If I have been quiet of late, that's because I have done something almost unheard of. I've had a holiday!
This is not one of those flashy beachy all inclusive jobs (sometimes I think I'd like that, and then I realise that I really wouldn't. although I would kill for a little sunshine at the moment!) but it was a lovely opportunity to catch up with much missed friends and explore a little of the south west, an area that I'm really not very familiar with. I like keeping it UK based; better for the carbon footprint, but also there are so many places I've yet to visit that it seems a shame to not see what's on the doorstep first. Except for the weather bit...
Everyone told me I'd love Bristol, and I did. It has colour and vibrancy and is so wonderfully quirky that I really didn't want to leave as quickly as we did. For the eco-activists amongst us, there are so many ideas and inspirations, and I'd love to see them repeated in our little northern town.
We spent the most part of our stay in Montpellier and Stoke's Croft (I have no idea how these relate to the city centre, but they are within easy walking distance). Neither seem to be particularly affluent, not even particularly tidy, but they are so full of character that I would forgive them anything!
First there were the murals...
Blank walls, filled with colour. It would be impossible to be miserable surrounded by so much joy!
And then there were the shops, the cafe's, the galleries....
I gather the residents have campaigned passionately to keep the big boys out and keep local enterprise at the heart of their community. Not only did this make for a far more interesting visit, but to know that every penny we spent would benefit someone close by was brilliant. When we did stop, we happened upon a great little cafe, The Bristolian, which not only made a point of sourcing its food from the area, but also accepted Bristol Pounds as exchange. Local currencies are something that interests me greatly, but to see it fully endorsed as commonplace was especially inspiring.
Something that was also particularly noticeable was the use of bikes. I was saddened to see a sign as we entered Bristol drawing attention to the fact that pollution limits in the city centre are dangerously high. It's probably not that unusual, but it was reassuring to see that this has been noted and that residents feel powerful enough to make their feelings known. If ever there was a place and a reason to encourage cycling, then this would be it. The bikes shown below were available to borrow by anyone - shame we didn't get time to take advantage.
We have several credit unions in our town - places where money can be saved and borrowed without profits being eaten up by greedy corporate companies and where those who have fallen on hard times can take a loan repayable without the risks associated with loan sharks. I'm saddened to hear that in our town, people are followed by loan sharks to cash points and post office counters where they will retrieve their repayments from the desperate the moment cash is withdrawn. There is much work being done to offer fair alternatives, which is great, but our credit unions certainly don't have a high street presence like one of the big banks! Something for the future maybe.
This I thought was a nice touch, and something that is easily replicable (in fact, we have a free coat rail in our bus station, but there's no harm in more!) - free warm clothes for the needy. Bring one, take one. This was tucked down by the side of a restaurant and almost certainly had helped someone out of a hole at some point.
And that's what really resonated. Bristol is renowned for being a 'green city,' and that's truly great, but it runs deeper than bikes and health food shops and groundbreaking recycling schemes. It's also a city that has community at its heart - keeping it local, watching out for those at the bottom and building resilience at every opportunity. If we start building our towns like this, if we try and embed some of these kind of ideals, I don't think we'll be too far off making our little world slightly better for all. Let's get started huh?!
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.