Tube travel now at 50% of pre-pandemic levels

Tube travel now at 50% of pre-pandemic levels

London Underground usage is regularly reaching at least half of pre-pandemic levels, Transport for London (TfL) said.

Demand for the Tube on weekdays is often at 50% of what it was before the coronavirus crisis, and is hitting more than 60% at weekends.

This is up from about 40% across the entire week in early May.

An average of more than 1.8 million journeys are being made on the Tube every weekday.

Last weekend, ridership was at 58% on the Saturday and 62% on the Sunday.

Bus travel in the afternoon is also continuing to grow.

Overall demand is reaching about two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels on weekdays and hitting as much as 75% at weekends.

About 3.5 million journeys are being made every weekday on London buses, which is likely to increase further once schools return from next week.

TfL’s managing director for customers, communication, and technology, Vernon Everitt, said: “Ridership on our services continues to recover as more and more people head out to enjoy London’s vibrant shops, leisure, and entertainment.

“We’re welcoming customers back to a transport network that is cleaner than ever, with an enhanced cleaning regime, hospital-grade cleaning products, widely available hand sanitizer, and UV light fittings on escalator handrails to kill viruses.

“We remain focused on providing safe, clean, and convenient services for everyone.

“And beyond the bank holiday weekend, we’ll be ready to support a further increase in ridership as the holiday season draws to a close and more Londoners return to their workplaces.”

Tube travel now at 50% of pre-pandemic levelsLondontopia – The Website for People Who Love London

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The Wild Rabbit: A Modern British Inn in The Cotswolds that’s Perfect for All the Family

The Wild Rabbit: A Modern British Inn in The Cotswolds that’s Perfect for All the Family

Since becoming a mum, my first thoughts when choosing a hotel are ‘will Oscar like it…?’ … my second thoughts are ‘will I like it and can I blog about it?’  Priorities… When I first heard about The Wild Rabbit – part of the Daylesford Estate –  I thought Oscar would definitely like it there. I would definitely like it there. And my parents and sister would too! And what we really loved about the place were the self-contained cottages that allowed both space and privacy.

The Wild Rabbit calls itself a ‘Modern British Inn’ – basically it a fancy pub with rooms. Some of those rooms are located in in the pub itself, some are cottages spread through the village of Kingham in the Cotswolds and others are cottages at the famous Daylesford Farm located around a five minute drive away. The rooms at the inn look utterly gorgeous and are all decorated in classic Cotswolds rustic style and are named after animals found in the British countryside. Think Rabbit, Owl, Hedgehog, Squirrel etc … The Daylesford Cottages are decorated in a similar style and are spacious home-away-from-homes varying in size from the ‘The Egg Store’ which sleeps two to ‘The Wood Store’ which sleeps six.

We opted for the Kingham Village cottages to have both the proximity to the Wild Rabbit and to have the space for our families. Each of the nine Kingham Village cottages are different and have their own character coming equipped with a full kitchen, en suite bathrooms and log-burning stoves. The Lark, Robin and Dove were perfect for us as they can be joined together are one big family cottage and also used individually for privacy.
The cottages are self-catering but you can still have a more ‘hotel-like’ experience by booking daily house keeping and breakfast at the inn. Before we arrived we were sent an email detailing how to access the room plus Wifi codes and other things we might need to know so there is no need for a formal check in process. The three cottages are located just around the corner (less than a ten minute walk) from The Wild Rabbit and are fully adjacent to each other with convenient parking for all of our cars. With the gorgeous Cotswold stone frontage and sage green doors, our cottages couldn’t have been more welcoming!

We were staying in the Dove but all three cottages are very similar, the Robin (where my parents stayed) being marginally bigger with a large living area. 
As promised, our cottage had this gorgeous fully equipped kitchen with an Aga, fridge, dishwasher and coffee machine. We had booked a welcome package and were greeted with fresh bread, cheese, butter, milk and wine! I also love the dining area which was beautifully laid out and included a stylish Stokke high chair for Oscar.

There’s lots of gorgeous little details everywhere and products from Daylesford Farm. The Wild Rabbit is owned by the Bamford family (headed up by Lady Carole Bamford) who also own Daylesford Organic – an award-winning Farmshop that’s an absolute heaven of fresh produce, home wares and even clothing.

