Green Doors at 7 Berkeley Road – a few key points

Here’s a few specific details which seemed to be most interesting to our visitors:

  • If you have Solar Thermal (ie. solar hot water) then you should qualify for the government Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments when the scheme starts (it’s due to be later this year). However, Good Energy already have such a scheme (HotROCs) for their dual-fuel customers. Good Energy supply 100% renewable electricity (most energy companies supply it to only a few customers, and they’re obliged to do this anyway). You can earn £25 for Bristol Green doors if you switch your energy supplier to Good Energy, details here.
  • The 3w 220 lumen LED GU10 downlighter that many visitors saw in our downstairs loo was bought online from LEDBrite via Amazon here (I paid £4.42, the price is now £6.90 but it lasts 50,000 hours and uses 3w compared to 50w for the halogen bulb which gave very similar brightness and warmth of light – this will still pay for itself many times over). LEDBrite last lots of other bulbs and there’s *loads* of other online suppliers, check eBay for fixed-price buy-it-now offerings.
    LED bulbs vary, it’s worth seeing how a bulb looks before buying lots of them. A good local supplier that I’ve been using for years with a wide range of LED bulbs is Ablectrics on Gloucester Road.
  • If you’ve got more questions, read my detailed posting or get in touch

Green Doors 2012

This is the Green Doors Reference for our house in the Green Doors 2012 event.
This Green Doors Signage document contains all of the signage we put up for Bristol Green Doors 2012 at 7 Berkeley Road, including many web links.
If you have any questions then please contact us via this web site.
Thanks for visiting us. We hope you have been inspired, educated or at least interested!
Gavin and Carrie

Plane vs Train to Eastern Europe

I wanted to go from Bristol to Krakow with my bike, returning from Prague a fortnight later. I’m flexible on the travel dates (within a couple of days). I prefer not to fly, so as to reduce environmental impact and because overland travel is more of an adventure.

This is what I found when making the booking 23/2/2012:

Costs and durations of journeys:
  • Prague-Bristol, departing 15/4/2012:
    • Fly: £125 (incl. bike) depart 18:29, arrive 23:00 (airport-airport, excludes check-in and check-out time)
    • Train: £207 (plus bike) depart 21:55, arrive 15:23 next day (centre-centre)
  • Bristol-Krakow/Wroclaw, arriving 31/3/2012:
    • Fly: £84 (incl. bike) depart 10:10, arrive 13:40 (airport-airport, excludes check-in and check-out time)
    • Train: £156 (plus bike) depart 13:30, arrive 21:53 next day (centre-centre)
  • The cost of taking the bike on the train is hard to find out in advance for some parts of the journey. It’s not insignificant for Eurostar but free (generally) for ferries; in the UK bikes go free but in Poland you need a bike ticket (costs about a quarter of a person ticket, which is very little as Polish train fares are so low).
Carbon “cost” of each means of travel, estimated by various online calculators:
Ease of booking:
  • Flights – a few minutes to find airlines which fly the routes, a few minutes per flight to find prices on each of EasyJet and RyanAir, a few more minutes to book each flight, online ticketing send by email to print at home – total about 30 minutes
  • Rail – provides the information needed but it takes longer to check prices; bikes can’t be booked onto some trains online – this may be possible by phone – total about 2 hours.
  • I cycled to Bristol Airport, packed my bike in a reusable polythene bag and then flew to Europe. Flying wasn’t fun, lots of queueing and waiting  but it was easier to book, cheaper and faster.
  • Whilst in Poland and Czech Republic, we did put out bikes on trains on occasions; it was never a problem – more details elsewhere on my blog.

Cycling holidays

For years I’ve enjoyed cycle touring holidays, in the UK or further away. Trips have been from a week to three months, including the Outer Hebrides, Ireland, Lands End to John O’Groats, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, France, Spain, Morocco, West Africa and Poland.

It’s not about the speed or the distance. Long days might be 80 or 90 miles but more usual are days of 30 miles and days ‘off ‘ are not unusual. Cycling is a great way of spending time outdoors, travelling independently and cheaply, getting to places which are hard to reach by public transport and seeing the world at a human pace.

Bikes can be taken on trains, planes and ferries (and sometimes buses or taxis). Typically the holiday will start with cycling to the station or airport, and once we’re in our destination country we often use local trains to get from one area to another when the distances are too far to cycle in the available time.

My festival summers – summary

Since 2006 I’ve spent a lot of summer weekends at UK festivals. At some I’m a ticket-holder but at many I’m there as a volunteer, usually with Oxfam Festival Stewarding or Green Stewards. Volunteering is a great way of trading some of your time for a free ticket (as well as early access, better camping, free food and the opportunity to meet lots of new people). Volunteering with Oxfam also helps the charity raise about £1 million annually.

I wouldn’t go to a festival by myself as a ticket holder, but I certainly would go alone as a volunteer. In fact, it can be more fun volunteering by yourself because your only option is to make new friends, which is a great part of the festival volunteer experience.

Most years I get to six or eight festivals between May and September, spending five or six days at each.

Our house renovation – summary

We bought our house in 2007. The location (very close to Gloucester Road) and the large garden were more of an attraction than the house itself. Our three-bed semi was built in the 1970s to replace an 1890s house of a similar size and shape; why the latter was demolished we don’t know. There were no period features, the house was grey and pebble-dashed, with a valley roof which was showing signs of leakage. Internally it was fairly basic and the house had been poorly maintained. We bought it knowing that it would need some fairly major repairs and refurbishment.

It took some while to decide what to do with the house, get plans and planning permission and find a builder. Our builders, Bespoke Building Contractors, started work in January 2011 on what should have been a two or three month project to complete the structural and external work. This would  leave us with a new roof and some extra rooms under it, external wall insulation, a rear extension on the first floor (over an existing ground floor extension) and some internal changes. Bespoke were a disaster, they over-ran massively, made lots of mistakes which they had to correct (or at least should have done) and they failed to complete the job. We were left with the building inspector rejecting a number of items, a leaking roof and an court case to get back some of the money that we’d paid them. In January 2012 we moved on and started to project manage new builders to complete the work.The work that was planned gave us an ideal opportunity to add lots of energy-saving features to the house, from solar panels to heat-recovery ventilation and of course masses of insulation.

In March 2012 we’re taking part in Bristol Green Doors, so show the work-in-progress to other people.

We haven’t got a deadline for completion – we’re trying to balance the effort and disruption of finishing the house off with the rest of our lives so we don’t know when it will be finished (if any house is ever finished!)