How To Transform Your Home With 2018’s Trendiest Colour – Ultra Violet

ultra-violet-colour-living-room-news.jpgSurely one of the grandest hues on the colour wheel, with its associations with royalty, wizardry and luxury, purple is the hot shade for 2018.

Ever since colour gurus Pantone announced Ultra Violet – their interpretation of the shade made from a combination of blue and red tones – as their new Colour of the Year, there’s been a virtual avalanche of homeware and accessories in plummy shades.

This powerful colour is definitely not for faint-hearted decoristas, or those who think daring is moving from white to a pale shade of grey. Even Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone’s executive director, describes Ultra Violet as a “dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade”.

But used cleverly, it can look pretty as well as punchy – you just need to get the dose right!

Here, three decor experts reveal how to enjoy a full-blown purple passion, ‘flirt’ with quirky purple accents, or ‘double date’ by blending blue and purple…

Go full-on passion for purple “Ultra Violet has already sent shock waves through the interior design fraternity,” says Sophie Robinson, interior designer and former judge on BBC’s The Great Interior Design Challenge, whose living room reflects her enthusiasm for purple. “It’s a real Marmite colour, people either love it or hate it, but I’m a purple lover. I adore its intensity and vibrancy. It’s a really uplifting, feel-good colour and I can’t wait to see it popping up in the best dressed interiors.

“My advice,” Sophie adds, “leave behind all thoughts of Cadbury Cream Eggs, Barney the Dinosaur and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen in all his purple velvet suited glory, and embrace the new power of purple.” “Don’t be tempted to simply paint a feature wall in Ultra Violet and leave it at that,” she urges. “Instead, keep walls neutral and let soft furnishings do the work for you. If you’re using florals, mix them with geometrics for a more interesting look and do something unexpected.


“For me, a pop of neon colour for a cushion and candles lifted my living room scheme. The great thing about Ultra Violet is that it can hold its own with a diverse range of colours. It can act as a dark foil for acid brights, a cool partner for hot hues, and a safe anchor for delicate pastels.”

Flirt with punchy purple accents “This exciting choice for Colour of the Year works brilliantly in many different ways, for all different interior schemes,” enthuses Brian Woulfe, founder and managing director, Designed By Woulfe. “If you’re brave, go hard on block colours and mix this vibrant hue with other visceral and stimulating colours in your home in a Mondrian style. This will give your space a stylish edge because this is a heady cocktail of punkish rebellion and regal opulence.

“Alternatively, intoxicating purple sits wonderfully with the popular grey, earthy tones which have dominated the interiors scene for so long. Alongside greys and ochre, purple tones are softened and can be seamlessly integrated to a pre-existing scheme,” Brian continues. “Another great way to introduce a softer version of Ultra Violet is to opt for cashmere or wool soft furnishings in this punchy tone, or use the shade for silk or satin piping for an on-trend trim for cushions, curtains or armchairs.”

Partner moody blues with purples “Purple’s long been associated with spirituality, mystery and contemplation, and Ultra Violet is no exception,” says Hannah Thistlethwaite, textiles buyer, Heal’s. “Inspired by the night sky, it’s full of possibilities. Pairing Ultra Violet with serene shades of blue could have an ethereal effect. For a luxurious take on the trend, I’d recommend sofas and armchairs in inky navy or midnight black, with amethyst cushions and throws to provide subtle pops of colour from the same palette,” Hannah adds. “Finally, add a pendant light or a table lamp in soft copper to catch the light and add brightness to the overall look. So, while the psychedelic hue is certainly a statement, be bold, and you’ll reap the benefits of a space that is altogether other-worldly.”

So why not start 2018 by searching for colourful property solution here.


U.K. Manufacturing Industry Delivers ‘solid’ Growth In December

manufacturing up

Activity in Britain’s manufacturing sector has eased from a near four-and-a-half-year high, but still stumped up “solid” output and order growth in December.

The closely watched Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) showed a reading of 56.3 last month, down from 58.2 in November, with economists expecting a figure of 57.9. A reading above 50 indicates growth. While output levels from consumer goods producers rolled back, intermediate and investment goods motored ahead thanks to rising demand from overseas.

UK producers enjoyed a healthy appetite from Europe, China, the Middle East and America, helping to drive a further rise in employment.

It means the anufacturing industry churned out an average reading of 57 for final three months of the year – its best performance since the second quarter of 2014. Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit, said UK manufacturing ended the year on a positive footing.

He said: “Although growth of output and new orders moderated during December, rates of expansion remained comfortably above long-term trend rates. “The sector has therefore broadly maintained its solid boost to broader economic expansion in the fourth quarter. “The outlook is also reasonably bright, with over 50% of companies expecting production to be higher one year from now. “The main growth engines were the intermediate and investment goods sectors during December, suggesting resilient business-to-business demand and capital spending trends, albeit in part due to rising exports.”

Firms were also given a helping hand after input costs rose at the slowest rate for four months. Chemicals, electrical goods, metals and paper were among the products becoming more expensive. Despite sterling’s Brexit-induced slump keeping costs high, around 54% of firms are pencilling in a rise in production for the year ahead.

Samuel Tombs, Pantheon Macroeconomics chief UK economist, said the manufacturing industry will struggle to maintain momentum this year. He said: “UK manufacturers have cut investment since the Brexit vote and are struggling to find skilled workers. As result, work backlogs are increasing quickly and supply chain delays are worsening.

“These constraints will only worsen as the recovery continues, unless manufacturers suddenly ramp up investment. “Meanwhile, the recent rally in oil prices – to 67 US dollars, from just 50 US dollar six months ago – which has been driven by OPEC supply curbs and tensions in Iran, has darkened the outlook for low value-added production. “Accordingly, we expect the recovery in the manufacturing sector to lose its current vitality soon.”

The pound was 0.3% up against the US dollar at 1.35 following the update, and 0.3% lower versus the euro at 1.12. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed last month that gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.4% in its final reading for July to September this year, rising from 0.3% in the first and second quarters.