The living area is as cosy as can be with a sofa to slouch on, wood burning stove and flat screen tv. Oh… and a huge bag of kettle chips.

I loved the exposed stone walls, the wooden beams and rustic furnishings! If you’re following my Instagram you’ll know about my current obsession with interiors! Unfortunately the Cotswolds cottage look isn’t right for our central London flat but it’s an aesthetic that I absolutely love!

The cottages are part of a larger restoration project at The Wild Rabbit which was once an 18th Century Inn named Conygree Farm – an Anglo Saxon word meaning rabbit enclosure. Restoration started in 2013 and followed the principles at the heart of Daylesford. The restoration uses locally sourced materials and centuries old techniques to create a sustainable environment. All the materials are reclaimed and recycled and the oak boards were exposed, panelling was restored and original beams were embraced. Natural lime plasters the walls and wood surfaces are made from naturally fallen trees. The cottages are decorated with bespoke furniture and made by local artisans with sustainably sourced timber, a vintage armchairs and other repurposed materials. 
There’s also a downstairs loo, something that I find super useful when staying in accommodation with two levels.

Upstairs there are two bedrooms with that gorgeous stone work and the beams, the bed is incredibly comfortable too as The Wild Rabbit work with one of the UK’s oldest mattress manufacturers who create handcrafted mattresses. The bed linen is both from Bamford and Volga, known for its ecological benefits.

Storage is a little limited but that is my only teeny tiny complaint about this otherwise wonderful cottage! Actually it’s some of the best accommodation that I’ve had in the UK.
The bathroom has a double sink and there are complimentary products by Bamford Bath & Body – another brand owned by the Bamford family. Bamford products embrace a connection to earth and are natural and sustainable.
Isn’t the light hitting the bath just gorgeous? The perfect way to enjoy a morning!

The other bedroom is full size with a double bed (that could be separated into twins) which is great if you have a group of adults staying.

Another beautiful full size bathroom with those gorgeous Bamford products so Mr S and I could basically have a bathroom each.

As you can see this cottage really was everything you need! There was a full living area, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a downstairs loo but it was absolutely great value for money – far less than Coworth Park and Beaverbrook where we stayed recently and there we only had one room!
But that’s not all! We also had a full garden and outdoor seating area which connected with the rest of my families adjacent cottages!

When you stroll along Kingham village toward the Wild Rabbit itself you can spot some of the inn’s other cottages which just blend seamlessly into the village with the sage green doors.

The jewel in the crown is the Wild Rabbit itself with it’s beautiful wisteria covered entrance…

The Wild Rabbit is really a restaurant with rooms so it doesn’t have the facilities of a hotel however guests can book treatments at the Bamford Spa located at Daylesford Farm where there is also a cookery school and incredible Farm Shop. There’s lots to do in the local area too which I will cover in another post.

The same principles of ecology, sustainability and respect for history were used in the restoration of the inn and it retains many of the original features.
Of particular note in the restored bar there are the original stone mullioned windows, and two stunning fireplaces.

On our first night at The Wild Rabbit we hired babysitters to stay with the kids (I used Cotswold Angel who I’d had a great experience with whilst staying at The Fish) while we went for dinner at the restaurant. It’s worth pointing out that you can’t get room service in the self-catering cottages but there is a full kitchen to cook for the littles ones.

The chef at The Wild Rabbit is Nathan Eades who has previously worked at a number of Michelin starred and award winning restaurants including a stint as Head Chef at Simpsons Restaurant in Birmingham. In line with rest of The Wild Rabbit’s manifesto  – food is local, seasonal and sustainable. They call it British cooking with a Cotswolds twist especially as many of the ingredients come from Daylesford Farm, freshly picked that morning. 
I love the flower pot bread that we started with!

And my cured Severn & Wye salmon with heritage beetroot and English wasabi was both delicious and beautifully presented.

I loved my roast poussin with tenderstem broccoli, potato terrine and sauce épicée while others on the table enjoyed South Devon beef ribeye. There were also plenty of side dishes round the table such as hand cut chips and grilled courgettes. Portions were really well sized – big enough for large appetites and small enough for more delicate appetites.

We opted for the choice of three types of the award-winning Daylesford Organic cheese to finish off. Note there is also space to eat at the Bar and Terrace and there is a private dining room called The Chicken Shed.

