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Ray Mears Top Tips for Cooking Outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep your fire small

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

Have a few knife skills up your sleeve

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

Soups are ideal on a camping trip

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

Consider your packaging

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

Don’t worry about making a pudding

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

Ground oven cooking can be great fun

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

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

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

14 Ways to Style up your Home Wine and Cocktail Game

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

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

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

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

Sip in splendour with these stylish buys…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 Ways to Make the Most of a Small Bedroom

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

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

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

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

1. Let there be light

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

2. Under-bed storage is your friend

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

3. Make it a a virtue

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

4. Mirror, mirror

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

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

5. Bed size matters

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

6. Put your headboard to work

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

7. Think vertically

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

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

8. Choose furniture strategically

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

9. Curate your colour scheme

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

10. Establish a theme

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

11. Declutter

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

12. Marshal your corners

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

13. Employ a feature wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stick to beaches with lifeguards

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

Do your research

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

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

Keep family and friends in the loop

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

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

What to do if you are in danger

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

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

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

7 Things you Need to Know When Considering a Loft Conversion

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

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

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

1. Hiring an architect

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

2. Planning permission and building regulations

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

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

3. Type of loft conversion

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Budget

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

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

5. Staircase

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

6. Head space needed

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

7. Increased house value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snugpak Snuggy Headrest, £6.95, Amazon

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

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

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

Red Original Changing Robe, £44.95, redoriginal.com

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

Snugpack Snugfeet, from £39.65, outdoorgb.com

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

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

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

Zippo Rechargeable Candle Lighter, £26.85, Amazon

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

Simplehuman Mini Travel Mirror, £119, johnlewis.com

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

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

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

14 Easy Ways to Give your Bathroom a Summer Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Argos Home Nomad Tallboy, £120, Argos

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

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

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

7 Super Sustainable Buys for Summer

sustainable summer products

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

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

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

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

sustainable summer products

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

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

sustainable summer products

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

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

sustainable summer products

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

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

sustainable summer products

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

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

sustainable summer products

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

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

sustainable summer products

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

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

sustainable summer products

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

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

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

outdoor time family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

outdoor time family

1. Make a seed bomb

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

2. Create a temporary dam

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

outdoor time family

3. Go foraging for blackberries

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

4. Collect seeds to plant next spring

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

outdoor time family

5. Paint a watercolour with rain

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

6. Create bug hotels for pollinators

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

outdoor time family

7. Go on a rainbow scavenger hunt

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

8. Make a mini-pond

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

outdoor time family

9. Be a street artist

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

10. Watch caterpillars transform into butterflies

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

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

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

McCarthy Holden COVID secure procedures – Updated 25th July 2020

Following new government guidelines and changes that McCarthy Holden have made to staffing levels etc. the following is an updated procedure list of requirements that need to be complied to by all staff to ensure safety to both us and the public.

This is an overview of procedures that are required to be completed by all staff, owners and viewers and has been produced after a COVID secure risk assessment. If anyone would like a copy of our risk assessment please email: sholden@mccarthyholden.co.uk

Offices:

No members of public in office unless by prior appointment

When members of public enter the office, they must be wearing a mask and any employee of McCarthy Holden who is dealing with them must also wear a mask

Offices cleaned and sanitised morning and evening – use alcohol spray and paper towels –

Hours to be 9.30am-5.30pm

No office communal mugs/glasses/plates to be used

Bring in own bottled water / thermos etc

If possible, bring in own lunch or bring pre-packaged. No use of kitchen facilities ie microwave etc.

Front door to remain locked

Hands to be washed throughout the day and dried using paper towels which are then disposed of

Hands to be washed on re-entering office during the day

Empty bins daily into Biffa bin or official bin bags, tied securely

Attire should not include suits as these cannot be washed daily, but staff should maintain smart wear (going forward attire such as chinos/trousers and shirts) not polo or t shirts from next week)

Viewings:

  • Virtual viewings must be attempted first
  • Viewers must be in the position to proceed
  • 1 or 2 viewers of the same household
  • No children in the property
  • No open house viewing arrangements

Preparation for viewings –

  • All doors open and windows open for air flow
  • Wash hands with alcohol hand wash or soap and water before and after viewings
  • Vendors to vacate

