Property Lifestyle and Boxing Day Event

Boxing Day property event McCarthy Holden estate agents

Find out about the next big property event on Boxing Day, an take a look at our Pre-Christmas edition of the magazine In The Country & Town, which sets out to showcase some of the most exquisite homes, as well as deliver engaging editorial content and of course comment on the house market.

In addition to some amazing properties, our editorial features includes Cocktails at Downton, Go Anywhere with Land Rover and the new film release The Aeronauts.

Just click on the image below to open a new tab and view the magazine page by page and indulge in some wonderful online reading.

Click the above image to view the full magazine

There are some fabulous properties being showcased in this magazine, in areas such as The Ridges Finchampstead and the Wentworth Estate in Virginia Water

Also of note is a £1.315m. guided Georgian Farmhouse and a £660,000 guided elegant town house in Winchfield, Hampshire.

Our new homes feature runs from page 32 to page 48, and is full of amazing new homes from diverse and individual developers, with prices from around £450,000 to £1.850m.

It’s been nearly five years since The Theory Of Everything co-stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones appeared on screen together – and now they’re teaming up once again for biographical adventure, The Aeronauts.

The epic – directed by Tom Harper and co-written by Harper and Jack Thorne – tells the tale of two high-flying balloonists, pioneering meteorologist James Glaisher and daredevil pilot Amelia Wren, united in a record-breaking voyage in Victorian England. And nothing says ‘reunion’ quite like filming 70% of your scenes in a confined basket, reveals the British duo.

The Official Downton Abbey Cocktail Book celebrates this sumptuous costume drama and golden age of mixed drinks.

As fans of Downton will know, the Crawleys’ love of cocktails is well storied. But it wasn’t until season two and three – when Robert asks his mother, Violet: “Can I tempt you to one of these new cocktails?” – that the family adopts the 1920s American customs of an aperitif before dinner, and hosting cocktail parties at home. Now, the Downton Abbey Cocktail Book means viewers can recreate these tipples at their own soirees.

Embracing the adventurous spirit that has defined the Discovery family for the past 30 years, the new Discovery Sport is a striking evolution of the original that does not compromise capability……. new electrified engines include a 48-volt mild hybrid from launch to help reduce emissions and fuel consumption.

If you are planning a house sale or let and would like your property showcased in the New Year edition of In The Country & Town, contact your nearest McCarthy Holden branch and ask for details.

The Next Big Property Event - Boxing Day

Boxing Day property event McCarthy Holden estate agents

Boxing Day – The Perfect Time To Put a House Up For Sale!

According to Rightmove there is a massive spike in online buyer search traffic, between Boxing Day and early January, 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, the 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 2020 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.

How to Work Colour in your Home – According to the Interior Design Addicts behind Rockett St George

Rockett st George book

The duo behind destination decor brand Rockett St George have delved into colour in their new book. Gabrielle Fagan takes a look.

Rockett st George book

Colour has well and truly invaded our homes. In fact, no interiors scheme is complete these days without at least a dash of a punchy shade!

That might sound pretty scary, though, if you’re still clinging to neutrals and quaking at the thought of plunging into the dizzy array of colours on offer.

Step forward self-confessed colour-addicts Lucy St George and Jane Rockett, the duo behind chic interiors destination, Rockett St George. They’re on a mission to help us transform our homes with a host of hues, and reveal their secrets and personal inspirations in their new book, Rockett St George: Extraordinary Interiors In Colour.

Rockett st George book

Colour is emotional, says the pair – “Think peaceful pastels, and sexy reds, creative greens and happy yellows” – and it’s important to consider the meaning of colour and how it affects your emotions, if you want to create a home that feels right for you and harbours the right mood.

Rockett and St George visited homes around the world bursting with bright, bold and brilliant ideas, and looked at the colour rules – and how to break them! – for conjuring successful schemes.

Check out their guide to four of the most fashionable shades for rooms…

Rockett st George book

Let the sunshine in

“A splash of yellow will catch the eye, set the heart racing and make you smile”, declare the pair. “Yellow’s associated with feelings of joy, optimism, happiness and warmth. It can lift your spirits like a sudden ray of sunshine and is believed to promote clear thinking and quick decision-making.”

Their own favourite shade on the yellow spectrum is mustard, which they describe as “an earthy hue that’s both sophisticated and a wonderful way to inject an uplifting spirit into your home”.

Work the colour: Black can make a perfect neutral backdrop for strong colours like yellow or orange. “It makes them pop and allows furniture, textiles and artwork to shine through and become the stars of the show,” they explain.

If bold sunny shades seem too vibrant and make you want to reach for your sunglasses, consider opting for more subtle sandy-yellow shades as an alternative to creams.

Considering the effect of light on colour is also key, they caution. For instance, a cool-toned lemon yellow can feel hard and unwelcoming in the colder light of a north-facing room, making it more suitable for south-facing rooms.

Lighten the mood with a flash of yellow

Yellow accessories pack a punch, and Rockett and St George note how a yellow chair or piece of art “brings energy to a room without overwhelming it”.

Rockett st George book

Seduce with pink

Pinks are enjoying huge popularity in decor right now – particularly the soft, pale tones. “The gentler shades of pink encourage calmness and love, while stronger shades, such as hot pink, go hand in hand with feelings of joyfulness and creativity,” enthuse the duo.

Our passion for pink is nothing new, they point out, as the shade has been a constant favourite as a decorative choice throughout the decades, from ice-cream pastel pinks in the Fifties, to the hot pinks of the Eighties.

Rockett and St George took inspiration from earthy pinks characteristic of Moroccan homes for the pink shades in their paint collection for Craig & Rose. Their nude/pink shades include Broderie, Gladstone Grey and Bohemia (Chalky Emulsion Paint, £35 for 2.5L).

Work the colour: For living rooms and bedrooms, the duo recommend “nude and pale pinks with warm undertones to make you feel nurtured and safe”. Work or studio spaces, meanwhile, are the perfect place to experiment with “brighter pinks, which are flamboyant and expressive, ideal for creating impact”.

Sizzle with pops of pink

Declare your passion for the colour with the prettiest pink pieces that will take you from hot to blushing…

Rockett st George book

Go green and gorgeous

“Green is fabulously versatile. Whether you prefer soft sage, rich emerald or deep forest green, this crowd-pleaser of a colour can be adapted to suit just about any style of interior,” the decor-lovers declare.

Green is said to evoke feelings of balance, tranquillity and renewal, and studies have shown that it’s the most restful colour for the human eye. It’s totally synonymous with the ‘green’ movement and eco initiatives that are on the rise right now too.

Work the colour: Dark greens work wonders in living rooms and bedrooms, or anywhere else in the home where you want to relax and have “a little respite”, advise the colour gurus. “Brighter punchier greens are perfect for energising a busy area such as the kitchen or hallway,” they also suggest. “Green accents in the shape of plants or cacti will bring your decor to life and – added bonus – act as a natural air-refresher for the home.”

