11 of the Best Chandeliers, Pendant Lights and Lamps to Light up your World

Sam Wylie-Harris switches natural light for artificial, and reveals the best in statement lighting.

In the height of summer, lighting doesn’t have much opportunity to play a starring role. It’s more about window dressing to control the brightness.

But come early autumn, with dappled sunlight streaming through and a low sun casting shadows in our living space, a flick of a switch has the power to transform our interiors.

In many ways, luxe lighting offers the tools to illuminate, highlight and shine a spotlight on the things that make a difference in our lives, while setting the stage for a little bit of theatre.

Currently, sculptural forms and statement pieces are very on-trend, but neutrals and polished chrome are not forgotten. Here’s how to plug into the latest schemes…

1. Ribbon LED Ceiling Light by Heal’s, £479, other items from a selection, Heal’s

“Sculptural lighting can be a quick and easy way to create a focal point within a room, and is increasingly being used for decorative purposes,” says Claire Anstey, lighting buyer at Heal’s, “to the point where they can offer the same effect as a piece of art.”

As the evenings grow darker and we spend more time indoors, Anstey says lighting can be a great way to create drama in a space. Take their Ribbon pendant collection, “with its looping curves mimicking the movement of ribbons sweeping through the air.

“Suspended from a slim wire, the piece appears to be floating through the room and offers a touch of refined luxury – perfect for large living areas or poised above a dining table,” says Anstey.

2. Saber LED Multi Arm Chandelier, Gold, £399, Heal’s

In more contemporary schemes, linear designs work particularly well and can still offer the same level of impact with a crisp, clean glow. New for this season at Heal’s is the Saber multi-arm chandelier – a modern interpretation of the classic chandelier design. “Integrated LEDs offer an energy-saving alternative to traditional bulbs, and eight adjustable arms offer the flexibility to focus light within different areas of the room,” says Anstey.

3. Fin Pendant Grouping of 7, Natural White, £1,249, other items part of room set, Original BTC

Depending on the height of your ceilings, pendant lighting lends itself to spectacular dining settings, especially with the trend for tablescaping and entertaining at home.

As Peter Bowles, founder of Original BTC puts it: “When it comes to scale, dramatically proportioned lights are the most obvious way to create impact. A generously sized pendant will create a talking point, whether lit or not.”

While scale is one way to make a statement, it’s not always feasible to fit a grandly proportioned pendant in lower ceilinged rooms, so it’s worth exploring alternative approaches. “Often referred to as jewellery for the home, the right light fittings can complete or transform your interior scheme.” says Bowles. “Just like jewellery, a flash of brass, copper or gold can lift your room, bringing a touch of opulence.”

4. Cranton Hexagonal Pendant, Natural White, £2,969, Original BTC

Another scene stealer, if you’re looking for a central lighting source, this Instaworthy investment piece can be hung from a ceiling rose to contrast with traditional plasterwork.

5. Walter Pendant Size 2, Anthracite Glass & Brass, £459 each, Original BTC

When it comes to multiple light fittings, Bowles says three is the magic number. “Over a kitchen island or dining table, a row of three pendants will always create a strong visual impact and do all the hard work for you.”

6. Kartell Limited Edition Space Lamp, £183, Amara

Sam Hood, creative director and head of buying at Amara, says there’s a general move towards the use of lighting as a statement piece in a room – and we love this fabulously futuristic new arrival from Kartell. Depending on your budget, a pair would look stunning styled either side of a black leather sofa.

7. Humble One Table Light, White Marble, £129, Amara

Perhaps linked to increased environmental awareness, Hood says raw and natural looking colourways are also making an impact in decorative lighting. “Marble and wood patterns, seen in Humble’s new lighting range, add earthy accents to a room, particularly when placed next to indoor plants and other raw material features,” says Hood.

8. Brigantia Lighting Grey, £695 (£715 with bulb), other items from a selection, OKA

Elsewhere, basket style hanging lanterns have the power to please. “Lighting should be the star of the show in every space,” says Sue Jones, creative director for OKA. “If your ceiling height will allow it, dial up the drama with a hanging lamp that will act as a bold focal point. A style like the Brigantia is perfect to hang over a dining table as it will diffuse light and cast a soft glow.”

9. Perisphere Table Lamp – Natural, £175 (base only), Lamp & Black Drum Cotton Shade, £225, other items from a selection, OKA

Jones point out: “Remember lamps don’t have to be purely functional. A sculptural base like our new Perisphere table lamp will display just as much character when the lights are off, and can be paired with a patterned shade for an extra dash of colour.”

10. Grosvenor Floor Lamp, £115 (r), Grosvenor Table Lamp, £50 (m), Richmond Table Lamp, £90 (l), other items from a selection, Next

For a polished pool of light, this new Grosvenor collection from Next ticks all the right (light)boxes, with its chrome base complemented by a glamorous velvet shade with geometric design.

11. Jonathan Adler Constantine Table Lamp, £595, Jonathan Adler

This designer lamp is super stylish and chic. With its antiqued brass pyramid framework and lustrous piano black finish, it’s a fabulous edition to any side table.

How to Bring the Calming Principles of Feng Shui into your Home

It’s all about encouraging positive energy flow. Regardless of whether you’re back to school or not, this is a good time of year to stop, take stock and make some positive changes.

For Gen Z in particular, there’s been an increased focus on making bedrooms a calm and soothing space. Pinterest has found the age group (born between the mid-Nineties and early 2010s) is looking for serenity, with searches for ‘Zen bedroom ideas’ up five times on average, and ‘feng shui bedroom layout’ up two and a half times.

Thinking about how to bring this feeling of calmness into your home as a whole? The Chinese practice of feng shui could help. “Translated as ‘wind-water’ in English, feng shui practises the belief that by bringing positive energy into the home, good health, wealth and luck are set to follow,” explains Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at FurnitureChoice.co.uk.

Here are Snowden’s top tips for welcoming positive energy into your home…

Declutter

Many of us see September as a second new year, meaning it’s the ideal time to declutter. “A neat home works wonders for our mental clarity and overall health,” explains Snowden.

“In feng shui, each space is connected to each other and allows positive energy to flow throughout the house. Add a decorative mirror to the living room to make the space feel larger, and multiply the positive energy flow. Meanwhile, closets or drawers overloaded with old items block the chi (energy) so it’s best to discard any clutter.”

Balance yin and yang

Snowden recommends incorporating yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) elements into your decor. “Apply this concept by mixing different shapes together,” she says. “For example, contrast the sharp edges of wall hangings with the soft curves of a sofa or mirror in the living room. This will balance out the room and give it a more relaxing feel.”

Bring calm into your bedroom

It’s no surprise Gen Z are keen to feng shui their bedrooms: after all, getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to overall wellbeing, and the right environment can play a big part.

To boost feelings of calm and relaxation particularly in your bedroom, Snowden has two top tips: first, get rid of mirrors to help avoid an energy overload. And second, make the bed the central focus. “In feng shui, this symbolises a commanding position that allows you to take charge and handle life’s many challenges,” says Snowden. “The bed is best positioned diagonally away from your door as you will still be able to see it clearly, while not being in a direct line to it.

“Placing your bed against the wall will also give you a sense of security and ground you when you sleep. And for extra strength and stability, a bed with a headboard will represent this, with its solid support and build.”

If you have a home office, apply the same logic to your desk to bring the focus onto productivity.

Freshen up the place with plants

Snowden says plants can “bring positive energy” into a room, adding: “In feng shui, they are commonly associated as a life force and bring in growth, prosperity and luck. Common indoor plants said to attract these good elements include pothos, lucky bamboo and peace lily.”

