Thursday, 29 April 2010

Rambling for Everyone

The South Downs Way is a 100 mile pathway between Eastbourne and Winchester. The route takes you on a journey from Beachy Head where you can look over the white cliffs and ends in the historic city of Winchester.

The national trail hosts many interesting and intriguing sites along the way. From the Jack and Jill windmills to the mysterious Chanctonbury Ring. But I just walked the first part of the trail along the coast near Beachy Head and finishing up at Birling Gap but it wasn't just any old ramble.
Radio 4 were recording their Saturday morning show Ramblings hosted by Clare Baldwin. To show us the way was South Downs Way National Trail Officer Andy Gattiker and we were joined by several members of the Disabled Ramblers.

Rosie Norris, Secretary of the Disabled Ramblers Association, joined nearly fifteen years ago and users a hardy mobility scooter called a Tramper to get out and about on countryside walks.
Rosie was accompanied by David Livermore, Dorothy and Bob Matthews all of which have disabilities meaning they can't go out hiking at the drop of a hat but have to plan, plan and plan to go out and enjoy the countryside. Whilst chatting to my fellow ramblers it became apparent how much of the countryside disabled ramblers can't access. I guess I don't really think when I go over a stile or through a kissing gate, it's just a transition that gets me to another part of my journey. But for disabled ramblers they are a boundaries, stop signs and no go areas. Rosie was telling me that to get out into the country someone usually has to go out and walk the route to check that there aren't any obstacles along the way and there is good access up and down the route. Something that I wouldn't have to consider if I wanted to go on a walk on the spur of the moment.
Our route along Beachy Head was wonderful. The sun was alert in the sky and the breeze was fresh as the sea air floated by. Looking out over the ocean, you couldn't have added anything to make it the perfect day. I enjoy the escapism and the peaceful calm that the countryside brings and now after spending the day with the disabled ramblers I appreciate it even more.

What was brilliant about Rosie, Bob, Dorothy and David is that they were keen for more to be done when it comes to disabled country access. They all are great campaigners for their rights to be able to enjoy the country they live in. Bob likes going out on his own to explore new areas and even got himself out of two snow drifts over Christmas. When he started going out with the disabled ramblers about 4 years ago he felt liberated by the new found freedom the group offered. David is taking a rambling group away to the Isle of White this year. Opening up another part of the country to those who once thought it was not possible. David even attends access forums to discuss countrywide access.

"Persuasion and education is the way to make landowners change their minds."

Even along the route we took there was still some unexpected terrain that caused problems.

The rambling experience not only opened up a part of the country I'd never visited but also showed me the struggle that many have enjoying our wonderful country.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Farming Today: This Week

Farming is a changeable business. Adapting to consumer demands and predicting future markets is never an easy task. To coin a phrase ‘farming aint what it used to be’.
Many farmers have to diversify, expanding their farm business in order to break even or hopefully make a profit. Some choose a more traditional diversification, bottling their own milk or selling ice cream. Others cash in on Farm Tourism.

All this week I’ve been lucky enough to help Radio 4’s Farming Today and the hot topic of the week has been Farm Tourism. Along with Producer Martin Poyntz-Roberts, Presenter Charlotte Smith and Select Committee Media Officer for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Hannah Pearce, I visited a farm in Leicestershire to see how they have utilised their farm.

Tourism has become extremely important to the Rural Economy, providing 400,000 jobs and worth 15 billion pounds a year. Jasper and Mary Hart have a selection of self-catering chalets and a campsite to bring in a regular income. There is a beautiful fishing lake and stunning views. But if it’s not peace and tranquillity you’re after do not worry. The other half of the farm is now and off road adventure playground. Quad bikes, 4x4’s and buggies are just some of the vehicles you can jump on and try your hardest at driving round the tough terrain track. Avalanche Adventure even provides clay pigeon shooting, archery and much more. So if you want a ‘staycation’ more than a vacation maybe you should have a browse at a potential Farm Stay.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Hidden in the Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons is a great place for walking, hiking, picnicking and taking in the wonderful country that is Wales. One thing I didn’t expect is a master class in rural skills, a very different kind of rural skill to what I was predicting.

No dry stone walling in sight but beautiful glass ornaments, hand crafted bags, timber bird tables and a selection of local jams and honey.

The Brecon Beacons National Park visitors centre was host to a Rural Crafts weekend. I’d only ever been to the centre as a stop off point on a Sunday ramble. A quick cup of tea in the cafĂ© before heading further into the hills. But not this time.

There was a white tent on the green outside the centre with a sign "Rural Crafts This Way"-so I went in. Being a bit of a magpie I went straight over to a table that glistened in the distance and low and behold, Ten Green Bottles.

Not only does the company create lovely glass items they work with people from local communities sharing skills and boosting confidence .

Ten Green Bottles by bribriwilliams

Not only does the company create lovely glass items they work with people from local communities sharing skills and boosting confidence . Another way of getting people back into work and providing qualifications. Rural Wales has seen the solution and not the problem.