Bring on the balance with a touch of green

Green accessories can add a sophisticated touch and enhance those soothing vibes…

Rockett st George book

Dive into blue

“Blue is the coolest of all the colours in the spectrum and conjures up feelings of reliability and stability,” says Rockett. “Due to its associations with nature – think of clear summer skies and turquoise ocean – blue can also inspire feelings of serenity and contentment.”

Blue, she points out, is a stress-busting colour with a masculine edge (a recent study found that 42% of men chose blue as their favourite colour), but that doesn’t mean blue is just for boys, of course!

Work the colour: Bold blues, the pair suggest, particularly suit home offices, children’s playrooms, hallways and bathrooms. Darker blues project a sense of sophistication and tranquillity, and can work as the perfect backdrop for art collections and decorative displays.

Splash out on blue details

Give your space a stress-busting edge with one or two blue buys…

Extracted from Rockett St George: Extraordinary Interiors In Colour by Jane Rockett and Lucy St George, photography by Catherine Gratwicke, published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £19.99. Available now.

5 Things to Consider if You’re Thinking of Relocating for Work

relocating for work

From hidden costs to settling into a new community, there's lots to think about, says Vicky Shaw.

Would you up sticks and move away from your area if you were offered better career prospects or a bigger salary? The dilemma of whether to relocate for work or stay put can be tricky to answer – particularly for those who already have strong ties with their local community.

Among employees who have never relocated, 59% of men and 65% of women say the desire to stay near family is the primary reason they’ve stayed put, according to a new survey by jobs website Indeed.co.uk.

On the one hand, there may be the chance of new opportunities opening up, the chance of a pay-boost and better living standards. But on the other, families also need to weigh up how other members of the household may settle into a new life – and how this may also have an impact on the household budget.

Here are some factors you may want to consider when weighing up whether it’s worth relocating for work or not…

relocating for work

1. Can you afford the moving costs?

The cost of moving home can quickly add up to thousands of pounds.

According to research from Lloyds Bank, home movers across the UK may typically need to budget around £12,000 just to cover moving costs.

If you plan to buy a new home, there are expenses to consider such as stamp duty, or in Scotland the land and buildings transaction tax, or in Wales the land transaction tax. There are also estate agent and legal fees to consider, as well as the cost of a removal firm. And if you’re renting, you may need to consider pulling together a bigger deposit.

2. Can you afford the house prices or rents in the area you are thinking of moving to?

You may be getting a pay rise if you relocate, but consider whether this will be swallowed up by a higher mortgage or rental bill every month. If you’re moving to a bigger town or city, the housing costs may be higher if there is stronger demand for properties in these areas.

It may be possible to find cheaper accommodation by finding somewhere to live slightly further afield, but in popular commuting towns property prices may also be high, and the cost of your journey into work could also be higher.

3. What about schools and childcare costs?

Childcare costs can vary hugely depending on where you live. And if you’re currently close to grandparents who are currently helping out with unpaid childcare, the expenses could increase quite dramatically by moving far away. If you or your partner will be getting a bigger salary by moving, the extra childcare costs may be balanced out.

Also bear in mind that house prices in locations near popular and highly-rated schools can often be significantly higher than those in their surrounding areas. For example, recent research from audit firm PwC found that houses within the catchments of the top 10% of England’s primary schools can cost around £27,000 more than those in the wider postcode districts.

relocating for work

4. Will your employer provide you with a relocation package?

Whether it’s your existing employer who is asking you to relocate, or you’re considering going to a new company, you may be able to negotiate a relocation package, particularly if the firm thinks it may help sway your decision in favour of moving.

Ask the company’s HR department whether they can help with expenses such as moving costs, transport and any temporary accommodation you may need.

5. Is working remotely an option?

New technology means it’s easier for many people to work from home at least some of the time now, although this will very much depend on what your job involves.

It may also be possible to stay living where you are but have a longer commute to work. Three-fifths (60%) of men and 59% of women say they are willing to travel for 30-60 minutes to work, if it meant they could avoid relocating, Indeed’s survey also found. But when it came to longer journey times, men were around a third more likely than women to say they would commute for 60-120 minutes in order to avoid relocating.

Want to Measure Up in the Style Stakes? 10 Ways to Embrace this Season’s Geometric Trend

geometric styling

Gabrielle Fagan reveals simple ways to do the decor maths and ensure your rooms have all the right angles.

geometric styling

Shape up if you want stylish rooms this Autumn. Geometrics are figuring on designs for everything from wallpaper to carpets right now, and set to be the most fashionable way of bringing pattern into rooms this season.

You can be playful and introduce bold and stimulating colourful shapes – take your pick from triangles to eight-sided octagons – or keep it elegant, with just a few touches sporting the barest hint of the pattern.

“Geometric pattern came to prominence in the 1920s and became synonymous with the Art Deco movement,” explains Tom White, design director, Parker Knoll. “In a decade renowned for its opulent and sophisticated style, geometrics challenged traditional design, with sleek and elegant motifs which came to symbolise wealth and status.”

Now they’re back, thanks to our renewed passion for pattern and more decoration in our homes. “Geometrics boast a breadth of choice in shape, colour and scale, so can be adapted to suit a vast range of tastes and styles,” promises White.

Here’s 10 ways to do your decor sums and ensure your home measures up in the style stakes…

geometric styling

1. Check out all the angles

“For me, geometric shapes will always have a universal and timeless appeal,” enthuses Martha Coates, surface and pattern designer for Habitat.

“I don’t think they’ve ever really gone out of fashion, as many pattern stories tend to do,” she points out. “I love that the geometric designs created and popularised over 100 years ago by the iconic Bauhaus movement still feel relevant in our modern interiors. They sit seamlessly alongside the contemporary and colourful designs in our ranges.”

Coates pays tribute to the versatility of geometric pattern. “Minimalist, contemporary and familiar in their structure, they’ll complement existing lines and shapes within the architecture of practically any room,” she says. “Their structured balance will allow you the freedom to be braver with colour and texture.”

geometric styling

2. Divide and rule on the wall

Get creative and paint your own geometric shapes on a wall. Simply stick strips of masking tape to the surface to create triangle, trapezoid and rhombus shapes (look them up if that’s already confused you!).

The more tape you crisscross, the more shapes you’ll create. If you paint the entire wall with the tape in place, you’ll have stripes between the shapes when you remove the tape.

