See The Stunning Interior In This Property Video Preview

We’ll let the pictures do the talking, so do have a look at the 30 second preview video of this truly stunning recently extended and refurbished bungalow.

Due to the market next week on an estimated guide of £550,000, this will undoubtedly be a property to view early.

Accommodation comprises of open plan living room / dining room / kitchen with bi-fold doors to the rear garden.

There are 4/5 bedrooms. Two on the first floor and the remaining three on the ground floor.

Telephone 01252 620640 for details

Boxing Day due to be the next big property search event

boxing day go image

According to Rightmove there was a 200% spike in traffic between Boxing Day and 2nd January in 2018, suggesting an uplift in house buyer searches online on Boxing Day. This  is why McCarthy Holden are offering a special incentive to join the next big event in property.

Boxing Day Go Event

During November and December all a would-be house seller has to do is instruct McCarthy Holden to offer their property for sale from Boxing Day.

You can indulge in all of the traditional Boxing Day activities, happy in the knowledge that house buyers are tapping on mobile devices searching for the right property and, who knows, your house could be top of their list for viewing in the New Year.

Many of our clients have already asked to go live on the Boxing Day Go property launch, so if you are contemplating a house move in 2019 then go to our home page and click on valuation, for a free property appraisal and discover the benefits of being part of the no sale no fee and no obligation Boxing Day Go property event.

More Buyers and Tenants See Property Video Marketing

It is widely believed that video content in online marketing will increase the number of views of a product, or in this case a property, by up to 25%.

Today, the video revolution has well and truly arrived with 80% of internet users stating that they remember watching a video and its content for at least 30 days, and with 100 million internet users watching online video each and every day.

sold in 2018 using professional video, which was viewed 544 times

So it’s perhaps not surprising that in 2018 McCarthy Holden sold or let fine homes, against the backdrop of a challenging market especially in the £1.5m. to £4m. sector. Some of the fine homes we showcased are shown in this article.

With property searching more likely than not starting on a mobile phone, video content is a must have part of the property marketing mix.

Here at McCarthy Holden we make sure we film, promote and market a property to the broadest possible audience. From thirty second preview videos for use on our web site and social media, through to our big production four minute videos with professional presenters we ensure that our clients will get noticed with more clicks and engagement online.

sold in 2018 using professional video, which was viewed 522 times

Its a fact that people who have seen a video of a clients house, and then come for a viewing are far more likely to make an offer than people who have only seen standard information on Rightmove or Primelocation for example.

sold in Fleet, Hampshire using professional video, which was viewed 454 times

Every picture tells a story and we can now showcase more features about quality property than ever before. With the use of broadcast quality filming, professional presenters and editing with music etc., we produce informative property video tours designed to make our clients property stand out and be noticed above all others.

Creating professional video content is normally done by johnjoe.co.uk, and the photograph, video capture and editing take three tays to complete.

let in 2018 using professional video, which was viewed 935 times.

If you are selling or letting a property and would like the benefits of professional video marketing, then go to our home page and click on valuation for a free no obligation property appraisal.

Historic Mill House – Sale agreed November 2018

Let in the £7,000 to £10,000 p.c.m. sector, using preview video tour

New Campaign Urges Consumers To Buy British Christmas Trees

christmas trees

A new campaign has been launched by Grown in Britain to encourage UK consumers to buy more assured British grown Christmas trees.

Grown in Britain says many people may be assuming they are buying fresh British grown trees, when they are not. The organisation is urging consumers to support rural businesses in Britain and reduce ‘tree miles’ by checking where their Christmas tree comes from before they buy.

christmas trees grower

According to Government statistics, £3 million pounds worth of real Christmas trees were imported into the UK last year.

Grown in Britain has created a Christmas tree licensing scheme that operates throughout the supply chain from growers to retailers and provides an assurance that trees are fresh and grown in the UK in a responsible way with due regard to the environment.

Chief Executive Dougal Driver says: “The UK has a flourishing Christmas tree growing sector and our auditing process checks that trees are definitely from the UK, grown responsibly and meet a strict forest floor to shop floor freshness test.”

He adds: “This is the start of the campaign with approximately 50,000 Christmas trees currently licensed for sale, but the public can really make a difference by asking their stockists to supply assured Grown in Britain trees now and in the future. This will help ensure the number of assured homegrown Christmas trees rises over time, with a consequential boost to the UK’s rural economy.”

