James Martin On Time To Start Embracing British Food

James Martin Great British Adventure and food

Lauren Taylor meets the popular TV chef, after his epic road trip around the British Isles.

When it comes to TV chefs, there are only a few who’ve been chopping, frying and serving up dishes on our screens for more than 25 years – and James Martin, with his straight-talking, homely and down-to-earth manner, is one of them.

Cookery programmes have been a mainstay since Philip Harben showed BBC viewers how to make lobster vol-au-vents back in the 1940s, but even before Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson shot to fame in late-Nineties, Yorkshireman Martin was already a familiar face on telly, and has been ever since.

Following his popular foodie road-trips around France and America, he’s now back with a new show – James Martin’s Great British Adventure on ITV – plus a cookbook of the same name (his 23rd, he says).

James Martin Great British Adventure and food

Now, especially as the Brexit deadline looms at the end of March, is an important time to really embrace British food, says the chef, admitting this was one of the “fundamental reasons” for wanting to do the book and series in the first place.

“I’m a farmer, and this is an amazing country we live in. There are some amazing people producing some amazing food – whether they cook it, serve it, make it, or brew it,” Martin enthuses.

Like a love letter to Britain and its food, James Martin’s Great British Adventure takes viewers and home cooks on a journey the entire length and breadth of the land – from the Isle of Wight for feta and halloumi and Wales for the beef and lamb, to Northern Island for langoustines and Scotland for “the best fruit in the world”, along with many other gems in-between.

“It was one hell of a road trip,” Martin says. “I’ve always wanted to travel but I spent 10 years on Saturday Kitchen in the studio. I was doing home comforts that were all based here, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I wondered what it would be like, to venture out.”

He did venture out – and the result is a showcase of the best of the best; from cooking with Michelin star chefs and some of Martin’s personal food heroes – including Clare Smyth, Sat Bains and Michel Roux Snr (“I pulled my black book of chefs out”), to uncovering little known food producers and suppliers in rural locations.

It’s these people Martin is most passionate about: “The lamb farmer working in -7C up in Scotland, getting up at 5am in the morning, isn’t doing it for a new Range Rover every year – he’s doing it because he’s the seventh generation of the family, and we need to keep supporting that. If nobody shouts about it and we just travel all over the world all the time, that’s not good.”

He’s almost overflowing with stories of fascinating people and underrated produce from his exploration of the British Isles. There’s the vinegar producer in the Orkneys who set up his business in his dad’s garage, a breed of acorn-fed hairy pig called Mangalitsa in the New Forest – and another, Middle White, farmed on the Wales-Gloucestershire border. “It’s the best pork you’ll ever taste, and used to be really famous in the Thirties but now we all want pigs to look like they’ve done 100-metre hurdles, with no fat on them, but that’s where the flavour is,” says Martin.

“There are 200 Middle White sows in the world and this guy has got 100 of them – they’re rarer than the king panda” – but only because we don’t buy their meat. “People are creatures of habit,” Martin adds.

Plus, we import a lot of meat from Europe. Whatever your stance, a departure from the EU will have some bearing on this, and the British food industry in general. “There are positive and negatives,” Martin says. “Fishermen hopefully should be better off because they’ll stop exporting Dover sole and langoustine. But the offset of that is that the floodgates [of import trade] will open to New Zealand and, if we don’t sort out this bloody mess, it will decimate the lamb industry overnight.

“Everyone knows about Welsh lamb, but people always want cheaper and cheaper food – New Zealand can produce masses of it and we can’t compete against them.”

James Martin Great British Adventure and food

But the uncertainty of Brexit isn’t the only reason it’s time to take a closer look at what’s made on our doorstep. British cuisine, with its modern multicultural power, is finally having its moment in the spotlight. “Thirty years ago, we were deemed as the poor cousin around the world in terms of food, but in France I met some of the greatest chefs in the world, and their attitude towards British food and British chefs is totally different. Now we’re on a level playing field, if not better – they see London as the gastronomic capital.”

Famed for recipes that don’t overcomplicate for the sake of it, long-standing Martin fans will be be pleased to know that his latest collection stays true to that approach. “I’m still off the ethos that you should never cook anything on TV that my mum can’t get north of Watford,” he says. “I think chefs can go too restauranty and you’ll start to lose people.” And although he takes some inspiration from British classics and age-old techniques, “it’s fundamentally about the place, about the ingredients, about now”, he adds.

It’s been a long time since Martin first did work experience, aged 14, in a London kitchen, at the Park Lane Hotel (“Getting my arse kicked”) – and longevity, in a world of Instagram foodies and YouTuber cooks, is not to be sniffed at. “This book is an accumulation of 35 years of work, of knowledge, built up over the years,” he says. “And that knowledge, you can’t buy it and you can’t Instagram it.”

He’s got no time for flash-in-the-pan trends either. “The health food bloody thing or vegan month, do we need a whole month for it? We spend 11 months eating what we want, then comes January… It’s baloney,” he says, laughing.

“Food is one of the pleasures of life, and most of us don’t enjoy most things and do a job we don’t like, so for Christ’s sake, just eat what you want.”

James Martin’s Great British Adventure continues every weekday on ITV. The accompanying book, James Martin’s Great British Adventure: A Celebration Of Great British Food With 80 Fabulous Recipes by James Martin is published by Quadrille, priced £25. Available now.

James Martin Great British Adventure and food

So, if you are inspired by this article and need a stunning kitchen to work in, why not take a look at this fine property with it’s stunning Evie Willow kitchen.

8 Tips for Successfully Managing your Money as a Couple

Finances can play a big part in relationships. Vicky Shaw finds out how to set good strategies in place and avoid money fall-outs. So, love has blossomed and you think you've found the perfect partner - but are you financially compatible? Understanding each other on money issues can go a long way to making or breaking a relationship.

managing money in a relationship

“Whether you’re married, living together or just getting to know one another, it’s crucial both parties understand each other’s finances and know how they view money management,” says Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director at Fidelity International (fidelity.co.uk).

“Being open to discussing the long-term financial plans you may have, and vice versa, can save having a lot of issues further down the line.”

Here, Montgomery shares eight tips for making sure your finances flourish in your relationship…

2019 money financial predictions

1. Don’t be afraid if one of you is a saver and the other is a spender

In a balanced relationship, having one keen saver and one more comfortable spending (within reason) can be beneficial – if it’s clear who’s responsible for what financially in the relationship. The saver can encourage a healthy attitude towards financial saving goals – be it a first home, an adventure holiday, or just cash for a rainy day. On the other hand, the spender may take on monthly living costs and cover expenses like socialising with friends and family.