If that feels too brain-bending, Wallsauce has a brilliant selection of made-to-measure geometric-style wall murals, ranging from in-your-face colourful to the more subtle, starting from £32 per square metre.

geometric styling

3. Make a party point

Join the geometrics party by investing in an Art Deco-style drinks trolley or drinks cabinet. Both items have enjoyed a revival in homeware, as they add a sense of occasion to entertaining. A sound style move.

geometric styling

4. Statement equals style

You don’t have to overdose on this look – just estimate how much you need to add to make an impact and burnish your style credentials. Give one punchy piece some space and a plain backdrop and it will undoubtedly become a star talking point.

geometric styling

5. Measure up with metallics

Pair a classic geometric design with metallics (gold and copper are hot choices) to play the glamour card. This combo won’t just add a winning touch of opulence, but a repeating angular pattern is easy on the eye and helps create a visual sense of order. The effect is particularly good for spaces where we want to rest and relax, like a bedroom or chill-out lounge.

One word of advice: Make sure the size of the pattern you choose works with the size of the room. Generally, large-scale patterns are more suited to big expanses of wall, so you have the room to stand back and appreciate their impact. Smaller repeating patterns suit smaller walls.

The only exception is if you opt for a statement wall of pattern, where you could be bolder and size up. For inspiration, take a look the super range of geometric papers, including Prism Geometric Wallpaper, £15.99 a roll, at Cult Furniture.

geometric styling

6. Break the rules

Sometimes, you can throw caution to the wind, ignore the ‘less is more rule’ and indulge in a pattern-fest. Just make sure you balance more decorative geometric repeating patterns with other simpler designs. This will prevent the whole effect from being overpowering, and punchy injections of colour (we’re big fans of pink and green right now) are all that’s needed to make a scheme sing.

Another way of approaching this look is sticking to a colour palette of no more than two shades, which will allow the detail to shine.

geometric styling

7. Step up to the style

Style alert: Back away from the bland! A striking geometric carpet runner can transform a staircase into an eye-catching feature. Playing up the angles with an above-the-skirting stripe in a complementary shade is a master stroke in this hallway.

geometric styling

8. Pattern to the power of two

“Boasting timeless allure and contemporary flair, geometric designs work well in period and modern homes alike,” says Parker Knoll’s Tom White. “For those looking to emulate the exciting and influential 1920s – the inspiration for the look – pair geometric patterns with luxurious gold accents, rich tones and spherical accessories.”

geometric styling

9. Make it monochrome

“Typically considered an intimidating option, a bold geometric floor can add an element of design to a space and is a surprisingly versatile option,” says Anna Del-Molino, buyer, Carpetright.

“Before selecting your style, take into consideration the size of your space, alongside the colours and scales that will work within it. A larger print, in muted shades, is often better suited to smaller rooms, as intricate patterns can feel too busy in compact areas.

“Larger spaces allow for more experimentation and for a truly daring look, consider a style with multiple colours. Geometric patterns don’t need to be solely linear shapes,” she adds. “Look for florals and patterns which repeat without being too overbearing.”

geometric styling

10. Arty calculation

Make those shapes work on the wall with colourful geometric artwork that will show you know a right-angle from a rhombus.

Flights of Fancy: How to Make the Most of your Staircases, Without Compromising on Safety

stunning stairs without compromising safety

The aesthetic qualities of the humble staircase are too often underrated, says Luke Rix-Standing.

stunning stairs without compromising safety

Something of a no-man’s land within the home, it’s easy to see why staircases are so often overlooked on the interior style front. Rarely more than a means of getting from A to B, why would you choose to spend time and money on stairs, when it could instead be spent on key living spaces elsewhere?

But these thoroughfares inevitably see high footfall and are important for safety as well as style – and even if it’s not your first thought when planning your decor, they do have a big visual impact too.

So, with this in mind, apartment dwellers and bungalow owners look away now – here’s how to make sure your stairs work well for both eyes and feet…

stunning stairs without compromising safety

Safety first

First things first, it’s important to keep in mind that the run-of-the-mill staircase can be one of the most dangerous obstacles you negotiate during your day. According to statistics, there is a fall on Britain’s staircases approximately every 90 seconds, while staircase-related incidents account for roughly 250,000 trips to A&E every year.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a checklist of conditions to help you practice safe stairs, asserting that they should be well-lit, have handrails at appropriate heights, have good ‘slip resistance properties’, and be free of trip hazards.

The ‘nosing’ of a step (aka the edge), should be well-defined and ideally square, to stop the stairs blurring into one. Just as important is consistency, as research has shown that even small variations in angle or distance between steps can cause a topple.

Those with small children face an obvious extra risk, and baby gates are a must for both the top and bottom. Do not attempt to vault the gate out of laziness – it’s ironically common for adults to injure themselves by misusing gates put in place to protect their kids.

Of course, structural changes only go so far, and human factors play a determining role in most stair-related incidents. Residents are far more at risk if they’re rushing, distracted, or carrying heavy loads without a free hand to grab the rail or banister.

stunning stairs without compromising safety

Step up the style

Now that we’ve got function and safety out of the way, we can turn our attentions to fashion. The staircase may not seem a natural place for prize pieces of art, but, like your bathroom or loo, it’s a quick way of making sure everybody sees your carefully-chosen pieces. Try to limit yourself to small decorations like miniature frames or photos, and line them up gallery-style at the same gradient as the stairs.

As with all constricted areas, your biggest challenge is creating a sense of space. Avoid claustrophobic dark colours where possible, and use a lighter shade on walls and ceilings to help draw the eye upwards.

As with any space, mirrors provide the illusion of depth, and don’t be afraid to go big on the lighting. Utilise ‘accent’ lighting – focused light sources creating contrast – rather than a solitary overhead bulb (just remember those safety rules!). The result should be less subterranean tunnel, more breezy indoor boulevard.

As for the stairs themselves, your main allies are the risers – the vertical slats between each step. You can apply wallpaper, paint them to match the walls, or pattern them to match your lower floor.

For those wedded to quirk, you can fashion your steps as piano keys, book spines, or bands of the rainbow. Just be sure to consider the look from every angle before laying down your first brushstroke – no one wants a staircase that looks like a work of art from the ground floor, and a cubist mess from the first.

Otherwise, carpets remains the most popular add-on. Option number one is full carpeting: 100% coverage of a stairway that can obscure unsightly surfaces but can be comparatively complex and costly to install.

Option number two is to use carpet runners – a wide strip of carpet running down the centre of the stairs, held in place with slim poles affixed to the join between riser and tread. Cheaper and simpler than full carpeting, generally speaking, the different textures can fit really well into a broader aesthetic.

stunning stairs without compromising safety

Starting from scratch

Of course, if you’re overseeing major structural renovations, you may have the chance to design your staircases anew. We’re not going to delve into the engineering – that depends entirely on the specs of your dwelling – but there are a few styles finding particular prominence in modern homes.

