29 May 2015

Travel Diaries - A Walk in the Woods

27th May

"You've got to take these chances we they're presented to you." Well that's what I told myself as I decided to walk the final couple of miles into work. It was a beautiful morning, the birds were singing; loudly. The trees swaying in the gentle breeze. I had a little time to spare and anything is better than walking down a concreted, busy road. So I took said opportunity with a gentle stroll through ancient woodlands on the edge of unglamourous Watford (a town North of London). I do live the wanderlust dream don't I? Saying that Whippendell Woods is an magnificent place to visit, aren't all our woods? Adventures to be had at every turn.

Whippendell Woods
Oh Deer!
One of the great joys of walking in woods is coming across the unexpected. As I was ambling my way along the footpath, I spotted a deer was standing a short distance away, to my left. We were not more than 10 feet apart (not sure what that is in metres, sorry). We stared at each other for a few brief seconds and as is typical when you want to take a picture, it bolted before I could unlock the phone (bloody nuisance this modern technology!).  

Whippendell Woods
The other great joy is the sheer loneliness of the woods. It was just me and the birds, oh and the deer. It was also a cacophony of bird song. I tried to count the number of different bird calls; five, six, seven? However many it didn't matter, it was beautiful. A moment to forget the humdrum of modern life and enjoy nature at its finest.

So heres my call...wherever you are in the world put that phone or laptop down, find your nearest woodland space, go for a walk and listen and the world may seem a happier place for awhile. 

I'd love to hear your woodland adventures. Do you like a walk in the woods? Where are your favourite woods? Let us know.


27 May 2015

From Spring towards Summer

Sketches has been concentrating on all things Spring recently. So to complete the May cycle of posts it seems fitting to finish the way we started. Firstly with a photo montage and then with a travel diaries post: A Walk in the Woods (coming out Friday). Call it a goodbye to the joys of spring and welcome to the warmer summer months and the many travel adventures that season will bring. I hope you like them and please let me know if you do. 

Fields of Gold
A landscape re-awakened 
Signs of Summer
The Colour of Spring


22 May 2015

5 Alternative Bank Holiday Ideas in London

Bank Holiday Ideas from Sketches in Travel

Here's my alternative Top Tips for a perfect Bank Holiday if you are anywhere near London this weekend and during the half-term beyond. 

1) Search for the London Nose - Forget the London Eye, see if you can find the London Nose. Be careful not to get run over as its in the middle of an arch supposedly made of Marble and a busy road!

2) Selfie Challenge - Everyone seems to love a selfie, right? Well why not challenge yourself and see how many famous London Landmarks you can take a selfie with in 1 hour. If you plan well you could do at least 10!Central London isn't as big as you think.

3) Play the Underground Game - Before you start, decide a start and finishing point and plan your own route without telling your partner. See who gets to the destination first (perhaps say to meet in the nearest pub - and enjoy a pint at the end). Add extra rules like having to use at least two different transport modes to get there, taking pictures to prove it. Might be fun?

4) Walk the Circle Line - Start at any station on the circle line. When we did it we started at Baker Street (cue saxophone). And walk to each station on the line until you arrive back at your original station. You'll pass many of London's famous landmarks and museums on your route. We managed the 10 mile or so trek easily within daylight hours. Stopping for lunch and a beer on the way.

5) Monopoly Board - The famous game Monopoly covers many of central London's stations and roads. Spend a couple of days playing the game and visiting each place (in order if you can). Again a great way to see London and have some fun whilst doing it.

Let me know if you try any. Would love to hear your stories and have fun!

19 May 2015

Up close

To accompany the last blog post launching the group Civil Aviation Enthusiasts Society (CAES). I thought I'd follow it up with a short photo blog taken on a windy but sunny morning close to Heathrow Airport. There are fabulous opportunities for some dramatic and interesting photographs around the airport perimeter as well as spotting and enjoying the thrill of planes flying over your head. I hope this short selection helps to prove that? Please let me know. There will be more about the planespotter in future CAES posts. For now "Carry on spotting". 

A KLM 737 on final approach
Delta 767 on finals
Airbus A320
Here it comes and there it goes


15 May 2015

"Plane Spotting Across the Universe" - Civil Aviation Enthusiast Society

Launch Day

You're at the airport, excited about the adventure you're about to start. There is a buzz (or frustration) amongst the many passengers awaiting the final call. For some it may be a chore, others a delight. The joy and despair of flying in equal measure. Some aren't even flying, just observing. Some seriously, others to wave families away. Whatever your situation, planes are an integral part of the travel experience.  

Well here on Sketches in Travel I have decided to start up a group that will hopefully be a platform for those that appreciate the hobby of plane spotting, whether as a casual observer or a fanatic. My inspiration comes from the brilliant Cloud Appreciation Society (I'm member 25,512). Which allows anyone to share in their passion of...clouds (funny that). So with this new community I hope to emulate, perhaps compliment them with the Civil Aviation Enthusiast Society. Am I being crazy? Please let me know. Lets tell you a little more..

