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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Explore these Crowd-Free Beauty Spots in the UK and Ireland

uk travel spots

Domestic travel is set to be busier than ever this summer. Escape the bustle by avoiding the obvious destinations, says Sarah Marshall.

How often do we dismiss the easy option? Regarded as being ‘too close to home’, domestic holidays are frequently overlooked in favour of more exotic escapes; shelved for a later date, because we can go any time.

But lockdown has taught us even local travel has value, promising just as many pleasures as other parts of the world.

As restrictions ease, hotels and attractions are preparing to open in the UK and Ireland, and it’s likely many holiday-hungry travellers will hit the road. But there are fears a rush of numbers could ruin the experience, with concerns of overcrowded beaches and overrun national parks.

Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to the obvious honeypots. For those prepared to search a little harder, these are some of the quieter, more remote locations to explore on our shores.

uk travel spots

Northumberland National Park, England

The title of least-visited National Park in the UK, is an accolade to be proud of in these crowd-dodging times. Even better, with only 2,000 residents, the 405-square-mile Northumberland National Park is the least-populated protected beauty spot, too. Sat below the Scottish Borders, it’s spliced by Hadrian’s Wall, and neighbours Kielder Water & Forest Park, a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park, where stars sparkle like gems. A sprawl of woodlands, streams and a rocky gorge, College Valley is one of the most remote areas to explore. Sleep in 14th century surroundings at Langley Castle (langleycastle.co.uk; 01434 688 888) where doubles start from £94 per night.

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Hayling Island, Hampshire, England

Even though it’s only a short hop across a bridge to this island offshore from Portsmouth, life slowly unfurls in its own holiday bubble. A popular seaside resort in the 1930s, it still has several holiday parks. A funfair and golf course provide man-made entertainment, although farmland and nature trails occupy most of the secluded spot. Highlights year-round are the Blue Flag beaches and breezy Solent water, ideal for sailing and windsurfing. A three-night caravan stay (sleeps six) at Parkdean Resorts Holiday Park (parkdeanresorts.co.uk; 0330 123 4850) costs from £199.

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Ceredigion, Wales

Imagine having the idyllic beaches and captivating wildlife of Pembrokeshire all to yourself? It’s possible in neighbouring Ceredigion, which shares the same superb scenery. With no motorways and few rail links, it’s harder to reach, but the journey along winding countryside roads is an adventure in itself – and well worth driving once Wales is more accessible to visitors. Walk the Ceredigion Coast Path, looking out for resident dolphins in the waves below, or explore the sandy beach at National Trust-owned Penbryn. Close to rural coastal village Llangrannog, Great Tree House is a six-person holiday cottage specially adapted for those with disabilities and limited mobility. Book it for a multi-generational break. Quality Cottages (qualitycottages.co.uk; 01348 837 871) offers seven nights in August from £1,706 per week.

uk travel spots

West Highlands, Scotland

A tumble of rugged mountains and glassy lochs largely unfettered by human habitation, the Scottish Highlands is the UK’s wild corner. Popular spots Ben Nevis and Glencoe will inevitably attract crowds once restrictions start to lift, but retreat to Assynt and Coigach in the West Highlands and there’s no-one around. Waves crash against sea stacks and golden sands along the coast; inland, the remote mountain Suilven rewards climbers with astounding views if they make an ascent. Wilderness Scotland (01479 420 020; wildernessscotland.com) offers the six-night Wilds of Assynt tour from £1,625pp (two sharing), starting and finishing in Inverness. Departs August 1 or September 26, 2020.

uk travel spots

Wicklow Way, Ireland

Most tourists are tempted by Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, but a quieter and no less pleasing option would be a hike along one of the Republic’s greatest walking trails, the Wicklow Way. Dublin day-trippers often head to sections straying from the city, but venture a bit further and any sign of human footprints disappear. Explore the ruined monastic city of Glendalough, or marvel at the dark waters of Lough Tay, dubbed the Guinness Lake. Wilderness Ireland (wildernessireland.com; +353 (0)91 457 898) offers a six-night Hiking The Wicklow Way tour from E1,870pp (two sharing).

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Durham Heritage Coast, England

When it comes to sunny summer breaks, crowds tend to head south, but with temperatures across the UK rising this year, it would be a mistake to leave other areas in the shade. Although often associated with its industrial past, the northeast has a wild, unspoilt coastline of towering cliffs and dunes. Ramble along the Durham Heritage Coast, looking skyward for kittiwakes and cormorants, and gaze out to sea for a chance to spot bottlenose dolphins and minke whales. Set in the village of Murton, OYO The Village Inn (oyorooms.com) is offering doubles from £30 per night in July (originally £54).

uk travel spots

Rutland, England

Best known for its Birdfair in August, England’s smallest county has all the elements of a quintessential countryside break: picturesque trails, quaint pubs and historical attractions. Rockingham Castle is a fine example of Norman architecture, while Rutland Water and Rutland Water Nature Reserve offer options for water sports and wildlife viewing in the otherwise land-locked region. Visit the fairy-tale Normanton Church, which appears to float on water when the reservoir is full. The Wisteria Hotel (wisteriahotel.co.uk; 01572 722 844) in Oakham, which completed a £150K refurbishment just before lockdown, has rooms from £65 per night.

Get Set to go Wild: Why a Sustainable Safari should be your Next Holiday

Support conservation and indulge a passion for animals by planning a trip to Africa, says Sarah Marshall.

In many ways, nature has flourished during lockdown: trees in city parks have breathed the cleanest air in decades, emboldened foxes are strutting along residential streets as if they own them, and the cast of critters in Springwatch has never seemed healthier.

But that picture of an environmental Eden doesn’t ring true across the globe.

In countries heavily dependent on wildlife tourism, communities have been hit hard by the pandemic with widespread job losses, posing a threat to the animals they live alongside.

Across Africa, millions of people are employed in the safari industry and vital conservation projects benefit from donations driven by tourism. Even the sheer presence of more people is a deterrent to poachers. But closed camps and empty national parks have stymied revenue streams and stripped away layers of protection.

The Duke of Cambridge is so deeply concerned, he’s written about the issue for the latest edition of Tusk Talk magazine, distributed to supporters of the African conservation charity.

As royal patron of Tusk Trust, who celebrate their 30th anniversary this year, he writes: “Decades of conservation progress in Africa is at risk. There are real fears that the economic crisis and redundancies resulting from the pandemic will lead to a sharp rise in poaching for bush meat, with criminals seeking to exploit the illegal wildlife trade while wildlife enforcement’s resources are stretched.”

His thoughts are echoed by Tusk’s CEO Charlie Mayhew: “There’s no doubt the loss of tourism is having a hugely negative impact on communities and economies. The projects we support are being extraordinarily resilient. They have had to dramatically cut budgets in order to respond to the challenges, but they are working harder than ever to protect their wildlife.”

Like so many charities, Tusk has suffered a financial blow due to the cancellation of fundraising events. The Lewa Safari Marathon, the biggest event in their calendar, will be going virtual this year, with participants encouraged to run anything from 5-42km throughout June. Visit lewasafarimarathon.com to sign up.

Of course, when travel is back up and running, another way to support Africa’s wildlife is by visiting responsibly run camps and lodges throughout the continent.

While the last few months have been bleak, tour operators are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Both Scott Dunn and Abercrombie & Kent report a rise in enquiries for African safaris, and peak season periods for 2021 are already selling out in some areas.

That should come as no great surprise.

Besides easing our ethical conscience, safari holidays have broader appeal in a post-Covid travel world: space and isolation naturally shape the experience in sparsely-populated destinations, and there’s a huge choice of exclusive use lodges, homes and even mobile camps on offer.

Jo Lankester, co-founder of specialist African safari operator Lankester White, stresses the importance of staying at a property committed to conservation and sustainability. She recommends outfits offering hands-on experiences that benefit charitable organisations, such as helping researchers to collar endangered wildlife, or “simple walking safari experiences with small footprints on the environment and an enhanced interaction with the wildlife”.

