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The best of green travel in 2013

Posted by Florence Fortnam at 01:33 on Friday 20 December 2013

From food foraging on the North Yorkshire shores to a treehouse in Mid Wales and the Ghent cycle network, here are our favourite experiences from 2013, as selected by our team of travel writers Paul Bloomfield, Sarah Barrell, Rhiannon Batten, Martin Dunford, Paul Miles, David Atkinson, John Sannaee, Lucy Symons, Florence Fortnam and Richard Hammond.

Tickling our tastebuds

Best welcome treat: For Rhiannon, it was the homemade seasonal nibbles (sweet spiced pumpkin seeds) on a winter trip by train to La Mirande in Avignon, whilst Florence was bowled over by the welcome hamper at The Park, Mawgan Porth, which contained homemade scones, bread, and jams, a parcel of local Cornish Yarg and a bottle of Cornish Orchards cider. 
>> See Florence's Review of The Park, Mawgan Porth.

A hamper full of Cornish goodies at The Park, Mawgan Porth. Photo: Florence FortnamA hamper full of Cornish goodies at The Park, Mawgan Porth. Photo: Florence Fortnam

Best homemade food: Paul Bloomfield says nothing rivals Rebecca's amazing jams, chutneys and homemade rhubarb and vanilla icecream at Fraoch Lodge, base of Scot Mountain Holidays.

Best winter warmer: Mulled cider made with local Honey's Midford Cider at the Christmas market in Rhiannon's hometown of Bath.

Best for pub grub: Paul Bloomfield's top spot for proper posh pub grub is the Horseshoe in the village of Levisham in the North York Moors – with proper Yorkshire ales to wash it all down. Perfect for mid-walk refuelling.

Best foraged food: Pepper dulse (a variety of edible seaweed), sprinkled on homemade soup in the old fisherman's hut at Port Mulgrave, as sampled by Paul Bloomfield on a Real Staithes' shoreline safari. Fascinating walk among the lobster pots, fossils and jet and alum mines beneath the cliffs of the North York Moors.

Foraging on the foreshore with Real Staithes. Photo: Paul BloomfieldForaging on the foreshore with Real Staithes. Photo: Paul Bloomfield

Locally smoked salmon and eggs from Tim and Helen's hens at The Old Vicarage. Photo: Florence FortnamLocally smoked salmon and eggs from Tim and Helen's hens at The Old Vicarage. Photo: Florence FortnamBest breakfast: For Florence it was a tie between The Old Vicarage in Dolfor, Mid Wales, and The Old Rectory in Boscastle, Cornwall – whatever's not made, grown or reared on the premises comes from within a few miles.

Best for local produce: It has to be the always excellent Wroxham Barns, says Martin, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2013 and continues to be a inspirational example of a green business, with a café that serves great food and not only uses but also celebrates local producers.

Bedding down

Best forest escape: David's favourites are Graig Wen, Snowdonia National Park, for cabins in the woods, tasty breakfast baskets and spring on the Mawddach estuary, and Living Room Treehouse for an off grid night of nature and candlelit massage near Machynlleth in mid Wales... Recently we've seen many places promote themselves as 'treehouses' but are merely cabins surrounding by trees – the Living Room Treehouse is the genuine thing, see below!

Up in the boughs: Living Room Treehouse. Photo: Living RoomUp in the boughs: Living Room Treehouse. Photo: Living Room

Garden and views at Barley Wood Walled Garden and Ethicurean Restaurant. Photo: Paul MilesGarden and views at Barley Wood Walled Garden and Ethicurean Restaurant. Photo: Paul MilesBest green boutique B&B: Paul Bloomfield loved 17 Burgate in Pickering, North York Moors – ideally placed for exploring the southern moors, just steps from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Best romantic hideaway: Rhiannon plumped for The Duck's Nest, a magical new wooden waterside cabin at the Lazy Duck in Nethy Bridge.

Best restaurant: Paul Miles' favourite is The Ethicurean in the Mendip Hills, Somerset, with its fantastic kitchen garden, foraged ingredients and entirely seasonal menu.