Procedure during viewing –

  • Agent to use sanitiser alcohol spray on hands before entering the property and repeat at the end of the viewing. Washable/reusable face masks will be provided for each employee to use.
  • Agent unlock property and leave doors open
  • Viewers to wear face masks (please bring own) and use the provided alcohol spray before and after entering the property. If a face mask is forgotten agent with have spare disposable. No appointment without a mask/spray.
  • Viewers enter property on own if there is not enough space to maintain 2m at all times
  • No surfaces to be touched – if a surface is touched it will need to be sprayed and cleaned
  • At end of viewing, all parties need to spray hands with alcohol spray.
  • Once viewers left, agents shut up property and wipe external handles

After viewing –

  • Vendor should ensure surfaces are cleaned and towels disposed of or washed as appropriate.

Take-Ons:

  • Vendor to prepare house, turn on all lights, move anything out of sight, open all doors
  • Vendor vacates to garden
  • Agent to use hand sanitiser alcohol spray and mask and wash hands before and after appointment
  • Any questions/follow ups to be done by email
  • No surfaces to be touched
  • Once finished, spray and wash hands

Market appraisals:

  • Agent to use alcohol spray and mask and wash hands before and after appointment
  • Agent to complete tour on own if not enough space to maintain 2m
  • Doors to be opened in advance by vendor
  • Any discussions with vendor should be with 2m space – ie garden or large room
  • No paperwork/marketing material to be left – all emailed after

10 of the Best Gardens to Visit this Summer

Many gardens have now reopened to the public for summer. Hannah Stephenson selects 10 of the best.

Still short of things to do during summer holidays? Why not visit some of our most glorious gardens, which have reopened to the public.

They all detail the Covid-19 safety measures they’ve put in place on their websites. Most require pre-booking tickets (check websites for specific details) and all have regulated social distancing – take a mask to be on the safe side too.

Here’s 10 of our favourites…

1. Arley Hall and Gardens, Cheshire (arleyhallandgardens.com)

Arley Hall and its glorious gardens have provided the setting for some familiar TV series, including Peaky Blinders, Antiques Roadshow and Great British Garden Revival. Head for the herbaceous border, its best known feature, which boasts some spectacular planting, then wander through the pleached lime avenue of trees and lose yourself within The Grove. There are many different areas within its eight acres of formal gardens, as well as an arboretum and woodland walk. The hall remains closed.

2. Abbotsford Gardens, Roxburghshire, Scotland (scottsabbotsford.com)

Abbotsford was Sir Walter Scott’s home, and his imagination extended to the outdoors with the creation of these beautiful formal Regency gardens. Highlights include the kitchen garden, the third of his interconnecting outdoor ‘rooms’, which house a mix of flowering and scented plants, herbs, fruits and vegetables.

The gardens are currently open Wednesday to Sunday, with hopes to reopen the historic house in August. Check the website for updates.

3. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall (heligan.com)

With some 200 acres of garden and estate, you simply can’t do all of Heligan in one visit – so if you’ve only got a day, seek out summer highlights. An incredible 15 acres of wildflower meadow has been planted, featuring cornflowers, corn chamomile, poppies and corn marigolds, to create a stunning visual backdrop, perfect for butterflies and bees.

Families are invited to pick up a ‘Heligan Summer’ booklet from the ticket office before setting off. Pre-booking essential for timed tickets.

4. Montalto Estate, Co. Down, Northern Ireland (montaltoestate.com)

The trails and gardens within this magical estate have now re-opened, so visitors can explore a wealth of features – including the cutting garden made up of annuals, biennials, perennials and shrubs, the formal garden with its defined geometric shapes and stunning views of Montalto Lake and boathouse, and the alpine garden, with its impressive collections of plants.

The trails and gardens are currently open Wed-Sun but all visitors must pre-book tickets online. Access to some gardens may be restricted due to events.

5. Wightwick Gardens, Wolverhampton, West Midlands (nationaltrust.org.uk)

Comprising 17 acres, this might not be the biggest National Trust garden but it certainly packs a punch in the style stakes, thanks to 20th century Arts and Crafts garden designer, Thomas Mawson. The dominant design feature of the garden is its ‘rooms’ – areas marked by clipped yew hedges or terraces, giving the space a wide variety of different feelings.