Overall, she is optimistic travellers will return to Africa when they can.

“Being in lockdown has given so many people a renewed perspective of time; of quiet contemplation, and appreciation of the world around them,” she points out. “That really is the essence of a safari trip – not only the tremendous excitement of watching lions or elephants.”

An expert view on safaris of the future: Beks Ndlovu

A professional guide who grew up in the bush, Zimbabwean Beks Ndlovu launched African Bush Camps with a vision for creating an authentic safari experience with the full involvement of local communities. Sustainable tourism is at the very heart of his ten camps in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia, which have remained open during the global pandemic.

“We have 25% of staff on site,” he explains, “Because there are less eyes in the field, we do really need to have some sort of surveillance.”

Although he acknowledges there has been an unfortunate upsurge in poaching incidents, he remains hopeful for the long-term future of safaris.

“I’d like to believe that we all take heed of this time; we’ve seen clearer skies, less carbon emissions,” he reflects, suggesting a growing trend for more sustainable travel. “We have small camps, it’s not mass market, there are no large gatherings and for the most part, it’s outdoors; it’s an attractive type of travel.”

In reality, few changes are required to comply with new social distancing and hygiene guidelines. But the crisis has certainly inspired new positive ideas. “It’s validated the work and energy we put into conservation and working with communities, to the extent we are saying we need to find ways in which we can do more.”

Five of the best sustainable safaris

1. Desert Rhino Camp, Namibia

Operating in partnership with Save The Rhino Trust and the Palmwag Conservancy in remote Damaraland, this Wilderness camp financially supports communities and endangered wildlife. Tracking desert-adapted rhino on foot is an exhilarating experience. Stay in a camp of eight tents overlooking scorched, rust-red plains dotted with ancient welwitschia plants. Lankester White (lankesterwhite.com) offers a stay as part of a six-night, full-board Namibia Exploration safari also visiting the Serra Cafema camp in Kunene, from £4,655pp (two sharing), excluding international flights.

2. Nyamatusi Mahogany, Zimbabwe

An idyllic setting of winter thorn woodlands spliced by the mighty Zambezi River, Mana Pools is renowned for its walking safaris. Watch the wild dogs who found fame in Attenborough’s Dynasties series, or catch elephants balancing on hind legs to feed from trees. Operated by conservation champions African Bush Camps, this boutique camp features two tented suites and two family suites, making it ideal for small groups. A four-night, full-board stay costs from £2,670pp (two sharing), excluding international flights. Book now, pay nothing until August 2020. Visit africanbushcamps.com.

3. Borana Conservancy, Kenya

Supported by Tusk, the Borana Conservancy protects critically endangered black rhino and employs rangers from the local communities. With only one boutique lodge and four exclusive-use homes spread across the 32,000 acre area, it’s often possible to game drive without seeing another guest. Splash out on a stay at the decadent Lengishu House, sleeping 12, or choose Borana Lodge for a more affordable option. Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.co.uk; 01242 547 702) offers seven nights at Lengishu from £6,250pp (12 sharing); three nights at Borana Lodge costs from £2,325pp (two sharing). Both prices are full-board, including flights.

4. Kwihala Camp, Tanzania

Even without guests, Asilia have kept their camps open to maintain a presence, and have supported local rangers to undertake daily patrols. Last year, they raised $338,000/£265,195 for East African communities through conservation contributions and donations. They have three camps in Ruaha, the largest park in Tanzania with one of the lowest footfalls. Sleep amidst baobabs in the six-tent, expedition-style Kwihala Camp. From $472/£411 per night (two sharing), full board. Visit asiliaafrica.com.

5. Sarara Camp, Kenya

A flagship model for community conservation, this camp in northern Kenya’s Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy supports 1500 Samburu families. The only accommodation in an area of one million acres, it’s blissfully remote. Guests are encouraged to visit the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, Africa’s first community owned elephant orphanage which mostly employs women. Aardvark Safaris (aardvarksafaris.co.uk; 01980 849160) offers full-board stays from £730pp per night (two sharing).

3 Ways to Help your Child Feel More Calm

Claire Spreadbury asks experts for advice during this tense time.

Whether they’re struggling with schoolwork, battling with friendships or feeling the highs and lows of our current situation, being a kid is never easy.

So, what can parents do to help instil a sense of calm? There are activities you can introduce now to help give children skills they can turn to in tough times.

Here are three worth giving a go…

1. Start writing a journal

Taking time out of each day to write in a journal is a great habit. It can make kids more thankful for the good stuff and act as a release if they write down anything that’s worrying them.

Mum-of-two Francesca Geens started the HappySelf Journal (£23/E26.31, Notonthehighstreet, notonthehighstreet.com) after reading daily reports about how some kids are growing up stressed. “I really wanted to do something to help children develop healthy habits as they grow up in this increasingly busy and switched-on world.”

Geens created a journal aimed at children aged six to 12 and is based on scientifically-proven methods that promote happiness, develop healthy habits for life and nurture enquiring minds. “I designed it because it’s what I wanted my own children to have access to, and couldn’t find anything like it,” she says.

Her kids got involved in the entire process. Geens’ 10-year-old still uses it daily, and her 14-year-old daughter has been helping with the teen edition, coming soon. “We saw the biggest impact with my son – who was able to share worries with us that he hadn’t felt able to talk about previously. And this is something so many parents have shared with me since – that the structure of the journal leads to some lovely conversations at bedtime, leading children to share worries, including bullying, for the first time,” says Geens. “My son started sleeping better, communicating with us more about his feelings and being able to appreciate and identify the positives in his day.”

“We have doubled down on our happiness practices as a family,” adds Geens. “We take our time for journalling and mindfulness, we share our ‘top three things’ at dinner every evening, don’t watch too much news and have clear boundaries for social media and screen time.

“What’s been interesting is that, despite everything that’s going on, we have managed to all keep a positive mindset. We’ve focused on those areas we can control – like looking after ourselves and helping our neighbours. With so much uncertainty and changes to our daily routines, it’s a good time to start journalling. It brings an important structure to the day and allows us a quiet time to reflect and process the day in a positive way.”

2. Exercise for physical and mental health

Some kids love exercise, others are more reluctant. But find the right activity for them and it can really give their mental health a boost, and instil that sense of calm.

“Exercise promotes the release of our internal mood elevators, powerful hormones and neurotransmitters, which – particularly when combined with a little physical fatigue – will have a very calming effect on children,” says fitness expert Laura Williams. “Add in other feel-good factors, such as green space (the evidence for outdoor exercise and mood is extensive), and the fact exercise is likely to be taken with family or friends, and you have a soothing, calming cocktail.”

If your children aren’t so keen on PE With Joe, try an online class where you bust some moves to a chart-topper. Try going on a big bike ride together, or start doing Couch To 5K with them. The sense of achievement often gives us all a boost, and makes kids more up for it the next time.

3. Try meditation or mindfulness

At the beginning and end of each day, Priyanka Lugani, founder of ALMA (almadeli.com), suggests taking your child through heartfulness practice, which can include breathwork, meditation or simply just being still and listening to some calming music. “Ask them to close their eyes and notice what they can hear (birds outside) and feel (the rug underneath).”

If this doesn’t work for your family, try getting creative. “Sensory stimulation with play also activates the stimulation of inner organs, benefiting our children’s minds as well as our bodies,” adds Lugani. “Get messy with arts and crafts and be fully present when doing so. This is also a great way for children to burn off some steam, which will aid their development and ensure they are stimulated enough to unwind at the end of the day.”

Make Positive Plans to Explore our Waters

Sarah Marshall looks at wild and wonderful ways to connect with marine environments.