The following night we had a brilliant dinner at Daylesford Farm and took the kids too! I’ll cover our experience there in a separate post.

As you can imagine, The Wild Rabbit serves brilliant breakfasts too and we ate there both mornings of our stay. You have to pay extra for this if you’re in a self-catering cottage but of course you can BYO and prepare breakfast in your cottage. 
We absolutely loved The Wild Rabbit in Kingham, I couldn’t say enough good things about it, I’m already planning our return! It’s now easily one of my favourite places to stay in the UK.

Great for Kids: 

Children are welcome in the restaurant.
Lots of local activities suitable for all ages.
Large accommodation with the option of kitchen, multiple bedrooms. Cot, high chair etc provided.

Great for Parents: 

Delicious local food.
Beautiful interior and exteriors.
Use of the spa available at nearby Daylesford Organic.


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Changing the Guard ceremony returns to Buckingham Palace – Pictures and Video

Changing the Guard ceremony returns to Buckingham Palace – Pictures and Video

Changing the Guard has been performed at Buckingham Palace for the first time since the start of the pandemic, with the musical backdrop paying tribute to the success of the Team GB Olympians.

The colorful military spectacle – one of the most time-honored traditions at the Queen’s London home – was halted around 18 months ago to avoid attracting huge crowds of tourists during lockdown.

On Monday, the familiar sight returned, with the new guard, the 1st Battalion the Coldstream Guards, dressed in their scarlet tunics and famous bearskin hats, marching from nearby Wellington Barracks to the palace to take over the duty from the old guard, Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards.

Tunes played by the Band of the Coldstream Guards in honor of Britain’s Olympic achievements included Spandau Ballet’s Gold, The Olympic Theme, Chariots of Fire, and Whitney Houston’s One Moment In Time.

The Queen was not there to witness the proceedings, being away in Scotland on her annual break at Balmoral, but scores of tourists gathered to watch.

Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew Stokes, of the Coldstream Guards, who was in charge of the ceremony’s return, said: “It’s been a long time coming.”

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Members of the 1st Battalion the Coldstream Guards formed the new guard (Yui Mok/PA)

He added: “Bearing in mind it’s been 18 months since we last did a ceremonial Changing the Guard (at Buckingham Palace), there’s been an awful lot of hard work and preparation getting people up to standard.”

Some of those taking part in the complex parade were carrying out the duty for the first time.

“Eighteen months is a long time in the military – it’s a young man’s game – so there’ll be a lot of people on duty today that have been in the Army for 18 months but of course have never done this because we haven’t had the opportunity,” Garrison Sergeant Major Stokes said.

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Members of the public watching the ceremony (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The Olympic medleys were chosen in “tribute to the success of our Olympians, which we’re incredibly proud of,” he added.

“The guardsmen enjoy it because lots of members of the public and tourists come and watch – sometimes up to 20,000 in the middle of summer.

“The musicians enjoy it because they get to practice their skill in front of a willing audience, and it instills an awful lot of pride knowing that all these people have come to watch these very young guardsmen and musicians.”

The prestigious Household Division of the Army carries out state ceremonial and public duties such as Trooping the Colour, the State Opening of Parliament and mounting the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and Windsor Castle.

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
The Band of The Coldstream Guards marching (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The Guard ceremony also resumed at St James’s Palace.

Although Buckingham Palace is the focal point for tourists during the event, nearby St James’s Palace – historically considered the real seat of power for the royal family – is where the Colour – the flag – is taken and guarded overnight, with part of the new guard stopping at Buckingham Palace and the remainder moving on to St James’s.

From March 2020, the Guardsmen of the Household Division stopped ceremonial activities to avoid public gatherings and help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

In July, the Changing the Guard ceremony – also known as Guard Mounting – finally resumed at Windsor.

During the pandemic, an Administrative Guard Mount was in operation, where soldiers took up their sentry duty positions, but ceremonies were not carried out as they changed over.

Guardsmen from the Household Division have been protecting the nation’s kings and queens since 1660, but they are also fighting soldiers who, when not performing ceremonial duties, are on operations or training.

