Day 047 – Thistledown camping day 1…

Our annual pilgrimage to our favourite camp site – Thistledown, at Nympsfield, which is near Stroud, which is 25 minutes drive from Gloucester. Anyway, a very nice and seni-eco site, with camp fires, composting toilets etc, positioned overlooking hills and forests, adjacent to the National Trust Woodchester estate.

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Cornwall camping: day 5…

As starts to the day go, this wasn’t the best!

Packing up all our stuff into a very compact car while it was raining and getting stuck in the mud on the way out of the field – how does that sound? Being pulled out of the mud by a cool tractor was good and the boys loved that bit.

The idea for the last day in Cornwall was to pack up early and drive straight to St. Austell and the Eden Project, for as long as we could get there. After the first shower, it was clear skies and some sunshine which was fine for Eden, which has exhibits and landscaping & attractions both inside biospheres and outside in the surrounding landscape.

Since Claire and I went about 7 years ago during its first year open, it has changed a lot – grown up in many ways, with more facilities, bigger exhibits and lots more parking! It’s essentially an ecological and horticultural theme park, with the huge tropical biomes being the main attraction.

The boys loved it there and we saw all their favourite fruits – apples, bananas, mangoes and lots of cool play areas both inside and out, including an amazing bamboo and metal house on stilts in the main tropical biome. We made it to the top of the biome even though it was very very hot and humid inside.

Highly recommend it and was managed to get back home safely, through some more torrential rain on the motorways!


Want more fumes, fuel usage and funerals…?

I’ve been thinking about the issue of raising the motorway speed limit for a while, since it was proposed some months ago. The recent M5 incident has brought the issue back into focus in a very bad way, but i’m not convinced the two issues are that closely related. The combination of bad weather conditions and possibly fireworks smoke seemed to have been at least partly behind the pile up and this could lead to problems even at much lower speeds.

Damian Carrington writes very well in the Guardian and has an environment blog which is very common sense and down to Earth. His blog post on this highlights the triple impact of pollution, fuel usage and injury & deaths as three overwhelming reasons why this policy is a very very bad one.

PDF of article: Higher speed limit is the fast track to more fumes and funerals | Damian Carrington | Environment | The Guardian

‘It doesn’t have to be this way. In March, Spain cut its speed limit by 7mph (10kph), which will save the nation £2bn a year. In 2009, the Labour government consulted on cutting rural road speed limits from 60mph to 50mph, to cut deaths and injuries. And from 1974-1987, following the first oil shock, the US government cut limits to 55mph, at the same time as building the greatest economy the world has ever seen.’

So, what are the arguments?

In the blue (Tory) corner…

1) Getting to meetings faster and creating a more efficient and cost-effective transport system, with it’s positive effect on the economy in these hard economic times.

2) The motorway speed limit has been in place since motorways first opened in the 1960’s and vehicle technology has improved and it is easier to go faster.

In the logic and common sense corner…

– I would agree with the blue views if it wasn’t for the environmental and safety impacts. The justification on its own is not good enough – you have to also consider the full impacts of the justification and issue.

– Due to the limitations of speed camera technology, there is roughly a 10% margin of error, meaning it would be 80 mph + 10%, giving nearly 90 mph for the top speed. There is an automatic ban for people driving 100 mph – this is getting very close to this figure and it doesn’t take much to go that bit faster does it?

– Increasing the speed limit will lead to more accidents and deaths. This isn’t even worth debating. Travelling at a faster speed means less time to react to any kind of incident, inevitably leading to an increase in the likelihood of an accident. Because of the faster speed, if an accident does happen, the impact will be greater.

– Environmental impacts are one of the big arguments. Raising the speed limit will increase CO2 emissions and therefore directly contribute to global warming. Again, this isn’t a theory. Spain have recently reduced their speed limits and are seeing the savings in costs and emissions as a result.

– Fuel costs will increase. The chances are that if the limit is increased, there will be a temptation to also increase your average speed, even by a small amount. If this happens, more fuel will be consumed, therefore the cost of motoring will rise.

