Admiring the flowers in The Garden of England

Having never been over to the East of England when invited to a wedding over there we thought we'd make the most of the opportunity and explore Kent.

First stop was the beautiful city of Canterbury. It is an extremely picturesque place steeped in history, most famously in its honey-coloured Cathedral. We had a great lunch at the fun
ky Boho Cafe and then set off for a River Boat tour.

Although our guide on the tour was very good the tour did seem a bit of a con. Basically Canterbury city centre doesn't have much of a river so they milk it by slowly going up and down the bit that there is and charge you £6 for the pleasure.

The main attraction in Canterbury is the cathedral in which Thomas Becket was famously murdered. During working hours however they wish to charge you £6 just to enter the grounds let alone the building. Head back after closing time however and you can walk the
re for free.

Canterbury is home to a great shopping centre that is smart and clean and seems to have been completed very recently. This combined with the oldy-worldy nature of the city centre make it a great place for a day out.

Later on we headed 20 odd miles south to Dover to see if the cliffs really were white. After we discovered that they were we sat and watched the ferries dock, taking it all in, in preparation for our trip to France.

We then made the foolish mistake of ruining the illusion with a trip into Dover town itself. How sad it is that the first town seen by many visitors to Britain see this washed out retirement town.
What makes things even sadder is the fact that with a lick of paint and some seafront shops it could be much better.

It is just a collection of gi-huge charity shops, kebab sops and pubs advertising Friday Night karaoke and Bar Footsies. Surely we can welcome our visitors with something better than this.

"The Garden of England" is certainly a fitting nickname for this beautiful county. Every turn along its roads seems to reveal another beautiful landscape or another fairytale farm. The
pace of life seems to be much calmer in Kent too, which given its proximity to London is an impressive quality.

Bewl Water
One of the highlights of the countryside is Bewl Water a reservoir created by floodi
ng a valley, totally submerging a collection of houses. 13 miles of walkways perfect for walking, running or cycling surround the glass-smooth lake but if you would rather just observe take a picnic and watch the boats and ducks floating by.

The George at Cranbrook
The night of the wedding we stayed in The George and were mainly impressed. The room was furnished with squishy white bedding and black leather-bound furniture. The Medieval style dinning room felt luxurious and the food was great quality and came in generous ser
vings. The highlight has to be the bathroom though.

With a shower to die for, a tapless bath perfect for sharing, pebble walling and a glass bowl-style sink, there was an overpowering natural feeling. Oh for a bathroom like that. The one criticism was that the waterflow tended to be a little sporadic.

We really enjoyed our time in Kent and will definitely be heading back there soon. That beautiful county seems to have many jewels and I certainly haven't explored them all yet.

Labels: , , , , ,


Siobhan Donaghy: Ghosts

I'm not shy about the fact that I'm a bit of a pop tart and in that capacity I want to recommend Siobhan Donaghy's new album Ghosts.

It's intelligent and haunting pop with hints of Madonna and of course the Sugababes. Weirdly though she some how seems to sound more like the Sugababes do now that she did when she was in the band six or so years ago.

Four years ago, despite critical praise, her debut album charted at just number 117 but it seems things are about to turn around for Donaghy.

The production is fabulous and adds a great deal to thoughtful and emotive songs. It actually has many similarities with Garbage's album Beautiful, another record on which the production was not just the icing but the filling and the cherries on top of the cake.

Particular highlights of the album are Goldfish and 12 Bar Acid Blues both of which are songs of dispair and frustration set against flawless production and chilling melodies.

Don't discard this as cheesy pop, this is intelligent and thought-provoking and deserves more than a chance.

For samples go to Siobhan's website or MySpace.

Image by avlxyz.

Labels: , , , ,


Caring kit

If you’re a responsible backpacker who wants to fill their bag with the greenest gear on the planet then look no further. Laura Barnhouse introduces you to the four greenest and most life-changing bits of kit no traveller should leave home without.

Easy squeezy

When next deciding on your in-flight tipple pay attention to the way in which your drinks are packaged. Sachet Systems, the company behind in-flight beverages, are currently testing the idea of serving drinks in sachets by producing 25ml spirit sachets.