Moved by the moon and animated by solar heat, five vast bodies of water ebb and flow around earth, constantly moving, evolving and fuelling scientific thought.

But the unfathomable abyss is more familiar than we think.

Although each ocean has its own distinct characteristics and inhabitant creatures, together they form one immense aquatic jigsaw, playing a crucial role in shaping our everyday lives. What once divided terrestrial explorers now connects global cultures; below the surface, extreme depth organisms are helping microbiologists in their fight against Covid-19.

Intrepid voyages, snorkelling holidays and shore-side excursions help travellers make sense of our blue planet, promising new discoveries and delights along the way.

A rallying call for conservation efforts, World Oceans Day on Monday, June 8, is also a reminder to celebrate marine ecosystems and respect their power; a nudge, once travel resumes, to dive straight back in.

De Hoop Reserve, South Africa, Indian Ocean

Those struggling to find their sea legs can still dip into the big blue without even getting their toes wet. Every year, from June to November, southern right whales cruise South Africa’s eastern coastline to mate and calve, close to shore in a protected marine reserve. De Hoop is regarded as one of the planet’s top spots for land-based whale watching, where onlookers can snuggle into the dunes while these ocean giants breach and blow. Clinging to a clifftop, Lekkerwater Beach Lodge has the ideal vantage point: sit and observe from the communal deck, or even the foot of your bed.

How: Stays from £300pp per night. Visit naturalselection.travel.

Huvafen Fushi, The Maldives, Indian Ocean

It’s possible to drink, dine and dream underwater in sub-surface restaurants and resort rooms. At Huvafen Fushi in the North Male Atoll, you can even get a massage amidst schools of reef sharks and brightly coloured butterfly fish. Once the pampering is over, guests can come back at dusk for a night tour of the SpaQuarium, when the ocean explodes with life. Marine biologists shed a blue light on the marine environment, allowing algae to brightly fluoresce with more neon than the Vegas Strip in full swing.

How: Elegant Resorts (01244 897 505; elegantresorts.co.uk) offers seven nights from £3,300 per person, half-board, including flights. Valid for travel until October 31.

Marietas Islands, Mexico, Pacific Ocean

Nature is a masterful architect, but sometimes man-made interference can have dramatic results. Nicknamed the ‘hidden beach’, a water-lapped shore appears to sit at the bottom of a sun-filled crater on this Unesco-recognised archipelago along Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit. Some say the opening was created by volcanic activity, although it’s rumoured a bomb was responsible, possibly during military testing carried out since the 1900s and finally banished by a public outcry in the 1960s led by conservationist Jacques Cousteau. Once overrun by selfie-seekers, the site is now restricted to 117 visitors per day, each given a 20-minute snorkelling slot.

How: Love Holidays (loveholidays.com) offers seven nights at the four-star Marival Emotions Resort & Suites on an all-inclusive basis in Nuevo Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit from £1,307pp. Includes flights from Manchester on February 3, 2021.

Cape Weligama, Sri Lanka, Indian Ocean

There’s no better way to feel the force of the ocean than by riding its waves. Sri Lanka’s surf scene benefits from warm currents in the Indian Ocean, and you don’t need to be a pro to tackle the swells. A 30-minute drive from Galle, this seaside Resplendent Ceylon property allows guests to literally fall out of bed on to the beach – perfect for a surfer’s early starts – and benefits from the largest variety of breaks along the south coast. Guests of all levels can take tuition from yoga and surf specialists, Ceylon Sliders.

How: Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 760; abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers a seven-night B&B stay from £2,250pp, including flights and transfers.

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland, Atlantic Ocean

Waves rolling from several continents hit Ireland’s west coast: from here, the emerald isle tips into deep blue. Steep, jagged cliffs shield the peninsula from waves and provide a viewpoint to study seals, puffins and dolphins; or for a more intimate experience, hop on a RIB boat with Dingle Sea Safari, who lead early morning, two-hour tours in search of Fungie, a wild bottlenose dolphin who has lived in Dingle Bay for 30 years. There’s even a chance to get in the water for a swim.

How: Tours cost from E45/£40 per person. Wetsuits for swims must be booked in advance. Visit dingleseasafari.com. Stay at the Dingle Skellig Hotel (+353 66 915 0200; dingleskellig.com) from £160 per night B&B.

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia, Pacific Ocean

Arguably, there’s enough amusement along the world’s largest coral reef system to keep visitors occupied. But a new installation, fully launching next year, aims to entertain and educate. The Museum Of Underwater Art will feature a series of sub-aquatic galleries situated across Townsville, Magnetic Island, Palm Island and the John Brewer Reef, aiming to raise environmental awareness and teach people about marine ecosystems. Designed by UK-based underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, exhibits will include an underwater greenhouse with sculptures propagating coral.

How: Travelbag (020 7001 4112; travelbag.co.uk) offers a 13-night trip to Townsville and the Reef from £1,899pp, including flights from London in March 2021.

Baffin Island, Canadian Arctic, Arctic Ocean

One of the longest quests in maritime history, the search for a northwest trade passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans eluded explorers for 300 years. Arctic veteran Sir John Franklin set off on his own doomed voyage in 1845, and only in recent years were his two ships recovered from the ice. Fortunately, conditions are now much safer, allowing tourists to sail through the Canadian Arctic and remote Baffin Island, encountering Innuit culture and hardy wildlife whilst unravelling one of polar history’s greatest mysteries.

How: Intrepid (intrepidtravel.com) offer a 17-day In Northwest Passage: The Footsteps Of Franklin voyage from £13,200pp (triple share), excluding international flights. Departs August 2, 2021.

Raja Ampat and The Spice Islands, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean

Next year marks the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe, which dispelled a common fear sailors might fall off the edge if they travelled too far. The Portuguese explorer’s voyage ended in Indonesia’s Spice Islands, the exclusive source of highly-coveted nutmeg, mace and cloves. The archipelago neighbours Raja Ampat, a chain of tropical jewels coiled in a watery treasure chest: from manta rays to pygmy seahorses, divers can revel in some of the greatest marine biodiversity on earth.

How: Steppes Travel (01285 601 784; steppestravel.com) tailor-make an eight-day cruise of Raja Ampat and the Spice Islands from £4,500, excluding international flights.

South Georgia, Falklands and Antarctica, Southern Ocean

It’s often hard to draw connections between our land-locked actions and the big blue world, but human activity has hugely impacted the nature of our oceans. Nowhere is that more evident than the polar regions, where ice is disappearing rapidly and melting freshwater glaciers are diluting the salinity of seas. An essential take-away from visiting these fragile destinations is an understanding of what’s really going on. Many expedition ships now offer citizen science programmes, measuring cloud formations, collecting water samples and counting whale flukes. Findings contribute to bigger research programmes and a better public grip on climate change.

How: Polar Latitudes (polar-latitudes.com) are leaders in this field. Their 21-day Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica costs from £12,750pp, including flights, through Swoop Antarctica (0117 369 0696; swoop-antarctica.com). Departs January 19, 2021.

Simple and Stylish Ways to Transform your Outdoor Space

stylish garden upgrades

Whether it's a poky patio or decadent decking, all outdoor spaces can be spruced up with some stylish touches. Gabrielle Fagan reveals how.

Spending so much time at home has made us really appreciate our outdoor spaces – even if it’s the tiniest balcony or terrace.

Sales of outdoor furniture and accessories have rocketed, as we’ve lavished TLC on our patios so that they’re a sanctuary that truly reflects our taste and needs.

“There’s a growing recognition that an outside space really is the ‘fifth room’ in your home, and should be furnished and decorated with the same amount of care and attention to detail as any indoor room,” says Lynsey Abbott, seasonal buyer at Dobbies Garden Centres.

“This should be a space that begs you to throw open the windows and unwind at the end of a long day during the spring and summer months. Whether it’s a set of French windows, the door to your balcony, or simply your outdoor patio, your home probably has an ideal place to style as that fifth room.”

