Plastic Free July – Day Six – A Trip to Chatsworth

How’s this for perspective? If the people who built Chatsworth House 332 years ago got a little thirsty and cracked open a plastic bottle of water, those water bottles would still be around today.

Obviously they didn’t have plastic bottles then, simpler times meant the workers probably just drank water straight from a stream. But 332 years from now, the plastic bottles sold in the Chatsworth cafe will still exist somewhere.

Today we took a trip to Chatsworth and before we set off, I was trying to think of ways to minimise plastic use. So we took a packed lunch and all took refillable water bottles. But plastic has a clever way of sneaking up on you, and also of being wrapped around delicious things like ice cream.

We ate our packed lunch in a little hut in the kitchen garden, a place that puts my tiny veg patch to shame. Thanks to the kitchen garden I know what an artichoke looks like in the wild and Joni now knows that pears grow on trees, rather than magically reproducing in the fridge. It really is a wonderful place and very inspiring for someone like me who recently grew three courgettes in the garden. Surely we’re almost fully self-sufficient?

The three courgettes I grew from seed – minus the end of one that a very rude slug ate.

After dinner we headed down the hill to the little cafe by the gift shop. And what was waiting for us in the little takeaway cafe? Vegan Magnum ice cream! I get so excited by vegan versions of ‘normal’ treats that actually taste good. They’re wrapped in plastic but I got one anyway. And then felt bad. And then felt good because it tasted so nice. Then I felt bad again. There was a lot of emotions attached to that ice cream.

Vegan Magnum
The emotional Magnum. Why can’t vegan cakes taste this good?

We spent much of the afternoon hopping on and off the tractor ride as it incorporated two of Evan’s most favourite things – a tractor and it went through a tunnel. He was so amazed that these two things were combined that he just kept repeating ‘tracter-tunnel-tractor-tunnel’ over and over until he finally understood that this was the greatest moment if his tiny life.

Tractor rides may kick out CO2 but they don’t involve single use plastic so it was a great guilt-free way to spend a couple of hours.

What I’m starting to realise doing this challenge is that plastic is everywhere.

In the giftshop, unless I wanted to buy a £20 cushion, a mug or a postcard, I’d have to get something wrapped in plastic. I really wanted to buy Joni some stickers but they were made of plastic and wrapped in it. It was just as well she waited outside with Andrew as instead I bought her a postcard. The bonus was it only cost 50p instead of £2. Something else I’m noticing with this challenge is not buying plastic means not buying much at all so we’re actually saving money.

Plastic stickers
Of course a postcard that does literally nothing is more exciting than these stickers!

After another go on the tractor we went to the Carriage House Cafe for a sit down. One of the worst things about being vegan is that the majority of vegan cakes are just awful.

What usually happens is I get a cake to have with a cup of tea and slowly realise as I eat the cake that it’s 95% sugar and 5% saddness. I then continue to eat the cake and feel more and more sick whist I get jittery and almost tunnel-like vision from ingesting a week’s worth of sugar in one sponge cake.

I’m sorry to say that the vegan cake in the Chatsworth cafe was really not nice. It wasn’t labelled as vegan, perhaps because they knew if they did, people would avoid it.

Evan’s day just got better and better though has he got to have a nut and dairy-free brownie – it truly was a spectacular day for this two year old.

Evan cake
Tractor – tick
Tunnel – tick
Allergy-free brownie – tick

Although the cake wasn’t great, the cafe did have a few vegan choices, none of which were wrapped in plastic, and they had soya milk.

All-in-all, today has been a good day for minimum use of plastic. Although I’m not sure I could ever give up delightful treats like a vegan Magnum unless someone can make vegan sponge cake that actually tastes good.

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