To find out your nearest supplier of Grown in Britain licensed Christmas trees, look at the licence holder map on the Grown in Britain website www.growninbritain.org

christmas trees growing

House of Horrors at number 10 so what next for the house market

image of Mrs May behind doors

High drama and high stakes on the political and Brexit front have set the scene for more uncertainty, so how will this impact on the domestic residential property market?

With the imminent prospect of a challenge to Theresa May’s leadership, the resignation of Cabinet ministers including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, seemingly no prospect of the draft Brexit agreement being passed by Parliament and the increased likelihood of a harder Brexit, there is now in place a wide range of serious uncertainty factors rarely seen conspiring at around the same time. Furthermore, with Mrs Mays party in revolt and many of her colleagues departing we don’t know yet, if a General Election is also around the corner.

One certainty

One thing that is certain, is that uncertainty impacts on the property market especially around the times of a General Election or a Referendum. How this uncertainty works its way into tangible outcomes is not straightforward and varies in different house price sectors of the property market.

In the short term, house buyers generally will be more cautious and slower in their decision making, and the impact on prices will mean large house price gains are gone for a while. This doesn’t mean house prices will fall, because buyer demand remains steady and employment levels are excellent. There is the prospect of a flat market in respect of price rises, however discerning house buyers are seeing the current market conditions as an opportunity to move whilst prices remain static. House sellers will sell successfully in today’s market, but they can’t expect a fancy or inflated price and must engage with the reality that over pricing will fail in a market where buyers are cautious.

Different sectors, different outcomes

Different market sectors will have different outcomes in the forthcoming months ahead. Buying decisions on property sales from around £250,000 to £1.5m. are mostly made by very localised factors such as schooling, access to work and general employment levels and family situations ranging from the three D’s (death, divorce and debt) through to the three N’s (new job, new baby, new beginnings). Decisions around such matters of day to day life will continue to be made by house buyers against the backdrop of political uncertainty, so house sales will be maintained at the current level with price sensitivity being the watchword.

Further up the property price sector, and especially in the £2.0m. to £6.0m range house buyers will be more influenced by global and political factors so we could see further negative price impacts in this sector. It’s perhaps no surprise that in 2018 we saw a significant uplift in house rentals in the £6,000 to £8,000 p.c.m. sector, driven by future potential house buyers who have decided to retreat into the luxury rental market and watch for when the top end house sales market starts to recover. Such recovery could be a year or so away, but one thing is for sure, all markets when they rebound from a low come back with a sharp and fast uptake. Savvy top end buyers know this and are playing a waiting game, or taking care of business now by buying at extremely competitive levels.

Respond with investment, no time for the faint hearted

Check out what McCarthy Holden are doing to maximise selling and letting opportunities for clients between Christmas and New Year. If you would like and up to date market no obligation valuation, go to our home page and click in valuation.

The Christmas and New Year 2019 magazine In The Country & Town

Much Loved Images, but Meerkat Firm Busted By Uk Competition Watchdog

meerkat image with Oops

Britain’s competition watchdog has found that comparethemarket.com is in breach of antitrust law over its arrangements with insurers, which could be resulting in higher costs for consumers.

Following an investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority provisionally found many of the price comparison website’s contracts include so-called “most favoured nation” clauses.

They were found to prevent home insurers from quoting lower prices on rival sites and other channels, meaning customers are presented with fewer options.

It also meant home insurance companies are more likely to pay higher commission rates to comparison sites with the extra costs potentially being passed on to customer, the CMA said.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Over 20 million UK households have home insurance and more than 60% of new policies are found on price comparison sites. Therefore it’s crucial that these companies are able to offer customers their best possible deals.

“Our investigation has provisionally found that ComparetheMarket has broken the law by preventing home insurers from offering lower prices elsewhere. This could result in people paying higher premiums than they need to.”

The comparison website, famous for its use of meerkats Aleksandr and Sergei in its TV adverts, could be fined up to 10% of its revenue as a result of the breach.

A spokesman for comparethemarket.com said: “We are disappointed by the CMA’s provisional findings.

“We will carefully review the evidence once we have access to it, and look forward to working with the CMA over the coming months to ensure a satisfactory outcome.”