2. Don’t leave your partner in the dark

All too often, couples leave one of the parties completely in the dark over bigger commitments, like savings or retirement plans, leading to misunderstandings and tension.

The money and your financial security belong to both of you, so make sure you both have at least a basic understanding of the state of your finances. It may feel daunting at first, but talking openly about your finances is so important, both when fostering new relationships or maturing in a long-term relationship or marriage.

managing money in a relationship

3. Be honest

Many people hide debts from their partner – often out of embarrassment. But honesty really is the best policy. If you’ve come to the point when securing a joint loan or mortgage makes sense, it’s crucial any unpaid debt or blips on credit scores come to light. A supportive partner will work with you to find a solution. If they’re not up to it, then better you know now rather than later.

4. Communicate when one of you earns more than the other

Pretending you earn more than you do when you first meet might seem like a good idea, but eventually the shortfall will become apparent. Communication here is key. Some couples have separate bank accounts, others keep a joint account for household expenses, some agree to split bills equally, some do it in proportion to their income, while others divide up the outgoings, with one person paying the mortgage/rent and another responsible for utility bills, for example.

managing money in a relationship

5. Don’t let ‘outside’ interests/expenses become a source of conflict

It may be that you have children from a previous relationship who need your financial support, or a hobby that requires a substantial financial outlay. If you aren’t open about the costs with your partner, these ‘outside’ expenses can become a source of conflict. Be up-front and honest, so you both can ensure you’re able to factor them in to your shared budgeting.

Often, keeping a separate pot of money or a separate account for these expenses is a good way to ensure they’re accounted for and covered. Separating them out also means they’re not a constant niggle to your partner. Setting up a direct debit to cover these costs is another way to make it easier.

6. Discuss the future now

For example, if you both want to travel the world later in life, factor that into your finances now to make sure that when you do travel, you can travel in style.

managing money in a relationship

7. Don’t be afraid to take control

While it’s good to plan together, make sure you also take responsibility for your own finances – whether it’s by opening a new savings account or contributing more into a pension.

8. Protect yourself and your partner

Nowadays, many people choose to live together for longer before getting married or without tying the knot at all. However, this can be an issue in terms of your finances. You could consider setting up an agreement to ensure that both parties are protected and assets are divided as you would wish.

Colour Pop: 11 Ways to be Inspired by Brights and Bolds

If you don't want to play it safe, aren't afraid to tread boldly, and have taken a shine to making a spring statement, then you're bang up to date with the current trend for blending deep, decadent shades with bolds and brights.

Designers love to keep us on our toes – and, as Donna Taylor, PPG colour expert and principal technical colour, says: “This year is all about embracing colour and inspiring people to use it in unique ways, whether that’s through pairing bolds with sophisticated neutrals, or being clever with palettes and design features to make the most of different spaces.”

To give you a head start on using colour with confidence, the colour stylists at Johnstone’s paint have launched three new palettes to inspire consumers to introduce bright and daring schemes – but for maximum impact, they cite the ‘feature wall’ as the biggest trend for 2019, with statement colours getting ever more popular.

Elsewhere, just as we’re finally heading towards the brighter seasons, shops are welcoming in joyful shades too.

For inspiration, check out these 11 bold buys…

2019 bright and bold

1. Johnstone’s 304028 2.5L Matt Emulsion Paint – Passion Pink, £14.99, Amazon

“The main intention of a feature wall in a room is to create a focal point and add interest to the space. To achieve this, the colour needs to be striking enough to draw the eye to it. Using bold colours will help to create impact or drama, using vibrant colours can give a sense of freshness to the space,” says Taylor.

“Bold feature walls should not be used in small spaces, as this will shrink the area further. It’s advised that pastel colours would work better on all walls and bold colours introduced as artwork, accessories and soft furnishings instead.”

2019 bright and bold

2. Coloured Shot Glasses – Set of Six, £22, Oliver Bonas

To keep it fresh and bring something new to the table – or drinks trolley – these colourful shot glasses can be used to serve cocktails alongside sweet desserts for a sense of fun.

2019 bright and bold

3. Motorised Capital Roller Blind Collection: Blinds, from £109, and Dream Motor, from £153 (operated by a DreamHub, £189), for information and stockists, visit apollo-blinds.co.uk.

With so much colour being showcased, you’ll want to keep the light flooding in. Along with being semi translucent, Apollo Blinds’ Camden range has an exceptionally wide colour palette (66 options), so there’s no excuse when it comes to hunting down your sock-it-to-me must-have shade.

2019 bright and bold

4. A by Amara Grid Crochet Cushion – Pink, £40, Amara

Who would have thought crochet could be cool again? The arts and craft movement is in full swing, and this bubble-gum pink cushion should inspire some creativity.

2019 bright and bold

5. Clarissa Hulse Angeliki Fabric – Sunset, £103 per metre, Cushions from £40, clarissahulse.com

Brooding blues and moody mauves work to spectacular effect when they collide with swathes of lustrous cotton/silk curtains with botanical designs, to mirror more exotic climes. To be even more inventive, mix brights with brights and don’t be afraid to clash colours.

2019 bright and bold

6. Broste Copenhagen Alrik Vase/Tealight Holder – Blue/Smoke Pine, £15, Amara

Having set the tone with your pot of paint, vibrant decos and flea-market finds, tealights in colourful candle-holders are an essential buy to show off those brush strokes and make inky walls look even more dramatic.

2019 bright and bold

7. Lava Lamps, £77 each, grahamandgreen.co.uk

A Sixties icon, and great investment piece, lava lamps are trending once more (did they ever really go out of fashion?). For maximum effect, more is more, especially when you can play swirls of bright bubbles in perpetual motion against existing stony neutrals. These from Graham & Green are available in four ‘groovy’ colours.

2019 bright and bold

8. Miami Collection Navy Blue Classic Velvet Sofa, from £1,695, Neon Box Sign, from £95 (other decos from a selection), grahamandgreen.co.uk

Inspired by ‘stylish Palm Beach hideouts’, this three-seater sofa with left chaise and middle element makes a great building block if you want to fast-track to a funky resort lifestyle, coupled with some kitsch accessories. Come summer, go for a glam, boho chic vibe, with pom-pom cushions, textured light fittings and vintage seashell accessories.

2019 bright and bold

9. Sara Miller London Portmeirion Chelsea Collection Cake Plates – Set of 4, £42.50, portmeirion.co.uk

Pretty as a picture, we think these decorative birds in flight would look brilliant hanging on a statement wall. Check out Pinterest for inspiration as to how to group them together.