Tickets are released on Fridays for the following week and pre-booking for timed visits is essential. The Manor House remains closed until further notice.

6. Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, South Yorkshire (english-heritage.org.uk)

Spectacularly restored to their full Victorian splendour, the 15 acres of gardens at Brodsworth are home to a collection of grand gardens in miniature, filled with colourful seasonal plantings and displays. Stroll through the statue walks and the beautiful wild rose dell, with over 100 varieties of historic rose. You can also admire period bedding plants in the Flower Garden, including cannas and gingers for dot planting, with salvia, gazania, ageratum and verbena.

Pre-booking essential for timed tickets. House and play area remain closed. A family-friendly summer explorer quest is taking place throughout summer.

7. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (kew.org)

The world famous botanical gardens opened doors to visitors in June. They’ve now reopened the glasshouses too, so you can admire an array of tropical treasures, desert species and more in the Palm House, Temperate House and Princess of Wales Conservatory.

In a final flourish to Kew Gardens’ summer landscape, a bespoke botanical sculpture – created by the winning duo from the acclaimed Netflix television programme, The Big Flower Fight, will be on display in August.

Pre-booking essential for timed entry. Toilets, shops and some outdoor food facilities are currently open and screened regularly. Check website for details.

8. RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey (rhs.org.uk)

Visitors to the jewel in the crown of the RHS gardens will be able to enjoy its summer highlights, including sizzling dahlias and tropical banana plants in its exotic garden, which showcases plants that have a tropical look but flourish outdoors in a typical UK summer climate. Don’t forget to stroll along the mixed borders for a riot of summer colour and surround yourself with lavender on the viewing mount.

Pre-booking essential for timed tickets, card transactions only on site. Glasshouse, alpine houses, learning centre and library and advisory desk remain closed.

9. Wollerton Old Hall Garden, North Shropshire (wollertonoldhallgarden.com)

Set around a 16th century hall (not currently open to the public), Wollerton Old Hall incorporates a formal modern garden on an old site covering four acres. Its garden rooms are beautifully planted with stunning perennials and offer some terrific design ideas. The garden is famous for its salvias, clematis and roses and the clever use of colour, form and scale. The main perennial border in late summer is still awash with colour, so don’t miss it.

Currently open Thursday, Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. Pre-booked tickets essential.

10. Witley Court and Gardens, Worcestershire (english-heritage.org.uk)

Survivor of a devastating fire in the early 20th century, Witley’s romantic gardens are full of delights. A spectacular lake, vast fountain of Perseus and Andromeda, and colourful French parterre are among the highlights. In summer, the East Parterre at Witley Court is spectacular and includes variegated pelargoniums, ageratum, evening primrose (Oenothera) and verbenas.

This summer, take the family on a free fun adventure quest with an historical twist. You can download your trail map on the website before you go.

Pre-booking essential for timed tickets.

7 of the Best Places for Wild Swimming in the UK and Ireland

wild swimming

From waterfalls in Yorkshire to glacial fjords in Ireland, there are so many amazing places for some al fresco exercise.

This year, many swimming fanatics have had to find new ways to get their fix.

Indoor pools are soon to be reopened in the UK and many have already opened their doors in Ireland, but it seems there’s been a surge in the popularity of wild swimming recently – with people falling in love with the outdoorsy, brisk nature of the sport.

Whether it’s lakes, rivers or pools, there are plenty of health benefits to an al fresco approach to swimming – the cold water is said to release endorphins, which can help boost your mood, and help improve circulation.

Your body has to work harder to stay warm in the cold water, meaning you burn more calories, and studies have shown it can even lower your blood pressure.

You have to be particularly careful when swimming in open bodies of water. Check any currents before getting in – even shallow sections of fast-flowing water can knock you off your feet – check the depth of the water first, be careful not to get too cold and never swim alone.

