leave it until the last minute.”

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The Food Maze

Not only do the ecoescape businesses create wonderful and memorable experiences for their guests, but many of the owners, it would appear, have further hidden talents!

Robert Elliott, owner of Aspen House, recently wrote and published the Food Maze (left) - a magnificent insight into the production and marketing of our food. It's a fascinating and deep read, and one which will have you thinking about the traceability off food. Read my review over on the ecoescape website or order a copy of the book for just £9.99 from Robert's website:

Well done Robert! And we're looking forward to reading more from you soon.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

David at the Yard Cafe

David at the Yarde Cafe
Originally uploaded by ecoescape
This is David at the Yard Cafe - the second business owner to be photographed with their copy of ecoescape. This one, located on Devon's Tarka Trail, is both a cafe and now a bunkhouse. We visited in May, hiring bicycles in Barnstaple, and riding about 20 miles to the eco-friendly bunkhouse.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

ecoescape in the Cornish Guardian

Orchard Lodge B&B, one of our top 50 ecoescapes, recently appeared in their local newspaper - the Cornish Guardian, brandishing a copy of ecoescape. The article reads:

Date : 14.05.08

A couple who took over a North Cornwall business less than two years ago have made it into a prestigious new guide to eco tourism.

Orchard Lodge is one of only two B &Bs in the area to be featured in the latest edition of ecoescape, described as "the handbook to responsible escapism". Editor Laura Burgess visited the guest house run by Geoff and Shelley Barratt (left) during their first full season last year and describes some of the new renovation as "inspiring". The second edition, which has just been published by the Green Guide Company, also includes some of Cornwall's best known attractions, such as the Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan.

For Geoff and Shelley it's one of a number of accolades gained in the past year.

Orchard Lodge, Boscastle achieved a gold award from the Green Tourism Business scheme and Shelley has been appointed an ambassador by the Cornwall Sustainable Tourism Project (CoaST) and invited to talk on sustainable tourism at conferences in Cornwall and the Scilly Isles.

"Were delighted that the guide chose to feature Orchard Lodge.

"We'd no idea we would get such a glowing report, we didn't think we would be important enough to be included" said Shelley.

The book is defining a new way to travel and "proving that we can enjoy the environment but leave no hint that we'd ever been there."

Ms Burgess said : "We don't have to go far to do this: we believe the best places to escape are closer than we had ever imagined.

"In the UK there are some of the most inspiring people and places to be found anywhere in the world: It just takes some fresh eyes and a new mind set to enjoy them."

At Orchard Lodge, Geoff and Shelley are already hard at work on more plans to develop the business. In the last few months they've joined farmers Liz and Anthony Brewer at their nearby B &B in a new scheme to produce their own pork for breakfast sausages, and only this week a new, state of the art, solar water heating unit has been installed.

"We want to get away from any suggestion that being green or environmentally friendly means a lowering of standards," added Shelley. "We think you can care and enjoy all the comforts we've traditionally been used to in Cornwall. In the Boscastle area, for instance, there are five gold award winners, proportionately more than anywhere else in the UK and in real terms more than for the whole of Greater London."

As members of Boscastle's Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Geoff and Shelley are also actively involved in planning for Boscastle's big festivals this autumn - the Food and Craft Festival on October 4 and 5, followed by Walking Week from October 6. This year the festival is raising money for the Precious Lives Appeal for a Children's Hospice in Cornwall. It will be launched with a charity concert on Thursday, October 3. Already more than 90 food and craft related businesses across the South West have signed up and chefs from leading restaurants such as Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Cornwall and Rick Stein's in Padstow will be giving demonstrations.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Lucky chocolates

I rarely win prizes. So when the little package arrived in the post this morning, I delighted at its contents - Choco La La Chocolates! Described as chocolates of gorgeousness, I soon found myself trying hard to resist eating them all in one go.

I won the chocolates on the Green Union website, as I'm trying to organise my green wedding for 2009. Signing up to a newsletter was little effort for my reward of Choco La La. The chocolates are all fairtrade and created to the highest eco standards - no plastic packaging here. Just minimal paper and a cool funky tin that I'll no doubt find a use for.

So it's back to the chocolates and luckily I have a year to go before I have to fit into that all important wedding dress.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Recession proof and green holidays

Over on ecoescape's website, I've written an article about recession proof holidays in the UK. It's interesting to see that the view of travel in Britain is rapidly changing not least because for the first time in ages it's actually cheaper to travel here rather than abroad.

