Can smart cities reverse the decline of the UK High Street?

If we want the centre of our UK cities to prosper, our thinking needs to change. Although it’s not just about traffic and parking management, having an improved experience for the driver will certainly have a huge impact on any town centre economic strategy.

Generally speaking, High Streets, including Exeter, in the UK are struggling with declining footfall as consumers increasingly shop online and city centres struggle to balance the requirement for a convenient positive parking experience at an ‘acceptable price’ whilst reducing congestion and carbon emissions. People aren’t ready to leave the car at home yet, and although reliable public transport, park and ride and car sharing schemes are vital, private vehicles still need to be accommodated. Hence adopting smarter alternatives to current thinking is a must to reverse High Street decline.

The technology is here

The technology is already here that improves the experience for motorists visiting towns and cities to find somewhere to park as my experience visiting Ghent in Belgium recently proved. Intelligence such as traffic sensors collecting data from traffic, feed dynamic routing signage that navigate motorists through the local area and car parks in real-time to available spaces indicated by visual indicators.

smartparking-min

Add to this mobile phone apps such as justpark.com allow spaces and/or electric vehicle charging points to be reserved before leaving home.. There is no doubt that  Continue reading

Travel: Beautiful Belgium part 4 – Bruges

Our last stop on our Belgium travels

The last stop on our brief tour of Flanders was the beautiful city of Bruges. (read part 3 here)

Boat trips on the Bruges canals are a popular tourist pastime

Boat trips on the Bruges canals are a popular tourist pastime

Bruges is the capital of West Flanders and famed for its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. The old city within the city walls only has about 20,000 residents, so visit at the right time outside the peak tourist season and the city has a relaxed uncongested feel which is what we found when we visited in late September.

Staying in a Continue reading

Travel: Beautiful Belgium Part 3 – Ghent

Leaving the First World War memorials behind

After our very interesting stop around the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery and Memorial and the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, we left the WW1 memorials behind and headed for an overnight stop in Ghent.

Travel: Beautiful Belgium and WW1 history Part 1

Travel: Beautiful Belgium and WW1 history Part 2 – Ypres

Beautiful Ghent

Ghent is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province and has a population of over 250,000. Not the usual ingredients to tempt us to stop over but I had heard that the city was very beautiful so why not.

Beautiful Ghent beside the Leie canal

Our BnB was located a short stone’s throw from the St Baafskathedral in the city centre, and after settling in we ventured out to explore. The city is dominated by a very impressive centre of 3 fine church buildings and a 4th modern building described by the locals apparently as the ‘Sheep Barn’ located next to each other in a line.

The Sheeps Barn!

The ‘Sheeps Barn’ was built in 2012 and sparked an angry letter from UNESCO apparently for not being warned. It is certainly very ‘striking’ and is all roof and no walls!

Either side of the Sheep Barn is the more traditional St Niklaaskerk church and the Belfort (Belfry) which is a typical Flemish watchtower built as a symbol of power during the middle ages and a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is a stunning view from the top apparently and the clock chimes are very musical! All in all the buildings and towers make up a lovely part of the city to spend a few hours on a sunny summer afternoon. Unfortunately for us it was rainy and a bit gloomy but we will just have to pay another visit.

The Belfont (Belfry) in Ghent at night

The Belfont, Ghent

Continuing our wander through the city the lights started to sparkle as twilight descended and the city took on an incredibly impressive night time beauty. We headed up to St Jacobskerk  before crossing the Vrijdag Markt and joining the Leie canal and following the cobbled streets alongside the canal towards St Michielskerk and the bridge alongside. Hardly a 100 metres passed on our walk without another beautiful vista to capture on camera. Back passed the avenue of towers where we started out after a beer by a canal side bar, and we came across an outside event at the cathedral.

The Last Supper

A film projection of the Leonardo Da Vinci Last Supper painting with accompanying classical music was being brought to life on the outside of the cathedral. Lasting about 10 minutes the film depicted the painting but the characters were moving. Apparently the film is doing a tour of churches and I think it was the opening night.

Two beautiful buildings in Ghent make the city spectacular to visit in the evening

Beautiful buildings in Ghent

The following day and we decided to walk more of Ghent in daylight before heading to Bruges. Without the lights the city still has lots of beautiful buildings and I imagine in better weather it would be an ideal stop for a more leisurely visit. However, our trip continued as we left for our last stop at Bruges.

More information

Visit Ghent tourism site:

Travel: Beautiful Belgium and WW1 history Part 2 – Ypres

From Diksmuide and on to Ypres

After our exploration around Diksmuide and the Trench of Death and Yser Tower, covered in my blog post Travel: Beautiful Belgium and WW1 history Part 1, we continued our Belgium journey to the beautiful city of Ypres (leper).

Ypres-cloth-hall

The impressive Cloth Hall dominates Ypres Grote Markt.

We had booked another AirBnB for our brief visit and what a find it turned out to be too. ‘Casa Martini della Corte‘ is the beautiful and Continue reading

Travel: Beautiful Belgium and WW1 history Part 1

West Flanders

We’ve just come back from 5 days touring West Flanders in Belgium, and what a fabulous country it is.

Trench of death World War 1 memorial site

Dodengang, West Flanders. Photo: Copyright A Pewsey

A brief 48 hour visit to Brussels and Bruges on a boys weekend away 2 years ago had whetted the appetite for a Continue reading

A Cottage of Content

Finding a gem of a country pub

I have family links to the beautiful English county of Herefordshire, and frequently visit exploring the rural countryside and, local country pubs.

One such pub is the Kilpeck Inn which was saved from development into residential property about 10 years ago. It’s now well known for its food and seems to be very popular. However, it doesn’t seem to cater quite so well for the locals who want to go there for a pint or two and socialise. So although they do stock good beer it is very much all about the food.

Fabulous atmosphere, food and beer, the excellent Cottage of Content at Carey, Herefordshire

The very good Cottage of Content Pub

I have eaten there a number of times over the last 10 years and had very mixed Continue reading

The finest view in England?

Sutton Bank, North York Moors National Park

A recent visit to Yorkshire to attend a Mountain Rescue conference in Leeds gave me the opportunity to briefly explore the area. This lead me to Sutton Bank in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.

Sutton Bank the finest view in England according to James Herriot

The finest view in England according to James Herriot

Apparently Yorkshire author James Herriot, famous for his series of books about his life as a Yorkshire vet, declared the view from the Sutton Bank escarpment over the Vale of Mowbray and the Vale of York, the “finest in England”.

Now, I think you’ll agree that Continue reading