What Kids can do to Help Save the Planet

As its new report reveals a “catastrophic decline” in the natural world, the WWF and Sir David Attenborough say change is needed and kids can help. Saving the planet and everything that lives on it is more important to children than anyone, because they’ll have to live with any losses much longer than their parents.

With that in mind, the World Wildlife Fund (wwf.org.uk) (WWF), which has just published its flagship Living Planet Report revealing nature is being destroyed by humans at a rate never seen before, has issued separate information to help children and young people understand what they can do to help stop this “catastrophic decline” – which includes, for example, African elephant populations in the Central African Republic declining by up to 98%.

The Living Planet Index, which tracks what’s happening in around 21,000 groups of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, shows wildlife populations around the world have, on average, declined by 68% since 1970, and the trend isn’t slowing down.

WWF ambassador Sir David Attenborough says the world needs to alter its perspective on nature, pointing out there has to be: “A change from viewing nature as something that’s optional or ‘nice to have’ to the single greatest ally we have in restoring balance to our world.”

The WWF says intensive agriculture, deforestation and the conversion of wild spaces into farmland are among the main causes of nature loss, while overfishing is “wreaking havoc” with marine life.

It says 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has been significantly altered, most of the oceans are polluted, and 90% of wetland area has been lost. This destruction of ecosystems has led to a million species (500,000 animals and plants, and 500,000 insects) being threatened with extinction over the next 100 years.

The conservation charity says many of these extinctions are preventable, but warns that without urgent global action, life on Earth will be pushed to the brink, stressing: “Saving the environment is vital if we want to save ourselves.”

Matt Larsen-Daw, education manager at WWF-UK, says: “Young people will face a future very different from today’s world, and will be living with the consequences of decisions made by previous generations. It’s essential they understand environmental issues, so they’re equipped to make the best choices for the future of people and the planet.

“As the Living Planet Report 2020 launches, we’ve condensed the findings to communicate the science specifically to younger audiences. Young people will be one of the strongest forces behind real-world change for the planet.”

Here’s what WWF says young people can do to help save the planet…

1. Rethink the way you eat

About a third of the food produced around the world is never eaten – it might be wasted at the point it’s produced, or during transportation, packaging and sale. WWF says food waste is responsible for roughly 8% of global greenhouse gases, so it’s one of the biggest problems to tackle in the fight against the climate and nature crisis.

To do this, says Larsen-Daw, the type of food, and the way food is produced, needs transforming, so it’s more environmentally-friendly. That means farming that uses less space (so wildlife habitats aren’t destroyed), less water and fewer chemicals that harm the environment.

Try at home: “An easy place to start is to try eating and cooking with more plant-based foods, sourcing local produce and choosing food that hasn’t been produced in a way that causes deforestation,” suggests Larsen-Daw.

The WWF says the free mobile app Giki (giki.earth) provides ethical and sustainability information on more than 250,000 products, including whether the packaging is recyclable and if ingredients, including palm oil, are responsibly sourced.

2. Use your voice to tackle deforestation

“In the time it takes to say ‘deforestation’, another chunk of forest the size of a football pitch is destroyed. That’s every two seconds, every single day,” says Larsen-Daw.

The main cause of this deforestation is food production, he says, including the food we eat in the UK. “The truth is, most people simply don’t realise the food we eat can be causing deforestation,” he points out. “If we’re going to change things, first we need everyone to know about the problem.”

Try at home: Talk to your family, friends, teachers and even your local MP to make sure everyone knows about the issue and that it matters. Find out more about deforestation, the root causes and what you can do to help by reading ‘5 Things You Can Do To Help The Amazon Rainforest‘ on the WWF’s website.

3. Help restore biodiversity

There’s a huge variety of plant and animal life on Earth and this biodiversity is vital for a healthy planet, says the WWF, as we rely on living things for clean air, fresh water and the conditions needed to grow food.

There are plenty of ways to support biodiversity while helping to slow climate change and protect people and wildlife from its effects, it says. For example, carefully choosing places to plant more forests can improve landscapes and soil quality, and capture carbon dioxide to help fight climate change. In towns and cities, trees improve air quality, prevent floods and keep residential areas cool.

Try at home: Learn about the nature around you, how different species benefit the environment and how you can help them. Make small changes in your garden and local communities to welcome wildlife – plant native flowers, build a variety of habitats to attract insects, birds, mammals and reptiles, and let things grow wild.

4. Measure your environmental footprint

Our current lifestyles – including the way we eat and travel – mean we need 1.6 times more resources than our planet can generate. When we add up everyone’s environmental footprint, it’s too big for the planet to support forever. If we can lower the amount of resources that each of us use, our overall impact can start to go down.

Try at home: Start by measuring your own environmental footprint with the WWF’s online calculator (https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/) – it may give you tips you’ve never thought about before. Then, get family and friends to measure their footprints too. Once you know your environmental footprint, it will be easier to find the things you can change at home.

5. Pass on single-use plastic

Single-use plastics have infiltrated our natural world and even our diets. Around eight million tonnes of plastic are thought to end up in our oceans every year, causing serious harm to wildlife.

Try at home: Make sure you have a reusable bag with you when you go to a shop and try to find loose fruit and vegetables where possible that aren’t wrapped in plastic. If you spot a brand or supermarket continuing to use lots of single-use plastic, call them out.

Craig Phillips: ‘DIY can be Really Therapeutic’

DIY may be his trade – but as original Big Brother winner Craig Phillips tells Gabrielle Fagan, it brings a host of wellbeing benefits too.

Being trapped at home during lockdown certainly wasn’t unfamiliar to Craig Phillips.

As the winner of TV’s first ever Big Brother – which marks its 20th anniversary this year – he experienced weeks of housebound isolation, along with the pressure of being under constant surveillance.

“It certainly gave me an early taste of lockdown all those years ago,” says the 48-year-old, as he recalls being part of what was arguably the first proper reality TV show back in 2000.

“We were completely isolated from the outside world, with no phones, internet, newspapers – social media wasn’t even born then – and the house didn’t even have windows. The garden was walled, with floodlights and live TV cameras beaming down on us. We were basically imprisoned,” he remembers. “By comparison, being in my house and garden with my family throughout lockdown definitely felt far easier!”

Now a regular on DIY shows – like 60 Minute Makeover, Housecall and Craig’s Trade Trips – Liverpudlian Phillips was just 28 when he won over viewers on Big Brother, as the straight-talking builder with a passion for body-building. Cheeky and charming, he touched the nation’s hearts with his selfless aim to give the prize money to family friend Joanne Harris, who had Down’s syndrome and needed a heart and lung transplant (Harris sadly passed away in 2008).

“I had no idea how big the show would be and just thought it was worth a try,” he says. “I thought, ‘Well, I don’t suppose anyone will watch the show, and really how hard can it be to live with 10 other people?’ Actually, it was really tough – you could never switch off with all those cameras on you, and it was hard to deal with all the different personalities,” he reflects.

Big Brother didn’t just propel Phillips to nationwide stardom, but changed the TV landscape and helped spawn the ‘fame game’, where ‘ordinary’ people could suddenly become celebrities overnight.

“My life exploded after I came out, and at times I found the reaction overwhelming,” Phillips admits. “I went into the house very naive, not expecting anything to come from it, as we all did. I don’t think anyone was [expecting anything], because reality TV wasn’t born until then,” he adds. “I think people got so excited about it, because it was the first time the public got an opportunity to vote and keep people in or kick them out.”

Re-entering the real world was “really, really crazy” he says. “I don’t think I went home for 97 days. I changed hotel every night and I had bodyguards chaperoning me around. It was life-changing overnight, and I was the last person to realise it.”