By Ravender Sembhy, Press Association City Editor CITY CompareTheMarket 02 Nov 2018 – 11:52

meerkat group

Considering a village life for retirement? Look no further than Hartley Wintney

Voted ‘Best Place to Live’ for 5 consecutive years, Hartley Wintney is the jewel in the crown for village life, with an active community and easy connections for travelling.

For anyone looking for a place to retire, Hartley Wintney has to be worth further exploration..

duck pond in Hartley Wintney photo copyright John Joe Photography
Photo of Hartley Wintney duck pond - picture copyright John Joe Photography and Video Production

This oversized village features five greens, two delightful duck ponds, an attractive High Street lined with period buildings, mostly dating from the 18th and 19th centuries when Hartley Wintney grew as a coaching stop on the London Road (aka A30), plus a scattering of barns, cottages and farmhouses from the 17th century.

High Street in Hartley Wintney photo copyright John Joe Photography
Photo of Hartley Wintney high street - picture copyright John Joe Photography and Video Production

Over time, the High Street has developed into a highly browsable shopping destination with a selection of fashion and interiors boutiques, galleries and antique shops. The recent addition of William Dyers amazing delicatessen offering everything from luxury cuts to a frozen dinner party has completed the luxury treats.

From a more practical and useful side, the  Whitewater Health doctors surgery is tucked just off the High Street and the village also offers a dentist and opticians.

duck pond in Hartley Wintney photo copyright Alamy
Photo of Hartley Wintney cricket green - picture copyright John Joe Photography and Video Production

The community is incredibly active and offers something for everyone, from cinema nights and plays at the Victoria and Jubilee Hall to plant sales and crafting with the local Womens Institute to the highly regarded Hartley Wintney Golf Club tucked just off the end of the High Street. One of the main focus areas of the village is Hartley Wintney Cricket Club, with their pitch just behind the High Street and with the obligatory pub next door.

Culturally, Hartley Wintney offers unlikely musical experiences – ranging from the sublime to the ridiculously fun. The former is the highly regarded opera season at West Green House; an 18th century country house known worldwide for its gardens. The latter is Lowde Fest at Hazeley Bottom: 11 hours’ non-stop live, food market and funfair.

Hartley Wintney photo copyright John Joe Photography
Photo of Hartley Wintney - picture copyright John Joe Photography and Video Production

There are a number of purpose built retirement schemes, all within easy access to the High Street and amenities and at a range of price points and size to suit different needs. To find out more please call the Hartley Wintney office on 01252 842100 to find out more.

Summer and Autumn Sold Rush For House Sales

sold board outside property

Will 2018 end well for house sales?

During the first six months of 2018 the level of house sales across the UK were running at a fairly poor level, but now the second half of 2018 is bouncing back with house sales on the up again.

Property sale agreed in Fleet by McCarthy Holden
A quick sale was recently agreed on this £1.85m. guided property in the Blue Triangle Fleet

When we say house sales are on the up, we are talking about house sale volumes not prices.

The market in residential sales remains very price sensitive, which is why discerning house buyers are seeing the current market conditions as an opportunity to move whilst prices remain static. The news for house sellers is that you can and will sell successfully in today’s market, but don’t expect a fancy or inflated price.

Large house price gains are gone for a while, but like all markets when they rebound from a low they come back with a sharp and fast uptake. Savvy buyers know this so are active in the market now.

Property sold in Odiham by McCarthy Holden
This cottage in Odiham was snapped up and exchanged when guided £850,000

A turning point this Summer and Autumn

Summer and Autumn trading results on house sales are showing high levels of properties going through to exchange of contracts and new sales being agreed quickly if the price and marketing combination is right.

Take this property below, which had offers within ten days of going to the market with professional video marketing and an eye catching price.

House sales exchanges have been increasing with examples across the price ranges, with the exception of the still soft £2.5 plus market which will no doubt catch up in due course.

There have been encouraging sales just under £2.0m. such as the example below.

Property sold in Finchampstead by McCarthy Holden
Sold (exchanged) just under £2.0m. in Finchampstead, Berkshire

Tragedy comedy or soft landing

We are of course reminded of the phrase All’s well that ends well, which is a title from a play by William Shakespeare, thought not to be neatly classified as tragedy or comedy. Lets hope for the residential house market its neither and 2018 ends well for house sales.

If you are looking ahead to a house sale in 2019, why not ask for a free no obligation valuation for McCarthy Holden.