Here are some of the most beautiful places across the UK and Ireland to connect with nature and dip your toes in the water…

wild swimming

1. Sgwd Gwladys, Neath, Wales

You might think waterfalls are the kinds of things you only really stumble across on holidays to far-flung places, but there are actually plenty closer to home. Known as ‘Lady Falls’, Sgwd Gwladys is like something out of a storybook with a 10m high waterfall gushing into a plunge pool, surrounded by a serene forest.

wild swimming

2. Kisdon Force, England

If Lady Falls piqued your interest in waterfalls, next you could visit Kisdon Force in Yorkshire. This has not one, but two waterfalls nearby – one is 5m high and the other 12m. Located in a gorge, Kisdon Force is surrounded by a woodland area, making it feel extra peaceful.

wild swimming

3. Howth, Ireland

A coastal village not far from Dublin, Howth is surrounded by rocky paths leading to plenty of perfect spots to jump into the sea. In fact, it’s so geared towards wild swimming some of the rocky outcrops even have diving boards built onto them. However, it’s very stony so be careful getting in and out.

wild swimming

4. Grantchester Meadows, England

You can find Grantchester Meadows on the River Cam in Cambridgeshire. It’s the perfect spot to access the river and do a bit of swimming, surrounded by leafy trees and grassy banks. There’s plenty of space to choose from along the two-mile stretch and occasional opportunities for diving.

wild swimming

5. Carlingford Lough, Ireland

Carlingford Lough is a glacial fjord, so don’t expect balmy temperatures, but you can rely on the water being crystal clear. It forms part of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and during your swim you can marvel at the Mourne Mountains on one side and the medieval buildings of Carlingford on the other.

wild swimming

6. Allt Daraich, Scotland

These pools can be found close to the remote settlement of Sligachan on the Isle of Skye. The rocky pools are clear and blue-green in colour, and it’s the perfect place if you’re looking for seclusion.

wild swimming

7. Carrick-a-Rede, Northern Ireland

This is one of the more advanced options on the list, but is worth it for the breathtaking scenery. Carrick-a-Rede is famous for its rope bridge between two sheer cliff faces, and this 1km route gives you a different view of the landmark. Adventurous (and experienced) swimmers can paddle across Larrybane Bay and underneath the iconic bridge, taking a rest on Carrick-a-Rede island at the end.

How to Create a Garden Getaway to feel like you’re on Holiday

Choosing a staycation? You can still capture a feel of the tropics in your garden with plants and accessories, experts insist.

While many of us may be staycationing this year, there are ways to create a holiday haven in our gardens using plants and decor that mimic a host of exotic destinations.

RHS Garden Wisley’s exotic garden, for example, houses not only tropical-looking pineapple plants, striking palms and giant banana trees which flourish in summer, but shows what will survive the winter.

RHS Wisley’s garden manager Emma Allen, who looks after the exotic garden, says: “When experimenting with tropical plants at home, remember the ‘right plant, right place’ rule. If you have a shady corner, make sure you plant shade tolerant options, and if you have sun trap areas, select plants that will flourish there.”

Allen’s top plants for a tropical sensation…

Trachycarpus fortunei – a really hardy palm (down to between -10 C and -15 C), this will give your garden the exotic look and feel without the need to worry about whether it will survive through winter. They are rather slow growing, ultimately reaching a height of over 12m after 20-50 years.

Canna – any type of canna will bring large juicy leaves and exotic looking flowers in pink, orange, yellow, white or red. Some have variegated leaves such as Canna ‘Stuttgart’ or ‘Phaison’.

Passiflora caerulea – a hardy semi-evergreen climber with the most striking flowers. This vigorous plant will cover a wall or pergola in no time.

Fatsia japonica – a medium-sized evergreen shrub with palmately-lobed leaves to 45cm in width, and small white flowers in clusters and small black fruits.

Dahlia – extravagant and flamboyant flowers, plus they flower all summer long. For drama and colour, try ‘Karma Choc’ (Decorative Group) with dark red velvety flowers, or ‘Edwin’s Sunset’ (Waterlily Group) with beautiful vivid red flowers that almost glow.

Use decor and accessories…

Blend your tropical-looking plants with exotic accessories and seating to create a holiday feel. Experts at Dobbies Garden Centres (dobbies.com) offer five design tips to help you into the holiday mood…

1. Go totally tropical

Fill patio containers with a selection of vibrant bedding or perennial cottage garden plants for an instant display of foliage and flower colour, including Cordyline australis ‘Peko’, along with potted palms such as Phoenix canariensis, Chamaerops humilis (dwarf fan palm) and Trachycarpus fortunei to add height and interest and look great in groups. Position pots behind garden furniture to create the illusion that they are planted in the ground.