Phillips, who is talking from his home on the outskirts of Liverpool – which he shares with his wife Laura Sherriff, 33, and their 18-month-old daughter, Nelly (they’re currently expecting their second child) – doesn’t believe he’d even have been considered for the show in its later years, let alone won it.

“I think I’m a bit too normal, boring, and not extreme enough compared to the characters that were there as it went on,” he says with a grin. “As the years went on, increasingly scenarios were concocted to deliberately make people clash and cause friction, and get people conniving and calculating. That wouldn’t have been for me.”

Phillips’ story is an inspiring one. Just 13 when his father was killed by a drink-driver, by age 15, he was working to help support his mother and sister. Despite leaving school with no qualifications (he had un-diagnosed dyslexia), by his early-20s, he’d built a successful building company, with a turnover of more than £1 million and a team of 30.

While many fall by the wayside after five minutes of fame, Phillips thinks his down-to-earth background and business and building skills allowed him to capitalise on his success after Big Brother, rather than be derailed by it.

“In my book, being famous isn’t a job. I’ve never regarded myself as famous, although I am well recognised. I think the secret to surviving a reality show is to stay true to yourself and not believe the hype,” he says.

“The show was a spring-board for me, giving me so many opportunities to work on TV. I’ve appeared on thousands of DIY and makeover shows over the years. I’ve also been able to help raise millions for charities, which makes me feel really proud.”

Marriage and becoming a father has given him personal contentment. He and Laura work together as ‘Mr & Mrs DIY’ on TV and YouTube. They also have a property portfolio and recently built their “dream” home, complete with eight bedrooms, a gym and film studio.

“I knew Laura was ‘the one’ the first time I met her, at a TV studio,” Phillips confides. “Although there is a 14-year age difference – Laura jokes she was still at school when I won Big Brother – we never notice it. We’ve so much in common, and being able to work and live together 24/7 so happily, to me means it’s a really special relationship.

“It was wonderful teaching Laura DIY skills and discovering she was a complete natural,” he adds, happily. “We make such a good team.

“Being parents together is brilliant, and we’re looking forward to welcoming our son soon. I treasure my time with Nelly and I’m perhaps even more aware of the responsibility of caring and providing for her, because I lost my own father so young.”

He’s open-minded about whether he’d allow his daughter to take part in reality TV when she’s older. “It would be hard to say no, wouldn’t it, after my experience?” he reflects. “If her heart was set on it, I’d support her, but just hope to guide her a little and help her keep her feet on the ground.

“Nelly actually already loves her painting play sessions, so I reckon we could give her a little brush in a few years and get her on our team,” he adds, laughing. “It would be nice to say, ‘Mr & Mrs DIY and Daughter!’”

He believes DIY can be far more beneficial than simply home improvements, as it can be beneficial to people’s mental wellbeing too.

“We were overwhelmed by the huge and positive reaction to our online DIY videos during lockdown,” says Phillips. “It’s really therapeutic for people, if they can learn to work on their own homes and improve them, because that can really give a feeling of satisfaction and achievement. Also, there’s so much loneliness around, but we really noticed people loved being able to connect by sharing their DIY experiences and tips.”

He downs tools to look after his own wellbeing: “This is a stressful time business-wise, as it is for everybody, but I try not to panic and just keep the faith that things will bounce back.

“Chilling out with Nelly is a wonderful way of de-stressing,” he adds. “Laura and I share parenting 50/50, and I’ll take Nelly off for a couple of hours to play and that time literally flies by.

“I’m a bit of a workaholic, but it’s the ultimate switch off from work and any problems. I feel like a different man by the end of it.”

Craig Phillips is a celebrity builder and mental health speaker. To find out more, see craigphillips.co.uk

How garden trends are changing post-lockdown

Experts predict a resurgence of lawns, an increase in growing edibles, and new admiration for subtle sculptures.

As working from home has become the norm for so many of us, our garden needs are set to change.

So says award-winning garden designer Andrew Duff, managing director of Inchbald School Of Design, who won a bronze medal for his first show garden at Chelsea last year.

“For me, garden design has changed more in the last six months than it has in the last 60 years,” he reflects. “It’s no longer the space people come home to for a gin and tonic and to watch the sun go down. They want somewhere to have coffee in the morning, somewhere to have lunch, a green calm space just to be.”

The aesthetics of gardens are changing dramatically, transforming into functional working spaces, somewhere slightly more overgrown, floppy and more attractive to wildlife, he adds. Seating may have to accommodate both a laptop working space for the warmer months, and comfortable seating with plenty of cushions when work is over.

So, how will the extra time we have in the garden affect future trends?

Keen on green

“Green is the colour the eye recognises first, so inherently we relax with that. A good green selection of plants with a balance of different leaf textures gives us that feeling of freshness and growth, which is what people are looking for as we move through the seasons,” says Duff.

“It may mean dark green backgrounds with acid greens and yellows to create a fresh and verdant look. A taxus background, with large-leaved textures of angelica and persicaria. It’s not about a riot of colour.

“In among the green palette, people will want things that give them the joy of scents, such as rosemary and sage.”

Lawn comeback

Duff has found that hard landscaping is being replaced by lawn. “I think lawns are making a comeback. The lawn has been a really usable space, particularly if you have children, and people now have more time to maintain their lawn and are finding it therapeutic to mow.”

Subtle sculpture

“We’ve had a lot of enquiries for more reflective and contemplative pieces of sculpture,” says award-winning sculptor David Harber (davidharber.co.uk), whose work has been exhibited at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. “People are seeking calm and sophistication, perhaps represented in a Zen-like water feature. People want unfussy, serene and beguiling.

“So many people have taken up yoga and meditation, they want a place where they can stand and be, where they are back in touch with nature.”

Rich shades

“People are after really subtle, deep colours that are quite jewel-like. If you’ve been stuck at your computer screen all day, this subdued rich palette that’s gentle on the eye is becoming important,” says Duff.

“We are talking deep red persicarias and the deeper blues of catmint, but overall a much more natural feeling in planting. As people are in the garden a lot more, everything is more ongoing. People are going out every day and picking off dead leaves and deadheading, rather than that being a job for the weekend. It’s less of a chore and more of an enjoyment.”

More balcony food

“We are going to see less containers filled with annual colour – petunias and geraniums are on their way out. We are going to see balconies overloaded with tomatoes and runner beans, with nasturtiums running through them,” Duff predicts.

Container changes

“Seasonality is really important, which is where growing vegetables in containers is really going to take off, along with the rotation of vegetable crops,” says Duff. “Heritage vegetables are coming back – the purple beans, the purple carrots – and for people who’ve got children, that’s exciting.”

There will be a return to terracotta and timber planters, rather than mass produced plastic tubs which are less eco-friendly, he predicts.

Sustainable landscaping

“People are much more aware of the sustainability of products and their provenance. There’s a great drive to buy British. They want to buy locally and are into supporting local businesses and nurseries,” says Duff. “People want a richness in material. Machine-cut stone is slowly moving away and the Ripon Yorkstone feeling is coming back, along with the joy of gravel.”

Working for wildlife

“Wildlife has become very important and people have become surprised how much wildlife there is in their garden,” says Duff. “People won’t be sweeping everything up to within an inch of its life, but will leave things informal and relaxed to encourage wildlife. It’s the overall eclectic, slightly overgrown look that people are adopting.”

Moving forwards

Join a webinar panel discussion event, Changing Landscapes: The Future Of Nature And Our Homes: Design, the second in a series, on September 10 at 2pm, featuring David Harber on the panel. For details visit davidharber.com/news/webinar.htm.

How to Avoid a Staycation Scam

Nearly a third of us are planning a UK-based staycation before the end of the year – but watch out for bogus breaks, writes Vicky Shaw.