For space-starved householders, consider the spiral staircase – an aesthetic, self-contained unit that can easily be erected in the corner of the room. So-called ‘floating staircases’ are increasingly popular in modern minimalist homes – isolated blocks without risers protruding straight out of the wall. They’re obviously not as stable as their banister-ed cousins, and are not for those with uncertain step (i.e. large swathes of the population).

We can’t imagine many houses will have room for grand medieval stairwells, but you can still channel a country house aesthetic with elaborate hand rails and metalwork panelling.

For the very chicest in staircase design, consider installing light sources – under-lit bulbs that emit a warm glow from beneath the tread. These not only look lovely during the long winter evenings, they may also stop you coming a cropper when you get up to go to the loo.

How to Give Wildlife a Helping Hand with Hibernation this Winter

help with winter hibernation

As hibernation season approaches, Hannah Stephenson looks at how gardeners can help creatures bed down for the colder months.

As the cool nights arrive, animals are getting ready to hibernate – and there’s plenty gardeners can do to make it easier for them.

While the only common creatures that hibernate in this country are hedgehogs, dormice and bats, other wildlife, including insects and amphibians, enter ‘torpor’ – a similar state of inactivity which doesn’t last as long as hibernation, according to leading conservation charity the Woodland Trust (woodlandtrust.org.uk).

So, which animals can we help and how?

help with winter hibernation

1. Hedgehogs

If you have a compost heap, you’re already half way there for helping hedgehogs, because these hibernating mammals love them. So make sure you do any compost-turning slowly and carefully during the winter months so you don’t disturb your prickly friends, advises Helen Bostock, RHS senior horticultural adviser and co-author of How Can I Help Hedgehogs? Also, don’t block off the crawl spaces under garden sheds and decking, because hedgehogs also hibernate happily under there.

If you accidentally disturb a hibernating hedgehog, cover it back up as quickly as possible, leave a saucer of moist cat food and a shallow saucer of water nearby in case it needs to replenish its supplies, and give its surroundings a wide berth.

It’s not unusual for hedgehogs to wake up and move hibernation sites once or twice during the winter, so don’t worry if it relocates, but try and leave natural shelter such as piles of leaves in the garden.

help with winter hibernation

2. Frogs

While they may do all their mating in water, most frogs will enter their winter dormancy on dry land, in heaps of leaf litter in soily depressions under a pile of dead wood or rocks; in fact anywhere sheltered that is cool and damp and where they are unlikely to be disturbed. Toads will create burrows in quiet corners.

To help these amphibians, make a hiding place by digging a hole in the ground, around 10cm deep, lining it with gravel, twigs and dry leaves. Then put a large flat stone over the top, such as a piece of paving slab, leaving them enough space to crawl in.

If you have a pond which is well oxygenated, some frogs may overwinter in the bottom of it, burying themselves in the silt layer and breathing through their skin. Stop the pond from icing over by placing a tennis ball on the surface, which will help oxygenation.

help with winter hibernation

3. Bats

Hibernating from November-April, bats can slow their breathing to as few as five breaths a minute, while some can last almost an hour without breathing, according to the Woodland Trust. They eat nocturnal insects, including mosquitoes, so the easiest way to encourage them to your garden is to plant night-scented flowers and introduce a pond.

They usually hibernate in groups in a quiet, cool roost which they seek out in late autumn. Around three-quarters of UK bats roost in trees, preferably old trees with cavities, while others use spaces under the eaves of buildings or wedge themselves into holes in brickwork or in old barns.

The most important thing is not to disturb them. Being aroused from hibernation costs the bats a lot of energy, which makes them lose body fat and can lead to starvation, according to the Bat Conservation Trust. To help their hibernation, you could erect a bat box, ideally above ground, around 4-5m high, in a sheltered spot that receives sun during the day.

help with winter hibernation

4. Bees

For most bumblebees species, winter is a time for hibernation. Queen bees will feast on pollen and nectar to store fat before burrowing deep into soil in early autumn and stay there for up to nine months.

But for the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) and honeybees, winter can be just as busy a time as the rest of the year. In the warmer parts of the UK, fully active winter colonies of this species are regularly recorded.

Help them survive by choosing a sunny spot for plants which carry nectar-rich flowers through the shortest days of the year, such as Mahonia x media, stinking hellebore and winter-flowering heathers.

Ivy is also a brilliant plant for honey bees, who rely upon its flowers for the majority of the pollen and nectar they collect during the autumn months.

If you accidentally disturb a queen bee, which may have been sheltering in the soil or even in a pot of compost, cover it loosely with soil in the hope it will resume its hibernation. If this fails, mix together a sugar solution of half white sugar and half warm water as a one-off energy boost, placing it on a teaspoon or bottle lid near the bee’s head.

help with winter hibernation

5. Other insects

Log piles are a great place to house beneficial insects over winter. Just gather some large sticks and small logs and pile them in a sheltered spot. Some butterflies, including the brimstone, peacock, comma, small tortoiseshell and red admiral will go into winter dormancy as adults and are often found in cool outdoor structures such as sheds. If they find their way into the house, move them gently to somewhere dry, cool and dark, as they won’t survive the warm temperature in your home.

How Can I Help Hedgehogs? by Helen Bostock and Sophie Collins is published by Mitchell Beazley in association with the Royal Horticultural Society, priced £14. 99. Available now.

JAY RAYNER: ‘The Best Foods Operate as a Time Machine’

jay rayner

The restaurant critic discusses memory, food and Dairylea with Ella Walker, on the release of his latest book.

“People have this image of me, face down in whatever’s available,” explains restaurant critic and MasterChef judge Jay Rayner, somewhat irked.

He admits that, to an extent, he does play up to that assumption, but beneath all the fork-wielding bravado, he is trying to impart that food “really isn’t just about how things taste. It goes into every part of our lives; it’s about politics and the environment, sex, relationships, family, and history – you can investigate the world through what’s on your plate.”

So accuse him of just stuffing his face for a living and he’ll tell you, “You don’t understand – it’s a subject as deep as the ocean”.

His new memoir-menu hybrid, My Last Supper: One Meal, A Lifetime In The Making, deep-dives into the bit of culinary ocean associated with him; 53-year-old, London born and bred Jay Rayner, father-of-two, radio presenter, jazz pianist, and garlic butter-drenched snails fanatic.

And yet it also asks a very fundamental question of us all: Imagine you’re on death row, what would your final meal be? It’s a question that’s been levelled an absurd number of times at Rayner, yet his usual quip (“I’d have lost my appetite”) doesn’t quite capture what’s really going on.

jay rayner

“What you’re really being asked is, ‘If there were no consequences, if nobody was watching, if you didn’t have to hate yourself in the morning, what would you have?'” he explains. “That struck me as interesting, because actually what you’re talking about is the foods that matter to you, that make you who you are.

“It’s about memory. The foods we love are not just to do with flavour and aesthetics, they’re to do with when you first tasted them and why, and what mood you were in.”

