Bedford Tweet-Up

Yesterday evening was the fourth Bedford tweet-up, at the wonderful Embankment pub along Bedford’s Embankment by the River Great Ouse.  Not that last night lent itself to admiring the river or flower beds ~ the heavens were chucking it down!

The first Bedford tweet up came about when Eric Swain received a text from 4Square saying he had been usurped, as Mayor of Bedford Station, by James Parton!  Eric sent a text to James saying he wasn’t too happy about that and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s not a fast networking event, it’s a great evening to relax amongst lovely people and chat.  I was lucky enough to meet some fabulous new people last night, Rachel BentonNicola Cameron, Leigh Frost, Dawn Giles and Ian Henderson.  I didn’t get to chat to everyone, but then there is the privilege of meeting them next time :-)

We had an inspirational talk from Gemma Hutton and Kristian Purcell from the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum. These two great institutions have been merged into one and the buildings are currently undergoing a massive redevelopment project ~ just as well really, as Kristian was saying he was giving a talk there just before it closed and the ceiling suddenly gave way and let through gallons of rain water that had collected! This must be one of Bedford’s crown jewels and, when it reopens in the spring of 2013, I would encourage everyone to go along and experience all it has to offer.  Beautiful artworks by Turner, Degas and Picasso, to name a few and collections of objects that will blow your mind away.

I love living in the shire of Bedford , the passion and purpose of the people is infectious. Gemma and Kristian, and everyone else who works at @chagandbm, are to be congratulated on what they have achieved already, what is going on during the redevelopment and the new experience it will be to go there when open. Their latest tweet was; This weeks object of the week blog, as Halloween is nearly upon us, includes a web footed skeleton with a scythe.

A true pioneer who uses lambswool, local hedgerow and gorse!

In 2001, Dr Greg Stephenson decided to renovate a dilapidated part of his own house using earth and thatch, in the traditional way, which he then rented out as a holiday let. Little did he realise where it would lead! Greg is an architectural historian, who has written about, and worked in, building conservation for the past 18 years. Under the Thatch was established in 2001 to find a viable end-use for another cottage that was rescued from collapse and the success of this first project soon led to the next, and the next and, before long, it had snowballed into a substantial social enterprise.

Under the Thatch’s ethos is one of conservation and sustainability ~ profits are used to maintain the historic buildings and to fund the purchase & renovation of new ones. This is where the lambswool comes in!

As Greg says: “We use traditional crafts and materials in our building conservation. This means we use lime instead of cement, limewash instead of acrylic emulsions, local hedgerow timber is used for roof repairs, and gorse cut from the local fields. We endeavour to use environmentally friendly materials in our building work, such as sheepswool insulation rather than fibreglass, limecrete rather than concrete, linseed-oil based paints etc.  We have an exceptionally high occupancy rate that leads from our flexible pricing – working hard to keep properties full, and with community benefit all year round. We employ local people to conserve and maintain our properties, and do not use any outside agencies. We source local tradesmen and women in the restoration of our properties, and prefer to use freelancers who then take their newly-gained conservation skills with them to other jobs.”

Now, how wonderful is that?  When you go on the website for Under the Thatch (UTT), you will be spoilt for choice ~ it really is full of authentic, unique and quirky places to stay.  Fancy staying in a railway carriage? Then have a look at Wendy in Wales.  A gypsy caravan? Then Geaglum Cottage & Gypsy Caravan, in the Irish lakelands of Fermanagh, is for you. (Chosen by the Independent in their ‘Six Best Romantic Rentals’.) Or how about trying one of the new properties, now ready after a 6 year restoration project. Enjoy a truly ancient French medieval townhouse in Bellac – a ‘cite de caractere’ in the beautiful Limousin region of central France. The property dates back to the 15th century and just take a look at the box bed!

Greg is passionate about what he does ~ his 4 Ps are passion, purpose, projects and preservation.  Greg will tell you himself, he is living the dream.  And what a great dream it is ~ what UTT does benefits so many people and safeguards historical premises that are falling into ruin. Without his passion and purpose, none of this would have happened; a trail blazing pioneer if ever there was one. All people who work for UTT are as passionate as Greg, their ethics are strong and they love what they do too.  As Sir Winston Churchill said,

If a man finds a job he loves, he will never work again.