With many people’s 2020 holiday plans in disarray due to the pandemic, a significant number of us are planning to take a break much closer to home, instead of jetting overseas this year.

Nearly a third (32%) are planning a UK-based staycation this year, according to Nationwide Building Society, as travelling abroad to our usual holiday hotspots has become so much trickier.

But while this should help give some local economies a much-needed boost, those planning to sample what the UK holiday scene has to offer should beware of ‘staycation scammers’.

So what do you need to know about staycation scams? Here are some important points to keep in mind…

What staycation scams should you watch out for?

Among the many coronavirus-related frauds which have emerged, Action Fraud has been urging consumers to be on the lookout for fake caravan and motorhome listings.

These may be advertised on auction websites and the prices are often low to attracted people in. Criminals will come up with excuses for why the vehicles cannot be viewed in person. The goods don’t exist, or will never arrive.

And if you’re looking for a holiday cottage or apartment, beware of bogus websites offering places for rent, often at discounted prices. These websites may appear professional and convincing, using images of properties that are not really available. Scammers may require a deposit, which is never returned.

Even if you think you are on a trusted website, check the URL for subtle changes, which can indicate it is imitating a genuine firm.

How to avoid staycation scams

Action Fraud says people should always follow the advice of the ‘Take Five to Stop Fraud’ campaign, and take a moment to stop and think before parting with their money or personal information, in case what appears to be a bargain getaway turns out to be a scam. If something is advertised at a rock bottom price, ask yourself is it really a bargain, or could it be a scam?

If you’re considering buying a motorhome or caravan, do some research, and if you’re dealing with someone online, ask if they can send you a video of the vehicle.

Don’t let online sellers persuade you to pay by bank transfer, as you may never see your cash again. Also, read online reviews to see what other people say about sellers.

How you pay could also give you added protections

You could consider using payment methods such as PayPal, which has added buyer protections, or pay by credit card.

Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, credit card purchases of goods costing between £100 and £30,000 have added protections if something goes wrong and items or services purchased never materialise.

Under Section 75, the credit card company is held jointly liable with the trader or retailer, so you can put in a claim to them.

Ray Mears Top Tips for Cooking Outdoors

The bushcraft expert shares his know-how for whipping up a more than decent campfire dinner.

If your outdoor cooking repertoire is limited to smores and sausages on sticks, it might be time to branch out a little.

“Food is important outdoors, and it doesn’t have to be just spaghetti bolognese out of a packet,” says survivalist expert Ray Mears, who has now written his first cookbook, Wilderness Chef: The Ultimate Guide To Cooking Outdoors.

Whether you’re going on a hike or trek, or just camping at the end of the garden, “you just need a handful of recipes and tricks that you can remember and carry with you”, he says.

“That can transform your experience of travelling, and it’s also bringing variety to the outdoor diet,” Mears adds.

Here are a few more bites of outdoors culinary wisdom from the bushcraft pro…

Don’t fret about burning things – just get stuck in

“If it goes wrong, it goes wrong, so what? You learn. I can imagine an artist or writer being afraid of a blank piece of paper, but until you actually push some words around on the page, you don’t get anywhere. It’s really important to just launch in and have a go. Even if things don’t turn out quite as you anticipated, they usually still taste good.”

Keep your fire small

“When you’re cooking over an open fire, it needs only be small. You don’t use too much heat. You only need a small fire. That’s very important.”

Have a few knife skills up your sleeve

“It’s important to develop some knife skills because there’s a lot of chopping up. If you can make what the French call a mirepoix [the basis of many a soup or stew] – carrots, onions and celery diced up and softened in butter – the moment you do that, you’re off and running; you can’t really go far wrong.”

Soups are ideal on a camping trip

“Soups are very important outdoors. They are very easy to make. They’re very hydrating, and we use a lot of liquid when we’re outdoors. They’re very satisfying and easy and quick to do. We underestimate how valuable soups are. Very often, you can make the soup from the trimmings of other meals. So, then you don’t waste anything as well, which is great.”

Consider your packaging

“I don’t like aluminium foil, it’ll last in the environment forever. It’s just not necessary, and many foods come already packaged to cook, like eggs.”

Don’t worry about making a pudding

“When you’re outdoors, it’s enough to have a good main.”

Ground oven cooking can be great fun

“Using a ground oven is a very special way of cooking where you dig a hole, light a fire and add your ingredients before covering it all back up with earth. The food comes out tasting lovely if it’s done right but there is a skill to it, there’s a real art to doing it well.

“When there’s a group of you, the effort is nothing because you share the labour. And so for an hour or two of preparation, you can then go away for many hours, do something else, and come back and have a fantastic meal waiting for you.”

Wilderness Chef: The Ultimate Guide To Cooking Outdoors by Ray Mears, photography by Ray Mears, is published by Bloomsbury, priced £20. Available now.

14 Ways to Style up your Home Wine and Cocktail Game

Want to take staying in to the next level? Sam Wylie-Harris shakes things up with the snazziest stemware and home bar accessories.

Thanks to social distancing, quarantinis and staycations, we’ve become a dab hand at fixing our own drinks and mixing up a storm at home.

We’re buying more wine online, spirit sales are still soaring and we’re making the most of the change of bar scene.

So much so, lavishing time and money on our drinking rituals at home has become much more of an affordable luxury, with cocktail equipment and ‘atelier du vin’ for every mood and budget.

Sip in splendour with these stylish buys…

1. John Lewis & Partners Honolulu Tiki Bar, currently £402.50 (was £575), John Lewis

For a taste of island life, say aloha! to the best tiki bar around. With an authentic beach bar feel, it comes complete with a fringed wicker roof, two bar stools and sturdy aluminium bar frame. Stock it with essential spirits and mixers, a cocktail shaker, bowl of fresh limes and ice and home bartenders will be in paradise.

2. John Lewis & Partners Stainless Steel Recipe Cocktail Shaker – Silver Copper, £20, John Lewis

Taking the guess work out of our favourite party drinks, this clever shaker lists the ingredients for classic cocktails, such as a margarita, tequila sunrise and cosmopolitan, all at the turn of the metallic outer cover. Genius.

3. Artland Tropical Leaves Glassware, from £20.50 for Set of Two DOF Tumblers to £25.95 for Set of Two Gin Glasses, Wine Glasses, Champagne Saucers and Martini Glasses, Not Just Jugs

With their exotic palm leaf print and mirrored silver finish,. these gorgeous glasses will glisten when they catch the sunlight, or soft glow of a storm lantern. They’ll make everything you serve taste a touch more exciting too.

4. Kara Circular Drinks Trolley, £375 (other decos from a selection), Graham & Green

Cocktail trolleys are timeless and trending big-time, from boutique hotel bars to our very own front rooms. Part of the appeal is that they can be beautifully styled – much like a dressing table – with all our hero labels, crystal and decorative drinking decos. This stylish circular one has two glass shelves and can be wheeled with ease.

5. “Keep Your Cool” Champagne Bucket, £68.50 each, Heating & Plumbing

Cocktails not your thing? Keep that bottle of bubbly chilled in one of these brilliant hanging ice buckets – think branch of a shady tree, when you’re making an evening of it in the garden. The base is shaped so you can slightly tilt your bottle of fizz before adding ice. Just make sure the label remains visible (we all love to drink with our eyes) before gently pouring at the perfect 45-degree angle.

6. Octopus Wine Bottle Holder, £240, At Home in the Country

Not exactly a drop in the ocean, but if you’re looking for something a little unique, your top drops deserve to be shown off like a fine piece of art. This eye-catching Octopus wine rack holds eight bottles and makes a luxe edition to any wine collectors’ emporium.