2019 bright and bold

10. Brighton Sofa – Plush Velvet Peony, from £875 (available from late-Feb), Darlings of Chelsea

For a sense of drama, a plush velvet sofa will bring richness to any room, especially when it’s styled against that all-important dark wall. And if you can’t bear to part with a restful palette, simple dark accessories in natural materials will complement that pop of colour.

2019 bright and bold

11. Make Your Own Neon Light, £15, Oliver Bonas

If you don’t want to hang a lot of pictures on the wall, but fancy putting your name (or a message) in lights, what’s not to love about playing around with three metres of flexi wire to make your own neon sign…

Property For Sale Early Preview

We’ve rushed to get this short video preview available to view today, which means our house buyers can have an exclusive preview before the property goes to the open market in the Spring / Summer.

  • Grounds of almost 4 acres (yet to be checked)
  • Vast Kitchen / Family room
  • Around 4,500 sq. ft. of space

Located in sought after Long Sutton in Hampshire, the estimated guide price is £2.0m. and further details are available from our Odiham branch – telephone 01256 704851

Luxury Contemporary Property For Sale Preview

This is a property preview of a truly stunning detached New England style home occupying a mature plot measuring approximately 0.6 of an acre, in the heart of wonderful countryside in the charming hamlet of Hazeley Lea, just three miles north of Hartley Wintney.

Take a look at the preview video above and be impressed with the breathtaking high specification space.

New to the market - Guide £2,150,000

The luxurious accommodation is arranged over three floors, providing around 4,500 sq. ft. of exquisite space, including a vast high specification kitchen/breakfast/family room by Evie Willow. In addition to the comprehensive range of fitted units and a central island with seating, wall to wall bi-folding doors open to the Southerly rear garden and bar/terrace area and swimming pool.

luxury kitchen by Evie Willow property for sale
luxury kitchen by Evie Willow property for sale
Luxury Evie Willow Kitchen / Family Room

Further ground floor accommodation includes a fine reception hall, triple aspect sitting room with log burner, home office, play room, utility room, cloakroom and a bedroom with en-suite bathroom / wet room shower

reception hall property for sale
A fine reception hall

There are six bedrooms in total, and the sweeping staircase leads to the first floor with the master bedroom and three further double bedrooms, all with fitted storage and en-suites. On entering the master bedroom suite there is a stunning bespoke Evie Willow dressing room, a superb en-suite bathroom / shower room and a vast bedroom space.

vast master bedroom property for sale
The vast master bedroom
en-suite dressing room to master bedroom by Evie Willow
The luxury Evie Willow en-suite dressing room to the master bedroom
en-suite to master bedroom property for sale
Luxury en-suite bathroom and shower room to master bedroom

The second floor features a further bedroom with en-suite bathroom and an additional room which could be used as a games/cinema room or bedroom.

Guest bedroom property for sale
Superb Guest bedroom suite
en-suite to guest bedroom property for sale
En-suite to above bedroom

The south facing rear garden is mainly laid to lawn and flanked by trees. Immediately to the rear of the property is a large patio area which leads to a heated outdoor swimming pool which is run by air source heat pumps. To the front is a gravel driveway with parking for several vehicles leading to a double carport with wood store and storage shed.

swimming pool property for sale
Heathed swimming pool

Further features include underfloor heating to the ground and first floor, Cat 5 cabling and a Sonos speaker system. There is active planning permission in place for further extension works to include an indoor swimming pool or space for gym/studio.

Located around thirty five miles from central London, the property is particularly well placed for the commuter, with both the M3 (j4a 6 miles) and M4 (j. 11 9 miles) motorways within easy reach providing easy access to the Thames Valley corridor and motorway networks.

Mainline stations at Winchfield (about 6 miles), Reading, Basingstoke, Hook and Fleet provide fast and regular rail services to London Paddington or Waterloo. Heathrow Airport is about 35 miles and Farnborough Airport is about 12 miles distant. All distances and times are approximate.

For further details telephone 01252 620640.

Check out how video can enhance a property sale or let.

Hoping to sell your home? 11 Value-slashing pitfalls to avoid

Ahead of the spring selling season, an industry expert outlines some common 'blunders' that could put off potential buyers. By Vicky Shaw.

With the spring house-selling season around the corner, many home owners eyeing a move in 2019 may already be sprucing up their properties to get them ready for market.

But while moving can be an exciting time, estate agents warn that it’s easy to make blunders while trying to sell, which could potentially knock value off your property – and some of these may be quite surprising.

Mark Bentley, president of NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents) Propertymark, cautions: “Sometimes the improvements and changes you have made might make the property less attractive to buyers. So before you start marketing your home, it’s worth taking stock and making any necessary alterations, to give you the best chance of securing your asking price.”

For those in two minds about making changes, he suggests: “You can ask friends or family for their honest opinions, or your estate agents can help advise on any small changes you may want to make before placing your home on the market.”

Of course, the extent to which something would add or take away value from a home can vary, depending on factors such as individual circumstances and local market conditions.

With that in mind, here are some of the key factors that NAEA Propertymark members have experienced as having a negative impact on a property’s value…

Phil Spencer home buyer questions

1. Over-personalisation

People’s homes suit their personalities. But if you like your decor big and bold, it may be worth toning it down a bit – unless you can find a buyer who has similar taste. Typically, modestly-decorated homes are most desirable, as home owners can easily see how they could make it their home.

2. Property condition

Tell-tale indications of damp, cracks on walls, a poor roof condition, an old boiler, and single-glazed windows can all impact on the value of a property – and interest from buyers.

extension-property-hampshire-diy-renovation

3. Bad presentation

Show off your home at its best. Everything should be clean, clutter tidied away, and any outstanding DIY jobs should be finished. If a home smells fresh and clean, it has a much greater chance of selling quickly.

4. Swimming pools

They may be great fun in the summer, but swimming pools in the UK can put some potential buyers off – although others may be wowed. As well as the issue of maintenance, pools take up space, and some buyers may see them as a hassle.

If a property has an outside swimming pool that is run down, owners might want to consider filling it in. But if it’s great condition, then selling the home in the summer could show the pool off at its best.

tips for selling your home

5. Not having the right paperwork

If you have had work carried out while living in the property, such as extensions or conversions, make sure you obtained appropriate planning permission and building regulations, and have access to these documents. If you haven’t got the right documents, you may have to pay for them retrospectively before agreeing a sale.

6. Darkened rooms

If you’ve planted lots of bushes and trees close to the windows, your home may appear gloomy to buyers. Frosted glass windows or netted curtains can also sometimes have the same effect.

property interior

7. Japanese knotweed

If you think you can see any in your garden, call a professional to excavate is as soon as possible.

