Posted on

WHERE TO HIRE A CAMPERVAN

Red and white VW Camper van

Looking to make a proper road-trip of it? You’re going to need a campervan. Like Airbnb, a number of companies now offer campervan hire direct from owners, so you can rent a home-on-wheels no matter where you are in the country.

Camplify 

A platform for renting recreational vehicles, with a range of sizes and styles. Van owners are all personally verified by the team and RAC cover means you don’t need to worry about breaking down. Some owners will even deliver the van to your holiday destination.  

VW T25 campervan

Paul Camper 

Home to more than 1,000 private campers, you can take your pick on Paul Camper. Although the sharing website was born in Berlin, it’s spread to the UK and has a range of vans across the country. Handovers are in person so you can visit it and take it for a test drive before finalising the booking.  

Camptoo 

In 2020, this company was named the fastest growing in the travel industry. Europe-wide, it’s now booked out more than 550,000 campervan nights, so they know what they’re doing.  

Old fashioned VW camper at a lake at sunset

Quirky Campers 

Specialists in hiring out bespoke campervans, Quirky Campers rents out a range of beautifully designed motors so you can live out your #vanlife dreams, if only for a little while. The company prides itself on sustainable credentials so expect vans fitted out with masterfully reclaimed materials (see picture below from Quirky Campers), as well as carbon offsetting for your driving miles.  

Go Boony 

Boonies are a New Zealand term for beautiful, untouched places, so Go Boony is a nod to where the founders of Go Boony met – on a campervan trip, naturally. They claim to have the largest fleet in the UK, with pet and bike friendly options easy to find.  

Quincy Campervan (c) Sam Howard, Quirky Campers

Suitably inspired to hit the road? Find perfect pitstops and idyllic farm shops at which to shop and stock up, in The Extra Mile guidebook – friend of campervan gloveboxes everywhere – or by using the online Venue Finder

Posted on

WHY LOCAL FOOD MATTERS

Garden-fresh seasonal vegetables

At the Extra Mile, we’re firm proponents of local food. We crow about it at every opportunity. You’ll see it plastered throughout the book. But why?  

Industrial scale farming and huge supermarket supply chains have served us well in feeding the growing population, but it has come at a cost. The quest for cheaper food has meant the increased use of fertilizers, pesticides, energy, land and water. As a result, our global food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss and a major driver of climate change, accounting for around 30% of total human-produced emissions.  

Local food is the antithesis of this form of production. It’s produce grown within a short distance of where it’s consumed (although there’s no formal legal definition). Here are some of the benefits. 

Salad heads growing in raised beds

Buying locally grown food encourages small scale, nature-sensitive farming… 

…and shifts away from harmful industrial monocropping. The impact on bees is just one well-documented example of the harm monocropping can wreak on nature. By contrast, farming in harmony with the local microclimate can have a restorative effect on the soils and wildlife.  

Smaller scale local food production - allotments from above

It supports local farming businesses and gives back to the community 

Money spent with growers and neighbouring cafes and restaurants keeps money close to home, instead of going to faceless national businesses. That develops agriculture and hospitality in the area and keeps communities and economies thriving. The New Economics Foundation estimated that for every £1 spent in the local food network, £3.70 is generated in social, economic and environmental value. Food festivals (such as the eatFestival shown in the two images below) are a great way to discover some of your very local producers. 

People browsing local food stall at an EAT festival

It has lower food miles  

In the UK we import around half of our food. Buying local means crops don’t have far to go once they’ve been harvested. Without the need to drive crops long distances between where they’re grown and consumed, the carbon footprint shrinks, reducing the impact of your lunch. 

Woman trading at the EAT Festival holding a wrap

It’s tastier and more nutritious 

Crops can only be grown in accordance with the prevailing weather, which means local food is largely seasonal. Produce that ripens or matures naturally is served fresh, which means it’s tastier and more nutritious than food that is picked early (or out of season) and ripened artificially on its journey to shops.  

If shopping locally, choosing food that hasn’t travelled far, and supporting smaller-scale and often independent food businesses is what gets you out of bed of a morning, dip into The Extra Mile. The guidebook is packed with small local cafés and offers viable alternatives to monotonous, motorway service station food, and disappointing forecourt food. Browse our Venue Finder here or buy the most up-to-date version of the guidebook for your own glovebox or that of a friend today at The Extra Mile’s online bookshop

Bowl of freshly-picked tomatoes
Posted on

MEET THE OWNERS: WRIGHT’S FOOD

Simon Wright and Maryann (c) Wrights Food Emporium

We asked Simon and Maryann at the wonderfully named Wright’s Food Emporium (find them here on The Extra Mile venue finder), to tell us where the idea for their business came from, and what keeps them going. Here’s what they said…

“Wright’s came from an idea to open a ‘village’ shop with a small cafe serving good coffee, sandwiches, cake. The name is our surname and Emporium seemed the right word: place of trade.  