Favourite natural swimming pool: The new pool at one of our favourite places to stay: Can Marti, Ibiza

The new natural swimming pool at Can Marti, an organic farm on Ibiza.The new natural swimming pool at Can Marti, an organic farm on Ibiza.

Walks and wildlife

Best brush with wildlife: Earlier this year, Paul Bloomfield watched a trio of pine martens – mother and youngsters – scamper around the feeding station at the hide run by Speyside Wildlife in the Cairngorms, whilst David loved witnessing the romantic antics of Monty the osprey at the Dyfi Osprey Project, near Machynlleth, mid Wales.

Best view: Richard recommends the glorious panoramic vistas a short walk from Sutton Bank Visitor Centre in the North York Moors, the neverending view stretching across the Mendip Hills AONB in Somerset, and the photo below, which captures the essence of the glorious North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

The wonderful panoramic view from Sutton Bank visitor centre, North York Moors. Photo: Richard Hammond/GreentravellerThe wonderful panoramic view from Sutton Bank visitor centre, North York Moors. Photo: Richard Hammond/Greentraveller

The glorious North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Photo: Diana Jarvis/GreentravellerThe glorious North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Photo: Diana Jarvis/Greentraveller

Watch our video of the Mendip Hills AONB:

Best walk: For Paul Bloomfield it was no contest: hiking from winter into spring through Exmoor National Park, along the Coleridge Way from Wheddon Cross to Porlock – watching for red deer, Exmoor ponies and wood sculptures en route.

The quill symbol on the fingerposts leads the way along the Coleridge Way. Photo: Paul BloomfieldThe quill symbol on the fingerposts leads the way along the Coleridge Way. Photo: Paul BloomfieldBest local initiative: Rota Vicentina in Portugal which, Paul Bloomfield says, is a thrilling coastal walk along the rugged Alentejo Coast, put together by local guesthouses, each with a unique character (and terrific food). Trips offered by Slow Holidays specialist Inntravel.

Greentravelling

Best UK train journey: Richard favourite is the Cambrian Coast Line, which travels up the northern coast of Cardigan Bay, from Machynlleth to Pwllheli, through some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the UK.

The 'Coast' Line, here at Criccieth, runs along the northern coast of Cardian Bay. Photo: Arriva Trains WalesThe 'Coast' Line, here at Criccieth, runs along the northern coast of Cardian Bay. Photo: Arriva Trains WalesBest train-accessible Euro city break: Paul Bloomfield singled out Avignon, France – just five hours or so from London on Eurostar/TGV, with the monumental Popes' Palace and famous half-bridge.

Best bus ride: Lucy voted for the Blue Route on the New Forest Tour, which does a loop from Brockenhurst via the beautiful costal scenery along the edge of the New Forest National Park.

The new Blue Route (introduced this summer) of the New Forest Tour travels from the forested part of the National Park to the coast.The new Blue Route (introduced this summer) of the New Forest Tour travels from the forested part of the National Park to the coast.

Best low impact activity: If there's a greener or more fun activity than canoeing on the Broads, Martin says he's yet to find it. Be entertained on both the wonderful guided canoe trails of Wroxham-based Canoeman and the go-as-you-please trips run by Bank Boats, tucked away in a delightful location above Barton Broad. >> See our Greentraveller Guide to the Broads and the 44-page booklet we produced with Cool Places: The Broads – a guide for green travellers.

A 44-page booklet we produced for the Broads Authority, which features a range of low impact activites and suggestions for the best boar trips, places to eat, walk and cycle.A 44-page booklet we produced for the Broads Authority, which features a range of low impact activites and suggestions for the best boar trips, places to eat, walk and cycle.

Best cycling city: Florence chose Ghent, Belgium, which has over 300km of cycle lanes across the city and was awarded the prestigious Eurostar Ashden Award last year. It's easily accessible from UK, at less than three hours by train from London.