However, the UK economy is still struggling to bounce back to levels seen in the final quarter of 2016 – when GDP rose by 0.6%. Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to EY ITEM Club, said: “With December and November surveys from both the purchasing managers and the CBI also robust, the manufacturing sector looks likely to have produced another robust performance in the fourth quarter after expanding 1.3% quarter-on-quarter in the third quarter.”

A Risk Of Killing Birds With Kindness

By Hannah Stephenson PA

We want to feed birds through winter, but we may be making some mistakes in our methods. The RSPB offers 3 tips on what not to do.

We all know we need to keep bird feeders and baths topped up over the winter months to ensure our winged friends weather the storm of winter.

But there are some things we shouldn’t be doing, which can risk a bird’s health, and in some cases lead to death. Here’s the RSPB’s advice on what not to do.

1. Don’t put out fat balls in netting

Fat balls may be a great energy source for birds, but not when they’re housed in nylon netting, which is often used for easy hanging but can end up trapping birds’ feet or beaks, leading to injury or even death. If you buy fat balls, remove them from any nets and put them in a safer, bespoke hanging feeder. or leave them loose on a bird table.

2. Don’t give them food poisoning

Foods to avoid which are dangerous for birds include cooking fat from the roast, or Christmas turkey mixed with meat juices during cooking to make a runny, greasy mixture. This sticks to feathers and stops them from being waterproof. It is often full of salt too, which is toxic to birds. Other foods to avoid are dessicated coconut, which may swell once inside a bird and cause death, cooked porridge oats or milk, which can damage a bird’s gut.

3. Don’t put out too much food

If food turns mouldy or stale on your bird table, you are probably putting out too much for the birds to eat in one day. Many moulds are harmless, but some can cause respiratory infections in birds, so it’s best to be cautious and avoid mouldy food entirely. Always remove any stale or mouldy food promptly, as it provides a breeding ground for parasites and bacteria. Keep bird tables, feeders and surrounding areas clean, washing them regularly (ideally, using a 5% disinfectant solution) and move feeding stations to a new area every month to prevent droppings accumulating underneath.

To find a property with a lovely garden for wildlife, why not start your property search here

Floorboards – Sand, Paint and Reveal The Beauty

You know what? Underneath that tired, possibly stained, dust mite-infested carpet, there’s very likely a wooden floor that could look a million times better – if you knew how to sand and paint it.

Luckily, I did just that recently, so here are my tips for doing it yourself…

1. Clear the room – Sanding a wooden floor can be dusty, especially if you have gaps between floorboards to fill. Take all your furniture out, cover shelves and mantels with plastic sheeting and take the curtains or blinds down. This will save you hours of time (and heartache) later, and it’s never a bad idea to stick the curtains into the dry cleaners when you’ve got them down.

2. Prepare the floor – Your wooden floor may have cuts in it from electrical or plumbing fitting, or from various repairs. You may even need to replace a board or two if they’re badly damaged. Fill any gaps you find with two-part wood filler. If your gaps are wider than 5mm, you may need to roll up some newspaper and press it into the gap to give you something to fill up against. Carefully lift any mouldings you find, which can sometimes sit between floorboards and a skirting board. If you lift these gently, you might be able to salvage them, otherwise most DIY stores have huge moulding selections you can replace them with. If you had carpets down, you’ll need to lift the gripper rods and any staples that held your underlay down. Also, if you’ve taken carpet up, you’ll need to get a different profile of threshold strip for any doorways into the room. If you’re going to paint the floor, fix down any loose, squeaky boards by screwing them down before you start filling. However, if you want to varnish your floor, use brad nails to secure your boards instead, as it’s a better look on wooden boards. It’s very important not to screw or nail down the middle of the end of your floorboard, as this is where the pipes and electrics will run if you have them. This is why floorboards are secured in the corners instead.

3. Get sanding – If your room is small, you have the time – and if your fingers could stand up to the grating they’d get – you could sand your floor by hand. But the best plan is to hire a drum floor sander from any building hire shop. They are a bit heavy, but you can have them delivered with plenty of sandpaper, and they’ll do the job very quickly and easily. Use 40 grit sandpaper to start, if you have old varnish or lots of ground-in debris, then use 120 grit to finish, so the surface ends up smooth. Work methodically up and down the room, making sure you don’t sand in one place for too long – the coarse sandpaper can really eat into the boards. Finish sanding the edges of the floor where the sander can’t quite reach by hand (or you could also borrow an edging sander), and then sweep and vacuum up the dust. And it’s a good idea to shake out your dust sheets now, so no dust falls on your floor while you’re painting.

4. Choose the right paint – You can paint, stain or varnish your sanded floor in a wide range of colours and finishes, but make sure you buy products that are specifically for floors – they are harder wearing and certainly worth the small extra cost per litre. You can use 3″ or 4″ brushes to paint with. If you use a roller, which is quicker, it will leave your floor with a stippled effect, which doesn’t look so good on a painted floor. With a brush, you can lay off your paint work for a smoother finish – this means painting in the direction of the grain of wood, and painting any drips back into the wood. If you are painting your floor, you’ll need to put at least two coats of undercoat down first. Make sure you use a compatible undercoat to the top coat you are using – they are often designed to work together. I used Farrow & Ball paint for my floor, so two coats of wood floor primer and undercoat, followed by two coats of Charleston Gray Modern Eggshell.

5. Don’t paint yourself into a corner – Most importantly, start on the far edge of the room and don’t paint yourself into a corner (this does happen, and is a right laugh when the apprentices do it!). If you intend to keep your doors on their hinges during the job, make sure you paint the floor behind them before you paint yourself out of the room. Also, open the windows so you don’t poison yourself with fumes. Pay attention to the drying times, so you can get multiple coats on efficiently, and paint the top coats in the same way. For stains and varnishes, apply in the same way, just don’t forget that ventilation – they can be really smelly.

Britain’s Top Rankin Photos

Anyone can be a photographer these days, and even if we can’t reach the higher echelons of A-list snappers, we all have the ability to capture a moment in time.