While fewer and fewer of us are travelling abroad for our holidays; the cottages and other accommodation offered by UTT are so unique, it’s a totally new experience to stay in one. That’s a good thing for this wonderful planet of ours ~ we have to become more conscious of the impact our travel makes and we have to leave teeny-weeny footprints where we go, or better still, no footprints at all! But that’s for another post!

Greg and UTT have been showered with many awards, have a look at the About Us page on the site. Each one is well deserved; you’ve got to take your hat off to someone who truly has made a difference; who is being the change we want to see in the world ~ thanks Greg.

The travel industry needs Pioneers!

The travel industry needs Pioneers with a capital P! P for passion and purpose. P for positive and punchy.  Positive people perpetuate passion.

The noun of Pioneer is described thus :  pi·o·neer 

1. One who ventures into unknown or unclaimed territory to settle.
2. One who opens up new areas of thought, research, or development: a pioneer in aviation.
3. A soldier who performs construction and demolition work in the field to facilitate troop movements.
4. Ecology An animal or plant species that establishes itself in a previously barren environment.
~   The adjective of Pioneer means trailblazing, leading the way.   ~   

Bruce Poon Tip and Anna Pollock are outstanding examples of trail-blazing leaders.   Trailblazers who have followed their hearts and dreams ~ who have dared to go out on a limb ~ who have led the way to bring their visions of how the travel and tourism industry could help look after and cherish our wonderful planet, to fruition.  

They’ve both been recognised for their work; Bruce has been awarded, amongst many other honours, the Ethics In Action Award, World Savers Award by Condé Nast Traveler magazine, as well as the Travel and Leisure Global Vision Leadership Award for voluntourism.  

They put everything on the line to follow their passion and risked everything to do what they believe in.  They are what this industry needs, the doers!  There are enough talkers, organisations and associations to drown in ~ we need the Pioneers ~ they are vital to the industry’s future.  Not going on in the same old way, doing the same old things, but bringing passion and purpose to the forefront, getting ‘it’ and doing ‘it’.  It’s called ‘Living the Dream’.  It is anything but easy, people scoff at your ideas and show no support, when you start out.  The Dream requires passion, persistence, purpose and personal belief.  

In 1990, Bruce Poon Tip founded G Adventures in order to deliver authentic experiences to travellers, who also craved adventures beyond all-inclusive resorts. When no bank was willing to provide a loan, he started the company with two credit cards. A true Pioneer! Since then, G Adventures has grown to become a world leader in adventure travel, offering more than 865 small group experiences on all seven continents to more than 100,000 travellers annually.  Until the World Tourism Day, on 27th September 2011, the company was known as Gap Adventures ~ on that day they held The Future of Tourism Conference in Toronto. Gap between G!  G for great, g for genuine and g for get up and go! Have a look at the website and register to watch ~ see Bruce in action, along with other great speakers.  An evening of motivation and purpose ~ no tickets to buy, no affiliation or registration fees, just a donation of whatever you felt appropriate to Planeterra. (Determined to lead his industry in sustainable tourism and community development initiatives, Bruce founded the non-profit Planeterra Foundation in 2003 to make a positive difference in the lives of people around the world.)  Prepare to be inspired!

Anna is a high level strategist with over thirty years’ experience advising tourism destinations, tourism boards and major corporations in Canada, Australasia and Europe. She’s an acknowledged visionary ~ indeed, in 1999, British Columbia, Canada, presented Anna with The Tourism Visionary of the Year award for her perception, vision and knowledge in her services to the tourism industry. She has detected a number of major trends affecting the development of tourism internationally and has developed innovative strategies to exploit emerging opportunities, with the main focus on environmental & social responsibility, climate change and low carbon economies.  Anna, with dual citizenship of Great Britain and Canada, is a true visionary and wrote papers ten years ago about many of the subjects being discussed now.

Anna founded, and is President of, Desticorp, and is founder and Chair of the Advisory Board of The Icarus Foundation, a Canadian-based NGO focused on developing a climate friendly tourism sector in Canada. Anna is currently writing a book and has founded a new organisation called Conscious Travel.  Her vision is that the industrial model that fueled tourism’s growth has now run out of steam and carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. Working together, we must find an alternative, less harmful way of enabling humanity to explore its home, Planet Earth.  Read Anna’s latest post, ‘Good morning Tourism: time for your wake up call’

Exciting times and two very exciting people I am privileged to know. I am always motivated after listening to them. As speakers, they are passionate and powerful. They really do believe what they say, they live it!

And, best of all, they are both absolutely wonderful people :-)