To be fair to them, both the Energy and Climate Change Secretary (Chris Huhne) and the Health Secretary (Andrew Lansley) opposed the new proposals (for obvious and logical reasons, up until the Tory elite came down in favour of the real right-wing Tories, at which point the logic of going against their core support evaporated in a cloud of exhaust fumes. Lets face it, the right wingers have no interest in road accidents and the environment. They seem to be more interested in their personal freedom and making lots of money from fraud and big business.

As a theme of the ‘greenest government ever’, this is a fairly good example. Another piece in the hypocrisy jigsaw, which is growing weekly. Given the previous attempted sell-offs of public forests, the attempted demolition of the 2008 Climate Change Act, the High Court Judicial Review over air pollution, the suspension of the Renewable Heat Incentive, £250 Million to bring back some weekly black bin collections and now a policy which is proven to lead to more road deaths and far more pollution.

Although these are hard economic times, this cannot be used to justify any and every policy which ‘might’, ‘maybe’ boost the economy. This is a form of extremism and there is only only one outcome to that.

It’s another example of why short-term political decisions are incompatible with medium and long term strategic decision-making. Safeguarding the stability of the planet’s ecology is not on the election cycle agenda, but what is more important? People have a hard time understanding that we are directly and permanently connected to nature and the world around us.

Just because we can do something does not mean we have to do it. This isn’t the ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ theory, this is about balancing up the positives and negatives and making a decision based on that.

On one hand, the Coalition are introducing the Green Investment Bank (a Labour proposal by the way), but on the other introducing the 80 mph speed limit policy. There needs to be consistent movement towards a more sustainable economy and way of life, not this back and forwards approach, with pandering to one side of the political Tory divide, then to the other, seemingly to try and keep everyone happy.


A good walk spoiled…

I took a half day yesterday and drove up to Swindon to see a friend and ex-colleague from private practice (Mr. PG). We went over to the Swindon Borough Council golf course, which has great facilities, including driving range (with upper level), good practice green, pitching area with bunker and both an 18 hole course and 9-hole.

After 100 balls on the range we had a 10 minute putt practice, then had to leggit to the 1st tee. At this point it was raining and looking slightly grim, but warm enough with low wind. We were hopeful it would clear up, which it did after 45 mins or so. I hadn’t played in a couple of years so wasn’t expecting much – 6 over after the first 2 holes!

I finished with 3 pars in 9 holes, which considering the fact i’ve played about 4 times in 5 years, was pretty good. The best part was the putting, with only 2 and single putts on each hole, which for me was amazing. Also I didn’t have a sand wedge or pitching wedge, so the 9 iron was being used in place of both!

Both of us finished on the par 3, 9th near the green from the tee. We both managed to mess up our chips, with my choice of using a 9 iron to push the ball towards the flag not working! I had 30 yards to the hole but managed to only push it 10 yards! That is the worst feeling in golf, when you’ve got a real chance for a decent score and produce a weak shot.

So, 15 Yards to go, putter in hand, a fairly firm shot to the top side of the hole and it curled in for par! PG also got his in from the same distance but his was slightly downhill. Both finishing on a par on the final hole was great.

Good half day there and much needed break.


Ireland 4th-13th Sept ’09

After 1025 miles in the car – 350 miles to get there, 350 touring around and a bit less coming back, we are back in Blighty!

The weather was wet for the first 3 days but after that, it was amazing and even managed to get a tan!  Jamie made huge progress with his toilet training and completed his toilet chart, after using the ‘big-boy toilet’ 20 times. There were also Donkeys in the adjacent field to our cottage! 


So, drove to Pembroke Ferry Port for a 2:30pm sail – 3 hours drive. Then there was a 4 hour crossing then an hours drive to Waterford, where we were staying the night. Waterford Travelodge was fine + dinner at Eddie Rocket’s – 1960’s American diner themed restaurant (you can’t call us cheap!)! We got to the hotel at about 8 so there’s no way we could have driven straight through to the cottage.


Drove from Waterford to the cottage (4hrs + stops), about 2 miles from Ballydehob on the N71. Got to the cottage around lunchtime and basically spent the day settling into the new surroundings.