He recalls a tweet someone sent him about their own last meal: “[He wrote] ‘I’d go and knock on the door of what was my gran’s house, and ask if I could sit on the back step and eat a Dairylea triangle’.

“I thought, ‘Oh bless you, that’s absolutely lovely’ – now, is Dairylea the finest cheese in the world? No, but for that person, do they remind him of somebody he loved and who loved him, and loss, and all of that? Yes, they absolutely do, and in a way, the best foods operate as a time machine.”

My Last Supper tracks Rayner as he defines, and then serves, his own last meal – featuring those garlicky snails, as well as oysters and chips (his top five ‘fried-potato experiences are suitably ranked’) – while he is “still in a good enough state to enjoy it”. He takes stock of his life as he goes.

It is by turns exposing (“quite literally so,” he says of an instant in a brothel that turned into a bath-based interview), indulgent, envy-inducing, peppered with recipes, and unexpected – for him as well as the reader.

jay rayner

For instance, the chapter on alcohol and his “appalling booze choices over the years” (Thunderbird made it into his final dinner, not that we’re judging) “was actually about my control issues” he says, while to the consternation of many – particularly his younger son – salad features in what you’d think would be a wholly decadent dinner.

“I realise it’s because it reminds me of who I am,” says Rayner sincerely. “I love having salad at the end of a meal, and also it’s about self-care – which is a term I only came to understand very recently. It’s how you look after yourself, you’ve only got one body and all that sort of stuff.” And yes, you can find him in the gym quite regularly.

When asked what he learned about himself writing the book he pauses, then says, without bitterness or malice, that what “did strike me was that drama and adventure slightly comes to an end when children arrive”.

“I suppose that makes absolute sense,” he says, noting his sons are now 20 and 15. “The first 25 years of my life I did some outrageous things.”

“You need to embrace that period of your life when you are freer,” he adds. “I’m not always sure I did embrace it with enough commitment.”

jay rayner

He mentions his regret over not going to Berlin to witness the fall of the Berlin Wall, “because I was 23 and an important freelance journalist with too many deadlines – for god’s sake!” he says, laughing at himself with a certain amount of despair. “I was quite grandiose as a young man.”

Throughout the book he is frank, both in his recollections and his assessment of his life and tastes. (“The very least you owe the reader is to be honest and to be open.”)

“This is my last supper, it’s not anyone else’s,” he says, to the point of bluntness. “This is not a menu recommendation, and certainly, the last supper menu that comes out of it – please, don’t try this at home kids! It’s an insane meal in many ways, but that’s because it’s mine, it’s made up of my stories and my passions.”

So whatever your own ‘last meal’ might be (and whether or not it would include Dairylea), remember says Rayner: “It’s all so emotional, it’s about neighbourhoods, it’s about the people who feed you, it’s about memory.”

My Last Supper: One Meal, A Lifetime In The Making by Jay Rayner is published by Guardian Faber, priced £16.99. Available now. Visit jayrayner.co.uk/live-shows for My Last Supper live show details.

As Grand Designs Turns 20 Kevin McCloud Shares his Favouite Simple Builds

grand design favourite builds

From an underground bolthole in Peckham, to an eco-build on the Isle of Skye, Luke Rix-Standing discovers them all.

Television isn’t famous for job security, unless, that is, your name is Kevin McCloud. The veteran presenter has fronted Channel 4 property programme Grand Designs since its inception in 1999, and he has no intention of quitting anytime soon. “It’s become me,” he says, “I don’t even question it.”

In 20 years, McCloud has seen plenty of structural success stories, but also his fair share of domestic duds. “The real horror shows are the ones that never make it to the screen,” he says, “out of the 200 or so projects we’ve filmed, there have been maybe eight or 10 that we’ve had to abandon after one day of filming, after investing so much time and money.”

With more projects under his belt than most architects, McCloud knows a thing or two, because he’s seen a thing or two. “People fall down because they fail to prepare,” he says. “The design, the detail, the fine drawing – all that stuff needs to be done before it touches the sides.

To celebrate two decades of Grand Designs, here’s McCloud’s favourite simple builds from his time on the show…

grand design favourite builds

Lucie Fairweather – Suffolk, Season 10

Lucie and her partner Nat McBride bought this plot in Woodbridge in 2006, and were granted planning permission in 2007. Nat was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a year later, but Lucie saw through their shared vision of building a house that was as aesthetically attractive as it was environmentally sustainable.

Kevin says: “I’m really fond of these small, inexpensive projects – they’re more important as Grand Designs, than the big, show-off things people often think of. It’s here that the innovation happens, when people push with small budgets to deliver great experiences.”

“Lucie’s was just fantastic. It was a wonderful story about redemption, and about her taking her late husband’s vision and building a house for her small children. It was tinged with tragedy and sadness, but also with the tremendous friendship of Jerry Tate, a great friend of her and her husband’s. He not only designed the home for her, but held her hand through the whole process.

“It was an exemplary, three bedroom suburban home, but Lucie is a primary school teacher and she didn’t have a lot of money. The takeaway is that it’s not about buying stuff – if she can do it, anyone can.”

grand design favourite builds

Rebecca and Indi Waterstone – Isle of Skye, Season 12

An ultra energy-efficient, 90 sqm home of the Hebridean island of Skye, residents Rebecca and Indi pay just £50 a year in bills, despite the exposed location and the bitter winters. An exceptionally well-organised project, it took them 10 years to fund and just nine months to build.

Kevin says: “I loved this project for a lot of reasons. The Isle of Skye is just beautiful, and when we filmed it, the island was basking in sunshine while the rest of the country spent a summer in the rain. I could drink whiskey, have fantastic food, and see fantastic wildlife – whales, sea eagles, skuas…

“In the midst of it all was this tiny little jewel – an example of how to be sensitive to beautiful landscape, but contemporary as well. It goes to show that if you go somewhere and invest in it – build a house, live there, and make a contribution to the local economy – people respect you for it.

“The Isle of Skye is full of holiday lets owned by people that don’t live there, but Indi and Rebecca moved to live there all year round. Objections to their planning application were from people that didn’t live there, who wanted the place to remain populated by picturesque crofters’ cottages. Anyone who lived on the island loved what they were trying to do.”

grand design favourite builds

Monty Ravenscroft – Peckham, Season 5

A £220,000 home in South London with a sub-subterranean floor, this inventive build features a 10 sqm retractable glass roof, an LED light fitting that doubles as a shower, and a bed that slides away, revealing a bath. Construction wasn’t quick, but planning permission took two and a half years.

Kevin says: “Monty’s an actor and musician, so he’s a bit of a Renaissance man, and he built this very cheap house in South London for himself and his wife Claire. It was a long time ago now – during filming Claire was expecting a baby who’s now a young man.