8. Clutter

Clean each room from top to bottom, paying special attention to ‘high-impact’ rooms, such as the kitchen and bathroom. Things like too much furniture, children’s toys and unused gym equipment can make your property feel smaller.

tips for selling your home

9. Dated fixtures and fittings

Kitchens are often the focus for buyers, so it’s important they don’t look too outdated. Painting kitchens and replacing cupboard handles and old taps can be a cost-effective way of getting kitchens up-to-date.

10. Over-improving

As well as not doing enough, you can do too much. For example, putting fake grass in the garden may have benefited your sporty family but it may not appeal to buyers who love the smell of a freshly-cut lawn. Keep improvements simple.

11. Not being energy-efficient

A home’s energy performance has become increasingly important, so if your home needs an energy efficiency boost, consider steps to make it happen, such as installing double glazing.

sold board

To discover more about the local market and how your home could thrive with the assistance of McCarthy Holden, contact your local branch:
Estate Agents Fleet, Estate Agents Hartley Wintney, Estate Agents Odiham.

7 simple steps for creating a stylish – and productive work space at home

A work station that suits your taste and needs will surely help bolster motivation and focus. Time to show who's boss, says Gabrielle Fagan.

Working from home can be the ultimate dream ticket – no more commuting or having to dress formally, or worry about office politics – and even better, you get to escape all that dreary corporate decor.

“Cutting down on wasteful travelling time, enabling you to spend more time with the family, is just some of the many benefits to home-working, and it can be particularly beneficial from a health and wellbeing perspective,” enthuses Susan White, marketing director at blinds and curtains specialists, Hillarys.

If you’re set to join the millions who work from home, look on it as the perfect chance to tailor a space to suit your taste and needs.

We’ve done the homework for you and devised seven simple but stylish steps, so you can make light work of creating the perfect home office…

stylish working at home decor

1. Make it personal

At home, you’re the boss, and you can truly indulge your taste and have the freedom to express your personality in the decoration of your ‘office’.

In an open-plan space, zone an area with a stunning wall mural, or cork tile an expanse of wall so you can pin up inspiring photos or to-do lists.

Alternatively, paint a wall with black chalkboard paint, to transform it into a wipeable surface for scribbling ideas, plans, or simply expressing yourself. (Rust-Oleum Black Magnetic Matt Chalkboard Paint, £14 for 750ml, B&Q, is ideal for the job.)

TIP: If you fancy it, don’t be afraid to incorporate pattern and colour into your office scheme. Research has found that both can actually help keep you creative and stimulated at work. For a perfect balance, keep energetic colours in your periphery, while sticking to a more subdued look for the desk.

2. Pretty up with pink

If you’re after a softer scheme, reduce the risk of workplace stress by choosing a calming colour for a work area. Pink is reputedly a positive colour, inspiring warm, comforting feelings and imparting a sense that everything will be all right – and who doesn’t like the sound of that?

stylish working at home decor

3: Kill the clutter

Keeping a tidy office is crucial to staying on top of things. Organising and filing loose papers means you’ll spend less time searching for them – coping with clutter is a big time-waster.

Filing cabinets, desks with compartments, and accessible floating shelves for file boxes are a good investment. Don’t let a notice board be all to-do lists and bills though, or you won’t ever want to look at it.

TIP: Keep everyday essentials close to hand, so there’ll be less temptation to get up and wander. If you know you’ll need frequent caffeine top-ups, you could even keep a little coffee-maker or kettle near the desk, and a mini-fridge stocked with cold drinks.

4. Carve out a creative corner

“Not everyone has an entire room, or even an entire wall, to dedicate to an office. But that doesn’t mean you can’t carve out a space somewhere in your home, be it a landing, bedroom or corner of a living room, to let your creative juices flow,” says White.

“Whatever you use your home office for – computer work, home and life admin, or crafts and projects – an effective work area demands plenty of light. Equally, you don’t want glare on your screen, so choose your window dressings wisely.

“Shutters and Venetian blinds have adjustable louvres and slats, so you can control the amount of light and are also great for privacy and security,” adds White. “If you’re easily distracted, opt for a sheer roller blind. It’ll still let in plenty of light, but you can pull it down to block out distractions from the outside world when you need to focus.”

TIP: Set clear ground rules for your work space, such as asking family to knock before coming into your office, or respecting quiet time between certain hours. Make this easy, and visual, for young children by using a traffic light system (a green circle on the door means ‘come in’; yellow means ‘ask first’, and red means ‘do not disturb’).

stylish working at home decor

5. Dress the desk

One of the best things about working from home is not being in a stuffy, boring office. So why re-create that at home?

Instead, include pleasing decorative elements, such as a vase full of flowers and colourful storage pots, so you can enjoy the comforts of home all through the working hours.

TIP: Setting priorities is important in an office, and even more so when working from home, as doing so will help you stay on track and not get overwhelmed. Without a boss hovering or work-mates to bounce ideas off, it’s up to you to put your to-do list in order. Use technology to help, with mobile reminders and alerts.

6. Show who’s boss

A shade of dark green, paired with black furniture and office accessories, gives decor a strong visual impact and, crucially, creates a business-like look for an office. This is especially important if clients are going to visit and you want to convey a professional image.

TIP: Never skimp on expense when buying an office chair. After all, you may spend hours sitting on it, and it’s vital that it’s comfortable and fully adjustable so you avoid muscle strain and back pain.

stylish working at home decor

7. Black is back

Sleek, black furniture spells executive style, never dates, and you’ll win compliments for your chic taste.

TIP: A properly lit space is crucial to maintaining your mood, productivity and health. Bad lighting can strain eyes, especially if you’re staring at a bright screen in the dark. Layer light, so you can have clear overhead light if necessary, a decorative table lamp with a warm glow when you’re thinking rather than focusing, and always have an adjustable desk lamp so that paperwork is properly illuminated.

10 of the most popular flooring options – which should you use in your home?

The unsung heroes of every room, Luke Rix-Standing runs through the key pros and cons of some of the most popular flooring materials.

flooring options different ideas

They may not be the latest 3D-printed armchair or voice-activated speaker system, but your floors are, quite literally, the foundation of your home.

A classic blend of fashion and function, a floor must tie a room together while fulfilling a range of – very important – practical requirements too. While aesthetics are a key consideration, in general, flooring should be relatively unobtrusive. It’s the defensive midfielder of home decor: If you don’t notice it, it’s probably doing a good job.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most common options – what they’re good at, and what they’re not…

1. Wood

Summarising wood flooring is like summarising a clothing fabric – there’s a lot of different forms it could take. Oft-neglected softwood floors can work wonders in low-footfall areas, but as the name suggests, they can struggle with the rough and tumble of a busy family home. Most modern wood floors are hardwood – highly coveted surfaces that can also add serious value to a property.

