In this episode the Flight Free UK team is discussing stay-at-home travel and what we love most about our home towns.
Flight Free Fact
In April 2022, flight bookings topped pre-pandemic levels for the first time. Bookings were 25% higher than they had been in 2019, showing a surge in interest following the pandemic.
One of the outcomes of the pandemic was that we were forced to discover some of the amazing things on our doorstep that we tend to overlook. Now travel is opening up again, we want to remind people that there are some fantastic places right here in the UK.
The team is spread all over the UK and today we'll be hearing from five team members: Lou from Liverpool, Sunita from Harrogate, Bertie and Evie from London and me from Hertfordshire.
Liverpool is really easy to access by train or coach. It's often cited as one of the friendliest cities in the UK and I don't think I'm being biased.
If you're a fan of the Beatles, there are endless things you can do including visiting the Cavern Club, Strawberry Fields or Penny Lane.
South Liverpool is my favourite place to visit. There are some huge parks with loads of green space and massive trees. My favourite is Sefton Park. There's a huge lake with loads of ducks, and it’s near Lark Lane which has loads of eateries and cafes.
South Liverpool would definitely be overlooked by a tourist, because you'd probably just think to stay in the city centre, but it's definitely worth venturing out there.
Liverpool city centre is often used as a filming location to replicate areas like New York, and it was used to represent Gotham City in the recent Batman film – Batman flew off the Liver building!
I grew up in Harrogate in North Yorkshire. It's very picturesque and there's a lot going on.
People come for the spa water, the Royal pump museum and the Turkish Baths. It’s also got loads of places to eat and drink, and being in Yorkshire, there's a lot of focus on produce being of really high quality, seasonal and locally produced.
There's also the famous Betty's tea rooms, which is great for cakes and treats and brunch and lunch.
There are some market towns nearby such as Boroughbridge, Masham, Pateley Bridge and Knaresborough which are all really pretty. You can go rowing in the river Nid and you can go under the Knaresborough viaduct. There's a castle there and loads of independent shops and locally sourced food places.
There's Ripon nearby, which is a mediaeval city. It's also got a castle and it's really nice for a day out with the family.
I feel incredibly lucky to have grown up in a place like Yorkshire, because there is so much to do. If you want some lively nightlife activity, there's lots going on in Harrogate, and you've got York and Leeds nearby. It's also surrounded by the countryside. One particularly special place is Brimham Rocks, which is an area of natural rock formations, where lots of people go climbing.
I'm from East Sheen, near Richmond in the suburbs of South West London. We have the River Thames nearby, and Richmond Park, which has been a staple throughout my life, especially in lockdowns.
It's very easy to get yourself out of city life into a more peaceful kind of place there. It's got some lovely wildlife: quite a lot of deer, and the slightly more exotic contribution of parakeets.
The Thames is about a ten minute walk from where I live and there are some lovely pubs in Mortlake, Kew and Richmond.
Around the corner is Kew Gardens, which has got every single plant and tree you'd possibly want to find and some lovely greenhouses to enjoy. Further down the river, you have Richmond, which has a lovely riverfront with some great food and drink, and also water activities.
I grew up in Lewisham in South East London, close to Greenwich Park. It's the oldest of all the Royal Parks and it's an incredible place for nature lovers.
It has a deer sanctuary, some parakeets as well, and an amazing flower garden, which has incredible trees you can climb up. There's the Observatory, the Planetarium, and the very iconic view over the London skyline.
Then there’s the old Royal Naval College, connected to Queen Anne's palace, which was the birthplace of Henry VIII. I think Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed there and it's also home to the Painted Hall, which has been dubbed the ‘Sistine Chapel of the UK’. There are often music performances there, and as it's connected to Trinity College of Music, a lot of the students perform there. You can often hear the musicians practising when you’re walking along the river!
The third place I would recommend is Horniman’s Museum and Gardens. It's a free museum and brilliant for adults and kids.
Finally, there’s Greenwich market. It runs Monday through to Sunday and there are loads of different local artists and clothes designers and people selling all the different things you could think of. At the weekend there is a food market, and as South East London is such an interesting mix of cultures, you can travel to different parts of the world just by trying the food.
I live on a narrow boat on the River Lea, which goes between London and Hertfordshire. I'm from Hertfordshire so I haven't really moved that far, but it feels like I've moved a whole world away because living on a boat is very different to life on land.
The furthest north you can go on the River Lea is Hertford, a traditional market town with lots of Tudor buildings and the buzzing market. As you go further down the valley towards London, it skirts around Enfield, Tottenham and Hackney. These are all places that are really urban, but on the river, they're very peaceful and green and vibrant in a different way.
It's also full of history, as the Lea used to be a trading route. There are lots of old malt houses in Hertford and Ware: the malt was brought by boat to the breweries in London, and the boats would return with manure from London to fertilise the fields.
Further down, there’s the small arms factory in Enfield and the gunpowder mills in Waltham Abbey, and past Tottenham and Bow there's Three Mills, which has some wonderful Victorian mill buildings. Then the river opens out into Bow Creek and joins the Thames right opposite the O2 arena.
If we're looking forward to the future of travel, we need to start to look more on our doorstep for these genuine travel experiences.
Whenever I go to Liverpool I discover something new, a new place every time, and I feel like I'm on my holidays. I think it's more about mindset as well as actual location.
I like the way that we can revisit the places we grew up at different stages and ages of our lives, and see it with a different perspective.
Every time you go and explore one of these places, it might be a different kind of exploration. You might be going for a walk or a run or a cycle, or you might just be going to kind of forget what's happening in some other part of your life. It's really easy to do and just be in a different place without being very far away.
It can be so easy to take your local surroundings for granted, but actually there's so many amazing experiences to be had close to home that you don't need to fly across the planet for. Every time I visit Greenwich park or another place around South East London, I see new things and learn new things, because it has such a rich history and so many amazing people.