One of the cycling counters in the city. Photo: Florence FortnamOne of the cycling counters in the city. Photo: Florence Fortnam

Best bus network initiative: The Bowland Rambler Service, a new bus service in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that connects walkers with starting and finishing points of a series of walks in the area. >> Read Florence's review

Hetty from the Forest of Bowland AONB and her dog, Josh, are regulars on the Bowland Rambler Service. Photo: Florence FortnamHetty from the Forest of Bowland AONB and her dog, Josh, are regulars on the Bowland Rambler Service. Photo: Florence Fortnam

Family-friendly

Best pub for family friendlinessThe Black Horse at Kirkby Fleetham, North Yorkshire, with its interesting children's menu (most of it homemade), beer garden for running around in and the best baby-changing facilities Rhiannon says she's ever come across beyond home.

Best family bike ride: Sarah recommends hiring bikes from Hick’s Lodge, an eco-friendly café/visitors centre with wood-burning stove and showers, then riding around the surrounding land, a former open cast mine, now a budding green space. Waymarked bike trails for different abilities take you around a lake (the old quarry) and through newly growing forest. Great for young riders.

History, art and heritage

Best step-back-in-time experience: Riding to Goathland from Pickering on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway – from the ticket office to the carriage to stepping down at Hogwarts (Goathland) station in the middle of the moor, it's a delight, says Paul Bloomfield.

Goathland station. Photo: Paul BloomfieldGoathland station. Photo: Paul BloomfieldBest local heritage work: Exmoor Pony Centre, working to secure the future of the moor's free-roaming ponies. Paul Bloomfield met the ponies during a trip to the centre over the summer.

Best local art: Martin loves the work of artist Linda Matthews at the Broad Skies Gallery, which not only sells work by local artists but will take you out painting and sketching, and is running a big local art festival in 2014.

Best romantic ruin: Rievaulx Abbey, North York Moors – incredible peace among the extensive remains of a medieval monastery.

Soaring arches at Rievaulx. Photo: Paul BloomfieldSoaring arches at Rievaulx. Photo: Paul BloomfieldBest green certification initiative: The Green Boat Mark, the Norfolk Broads, which recognises boat hire companies which take measures to make their hire boats more eco-friendly.

Best visitor centre: Richard was impressed by the facilites at Oriel y Parc Visitor Centre, St David's, Pembrokeshire, while John recommends the CRiC centre in Crickhowell, in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Oriel y Parc visitor centre at St Davids, Pembrokeshire, which includes Artist in Residence Studio, Discovery Room for family friendly art and nature activities, and a Tower which hosts local arts exhibitions. Photo: Richard Hammond/GreentravellerOriel y Parc visitor centre at St Davids, Pembrokeshire, which includes Artist in Residence Studio, Discovery Room for family friendly art and nature activities, and a Tower which hosts local arts exhibitions. Photo: Richard Hammond/Greentraveller

Best beach: Richard selected the beautiful Rhossili beach, Swansea (see picture below, taken on a shoot for a video we made for VisitWales about taking public transport from Swansea out to the glorious beaches of the Gower, South Wales).

When we posted this photo on our Facebook page of the beautiful Rhossili Beach, Gower it received over 1700 likes, 200 shares and 146 comments. Photo: Richard Hammond/GreentravellerWhen we posted this photo on our Facebook page of the beautiful Rhossili Beach, Gower it received over 1700 likes, 200 shares and 146 comments. Photo: Richard Hammond/GreentravellerAnd finally... our favourite video of the year was of the wonderful Wherry Albion in the Broads. It's a lovely story about the restoration of the wherries, but also we love the accordian player. Do watch to the very end of the video, until after the credits... it makes us laugh every time we watch it! 

 And to end this feature on the 'Best of 2013', in the words of the guy that has helped restored the wherries: 

"Why fly anywhere, when you've got this on your doorstep."

The best of Green Travel in 2013 was compiled by Greentraveller's team of travel writers: Paul BloomfieldPaul MilesMartin DunfordDavid AtkinsonSarah BarrellRhiannon BattenLucy SymonsFlorence Fortnam and Richard Hammond.

>> See last year's list: The Best of Green Travel in 2012


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