We started in a different location but after a year this didn’t work out and we were a bit stumped about where to go next. We came to look at the building in Llanarthne which was huge, filthy and very dilapidated but did have some lovely features like the floors and windows. We saw the potential and, with the help of a few good friends, were able to get the funding together to buy it. It had a good feeling about it and having historically been a coaching inn, felt welcoming.

Freshly baked bread at Wright's Food Emporium

Some people thought we were crazy as it’s very rural but luckily it has worked out and become a destination of its own for many people. 

We wanted to use local produce as much as possible and cook as much as we could from scratch; bread first thing in the morning, cakes daily, soups, stews, pies and so on. We use local meat, vegetables and cheeses and try to keep everything seasonal.

Wright's Food Emporium fresh food display

I have been working in hospitality for the past 30 years running restaurants locally and coming from a family with an interest in food and farming. 

We use local suppliers for as much as possible and are happy to try anything new and local, luckily for us suppliers seek us out. During the pandemic rather than closing as was the norm we stayed open to supply our local customers and support our suppliers who were losing most of their markets and customers, creating a click-and-collect service which proved very popular. 

We use recyclable and compostable packaging as much as possible; we supply pies etc in enamel dishes which customers return for us to reuse; and we use a wood pellet boiler and stove for most of our heating and hot water needs.  

I enjoy working with our loyal staff and having such great customers, many of whom have followed us from business to business over the last 30 years. Hearing positive comments about our food, shop and ambience is very rewarding. 

Fresh vibrant veg at Wright's Food Emporium

Costs are rising at a frightening speed and increased energy costs are now hitting us so we fear that the next year is going to be very challenging . 

We take pride in being welcoming to all at Wright’s and are happy that our customers feel part of our business. You can call in just for a coffee or a loaf of bread or stay for hours chatting to friends and enjoying the hospitality. We only sell food we enjoy ourselves: wine and spirits from suppliers we admire; pottery and crafts from local makers as much as we can; homewares we find useful; and ingredients from Italy and Spain we can’t live without. We are happy to stop for a chat and give advice when required on food or anything else we can help with .

Ideal road trip? Driving through a rural area of Wales, Scotland or France, as we did in September up in the mountains of the Ardêche. It was so beautiful, quiet and peaceful. Time away is very precious when you are in the hospitality trade. 

My ideal car snack is definitely a packet of crisps, ideally olive oil and salted !”

Simon Wright and Maryann (c) Wrights Food Emporium
Wright's branded tomato 'catsup' at Wright's Food Emporium, Wales

Thank you Simon and Maryann for sharing your Meet the Owners story with us here at The Extra Mile, we’re thrilled to feature your friendly stop-off point in our guide.

If you’re keen to support the hard-working foodie hubs that are at the heart of their local communities, use our Venue Finder to seek out great stops on your next trip or buy the most up-to-date edition of the guidebook here. The new edition will be out in spring 2023, and we can’t wait to see Wright’s in amongst our fabulously foodie pages. 

Produce at Wright's Food Emporium
Posted on

CATCH THE UK’S BEST AUTUMN COLOURS

Woman enjoying falling autumn leaves

Are you a leaf peeper?

Europe is beginning to catch on to the North American hobby of leaf peeping, a term used to describe trips dedicated to the seeking out of blazing autumnal colours. The Japanese call it momijigari which means maple viewing, more specifically, but the quest for colourful leaves is the same. Who hasn’t gaped in wonder at the golds and russet reds of the UK’s woodlands as the seasons change? What better reason for an autumnal exploration? Here are some of the UK’s best leaf peeping spots. 

An autumnal picture of Gibside, National Trust

Gibside, Tyne and Wear Designed for its stunning views and now a National Trust property, Gibside (pictured above), at the edge of the Derwent Valley near Gateshead, is heaven for leaf chasers with 720-acres of beckoning woodland. Download one of four walking routes through the landscaped parkland to maximise your stop. (Image (c) National Trust)

Wintour’s Leap, Gloucestershire

Enjoy the sylvan colours of the Forest of Dean blazing around the horse-shoe sweep of the river Wye from the unique vantage point of Wintour’s Leap, just to the north of Chepstow (pictured below). It’s also a popular climbing spot, if any adventurers have their ropes and harness in the boot. Visit Dean Wye has lots of great ideas for activities in and around the region. (Image (c) Visit Dean Wye.)

Wintour's Leap image (c) Visit Dean Wye https://www.visitdeanwye.co.uk/

Llanwrst, Wales
Is there a more iconic image of autumn in Wales than the
Tu Hwnt I’r Bont tea room (pictured below)? We don’t think so. Make this Virginia-creeper clad cottage part of your autumn road trip to see it in its full, fiery glory.