7. John Lewis & Partners Swoon Raine Bar Cart – Gold, £449, John Lewis

This Art Deco style bar cart mixes up white and pink marble with a brass finished frame and bottom wooden tray, garnished with bottle holder rings to prevent slipping and sliding. Ideal for luxurious gatherings, it’ll add some cocktail theatre to late-summer soirees when the sun goes down.

8. Pink Martini Gin Glasses – Set of 4, £39.95, Audenza

A treat to toast, deluxe drinks, such as a legendary martini, deserve these chic glasses, which scream jazz age, flapper dresses and cocktail couture.

9. Mermaid Bottle Opener, £8.95, At Home in the Country

The best beer buddy and tribute to your tonic, this quirky mermaid bottle opener is a beauty and home bar essential.

10. Life’s a Beach Glass Straws – Clear 6 Pieces, £7, Crystal Champagne Glasses – Set of 4 Angled, £19, ProCook

With their angled design, these clear glass straws are perfect for sipping a champagne cocktail. Or, if you’re fixing lots of drinks for friends, enjoy taking a sip of your home-made creation (like the pros do) to make sure the measure is spot on. Cleaning brush included.

11. Yvonne Ellen Cocktail Hour Cheetah Glass Ice Bucket & Wood Lid – Clear/Natural, £30, John Lewis

Glamorous and wild, this decadent ice bucket, with its Art Deco inspired design, makes a striking addition to cocktail trolleys and hints at the high life.

12. Aldsworth Wine Store – Spruce, £350, Garden Trading

This stellar chest with a galvanised metal top has the capacity for 32 bottles of vino (angled so the cork stays moist), along with two upper drawers with storage for wine preservers, coasters and dining accessories.

13. Forge De Laguiole Sommelier – Olivewood Premium Box, £179, Farrar & Tanner

If you’re prepared to shell out to keep up with the somms – and master the art of good wine service – this professional bottle opener deserves your finest vintage.

14. Hudson Living Verna Drinks Trolley – Bronze, £369 (other items from a selection), Very

One of the things we love most about this trolley is you can get a lot on it! With an antique gold finish, smooth casters and toughened glass shelves, it’s a cocktail-lovers cabinet on wheels. A high roller, it can hold magnums of wine or spirits and won’t groan under the weight of a whisky decanter or fancy implements. Cheers!

13 Ways to Make the Most of a Small Bedroom

It's possible to live large despite sleeping small, says Luke Rix-Standing.

For many of us, house space is a fiercely contested commodity, and you need to squeeze the most out of every square inch.

But luckily there are plenty of clever tricks you can use to make this happen. Mirrors, multi-functional furniture and a recurring colour or pattern are all your friends.

Here’s how to make even the smallest bedroom feel larger – without having to sleep on the sofa…

1. Let there be light

It’s the oldest rule in the book: Bright, breezy spaces feel looser, larger and lighter, so put your bed on the opposite wall from your windows and keep them clear of clutter. Thick, heavy curtains will help you keep warm in winter, but they will also protrude physically and visually into your room, so dress your windows with unobtrusive blinds or rollers instead.

2. Under-bed storage is your friend

Every square inch counts when you’re space saving, and there should be no room for monsters beneath the bed once you’ve finished economising. Bags and boxes are good for long-term storage, but slide-out clothes drawers are especially expedient, as they lessen the need for that other great space-snatcher, a large wardrobe.

3. Make it a a virtue

One person’s cramped is another person’s cozy, and a few soft furnishings can turn a poky shoe-box into a snug den or bolthole. Think fuzzy blankets, chocolate box ornaments, warming lamps and lighting – anything you might associate with a comfy Scandinavian cabin on a cold winter’s day.

4. Mirror, mirror

Bedroom, entrance hall or downstairs loo – mirrors have long been number one on the list of domestic design tricks. They don’t add any physical space, of course, but they send light bouncing round the walls and can trick the eye into doubling a room’s depth.

For the best brightening effects, place your mirror opposite a window and for the greatest sense of space, consider the wall opposite the door.

5. Bed size matters

We know, it’s so tempting to snap up an XXL king size and spend every night splayed out like a starfish, but if floor space is precious, your bed is the obvious place to seek savings. If you’re 6’4” and married, fair play; if you’re 5’3” and single, perhaps consider downsizing.

6. Put your headboard to work

Select the right design and your headboard can double as shelves for storage; a tabletop for ornaments; a rail for hanging clothes – anything really besides a useless wooden plank.

7. Think vertically

Just as city centres maximise space by building upwards, so too can your bedroom. Think of a room in terms of volume, rather than surface area, and prioritise floor-to-ceiling units that can squeeze the most from every inch of your room. Add shelves atop wardrobes and cupboards, or just use them as storage space anyway.

If you are investing in mirrors, make them full-length, and design your room to draw the eye upwards. Consider vertically-striped wallpaper, a different-coloured ceiling, and high-hung pictures and decor.

8. Choose furniture strategically

Pick pieces that can serve multiple purposes, or at least do the job as efficiently as possible. Double up your desk and bedside table; pick a compact cabinet over an elaborate chest of drawers; investigate foldaway futons.

9. Curate your colour scheme

Lighter colours feel airier and more open, and there’s a reasons that whites, greys and varying shades of cream crop up again and again in the centrefolds of interior design magazines. From your paint job to flooring and furnishings, avoid darker colours that might lend a claustrophobic feel.

10. Establish a theme

It doesn’t take much for small spaces to feel disorganised, and giving your room a designed, curated feel brings a much-needed sense of order. It could be a colour or pattern – recurring on cushions, bed covers and wallpaper – or a simple motif.

11. Declutter

Minimalism is as fashionable as it is functional, and most bedrooms bear at least a few bulky burdens that would be better off down the charity shop. Do you really need that brick-sized Nokia with the first ever version of Snake, the box of expired medicines, or the tabletop popcorn maker you used once in 2015?

12. Marshal your corners

Corners are notoriously difficult to bring to heel, but unless you live in a lighthouse every room has at least three of them, and they can easily turn into dead space. Consider anything with a right angle – tables, light fixtures, or wraparound, triangular shelving.

13. Employ a feature wall

Every room benefits from a statement centrepiece, and in a shoe-box bedroom it can hardly be the four-poster bed. Physical focal points may struggle to squeeze in, so instead opt for a visual one – a well decorated wall with an artwork, a photo collage, or simply a bold pattern.

How to Stay Safe when Visiting the Coast, Lakes and Rivers this Summer

As Coastguard call-outs rise, it's crucial to ensure your day trips are as safe as possible, says Prudence Wade.

Lots of us have been travelling to beaches, lakes and rivers to get some respite from the warm weather and a good day out.

Friday, July 31 saw the UK’s third hottest day on record, and it coincided with the HM Coastguard receiving 329 call-outs – the highest number in four years.

Gareth Morrison, head of water safety at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), says: “Our coastline is a fantastic place to spend time together as a family, especially when the sun is out and it’s hot. But there are also plenty of potential dangers, especially for those who aren’t fully aware of their surroundings and may be visiting a particular beach for the first time.”

Beach days or splashing about a picturesque lake or river make for the perfect summer activity, and there are things you can do to make sure you have a safe day out…

Stick to beaches with lifeguards

Morrison says the RNLI has seen an increase in rip current incidents this summer, where potentially deadly currents can drag people underwater and away from the shore. He says: “It’s important that anybody venturing in or near the sea knows not just what rip currents are, but how to react if they are caught in one, or see someone else in trouble. They are difficult to spot and even the most experienced and strongest swimmers can find themselves caught out, so it’s important where possible to use beaches that have lifeguards patrolling on them.”