New Home In New Year 2019

cgi image of proposed new homes at Shapley Grange Hartley Wintney

Fine Homes At Shapley Grange

This prime site in Hartley Wintney, will be one of the finest developments on the outskirts of this sought after Hampshire village.

Prices are to be released in early 2019, and the estimated range will be around £500,000 to £1,100,000. There are only 7 homes being built at Shapley Grange and if you are in the market for a quality new home, then please do contact our Hartley Wintney branch and ask them to keep you posted about this site.

site plan of proposed new homes at Shapley Grange Hartley Wintney
Proposed site layout
cgi image of proposed new town houses at Shapley Grange Hartley Wintney
The proposed cottage style terrace houses at Shapley Grange
cgi image of proposed new homes at Shapley Grange Hartley Wintney
There will be 4 luxury home on this exclusive site

King William Court, Hartley Wintney

King William Court in now completed and the luxury homes are now occupied by new home owners, who will no doubt enjoy a first Christmas there as well as enjoy the seasons festivities in nearby Odiham and Hartley Wintney villages.

The early video marketing was a great success, with 731 people viewing the video content. 

Winchfield Lodge, near Hartley Wintney

Winchfield Lodge is an example of obsessive attention to detail, and Kirkby Homes have produced a period property refurbishment on a truly grand scale.

Winchfield Lodge Property
14 Winchfield Lodge

Winchfield View, near Hartley Wintney

With beautiful homes from around £500,0000 to £1,750,000, we haven’t been short of buyer interest and reservations on this site.

The developer is currently delayed with off site local authority infrastructure works for mains drainage from nearby roads around Phoenix Green. This means completion dates are behind schedule, but new buyer interest can look forward to 2019 as an ideal time to move to one of these fine homes.

For further details telephone our Hartley Wintney branch on 01252 842100

Rental Preview of Hampshire Period Property

Due to the market soon

Full details and more photographs will be available soon about this country rental opportunity.

If you are in the market to leave London and experience country life, yet remain connected, then this character period property could be an excellent choice.

The anticipated guide price is £3,800 p.c.m.

Leave London for period house rental

Located on the Bramshill / Heckfield borders nearby to the sought after village of Hartley Wintney, this property offers substantial living space.

rear view elevation of period house rental in Hampshire
rear elevation - front view to follow soon

Accommodation features 5 bedrooms, with the master bedroom benefiting from an en-suite bathroom / shower room. There is also a stunning family bathroom on the first floor.

Master bedroom of period house rental
Master bedroom
Bath tub at period house rental
Family bathroom

On the ground floor accommodation includes a substantial kitchen / breakfast room, a fine living room, a study, a music room and gym room.

Living room of period house rental
Living Room
Kitchen in period house rental
Kitchen / Breakfast Room

Contact the Hartley Wintney branch of McCarthy Holden for further details. Telephone 01252 842100

Small Trees for Small Gardens

As gardens become smaller, trim trees can be just the ticket, says Hannah Stephenson. Small trees are in high demand, with suppliers increasing production in compact varieties - including crab apples, which bear beautiful spring flowers, and Vossii laburnums, with their upright forms and disease-resistant characteristics.

best trees for small garden

Trees provide structure, screening and shade, as well as colour which continues through the season, creating a sense of enclosure, their height drawing the eye up and out and helping link land with sky – and if you choose wisely, there’s no reason why having a dinky outdoor space should stop you introducing them.

Your tree needs to earn its space in a small garden, so look for one with year-round interest: A tree that blossoms for a week in spring but then looks ordinary for the rest of the year really won’t do.

In really tight spaces, you may be better off with a trimmed and trained plant, either in the ground or in a container, while carefully shaped topiary can also create an eye-catching focal point.

Here are five good examples to consider…

best trees for small garden

1. Amelanchier

Amelanchiers have featured heavily in garden shows in the past couple of years, as designers have displayed their value as choice trees for confined spaces.

Amelanchier lamarckii (10m x 12m), the snowy Mespilus, is often grown as a multi-stemmed showstopper but can also be trained as a light standard. Starry white flowers cover its branches in spring, at the same time as its bronze foliage is opening, while in autumn the small leaves often turn to fiery red and yellow.

They do best in acid soils, so plant them in ericaceous compost. These tall, slender shrubby trees make great subtle screening.

best trees for small garden

2. Flowering dogwood

Flowering dogwoods are long-season stalwarts, their star-shaped blooms appearing in late spring, followed by fantastic leaf colours of reds and oranges in autumn, and strawberry-like fruits which persist into winter.