Relatively pricey, prone to scratching and potentially sensitive to moisture, hardwood flooring is nevertheless popular in living areas for its elegant appearance and underfoot warmth. For a tougher, cheaper alternative, try laminate – fibreboard printed with a high-res image of a wooden finish, which these days can look practically as good as the real thing.

flooring options different ideas

2. Tile

For such a popular flooring choice, tile has a long list of drawbacks: It’s relatively difficult to repair if it cracks or gets damaged; the grouting easily accumulates dirt; sock wearers risk slipping; it gets extremely cold in wintertime – and it’s not even that cheap.

But a tough, durable surface makes tile pet-friendly, and most flooring shops offer a near-infinite array of colours and patterns – from Victorian florals to abstract collage – so in terms of aesthetic appeal and style, the possibilities really are endless and tiles can look truly striking. The bathroom surface of choice for generations of homeowners, being easy to clean, tiling also brushes up nicely in the kitchen and pantry.

3. Carpet

A go-to for rooms with soft furnishings, carpet can be both chic and cosy has refreshingly clear pros and cons. The good: It’s warm, insulating, generally cheaper than wood or tile, and can be fashioned into almost any design. The bad: Stains easily, struggles with moisture, traps dust and pet hair, and needs to be replaced when worn down. And while we’re at it, the ‘ugly’: The infamously tasteless carpets at Las Vegas casinos.

Do – bedroom and sitting room. Don’t – bathroom and kitchen.

flooring options different ideas

4. Cork

Cork floors aren’t as common a sight as they perhaps once were – but, honestly, we’re not sure why. Soft to the touch, naturally insulating against sound and temperature, relatively cheap and eco-friendly, the reddish-brown patterns tally particularly well with hardwood furniture. The drawbacks? Fades in direct sunlight, prone to water damage, and may distort under table legs and other pressure points.

5. Vinyl

The IKEA wardrobe of home flooring, this low-cost option is all the rage among practical homeowners with middling budgets. Approachable prices partner with a performance level that reliably returns more than you paid for.

Vinyl looks pretty good (there are lots more design options available now), insulates well, repels water and soaks up high footfall nicely – but it can be prone to fading in sunlight and is easily dented by sharp objects. Vinyl lacks the elegance of hardwood and the comfort of cork or carpet, but it’s a functional surface that will serve you well with some tender loving care.

flooring options different ideas

6. Concrete

Strange though it may seem, this staple of the multi-storey car park is also a creditable option for your front room or kitchen floor. Virtually indestructible, concrete adds a modern, almost post-industrial vibe to the home, and partners well with underfloor heating. But the sturdiness comes at the expense of comfort – it’s really hard – and even well-finished surfaces can look a little bleak. At least you’ll have plenty of excuses to go rug shopping.

7. Rubber

A little left turn, we’ll admit – but this unconventional pick is sure to raise eyebrows, if just from the slight bounce it elicits when stepped on. A highly durable choice, with superb sound insulation.

However, rubber can also be more on the expensive side, and difficult to clean. It’s commonly used for it’s shock-absorbing qualities – think spaces with a high risk of heavy objects being dropped, such as gyms. Rubber is a horse for a course: Perfect for a music room or home gym, and possibly a bold choice for style junkies elsewhere in the house.

flooring options different ideas

8. Stone

Given that most of the world’s rocks have looked after themselves just fine for centuries, it should come as no surprise that a stone floor is supremely hard-wearing and low-maintenance. Literally hewn from the ground, stone tiles are eco-friendly and ideal for high footfall areas like hallways.

On the flip-side, imperfections may result in a surface that’s uneven – literally and stylistically – while a high-ish price tag puts off some buyers. Stone tiles can also be foot-freezingly cold in winter, and for God’s sake don’t drop any plates.

9. Marble

If your domestic vision involves grand banisters, neo-classical columns and high-end toga parties, then marble is a go-to (we jest – it’s an all-round stunning material). But there are cons too… It can chip, costs the earth, and can be dangerously slippy under slippers or socks. Long a linchpin of luxury, a marble floor could well add serious value to a home, but comes with severe cold feet syndrome, and weeks of bruising every time you bump your knee.

10. Bamboo

A relative newcomer to the flooring scene, bamboo has found a growing niche with eco-conscious householders looking to go au naturel. The world’s fastest growing plant (technically a species of oversized grass), bamboo is attractively textured, goes well with modern interiors, and is highly sustainable. Bamboo can be fairly expensive though and will need a little more TLC than some of the hardier materials. Lots of appeal, but be sure to do your research before you buy.

flooring options different ideas

House Buyers Ignore Brexit in January

house buyers ignore brexit image

With the first month of 2019 trading behind us, it appears that despite the chaos in the Palace of Westminster around Brexit, house buyers are simply getting on with making decisions around matters of day to day life, which are the drivers for a house move.

All of the McCarthy Holden branches experienced an uptake of buyer interest in January and the McCarthy Holden web site enquiry hits were up on the January 2018.

Whilst it is too early to comment on the market direction for 2019, it nevertheless appears that house buying decisions are mostly made by very localised factors such as schooling, access to work and general employment levels and family situations ranging from the three D’s (death, divorce and debt) through to the three N’s (new job, new baby, new beginnings).

high levels of house sales image

Amongst the Estate Agents in Fleet, our own branch had a particularly productive January with, witnessed by events such as £3.4m. worth of residential property sales exchanging contracts in just one 24 hour period.

As we said in our 2018 / 2019 market review, who knows, there might well be some pleasing outcomes to report at the end of 2019.

So, if you are considering a move this year, now is a great time to get ahead of the competition by calling one of our property experts for a free, no obligation, advice on how is best to market your home.

6 Decor Trends to Brighten Rooms and Banish Winter Blues

Is your home looking a little lacklustre and drab as January drags on? Gabrielle Fagan reveals six easy ways to hit refresh.

January can be a bleak month on all levels – but if your rooms are look as though they’re suffering a bit of a winter hangover, take heart, as there are plenty of bright, new decor trends on the horizon.

You don’t need to rush out and arrange a major revamp – some little touches can be enough to lift a space and provide that all-important refresh.

Here are six decor trends that will make a big impression on rooms this year, and could help banish the blues and take your home from drab to fab in no time…

design to banish winter blues

1. Tell a texture story

If you want to give a scheme some ‘wow’ factor, look no further than texture. Layering a mixture of soft fabrics – from fluffy sheepskin cushions and chunky wool throws to cowhide rugs – will not only draw the eye, which is essential in a muted scheme decorated in neutrals that could otherwise look bland, but also add cosiness.

