Just before Easter, I managed to sneak a weeks away in the Pyrenees for some cycling and snowsheoing in the early spring sunshine. I took a late afternoon Eurostar to Paris and then got the sleeper train right up into the mountains arriving in time for breakfast. Returning, I left the charming small town of Foix at 9pm, had breakfast in Paris and was back in London for an early lunch.
|No airport style queues for the train at Foix station. About a dozen people boarded the four carriage sleeper to Paris which serves many stations along the valley up to Andorra|
The new Pendilino service which takes only 2.5 hours from Lancaster to Euston with Advance tickets from only £14 each way, and the relocation of international departures from Waterloo to St Pancras – 10 minutes walk from Euston – has made journeys from Lancaster involving Eurostar much more attractive.
The vast majority of journeys to southern France and Spain are made by air. But interestingly, I discovered that four or five other Forgebank households had already made this trip by train since the Autumn. Interesting enough to take a break from the building related blog posts to consider what is behind this?
|A bit short of pics in this post, so thought I'd add a random holiday snap!|
From the point we set up Lancaster Cohousing we recognised that building energy efficient houses was only part of the eco-living picture. A rough analysis of a UK resident’s carbon emissions shows that around a third are related to buildings, another third the things we buy (especially food) and the final third travel and transport. Our desire to help reduce our travel impacts has directly influenced the project. We searched long and hard for a site within easy walking distance of the city centre before settling for one a 15-20min flat cycle ride away. We’ve designed the site to make cycle access and storage as easy as possible and have a residential travel plan which will do all the little things that make it easier not to have to drive. Our car pool will provide access to vehicles for people who need them, without the hassle and fixed expenses of private vehicle ownership. Transport has influenced our choice of building materials too. For example the blocks our houses a built with are made from recycled aggregates in the next village.
The decisions we all make about longer distance travel have one of the biggest impacts of all on our carbon footprints. But it is hard to see how these longer journeys have anything to do with how we build houses. As a group of people we all seem to be very interested in the world, and most of us do fly from time to time. But it is becoming clear that the community we are creating is helping us to address these impacts too. Catching the train to Spain is so unusual that it wouldn’t occur to a lot of people that they could do it. And if it did, they wouldn’t know where to start buying a ticket (especially getting one at a sensible cost). But coming together has enabled us to share all those experiences. Talking to someone who has done something already makes the prospect of doing sound so much more straightforward.
As we all move into our houses I’ll be looking forward to learning from my new neighbours about new ways of reducing my impact on the planet, and also about what things are over-hyped, and when you look into them really aren’t worth worrying about. YES – I DO want a plastic carrier bag – I use them to put my muddy shoes in!