Do your research

If a beach with lifeguards isn’t possible, it’s crucial to do a bit of research beforehand – particularly when visiting somewhere for the first time. John Hibbard, CEO of inflatable paddle board company Red Paddle Co, advises you “plan your route and check the conditions, avoiding offshore winds”, while steering clear of rocky shorelines and fast flowing rivers and estuaries. Sometimes an area might look calm and safe, but you never know what strong currents are lurking underneath the surface.

It’s important to have a plan this summer, with the RNLI advising you check the weather forecast and tide times before venturing out, and reading local hazard signage when you’ve reached your destination.

Keep family and friends in the loop

If you are going swimming, make sure you let someone know where your group is going and when you aim to be back. “Tell them what to do if you don’t return,” says Hibbard. “If you are going to be late (because you are having too much fun), make sure you tell your contact, so they don’t raise the alarm.”

The RNLI advises you don’t allow family to swim alone, and to keep a close eye on family members both on the beach and in the water.

What to do if you are in danger

If you do get caught up in rip current, the RNLI’s advice is not to swim against it – it will be too strong and you’ll tire quickly. They recommend you wade instead of swim if you can stand up, and swim parallel to the shore until you’re free of the rip and can head back. If swimming isn’t possible, the organisation’s advice is ‘float to live’, which it says you can do by “leaning back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing”.

On Friday, a 10-year-old boy survived being out in the water near Scarborough Spa for nearly an hour by following the ‘float to live’ advice, after seeing it on the BBC documentary Saving Lives At Sea.

It’s worth investing in a waterproof pouch, so you can take your phone out with you and call 999 if something goes wrong.

7 Things you Need to Know When Considering a Loft Conversion

Loft conversions can add more space and value but there's a lot to think about first. Sam Wylie-Harris seeks some expert advice.

It’s safe to say our homes have seen a lot of action over the past few months. So much so that some of us may be thinking about going up in the world – with a loft conversion, to create extra living space without having to move.

Savvy as it may sound, large construction jobs come at a price and there’s lots to consider. To help, we turned to trades site myjobquote.co.uk for insight into some of the key things to think about if you’re considering a loft conversion…

1. Hiring an architect

When planning a loft conversion, it’s best to hire an architect to design and draw up the plans. This means the loft conversion will certainly be safe, and there’s a clear plan for contractors to follow to save any confusion, time and money. Architect fees need to be considered and added to any budget for a loft conversion.

2. Planning permission and building regulations

Most loft conversions don’t need planning permission, however it’s always recommended you double-check. An architect or builder will have more of an idea whether you need to apply for planning permission, but it’s also good to research yourself. For a terraced house, you won’t need planning permission for adding 40m3 of space, and for semi-detached and detached houses, it’s 50m3 of space. You can find out more at the planning portal (planningportal.co.uk).

Even if your loft conversion doesn’t need planning permission, it will still need to adhere to building regulations and guidelines. Both contractors and architects should ensure all work being carried out follows building regulations. Not following regulations can lead to fines and even knocking down conversions that aren’t up to scratch.

3. Type of loft conversion

There are a number of different kinds of loft conversion, and it’s always good to have an idea of what type you can have in your property and what outcome you want. This will also give you an idea of what budget you’ll need too.

For example, if you’re looking for a cheaper loft conversion, a roof light loft conversion is the most affordable option, whereas a mansard loft conversion is the most expensive type. The type of loft conversion you have can also be dictated by what type and size of space you have available.

Roof light loft conversion: This is the most affordable option, as no construction is carried out on the roof, but windows are added to let in light. They don’t provide as much space as other conversions because the roof is left where it is, so if you want more space, other loft conversions may be ideal.

Dormer loft conversion: A dormer conversion increases the amount of head space in your loft, so you’ll have more space to play around with than a roof light conversion. Extra space is added by extending from the roof, and a dormer window is then added.

Hip-to-gable loft conversion: A hip-to-gable loft conversion changes the shape of a property’s roof entirely. This will give a lot of extra room to a home, but usually can only be built on semi-detached and detached houses as a sloping roof is changed to a vertical roof.

Mansard loft conversion: This type of loft conversion will give a property the most space, as the roof is completely altered (most of the time to become a flat roof) and new walls are added too.

4. Budget

Having a clear budget to stick to helps you decide what loft conversion you can afford, and what finishes and furnishing you can afford too. There are a lot of options out there to choose from, from door handles to windows, and having a budget can help you make decisions and ensure you’re not left out of pocket.

The size of your loft conversion can have a massive impact on your budget. Smaller loft conversions can cost around £15,000, whereas a larger loft conversion can cost up to £40,000 – so you definitely need to consider what size loft conversion you need and what you can afford.

5. Staircase

Think about where you can put a staircase and how much space is available for it. This is an important part of the build as you need the loft conversion to link with the rest of the house, so the property’s layout flows naturally and the conversion doesn’t create a disjointed space. There’s a range of staircases available, even for the smallest spaces, but having a plan is a must.

6. Head space needed

The space between the ceiling and floor in your loft will give you an idea on whether your loft can be converted comfortably. The minimum height for a loft conversion is about 2.2 metres, so if your loft is smaller than this, you may not be able to convert it, or you may need extra construction work to create enough head space.

7. Increased house value

Building a loft conversion could increase your home’s value by up to 22%, according to a survey conducted by Nationwide Building Society, so it’s often well worth the time, effort and money. It’s generally the best value-for-money option to add value to your home, rather than extensions and garage conversions. However, if your main aim is to increase your property’s value, make sure you do your research first on houses in your area, as there always a ceiling price on properties and you don’t want to overspend.

There are more advantages to building a loft conversion than disadvantages, as long as you do your research, keep within your budget and work with trusted contractors; there will be no unwanted surprises. It’s always recommended that you thoroughly research any significant decisions before beginning any building work.

All the Gear you’ll Ever Need to Make Camping Comfortable

Sleeping under canvas is growing in popularity. But with the right kit, you don't have to rough it, says Sarah Marshall.

For so many of us, the idea of pitching a tent and sleeping outdoors stirs memories of uncomfortable childhood holidays or muddy festivals.

But camping can be a thoroughly relaxing experience – even if you’re a novice – and you don’t need to sleep in a pre-erected yurt or tipi to glamp in style.

Pack a few creature comforts to elevate a camping trip, and you’ll wonder why you ever bothered booking a hotel room in the past.

Jack Wolfskin Exolight tent, from £350 for a one person, jack-wolfskin.co.uk

If you’re planning to embrace the latest trend for wild camping – but want to do it in style – this lightweight, easy to pitch tent does the job. Available in three different sizes, sleeping one to three, it can easily be packed into a backpack and taken on a hiking trip. (The smallest version weighs under 1.5kg.) Although there are few pegs, it’s extremely stable and windproof. The inner tent and fly sheet are also connected and can be clipped to the pole system frame, making it easier to pitch in the rain.

Snugpak Snuggy Headrest, £6.95, Amazon

How many times have you relied on a bundle of jumpers for a camping pillow? Packing a goose down headrest might be a bit indulgent, but this is the next best thing. Made with sleeping bag insulation and fabrics, it’s comfortable, warm and provides great support for your neck and head. Stuffed into a small sack, it’s easy to carry too.

Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Machine, from £75 with case, bearandbear.com

Coffee lovers will agree that one of the greatest hardships of being out in the wilds is foregoing a morning espresso. This brilliant invention provides a solution. Pack ground coffee into the cylinder and screw onto a cup filled with boiling water. A pump action, which can provide up to 18 bars of pressure, produces a caffeine hit with creamy froth to rival anything purchased from a Costa or Starbucks. Worth every penny.