Adding texture is all about layering, so have a few key pieces, like a statement rug, a velvet chair, or a leather sofa, and then add smaller accessories and soft furnishings until the room feels complete.

Don’t forget that your scheme need never be ‘set in stone’. Moving or replacing a few texture-rich accessories is an easy way to re-energise and refresh the whole balance of a scheme.

Plunder Next’s spring/summer collection for texture treats. Our favourites include their Knitted Jute Drum Seat, £70 (available Feb), and Mono Berber Rug, £50-£180. The range has lots of touchy-feely cushions too, including an Ethnic Tufted Stripe Cushion, £18; Textured Pom Pom Cushion, £14, and Diamond Geo Cushion, £16.

design to banish winter blues

2. Make it mellow yellow

Yellow has crossed over from the fashion catwalks – the colour was big news at the 2019 spring/summer shows – and is predicted to make its mark on our homes.

The colour’s associated with energy and optimism – we could all do with a dose of that this year – and you can easily play with all its hues, from bright daffodil yellow, through to the palest lemon.

This is also a shade that works well in bold contrast, or blended with similar shades and tones – don’t be afraid to experiment.

Another bonus: Pops of yellow will act like beams of sunshine in any room, no matter what the weather’s like outside.

design to banish winter blues

3. Follow the fringe

Fringing – think the swishy, flamboyant Charleston dresses of the 1920s – is making a comeback in decor and home styling.

You can interpret it elegantly and traditionally, with upholstery fringing on armchairs and sofas, or go for an ethnic, arty vibe with a colourful tribal wall hanging. However you use it, fringing is fabulous.

design to banish winter blues

4. Touch wood

Natural materials, particularly wood, are essential for today’s stylish homes. It’s all about celebrating the beauty of natural materials and craftsmanship – think heirlooms and sustainability – and the unique grain of timber.

Don’t limit yourself to one piece. The chic take on the trend is to choose furniture made in different tones of wood, from pale ash to ebony, and let is share a space. Leave it raw and unstained to reveal the gorgeous imperfections of the knots and grain.

design to banish winter blues

5. Let red rule

Let the warmest shades on the colour spectrum – rust, red and rose – warm your rooms (it’s cheaper than turning up the central heating!).

Our newfound boldness with colour means we’re less timid and more prepared to splash on those bright shades these days – but even used sparingly, these shades will make an impact without being too dominating, especially if you lean towards the brown-based terracotta hues.

Experiment with bed linen and accessories to test your enthusiasm, or paint a headboard or feature wall if you want to make a statement. Seeing red can be positive!

design to banish winter blues

6. Pay a floral tribute

Nature’s finding its way into more and more interiors, and flowers, potted plants and succulents – both real and faux – are an easy way to bring natural appeal to rooms.

Displaying bouquets in clear glass vases can have a transformative effect on a space. As a transparent vase displays all of its contents, the possibilities for decorative ideas extend beyond flowers, and you could use them for fruit or collections of beachcomber finds too.

Change the atmosphere with blooms – a fresh cut bunch from a garden will enhance a country/rustic effect, while an elaborate display of exotic blooms makes a luxe touch.

The Do’s and Dont’s of being a vegan gardener.

Committed vegan and gardening expert Matthew Appleby shares some of his top tips. If you care about what you eat, you probably care about how food is grown too. So if you're a gardener who likes to grow their own, and - like many others right now - have decided to go vegan, then it's useful to know how to approach this at every stage of the process.

So says committed vegan and gardening expert Matthew Appleby, whose new book, Super Organic Gardener: Everything You Need to Know About A Vegan Garden, explains all – from the types of produce you might go for, to the techniques you’ll need to use to ensure your garden remains truly vegan.

“Vegans believe animal farming is wasteful of land and resources, cruel to animals and the resulting milk, dairy and eggs are bad for their health. While they seek to remove the foods from their diet, other aspects of making a lifestyle truly vegan may have been overlooked,” says Appleby. “Cutting out animal inputs in your garden, as well as growing the best products for a vegan diet, and how to be a truly animal-friendly gardener, are the subjects of my new book.”

how to be a vegan gardener

He says he hopes to bridge the gap between vegan food and vegan lifestyle.

“Many gardeners who care about animals and who care about the origins of what they eat, may not be aware of the impact eating animals or animal products has on the environment, or their health (let alone the animals themselves), and they may not know their gardening and growing their own is part of the problem,” he adds.

Here, Appleby offers some of the key dos and don’ts of being a vegan gardener…

how to be a vegan gardener

DON’T… Use animal manures

As well as avoiding animal manures, vegans don’t use blood, fish and bone products. “You can make your own fertiliser to replace blood, fish and bone products – the by-products of the slaughterhouse, which can also attract vermin to your plot,” says Appleby. “I make comfrey ‘tea’ by stewing the herb in a bucket of water, which I strain off to give plants a tonic. Comfrey contains high levels of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus, which are the essential nutrients for plant growth. Seaweed is good too.”

DO… Make your own compost

“Making compost to replace animal manures is a cornerstone of vegan gardening. Animal manures can contain harmful bacteria such as e-coli, and they are the by-products of the animal farming system, which vegans do not want to support,” Appleby adds. “Compost made from green and brown organic material and (vegetable) food waste make up your growing media. Commercial mixes from companies such as Fertile Fibre (fertilefibre.com) are now available too.”

To make vegan compost, use grass cuttings, leaves, garden clippings and vegan food bin waste.

how to be a vegan gardener

DO… Make your own fertiliser from comfrey

“Comfrey is good at sucking up nutrients from the soil and contains calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A, C and other trace materials. Grow comfrey by, with permission, digging up a bit of someone’s crop. When divided, it grows again easily and produces leaf rapidly. You can buy root cuttings to plant from May-September.”

Make a comfrey liquid feed by filling a container with leaves and topping up with water. Leave to steep for a week and pour the liquid onto crops. Then add the used comfrey to the compost pile, where its nutrients will both enrich the whole heap and encourage decomposition.

DO… Use alternative plant tonics

These include rock dust, ash and rotted woodchip.

DO… Grow green manure

Grow a green manure by sowing nitrogen-rich seeds, such as red or white clover, over winter on bare soil. This fixes nitrogen from the air and brings up minerals from the ground, as well as stopping bare soil eroding. Plant as a cover crop, and as an under-sown crop. Rake it in two weeks before planting potatoes.

In the spring, sow trefoils, crimson or sweet clover, mustard, buckwheat or phacelia. Vetch, lucerne, mustard, buckwheat, phacelia and red and white clover are also good for autumn planting.

how to be a vegan gardener

DO… Grow your own protein and iron-rich veg

Include artichokes or broccoli in your planting scheme, to make sure your vegan diet is not lacking in any essential minerals and vitamins.