That was the challenge photographic community Photobox set users when they invited submissions for their This is Britain project. Published and produced by Photobox, the coffee table book features images of the colours and characters that make up our society, all taken by members of the public, with a final selection curated by celebrity photographer Rankin.

More than 300 pictures reflecting the passage of the day sit alongside essays by personalities such as Kelly Hoppen MBE, Ben Fogle, Lorraine Kelly OBE and Denise van Outen. We asked Rankin to tell us about some of his favourite images from the book, which could of course be a lovely Christmas gift for someone.

1. Natural arc – I love this photo. The beautiful rainbow seems to perfectly span the length of the bridge. The row of local fishing boats reminds me of the thriving fishing industry of the past.

2. Wallflower – This is a great photo. The giant wall appears intimidating with the small child looking up at it. The beautiful apple tree growing up the wall pops out against the red brick. It’s stunning.

3. Monochrome beauty – This photographer certainly knows what they’re doing. The viaduct fades beautifully into the background while the harsh black and white colourings on the dog are so impactful.

4. End of the day – Wow! We’re so lucky to have an amazing coastline in the UK which provides a natural canvas for photographers to get creative. The warm light from this sunset bounces off the shoreline to create a mind-blowing photo.

5. Time for play – Nothing says playtime better than some puddle jumping and this photo captures it perfectly. I love the rows of beach huts in the background – very British.

Rankin’s top tips for taking pictures:

1. The first and most important thing for photography is light. Whether you’re on the bus or in your kitchen, think about light and where it’s coming from all the time to help sculpt the world around you.

2. You don’t need a big expensive camera – use a smartphone. They’re perfectly good enough to take great photos. The phone is just a tool, so use your imagination, get creative and take risks.

3. There are no rules. Photography isn’t meant to be prescriptive or strict. It’s supposed to be fun, so get out there and enjoy it.

This is Britain is produced and published by Photobox, in aid of BBC Children In Need, and available now. It’s priced at £25, with more than 40% of the sale price donated to the charity.

First Drive: BMW M5

What is it?
So here it is – the all-new BMW M5. Following in the footsteps of some of the best-regarded super-saloons ever made, this latest four-door powerhouse has got a tougher job than ever to remain top of the pile thanks to some hugely capable rivals. Utilising the very latest engine technology, it’s also the first M5 to feature all-wheel-drive, as well as a host of other features designed to make it sharper and more capable than ever before.

What’s new? – There’s a lot going on. The new BMW M5 makes use of a 4.4-litre V8 turbocharged engine as well as that all-important all-wheel-drive system – one of the biggest changes to the M5’s layout, with most M-cars traditionally powering the rear wheels only. That said, this new car can still be locked off to rear-wheel-drive only – so purists need not be too aghast. Not only this, but this sixth-generation car is lighter than ever before too, making use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic to keep its overall weight down.

What’s under the bonnet? – As mentioned, the new BMW M5 uses a 4.4-litre turbocharged V8 engine to power all four wheels. Here, it produces 592bhp and 750Nm of torque, allowing it to hit 60mph in 3.2 seconds before reaching an electronically limited 155mph top speed. All that fury is sent to the wheels via an eight-speed Steptronic transmission. BMW claims that the M5 will do 26.9mpg on a combined cycle, while emitting 241g/km CO2 – so there’s still some degree of sense despite the performance madness.

What’s it like to drive? – BMW M5s of old had a reputation for being somewhat spiky to drive. This latest one has been designed to offer a little more traction – and it’s well and truly achieved this. Despite packing close to 600bhp, the M5 rarely feels out of control, instead offering a lot of balance and adjustability. The biggest factor in this is that all-wheel-drive system. There’s no doubting the car’s rear-drive-bias; when the system is set to allow a certain amount of slip, the M5 will fall into delightful mini-drifts, sliding you through corners without ever feeling like it’s going to spin around and bite you. Turn all the systems back on, and it transforms into a point-to-point weapon with all of the traction you could want.

Then there’s the engine. Anybody who doubted turbocharged engines in performance cars needs to experience the way the M5’s V8 deploys its power. There’s no lag to speak of, just shove throughout the rev range. Of course, lower down is where you notice the power the most and any press of the throttle is accompanied by a deep, mechanical bellow. The steering also has a decent weight to it, though it feels its most capable in sport mode – the middle of the three. Comfort feels too light, while sport plus is granite-heavy. The middle ground, unsurprisingly, is the best bet.

How does it look? – The M5 exudes all of the classic styling that we’ve come to expect from big, powerful M-cars. It’s certainly not as wild as the current-generation M3, but it still looks special. At the rear, four exhaust pipes to give some hint of the car’s performance, as do the gills at the side of the car, but all in all it’s still instantly recognisable as a BMW saloon – and that’s no bad thing at all. M-cars aren’t meant to be shouty and brash in terms of exterior styling, as they let their performance do the talking – and that’s just the case here.

What’s it like inside? – The interior of the M5 uses the vast majority of components from the standard, but excellent, 5 Series cabin. That means you still get an infotainment system which is simple and easy to operate, as well great build quality and good materials. The M5 builds on this with additional ‘sporting’ touches, such as carbon-fibre finishers for the dashboard. The biggest changes come in the form of driving mode selectors. Two red ‘M’ buttons sit at either side of the steering wheel, and allow you to customise the suspension, steering and engine responsiveness to one of three modes. There’s also the drivelogic selector, now found on the top of the gear stick, which controls how quickly and sharply the car changes gear.

Of course, as it’s based on a standard 5 Series saloon, the M5 remains hugely practical. There’s loads of space for both sat up front, while rear seat legroom is excellent too. The cabin, as a whole, feels special as well as comfortable – and this makes it ideal for those who are planning to undertake longer journeys but still want plenty of ‘star’ factor.