“It’s a great project about one guy experimenting with all the ideas he’s ever had, with so much excitement. Monty was such a bundle of energy and so lovely to be around. He collaborated with an architect called Richard Paxton, himself a great inventor and a very inspirational man. He sadly passed away, so whenever I think about Monty’s project, I think about him.

“It’s a highly personal project for me, and it demonstrated that you don’t need much money. You need a bit of guts and an inventive mind, and if you haven’t got an inventive mind, find a mate who has. It’s not about reaching for the chequebook to solve a problem, it’s about reaching for the pencil and figuring problems out.”

grand design favourite builds

Theo and Elaine Leijser – Stirling, Season 6

A cedar-clad home in central Scotland overlooking the picturesque Campsie Fells, Theo and Elaine used clever design to funnel all the views from their house onto the fells, and away from a nearby main road.

Kevin says: “This project was all about delivering the experience of big, expensive architecture at a small scale. It was a beautiful, quick-to-put-up little box built onto a hill, and it had this amazing gallery above the ground floor.

“Whenever you were at the front of the house, you saw this fantastic arrangement of landscape and nature, because of the way the building was organised. It had this lovely little corridor from the kitchen that was low, narrow and compressed, and then suddenly the living room released you.

“It comes back to that point about shopping – it’s to do with the building organising your life and your daily activities in a way that brings you joy.”

Kevin McCloud will be appearing at Grand Designs Live at The NEC, from October 9-13, 2019. For more information and tickets visit www.granddesignslive.com

These are the Tools you Need to Make Light Work of Autumn Jobs

Whether you're digging, cutting back, planting bulbs or trimming hedges, we select the right tools for autumn tasks.

What are the must-have tools for autumn jobs? There’s an array of leaf blowers, rakes, spades, forks and hand tools on offer, but what shouldn’t you be without as you take on new season tasks?

With help from Louise Golden, gardening expert at Dobbies Garden Centres, these are the right tools for the right jobs…

best autumn tools

1. Winter digging

You’ll need a good fork to break up the ground and a good spade to clear any old, dusty soil before adding a good dose of organic matter such as compost or well-matured manure to the area.

Try quality spades and forks from Burgon & Ball (burgonandball.com) available in lightweight versions (£39.99 each) ideal for a smaller garden, or regular digging size (£42.99).

If you’re creating a new bed or need to clear a lot of ground, consider the new Ego (egopowerplus.co.uk) multi-tool cultivator attachment with a 24cm cutting width (£149).

It provides an easier way to prepare soil for planting. Its rotating teeth remove weeds and aerate the soil, doing all the hard work so you don’t have to.

Golden also advises giving your lawn some TLC to see it through winter by aerating it with a garden fork to reduce compaction, and scarifying it with a springtine rake to remove moss.

2. Clearing leaves

Clear away leaves from pathways and patios before they become too soggy to rake and make the ground really slippery. If you have a small area you can make do with a standard rake, but if there are a lot of leaves on your lawn, go for a rake such as the Fiskars Gardening Action Xact Leaf Rake (RRP £31.99, available from DIY retailers including B&Q and Homebase and all good garden centres).

Alternatively, go for a combined leaf blower and sucker such as the Bosch UniversalGardenTidy blower-vacuum (£109.99, shop.bosch-do-it.com), a three-in-one gizmo which can blow, vacuum or shred, disposing of leaves and other garden debris.

If you can bear a slightly less pristine garden, leave leaves in your borders, which act as a mulch and can help protect overwintering creatures.

3. Planting bulbs

“Planting spring flowering bulbs is a major autumn task, and so a handy tool to use is a bulb planter,” says Golden. “They make light work of the task and speed up the process, particularly when planting lots of bulbs to naturalise in grass.”

Now’s a good time to plant narcissi, crocuses and hyacinths, so make life easy by investing in a long-handled bulb planter (£34.99, burgonandball.com) with a tough footbar to allow you to go easily to the maximum depth, instead of struggling on your hands and knees with a trowel that will make hard work of digging deep enough.

4. Hedge trimming

“Early autumn is the perfect time to trim evergreen hedges and shrubs for a neat finish that will remain crisp all winter long,” says Golden. “Hedging shears are ideal, whether hand, electric or motor, depending on the size of the task in hand.”

If you’ve followed RSPB advice not to cut hedges between March and August – the main breeding season for nesting birds – now may be a good time to tidy up hornbeam, beech, Leyland cypress and thuja hedges. Fast-growing hedges such as privet or the evergreen honeysuckle can also be cut now, but no later than the end of September.

For smaller hedges you could do the job with a decent pair of shears such as Kent & Stowe hedge shears (£17.99, dobbies.com). For larger hedges, battery power may be the way to go.

5. Pruning

“The end of summer is when we should think about tidying the border by cutting back spent perennials,” says Golden. “A good pair of secateurs will do the trick, and you don’t need to break the bank to get cracking.”

You’ll need a good set of cutting tools for clipping overgrown shrubs and perennials which have finished flowering. Sarah Raven’s new range of tools includes steel-bladed bypass pruners (£19.95, sarahraven.com) with non-slip grips and a quick-release locking mechanism.

You’ll need loppers to tackle thicker branches, and if you don’t like heavy kit, go for Wilkinson Sword’s Ultralight Bypass Loppers (£27.99, wilkinsonsword-tools.co.uk) to help to cut back overhanging vegetation. The non-stick coated blade cuts through young and green wood, while the loppers are 50% lighter than standard, saving arm strain when working for long periods of time.

Eco-Friendly Decorating Ideas for a more Planet-Friendly Home

eco designer homes

Want your homeware and decor choices to be more sustainable? From reclaimed timber to recycled kitchen tops, Gabrielle Fagan checks out the options.

We’re all aware of the need to look after our environment – and where better to start than at home?

Luckily, more and more companies are embracing eco-friendly approaches and solutions, and designers are becoming ever-more inventive and innovative in their use of recycled materials to create desirable homeware – so you don’t have to sacrifice your style for your principles.

“Year-round, we consistently see people searching for inspiration on Pinterest to shop and live in ways more mindful of the environment,” says Enid Hwang, culture and community manager at Pinterest, who’ve seen a 108% increase in searches for sustainable lifestyle this year.

The site notes that September, when summer holidays are over, is the ‘back to life’ period – when, feeling renewed and refreshed, people look for ways to make small changes in their lives, such as recommitting to their environmental efforts.

“We’ve seen that reflected in searching for sustainable items for their homes, like recycled materials, eco paint and even bamboo bedding. Sustainable lifestyle choices are now a major theme for many Pinners,” notes Hwang.

Need some inspiration? From wallpaper and paint, to furniture and accessories – follow our guide to creating a home to match your values…

eco designer homes

Paint it green

Some house paints use casein – a protein derived from milk or beeswax as a binding agent – while others use ingredients that have been tested on animals.