Red Original Changing Robe, £44.95, redoriginal.com

Wriggling around in a tent trying to get dressed can make you look like some sort of contortionist. But who wants to strip down in open air when other people might be walking around? Save your modesty with this towelling gown which works like a poncho. It’s also ideal for using at the beach when changing into swimming gear.

Snugpack Snugfeet, from £39.65, outdoorgb.com

Slippers are an indulgence in hotel rooms, so why not have them under canvas too? These insulated boots will make you feel like you’ve got mini sleeping bags attached to each foot – and they’ll keep tents mud free. Perfect for anyone with bad circulation, who’s prone to getting cold toes.

Nemo Helio Pressure Shower, £112.99, ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk

Campsite shower blocks aren’t always appealing, but that’s no excuse for staying stinky on a trip. Unlike most portable showers, this lightweight sprayer doesn’t need to be hung overhead; rest it on the ground to create enough pressure to wash hair or do dishes with up to seven minutes of water flow each time.

Zippo Rechargeable Candle Lighter, £26.85, Amazon

If you don’t have the bushcraft skills to rub two sticks together, this is the cheat’s ways to creating fire. Fully rechargeable, with several hours of use each time, there’s no need for refilling this device with butane. A windproof design and flexible neck make it simple to use in any conditions.

Simplehuman Mini Travel Mirror, £119, johnlewis.com

Camping doesn’t mean going feral. Emerge from tents looking fabulous with the aid of this 10x magnification travel mirror, which lights up automatically when you approach. The lighting system picks up every line, hair and pore, allowing you to tackle any close-up grooming needs.

Kelty Folding Cooler, from £69.95 for 25 litres, outdooradventurer.co.uk

Taking a mini fridge on holiday might be a stretch, but it’s still possible to have chilled food and drinks at your disposal. Keeping items cool for 36 hours, this cooler is suited to weekend breaks. Featuring cup holders on top, it can be used as a table and packed flat for easy transportation when no longer needed.

14 Easy Ways to Give your Bathroom a Summer Update

Bath-time bliss begins here, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

From something as simple as a stylish soap dish or toothbrush holder, to a fluffy bath towel and chic cabinet shelving, these brilliant buys will give your bathroom a quick summer fix.

Get ready for bath-time bliss with these best buys…

1. Hello Lovely 1 Bathroom Mats by Dip and Drip, £19, The Rug Seller

Sometimes the tiniest things make all the difference, and while we may dream of a king-size tub, this feel-good bath mat, with non-slip rubber backing, is a little reminder of how special we are.

2. Gold Bath Caddy with Stand, £35, Graham & Green

This bath caddy is worth its weight in gold when it comes to bath-time rituals, such as a long soak with a glass of wine and scented candle to help you wind down at the end of the day. With extendable arms, its suitable for all bath sizes.

3. Regular Espere in Opaline – Glass with Swan Wall Light Fitting in Antiqued Bronze (includes pendant, gallery and fitting), £88 (other items part of room set), Pooky

A bathroom mirror framed with ambient wall lights, like these gorgeous lights from Pooky, suggests a boutique hotel bathroom feel, and will add warmth if you’re short on natural lighting.

4. Octopus Tile Sticker, £16.95, Graham & Green

If your tiles need a little bit of a lift, this fun printed sticker doubles up as quirky decorative wall art – and it’s waterproof and easy to apply.

5. Tile Print Drawers, £75; Tile Print Wall Mirror, £45; Woven Toilet Roll Holder, £20 (other items from a selection), Next

With its trendy Moroccan-inspired print and neutral wood tones, this bathroom range is super versatile and practical, especially if you like a little order to your bath-time rituals.

6. J by Jasper Conran Yellow ‘Geo’ Cotton Towels, £11-£32 each, Debenhams

A splash of sunshine-yellow is always uplifting, especially if you coordinate these cotton towels with a bright shower curtain or bathroom blind.

7. Woven Toilet Roll Holder, £39.95, Graham & Green

Loo-roll holders come in all shapes and sizes but what we love best about this woven basket, with its wooden handle, is you’re never going to get caught short, with ample storage built in.

8. Swirled Brush Holder, £12, Swirled Soap Dispenser, £10 (blush pink towels from a selection), Next

When it comes to styling up the basin, we love this swirled brush holder and matching soap pump, with its glamorous gold-effect top and swirl-effect resin design. Much more chic than a plain mug and messy bar of soap.

9. Bathroom Lacquer Ladder Shelf, £295 (other items from a selection), The White Company

If you’re short on bathroom space but realise the importance of a good shelfie to show off all that gorgeous bath-time booty, this freestanding, four-step storage ladder in glossy white, with a resilient, water-resistant finish, can be topped with towels and products and even a trailing fern.

10. Johnson & White Aromas Bali 2 Wick Candle, £53, Johnson & White Aromas

Who wouldn’t want to float their cares away with the beguiling scent of lemongrass, eucalyptus, spiced ginger and lime to imbibe thoughts of spa treatments in far-away places? And the case can always be reused to hold a facecloth or sponge once it’s out of burn.

11. Cult Living Hairpin Low Metal Stool – Solid Elm Wood – Rustic, £45 (was £59) (other items part of room set), Cult Furniture

Keeping things casual, we love the idea of a wooden metal stool to keep those home-spa treatments within easy reach, or hold a towel for when you step out of the bath or shower. Try teaming it with rustic pieces salvaged from second-hand shops or industrial homeware collections, and succulents for a calm surround.

12. Wireworks Oak Bathroom Accessory Set, from £21-£78, Amara

This smart wooden set ticks all the right boxes, with its clean lines and Scandi vibes. Who says basics need to be boring?

13. Argos Home Nomad Tallboy, £120, Argos

Tall, dark and handsome, this tallboy will fit into the tightest corner – and we love the two peep-hole shelves to place a guest towel, diffuser or deco.

14. Flair Bath Mats 2438 08 in Blue by Esprit, £69 (other items from a selection or part of room set), The Rug Seller

For more summer bathroom inspiration, these turquoise bath mats inspire thoughts of beach holidays – and almost bring the crystal-clear sea into sight.

7 Super Sustainable Buys for Summer

sustainable summer products

Has lockdown left you keener than ever to be more a conscious consumer? Abi Jackson rounds up sustainable options for sunny days out and beyond.

If you’re looking to shop more eco-consciously this summer, perhaps the best thing to do is try to buy and chuck as little as possible – only replacing items when they’re really worn out, and re-homing stuff we no longer need.

But if you are in the market for a few new things, there’s a growing range of companies set on making it easier to shop sustainably – many of them home-grown and local.

