• Richard Hammond

World Wildlife Day and Trains to Europe

Updated: Mar 17

The Green Traveller Digest


Welcome to my latest round up of news, features and comments on green travel.

This newsletter is written by me, Richard Hammond, the founder of Green Traveller.


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Last night at St Pancras International Railway Station, London, I attended the launch of Lonely Planet's Guide to Train Travel in Europe, which shows how the vast and complex European rail network can be broken down into achievable, bite-sized trips. Five of the best scenic journeys selected from the book are:

  • Locarno, Switzerland to Domodossola, Italy

  • Oslo to Bergen, Norway

  • The Black Forest Railway, Germany

  • North Wales, Llandudno to Porthmadog loop

  • Paris to Latour de Carol, France

One of the book's authors Tom Hall (who has long been an advocate of rail travel), said: "Taking the train is the perfect option for the modern traveller seeking adventure, convenience, and a greener alternative to flying".

Date for your diary: World Wildlife Day is this Thursday, 3 March

#WorldWildlifeDay


Great British Wildlife and Environment Map A new map of Britain highlights the island's wildlife species, habitats, and the efforts being made to protect them. It features over 1,500 wildlife hotspots, conservation projects, eco events and 'gloriously green' days out, with summaries of key environmental issues and steps you can take to help address them. Publisher Marvellous Maps describe it as "the grassroots guide to having a whale of a time around wild Britain". Available in two versions, it costs £14.99 for a double-sided fold-out version, or £19.99 for a double-sided wall map.

Going Green in Scotland Wilderness Scotland has published a guide to canoeing the Great Glen Way, and a handy video about how to pack a canoe for an expedition (below). The award-winning operator, which has long championed sustainable tourism, is also the first tour operator in Europe to have its carbon reduction plans validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) – a framework designed to recognise only those businesses that have set science-based net-zero targets consistent with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C.


Electric campervan in the Scottish Borders In the Scottish Borders, Ampervans has launched an electric campervan. Available for hire from its base in Duns (or from Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station), the vehicle is based on a Vauxhall Vivaro-e, a top-end electric van with around 120 miles of range from its 75kWh battery. The campervan comes with a Type 2 charger for charging at 7kW public stations, an RFID card, and a windscreen cover for sleeping in privacy.

Citizen Science in the Hebrides Wildlife Safe (WiSE) accredited Hebridean Adventures has launched a citizen science fundraising cruise in conjunction with the National Trust for Scotland this May. The 5-night guided trip starts and ends in Inverness and will visit some of the Western Highlands most scenic and little known National Trust properties, including the island of Canna in the Small Isles, and Mingulay, Berneray and Pabbay, at the very southern tip of the Outer Hebrides. As a charity partner of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT), guests will have the chance to take part in the gathering of sightings data in its dedicated app Whale Track, and to capture ID photos as part of their citizen science effort. 15% of income from the trip will be donated to the National Trust for Scotland. The trip runs from 9–14 May and costs £1,495 per person.

Bed and Bike on The Elbe, Germany The Elbe Cycle Route is one of the most popular cycle trails in Germany. Starting in the mountains of the Czech Republic and ending in Cuxhaven, on Germany's North Sea coast, the 1220km-long route (840km of which are within Germany) is mostly flat and passes Dresden, Meissen, Wittenberge and Hamburg along the way. If you're keen to tackle it, there's a detour to the Destinature village, just 80km from Hamburg, which is a showcase for sustainable living and includes repair and charging facilities, and a washing machine and dryer for sportswear.

Cycling in The Netherlands Dutch teenagers cycle, on average, an astonishing 2,000 kilometres a year. "They also rank among the healthiest and happiest — with the lowest rates of obesity and antidepressant usage — on Earth. This isn't coincidence, but an outcome of a system that prioritises humans over cars,", according to Chris Bruntlett of the Dutch Cycling Embassy. Listen to his fascinating Places for Good podcast about lessons learnt from cycling in The Netherlands: Prioritising the human experience

Work begins on Weston to Clevedon cycle route Construction is underway to build missing sections of the keenly awaited cycle route between Clevedon and Weston-super-Mare in Somerset. The £3.1m Pier to Pier Way is due to open this summer and will form part of Route 33 of the National Cycle Network between Bristol and Seaton.

Citizen Science on Cornwall's Helford River The Budock Vean country house estate, on Cornwall’s Helford River, is running a Spring Wildlife Break from 1–6 May, led by local experts. Participants will explore the surrounding Helford section of Cornwall's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and its diverse flora and fauna – by foot, boat and kayak. Highlights include the Cornwall Beaver Project, and the chance to make your own bird seed and flower bombs.

Dolphin spotting in the Helford.
Dolphin spotting in the Helford. Photo: Helford River Cruises

Carbon scoring holidays British based specialist tour operator Far & Wild Travel now offers customers a tool that measures the carbon score for its tailor-made itineraries in Africa. Once a selection is made, customers are then able to change flights, hotels, duration, or activities to reduce their emissions.

The fifth season in Estonia The annual floods in Soomaa National Park in Estonia have given rise to a phenomenon known as the 'fifth season', sometime between winter and spring when swelling rivers enable wetlands and lower forests to become navigable by canoe. The long history of building dugout canoes is captured in this lovely video (see below). If you're interested in exploring Sooma during the fifth season or at any other time of the year, the team from Viis aastaaega OÜ, operating under the brand Soomaa.com, have been organising tours in Soomaa National Park since 1994, organising canoeing, bog shoeing, kick-sledding, snow-trekking, and a 3-day self-guided pedal and paddle trips that combine cycling from Pärnu town to Soomaa National Park with a canoeing trip in the beautiful Soomaa wilderness.

Plastic -Free Pejo 3000 The ski area of Pejo 3000 – home to 12 miles of pistes in Val di Sole in the Italian Dolomites – has gone plastic free. Plastic bottles, cutlery and straws can no longer be used in any of the area's mountain huts. Single-use sachets, which previously contributed thousands of plastic wrappers each season, have also been banned. The resort also has three small hydroelectric plants which power the valley and beyond with renewable energy.

A ski resort of the future Travel writer Phoebe Smith writes in the Guardian about her train trip to Serre Chevalier near Briançon. The resort, in the French Alps, "is defying the sceptics with its solar, wind and hydro-powered shift towards building the ski resort of the future".

This Week Good news for... Southend-on-Sea, which the BBC reports was officially recognised this week as the 52nd city in England (and the second in Essex, alongside Chelmsford). Prince Charles visited Southend yesterday to mark the occasion of the new status of the city, which is also soon to see the launch of a new electric train that will take visitors from the shoreline to the end of Southend Pier – the longest pleasure pier in the world. Southend is twinned with the Polish resort city of Sopot.

Bad news for... The world's efforts to tackle climate change: The Guardian reports that the IPCC has issued its "bleakest warning yet" on the impacts of climate breakdown: "human actions are causing dangerous disruption, and window to secure a liveable future is closing."

My Tip of the Week Booking trains in Europe: Train tickets are often released 2-3 months ahead of travel. If you want to snap up the cheapest tickets when they become available, Thetrainline.com and RailEurope.com both offer free email alert services, letting you know as soon as bookings open for your chosen route.

And finally: For tips on making the most of visiting Wales, do see Green Traveller's Guides to the country's five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Anglesey, Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, Gower, Llŷn and Wye Valley) and its three National Parks (Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia). The guides provide tips on characterful, green places to stay, where to find local food and drink, and a range of attractions, low impact activities and great days out in these beautiful, specially protected areas: Green Traveller's Guide to the Protected Areas of Wales