Mindful of this, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose Auro, a non-toxic vegan paint which is also child-friendly, when they decorated baby Archie’s nursery. Auro Coloured Emulsion, from £48 for 2.5L; Wood Paint – Satin, from £16 for 375ml, AuroPaint.co.uk.

A lot of paints contain high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which emit solvents into the air that are associated with causing dizziness and headaches, and may affect those with allergies.

Crown’s Breatheasy Coloured Emulsion range is 99.9% solvent-free and certified under the asthma & allergy friendly Certification Program.

The Breatheasy range starts from £14 for 2.5L of emulsion and, a further plus, comes in containers made of 100% recycled plastic, which are fully recyclable once empty and clean.

eco designer homes

Paper and plant

The desire for wallpaper with good eco-credentials is growing, and Little Greene not only has great designs, but sources and uses paper from certificated sustainable forests.

“We manufacture our wallpapers in the UK and for every tree used four more are planted,” says Ruth Mottershead, Little Greene marketing director.

“Wallpapers are printed using non-toxic pigments and our high-quality wallpaper paste contains no solvent.”

Their London Papers V range, a collection of authentic heritage designs, starts from £73 a roll.

eco designer homes

Recipe for eco cooks

If you want to cook up a storm but reduce your carbon footprint, sustainable timber is a good choice for kitchen units, worktops and flooring.

Deforestation is a major environmental issue that’s contributing to global warming, so look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) ‘tick tree’ logo, which signifies it is certified timber that comes from well-managed forests and/or recycled materials.

Make sure worktops don’t let the side down. Wickes offers worktops made from recycled materials in its range of kitchens.

Details count and bamboo kitchen containers are an excellent alternative to plastic (they look lovely too). Bamboo is a highly renewable, fast-growing natural material with antibacterial, anti-fungal properties, and it’s biodegradable.

eco designer homes

Lie back and think of the planet

You’re setting the bar higher if you want a purely vegan lifestyle – but it’s perfectly possible according to Jo Peters, author of new book, Vegan Life: Cruelty-Free Food, Fashion, Beauty And Home (Summersdale, £12.99).

“Vegans prefer to avoid using materials that come from animals, which can make home furnishing seem like a challenge at first,” she acknowledges.

“But, as with stocking your fridge, once you’ve sussed out what to avoid – and found some reliable suppliers of alternatives – you’ll be able to make ethical choices in every room.”

In her handy guide, she highlights the main culprits to avoid in home furnishings: Leather (and suede), wool (and felt), silk, down, fur and cowhide. She also points out that “when choosing a new couch, remember that you’ll need to consider the padding materials as well as the cover.”

That said, it’s useful to remember that making use of pre-existing leather, wool, etc, items that are still in good condition, is generally more planet-friendly than throwing things away only to replace them with new plastic ones!

eco designer homes

Reclaim and rejoice in style

“As everybody becomes more eco-aware, the demand for sustainable furniture that is kinder to the planet is on the rise,” says Ben Adams, co-founder and master craftsman of Rust Collections, creators of sustainable rustic-luxe reclaimed pieces made from locally salvaged timber. They also use oak certified by the FSC.

“By using local recycled wood, we keep transportation miles down and give new purpose to a material that’s already had a life, and in doing so, the carbon footprint is kept very low,” explains Adams.

“Keeping the use of freshly-milled timber to a minimum also means putting less pressure on our natural timber resources, preserving more for future use.”

eco designer homes

Material concerns

“Over the last few seasons at Habitat, we’ve seen a definite increase in demand from shoppers who are obviously interested in purchasing designs made using recycled and sustainable base materials,” says Siobhan McMillan, head of buying for Habitat.

“In textiles, we’re working with suppliers to increase the amount of designs made from fabric that is recycled from the fashion industry. Fabric off-cuts that would have otherwise been thrown away are instead re-dyed and woven to create new rugs and cushions, and we’ve increased the amount of patterns available.”

In lighting, she notes, there’s a growing demand for designs made from sustainable, fast-growing rattan and bamboo, with three-out-of-five of Habitat’s current bestselling shades made from these natural base materials.

eco designer homes

9 Top Tips to Make the Most of a Small Kitchen

small kitchen tips

Small can be beautiful and - crucially in this case - functional too. By Luke Rix-Standing.

In the modern world of cramped shoe-box flats and sardine-tin apartment blocks, space is a rare and valuable commodity.

Wave goodbye to extended worktops, double-door refrigerators, and luxurious kitchen islands – particularly in urban areas, these are now myths from a bygone age for many of us.

When space is scarce, kitchens are often the first to feel the squeeze – there’s no headline floor-filler in this room, like a sofa or bed – but there’s no need to let that cramp your cooking.

Here’s how to keep livin’ it large, even with the most modest kitchen…

small kitchen tips

1. Purge the unnecessaries

Be totally honest with yourself – do you really need that candy floss maker, that ‘pizza oven’ that’s actually just a small oven taking up half the counter top, or that margarita maker you used once back in 2013?

“It’s the number one mistake people make,” says professional organiser, Vicky Silverthorn (youneedavicky.com). “Putting the contents of a four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom house, and keeping gadgets that come out only occasionally. The fondue set, the avocado slicer, the large dinner platters for people that don’t have dinner parties… Ask yourself what you’d prefer – the space, or the appliance you use once a year?”

2. Think vertically

Floor space is not the be all and end all, and for those blessed with high ceilings, it’s crucial to cash in. Add extra shelves above your cupboards, or use the tops of your cupboards as extra storage space.

Time and budget allowing, you could install a vertical, sliding drawer, which may single-handedly take the place of a pantry. Think of your kitchen like a maths question – you’re calculating the volume, not just the floor area.

small kitchen tips

3. Use your corners

Corners are notoriously difficult to utilise, but unless you’re living in a water tower, every room has at least three or four of them. Wraparound corner shelves are shoo-ins for storage-starved kitchens, while floor lights and tables can be slotted in with ease. In most rooms, corners are dead space; in a small kitchen, they’re an opportunity.

4. Store in adjacent rooms

If your home is relatively spacious, and it’s just your kitchen feeling the squeeze, you can always store non-perishables elsewhere. There’s just no need to clog your kitchen cupboards with piles of pasta and tinned beans, when they could live just as happily somewhere else in the house.

small kitchen tips

5. Keep it tidy

Kitchens are supposed to be functional, efficient spaces, tailored to minimise the inherent pressures of cooking – and to keep a clear head when things get steamy, you need a clear work surface.

“It’s about putting the items that you have in the correct spaces,” says Silverthorn, “and there is no one-size-fits-all. Look out for gimmicky plastic containers that only contain a few tins – not everything needs to live in a basket, despite what Instagram says. Get stackable storage containers, or containers that fit inside each other when they’re not being used.”