These seven summer buys have some impressive sustainability kudos, whether you’re splashing out on a fancy new backpack or just want to make picnics less wasteful…

sustainable summer products

1. Recycled Picnic Mat, from £20 (lifeundercanvas.co.uk)

Made with 100% recycled plastic, these lightweight mats are water and mould-resistant, and can be wiped or hosed down when grubby. Available in a choice of colours and sizes, simply roll them up and pop in your kit for camping weekends, trips to the beach, park or even just the garden. Based in Wales, Life Under Canvas is run by a team of ‘passionate campers’ on a mission to help people ‘enjoy outdoor living without it costing the Earth’.

sustainable summer products

2. Waxyz, from £2.60 each (bplasticfree.com)

Scottish entrepreneur Catriona Mann launched Waxyz following redundancy in 2018 and then a trip to New Zealand, where she was inspired by the popularity of reusable food wrap. Working with a range of Scottish collaborators, the biodegradable, vegan-friendly, wax-coated cotton wraps are a plastic-free alternative to cling-film. Waxyz are easy to clean and said to last for a year or more, with loads of sizes and designs to choose from. Ideal for sarnies and flapjacks for those weekend walks and days out.

sustainable summer products

3. Bamboo Cutlery in Handmade Pouch, from £12.50 (loolyn.com)

Based near Belfast, LOOLYN is a ‘sustainable marketplace’ featuring a wide range of eco-friendly, plastic-free products – including a ton of items ideal for summer escapes near and far. If you prefer a picnic that requires cutlery rather than just fingers, but don’t want to lug the metal stuff around (or use single-use plastic), these cute bamboo kits will see you through the holidays and beyond.

sustainable summer products

4. The Level Collective Winnats Roll Top Backpack, starting from £195 (thelevelcollective.com)

If you need to replace your backpack, and you’re in a position to splash out a little more on something super-sustainable, local and crafted to last, check out The Level Collective. Cornwall-based Mark Musgrave wanted to create a quality, ethical product that’s stylish, yet outdoor-friendly, and entirely UK-made. Featuring Scottish waxed cotton, webbing that’s woven and dyed in Cheshire, buckles crafted in Sheffield and wool padding repurposed from carpet manufacturing, these roll-top backpacks tick all the boxes. An investment to see you through many summer adventures and everything in-between.

sustainable summer products

5. OceanPositive Harlequin Swimsuit, £79.95 (life.fourthelement.com)

On the lookout for new swimwear this summer? Cornwall-based diving company Fourth Element’s OceanPositive range features gorgeous one-pieces and bikinis made from ECONYL from abandoned fishing nets and other waste that litters the oceans, and poses a serious threat to marine life. The nets are gathered up by divers before beginning the process of being repurposed for new life as swimwear. Even if you can’t make it to the actual seaside, you can totally rock these at your local lido.

sustainable summer products

6. Green Toys Recycled Ocean-Bound Plastic Beach Play Set, £25 (goodthingsgifts.co.uk)

Kids love learning about the planet and how to protect it, so this fun beach play set will come with a great story and keep them amused for hours on the sand. Green Toys take waste plastic from global communities that lack recycling infrastructure – so would likely otherwise eventually end up in the ocean – and turn it into fab, eco-savvy toys. These are also non-toxic and contain no BPA, PVC or phthalates.

sustainable summer products

7. Palms Reusable Shopping Kind Bag, £10 (kindbag.co)

Everybody needs a roomy tote or two, that you can sling over your shoulder for shopping errands and shove blankets, snacks and water bottles in for days out. Kind Bag’s endless range of fun, colourful designs are bound to brighten up your day – plus each one is made from six recycled plastic bottles. They fold into a lightweight pouch when not in use and 10% of profits go to Just One Ocean, a charity committed to preserving the world’s seas for future generations.

10 Fun Summer Outdoor Activities for Kids – with TV’s Helen Skelton

outdoor time family

The presenter and mum-of-two teams up with outdoor experts to suggest natural ways to keep children entertained outside over the summer.

After months out of school during lockdown, children and their weary parents are now faced with yet more time to fill during the holidays.

To help inspire them, The Wild Network has teamed up with TV presenter Helen Skelton and Smart Energy GB to suggest 42 sustainable things to do over the summer.

“I’ve got two young boys, who have been home pretty much the whole time during lockdown,” says Skelton of her sons, Ernie, five, and Louis, three. “They’re wide awake at 6am and full of energy all day.”

The Countryfile presenter and former Blue Peter host continues: “The boys love being outside – whether that’s in the garden, local park or woodland. They love foraging, climbing trees and creating seed bombs. If they’re running around all day, I’m hoping they’ll sleep all night!”

In addition, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has also compiled a series of activities for children to enjoy over the summer, and Guy Barter, RHS chief horticultural advisor, says: “Getting outside and sparking excitement around plants and bugs is the best way to inspire a love of nature, which is hugely beneficial to children’s health and wellbeing.

“Being outdoors makes us feel free, and gardening and connecting with nature is a very mindful task that can be just as rewarding for parents as it is for children.”

Here are 10 outdoor activity suggestions from the RHS and The Wild Network…

outdoor time family

1. Make a seed bomb

The Wild Network suggests children will have fun mixing daisy seeds with peat-free compost and water, and rolling the mixture into a ball. Let the balls dry and throw the resulting ‘seed bombs’ into the garden, or perhaps the park. Make sure you know where the bomb landed, so you’ll be able to see if daisies grow there in the spring.

2. Create a temporary dam

If you live near a stream, The Wild Network suggests making your own temporary dam with twigs, branches and stones to stop the flow of water. But it’s important to remove the dam straight afterwards, or the stream could flood.

outdoor time family

3. Go foraging for blackberries

Blackberries are in abundance at this time of year, says the RHS, growing wild in hedgerows from now until October. Take a bag on a country walk and hunt for the darker, sweeter, fruits to bring home. Avoid picking any that are below adult waist level or near busy roads.

4. Collect seeds to plant next spring

Cowslips, primroses, garden primula and other early flowers will be ready to shed seed now, says the RHS. With permission, gather seeds by snipping off seed heads and shaking them over a sheet of paper. Sprinkle the seeds onto a pot or tray filled with firmed potting compost, water, and leave in a sheltered spot, covered so animals can’t disturb them. Next spring look for little seedlings to plant in the garden.

outdoor time family

5. Paint a watercolour with rain

If it looks like it’s about to rain, The Wild Network suggests kids put some sheets of paper outside with drops of watercolour paint on them, and wait and see what picture the rain paints! “Even if it’s raining the boys enjoy being outside, playing in puddles, or creating a painting using drops of watercolour paint and the rain,” says Skelton. “For me, rain doesn’t have to necessarily mean the end of outside play.”

6. Create bug hotels for pollinators

Fill wooden boxes, flowerpots or other containers with pine cones, bamboo canes, straw, bark and logs or wood with holes drilled in them, suggests the RHS. Bees in particular like these ‘hotels’, especially the solitary bees that are among the best flower pollinators. Watch and make a note of which visitors come to stay.

outdoor time family

7. Go on a rainbow scavenger hunt

Both the RHS and The Wild Network suggest that in the garden or on a walk, children should try finding something in nature from every colour of the rainbow, and take photos if possible. The RHS warns children to be respectful to nature by only taking very small samples from plants or by looking for fallen materials, and not to touch anything unusual. The RHS Summer Flower Spotter Guide might help.

8. Make a mini-pond

Sink an old washing up bowl into the ground, fill with water, and add a rock or brick so anything that falls in can crawl out, says the RHS. Put in some waterweed and wait for creatures such as water boatmen and pond skaters to appear. Leave a muddy patch next to the pond so you can see any bird, fox or hedgehog footprints. Birds and insects also need mud for nesting.

outdoor time family

9. Be a street artist

Paint some stones, suggests The Wild Network. There are lots of possibilities – children might want to paint on flower patterns, turn the stones into insects or animals or decorate them with patterns. Hiding them for your friends to find could be fun too.

10. Watch caterpillars transform into butterflies

Moths and butterflies lay eggs in late summer that soon hatch into caterpillars, points out the RHS, which says nasturtiums are particularly attractive to large cabbage white butterflies. Although gardeners aren’t pleased when these butterflies infest cabbages, children can raise the caterpillars in a plastic box with a lid that lets in air, feeding them on cabbage leaves until they form a chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, in a process called metamorphosis.

Visit The Wild Network (thewildnetwork.com/inspiration/2020/7/20/42-days-of-summer) to find the 42 Days of Summer checklist.

Helen Skelton has teamed up with Smart Energy GB to encourage families to get a smart meter installed to help manage household energy consumption.

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