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
The Band of The Coldstream Guards marching during the Changing the Guard ceremony (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Over the last year and a half, they have remained busy operating Covid-19 testing sites and vaccination centers across the country and carrying out operational training.

Grenadier Guardsmen also took part in a revised version of the Queen’s Birthday Parade staged at Windsor and played a key role in the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Changing the Guard ceremony returns to Buckingham Palace – Pictures and VideoLondontopia – The Website for People Who Love London

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Sadiq Khan plans to house Afghan refugees in London council homes

Sadiq Khan plans to house Afghan refugees in London council homes

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced plans to assist local councils and housing associations to rehouse Afghan refugees in council houses. The initiative will be made possible by the right to buy back scheme that was introduced as part of the 1980 Housing Act. Khan has said he will invite councils to buy back council houses that have been sold off to the private sector. According to MOD, the UK has evacuated almost 7,000 Afghans and their families out of Kabul, many of which have already arrived in the UK, with more than 1,000 in Manchester.

The UK government has announced plans to rehouse 5,000 Afghan nationals within the first year, Khan’s scheme should hopefully help provide homes for families that have had no choice but to flee Afghanistan. Councils will also be provided with grants to rent or buy homes for Afghan refugees. 

Richmond, Camden, Ealing, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kingston, Lambeth, Islington and Lewisham are just some of the boroughs that have offered to help. With the Taliban overthrowing Afghanistan’s government, the country has become unsafe for many residents, particularly those that helped Western efforts during the war in Afghanistan. The effort to rehouse Afghan citizens will continue over the next few years as part of a larger effort.

Open House: nine properties to see inside.

*Actually* London isn’t that unaffordable any more.

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Gatwick Airport still planning to bring emergency runway into routine use, increasing capacity

Gatwick Airport still planning to bring emergency runway into routine use, increasing capacity

Gatwick is pressing ahead with its plan to bring its emergency runway into regular use despite the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK’s second busiest airport said the work could be completed by 2029 and will align with the Government’s policy of “making best use of existing runways.”

It also claimed it would be delivered in a “sustainable way which helps to achieve the Government’s overall goal of net-zero emissions by 2050”.

The West Sussex airport is launching a public consultation on the scheme on September 9, after first suggesting in October 2018 that the emergency runway could be brought into routine use.

The emergency runway is currently used as a taxiway or when the main runway is closed due to maintenance or incidents.

Under the plan, the emergency runway would be used for departures of smaller planes.

Operating as a two-runway airport would enable Gatwick to boost its annual passenger capacity from 62 million to 75 million by 2038.

Gatwick lost out to Heathrow in a bid to obtain Government approval to build an additional runway.

The center lines of Gatwick’s main and emergency runways are separated by 650ft (198m).

The plan involves increasing the gap by widening the emergency runway by 39ft (12m) to comply with safety regulations.

Only around one million passengers traveled through Gatwick in the first seven months of this year.

That total was reached after just 10 days in 2019.

Speaking from the South Terminal, which is temporarily closed due to the reduction in flights, the airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, admitted that “things are not normal at Gatwick today.”

But he insisted that “now is the right time” to launch a 12-week public consultation on using the emergency runway as there will be “a requirement for airport expansion by the late 2020s”.

Gatwick expects pre-pandemic traffic levels will return by 2025 or 2026.

Mr. Wingate said: “While we are currently experiencing low passenger and air traffic volumes due to the global pandemic, we are confident that Gatwick will not only fully recover to previous passenger levels but has the potential to continue to grow back into one of Europe’s premier airports.”

The airport said its plan would generate approximately 18,400 additional jobs by 2038 and boost its contribution to the region’s economy in Gross Value Added by £1.5 billion.

More than 40% of airport staff were made redundant last year due to the coronavirus crisis.

Local campaign group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions claimed the plan “flies in the face of the climate emergency; we are all facing.”

It said: “It is despicable for a company to ignore the emissions that planes in and out of Gatwick produce, that is causing grave danger for future generations that will have to pay the price for today’s greed of this leisure airport.”

The consultation will open on September 9.

In order to gain planning permission to routinely use the stand-by runway, Gatwick must follow the Development Consent Order process, which culminates in a final decision by the Transport Secretary.

Gatwick Airport still planning to bring emergency runway into routine use, increasing capacityLondontopia – The Website for People Who Love London

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