What’s the spec like? – You’d expect any high-powered executive saloon to pack a lot of toys and, thankfully, the M5 delivers in this respect. Standard equipment includes 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights and dynamic LED brake lights on the outside, with BMW’s professional media system, 10.25-inch colour display and front heated seats just a variety of the long list of included technology for the inside. Being a BMW, there’s still a long list of options to choose from. Highlights include ceramic brakes, a sports exhaust system and a full carbon engine cover. That said, the car’s price starts at just shy of £90,000 which means, even by ticking just a few boxes, the M5 could easily nudge into the six-figure bracket – and that’s a lot, even for a car with as much performance as this. That said, it’s in line with its competitors – the Mercedes-AMG E63S matches the BMW in the price department.

Verdict – The M5 certainly came into this world with a lot of competition. However, thanks to better all-round capability than ever before, it’s likely to come out on top when it goes on sale next year. It’s relatively expensive, but given the sheer amount of technology and performance on board, it feels more than worth the money.


Model: BMW M5

Price: £89,640

Engine: 4.4-litre turbocharged V8

Power: 592bhp

Torque: 750Nm

Max speed: 155mph

0-60mph: 3.2 seconds

MPG: 26.9

Emissions: 241g/km

Victoria Pendleton On Going Vegan and Why Horse Riding Keeps Her Happy

Victoria Pendleton is one of Britain’s most successful female Olympians.

The cyclist won a sprint gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. and later went on to win gold for the Keirin event at the 2012 London Olympic Games. By the time she retired from cycling in 2012, she’d also won nine gold medals at the World Championships.

After a glittering career, she swapped one saddle for another and is now an amateur jockey and horsewoman.

Victoria, 37, who lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, talks about falling in love and being fearless…

How do you look after your health?

“I thought I’d be a party animal when I retired from cycling, but it just doesn’t suit me. I love eight hours a night sleep and early mornings too much. I’m out by 7am walking or jogging with our Doberman dogs, Stella and Mr Jonty, or I’m riding my bike to the stables.

“As I’m an animal lover – and a person that’s quite conscious of my carbon footprint – I’m now almost completely vegan. I have no dairy and only plant-based food with the occasional egg. “I really appreciate being able to eat what I want, which I couldn’t when I was competing. I could never choose food for its taste. Instead, it was about eating for nutritional content and with a strict routine – which took the pleasure out of it.

“I also had to be a complete carnivore as vegetarian food wouldn’t have given me enough protein and amino acids to maintain muscle mass.”

What’s your biggest achievement?

“Olympic medals aside – horse riding. Last year, in just 12 months, I went from never having ridden to coming fifth in the Foxhunter (cor) Chase, over a course with 22 fences. While the medals for cycling were a long time in the making, being able to devote myself in a short, intense period to something completely new, was incredible. Afterwards, I knew I couldn’t have given any more of myself than I did. That’s such a good feeling.”

What makes you happy?

“I fell in love with riding on my first lesson and being in the equestrian world gives me a joy that I wouldn’t have believed possible. “Working with horses is good for me as I’m a naturally impatient person, but you can’t be with animals, so it’s tempering that strong streak of wanting everything done ‘now’.

“I’m retraining my racehorses with a long-term aim to compete at eventing – which comprises dressage, show jumping and cross country. I love having nothing to prove or chase in this new world. I can just indulge my obsession, which is being with horses. I literally get unhappy if I don’t see them every day.” Who’s the love of your life? “My horse, Vesper [Vesperal Dream]. He’s a black beauty – French-bred, elegant and very slender. He’s very confident, loves looking at himself in the mirror and has such a nice way. All the girls at the stable yard have fallen in love with him as well.”

“Oops, actually I’ve just thought that’s a bit embarrassing as I should have also said my husband, Scott! I’m such a horsey lady now. It’s the same when I talk to other female riders – we all mention our horses first and husbands second.”

Do you have any regrets?

“I regret not giving myself more time off during my cycling career. I’m such a perfectionist and was so desperate to keep achieving that I was too frightened to take a break and appreciate my success. Instead, I always had my head down and was focused on the next goal. I think that’s typical of life these days – people are always seeking more. With hindsight, I’d have been a more balanced individual if I’d allowed myself to step away occasionally.”

How do you feel about cycling now?

“I’m just a fair-weather cyclist now. Most of my cycling is to and from he stables. Occasionally Scott and I go on a ride for fun, but that’s about it. I’ll keep track of the competitive cycling results out of interest and for commentating work.

“My biggest disappointment was ending my career when I was 32 because, although I ended on a high, inside I felt I still had more to achieve. That’ll always be a frustration. Even so, I have no desire to compete again.

“Retiring’s been fantastic as it’s opened up an exciting new world of possibilities for me. I’m an adventurous person who loves change. I’ll give any sport a go – I’ve actually just taken up surfing.”

How do you want to be remembered?

“For being honest. I’ve always tried to be open and honest about who I am, what I do, my challenges and my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve never tried to be anything other than myself. I’d like to be seen as a hard worker who took opportunities, but above all, as someone who’s fearless and prepared to try anything. I’m not scared of failure, because I think life is all about experiences.”

Victoria Pendleton has developed a range of women’s bikes exclusively for Halfords. The Pendleton E-Somerby and Bayley are available now in shops.

Stamp Duty – A Massive Missed Opportunity on Budget Day

Flagship Budget changes to help young people get onto the property ladder will mainly benefit people who already own homes by forcing up purchase prices, the official economic watchdog has warned.

McCarthy Holden also believe the measures announced today missed an opportunity to improve house availability supply in the short term, by not addressing wider stamp duty changes designed to improve mobility and increase choice and supply.

“The missed opportunity on the stamp duty front is directly linked to the weakness of this Government,” according to John Holden Chairman of McCarthy Holden, “and the mid to top end property sectors are long overdue a stamp duty reduction since the disastrous hike in the stamp levy on larger properties by George Osborne”

“Ever since Osborne significantly increased house purchase stamp duty on more expensive properties, especially over £2.0m., this sector stagnated, tax revenue fell and buyers motivations to move hit rock bottom, which in turn has impacted directly on availability of housing stock. It’s obvious that if there is a healthy top end with motivated sellers and buyer this will feed into the mid to lower end sectors because buyers will have the motivation to move and the supply side of property will increase.”