Tempted? Take your pick from these ideas for creating the perfect outdoor space…

stylish garden upgrades

Small can be beautiful

Size truly isn’t everything when it comes to creating an inviting outdoor space. With a dash of imagination and flair, you can work magic on even the tiniest spot. “No matter how compact your space, it can be turned into a little sanctuary perfect for morning coffee or evening cocktails,” agrees Nadia McCowan Hill, resident style advisor at Wayfair.

“I love a relaxed boho look for summer, with wall hangings and outdoor rugs in all colours and shapes. Layering rugs has a striking effect and will add depth to a balcony or outdoor space with limited square footage.”

TOP TIP: Light coloured seating will look less dominating in a small area. Add punchy colour and pattern with colourful, textured cushions and blankets, handy for warding off the chills on cool nights. A decorative wooden ladder is a super way to display hanging succulents or small lanterns.

stylish garden upgrades

Take it tropical

Summer holiday to that far-flung hotspot on hold? Ramp up the temperature at home by creating your own Caribbean-style retreat outside your back door.

Kit it out with neon patio furniture, a palm-fringed bar, potted palms (fake or real) and accessories in exotic prints. No passport or suitcases required – and pina colada optional!

Shake up some style

TOP TIP: Adding a lick of paint isn’t just for indoors. Get creative and bring hot colour and character to your outdoor space with an exterior paint. You can also use a shade to complement or contrast with the planted areas of your garden, depending on the look you’re going for. Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Bright Orange Gloss Multi-Surface Paint, from £9 for 0.25L, B&Q.

stylish garden upgrades

Treats for the table

Al fresco tableware is so stylish now, it’s tempting to use it all year round, indoors as well as out. Keep garden table dressing pared-back for the best effect – it doesn’t want to be fussy, as that will ruin the casual, kick-off-your-shoes atmosphere you’re trying to create. Just choose a couple of statement pieces and then match a key colour with napkins or a table runner.

stylish garden upgrades

Create a fifth room with furniture

“Choose furniture that suits your indoor style, then there will be a real follow-through of your look into the outdoors that blurs the boundary,” says Abbott.

“Consider the height of furniture. Low-backed furniture, for instance, won’t block your view of your garden. Add cushions and throws to soften the contrast between garden furniture and indoor furniture. Reflect key garden colours in accessories to further tie the scheme together.”

TOP TIP: Large, leafy palms and striking succulents can star in an outdoor space and be brought indoors in the colder months to bring greenery inside. Displaying a collection of plants by the entrance to your patio or balcony area is another way of merging the divide between the indoor and outdoor areas.

stylish garden upgrades

Go super natural

One of the hottest trends in patio style is a laid-back look, which combines natural materials with an easy-on-the-eye neutral palette. It’s perfect for a sophisticated stylish space.

“We’re seeing a growing emphasis on fabrics made from recycled materials and furniture made from natural, organic material, as well as responsibly-sourced sustainable woods such as A-grade teak,” says Tina Mahony, director at Go Modern (gomodern.co.uk).

“Teak is weather-proof and retains its beautiful warm honey-tones. It blends wonderfully with any surrounding style and is perfect for creating an ‘outside room’ look,” she adds.

Mahony highlights new material Tricord – a weather-resistant synthetic that’s now often being used in place of natural rattan because it won’t fade or rot, is easy to clean and extremely comfortable.

Go Modern’s range includes a Tribu Elio Garden Sofa, in teak with Tricord rope backs and seats, £2,890, Garden Armchair, £990, and Tribu Roots Garden Teak Block, £1,350.

stylish garden upgrades

Light up the night

“Outdoor spaces, whether small or large, have so much untapped potential to be transformed at night into a warm, welcoming haven with the addition of lights,” says Becky Tasker, brand creative at Lights4Fun.co.uk.

“Arrange lights in your courtyard, garden or balcony just as you would in an indoor room. It’s important to have three levels of light. I’d suggest stringing festoon lights overhead for a twinkling canopy, add waterproof candle-style lights on a table top, and arrange candle lanterns on the ground to zone the area “

TOP TIP: A group of lanterns, candles and micro lights on a mirrored tray makes a stunning focal point for a table. String lighting on your fencing, solar lights around pots and bedding plants and enjoy a night-time garden landscape that rivals the daytime one.

10 Ways Working Parents can Stay Sane Right Now

working from home parenting tips

Homeschooling while working can really ramp up the stress levels. Claire Spreadbury asks the experts for some advice.

If you’re a working parent, life might feel increasingly tough at the moment.

Being furloughed undoubtedly comes with its own set of problems, but when you’re expected to work normally, while also homeschooling your kids, it’s nigh-on impossible.

So, what can we do to settle those anxious thoughts and chill out a bit?

working from home parenting tips

1. Have a routine

“Keeping sane as parents, as a couple and as a family takes planning,” says consulting psychologist Dr Mara Klemich, co-founder of Heartstyles and co-author of Above The Line: Living And Leading With Heart. “Your kids will be adjusting to the ‘new normal’ just like you, so it’s important to create a new routine. As humans we get stressed out by change, and routine gives us a sense of security and normalcy, which is particularly important right now. Wake up, meal times, school and work time, and bed times, are the backbone of the daily structure that keeps people effective – regardless of age.”

Routines enable us to differentiate between weekdays and weekends, she says. “Break up your day into work time and non-work time, if you can. For kids, it’s reassuring to know they will have dedicated time with you. For you, it’s getting a block of focused work in, while everyone else engages in some activities.”

2. Keep some structure

“It may seem like there’s a never-ending list of activities you need to accomplish, but don’t feel pressurised to tick them all off,” says psychologist Dr Alice Jones Bartoli, who’s working with outdoor education provider Kingswood.

Instead of dipping in and out between work and homeschooling, think about how much time you can realistically give, she says. “We’re often needing to multi-task, but it can be tiring and distracting. Be present – it can be difficult, particularly at the moment with blurred boundaries, but we need to retrain ourselves to be disciplined, ensuring that if we are with the children, we are with them.”

On the flip side, it also means work time is work time, and the kids should understand that, helping you to be able to fully concentrate.

working from home parenting tips

3. Plan ahead for boredom

Psychologist, health coach and author of new book Self-care For Tough Times (Aster, eBook £4.99), Suzy Reading, suggests creating a ‘treasure map’ of activities and hanging it on the wall. “Make a poster with your kids, jotting down with words or images all the different ways we can keep ourselves engaged. When boredom strikes, take a look at the map and pick something. Keep adding fresh inspiration when new ideas pop up.”

4. Ditch perfectionism

Let go of the idea of being the ‘perfect parent’, says Klemich. “The media is full of tips on how to spend quality time with your children and your social media feed will be flooded with images of other parents having fun, exercising and homeschooling. Striving to measure up can cause unnecessary stress.”

It works the other way around, too. “Be honest and realistic with your co-workers or clients,” she says. “Little things, like letting your kids say hello at the start of a video call, so they feel included and everyone knows they’re there, can help to take the pressure off. Nobody’s perfect, and nobody’s an expert in all this. Shift your focus from perfectionism to being ‘good enough’. It can be so liberating.”

working from home parenting tips

5. Keep an eye on your phone habits

Being stuck inside has meant many of us are glued to our screens, but whilst staying in contact with people is really important, incessant scrolling is not.

“Put your phone away,” advises Jones Bartoli. Try it one lunchtime and instead of working over lunch, take a picnic in the garden or living room with the kids. “These little things will spark enjoyment and help you create memories, while enabling you to take some time out from the work-school pressures.”

6. Prioritise mindful moments

Reading is a big believer in savouring with your senses. “Build calming mindful moments into your day,” she says. “Use scent or music to uplift or soothe, engage in touch with mini massage sessions or a loving hug, enjoy moving your body with some simple yoga poses or feeling your breath, head out into nature, relish the process of baking and devouring your creations. A few mindful minutes here and there make a big cumulative difference to the collective mood.”

