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Book: The Extra Mile

Dec 7

Written by:
07/12/2017 09:27  RssIcon

An insider’s guide to alternative and delicious places to stop along the motorway

Have we at Printslinger found a way of squaring a tricky circle?  Can we take car-travel, a grim modern ‘necessity’, and use it to boost local economies and organic food production? 

Can we encourage independent food businesses and growers by persuading travellers to get off the beaten track and avoid motorway service stations and the grim cafés that litter our road-sides? 


Image: Extra Mile


Ethical consumption is endlessly challenging as a personal target. Just as you think you have cracked it, another conundrum rears its head – like the many-headed Hydra confronted by Hercules.

Its heads grew back as Hercules cut them off. When you are getting from A to B you are, of course, a consumer of carbon and other resources, a polluter and even a destroyer of your environment.

That is heavy stuff, and most of us are guilty of coy eco-destruction which we try, perhaps, to assuage by ethical consumption elsewhere. We fly reluctantly and set off our emissions by planting trees, and then hope that nobody questions us too closely.

However, aside from using less fuel at slower A-road speeds (according to the Department for Transport, driving at a steady speed of 50mph instead of 70 mph can improve fuel economy by 25 per cent), perhaps we can travel better? 

We have researched the informal food economy all over the UK and found over 300 wonderful little places that are light relief after the banality of a long car-journey.  Indeed, isn’t it odd that so many of us plan to get from A to a far-away B as quickly and tediously as possible, rather than planning a delightful series of escapades and visits along the way? 

What might be, for me, a five-hour journey from Bristol to visit my ancient mother in Suffolk becomes a stimulating exploration of National Trust properties, coffees taken in village shops, lunch in a rural pub with veg from their own garden and then a stock-up at a farm shop on an organic farm. Fine – it may add a couple of hours to the journey, but I arrive fresh and haven’t spent a penny in a chain-store. 


Image: puxton


If the decline of Britain as an agricultural nation is to be stopped, the first step is for us to buy good food from the growers. Imagine the consequences of millions of us adapting to new ways of travel like this.

The success of the new motorway service station near Gloucester gives us hope: they stock local food and do everything they can to ‘go green’. As our own book makes its first big splash – which it is doing – perhaps it will also give Welcome Break and others a kick up the backside to change their purchasing policies…though I doubt they will change their business models. 

So, The Extra Mile is there for you to use as a tool. The second edition will be even more packed with treats. Perhaps we can even surf the enthusiasm for the minor revolution in thinking about food, and then help to build it. If you have travelled up the A12 to Norfolk without eating at the Darsham Nurseries, you have missed Suffolk’s latest delight. It is only 10 seconds off the road.  Even the soul-destroying asphalt of the M4 hides dozens of nourishing small places where you can eat, rest, walk and enjoy good company. 

I was recently standing outside Finsbury Park station in London, despairing of finding a cosy place to wait for a friend.  Then I spotted a flower shop that offered coffee, went straight in and was overwhelmed by the kindness and beauty of the place and its owners. Damn – it is not close to a main road, but perhaps we should do a similar book for weary train and tube travellers….

This was a guest blog written by Alistair Sawday, author of The Extra Mile









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