On  final approach into Heathrow

The Set Up
The group is called (CAES - Civil Aviation Enthusiast Society). I'll be publishing an article once a month on my blog that will look into the world of the planespotter. Who they are, what motivates them, where to spot, photos and more. Eventually I'd like to have some guest blogs from members who have joined the community providing tips, hints, photos and their experiences and much more besides. Why me?

Some Background
I love planes, have for many years now. I enjoy being at airports and watching them arrive and take-off. Beats sitting there getting bored waiting for your flight. Although I don't take numbers (many do of course and good on them). I'm just happy to watch. I will always look up if I hear one flying overhead, curiosity getting the better of me. Wherever I've lived I've always seemed to have lived under the flightpath or near an airport. It's as if it's ingrained in me and of course I currently teach travel, so it's part of my everyday life. 

What to do next
So there (in brief) is my inspiration. If you are interested in joining then you can find the community on google+ (just type in the full name in the search section) or send me your interest to the following email - sketchesintravel@gmail.com 

You will be given a membership number to begin with and if we have enough followers some extra bits and pieces to show you are part of this community. So up, up and away we go...

The next CAES post: The Planespotter 

8 May 2015

Travel Diaries: A day by the sea

May 5th - Butlins Holiday Camp

It's perhaps not an obvious day out destination but for educational purposes it was required and being asked to tag along wasn't going to be an issue. Butlins for those unaware is a holiday camp, first created by a certain Mr Billy Butlin in 1936 to meet the needs of a changing population, (in terms of travel that is). He promised "A week's holiday for a week's wages." And it's hard not to disagree with that, although the food was expensive in the canvassed dome at its centre. 

Now Butlins is best described as one of an increasing amount of options open to families and small groups who are looking for a holiday experience in the UK, where all the entertainment is under one campus or roof. Centre Parcs, Haven and Pontins are similar options. 
The epicentre of the resort
We were visiting for the day (well 5 hours to be precise) in a very sunny and but extremely windy Bognor Regis (we do give our seaside towns some exotic names don't we?) Now I've been to Butlins before. Many years ago in fact and remember fondly going to football schools, playing snooker, seeing shows and such like. So it would be interesting to see how it has changed. 

The Verdict
It certainly has more modern accommodation, hotels and apartments (see picture below), which is definitely an improvement. Yes the shows are now high tech and the swimming pool is more advanced. I loved the slides and it would be great fun for younger children, but why do swimming pools feel colder the older you get!? I would say that it would keep the kids amused for a day or three, but beyond that age group and length of time..um I'm not so sure. The site actually feels quite small. I've got taller but not by that much and although the beach (pebbly) and town are close by you would need to head out for day trips to fill a week. 

Butlins: They've upgraded its look since I was last there
I'm not saying it's a place you shouldn't go to. In fact the opposite. It would make for a very pleasant long weekend break. And on the plus side it seems to have retained a nostalgic feel, perhaps the arcades, old buildings, the emphasis on entertainment, oh and the redcoats are reasons for this. I'm just questioning whether it can hold its own against places such as Centre Parcs? Let's hope it does because it's an important part of our tourism landscape, and should remain so for many years to come. Now how about one more go on the water slide? Anyone? 

5 May 2015

The Colour of Spring

Here's a follow up to the last blog post Bluebells Forever. I want to show just has colourful our Spring can be here in the UK. I hope you agree? From bluebells to blossom, fields of gold to flowers it really is a special time of year, so get out there and enjoy it. 

As a footnote all these pictures were taken using a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone with very little tweaking.  

1 May 2015

Bluebells Forever

This is a post for anyone visiting the UK over the next few weeks or who has an opportunity over the Bank Holiday weekend to get outside and explore. Its a ditch London, get on a train for an hour and head into the beautiful countryside call to arms. 

This is the time of the year when our countryside is stunningly pretty. All yellows, whites, pinks, greens and purply blue. The bluebells are out and it should be celebrated. In fact we should all be celebrating their arrival. Why? Well let me tell you.

We should make our bluebells what Cherry Blossoms are to Japan. When the Sakura season starts, the people of Japan have a party and a picnic (hanami 花見 party) to celebrate their beauty and I suppose the coming of Spring. 

So why aren't we doing the same here? We just take these most beautiful of flowers for granted it seems. So Sketches in Travel is starting a # campaign #bluebellparties. Go for a walk, take a picnic if the weathers right, find a nice place to sit and enjoy the site of these most beautiful of flowers and lets celebrate them. There are plenty of woods and roadside areas that have them. But please don't pick them, leave them to be enjoyed by others.

And lets not forget that our fields are now a sea of yellow. Here in the UK we have so much to be thankful for and for any visiting tourist then this is the perfect time to come.

So forget the museums, theatres and such for a day, get a train to anywhere from Chorleywood to Chesham or Amersham (on the Metropolitan or Chiltern Line) and with a little bit of research you will find a nice walk. Many of the stations will have a designated walk close by The Chess Valley Walk being one. I promise you, you won't regret it. Of course if you're visiting other areas of the UK you will find them there as well I can only base it on the area I know. Happy picnicking. 

Remember #bluebellparties

Next Tuesday: A photo blog following up today's post. I hope you enjoy? Would love to hear from you and please share your Spring or bluebell stories. 


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