“Politically Hammond was weak,” continues Holden, “because he didn’t have the resolve to stand up to the inevitable Jeremy Corbyn stance to a reduction in top end stamp duty, however the prospect of a looking after the rich accusation by Corbyn should have been faced down in the greater interest of achieving a supply side and mobility gain with the prospect of increased tax revenue” concluded Holden.

Today Chancellor Philip Hammond abolished stamp duty for first-time buyers on properties worth up to £300,000 as part of a giveaway Budget package which pumped an additional £25 billion into priorities like housing, infrastructure and the NHS in a bid to build “a Britain fit for the future”.

But the Office for Budget Responsibility took the shine off the move – which the Treasury says will benefit a million home-hunters by an average £1,660 over five years – by predicting it will push up prices by around 0.3%, leaving many first-time buyers paying more than they would have done without the relief. Forecasting that the change, estimated to cost more than £3 billion by 2022/23, will result in as few as 3,500 additional home purchases a year, the OBR said: “The main gainers from the policy are people who already own property, not the first-time buyers themselves.”

Treasury sources insisted that the measure, which will also apply to the first £300,000 of homes worth up to half a million pounds, would be a welcome boost to first-time buyers, with 95% seeing a cut in the amount of stamp duty paid and 80% paying none at all.

Despite the tight economic backdrop, Mr Hammond announced significant investments including: An additional £15 billion for housing in a bid to reach the target of building 300,000 extra new homes a year by the mid-2020s, an extra £7.5 billion for the NHS over the next five years and another £3 billion to prepare for the impact of Brexit.

Christmas Food Memories

Gino loves a 10-course Italian feast, while John Whaite takes charge of the sprouts. Reminiscing over Christmases past is a crucial part of the festive season, especially when it comes to making a decision over what you’ll be dishing up this year.

So, we caught up with a few of our favourite chefs to discover their ultimate Christmas foodie memories…

1. According to Tim Anderson, you can grow to love mince pies

MasterChef winner Tim is American, so his first British Christmas was quite the experience: “First of all, so many desserts – trifle, the cake, the Christmas pudding. Then my mother-in-law makes Christmas cookies and rocky road. Mince pies; I didn’t like them at first, I thought they were too sweet, but now I can’t get enough of them. And then the roast dinner, which I think is the height of British cooking. Roast potatoes, my father-in-law taught me to make them and they’re amazing. We just do mash in America.”

2. Rick Stein remembers a hot Aussie Christmas

Rick-Stein-web.jpg“The first time I had an Australian Christmas, which was salad and prawns outdoor by the pool – and this was in the early-Eighties; my fond memories are always of having turkey or goose – but having a genuine Australian Christmas, which a lot of Aussies don’t have, they still have roast turkey, was quite special,” says the seafood aficionado.

3. Barbecuing in the snow is fine by Claire Thompson

Claire-Thompson-web.jpgThe ‘5 O’clock Apron’ blogger lived in Africa until she was eight, so grew up having hot Christmases by the pool, as did her Kiwi husband Matt. But some of her favourite Christmases have been since she moved to England and started spending them at her mum’s house in Shropshire, although they still rarely have turkey: “We have a brilliant photo of Matt standing in gum boots in about 3ft of snow with a head-torch on, barbecuing steaks in my mum’s garden.”

4. The trick is to have an all-day breakfast, says Kirstie Allsopp

Kirstie-Allsopp-web.jpgTo avoid rushing about with the turkey, while the kids open their presents first thing, the presenter and Kirstie’s Real Kitchen author has restructured Christmas day: “I like to do the supper at six o’clock, after the Queen’s speech, and basically have an all-day, rolling breakfast while everyone opens their presents. So, pancakes, scrambled eggs and maybe a bit of salmon – easy things. You can keep everyone fed and occupied – maybe have a couple of glasses of prosecco – and then have a big early supper.”

5. For Gino D’Acampo, Italian Christmas lunch is a serious business

Gino-D'Acampo-web.jpg“Here, it’s all about having a starter and then having this huge plate, where the turkey goes on top and the Yorkshire pudding and the potatoes, then it’s pretty much over. In Italy it’s different,” explains Gino D’Acampo, whose new book, Gino’s Italian Coastal Escape, was recently released. “We do between 10 and 15 different courses. We have fish, because we don’t have turkey. One of the dishes we do is sea bass cooked in a salt crust. We do a lot of antipasti, cured hams and cheeses. Then we do one or two plates of pasta. There is a lot for everybody, and you put everything in the middle of the table and spend four or five hours eating all beautiful different kinds of foods.”

So you’re just about to become a first time landlord?

How choosing the wrong letting agent will make you cry…

It happens more often than you think.You might get a new job offer that’s too good to turn down, you may decide to move in with your partner or you may just fancy a change of scenery and take some time out traveling.

The thing is, what do you do with your home? You could sell it, and reinvest the money, although returns on most things are very poor nowadays, as well as taking on a large amount of risk. So why not keep it?

If you keep it, you can either leave it sat empty and have a friend or family member check on it every once and a while, or you could let it out and hopefully make additional income along the way.

This is where doubts start to creep in…this is where becoming a first time landlord really can start you off worrying about your home that you have painstakingly improved and maintained over the years. There are so many horror stories about people renting out their homes from tenants not paying the bills, blocking the drains, decorating in unsuitable colours to running illegal ‘so-called businesses’. The problem is that a lot of dysfunctional, criminal, deranged or antisocial people can, when the occasion demands, give an impression of being an upstanding trustworthy member of society.

Unfortunately, without carrying out the right checks and trying to mitigate the risk as much as possible you may find, to your cost, that you end up with an unsavory character renting out your home.