Good varieties include Cornus kousa (7m x 5m), which bears spreading branches smothered in creamy white blossom in early summer and deep-pink bracts in late spring and orange leaves in autumn, and Cornus mas (5m x 5m), the Cornelian cherry, a small spreading variety which comes into its own in winter when clusters of yellow flowers smother the bare branches.

best trees for small garden

3. Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’

These elegant small trees, which produce long chains of brilliant yellow flowers in May and June, are perfect for training over an arch or pergola when branches are young and pliable.

Gardeners can remove the poisonous seedpods to help improve flowering next year. Just be aware that all parts of the plant are very poisonous, so this is not a child-friendly choice.

They’ll grow to around 8m x 8m and can tolerate poor and shallow soil. Laburnum can also be grown in large tubs, forced early into flower. Arguably the best for this is L. anagyroides var. alschingeri.

4. Crab apple (malus)

Flowering crab apples produce a double whammy of eye-catching blossoms in spring, followed by attractive fruits in autumn.

A good variety is ‘Evereste’ (8m x 8m, but slow-growing), which bears a puff of white and pink fragrant flowers in spring which are a magnet to bees, followed by orange-yellow fruits which can be made into jam.

The slow-growing Japanese crab, Malus Floribunda, is also less vigorous, its horizontal branches covered in crimson buds in the spring, which open to blush-pink and white scented blooms. The advantage of malus is that you can control their size and shape, like a fruiting apple.

best trees for small garden

5. Acer palmatum (Japanese maple)

These stunning stars of the show grow equally well in pots, if you only have a courtyard space and need to keep their size in check, or in the ground to create colour and add structure to a scene.

Mix a combination in different pots to create a range of stunning contrasting autumn colours, including Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, which bears rich red-purple foliage from spring to autumn, Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’, whose leaves open orange-yellow in spring, and Acer palmatum var. dissectum, whose finely cut mid-green leaves turn golden in autumn.

Plant them in full sun and try to avoid really exposed areas, where their delicate foliage may be damaged by icy winds. If you’re planting them in a container, use compost consisting equal parts of John Innes No. 2 potting compost and a soil-less multipurpose, with plenty of drainage in the base.

best trees for small garden

Your garden adds value both your property and your lifestyle. To check you are maximising the financial potential with your garden, contact you local branch for an up to date valuation: https://www.mccarthyholden.co.uk/branches/

Kevin McCloud: 5 Of The Easiest Ways To Make Your Home More Eco-friendly

Kevin McCloud: 5 Of The Easiest Ways To Make Your Home More Eco-friendly

Kevin McCloud eco friendly property tips

By Abi Jackson, Press Association

Want to up ramp up those green efforts? Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud tells Abi Jackson his top tips.

Trying to be a little more planet-friendly? Like most things in life, it starts at home – but knowing where to start or whether your efforts are worthwhile, can be tricky.

“It’s easy to think of being planet-friendly as something we can buy, which often just adds to the problems of environmental damage,” says Grand Designs presenter and home-style guru Kevin McCloud.

“There’s no doubt that, by contrast, the correct things we should be doing are: A) changing our behaviour, which is hard; B) consuming less, which is hard to get used to; C) sharing our resources more, which is often annoying, and D) thinking ecologically about our wider environment, which is very hard.

Having said that, there are some accessible ways of making our homes more environmentally responsible.”

Wondering what those are? Here, McCloud shares five “easy” ways to make our homes more eco-friendly…

Kevin McCloud eco friendly property tips
  1. Rely less on central heating

“Start with the simple things, like turning the thermostat down to 18 or19 degrees rather than 21, putting on an extra pullover instead, makinga hot water bottle at bedtime, and buying some slippers.”

  1. Go for straightforward insulation methods first

“We could all probably insulate our attics more, draught-proof our windows and doors, and maybe fit secondary or double glazing. Insulation may not seem sexy, but it’s much cheaper and delivers quicker cash and energy savings than solar panels or a heat-exchanging thermo-dynamic hybrid heat pump with go-faster stripes,” says McCloud. “Men, I’m afraid, tend to be seduced more by kit than reason. If you find yourself using the word ‘tech’, be wary – my bitter experience is that the more complicated you make your home, the more there is to go wrong.

