Enjoying Northumberland Car Free

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As most of you will know, we live in Northumberland. I absolutely love where we live and feel so lucky that we have access to so many lovely towns and villages, coast and countryside as well as some fantastic attractions to visit too. 

This year, we are once again supporting the Big Northumberland Gear Change Campaign which aims to inspire more walking, cycling and use of sustainable travel across Northumberland. This blog post will share some of the ways you can get involved and enjoy more of Northumberland car-free. 

At the moment, it feels like the cost of running a car is more expensive than ever, especially with the increased cost of fuel and we are all definitely watching the pennies a little more closely. 

Ditching the car when you can will usually save you some cash as well as increasing your health and wellbeing if you walk or cycle instead and it's definitely something I'm interested in doing more. 

I'm not going to sit here and say we're pledging to never use our car again. As much as I'd love to achieve that goal, it just feels unobtainable for at the moment.

However collectively, if we all make small changes to our habits in Northumberland, we can make a big change together. For example, if everyone in Northumberland switched a daily one mile car journey for walking or cycling instead, collectively we would save around 25,000 tonnes of CO2 in a month.  

That's huge! 

Ideas for Enjoying Northumberland Car Free 

Regular small changes can collectively add up and make a big difference. Here are some ideas for enjoying Northumberland car free: 

*Meet your friend for a walk and chat around your neighbourhood rather than driving to a coffee shop / soft play

I recently met a friend for a walk around Northumberlandia which was lovely

*Re-visit those lockdown local walks you discovered from your door and take some time to discover/appreciate the area you live in. For us, this would definitely be the Cramlington Giant Spoon or East Cramlington Nature Reserve 

*Look out for festivals and events in your home town / within a few miles of where you live rather than something miles away.

We recently visited the Big Northumberland Gear Change Bike Festival in Blyth by bus and had a lovely time. Check out Active Northumberland and your local Town Council for upcoming events near you.

For example in Cramlington where I live we have a kids trail running around our shopping centre, steel band music workshops, a film club, community tennis programme and sports camps for kids. You don't need to travel far to find something to do.

*Rather than driving to a playground in another town, walk to your local park with the kids and take a picnic. Days out don't need to be fancy. You could make your own summer holiday challenge to visit all of the playgrounds within walking distance of your house. 

*Use a combination of bus + walking rather than jumping in the car for days out. For example, you can explore the Northumberland Coast with the X18 bus and walk between some of the stops.

We're going to do this at Amble and walk between Amble and Warkworth rather than automatically driving between the two. You could do the same with the Hadrian AD122 bus along Hadrian's Wall (we did this a few years ago and walked between Chesters and Vindolanda)

*Take the kids on a bike ride to the local library - both are free

*If you're a little out of practice or don't own your own bike, consider hiring bikes from somewhere like Wallington or Kielder first and trying some of their traffic-free bike routes. There seem to be a few cycling events popping up across the region where you can chat to experts and ask for tips  

*Consider walking / cycling / catching the bus to your local market rather than driving to the supermarket 

*Plan a day out around a family bike ride - there are lots of suggestions for family-friendly routes here 

*It's an obvious one but get off a stop earlier on the bus and walk the final leg of your journeys 

*Lots of attractions in Northumberland can be reached without a car. Here are some of our favourites: 

The Big Northumberland Gear Change Challenges 

If you'd like an extra bit of motivation to get involved, the Big Northumberland Gear Change has put together a range of challenges to try. There are free downloadable resources and charts you can print out to keep track of how you're doing too. Here are some of the challenges to try: 

The Big CO2 Swap 

Can you swap a car journey for walking or cycling the equivelent of the length of the Northumberland Coast? This is 62 miles so just over 10 miles per week across the Summer holidays. If you'd like to get involved, you can download the challenge and a free printable form to keep track of your progress here. 

10 Minute Challenge 

Ditch the car for any journeys which take 10 minutes or less to walk. Things like popping to your local shop or visiting a relative. Download the challenge and your free printable here

The Daily Walk 

Challenge yourself to find a new local walk from your door for each week of the holidays. Or maybe you could walk the kids to a different playground in your town each week? Download the challenge here. 

One Less Journey 

Think of one less journey per week which isn't neccessary by car. Could you walk or cycle instead or just miss the trip altogether? This could be something like meal planning more and going to the shops less or walking to the cinema instead of driving. Download the challenge here. 

The Sustainable 7

Can you ditch your car for 7 days in a row? This is a good way to discover more about your local area on foot, bike or via public transport. You may be surprised at what you find. Download the challenge here. 

Switch & Save 

Challenge yourself to save £50/£100 on fuel across the summer and use that money for an end of summer treat. Think about journeys you'd usually use the car for and switch to walking / cycyling / public transport instead. You can use an online calculator to discover how many miles you'd need to switch. We need to switch around 500 miles between us to save £50. Download the challenge here. 

Why not try one or two of these challenges this summer? 

Why Should We Ditch the Car? 

  • Environmental Benefits - Every mile walked (rather than taking the car) keeps one pound of climate damaging CO2 out of the environment 

  • Physical Health Benefits - There are lots of physical health benefits to using the car less and walking/cycling more. Did you know, regular cyclists enjoy the general health of someone 10 years younger? 

  • Mental Health Benefits - Many studies have shown that doing more physical activity can lead to better sleep, happier moods, increased self esteem, reduced stress and anxiety and reduce your risk of depression 

  • Financial Benetits - Obviously, spending less money on fuel and driving less miles means more money in your pocket 

Read more about the benefits of ditching the car here. 

How I'm Getting Involved

Signing up to take part in the Big Northumberland Gear Change Challenges has definitely helped me to be more mindful of using the car less.

I have already made some small changes such as walking Jack to Scouts with Fozzy rather than automatically jumping in the car, walking to the shops more and meeting with friends and family for local walks rather than sitting in a cafe / bar. 

I'm joining in with the 'Switch and Save' challenge this summer and I'm hoping to save some £ for an end of summer treat. I will update you all with how we are getting on soon. I am looking to make a saving of £50 on fuel which will go towards an end of summer treat. 

Jack is taking part in a Summer Holiday Camp at Woodhorn. This campaign has made me be more mindful about spending longer at the places we visit and rather than just dropping him off each day I'm going to make the effort to walk around the grounds and around nearby Queen Elizabeth II Country Park and explore the local areas of places we visit on foot more.

I'm sure this will be a lovely way to start the day and it's much better than rushing around. 

We will still be travelling a little this summer (this campaign isn't about cutting out all travel) but I'm going to make more of an effort to enjoy days out on our doorstep where we can. We spent a lovely afternoon at Seaton Delaval Hall recently and it's only a few miles from our home. More of this! 

Enjoying a super local day out at Seaton Delaval Hall this summer 

The kids are joining in too and Harry has pledged to walk to and from the gym rather than asking for a lift - I think this will be good as part of his warm up / cool down too. It's going to be a real team effort. 

If you're interested in walking and cycling more across Northumberland and using your car less this summer and beyond, check out the Big Northumberland Gear Change website. There are loads of fab resources from podcasts to listen to on walks, ideas for places to visit, motivating statistics and of course, the downloadable challenges too. 

Find out more: https://www.northumberlandgearchange.co.uk/challenges


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