Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Tenner Challenge: day two - economical exploring

When I woke up this morning the sun was shining, the birds were singing (er, ish - I don't think I've ever seen, let alone heard, a bird in Leeds city centre) and after a few days of being a bit under the weather I was feeling decidedly perky. It seemed like a perfect day to drag Ash out of bed and go for an explore. One of my favourite things about living in Leeds is the fact that it's also quite easy to get out of it - in twenty minutes you can be in the middle of the stunning Yorkshire Dales or exploring an old country heap somewhere. Trains are cheap and the bus network is extensive. Exploring is easy.

Or so I thought. When I actually started to look into what we could do today, I was met with a couple of pretty massive barriers. Firstly, when you only have a £10 budget to last you a whole week, trains are actually quite expensive - even with a Young Person's Railcard. To get to York (twenty minutes away) you're looking at something close to 3/4 of the weekly budget disappearing down the drain, and a return to nearby Ilkley would take out half in one foul swoop. Normally spending £7+ on a train ticket to somewhere pretty wouldn't even cross my mind - my card would be in that ticket machine before you could shout Betty's  Afternoon Tea - but as a famous man once said, the times they are a'changing (well, for this week at least).

Right, I thought, time for a change of tack. Let's go local. Despite living in Leeds for ages, there are tons of places I haven't been. I've never been to Temple Newsam house or farm, and Thwaite Mills are unknown territory too. Let's pop on a bus and go somewhere, I thought. How wrong I was. Although you can walk around the grounds for free (which I've done before), entry to Temple Newsam is £6 per adult, and the bus fare would be significant too. Thwaite Mills (which we could walk to) would take out £3.70 per adult - and Ash didn't seem all that enthusiastic. Back to the drawing board.

A visit to Saltaire

After a bit of thinking, we decided to pop on a train to Saltaire and go for a walk. Saltaire is just 15 minutes away from Leeds by train, and a return ticket (with a Young Person's Railcard) set us back just £2.90 each.

I'm not sure if going to Saltaire really counts as exploring - I've been there lots of times before - but it's somewhere local that I really love visiting. It's a UNESCO world heritage site, named after Sir Titus Salt's mill that dominates the town. It has a fascinating history and the mill is now a wonderful Arts Centre which is full of Hockney paintings and one of my most favourite local bookshops and home/kitchen stores. It's a living, breathing little place with a wonderful park, lovely junk shops, a brewery, a canal and a real sense of community. Ash and I love it so much, in fact, that we're seriously considering a move to one of the workers' cottages when our contract expires on the flat in June. It just feels like how a home should feel.

Anyway, we hopped off the train and headed to Saltaire's lovely bakery - by this point our stomachs were rumbling and the provisions I'd bought from home (left over Christmas chocolate, and a couple of apples) just wasn't going to fill a hole. I spent 60p on a sausage roll, taking my daily spend up to an (almost) wallet busting £3.50.

We had a stroll along the canal and through Hurst's Wood in an attempt to find our way to Bingley's Five Rise Locks. However, after a couple of miles fate was against us - work on an aquaduct meant that the canal towpath was closed so we had to turn back. By this point our ears were a bit cold anyway, so it was probably no bad thing, and it leaves us with a good walk to do in the Summer.

When we got back into Saltaire we had a wander round Salt's Mill. It was extremely difficult not to buy anything - it's these sorts of places that, in normal circumstances anyway, swallow my money. It's such a gorgeous space though that it was lovely just to be there, even if it was a case of looking but not buying. Ash celebrated payday by buying a Extraordinary Chicken 2013 calendar. Don't ask. By this point I was gasping for a cup of tea from the wonderful Salt's Diner, but I felt guilty enough about spending £3.50 so far - almost a third of my weekly budget - so we gave it a miss.

After a little stroll through town to have a nosy at some of the properties we'd seen on Rightmove, we walked to nearby Shipley and hopped on the train back to Leeds. An afternoon well spent.

What did I learn today?

Exploring on a budget is actually really hard. It takes forward planning, and although something might seem free, when you take into account transport costs and sustenance that cost can mount up. To put things in perspective -although I only spent £3.50 today, Ash spent almost £10 (Extraordinary Chicken calendars and stilton and vegetable pasties don't come cheap, you know) - so between us we spent almost half of the amount that we spent on food this week on an afternoon's trip to a village 15 minutes away. Which is actually quite shocking.

If you're not extremely careful with where you go and what you do,  getting to know new places and having new experiences on a budget can be prohibitive - something that I imagine a lot of families who live on a low wage are extremely aware of. I am a strong believer that everyone should have the right to experience new things- be that theatre, museums, art galleries, films, books, new places or whatever else takes their fancy. Today has taught me that we need to fight hard to ensure that these experiences aren't out of the grasp of those who live on a tiny budget - and I can't help feeling that at the moment, they are.

Tenner Challenge Day Two
Total spent: £3.50

A final thought for today (courtesy of Saltaire high street)

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