Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

My flying days are finally over

Coined by environmentalist Leo Hickman, the phrase can be used to describe any kind of green realisation that induces a sudden change of behaviour. So, in the spirit of middle-class mea culpa, I have given up flying. No more excuses. No more good intentions. Those awful Churchill adverts from the dreadful Ryanair were the final straw. For the foreseeable future (well, for the next three weeks at least), I am restricting travel to anywhere that can be reached by trains, buses and ferries. I shall abandon my summer holiday in Nantucket and explore Britain instead.

I am being helped in my ecotravel quest by the Man in Seat 61. He has set up the website www.seat61.com which tells you how to get anywhere in the world, from Brittany to China, on a train, boat or ferry. It also provides timetables, advice and detailed pictures of all the modes of transport, including their sleeping quarters.

Many people eschew greenery - feeling it is all about giving things up. Indeed, the thought of never travelling on a plane did fill me with gloom, but I have since realised that giving up flying could enhance my life. Which is why I'm on the Isle of Wight, which the cognoscenti describe as the UK's answer to the Hamptons. (Well, they don't, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.)

The journey couldn't have been easier. Having checked out my route on seat.61.com, I threw my laptop and recycled-cotton bikini into a bag and hotfooted it to Waterloo. From there, it was only a two-hour train ride to Portsmouth. I had an economy ticket, but, for a fiver, I upgraded to a brand-new first-class carriage - try getting an upgrade at the BA check-in desk for that. Then I took the 15-minute Superspeedcat ferry to the island. On the island, you can make use of a quaint railway system, which uses decommissioned carriages from 1930s Tube trains. It's wonderful to wait for a train with the sea shimmering yards away.

Several boutique hotels have opened recently on the island. I love the Wellington, in Ventnor, which is very Kelly Hoppen - all taupes, creams and sun-drenched wooden balconies. But Yarmouth is my favourite. It has a castle and reams of ghosts, and is rich in tales of smugglers' skulduggery.

I stayed at the luxurious, 500-year-old George Hotel, famed for its organic food. It was here that the dashing Charles II once stayed - apparently in my very room! Sadly, I did not have a nocturnal visit from the darkly handsome monarch (who bears a spooky resemblance to Ritchie Sambora of Bon Jovi) but you may have more luck.

Britain's beaches have never looked better - 119 have Blue Flags, compared with 11 20 years ago - and a heatwave is predicted for August. Maybe it is time to forgo airport hell for delights closer to home and save on our carbon emissions. Eat your heart out, Hawaii (sob), I'm staying here. Bexhill, anyone?

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

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