2. Create a colour pop

Bring a brilliant burst of sunshine and add some zing to your exterior space using an eclectic array of brightly coloured pots, mixing and matching flowers in contrasting shades for maximum impact. Fun accessories will quickly brighten patios or balconies. Choose pots in vibrant primary colours, which will really pop against white or neutral backdrops.

3. Bring the indoors out

Brighten your garden getaway by bringing houseplants outside for the day. Adding your favourite indoor orchid to a bistro table will create a tropical centrepiece – just be sure to return them to their normal home later on to ensure they don’t get exposed to too much direct sunlight.

An outdoor rug will instantly transform your space and offers protection to patios and decking from sun cream spillages or melting ice creams. They also help to zone an area, adding a stylish decorative touch. Day beds and hanging egg chairs are the ultimate garden getaway luxury if you have room.

4. Make it magical

For atmospheric evenings, accessorise with a variety of lanterns, fairy lights and candles to enhance the mood – it is amazing how magical a space can look at twilight. A stylish lantern, or a solar-powered string of lights draped across trees and fences will stretch out the time spent outside. Use blankets, floor cushions and chunky knit throws to keep warm and curl up under the stars.

5. And when the sun sets…

Take the chill out of cooler evenings by investing in a practical chiminea or fire pit for your patio, adding warmth and light to extend outdoor entertaining.

And think about how you are going to protect your plants during the cooler months, RHS expert Allen advises. “As many domestic gardeners do not have the time or space to bring plants inside over winter, it is essential to protect in situ. If focusing on the tropical look, select hardy options such as trachycarpus, fatsia, eucomis, tricyrtis, schefflera and zantedeschia, which will re-emerge after winter.

“If you want to have bananas or half-hardy palms, try wrapping them throughout the winter using horticultural fleece or hessian and fill the inside with straw for extra insulation,” she adds.

Stamp Duty Changes To Boost House Market

Prior to today’s announcement the market was doing rather well post lockdown, so the new stamp duty announcements will boost house sales further.

Nearly nine in 10 people getting on or moving up the property ladder where stamp duty applies will not need to pay the tax at all while a temporary holiday applies.

From July 15 until March 31 2021, buyers will pay no stamp duty on the first £500,000 of their purchase when they move home.

The measure, which temporarily increases the “nil rate” band of stamp duty from £125,000 to £500,000, will reduce the average stamp duty bill for a main home from £4,500 to zero. Buyers can potentially save up to £15,000.

Announcing the move, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Nearly nine out of 10 people buying a main home this year will pay no stamp duty at all.”

Stamp duty applies in England and Northern Ireland and people usually pay the tax on homes priced above £125,000. Some stamp duty discounts were already in place for first-time buyers.

There are already signs that the stamp duty holiday is helping to reboot the property market.

In the first half hour after the announcement was made on Wednesday, traffic to property website Rightmove jumped by 22%.

See this range of recommended properties for purchasers looking up to around £500,000

Start your property search here.

stamp duty changes estate agents Hampshire

How to Talk to your Children about Racism and While Privilege

talk to kids about racism

As protests continue around the world, Lauren Taylor finds out how parents can ensure their children understand what's happening.

George Floyd’s death in police custody and the subsequent protests across the world for the Black Lives Matter movement, has catapulted racism to the forefront of social consciousness.

It’s long overdue, but the outcry has forced many white people to consider and better understand systemic racism, take an honest (sometimes uncomfortable) look at white privilege, and question how they can be a better ally to black people.

For parents, there’s an added responsibility to teach children about what’s going on in the world right now and to raise kids to be racially-conscious. After all, racism and an ignorance of racial issues is a learned behaviour, and parents are the people best placed to influence their children’s understanding and ability to contribute to positive change.

But if it isn’t a topic that’s been addressed in your household before, where should you start?

talk to kids about racism

Ensure they know the wider context

Sadly school history classes don’t always cover it. “Teach them about the history of racial oppression and how racism is bigger than people having stereotypes or prejudices-it is about a system of power and is built into our laws, institutions, policies, and so forth,” says Margaret Hagerman, a professor in sociology at Mississippi State University and author of White Kids: Growing Up With Privilege in a Racially Divided America.