And if it all gets a bit much, hypnotherapist and alcohol reduction expert Georgia Foster advises we turn to our breath to help manage stress. “Shallow breathing creates anxiety, deep breathing regulates your emotions,” she notes. “So, take a big belly breath in and hold for five seconds, then release that breath completely and count for five seconds. Repeat this three times – it’s a technique which will reduce anxiety and calm your entire central nervous system.”

working from home parenting tips

7. Teach life skills

“We have the opportunity to focus on life skills, such as the chores many kids never help with,” stresses Klemich. “Engage them in emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming and helping with food. All these build confidence, competence and independence – and take some of the stress off parents having to do everything!”

8. Take time out for you

Taking time out for yourself has never been more important. “Parents need the opportunity to de-stress and make sure their own mental health is in check,” says Jones Bartoli. Whatever that looks like – going for a walk, taking a book into the bath, or practising yoga in the morning – plan it in and do it.

“Parents can’t always give, give, give. Times are anxiety-provoking at the moment, but if you’re able to make small changes to look after your mental health, not only you, but the whole family will benefit.”

working from home parenting tips

9. Speak up

“Don’t be afraid to open up about how you’re feeling,” continues Klemich. “Juggling everything can make you feel like you’re losing your mind, so it always helps to gain an external perspective and be reassured that everything is fine. Talk to your partner, call a friend or family member, whoever will listen and help you feel that your sanity is still intact.”

10. Give your partner some attention

Lots of us are talking about this crisis making or breaking relationships, and spending time together cooped up can add a huge amount of pressure. Klemich recommends scheduling dedicated couple time to lift the mood. “Set aside time to chat and listen to each other’s concerns each day, in a room on your own,” she says. “Engage the kids in allowing you both your own time, and if you have young children, make some time after you’ve put them to bed. It’s important to nourish your relationship as a couple, not just as ‘the parents’.

“Forgive your partner (and your kids) for minor irritations – and ask them to forgive you,” she adds. “Spend time together, laugh, and find love and joy in the little things that happen each day, and the fact you are together. Create memories of this time – whilst we didn’t choose it, it chose us. Let’s use this precious time well, and be able to tell positive stories about it in the future.”

6 Easy DIY Projects to Bring New Life into Your Home

From chalk paint effects, transforming tiles and display ideas, Sam Wylie-Harris suggests some quick and clever revamps.

Decorating projects are usually something many of us put off, or happily call in the professionals for.

But in these unprecedented times, lockdown has launched a determined army of DIY enthusiasts ready to tackle a plethora of decorative finishes, get a handle on cabinetry and transform tiles by grouting with gorgeous colours.

Indeed, being holed up at home has given a whole new meaning to rolling up our sleeves indoors and inspired many of us to explore our creative sides.

Bonus? There are lots of relatively quick and simple home-improvement projects that can instantly breathe new life into a space.

Here’s six ways to put the creative process into practice…

1. Transform with tiling

Sprucing up the kitchen with tiling takes skill but with a little bit of practice, there’s a look for everyone. Tiling just the splashback means you don’t have to go all the way up the wall, so you have impact without being spendy. And depending on the shape and size of the tiles, you only need to build them two or three rows up to get the look.

Natalia Ratajczak, interior designer for The Furniture Union, suggests tiling the splashback with subway tiles, adding a strong red grout colour and framing them with a thick black outline to add graphic detailing.

Tempting as it is, don’t tile over existing tiles. Ratajczak says it’s better to hack off any existing ones to ensure you get a level finish and that your adhesive is fully bonded, etc. If you want to go one step further, add shelving above to tie in finishes and display decorative items.

2. Colour co-ordinate ceilings and corridors

It may sound a bit matchy-matchy but coordinating a section of your ceiling with a piece of furniture, especially in a long, dark corridor, is a great option to create a boutique hotel-style vibe.

Using a strong colour on the ceiling (Furniture Union recommend matt emulsion finish) teamed with cabinetry in the same colour (a satin finish works well for woodwork, offering a mild sheen) can make a narrow space look utterly revitalised.

3. Update handles and knobs

Depending on your taste, handles are to a chest of drawers what the standing area is to your shower – both need to be functional and stylish – and as they say, it’s all in the detail.

An easy update, industrial-style knobs, statement or drop handles will instantly increase the pulling power of furniture throughout the home and kitchen units, without having to splash out on replacing whole items. And the good news is, many are simple screw and bolt types, so no drilling required.

4. Get the wow factor with wallpaper

Budget allowing, think about making the switch from paint to paper – zooming in on a section of the space, rather than the whole room, makes much lighter work of the task and means you don’t have to worry about clearing everything out of the way.

“As with painting, adding wallpaper to one wall rather than the whole room is a great first-time project,” says Lorna MacPhee, furnishing accessories buyer for John Lewis.

“If this is your first attempt, choose a ditsy or abstract design that’s easier to pattern match, being more forgiving along the joins than a bold geometric design, while a paste-the-wall design is quicker and less messy than traditional paste-the-wallpapers, and you’ll need less in your tool kit.”

5. Change your outlook

When it comes to window dressing, we all need a creative outlook – but we don’t necessarily want the world looking in on us – and there’s more to net curtains than meets the eye. Whether you choose lace or voile, they can easily be draped over an existing curtain pole or laced with ribbon and hung on hooks.

An easy update, MacPhee suggests layering ready-made curtains over lightweight sheers. “The voiles give a softer light and privacy for those at-home yoga sessions and moments of calm,” she says. “Hang from net curtain wire or swap your pole for a tension wire.”

6. Customise with chalk paint

If you want to paint the town – sorry, home – red (or any other shade for that matter), chalk based paint offers a flat, matt finish and brilliant coverage with one or two coats.

Ideal for painting walls, furniture, indoors and outdoors, it’s especially suited to vintage pieces (think shabby-chic finish) or flea market finds that just need a bit of love and attention.

To point you in the right direction, we recommend Frenchchic paint or Annie Sloan who have a range of durable, weatherproof chalk paint that’s suitable for wood, laminate, metal and plastic. A top coat will seal, protect and keep the colour long-lasting, so this is especially good for garden furniture. And thanks to rigorous testing, it’s also certified safe enough (EN 71:3) to use on children’s toys – think an old train set that just needs a lick of paint to bring it back into service.

Children’s Gardening Books to Inspire Young Growers

children's gardening books

As National Children's Gardening Week approaches, captivate your children with a crop of gardening books aimed at the young.

children's gardening books

When the contents of the sandpit are all over the patio, the trampoline has lost its bounce and the little ones are short of something to do, there’s a plethora of gardening books out there with activities to engage them.

In the run up to National Children’s Gardening Week (23 – 31 May), here’s a selection for all ages of children to help them dig for victory.

RHS Get Growing by Holly Farrell (Frances Lincoln, £14.99)

This easy-to-use family guide to gardening covers everything from how plants work to identifying plants, growing easy fruit and veg and getting children to take part in creating wildlife gardens.

If your child is arty, the book offers projects showing them how to decorate clay pots and coasters. If they’re interested in food, there’s an array of suggestions, from how to grow edible flowers to designing a herb garden. And if they are fascinated by wildlife, they can learn how to make a garden for minibeasts and birds, or create a pond in a bucket.

They’ll probably need help from an adult to start them off, but the activities aren’t difficult and should help them reconnect with nature. The book strikes an excellent balance between education and fun.

children's gardening books

I Ate Sunshine For Breakfast by Michael Holland and illustrated by Philip Giordano (Flying Eye Books, £14.99)

Expert ecologist and educator Michael Holland shares this brightly illustrated guide to plants around the world, enabling children to become more acquainted with their leafy neighbours and showing how plants help create everything from rubber to honey.