DO… Deter animals that might eat your crops

Grow banks of plants that predators live in, including buddleia, nettle, dandelion, horsetail, grey willow and brambles. Also include log piles as insect habitats.

DO… Be prepared to sacrifice some of your crops

Sacrificial crops, which will keep pests at bay, include nasturtiums and nettles (aphids), chervil (slugs), French marigold (slugs and thrips), and radish (flea beetle). Netting, scents and scarers are all alternatives to killing ‘pests’.

DON’T… Kill wildlife and insects, including slugs

Make room in your garden for all living creatures, who will help provide the balance of nature in their own way.

how to be a vegan gardener

Super Organic Gardener: Everything You Need to Know About A Vegan Garden by Matthew Appleby is published by Pen & Sword on January 31, priced £16.99.

Hoping to get on the property ladder soon? 8 tips for First Time Buyers

It's a huge, expensive step but can be done - so soak up these expert tips, says Vicky Shaw. This year could be a bit uncertain for the housing market, which may be making first-time buyers feel somewhat nervous. However, some recent figures may offer some reassurance for those trying to make the jump onto the property ladder.

Research from Yorkshire Building Society suggests the number of first-time buyers getting on the property ladder with a mortgage in the last year, was at its highest level since 2006. Across the UK, 367,038 first-time buyers secured mortgages in 2018, up from 362,800 in 2017, the analysis suggests.

There are also some steps first-time buyers could take, which may boost their chances of bagging a property. “Buying a first home can be as daunting as it is exciting, but there are a number of simple steps people can take to prepare themselves and make the process as smooth as possible,” says Chrysanthy Pispinis of Post Office Money.

Here are Post Office Money’s eight top tips for getting on the property ladder…

first time buyer top 8 tips

1. Set a savings goal

Three-quarters (75%) say that saving for a deposit is the biggest hurdle to home ownership, with first-time buyers spending four years adjusting their lifestyle to save for their starter home, according to a survey of people who recently got on the property ladder. So setting a savings target early is important to keeping you focused and on track.

2. Factor in the additional costs of moving

Aspiring homeowners must not forget additional costs associated with buying a home, such as removal firms, estate agent fees and surveyors. It’s important to consider these costs in advance and save little and often.

first time buyer top 8 tips

3. Take time to talk

Parents – as the ‘bank of mum and dad’ – are playing an increasingly important role helping many first-time buyers onto the property ladder, loaning on average £24,347, according to Post Office Money. But of the one in six first-time buyers funding their home purchase from a parental loan, 87% have no proper agreement in place, its research also found.

Therefore, it’s important everyone involved is clear about the nature of their agreement, so that everyone’s expectations are aligned. This includes making it clear whether the money is a gift or a loan that needs to be paid back. Post Office Money has a ‘bank of mum and dad conversation guide’, which could help with such conversations. (postoffice.co.uk/dam/jcr:93ea6a47-6444-4ac8-8a22-c091054a3541/Mortgages-Advice-Doc.pdf)

4. Calculate how much you can afford to borrow

Once your savings pot is up and running, consider using an online affordability calculator to get an idea of how much you’ll be able to borrow based on your income and outgoings. Although this should be used as a guide, the information will help you focus on properties that are within your price range.

first time buyer top 8 tips

5. Know the (credit) score

Before getting a mortgage, you will be credit checked, so now’s the time to check your own credit report and ensure all the information it contains is accurate and up-to-date. A good credit score can be the deciding factor in not only getting approved for a mortgage, but also the rate you are offered. Plan now to start paying down any outstanding debt, be sure not to miss any agreed payments on utility bills or mobile phone bills, and try to make more than the minimum repayment in the six months before your mortgage application.

6. Find the right mortgage for you

There are lots of mortgages out there aimed specifically at first-time buyers, including some very innovative deals.

first time buyer top 8 tips

7. Research affordability hotspots

You may have your heart set on a popular area – but so will many other buyers.

On average, new buyers will end up moving 5.2 miles away from where they originally intended. Consider widening the net to make your budget go further, so you can buy more bricks and mortar for your money. You could try searching in up-and-coming areas, which may become future property hotspots, rather than places where property prices have already increased by a lot.

8. Know the local rate of sale

On average, it takes 102 days for a property to sell in the UK. Understanding the rate at which property sells in the area you’re looking to buy in can potentially help when making buying decisions.

If you are starting your home buying journey and would like local, financial or property advice please pop in to your closest office for a cup of tea and a chat with our team, they will be delighted to give you all the help you need.
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Preview Exquisite Property For Sale Soon

We will be showcasing this exceptional property on the open market soon, but for now some of the feature photographs are shown in this post.

This magnificent country house provides around 8,500 sq. ft. of splendid living space, designed to deliver exceptional standards of quality and style.

Vast reception hall
The vast reception hall

Built entirely out of Bath stone with stone mouldings, sash windows and Romanesque columns, it is clear that when first built every effort was made to choose precisely the right materials befitting this home.

The breathtaking reception hall sets the scene for exploring around 8,500 sq. ft. of superb space and the hall is representative of the quality found throughout this wonderful property. There is a substantial living room, a Clive Christian fitted study, a dining room and a Clive Christian fitted luxury kitchen and utility room.

property swimming pool
beautiful grounds

Set in grounds of around 11.5 acres and brushing shoulders with beautiful countryside including the renowned Finchampstead Ridges. Within the park like grounds there is light woodland, landscaped gardens, paddocks and excellent equestrian facilities including a superb stable yard and adjacent sand school.

property equestrian facilities
luxury property in Berkshire

The property is well positioned within its grounds to maximise the southerly aspect, with superb views over the grounds. Vast patios  lead to the external swimming pool, nestling within superb landscaped gardens. Nearby there are extensive areas of unspoilt countryside including Finchampstead Ridges and the National Trust heath and woodland, noted for its fine walks and rides.

Clive Christian kitchen
Clive Christian Kitchen

There is a substantial living room, a Clive Christian fitted study, a dining room and a Clive Christian fitted luxury kitchen and utility room.

staff quarters living room
high specification staff quarters

There is a superb guest suite / staff quarters comprising living / dining kitchen area, a fine bedroom with luxury en-suite. There is also a gym/bedroom seven with and en-suite and there is an entertainments room.

photo wellington college
nearby Wellington College

Located about 5 miles to the south west of the charming market town of Wokingham there is excellent schooling in the area including Wellington College which is about a mile distant.

Telephone 01252 842100 for further details.