Because the sachets weigh much less than glass bottles, the plane’s mass will be reduced and consequently less fuel will be required. Now if that’s not a way to lift your spirits…

For more information go to www.sachetsystems.com.

Plate tectonics

If you are a fan of Dragons’ Den you will not be a stranger to the world of Orikaso crockery. Made from recyclable materials, the plates, bowls and mugs are manufactured with Polypropylene, a fabric endorsed by Greenpeace as a PVC alternative. Now here’s the clever bit: Orikaso’s products are based around the idea of origami so once you’ve had your dinner you wash it, fold it up and slip into the side pocket of your bag. Not only are you saving the environment but you’re also saving your back.

Plates, bowls and mugs are available individually and in sets. For more information go to www.orikaso.com.

Water of life

No doubt you have noticed the mountains of plastic bottles that gather at traveller hot spots around the globe. Rather than buy hundreds of non- biodegradable water bottles invest a little bit of cash in a water purifier like the SteriPEN Adventurer.

This UV light powered gizmo will purify water in 1 min 36 seconds and has an incredibly long life. It’s easy to carry around and although it will set you back £120 after a while you’ll be saving you money while you save the world.

For more information go to www.steripen.com.

Making waves

Water sports are a popular activity with travellers worldwide but are not often very environmentally friendly. Until now. Leave those diesel-drinking jet skis at the shore and proudly strut out to sea carrying a Biofoam surfboard. Although a number of companies are in the competition to make the greenest board so far HomeBlown are the lead manufacturers.

At least 50 per cent of their boards are made from plant-based agricultural product and according to HomeBlown this results in 36% less global warming and 61% reduction in non-renewable energy. Now there’s a reason to feel cocky about your surfing skills.

Image by bulldog1

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oxford: Manic world of morris dancers

Last weekend the boy and I travelled to the lovely city of Oxford. Although British Rail caused us to spend longer at Didcot than anyone should have to, otherwise it was a great day.

The first thing that struck us about Oxford was the bikes. As soon as you leave the station you see a bike park big enough for about 500 bikes. Not only was it provided, but it was full.

As the day continued it became apparent that everybody cycles in Oxford, and why wouldn't they? It's not only flat but bikes are so well provided for. As a cyclist myself I gazed at the endless bike parks, cyclist lanes and paths with great envy.

Admittedly my hometown of Bath is extremely hilly and as such deters some people from cycling, but many aren't fazed by the seven hills surrounding the city and don their helmets regardless. Why do the council in Bath not make provisions for cyclists even half as good as those in Oxford?

Troops of dancers
Another thing that soon demanded our attention were a load of people dancing around in feathers, bells and materials that wouldn't be fit for second hand curtains. I'm talking of course about Morris dancers who for some reason seemed to be filling every vacant square metre in Oxford.

We didn't so much walk down the high street but squeezed down it trying to avoid the troops of dancers and bewildered onlookers. This literally went on all day and we saw the same groups dancing at 11am as were still dancing when we left at 5pm. Those are some hard core Morrisers.

Of late no trip to Oxford is complete without a visit to Christ Church of Harry Potter fame. It's where they film the dining hall scenes and some outside work and it's not hard to see why they chose it. Christ Church is a beautiful building set in even more beautiful grounds. It also bares some link to the girl who inspired Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland books.

Its steeples sprawl
While we were there were hundreds of people walking around the grounds of Christ Church and it's not hard to see why. Simply by turning into Christ Church you suddenly find yourself in the middle of the countryside as it is surrounded on one side by farmland, whilst Oxford city and its steeples sprawl out on the other side. It's lovely.

The best thing about Oxford is easily the architecture. Much like Bath, every turn leads to another beautiful building be it a college, a pretty house or a church, of which there seem to be hundreds in this small city. Thankfully this means that you can enjoy Oxford without having to spend a single penny unless you really want to.

Now those are the sorts of places I like.

More Oxford photos

Labels: , , , , , ,