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Five eco mini breaks for green-minded travellers

Claire Baylis

20th May, 2010

Muck in and tuck in with these green, weekend away ideas

Foodie breaks

There are numerous UK options for weekending foodies. Organic Places To Stay lists many places offering at least breakfast and sometimes other meals prepared using local organic produce whenever possible. Among the listings is Percy's Country Hotel and Restaurant in Devon: local attractions include the Eden Project, so you can hang out in the Rainforest Biome before returning to base to enjoy Percy's award-winning restaurant, an eatery committed to growing and sourcing organically. You can also take home a matching cookbook; Percy's Cookbook, by Tina Bricknell-Webb (£20).

If you want to return home with more than a full stomach, you could base your break around a top-notch cookery class instead. Head to Daylesford Organic in Gloucestershire, for example, and you can spend the day learning about artisan cheese-making, use-every-cut butchery and more. They also list B&Bs nearby.

The Soil Association's Organic Farm School has a catalogue of day courses across the country. Options range from Italian cookery to pastry making.

Eco pampering

Titanic Spa in Huddersfield, billed as 'the UK's first eco spa' is often name-dropped for its environmental credentials. And it does boast a fair few - a combined heat and power unit provides heat and electricity, water is supplied via the spa's own borehole and the entire place is aiming for carbon neutrality. You can choose from myriad treatments, from massage to hydrotherapy, facials and body wraps, and stay in your own spa apartment.

The Scarlet hotel, near Newquay, has its own spa with Ayurvedic treatments, and offers beautiful views of the Cornish coastline. The hotel lists numerous ways in which it seeks to minimise its impact, including greywater recycling, rainwater harvesting, natural ventilation, local sourcing and as much reducing, reusing and recycling as possible.

Littleton Mill in Wiltshire runs a range of wellbeing retreats including weekend breaks, with yoga, tai chi, healthy eating, meditation, massage and fasting on the super-cleansing menu. The Mill is run entirely on renewable energy, thanks to a hydroelectric turbine and biomass boiler, while hefty insulation, low-energy lights and local sourcing help lower the Mill's impact further still.

Shaping up while you escape

For the energetic and eco-minded, conservation volunteering can make for the ideal break. The BTCV runs Friday to Sunday trips as well as longer holidays. You could, for example, switch off from city stress with a bit of dry stone walling or mucking-in at a local Nature Reserve.

The National Trust also organises short breaks, listing scrub removal and boardwalk building among the ways you could do your bit and get fit simultaneously. If you like it enough, you could even sign-up for a regular stint back home. The Wildlife Trust offers local volunteering opportunities; a great way to enjoy hidden gems of the wildlife kind.

For walking, cycling, kayaking holidays and more, visit Green Traveller - a great resource for all kinds of breaks. Skeddale, for example, runs mountain biking weekends in gorgeous locations including the Lake District and the Quantocks in Somerset. You don't have to be a biking pro to go - some breaks are designed specifically for beginners. For walking, you could book yourself a quirky and sustainable crash pad in a great strolling spot via the award-winning Under The Thatch.

Get a taste of the good life

Rising veggie seed sales, ever-lengthening allotment waiting lists, chicken runs designed specifically for urban backyards... it seems city dwellers are hankering after the proverbial ‘Good Life' like never before. So it's hardly surprising that, should you wish to spend your weekend indulging in your love of all things self-sufficient, there are a number of ways you can do it.

At Trill Farm in Axminster, for example, complete beginners can spend their Saturday learning how to grow organic fruit and vegetables while the smallholder-serious can get an introduction to keeping cattle, pigs, or sheep. You can stay at the farm, too - there's a renovated stable block, complete with solar panels, ground source heat pump and five bedrooms.

Assington Mill, a small organic farm in Suffolk, offers courses in everything from bread making to beekeeping along with art and craft options such as wildlife painting and felt making.

Again, the Soil Association's Organic Farm School is a good resource for more ideas.

Green festivals

Dig out your tent and get reunited with your wellies - festival season is upon us once more. If you're deciding where to go, check out A Greener Festival Ltd, a not-for-profit dedicated to helping green festivals worldwide. Its Greener Festival Awards are based on categories such as waste and recycling, greenhouse gas emissions reduction and travel and transport.

Last year's winners include Bestival, Cambridge Folk Festival, Croissant Neuf and Isle of Wight. But if you've already got a festival in mind, just check out their website - many now have entire sections devoted to their eco efforts. Croissant Neuf, for example, states that all electricity on site is generated by solar panels and wind generators, everything that can be recycled is so, and all food and drink on site is organic, as local as possible and ‘fairly traded where appropriate'.

In addition to its own green efforts, Glastonbury also offers tips on reducing your own impact while you're there.

Claire Baylis is a freelance journalist

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