(Image (c) Tu Hwnt I’r Bont.)  

 
Tu Hwnt i’r Bont in Llanrwst

Glen Affric, Scotland

Sometimes touted as Scotland’s most beautiful glen (though it’s a hard-fought crown), Glen Affric’s woodland and moorland come alive in autumn as the leaves change colour. With a 10-mile circular walking circuit, prepare to enjoy them from every angle.

(Image (c) Visit Scotland.)

Stourhead, Wiltshire
Famous for its spectacular hues in autumn, the National Trust’s
Stourhead property is decadent in its autumn splendour (pictured below). Enjoy this quintessential view across the lake towards the Pantheon to see the colours in reflected glory.
(Image (c) National Trust)

Stourhead, image courtesy The National Trust

The Extra Mile glovebox guidebook brims with excellent eating choices, designed to take motorists just off the main roads and into the lovely communities and locally run foodie businesses hidden around each corner. This autumn, escape the monotony of the Services and the bland forecourt food at A road garages around the country. Use The Extra Mile book or online map to eat more memorably. To buy a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a favourite, frequent-travelling friend, visit our online shop today.

Posted on

EAT:FESTIVALS – TRULY LOCAL FOOD

Man from Ginger Beard Pickles and Preserves holding a jar of pickle

eat:Festivals are renowned across the South West not just for the excellence of their festivals and traders selection, but for their award-winning efforts to produce a sustainably run festival. We talk to festival co-founder, Beverley Milner-Simonds, about the importance of shopping locally, eating local foods and supporting local businesses.  

Q) You run a series of award-winning local food festivals across the West Country. What does local mean to you, and why is it so important that you only feature very local traders at each event? 

A) We’re all from somewhere, and making where you live work and play a better place seems the right thing to do. Focusing on local producers allows us to keep that money in the local community and introduce people to producers they can buy from easily time and time again.

Woman trading at the EAT Festival holding a wrap

 

Q) If people are used to buying big brand products, what do you think are the key things they’ll notice if they start to shop at smaller local places, or to buy locally made, hand-crafted food from local producers (and why does it matter)?

A) Buying from small local producers allows you to get the story behind the product. To understand how it was grown, made and ultimately brought to life for you. Understanding where your food comes from, meeting the maker, and having a great time is the underlying ethos to eat:Festivals.

Q) Why is it important to support local producers and do you have any specific examples of a business that suffered then bounced back or had to innovate or diversify as a result of the huge challenges of recent years? 

A) Being able to help micro and small businesses thrive really gets us out of bed in the morning with a big smile on our faces. Watching fledging businesses grow, become employers, develop new products and get stocked locally is incredibly rewarding. Take for example Nutts Scotch eggs. They relied heavily on face-to-face sales, pre-pandemic. Now, they also focus on their online sales, supported by some of their previous direct sales to customers, and have developed their kitchen space ready to supply bigger customers wholesale in this post-pandemic world. They’ve seen a big switch in their business balance; having more regular wholesale customers now enables them to have a steadier income and to employ two more members of staff. 

 

Crowds at an EAT Festival

Q) You’ve won multiple awards for your green, planet-first ethos. What environmental, green or ‘local’ related award are you most proud of and why, and do you have any nuggets of advice for small food businesses who want to minimise their impact as they grow? 

A) We are very proud of how we run our business. Sustainability for us has six key parts. Transport, energy use, water use, food, waste and impact in the community. The events industry has been a very wasteful sector over the years, with temporary structures erected and scrapped after the event. We were recognised at the Tourism Excellence Awards South West in 2019 for our responsible, ethical and sustainable approach to tourism. We have proved that you can run events differently. At a festival, you have an opportunity to engage with people in a different way. You can prompt behaviour change by encouraging people to walk, cycle or scoot to your event, or mandating no single-use plastic (which met with no resistance whatsoever from any of our producers). You can encourage people to switch to fully compostable materials, or to those that can be recycled at home for those who are taking purchases away with them. Our top tip for small food businesses starting out is to look at the different aspects of their production along those six areas we highlighted. Transport, energy use, water use, food, waste and impact in the community. 

Q) Where might your traders’ products be stocked, locally and in the region? Will you find any of them at motorway services?

A) We get such a buzz when we spot one of our producers being stocked locally, regionally and in some cases nationally. You’ll find our producers at your local farm shops and sometimes even at farm gate sales too. But you’ll also spot them on the menus at independent restaurants and cafes and bistros and at some petrol stations and forecourts, especially businesses like Touts, based in North Somerset.  

 

Man enjoying a Secret Orchard cider

Q) The Extra Mile book exists to help people find good local food in lovely surroundings just off motorway and main road junctions, to stop them having to go to the Services. Can you name a few of your own favourites (here is the Extra Mile map if that helps)?