It features DIY projects for young gardeners including the fun-filled messy business of creating cornflour slime; exploring the effects of freezing conditions on deciduous and evergreen trees; upcycling using jars, bottles and tins as well as collecting seeds from the foods you eat; and how to make a power plant with a potato.

children's gardening books

The Book Of Brilliant Bugs by Jess French (DK, £14.99)

This offering is ideal for little ones who are fascinated with creepy crawlies and want to learn more about them.

Featuring everything from honey bees to crickets, spiders to beetles, it explains how bugs are huge contributors to our planet and can survive almost anywhere, including high up in the mountains and deep underwater.

In easy-to-understand language, French explores the crucial role bugs play at the start of the food chain, their importance as pollinators helping plants grow and looks at the predatory bugs which keep pests at bay.

children's gardening books

Gardening With Emma by Emma Biggs (Storey Publishing, £14.99)

Kids can relate to other kids, right? So this fun guide written by the 14-year-old gardening ace who has her own blog should tick the boxes. With a little help from her dad, Steve, she offers simple projects from step-by-step bug catchers, to growing all your pizza ingredients. In just one year, she grew 68 varieties of tomato.

Raising the coolest plants is also a big focus of the book. She features everything from species that tickle and make noise, to vegetables ranging from the tiniest to colossal, providing lots of useful know-how about soil, sowing, and caring for a garden throughout the seasons, along with ways to make play spaces among the plants.

Aimed at eight to 12-year-olds, lively photography helps capture the authentic creativity of a child who loves to be outdoors, digging in the dirt.

children's gardening books

Under Your Feet by Dr Jackie Stroud (DK in association with RHS, £9.99)

This book for slightly younger readers is awash with fantastic facts about soil, worms and other organisms, cleverly punctuated with illustrations in earthy shades, along with things your children didn’t know about the secret world underground.

Did your child know, for instance, that worm poo in soil helps plants grow? Or that ant colonies can join up to form super-colonies which can stretch for thousands of miles?

The book takes an entertaining look at how animals build their homes under the ground and how plants survive in adverse conditions, as well as how fungi can grow to be the size of the forest.

All these weird and wonderful facts will hopefully prompt your children to seek these creatures out in the garden, from spineless invertebrates to woodlice, spiders and molluscs, as well as seeing the soil and its importance in a different light. Ideal for budding young scientists.

children's gardening books

You Can Grow Your Own Food by Annabelle Padwick (Collins, out June 11, £7.99)

The perfect go-to book for children who are curious about gardening, this new addition to the You Can series is packed with gardening projects and easy tips on how to grow fruit, veg and herbs outside and indoors. The book has space to scribble and draw, so children can design their own gardens and keep track of their progress.

The author founded the social enterprise, Life at No.27 in 2019 to provide gardening and wellbeing-based therapy for children and adults struggling with low confidence and mental health issues.

National Children’s Gardening Week runs from May 23-31. For details visit childrensgardeningweek.co.uk

8 Top Tips to Make the Most of Your Lighting

top tips for lighting

If you're in need of a fresh fix, here's how to light up your world in lockdown, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

Lighting in the home is really important, especially right now, when so many of us are spending twice as much time inside.

While some of us will have switched on to the latest lighting trends, and illuminated, enhanced and created the perfect ambience to unwind at the end of the day, chances are most of us won’t have thought about how a flicker of light, or sun streaming in during lockdown can affect our outlook, and mood.

“There needs to be a contrast from getting up in the morning and work mode, to stopping work in the early evening and reinforcing the mindset that it’s the end of your working day,” says Ellie Coombs, lighting designer and managing director of Nulty Lighting, international design consultants.

“Task lighting for work at a desk is important, but the rest of the time, it’s about adjusting your lighting; the light level, the direction of light and the colour temperature for each different activity.”

Here are her top tips for lighting up your home – no electrician required…

top tips for lighting

1. Shed light on a dark corner

“Personally, I don’t mind a dark corner, it’s about having the contrast of light and dark areas in a room. If you have a dark corner and want to light it up, try a floor lamp, which will make the room feel more spacious. Lamps work well as you can move them around – they offer a more intimate light source and a better quality of light. Generally, if you go into a lighting designer’s house, they are almost entirely lit by lamps, rather than ceiling lights.”

top tips for lighting

2. Change the light to suit your mood

“You can completely change your perception of a space depending on how you light it. Lots of diffused light on all the walls and ceiling will make the space feel spacious and open. Whereas lower levels of light in pools from lamps, just where you need them, will make the space much more intimate and cosy. You may be spending all your time in just one space, but it doesn’t have to feel like the same space.”

top tips for lighting

3. Use smart lighting

“You can resolve the fact you don’t have any lighting control by purchasing a smart lighting kit. Add it to your home Wi-Fi, download an app and then connect smart lighting products to your phone. You can then set timers to wake you up and create lighting scenes and moods for your home, all from the touch of a button. No electrician needed.”

top tips for lighting

4. Only use the main kitchen lights when you cook

“A lot of us have open-plan living spaces, and we’re spending all our time in one space during the lockdown. If you have under-cupboard lighting in the kitchen, try using it in the evening, to add some soft, ambient light. Use the brighter, high-level lights only when you’re cooking.

“If you are thinking about re-doing your kitchen lighting in the future, think about positioning. It’s important to light the work surfaces and not create shadows, rather than having a grid of lighting across the entire space.”

top tips for lighting

5. Put your art in the spotlight

“While you’re at home, experiment with a movable task light to highlight a piece of art or favourite sculpture. Grab a table lamp on an extension lead and play with it – move it to different places to see what works. Then contract an electrician to install something permanent when lockdown is over.”

top tips for lighting

6. Know the new bulb jargon

“With all the new LED and other energy-saving light bulbs on offer, choosing the right one has never been so complicated. In brief, the rules are as follows:

“Always buy light bulbs from reputable manufacturers… they may be more expensive, but they will last longer, give you a better quality of light and avoid any safety concerns.

“The wattage is no longer a clear indicator of the amount of light a bulb will emit… you now need to look at the lumen output. (As a rough guide, 25W = 200-300lm/40W = 400-500lm/60W = 700-800lm/100W = 1300-1400lm.)

“Colour Temperature indicates how warm or cold a light source will be… the lower the number, the warmer the light.”

top tips for lighting

7. Make the most of sunlight

“The more we can use natural daylight at home, the less we use electricity, which of course, is better for the planet. Even if you can’t position your work-at-home desk near a window, try to have your lunch break outside or near a window.

“Think about where daylight comes from, at which time of the day, and learn its natural cycle. Maybe think about moving a comfy chair to a window that catches the sun at lunchtime. That way, you’re more likely to sit there and read a magazine, or have a sandwich or cup of tea.”

top tips for lighting

8. Think carefully about statement lighting

“Chandeliers and statement lighting are usually chosen because you love the way the piece looks. But make sure the scale fits the room and you can walk underneath it without hitting your head. Consider positioning it over a table that you’re not going to move.

“Before you purchase, switch it on and see what sort of light it gives out. Will it be useful? Or will it just be a feature of the room? Consider the rest of the lighting for the room and if you need anything additional to light the space.”

Which are the Best Antiviral Herbs to Grow at Home?

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

Herbalist Lucy Jones leafs through 5 of the best antiviral herbs to boost wellbeing through lockdown and beyond.

Medicinal herbalist and grower Lucy Jones believes in the powers of antiviral herbs and how they can play a positive role in helping to maintain our wellbeing in lockdown and beyond.

“Herbal medicine has a very long track record in supporting the immune system and helping patients to recover from respiratory infections,” she says.

Jones, author of a new book Self-Sufficient Herbalism, recommends five top antiviral herbs to consider and shares her growing tips for each.

Remember, do talk to your doctor before changing your diet. Some conditions that mean therapeutic doses of a particular herb should be avoided are highlighted below, but do make sure this is safe for you.

