Category Archives: Travel

Golden age of rail travel?

Much as we like to complain about it, we are living in a golden age of rail travel in Britain. Passenger numbers are higher than at any time since the 1920s, with unprecedented and almost unrivalled growth. Of course, this creates its own problems with overcrowding and so on, but it is spurring record levels of investment; billions of pounds are being spent improving trains and stations, and opening new routes, up and down the country.

What those in power seem to finally be realising is the gist of this article below; that railways are all about people and communities, as are roads and bus services. People want to live near a station. They want to feel connected to work, leisure, friends and family. Great transport enables people and communities to thrive, and it is here where the true value lies, not just on an accountant’s balance sheet.

Judging sword dancing in Boston, MA

This weekend I’m going over the pond to be a judge at DART, the Dancing America Rapper Tournament. It is a great honour to be invited. I can’t wait!

I danced at DART last year and back in 2010 with my team, the Sallyport Sword Dancers, and on both occasions had a fantastic time, meeting lots of great people and watching some fabulous dancing.


Just spent two weeks in Morocco with the wonderful Hannah Norman. We visited Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fes and Rabat, spent a few days walking in the High Atlas (including the summit of Toubkal) and went out into the desert.

We saw many great things, but take a look at this in particular…

A life of music

As you may know, my mum died last October following a cycling accident. My dad, brother and I recently held a celebration of her life in Matlock, Derbyshire. Over 230 people took part in an afternoon of music and words, including playing a movement from a Haydn symphony and singing this rousing rendition of Elgar’s “As torrents in summer”. Chris Harrison and I wrote a strathspey and reel for the event, dots here, and you can see a video of them being played.


My mum lived adventurously, and brought me up to do the same. For example, when I was four and my brother two, my parents cycled across Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania with my brother and me on the backs of their bikes. She has climbed Kilimanjaro, been to Everest base camp and stayed in unstaffed mountain huts in Norway in the middle of winter.

Aside from travelling, she was an excellent cellist, and was focused on helping people make music together. She was the Business Manager for the National Association of Music Educators, and known for her work throughout the music teaching world.

She was thoroughly caring, positive and committed in everything she did.

My parents have supported the charity Practical Action over the years, including visiting projects in Sudan. Practical Action “helps poor communities to produce sustainable and practical solutions – transforming their lives forever.” We have set up a JustGiving page if you would like to donate.

I invite you to take a look at #thankshelen on Twitter, where people had an opportunity to talk about how Helen influenced their lives.

That’s my mum.

Walking in the Highlands

A couple of weeks ago I spent a long weekend doing some hill walking in Glen Coe.  The weather was good – it didn’t rain, there was little wind and there were even some wonderful views to be had!

Hill walking in Glen Coe







I returned to London on the sleeper train from Fort William – one of my favourite journeys. This article describes it rather well. Where else can you be enjoying haggis, neeps and tatties, a wee dram and a magnificent sunset across the moor, go to bed and wake up arriving into Euston the following morning?

Music and marine renewable energy

I attended the MERiFIC final event in Brussels earlier this week. MERiFIC (marine energy in far peripheral and island communities) was the renewable energy and economic development project I worked on at Cornwall Council. The project had ten partners from the South West of England and Brittany, France.

It was interesting to see the progress that has been made in the last year both with the project and the sector more generally – for example, all the berths at Wave Hub, Cornwall’s wave energy converter testing site, have now been leased. It was also great to see all my former colleagues again.

The following day, I met a melodeon player and singer playing some lovely Belgian and Italian tunes. As I had my fiddle with me, I asked if I might join in, and we had a marvellous morning of music on the streets of Brussels. Music knows no borders.

Lake district by bus

I recently spent a long weekend in the Lake District, where I made extensive use of the local bus network. Stagecoach is the dominant player, busand perhaps because it was the end of half term the buses seemed to be fairly well used. Although the service was good (punctual, convenient timetable and clean, modern buses), I found them pretty expensive and overheard quite a few other passengers complaining about a £5 fare for a 15 minute journey.

For one journey into Langdale I asked for a return fare, and was informed that it was ‘cheaper to get a Central Lakes Dayrider’ for £7. Armed with this new information I changed my plans and went for a walk over the hill that involved getting a different bus back from Seatoller, via Keswick. But I didn’t realise that, despite these places all being in the middle of the Lake District, the ‘Central Lakes Dayrider Zone’ didn’t cover that route. Fortunately the driver allowed me to upgrade for £3.30 to an ‘Explorer’ ticket valid for all Stagecoach in Cumbria services, rather than making me buy a new ticket, but it was a little irritating.

I spent £37.10 on buses across five days when I was there. Having done a bit more research since getting back, I could have got ‘Stagecoach North West Megarider Gold’ allowing seven days of unlimited travel for £26. If only I’d known…

Perhaps smart ticketing would remove this uncertainty in getting the best fare.