Well, as starts to holidays go, this wasn’t the best! It rained lightly all day, but enough to get the waterproofs on and look like proper tourists! We all set off to a town called Kinsale near Cork, which in the end was a 3 hour round trip, back in the direction we had just come from!

The town looked nice but having to deal with the kids and the rain didn’t help matters. We visited Desmond Castle, which had long been used as a prison for the French + the ‘international’ wine museum inside. It was a nice place and the rain probably added to the atmosphere inside! Claire and Edward stayed on for a visit to the local public house but we headed back to look for food.


After the previous days exertions, we decided to stay local and check out the sights in and around Ballydehob. This turned out to be a good move and was more like the sort of thing I was thinking about + it didn’t rain till about 4pm, after we had got back. There was a good playground for Jamie on the road into the town and a cool 12-arch stone bridge with a footpath along the top.

We then set out to find a beach and managed to get to a lovely couple of beaches near Schull – Coosheen beach/cove and Cooradarigan, off the main road to Schull. Really nice rock pool action and photos of pebbles etc + grey sand! Lots of slate in the area maybe giving it that colour.


Another expedition north of the cottage beckoned. We went through the Bantry Bay area, which was exactly 15 mins drive (as predicted by the AA website), then onto Glengariff, which is the town where you get a small ferry to an island called Garinish Island. Lots of Seals on the way and the gardens on the island were really nice. Again, it rained till about 4pm, but generally it was fine with the buggy, although muddy in parts. The 65 steps to the round tower was fun (thanks to Edward for helping to haul it up there!).


The first day without rain! This was the start of sun for the rest of the week and a definite turning point in the choice of destination. Having sampled the rocky/pebble beaches, we wanted some more + some sand! We all headed to a place called Barley Cove Beach, which turned out to be a huge sandy beach with a stream running down the side and lots of interesting rocks, dunes and pools etc.

We had some lunch on the beach (bought from Goleen – a local village) and went paddling – my god the water was cold! Built a sand csatle and generally enjoyed the place. We then headed to Mizen Head, which is the most south-westerly point of Ireland, but you had to pay to get into the centre and we were all starting to get a bit tired by then.

Finally, as it was an awesome day and since the boys were by now asleep, we drove up to the top of Mount Gabriel, which stands at 407m tall and is the tallest peak in the area. Amazing views from the top and you could see for miles. There’s a Aviation Authority station up there with two white domes + a wind farm a couple of miles away.

Got back to the cottage to find that sister Claire had locked the cottage and taken the key with her (I suppose not illogically) meaning we were locked out! My first thought was ‘how do we break in’! I found their bedroom window open to the side but then Claire suggested using the bathroom window, which was lower and bigger. Climbed on the picnic table and got a leg up from Claire and managed to get through into the cottage.


After our awesome day at the beach, we decided to go back to Barley Cove, while C&E went on a cultural tour. Again, a very nice day and not a cloud in the sky! We tried the smaller cove area this time and had fun digging sand dams to keep a few large pools at bay, making a deeper area which Jamie could jump in etc. In the end, we dug a few levels of pools and it was starting to look like a ‘Megastructure’!


Schull playground and food shops + walk along the coast and onto a small pebble beach. Schull is defo the sort of place to go for a chilled out holiday and lots of good shops.


Left the cottage around 10:30 and drove for a couple of hours, until we got past Cork. Saw a sign for the ‘National Ploughing Championships ’09’ – on the way to Rosslare! Got into St. Helen’s Hotel at Rosslare Harbour in time for a trip to the hotel pool. we all had to wear swim hats(!), which I haven’t had to do for 20 years! Had a really nice dinner then off to bed.


The ferry back to Pembroke from Rosslare went well but part of the car trip was a bit stressful (!!!), with Jac not happy in his seat!

Went a bit nuts with the photos (477 in total) but here’s a selection! Used my Nokia phone camera quite a bit and the new zoom lens for my Canon DSLR (18-200mm) was really useful.

Overall, a very good holiday and lots of ideas for the future.