Luxury Property Rental Preview

photo period property

This property preview is showcasing a beautiful country house, which is due to the market soon with an anticipated guide range of £7,500 to £8,500 p.c.m.

The property is a significant freehold steeped in history dating to the 15th century. Formerly the Manor House of Great Bramshill Manor, the house began as a timber framed hall in the late medieval period and it was progressively extended and developed through to the 19th century.

The result is a substantial Grade 11* listed country house of several periods, culminating in extensive refurbishment and development between 1990 and today by the current owners; resulting in a rare achievement where historic character and subtle contemporary fuse perfectly.

photo property farmhouse kitchen
farmhouse luxury kitchen

There are many notable historic architectural features including three massive Tudor chimney stacks, each with three separated diagonal flues on a rectangular base.

Inside the house there still exists magnificent Tudor brick fireplaces with four entered arches and the original 15th century winding staircase has been preserved.

photo property banqueting barn
banqueting / entertainments barn

Immediately outside there is a magnificent Grade 11 listed banqueting barn dating to the 17th century, formed of six timber frame bays, with gabled projecting porch. Leading off of this barn there is a wonderful gym space with shower.

photo property banqueting barn
banqueting / entertainments barn
photo property banqueting barn
gymnasium

Within the grounds of around 3.3 acres the formal gardens and entertaining areas are of special note, featuring a heated swimming pool and a tennis court.

photo property swimming pool
swimming pool
photo property swimming pool
swimming pool with entertainments barn in background
photo property tennis court
tennis court

For further details about this property, telephone Jacy Barwick on 01252 842100 or visit our residential letting agents and property management experts

5 Winning Behaviours Students Need for Academic Success

Getting good grades isn't just about intelligence, it's about using crucial study approaches. Two education experts tell Lisa Salmon more.

tips for academic success

With the festive season over, it’s time for many young people to focus their minds on more serious pursuits, like studying and exams.

By the time students are old enough to take national exams, they tend to study using ingrained habits, believing they know what works for them. But just because the way you study has worked (at least to some extent) in the past, doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily work again, warn education experts and authors Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin.

The pair, who have both been sixth-form teachers, have learned that past success doesn’t correlate with future success, and achievement isn’t just about superior ability, but about sticking to habits, routines and strategies that deliver results.

So after speaking to thousands of students about how they study and what they do every day or week that makes a difference, Oakes and Griffin have written The Student Mindset (Crown House Publishing, £9.99) to identify the key traits and behaviours all students need to achieve their goals.

tips for academic success

“We work the way we work because that’s how we’ve always done it,” says Oakes. “Even when results at a new level of study suggest our approaches are no longer effective, we persist, doing more of the same, pedalling harder and hoping.

“In many cases, students eventually give up, concluding they’re not intellectually capable of study at a more challenging level. But they’re often wrong. It’s the non-cognitive elements of study that defeat them – the new habits, routines and approaches they’ll need. New levels of study demand new tactics and strategies.”

And Griffin points out that while there’s been plenty of debate around how much academic performance is predicted by inherited intelligence, it’s actually the non-cognitive element of study – habits, systems and behaviours – that students can change as they grow.

“Rather than debating precisely what proportion of our success is due to genetic predisposition, we should instead be supporting students in changing the ways they work as the programme of study demands change. This way, we prepare them more effectively for an uncertain future,” he explains.

Griffin and Oakes say the five key traits and behaviours needed for academic success at any level are: Vision; Effort; Systems; Practice and Attitude (VESPA).

tips for academic success

1. Vision

The authors say determined and successful students know why they’re going through the struggle of demanding study, and have strengthened their ability to defer gratification because they have a goal in mind which pulls them forward.

“We’ve seen the impact a magnetic goal can have on learners,” says Griffin. “But goal setting needs to adjust as students grow. It isn’t just a case of plucking potential grades from the air and hoping for the best – high-vision students are increasingly aware of who they are and what they stand for, and this growing self-awareness allows them to create a compelling vision of what success looks like, and what the future holds for them.”

So, for example, they don’t just focus on wanting to be a doctor, they know why, such as believing equal access to healthcare is crucial.

“This way, they can persist for longer and stay positive during difficult times,” explains Griffin.

2. Effort

The authors stress successful students equate their academic success with hard work.

“Putting effort into study isn’t a symptom of weakness for these people. They’ve surrounded themselves with peers who feel the same and are exacting in their standards and expectations of themselves,” stresses Oakes.

As students begin working at a higher level, the successful ones incorporate – subconsciously in some cases – ideas about everyday signals (or leading indicators) telling them how much effort they’re putting in.

Plus, they “snack on learning rather than binge”, so they might read a chapter of a textbook per week, summarise their notes in four half-hour sittings, write an essay in stages, or review their understanding by testing themselves on a topic.

“In short, they actively set themselves work,” says Oakes. “This switch from the passive completion of directed tasks, to the active sequencing of independent study sessions that work as leading indicators – a crucial part of unlocking higher levels of effort.”

tips for academic success

3. Systems

Successful students have developed systems that allow them to organise time and resources, say Griffin and Oakes, so they have neat files and folders, complete with handouts methodically arranged, so they can make connections between useful materials and therefore learn faster. They prioritise according to need and impact, and meet deadlines.

4. Practice

Successful students work on their weaknesses, spending uncomfortable study time operating at the edge of their ability, isolating the things they can’t do and fixing them. They complete extra work for handing in, done under timed conditions, and then pay close attention to feedback.

Oakes says many students hit crisis point when revision strategies used successfully in the past suddenly seem useless, as once information is fully absorbed, it then has to be used to analyse unfamiliar data, solve a problem or construct an essay argument.

“For students loyal to memorising information, this can be a shock,” says Oakes. “High practice students learn to adjust the way they revise, mastering the content as the course goes on so the bulk of their preparation involves high stakes exam-style problem solving. They are calmer and better prepared as a result.”

tips for academic success

5. Attitude

Successful students know two things that unsuccessful ones don’t: Failure is an important part of success, and learning is composed of a series of sharp inclines, plateaus and setbacks.

Mastery happens slowly through deliberate effort and application. Griffin explains: “All students face ‘the dip’ – when progress halts and backslides. It might have happened before, but what works at one level – reconnecting with our successes, reminding ourselves of our positive qualities, comfort eating and watching a bit of TV – might need adjustment as challenges arise more frequently.”

High attitude students have a broader and more robust range of tactics when times are tough, such as a strong support network they regularly rely on, because they don’t equate asking for help with intellectual inferiority.

“And they have techniques for handling stress,” says Griffin. “They know exams are not a test of their self-worth.”

tips for academic success