“This might mean parents need to do some learning in this area, and families can do this learning together.”

talk to kids about racism

Don’t teach them to ‘ignore differences’

One rhetoric you might hear is someone saying they ‘don’t see colour’ – while this might be well meaning, it actually contributes to racial bias. “Teach them how race matters in society and that being ‘colour blind’ ignores this reality,” says Hagerman.

Young children tend to be aware of visible differences between themselves and their friends, but don’t naturally discriminate – so use this in a positive way to impart anti-racist values early.

“Equality is not about pretending we don’t notice differences, but instead being aware that our differences can create barriers and working to overcome these,” says Jake Higgin, an education worker at Show Racism the Red Card (theredcard.org).

The charity works in schools and has developed a ‘home school activity worksheet’ available on their website (£20), parents can use at home. The ‘three faces’ activity asks children to look at young people with different appearances, and guess their name, nationality and religion – leading to a discussion around skin colour, identity and nationality. “It can be used as a powerful way to get young people to think about the judgements we make about others,” says Higgin.

“We have also found that young people are passionate about justice and fairness, so it’s important to get them to think about how unjust it is when people are treated poorly just because they are different.”

talk to kids about racism

Start young on the subject of white privilege

“The majority of people who find the idea of white privilege problematic or challenging, simply don’t understand it,” says Higgin. “White privilege doesn’t discount the achievements of individual white people, nor does it suggest that every single white person has what we might consider to be a ‘privileged’ life. It simply acknowledges the idea that, even in 2020, one of the biggest ways somebody can be advantaged or disadvantaged, is the colour of their skin.”

It’s never too early to teach children about their own white privilege, he says. “When we talk to young people about the ways in which they are ‘lucky’, we are discussing the advantages they might have over others in life. By getting our children to think about how others might benefit, or be held back, by the conditions of their birth, we will help them develop vital critical thinking and empathy skills.”

talk to kids about racism

Make it a safe space

Don’t just talk, make sure you listen too. “The white kids in my research had a lot of questions about race that they told me they didn’t think they could ask their parents,” says Hagerman. “Understanding what kids already know, and what conflicting messages they are trying to negotiate, is really important.”

Higgin agrees it’s important to establish a safe space: “Make sure you don’t judge anything they say or tell them they are wrong. Ask them what they know about the Black Lives Matter protests. Ask reflective, open ended questions about their feelings.”

talk to kids about racism

Develop their critical thinking

Higgin says it’s really important not to simply give children the answers. “It’s more effective to help them develop the critical thinking skills through questioning, which will allow them to better understand and evaluate the material they are presented with online and the ideas they might hear on the playground.”

Next, they need to feel empowered to act if they feel there’s a need to challenge other people’s actions. “Simply being a strong anti-racist role model within your family can be the most effective way,” he says. “By making clear your stance on discrimination at every opportunity, you will be teaching your children that racism is unacceptable and to always stand up to injustice.”

talk to kids about racism

Consider the impact of your own decisions

“White parents need to reconsider what it means to be a ‘good parent’ (i.e. getting as much as I can for my own kid) and think more about how to be a ‘good citizen’ (i.e. how can my actions contribute to the common good?)” says Hagerman.

She says to think about how you’ve designed your child’s social environment, the cues they’ll pick up from it and the wider impact that might have.

“White kids in my research learned about race as a result of interpreting patterns they observe, related to where they live [for example, moving to a very ‘white’ area], where they go to school, the media they consume, their peers, and even where they travel.”

And while it’s natural as a parent to ‘want the best’ for your child, ask if any parenting decisions you make inadvertently disadvantage others. Hagerman says during her research in the US, she found white parents often act in collective ways to maintain practices and policies within institutions that benefit their own children and, in turn, disadvantage children of colour – sociologists call this ‘opportunity hoarding’.

This, she says, “reinforces their child’s position at the top of the racial hierarchy and teaches their children lessons about what it means to navigate the world as a white person.”

George Floyd’s death feels like it could be a pivotal moment in history, and Hargerman says this moment is “an invitation to white parents not only to talk to their kids about racism, but to think about how they can act in different ways so that what they say they value, aligns with how they actually live their everyday lives.”

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