Even if you do carry out the right checks, there is always the chance of things going wrong …way into the time scale of the tenancy. For example, what happens if the tenant stops paying, for no apparent reason? This can really start to cause cash flow issues.

There are also the legal obligations of being a landlord. Falling foul of the law can end up costing you an awful lot of money. For example, failure to comply with gas safety regulations could lead to prosecution and/or imprisonment with fines up to £25,000. Then, of course, there is the legal requirement to put your tenant’s deposit into a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDS) See details about ‘Tenancy deposit protection’ on the UK Gov. website.

So the choice is yours… do it yourself or bring in a Letting Agent to help you.

So what should you really be looking out for in a lettings agency?

There are a few things that your letting agent must cover without a shadow of a doubt. If they can’t help you with these five things…then stay well clear.

  • Processes and measures in place for finding the right tenants
  • Health and Safety – complying with the law
  • Optimising rental income
  • Tenancy deposit scheme
  • Comprehensive tenancy agreement

Choose a letting agent who is a member of the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), or one of the professional bodies that support it.

– The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA/Property Mark)

– The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

– The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)

Level of service
Can the agent offer you different levels of service, from full management to just finding a tenant, depending on your requirements?

Do they have professional indemnity insurance?
This will cover the letting agent against the possibility of being sued. Do they also have a client money protection policy in place

Tenancy deposit scheme (TDS)
Can the letting agent deal with this for you? If so, check that the scheme they belong is a government-backed reputable scheme.

Ongoing support
Does the agency undertake regular property visits to check up on the state of the property and the wellbeing of your tenants?
Is there an emergency maintenance out of hours contact number available?

These are just a few of the things you should consider when renting out your home for the first time. However, there is nothing like meeting up with the letting agent, to see what they are like in person. Do they get on with you, how helpful do they seem? How knowledgeable are the staff, and are they continuously being trained (CPD courses) on the latest legislation for example.

Also, check out a post by ARLA on “How to find a good Letting Agent”

7 Of The Most Beautiful Autumn Gardens Walks

Blow away the cobwebs and take inspiration from a wealth of autumn walks where you can appreciate flora and fauna in dazzling shades of burnt orange, warm yellows and deep burgundies. Here are some of the country’s best…

Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey – During the autumn months, the splendour of Winkworth Arboretum comes to life with rich, blazing colour from the Japanese, American and Norwegian maples. The 2.5-mile walk to Oakhurst weaves its way through the woodland to the top of Hydon’s Ball, where you can enjoy spectacular views across the landscape.

Killerton, Devon – Admire the pallet of colours offered in this garden, including the deep orange berries of the Chinese scarlet rowan, the red berries and furry leaves of the Cotoneaster lacteus, and the Zelkova carpinifolia turning a deep, buttery yellow.

Felbrigg, Norfolk – The Great Wood on the Felbrigg estate is full of interesting fungi in the autumn. After inspecting these, look up to see the bright copper leaves of the Victory V beeches. It’s worth taking a detour (at point 6 on the route) down Lion’s Mouth in autumn. The route feels like you are walking into the jaws of a lion with the tunnel of colour provided from the trees.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire – The sweeping landscape of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal is full of autumn colour at this time of year. One of the rangers has designed a deer park walk through the estate which gives you the chance to see the deer rut as well as the beautiful autumn colours.

Gibside, Tyne and Wear – Buzzing with wildlife, Gibside is home to red kites, roe deer and many other rare animals. During the autumn months, you can see the colours changing on the trees below as you rise out of the Derwent Valley on this circular skyline walk offering plenty of pportunities for panoramic views.

Dinas Island, Pembrokeshire – This circular walk on Dinas Island boasts some of the finest views anywhere on the Pembrokeshire coast. In early autumn, the coastal slopes are cloaked with the yellows and browns of fading bracken, while on the headland, the pinks and purples of common heather are just coming in to bloom, alongside the yellow gorse flowers.

Dunster, Somerset – A walk to the keep of the castle rewards visitors with a 360-degree view taking in Dunkery Beacon (the highest point on Exmoor) and the Bristol Channel. The south terrace offers views across the former deer park which will be full of colour and the opportunity to spot red deer. The area has a Mediterranean feel due to its microclimate which enables tender plants to thrive, including a row of Chusan palms.

Visit for more details about the gardens.

By Hannah Stephenson

UK Residential Property In £ Per Square Metre

Local property hotspots in areas such as the Blue Triange in Fleet and the Cricket Green in Hartley Wintney have seen £ per square metre levels as high as £4,304 and £6,521 respectively, which sounds robust so how does that compare to other parts of the UK? These hotspot figures do not represent an average for the area, so bear this in mind when reading the following.

One square metre of house space in Kensington and Chelsea is 25 times more expensive than the cheapest area of England and Wales, new figures show.

The London borough tops the list for the costliest house price per area, with homebuyers paying almost £19,500 per square metre last year.

By contrast, the amount paid in Blaenau Gwent in Wales was £777, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Prices in the capital continued to soar far above other regions, with the cost per area almost doubling to £6,639 between 2004 and 2016.

The five boroughs with the steepest house prices per square metre were all in London, with the City of London (£17,371), City of Westminster (£16,246), Camden (£12,671) and Hammersmith and Fulham (£10,718) following Kensington and Chelsea.

Three of the five areas with the lowest cost per square metre were in Wales, with Merthyr Tydfil and Neath Port Talbot clocking in at £917 and £984 respectively.

They were joined by Burnley (£838) and Hyndburn (£976) in Lancashire.

The figures showed the north-south gap continues to widen, with prices in the South East (£3,445) almost double that of the North East (£1,271).

The data covers houses and flats bought in England and Wales between 2004 and 2016.

While there was a slight increase (2.7%) in the size of floor space bought, the rise in house prices was the main driver of growth, the ONS said.

Price per habitable room in England and Wales increased by almost half (45%) in the same period, whereas room size only increased by just over 1%.

A room in London cost almost £133,000 last year, almost four-and-a-half times more than those in the North East, with an average of around £29,700.