“Make sure your home is fully insulated with good airtightness and simple ventilation systems. It’s called a fabric-first approach. Only then should you consider the bolt-on technology.”

Kevin McCloud eco friendly property tips grey decor parquet floor
  1. Check out new glazing technologies

“New glazing technologies fascinate me,” says McCloud, “because the windows in our homes are effectively holes through which heat pours. Metal coatings on glass and vacuum-extracted systems, like Pilkington’s Spacia, deliver excellent performance – I’m trialling them to see how they perform over time.”

  1. Be mindful of where things come from and how they’re made

“When I buy free-range tomatoes or FairTrade toothpaste at the supermarket, the product is usually accompanied by a little story and some pictures of the people that made it. Lovely. That makes me feel good and I’m comforted by the legitimacy of the endorsement of the Soil Association, or whichever. Knowing where your meat comes from, who grew it, and its full ‘chain of custody’ weirdly seems to improve the flavour too – so I’m a champion of authenticity and the true narrative of things, because it connects the people who make things to the people that consume them, and seems to damage the planet and all its species a little less along the way,” says McCloud – and he extends the same principles to items he buys for his home.

“Britain is still the largest importer of illegal (illegally felled that is) timber and timber products in Europe, which is shocking. I wrote my book, The Principles Of Home, to partly address all this; it’s shameful that when you or I buy a sofa, some curtain fabric, a pair of jeans or a dining table, there is virtually zero information about the welfare conditions in the factory where it’s from, the chemicals used in manufacture, or the damage wreaked on the environment in its making.

I’ve now started asking retailers for the full story of what they sell, and I suggest you do the same every time you buy something.”

  1. Tap up the experts

“If you’re designing a house from scratch, talk to an architect who’ll understand designing for orientation, passive solar gain, maximum winter sunlight, shading and minimum summer overheating. You can design in thermal mass with heavy concrete floors or earth walls, humidify and cool the airflow through the house with a buried air-duct or a pond outside a window, allow hot air to be purged through a skylight at the top of the house and allow for some cooling cross-ventilation. There. Easy. So speak to an architect.”

Kevin McCloud eco friendly property tips

Kevin McCloud will be appearing at Grand Designs Live at The NEC, Birmingham, from October 10-14, 2018. To claim your free pair of weekday tickets, visit granddesignslive.com and use code PRESSASSOC. Offer live from September 25 until October 5. T&Cs apply. For details, see granddesignslive.com/whats-on/1228-t-c-s

To discus the impact any of these or other improvements may have on your property value, please call your local office – details can be found here https://www.mccarthyholden.co.uk/branches/

A First Look At Commended Images From Wildlife Photographer Of The Year 2018

At McCarthy Holden we strive to deliver great photography and video content for property marketing, so this is a welcome opportunity to preview a selection of shots which have been released in the run-up to the popular exhibition. Sarah Marshall recommends where to go to see the action for real.

Covering every corner of our magnificent natural world, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition always generates interest, envy and debate. Some images are beautiful, others are chilling – but they always tell an important story.

While the winners won’t be announced until October 16, several commended shots featured in the exhibition have been released.

Many of them were taken in locations accessible to the public and feature on the holiday itineraries recommended below…

meer cats

The meerkat mob by Tertius A Gous

Where: Brandberg Mountain, Namibia

What: When an Anchieta’s cobra reared its head and moved towards two meerkat pups, the rest of the pack foraging nearby reacted almost instantly. Rushing back, the 20-strong group split into two: One group grabbed the pups and huddled a safe distance away, the other took on the snake. Fluffing up their coats, tails raised, the mob edged forwards, growling. When the snake lunged, they sprang back. This was repeated over and over for about 10 minutes.

How: Exodus (exodus.co.uk) offer a 15-day Discover Nambia camping escorted trip, including a visit to Brandberg Mountain, from £2,479pp, with various departures.

lion

Cool cat by Isak Pretorius

Where: South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

What: This lioness drinking from a waterhole is one of the Mfuwe Lodge pride. Lions kill more than 95% of their prey at night and may spend 18 – 20 hours resting. Though lions can get most of the moisture they need from their prey and even from plants, they drink regularly when water is available.