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

1. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

“I find it very helpful for patients with various different respiratory weaknesses as well as being wonderful for acute coughs and colds.

“Drinking a cup of thyme infusion daily is a great way to strengthen the lungs and support the immune system. Simply use a couple of sprigs of fresh herb per cup and pour on boiling water, cover the cup and leave it to steep for at least 10 minutes until it’s quite strong.”

Growing tips: Thyme is a hardy perennial which thrives in full sun and well drained poor to moderately fertile soil. Plants should be spaced 25cm (10in) apart. Plant in a sheltered place and cut back after flowering to prevent plants from becoming leggy.

Harvesting: “I like to take a small harvest before the plants flower, and then take a second harvest once they’re in flower. Leave the plants enough green growth so that they can recover their strength after harvesting.”

Caution: Avoid therapeutic doses if you’re pregnant.

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

2. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

“I grow nasturtiums in my herb garden and dry the leaves each year to use in herbal tinctures and infusions during the winter months,” she says. When the plant is crushed or chewed, peppery, mustard-like compounds clear the sinuses as well as directly fighting respiratory infections.

“You can make nasturtium vinegar by picking one cup of nasturtium flowers and putting them in a bottle with a peeled garlic clove and a few black peppercorns. Pour over 500ml cider vinegar and ensure that all the herb material is covered by the liquid. Leave for four weeks in a cool dark place and then strain and bottle. A teaspoon of this vinegar twice a day will give you a daily dose of antiviral goodness and help ease catarrh if you’re prone to it.”

Growing tips: Nasturtium is a half hardy annual which enjoys full sun to partial shade and a rich moist soil. Grow from seed in situ once the danger of frost has passed or start seedlings off indoors and plant out later after hardening off. They will ramble about and self-seed exuberantly.

Harvesting: “Harvest when there’s a high proportion of flowers on the plants. As I intend to dry my nasturtium crop, I cut individual leaves and flowers without the fleshy stalks attached.”

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

3. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia and E. pallida)

Echinacea is a medicine known and used for generations by native Americans. Initially it was used mostly for rheumatism and snake bites.

“I use echinacea tincture for people experiencing active infections, including upper respiratory infections and infected wounds such as dog bites.

“The root is the most effective part of the plant, so if you have a large clump of echinacea now may be the time to divide it and take a harvest of the roots. Wash them and cut them into matchstick shapes of even thickness and dry them on a tray in a cool, dark, airy place.

“You can make your own echinacea tincture by putting the dried root into a small jar and covering it with the strongest vodka you can get hold of, preferably at least 60% proof. Leave your jar in the dark for a couple of weeks and then strain and bottle. Take 1-3 teaspoons per day in a little hot water at the first sign of an infection.”

Growing tips: “This hardy perennial prefers full sun and fertile free draining soil. Plants should be spaced 30-45cm (12-18in) apart.”

Harvesting: “Dig the roots of third or fourth-year plants in autumn. Wash the roots thoroughly and cut into matchstick shaped pieces for drying. Alternatively harvest fresh flowers to add to your teapot during the flowering season.”

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

4. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

“Research has shown that lemon balm is good for fighting the herpes family of viruses. It’s a great home remedy to relieve cold sores, chickenpox, shingles and mononucleosis. It has a track record of reducing the unpleasant symptoms associated with the early onset of influenza.

“To make a tea from it, pick a sprig of fresh herb and place it into a cup, add boiling water and leave it covered to infuse for 10 minutes before drinking.”

Growing tips: “This hardy perennial likes a moist, rich soil in full sun to partial shade. After flowering, cut the dead stalks down and remove them.

Harvesting: For tea, harvest early on in the season while the stems are still soft and there’s a mass of foliage. Cut stems about 15cm (6in) from the base, or above the lower faded leaves.

Caution: Avoid therapeutic doses if you have an underactive thyroid.

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

5. Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus, formerly Rosmarinus officinalis)

“As well as being associated with youthfulness and improved memory, rosemary has significant antiviral properties. Among its many constituents, it contains oleanolic acid which has displayed antiviral activity against influenza viruses, along with herpes viruses and HIV in test tube studies.

“Rosemary is also considered to be an excellent herb for recovery after a debilitating viral infection. It gently supports the digestion and the circulatory system, whilst relieving tension and lifting the spirits.

“It’s one of the herbs that I always include in my daily pot of ‘garden tea’, not just because it tastes so good but because it has so many health benefits.”

Growing tips: “Rosemary is an evergreen shrub which prefers full sun and a sandy, dry soil. Plants should be spaced 60-90cm (24-36in) apart.

Harvesting: Combine harvesting with necessary pruning of established plants. Cut stems with secateurs and be conscious of maintaining a good shape to the shrub. Cut individual springs as required for teas.

Caution: Avoid if you have epilepsy.

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

7 Ways to See the World from the Comfort of your Own Home

7 WAYS TO SEE THE WORLD FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

Armchair travel has never been so exhausting. But which sites are worthy of your time? Sarah Marshall finds out.

While planes are parked on runways and ships tethered indefinitely to docks, the only way to travel right now is from your living room.

In the absence of any tourists, many attractions, safari lodges and tourist boards have created a selection of live streams, virtual tours and 360-degree images, allowing us to cross international borders and bypass passport control through the wonders of the world wide web.

It took Phileas Fogg 80 days to circumnavigate the planet. Follow our itinerary to do it in a matter of hours.

1. Live like a local in the Faroe Islands

A remote, windswept archipelago, where waterfalls tumble from velvety green cliffs, the Faroe Islands is Game of Thrones territory. Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, the national tourist board has launched an ingenious virtual tour, where at-home travellers have the freedom to direct an islander in real time. Use the keyboard to make your human avatar turn, walk, run – and even jump – as they explore epic landscapes by foot, boat, helicopter and horseback. Guides will share information about the 18 islands and answer any questions.

How does it work: Until April 25, hour-long tours will take place daily at 2pm and 5pm. After then, they will be weekly. Visit remote-tourism.com for updates. Join a queue to control the guide or sit back and enjoy the tour.

7 WAYS TO SEE THE WORLD FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

2. Dance all night to Berlin’s best DJs

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music,” wrote 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Perhaps that’s what the neighbours might think if they spot you leaping around the living room to one of Berlin’s United We Stream DJ sets. Refusing to press pause on their mixers, the German city’s famous clubs are holding virtual parties, and everyone is on the guest list. The first live broadcast from Watergate united 70,000 lone clubbers, all moving to the same beats.

How does it work: Visit en.unitedwestream.berlin for a list of upcoming events.

7 WAYS TO SEE THE WORLD FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

3. Take a sky safari above Namibia’s deserts

The epitome of wide, open space, Namibia provides welcome relief when the walls are caving in. Epic dunes stretch for thousands of miles in a landscape that’s ever-shifting, and at night, constellations light up the sky like fireworks. It would take weeks to cross the country by road; from your armchair, it’s possible in less than an hour. Using interactive 360-degree images, rise above the mind-boggling 300-metre sand ridges in Sossusvlei and survey every Deadvlei, a salty clay pan filled with the brittle, blackened skeletons of acacia trees.

How does it work: Visit airpano.com/360photo/Namibia and select a tour.

7 WAYS TO SEE THE WORLD FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

4. Game drive with Richard Branson’s South African safari lodge

Staying at Richard Branson’s Ulusaba safari lodge sounds like the stuff of dreams, but in these strange times, anything’s a reality. Tune in once a week to join their world-class rangers on a game drive through a private reserve in South Africa’s Sabi Sand. In recent drives, they’ve tracked wild dogs and followed a lion pride. Future highlights include a walking safari and potentially seeing a leopard and her two new cubs emerge from their den.

How does it work: Visit @VirginLimitedEdition on Instagram every Monday at 3.30pm.