A) Top tips off the Motorway? Well, obviously Gloucester Services for anyone heading up and down the M5 in the West Country. We also love Pyne’s of Somerset, just south of Bridgwater. Brockley Stores on the A370 in North Somerset, OMG, it’s worth the detour, let’s face it, such incredible stuff in there! If you’re heading further south on the M5, then Darts Farm is a really good food hub, with lots of amazing producers stocked there. And if you’re looking for a cracking cup of coffee, we’d love you to turn off at Wellington and go and explore Brazier, a coffee roaster based in Wellington with a lovely back story. 

Q) Will you use The Extra Mile Guide – Delicious Alternatives to Motorway Services?

A) Being able to get to the root of where your food and drink comes from, to meet the maker and to hear the story behind the product, is a really nourishing way to eat. The Extra Mile enables you to discover great local food and drink on your travels so we think it’s a great idea! 

 

People browsing local food stall at an EAT festival

eat:Festivals are a great free day out. You’ll find them in 17 town and city centres across the South West, showcasing the very best of local food and drink from within 30 miles of the town. In addition to the truly incredible food and drink on offer, each festival offers free entertainment, education, sometimes free bike mechanic sessions and a whole heap of foodie fun. 

Visit eat:Festivals on Facebook and their website for more details on upcoming events and how to join as a local trader.  

To buy The Extra Mile Guide (from Glovebox Guides) visit our Shop now. The fourth edition is underway and will be out in spring 2023. Contact us now if interested in joining its collection of memorable local places to eat, drink and rest.

Posted on

IT’S A HARD JOB, BUT…

Image of Farm Shop sign

Laura Collacott, writer of the first three editions of The Extra Mile, is back on the road in June 2022. She’ll be making a cameo appearance in the new edition of the book (due out in spring 2023), as she’s seeking out memorable new venues in the North East for the fourth edition of our essential glovebox guide to good food on the move. Laura found a moment to reveal the reality of life on the road. It’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it after all…

View of the North York Moors
Laura’s view over the North York Moors this week

“Ah, the joy of being a food writer. We know what you’re thinking. Meandering from café to farm shop, chatting idly to the good people behind them, languorously tucking in to gargantuan sandwiches, feasting on slabs of cake and scratching farm pigs behind the ear. Gently fattening.  

If only.  

In truth, finding the good cakes and best breakfasts involves a lot more legwork. It starts with poring over maps and trawling the internet for places that look promising, followed by long days on the road zipping from place to place and diverting to follow tip-offs from locals or the glimpse of a promising signboard. Many of the places we visit don’t make the cut for various reasons – too greasy, too bland, too unfriendly; simply not special enough.  

But for those that are – special enough – those that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to a friend, we set to work. We speak to the owners to find out why they set it up, and their food ethos; to staff to find out how it runs and where the ingredients come from. We talk to customers to find out what they like best about the place and what their favourite dishes are. We explore the shelves and inspect the menu, tasting mouthfuls where we can and taking extensive notes. Then we’re off again, on the hunt for the next. 

Far from eating cream teas in every stop (we’d be the size of houses if we did), this is a life of hastily eaten pastries and scotch eggs on the hoof. A life of broken snatches of Radio Four shows and disgraceful crumb- and paper-strewn cars.  

Sometimes there are long, dispiriting stretches where nowhere fits the bill. But when you do stumble across a fantastic place, where the welcome is all wide smiles and the owners are foodies who can name the farmers who supply the eggs and salad leaves…it makes the empty miles melt away. 

And then there are the views. The sweeping, moorland vistas or emerald hilltops that you just can’t see from the motorway. The countryside traffic jams caused by a string of ducklings crossing the road and the little-known towns that surprise you with their vibrance. That’s when we’re sure it really is worth going the extra mile.”  

Order The Extra Mile book now

The updated third edition of The Extra Mile is being prepared for print now and will be back in the shops around mid to late July 2022. We’re updating everyone’s opening hours so that you don’t turn up for a slap up feed when a cafe is closed, and we’ve removed those places that are no longer open. Order from our Shop today and your book will arrive and may even still be hot – or at the very least a little bit lukewarm – off the actual press. If you order it elsewhere online, it will likely be people’s older stock of the 2019 edition so our top tip to ensure you get the 2022 reprint with up-to-date intel is, buy directly from us.

NEW edition coming in 2023

Laura and our other similarly discerning roving reporters are on the road in 2022, seeking out more great finds to feature in the fourth, spring 2023 edition of the book. Subscribe to our newsletter (scroll down the homepage to enter your email) and keep an eye on our social media channels for news of its release. Don’t forget to let us know if you discover any terrific eateries while on your travels this year. We’d love to feature their local characters and flavours in our new collection of independent cafes, pubs, restaurants, farm shops, ice-cream parlours and attractions across the land.