How: Expert Africa (expertafrica.com) offer a tailormade 9-night Civet Safari to Zambia, including a stay at Mfuwe Lodge, from £4,623pp. Flights extra.

walrus

Mister Whiskers by Valter Bernardeschi

Where: Svalbard, Norway

What: On a bright summer’s night, these walruses were feeding just off anisland in the Norwegian archipelago. The photographer put on his wetsuit and slipped into the icy water. Immediately, a few curious walruses – mainly youngsters – began swimming towards him. Walruses use their highly sensitive whiskers and snout to search out bivalve molluscs (such as clams) and other small invertebrates on the ocean floor.

How: Aurora Expeditions (auroraexpeditions.com) offer an 11-day Svalbard Odyssey cruise from £4,000pp, including the opportunity to go polar snorkelling (£411pp). Flights extra. Departures on July 15 and 25, 2019.

wild dogs

Ahead in the game by Nicholas Dyer

Where: Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

What: A pair of African wild dog pups play a macabre game of tag with the head of a chacma baboon – the remains of their breakfast. The endangered African wild dog is best known for hunting antelopes, such as impalas and kudus. But over the past five years, this pack has been regularly killing and eating baboons – highly unusual, not least because baboons are capable of inflicting severe wounds.

How: Wildlife Worldwide (wildlifeworldwide.com) offer a tailormade 10-day Zimbabwe Highlights tour, with a stay in Mana Pools, from £5,995pp including flights with various departures.

pygmy goby

Glass-house guard by Wayne Jones

Where: Mabini, Philippines

What: On the sandy seabed off the coast of Mabini, a yellow pygmy goby guards its home – a discarded glass bottle. It is one of a pair, each no more than 4cm long, that have chosen a bottle as a perfect temporary home. The female will lay several batches of eggs, while the male performs guard duty at the entrance.

How: Dive Worldwide (diveworldwide.com) offer a 10-day Philippine Secret Dive Safari from £2,095pp, including flights. Various departures from March to May.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition runs at London’s Natural History Museum from Friday, October 19 until summer 2019. Tickets cost £15 for adults, £9 for children. Visit nhm.ac.uk/wpy

GIOVANNA FLETCHER: ‘How I Created a Nursery for Baby Number Three’

The author, blogger and wife of musician Tom Fletcher shows Gabrielle Fagan how she put together a ‘rocking’ nursery for their new son, Max Mario.

nursery, decoration, Giovanna-fletcher, interior design

“Welcome to the world, Max Mario Fletcher,” Giovanna Fletcher proudly declared on Twitter, celebrating the birth of her third baby this August.

Now, she’s delightedly showing off the beautiful nursery she’s created for him in the home she shares with musician husband, Tom – of McFly and McBusted fame – and their other sons: Buzz, four, and two-year-old Buddy.

The bestselling novelist and podcast guru worked with online interiors specialist, Wayfair.co.uk, to revamp a bedroom and transform it into an airy, gender-neutral, tranquil space ready for the family’s newest arrival.

nursery, decoration, Giovanna-fletcher, interior design, retro-prints

“I really wanted to freshen up the space, as it’s not been redesigned since it became Buzz’s room four years ago and it looked really tired and worn,” explains Giovanna, 33. “I wanted a clean space that felt homely and calming but full of sweet details and practical, affordable picks. It was important it was gender neutral as we didn’t find out the sex before he was born.”

“The jungle-themed wallpaper is stunning and adds so much to the space, while also being neutral. I really love a statement design,” Fletcher enthuses. “We have flamingos in the downstairs loo, an intricate story-based design in the boys’ room and then full on ‘flower power’ in my office.”

“The teepee tent (Hokku Designs Play Tent, £136.99, Wayfair) is gorgeous – such a unique but affordable touch,” she adds. “I can really imagine him lying in there and taking it all in.

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“There are also so many textures to explore with the cushions, throws and rugs, and the muted pastel shades help make it all look so beautiful.”

“I’m also really happy with the wardrobe and changing unit. Babies come with a lot of stuff,” says the new mum. “Being the third child, this baby is inheriting a fair few clothes, so it’s good to have somewhere to put it all.”

The Fletchers have a busy lifestyle. Giovanna writes romantic fiction and blogs about life as a mum – plus there’s the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast she hosts; she documented her third pregnancy throughout, sharing details with her social media fans. As well as performing and touring with his bands, guitarist and singer-songwriter Tom also writes – children’s fiction – and this year saw the couple publish Eve Of Man, the first book in a trilogy they’re co-writing.