7 WAYS TO SEE THE WORLD FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

5. Zipwire through Dubai’s skyscrapers

Sunny, shiny and effervescing with energy, there’s no shortage of attractions to keep visitors entertained in Dubai – even during lockdown. The gleaming emirate has produced a detailed, interactive 360-degree map, which allows the user to nosy around five-star hotel lobbies, explore cultural museums and zoom along a zipwire from the Princess Tower. You can even window shop for luxury sports cars or meander through malls.

How does it work: Visit Dubai360.com and use the mouse of keyboard to explore.

7 WAYS TO SEE THE WORLD FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

6. Wade with starfish on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

It’s normally necessary to take a light aircraft to visit this bio-diverse coral cay along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but for now, a few mouse clicks will transport you to the world-class Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort. Manta rays, turtles and octopus inhabit the fringing reefs. In winter (June-October), even humpbacks cruise past. Best of all, you don’t even have to get wet to learn about the wildlife; Lady Elliot is the only island on the world-famous chain with a license to conduct reef tours by foot. Join guides as they wade through shallow lagoons in search of starfish and other oddities. Divers and biologists will also be sharing stories about marine ecology.

How does it work: Follow @LadyElliotIslandEcoResort on Instagram for updates on new stories.

7 WAYS TO SEE THE WORLD FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

7. Learn to dance at an Argentinian milonga

The music of Carlos Gardel spills from crumbling doorways in Buenos Aires’ historic San Telmo district, providing a soundtrack for suave dancers locked in a dramatic embrace. Seductive and sensational, tango is an apt expression of its birthplace, so if you really want to scratch beneath the city’s surface, it’s worth learning some of the footwork. Join a live streaming e-lesson with tango school Tanguito and learn some moves to put into practise once social distancing comes to an end.

How does it work: Lessons take place every Wednesday (7pm and 8pm) and Sunday (2pm and 3pm); additional solo workshops on Tuesdays (12.30pm) and Fridays (7pm and 8pm). Visit tanguito.co.uk/live. You’ll need to register to be sent a live streaming link. The 45-minute lessons costs £8.

7 WAYS TO SEE THE WORLD FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

From Classy Candyfloss Pink to Pale Blush – How to Work Pink at Home

pink home

Surprisingly versatile and super-sophisticated, Sam Wylie-Harris explores the pulling power of pink.

Pink comes into its own in springtime – and we’re not just talking fragrant blooms and bridesmaids’ dresses.

From soft, dusty hues to the palest blush, pink is one of the most playful shades to bring into your home, and you don’t need to be in the first throes of love to embrace a pink palate.

Indeed, this season’s candy crush isn’t all saccharine sweet, and neither does it delve into Barbie territory. Pink interiors can be super-sophisticated and subtle, and styled to bring beauty and radiance without having to go over the top. This is all about shifting our perceptions on how to ‘think pink.’

“The colour pink evokes sophistication and playfulness. This romantic shade can instantly bring a subtle sense of femininity into your home, through the use of accessories and homewares,” says Claire Hornby, head of creative at Barker and Stonehouse furniture designers.

“You’ll be surprised how easy it is to create a fresh and airy living space when using pink to style your space. What I love about this colour is that you don’t have to completely redecorate to be able to introduce this palette.”

pink home

Adding pink accents

“Whether you want to add bold pops of bright pink or duskier pinks for a neutral feel, it’s possible to transform your space with key furniture pieces and accessories,” says Hornby.

“Add a burst of colour and opt for a gorgeous armchair in a soft rose hue, or if you want to experiment further, a showstopping sofa with a mid-century design would look wonderful.

“To balance the look and to keep it light, complement your pink pieces with lots of white for a timeless and versatile look.

“Alternatively, if you’re looking to enhance an existing neutral palette, introduce dusty pink cushions and smaller accessories, such as tealight holders, throws or vases,” Hornby suggests.

pink home

Pink is ‘the new beige’

When it comes to creating a scheme, furniture and soft furnishings can be used as key building blocks too – and pink is practically a neutral now. In other words, it just works, and it’s perfectly OK to use it sparingly.

Suzy McMahon, buying director for Sofology furniture designers, says: “For many homes, particularly over the past few years, pink has become a neutral tone offering a contemporary twist on the traditional beige. Opting for a pink sofa or armchair is the perfect way to bring the shade into the home, creating a base that can be built upon.

“Layering blush and powder tones with shades of grey creates a fresh, modern look that isn’t overly romantic. ,” McMahon adds. “Keeping patterns minimal and not too feminine will create a space that all family members and guests can enjoy spending time in. Light woods and metallics work particularly well with softer, rose type hues.”

Alternatively, she suggests bolder, brighter shades can be used to reinvigorate spaces and as a statement focal point in the room.

“Pairing with monochrome or darker hues, such as teal, will ensure the pink pops. Be careful to not opt for too many clashing colours, as schemes using bolder shades should be playful yet considered. If you have your heart set on a deep pink sofa, try to pair it with neutral walls and floors to ensure the seating isn’t lost in your room,” McMahon adds.

She says texture is key with pink, and suggests thinking about the overall style you’re looking to create. For example, a blush velvet will create a very different feel and impact to a blush cotton. “Ask yourself: are you looking for something opulent or pared back, traditional or contemporary?”

pink home

Table dressing in pink

If you’re still feeling a bit shy about adding a permanent dose of pink, you can always set the scene with a pink tablecloth, which can quickly be cleared away – and a stylish solution to investing in something more serious and sophisticated. It’ll also work beautifully with rose wine season coming into full swing, as we drink pink for the foreseeable future.

pink home

Pimp up your pink

Of course, putting pink in the spotlight doesn’t mean having to create a whole canvas of rosy hues. And if you’re worried about a pop of pink having a short shelf life, you can always give the look a modern edge by layering, intensifying and styling with a shot of electric pink.

Think bubble-gum pink candles, a cloud of candy floss in one particular corner of a room and A-list trimmings – cushions and throws are a good starting point. A lampshade or curtain tie-back made out of flamenco pink feathers or electric-pink pom-poms are always top of our wish list.

pink home

Pick a pink paint

“Neutral and muted tones of pink are complex and add areas of interest, yet they’re easy to live with,” says Judy Smith, colour consultant for Crown Paints. “Pink looks particularly sophisticated and smart when used as a backdrop to contemporary natural materials and most modern furniture designs.

“Pink works really well with cool neutrals, such as brilliant whites and all tones of grey – from light to moody,” she adds. “The choice depends on what type of look you’d like to create – bold and dramatic, or cool and restful.

“If you want to create a warmer space, try pairing neutral pink with either earthy terracotta shades or a warm cherry.”

To create a dramatic scheme and make sure pink looks up to date and edgy, Smith suggests adding touches of black or charcoal, perhaps in fine outlines on the wall, woodwork or in furniture.

“It brings this soft tone more into focus and makes it look fresh and modern. The pink and charcoal colour combination is also incredibly versatile and can easily be adapted to suit all types of styles, from industrial chic to minimal Scandi or modern country,” Smith adds.

pink home

Laying down a pink path

“Flooring is the perfect place for pink, as it creates an on-trend base that can be built upon and transformed instantly with a few considered accessories,” says Jemma Dayman, buyer for carpets at Carpetright.

To create a calming and tranquil atmosphere, she suggests opting for carpet in a soft, blush shade, which can be warmed up with statement furnishings.

“If you’re keen on pink but aren’t sure you’d like a complete scheme, a contemporary rug is an affordable way to add a dash of colour without the commitment,” advises Dayman. “Allow yourself to have a little fun with your rug choice and opt for something you’ll love for years to come; it may stay in the same room but you might also find yourself moving it to another place as your tastes change.

“Rugs allow for personality to shine through, whether you’re opting for a whimsical novelty pattern or an art deco inspired geometric design.”

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