A boost in the proportion of detached homes purchased, along with a fall in the proportion of flats bought, account for the slight increase in room size.

Main Source: Isabel Togoh, Press Association

Gardening Delight in Autumn Harvest and Apples

At McCarthy Holden we know the added value that comes with a beautiful and productive garden, so top tips from gardening expert are worth having…..


As fruit-lovers celebrate harvest with Apple Days this month, Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don offers tips on how to grow them.Monty Don loves apples. He has around 60 different types at his garden in Longmeadow, Herefordshire, growing in various forms – some are big trees, others stepovers, or smaller trees.

They are among the most popular fruits in this country and yet people have a fear about growing apples, says Monty in his latest book, Down To Earth.

“They somehow feel it has to be a big tree, but it doesn’t. You can grow stepovers or espaliers, you can grow fans or cordons. You can train the fruit to fit your space,” he explains.”People also get very worried about what are actually quite trivial afflictions. It could be a bit of mould on a leaf or a bit of bitter pit in the apple, but by and large apple trees are robust. They don’t need much looking after.”

Some people are also confused by rootstocks, he observes. “It’s moderately complex because all apples are grown on a different rootstock, so the roots of one tree are joined at the graft to the trunk and branches of another tree. The root dictates the size and vigour and shape of the tree, and the bit above the root dictates the fruit.

“So you could have my favourite eating apple, Jupiter, as a dwarf, a cordon or a great big tree, but you’d need a different rootstock for each of them.

“All you need to know is, I want it to be this big, my garden is this size, what rootstock do you have? And a good garden centre should be able to tell you.”

Monty’s tips for apple-growing beginners

1. Find a sunny spot – Apple trees need sunshine and good drainage. Don’t grow grass right up around them. Clear the grass for at least a 1m radius around them until the trees are as big as you want them to be, then you can let the grass grow back up to the trunk. Grass will take a lot of moisture and nutrients they need.

2. Plant more than one – “Some apples are self-pollinating, but you should always plant more than one. There are eight groups of apples, which are numbered solely on when they produce their flowers. Number one is the first to blossom, and number eight the last. “If you have two apples, one from group one and one from group eight, they won’t blossom at the same time and if they don’t blossom at the same time, they can’t cross pollinate. Either have two of the same group or one from either side, so if you have a group three apple, you should either have another from group three or one from group two or one from group four.

“The earliest apples start blossoming at the beginning of April and the latest blossom at the end of May, but the flowers have to be open at the same time to pollinate.”

3. Learn how to plant new trees – “Dig a wide hole no more than one spade’s depth deep, loosen the hole and the sides, but don’t add manure or compost. “Plant the tree slightly higher than it is in the pot or, if it’s bare-rooted, slightly above soil level, so it’s on a tiny pyramid. Firm it in well, so it’s planted in a slight cone, not a well, because more trees die from being over-wet than too dry. “Water it well, stake it and mulch it thickly with either garden compost or wood chippings, to keep the weeds down and the moisture in. You don’t add compost to the hole because you want the roots to grow out into the soil. If you put compost into the hole, the roots will stay and curl around and become almost pot-bound. Roots need to grow horizontally as quickly as possible. “Most feeding roots are within a spade’s depth and horizontal. They don’t go down, they go sideways.”

4. Know when to prune – “If you prune hard in winter, you will get lots of shoots coming back and none of those shoots will have any fruit on them. If you want to reduce the size of the apple tree, do it in summer. If you want to stimulate it to grow bigger, do it in winter. “Almost all apples produce their fruit on spurs and the spurs only develop on wood when it gets to two or three years old.”

5. Get inspired about varieties at Apple Days – “My advice is to go and taste as many different varieties as possible, see what they look like. Use it as an experience to extend your knowledge about what apples look and taste like. When you go to the supermarket, you’re just not going to have that opportunity. Then, if you find an apple you really like that you can’t buy in a supermarket, that’s the one to grow.”

Down To Earth by Monty Don is published by DK, priced £17.99. Available now.

To start your search for a property with a perfect garden just click here

Happy Home Recipe


The 82-year-old reveals 10 favourite household tips in her new book, Mary’s Household Tips & Tricks – Your Guide To Happiness In The Home.

“My focus may have been on cooking, but it’s always centred on the home. In my books and TV programmes, I’m always keen on sharing tips to help people,” says the cook.

“This book’s not about creating more work, or telling people what to do, it’s just passing on a collection of tips, things I learnt from my mother, my own ideas gleaned from years of practical experience, as well as helpful hints from friends and family.

“Home should be a place where, if you have a family, they want to visit and can come in and instantly relax,” Mary adds. “We’re very lucky – my husband and I have been married 50 years and don’t really argue – life’s too short. Never let the sun go down on a row is our motto.

“The one thing Paul and I really disagree about is how the house is decorated,” she says. “My husband likes the style he grew up, which isn’t exactly mine! For example, I’ve got tie backs on the curtains, but if I go away, he removes all the tie backs and puts them away in the cupboard. Similarly, he’ll move cushions he dislikes out of sight. Then gradually I put them all back again. It’s a farce really!

“Our kitchen is a practical, attractive space where everyone tends to congregate – family, friends and our two dogs – and where all the decisions are made,” reveals Mary.

“I have collections displayed, from china hens to vintage christening mugs. There are all sorts of easy tricks to making a space more practical. For instance, if you have good quality cupboard doors, fixing spice racks to the back of them is very useful. That’s the perfect dark place to store them, because light causes spices to fade and lose flavour.”

Here are Mary’s top tips:

1. Sort it out

“My house is tidy but definitely not immaculate! I like to keep on top of things though, so every so often I’ll sort out the chaos in my wardrobe and clear out some clothes. I also clean out kitchen cupboards and drawers every six months – I empty them, use a clean cloth and hot soapy water to wash all surfaces, and dry thoroughly. I’d suggest lining pan drawers with ridged rubber matting (available from online catering companies).”

