Green travel to green places

In search of climate and wildlife stories…by bike

Learning to slow down and enjoy nature — August 25, 2012

Learning to slow down and enjoy nature

Someone accused me of not being very low carbon because I was planing to get the train and ferry to Coll. I laughed. True, I could cycle all the way to the sea and then follow the example of some people from Coll who on the 8th August swam from the Ardnamurchan peninsula to Coll (I heard later that they did the swim in relays so no-one actually swam all the way). Finally I could walk to the RSPB reserve, so technically it is possible but it would be one hell of a mixed up crazy triathlon. It’s true that the ferry is not exactly low carbon. You would have to do the sums, but if you were on a half-full ferry in winter it might be better for your carbon footprint to fly in a full plane. But if you did fly you would miss the sight of porpoises, dolphins, basking sharks, gannets diving into the sea, and more. I prefer the slow route and with Calmac ferries investing in some electric powered ferries this year, all the better.

Both Coll and Tiree are amazing for watching wildlife but Coll is wilder, quieter and with less people and houses – more romantic perhaps. There is more moorland and even a few trees. Tiree seems busier, flatter and greener, with sandy beaches all around the island. Getting to the reserve on Coll was fine by bike. I stayed in Arinagour the village on the island close to where the ferry offloads. It’s about 10 miles from there to the reserve, a bit up and down but not too arduous. Anyway the views are worth it and being on a bike you feel in the countryside and closer to nature. I had my own bike but you can hire them or even stick your thumb out and hope for a kind passer by – quite likely on Coll.

Also on a bike you can pootle along and stop when and where you like along the single-track roads. I’ll admit I’m not very good at this slow cycling philosophy – I like the ride too much. But I’m learning to slow down. I was inspired by two people I met who took most of the day to cycle their hired bikes around Coll, they saw so much wildlife. A family I met on their bikes said they loved Tiree because they could spend the days, slowly cycling from beach to beach. So on Tiree I put my mind to a slow ride to where I was staying for the night and was rewarded with a view of a rare female hen harrier hunting over the heather. With so much nature all around why not take some time to just enjoy it.

Slow travel vs low-carbon travel — June 20, 2012

Slow travel vs low-carbon travel

 I googled slow travel. Most people who slow travel try getting from A to B with a lower carbon footprint to normal. Some, like slow food lovers, focus on taking time to just enjoy the experience, but this could be pootling along in a huge campervan rather than on a bike. I aim to cut my carbon footprint so my journeys to RSPB reserves on my sabbatical will only be by train, bus, boat or bike….but primarily bike. At the moment I’m a short-commute cyclist, rather than doing it to keep fit, so I’m aiming to take the bike on the train where possible and ride from there. I don’t have all the kit, like some of my friends who are also hitting the big 40, I’m more like the rider on the right than the left (see pic) – but I’ll give it a go.

I’m a bit more elderly lady than Mark Cavendish

There is also a perception that you can’t get to RSPB reserves unless you have a car. It’s true that many are in the middle of nowhere but surprisingly there are plenty you can get to even if you leave the car at home, or don’t have one. I can tell you that working out how to get to Loch of Kinnordy by public transport is a bit of a trial but I hope I can inspire you to enjoy nature and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.