“We moved into our house 12 years ago, when we were only 21 years old, and kept it just as it was initially,” reveals Fletcher – Tom and Giovanna were childhood sweethearts after meeting aged 13 at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, and married in 2012.

“We bought a show house, which was great for us at the time as it was hassle-free and looked stunning,” she recalls. “But as time went on, we realised it didn’t really show off our personalities or interests.

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“About two years ago, we decided to make some upgrades – the house is now a collection of the things we love.” There’s a music room for Tom, 33, and one end of their spacious lounge converts into a cinema space.

“Having children also forced us to look at our home differently. Before we became parents, we did a first aid course which led us to an extensive ‘risk assessment’ in the house. It completely freaked us out, and made us view everything as a potential threat,” Fletcher adds, laughing.

“So glass went, any sharp corners were frowned upon, stair gates went in and locks were fitted on locks!”

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She feels that since the redecoration, they’ve been able to have more fun with their space.

“Growing up, I can remember being told off about doing anything that might damage the carpet, sofas or breakables. Our boys still have to be careful, of course, but I’d say our style has become more family-friendly,” Fletcher reflects. “Children take over and there’s not a single room that doesn’t contain some sort of child-related item! But I like rooms to reflect some personality, while being inviting and cosy.

“Our home’s colourful, warm, inviting, cosy, inspiring and calming, depending on where you are in it. It’s also practical. I’m not one for useless faff.”

8 Tips for Giving your Garden a Late Summer Spruce-up

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As the season draws to a close, it’s time to clear patio debris, replace tired plants and restore order to your outdoor space. By Hannah Stephenson.

Back from your summer travels? Are your hanging baskets looking a little sorry, your pots pathetic and your borders brimming with weeds? Here are some easy but effective garden tidy-up tips…

  1. Save it

Save what you can, deadheading late-flowering blooms in borders which may come back to life. Perennials which have finished flowering can be cut back but will come back to life next year. Established trees and shrubs won’t generally have been damaged in your absence.

  1. Ditch it.

If your hanging baskets and pots of annuals have completely dried out, take them down and empty the contents onto the compost heap. Keep your spirits high by buying spring-flowering bulbs and, if you want late colour, pop into the garden centre to find some.

Good plants which will bring colour at this time of year include asters, chrysanthemums and nerines, along with rudbeckias and sedums. Plant some in the pots that are now free from wilted summer annuals.

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  1. Tend to the lawn.

With the hot summer we’ve had, the lawn might be looking like hay and shouldn’t need cutting. If it has grown substantially though, leave the blades on the highest setting for the first cut, reduce the height at the next a few days later, and then cut at the normal height. You’ll be surprised how much tidier the garden looks when the lawn has been mown. Take time to tidy up the lawn edges using edging shears.

  1. Lose the weeds.

Look over your beds and borders and if weeds have sprung up, then get rid of them quickly. Seeds shed at this time of year, which means more work later on. Keep on top of deadheading, otherwise the flowering will not continue as long as you’d like.

  1. Harvest now.

If you have a vegetable patch, harvest as much ripe produce as you can now, to stop the veg running to seed or becoming over-ripe. You can blanch (immerse in boiling water) and freeze many veg, including green beans and sweetcorn, so you don’t end up wasting what you pick.

Immerse the vegetables immediately into a bowl of iced water after blanching, to stop them continuing to cook. When cool, lift the veg from the iced water, spread out on a kitchen towel and pat dry to remove excess moisture. Pack loose vegetables in resealable plastic bags or other containers. Vegetables suitable for freezing include beans, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, peas, spinach, Swiss chard and summer squash. Even tomatoes can be frozen whole and then used in sauces and soups later on.

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  1. Clear space for new crops.

Find time to clear vacant rows in the veg patch and refill them with autumn and winter crops as soon as you can.

  1. Put away pots for winter.

If you have empty pots you’re not going to use again this year, clean them with diluted disinfectant and stow in the shed for winter. That way, terracotta won’t crack and other vulnerable pots won’t perish when the frost comes. Also, remove and put away stakes which propped up plants which have now been cut back.

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  1. Plan for next year.

Take time to write a list of what you are going to include and exclude in your plantings next year. Look for gaps you’ll need to fill in borders next season, and maybe extend the season by planning to plant some perennials which provide late-summer colour.

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