Having worked on the ecoescape book, I've got to know lots of budget and green travel ideas in the UK, particularly for families. So in the article, I've given a few ideas and tips for budget and eco-travel just on our doorsteps.

We can save money AND go green! Hurrah!

Read the full article

Friday, 28 March 2008

Metal in Motion : David Cameron

A strange day was yesterday. I ventured into the RSA to hear Ed Gillespie talk about his low carbon travels around the globe. That wasn't the strange bit though even though I greatly enjoyed his lively presentation and the debate that followed.

The strange occurance came on the way up to the room where the lunchtime lecture was to take place. Upon arrival in the RSA, I was surprised to see that the entrance lobby was overcrowded with people who I soon realised were members of the Conservative Party. Fine, I thought, I'll just try and get through them to reach the staircase to the meeting room.

As I walked through the doorway that led to a narrow corridor, I spotted the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, walking towards me. I mustn't stare, thought I, and instead I decided to have a smile at the ready should he make eye contact. As it turned out, he was in conversation with a fellow party member so I was in no danger of making any eye contact with him. But much to my surprise and bewilderment, as he passed me he caught my shoulder sending me crashing into the wall! And without so much as a cursory glance or better still, an apology!

So there was I, just thinking about changing my political swaying, when a harsh reality check kicked in, and I tried to figure out whether it was Mr Cameron's apparent unconcern, unawareness, or perhaps more radical still, his iron body that left me a bit beaten in that corridor.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Watch out for cyclists!

Living in London, I know first-hand how tricky cycling through the capital can sometimes be. Despite this, I think it's important to keep going, and have confidence. This latest viral vid from Transport for London is a great wake-up call to drivers who really should take more care on the roads..

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The 11th Hour

Yesterday I saw a preview screening of the 11th Hour which is on release at the Apollo Cinema in London later this week.

I went to the screening fearful that the film would instill more gloom into audiences already growing weary of doom-mongering from notable figures around the world. Instead as the film passed its opening and bracing sequence, it started to make a lot of sense...

Yes, there were a lot of frightening images of drought, famine, flood and death, as well as sobering statistics of unsustainable world growth. But amid this were voices that spoke with authority and certainty without preaching in any way. They were people from all industries and backgrounds - people who knew that the truth about the damage that we've inflicted on the planet. But the voices were unnaffected by the media, and spoke with passion and reason at the same time. They're largely not celebrities but people who've been working to find solutions to the planet's woes.

The film starts to address profound issues that other films, books and documentaries have failed to address. These are not just about climate change or the effects of our behaviour on the planet, but instead our relationship to nature and ourselves. The film clearly questions any separation between humans and the environment - we are in fact inseparable. We are also vulnerable in the grand scheme of things. So as a result all we are doing is speeding up our demise whilst being a relatively young species.

The film shifts the emphasis of the climate change debate to focus on what we're doing that's different to our pre-industrial ancestors. What we're doing now that didn't happen before is releasing the ancient energy of the sun that was previously not released. In other words, our ancestors lived by the energy of the current sun and not the ancient sun which of course is not renewable. In unleashing this locked up energy, the population of the planet has rocketed to unbelievable proportions. Even in my grandparents' lifetimes, the population has increased over 5 times over. This just isn't sustainable.

Having spent the weekend with a friend's baby, I started to question what the future of that young baby would be. If the world continues to deplete resources I genuinely felt afraid and unless things change, I started to question if I should myselfin the future bring a new person into a world which can't sustain it.

A moment in the film which had resonance with my mission, was when they talked about our relationship to our homes. Something has brewed a kind of hatred toward our surroundings. Instead our consumer behaviour has taken over and tried to fill this gap and define who we are. As more people have grown tired of the constant bombardment of commercial imagery and brands, they are rejecting the notion of working more to buy more. And suddenly the idea of frugality is one that is appealing, and welcoming in a fast-paced, individualistic society.

So is there a reason to be cheerful? Very much so. Well if you consider the planet as being another living being with rights too, then the planet is all ok in the long-term. Humans will be gone, but as the film finishes on, the earth will regenerate eventually, and life-in whichever way possible-will return. For humans though, all isn't lost. The film talks about what we can do - even if it's at the 11th hour, we still have a chance. In fact some commentators even say that this is the most fascinating era to live in. A chance to completely rethink the way we live and our relationship to the planet. As long as we keep in mind these possible solutions, we have a chance.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Sneak preview of the new ecoescape guide

Having just got over the excitement of proposing to my other half on Leap Year day, now there's all the excitement of the new ecoescape guide to contend with! Here's a sneak preview of the cover which we've spent weeks deciding on. The new UK ecoescape goes to print this week and will be in the shops before the end of the month.