2. Iron candle wax off a carpet

If wax has got onto a wool carpet, place kitchen roll or grease proof paper on top of the affected area, then iron it. The wax will melt and stick to the paper. (Take care with synthetic carpets as they don’t take well to heat!)

3. Clean your machines

To clean a dishwasher, run a wash with white vinegar. Use around 250ml placed in a container on the bottom rack – just run a normal cycle and it will be like a new machine. For the washing machine, run an empty cycle to clear the drum, and add a cut lemon to a short empty cycle, to keep the machine fresh. To pep up your microwave, put a cut lemon in a bowl of water and microwave on full power for one minute – condensation will release stains around the sides and make it easy to wipe clean.

4. Use nuts to help fade furniture scratches

Break an oily nut – such as a walnut – in half, and rub the exposed area over scratches in the wood. The oil of the nut should help them to fade and appear less noticeable.

5. Steam clean your floors

“I use a steam mop to clean my tiled floors and I don’t think it’s too much to say that it’s changed our lives. Steam mops are quick to heat up, can be used on any sealed floor surface, and the reusable micro fibre pad collects dirt with minimum effort,” advises Mary.

6. Wear rubber gloves and get stuck in to properly clean a toilet

To remove hard water and limescale toilet stains, wear rubber gloves, flush the cistern and remove a mugful of water from the bowl – I use a tin mug – so you can see the rim of the limescale line clearly.While the water level is low, pour or spray the loo cleaner around the limescale in the bowl. Make sure you get the product around the top and where water drips down the back of the bowl too. Leave for 30 minutes (or according to the product instructions), then rub with a fine scourer or brush. Pour the water in mug back into bowl, then brush and flush the cistern again.

7. Use onions to rid paint smells

If you have newly-painted walls, counteract the smell by cutting two onions into quarters and leaving them cut up on a plate overnight.

8. Protect the floor when you’re partying

Protect carpet if you’re having a party by using rolls of polythene film, used by builders to protect flooring. Make sure you buy the appropriate film for the floor surface – the one for carpet shouldn’t be used on hard flooring.

9. Keep flowers looking and smelling amazing

When putting cut flowers in a vase, remove any leaves which come below the water, otherwise they’ll make it turn green and smell. To clean irregularly shaped vases or containers, use a handful of rice and a good glug of white vinegar. Swirl around briskly, so the rice can clean corners, before rinsing and drying.

10. Clean windows the old-school way

“A half and half mixture of vinegar and water is a traditional window-cleaning solution and an alternative to chemical sprays. Alternatively, use a window/glass-cleaning spray and a micro fibre cloth, which won’t leave bits of lint on the surface.

Mary’s Household Tips & Tricks by Mary Berry, is published by Michael Joseph, £20.00.

The new bathroom rules

There’s a new wave of styles washing over bathrooms. The tide’s turning against the predictable, and embracing a more go-with-the-flow approach means you can mix-and-match furniture and fittings to conjure a space that perfectly suits your taste, as well as your practical needs, whether it’s a spa-like haven, a functional family room, or a contemporary wet room.

As designers become more adventurous, sophistication, glamour and individuality rule. And it’s easy to achieve a ‘wow’ factor, thanks to state-of-the-art technology – think TVs, sound systems and light and water shows in the shower – sculptural sanitary ware, and even stunning waterproof wallpaper now vying with tiles for attention.

“The traditional bathroom suite has become outdated and there’s a desire for the space to become customised, with people seeing it as a room where they can display individual pieces, as they would art,” says Leanne Martin, head of product at Sottini.

“A strong industrial trend is coming through, with steel-effect wall-hung cabinets complemented by sleek brassware and fresh white walls for an efficient, sleek look. Bathroom units raised off the floor, increasing visible floor space, to create an illusion of a larger room, are starring, and a particularly striking ‘floating’ effect can be achieved, with wall-hung, chunky, unsupported slabs in gloss or wood grain, and slim, curved vessel basins on top.”

“If you don’t want to reach out and touch the walls, you’re not doing it right for 2017. Bathrooms no longer mean matching tiles as far as the eye can see – as a nation, we’ve become experimental with wall finishes and shrugged off the constraints of the white bathroom tile,” says Martin.

“Industrial concrete walls are being paired with textured wallpapers, while tile effects are being created using countless different sizes, shapes, prints and texture options. Even a retro wood finish has made a comeback for a Scandi-chic style statement, and for the really bold, vertical green, living walls, to give a lush 3D impact you can’t beat!”

Water, she points out, is a feature in itself. “It’s not enough that it drains down a plughole any more. It’s all about the spectacle of how it falls in a waterfall-like sheet from a height and disappears out of sight into concealed drainage.”

Why not start your property search and find the perfect home with a wow factor bathroom or soak up inspiration from some of the other inspiring bathroom ideas noticed by McCarthy Holden include the following.

[Photo of Madeira Cast Iron Double Ended Bath, from £3,750; Hemsby Floor Standing Bath Shower Mixer, from £1,272; Abingdon Basin and Washstand in Rose Gold, from £495; Chesham Mirror in Stone Black, from 425, all available from Heritage Bathrooms (prices at time of going to press may vary) Picture PA Photo.]

[Photo of Bonamico 70cm vessel basin, £341.55; Paglia wall mounted basin mixer, £218.21, all available from Sottini (prices at time of going to press may vary). PA Photo.]

[The Gold Kartell by Laufen All Saints mirror, £504.62, Gold Kartell by Laufen ‘Rifly’ pendant lamp, £335.27 and the Boutique Dark Oak Vanity Unit, £1,522.50, all available from (prices at time of going to press may vary) Picture PA Photo.]

[Ombrone Totem basin, £1,190.25; Ciane wall mounted basin mixer, £250.13, both available from Sottini (prices at time of going to press may vary). Picture PA Photo.]
[Bubbles bath, £29,310; Polished carved cast brass free standing wash basin, £13,470; Crescent Mirror, £4,890, available from Touched Interiors (prices at time of going to press may vary). Picture PA Photo.]
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