You can request a copy through your local bookshop or order a copy through our website at

ISBN 978-1-905731-40-4
RRP: £8.99

Monday, 3 March 2008

Leap year madness

I don't know what came over me. I woke up on Friday morning thinking that it was just another day in the office - or should I say at home - working on the final pages of the new ecoescape book. Andy was around in the background working on the final pages of his thesis, so it seemed pretty straight forward to me.

But then I had a mad moment at lunch and decided to ask Andy to marry me! As it's a leap year, the girls are allowed to pop the question (else the boys have to pay a fine/buy girl new dress). Luckily Andy said 'yes' which was just great. Except we have no idea how to go about this marriage thing. It feels like the right thing to do for both of us, we just don't know how to do it! I mean, how does one choose a ring, or more importantly, break the news to parents. Let's say, the latter was a learning curve and I've never seen Andy so nervous before. It took him all day to summon up the guts to ask for my parents' permission and, of course, they were absolutely delighted - phew!

So now that part's done, I'm finding it hard to tell everyone else I know so I'm hoping they may read this blog and that's job done. I keep drafting a text message but it just seems wrong - or worse still I could broadcast a 'status update' on Facebook! No way! So my plan is to see how far and wide my mother can spread the news and the rest I'll fill in with some face-to-face get-togethers starting this weekend at what should be our flat warming party. That's unless they read this first...

So to the future then. And I'll not get carried away with spending. I'll not get carried away with spending. I'll just keep repeating that to myself and hope it stops me.

Any ideas or advice on how this marriage thing works, please write!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Eco Age Store in Chiswick

Eco Age Store Chiswick
Originally uploaded by ecoescape
This weekend I ventured over to Chiswick to check out Colin Firth's new Eco Store on the High Street. Hoping to see the man himself, I was full of expectation. It was a well thought out place with lots of designer goodies and pretty things for the house like fairtrade cushions. There's also a roof-top terrace but access is only available by invitation only - may be that's where Colin meets his guests in person. Alas he wasn't to be seen on Saturday. But I enjoyed looking through his elegant and eco-friendly wares.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Heels and Wheels in Hackney

Taking a break from my busy writing schedule, I got myself down to Columbia Road in London for a cycle wear fashion show as part of London Fashion Week. The models paraded some interesting, and some downright wacky bicycle fashions. The crowd turned out on a cold Valentine's evening and enjoyed the entertainment provided by a pair of acrobatic cyclists sporting some fine tweeds and cycling along to some good tunes (Talking Heads, Kraftwerk - my favs!). The piece de la resistance came in the form of a flower covered bicycle with a big heart shape crest thing. Marvellous.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Andy in his snow shoes

Andy in his snow shoes
Originally uploaded by ecoescape
We've just returned from a week long trip to Chamonix having discovered the fun but absolutely exhausting sport of snow shoeing. Apparently it's better for the environment too as wildlife is less disturbed. I loved climbing the mountains and wandering around alpine forests and picturesque chalets window-deep in snow. Julie was our knowledgable guide. She runs a company called Tracks and Trails:

Sunday, 6 January 2008

New Year, New City

Three days into the new year, and I found myself in a new house in a new city. Leaving Nottingham after 6 years and coming to London wasn't a difficult choice to make. I've been meaning to move to London for a while, and so here I am. Nottingham had lots of good points, not least for being cheaper to live in, but I have grown a little tired of travelling up and down the good old Midland Mainline between London and Nottingham. I thought it was time to see if the pavements are really lined with gold here in London - well, at least travelling around the country will be easier. As of course all the train operators tend to spiral out from the capital city. So despite living bang in the middle of the UK in Nottingham, it wasn't always helpful for train services. Now I'm living in South London and adjusting myself to a faster pace of life.

The move was nothing short of stressful. Downsizing to a one bedroomed flat with all our stuff came as a massive challenge over Christmas. The local charity shops did very well, but I was distressed to see how much we also threw away. Some to recycle, some - shamefully - not. All this taught me a valuable lesson - not to accumulate rubbish- or things! Things, things, things. Do we really need them? My method of keeping or getting rid, became a task of deciding if I'd miss the possession after a week of not seeing it. The answer was usually no, and so it had to go. Now I'm in London and thankfully everything fitted into the flat. We'll see how life in south London compares to life up north. So far, so good.