6. Clever colours

Just because your kitchen is small, doesn’t mean it has to look small. Consistent colouring helps a room feel fluid, while bright blocks of contrast colour can quickly become claustrophobic (although there are no hard and fast rules!), so consider keeping your scheme to a two-colour maximum.

Lighter colours invariably feel airier – whitewashed kitchens are increasingly common – while reflective surfaces like mirrors lend depth.

small kitchen tips

7. Tactical lighting

How large a room looks is as much about your perception as its actual size. Natural light bathes your kitchen in a vivid glow, imitating the wide open spaces of the great outdoors, while poorly-lit areas very quickly feel poky.

Artificial light is where the buck stops after-hours, and you want to mix up overhead sources with table lamps or wall lights. Accent lighting lends contrast between different parts of a room, which inevitably leaves your kitchen looking larger and more varied.

“I love lights that dim in a kitchen,” says Silverthorn. “It gives the bright, vibrant light for the morning and afternoon but can then turn cosy for when you’re winding down.”

8. Space-saving gizmos

Extravagant gadgetry generally takes up more space than it saves, but there are a few specific products that earn their place. Try a magnetic knife holder – a strip on the wall that holds knives and other metallic implements – or pick up a chopping board that sits atop your sink.

Anything that can be hung should be hung. Hooks on the undersides of shelves are a go-to for mugs, while large utensils can be well catered for with rails and racks.

small kitchen tips

9. Double up

Going back to gadgetry, even seemingly sensible tools can often be economised, and canny buyers can squeeze two tools into the space of one. “Employ multi-purpose kitchen utensils,” says Silverthorn, “you’re automatically saving space.

“I’ve been working with Brabantia (brabantia.com/uk),” she adds, “and their new Tasty+ range is full of them. There’s a spatula that’s also a fork, a skimmer that’s also a ladle, a spaghetti spoon that’s also got a measuring tool in it. You’re instantly halving the utensils in your kitchen.”

Tricky Neighbours? Here’s how to Avoid Disputes – or Deal With Them Wisely if they do Crop Up

tricky neighbours

Living next door doesn't mean you'll always get on, but nobody wants a stressful fall-out. By Luke Rix-Standing.

Neighbours often rank up there with the in-laws on the list of people it’s really useful to get on with.

You live literally side-by-side – but just as with the in-laws, that doesn’t mean you automatically get on.

So what are neighbours battling over, and how should you handle a dispute with a tricky neighbour, whether it’s across the garden fence or in the courtroom? We talked to Dr Mike Talbot, CEO of conflict resolution experts UK Mediation, for his thoughts on the matter…

tricky neighbours

Causes of concern

Noise complaints frequently rank among the most common cause of neighbour irritation, particularly during summer with children off school, outdoor DIY projects, sizzling barbecues, and long evenings out on the patio all taking place.

Boundary issues involving shared spaces or fences also commonly cause consternation. “Plants come up quite a lot,” says Dr Talbot. “If my neighbour’s plant is growing through my fence, and I cut it off or lay down weedkiller, in their eyes I might have killed their plant.”

Party walls are as contentious as they ever were, and there’s even a designated organisation – The Faculty Of Party Wall Surveyors (fpws.org.uk) – devoted to the complexities they pose.

The hardest issues to resolve involve lifestyle – fundamental behaviours that residents are unwilling to change. “Cooking smells can be contentious,” says Talbot. “Plus late-night parties, drinking or smoking cannabis in the garden – especially when the neighbours are of a more conservative disposition. Things can get quite heated.”

If required, remember that your local council has a duty to investigate so-called ‘statutory nuisances’ – any disturbances that could be damaging to a citizen’s health. These include noise pollution, light pollution, and conventional pollution like dust, smoke, or a build-up of rubbish.

tricky neighbours

Build a relationship

Without meaning to sound flippant, the easiest way to make up with your neighbour is to not fall out in the first place, and in order to have a good relationship with them it helps if you know who they are.

“We’re less inclined to know our neighbours these days,” says Talbot, “so sometimes your first conversation with your neighbour is when you’ve got a dispute.” Even an occasional ‘hello’ in the driveway helps build some sort of rapport, which can give you invaluable credit when you need to raise an issue.

Not knowing your neighbour also means you’re less likely to pipe up when you first have a problem, which allows resentment to build and fester. Talbot says it’s the number one problem he encounters: “If you wait ’til you’re really annoyed, you can’t disguise your anger. The other person will then feel attacked and lash back, and that’s when things can go to a really bad place.”

So loving thy neighbour may be a big ask, but let’s start by at least knowing their name.

tricky neighbours

Mind your manners

When you do need to go knocking, pick an appropriate time, and, without meaning to patronise, play nice. “Don’t go round at 10 o’clock when you’ve had a can of something,” says Talbot, “and be prepared to take a conciliatory approach.”

If you’re really nervous, you could write your neighbour a note, or where appropriate go through their landlord – but it’s generally best to at least start with face-to-face communication.

“I always say listen first,” continues Talbot. “Speak to your neighbour and see what their take is – there’s often a good reason and you want to let them know you’re taking that into account before putting across your perspective. Collaborate with your neighbour to take on the problem, rather that taking on your neighbour ‘as’ the problem.”

Be particularly cautious when discussing the behaviour of unruly children, as even an implied slight on someone’s parenting will generally go down like a pint of warm beer.

“It complicates things massively,” says Talbot, “as you tend to get clashes of values. One neighbour might be happy to let their kids come home at two in the morning, while the other might be disturbed by the noise, but also by the values. When people start calling each other bad parents, it takes on a new dimension.”

You’re trying to come to a consensus, so however stuck-up/irresponsible you consider your neighbour to be, try to keep value judgements to yourself.

tricky neighbours

The letter of the law

We were going to run through the legal specs you might need for different situations, but it’s complex, scenario-specific, and generally not something you want to get involved in if you can help it. Talbot recalls one case in which mediation was called in after a two-year stretch of litigation, in which the two parties had already incurred £30,000 in legal fees apiece.

It also might not work. While informal methods like mediation emphasise compromise, in law there’s often a winner and a loser, and formal settlements will show on the deeds to your house as and when you decide to sell.

The courts are well aware of these difficulties, and sometimes won’t even hear the case unless forced. “These days, judges will ask: ‘How have you tried to resolve this?’ And they don’t want to hear you’ve gone straight to litigation. They’ve even sent cases away.”

If you do decide to explore your legal rights, don’t make the classic mistake of using Google. “Thanks to the internet, people selectively find articles that give them the version of their rights they want to hear,” says Talbot, “and interpret legislation for their own ends.” If people actually want to know their rights, says Talbot, speak to Citizens Advice, or book in a consultation with a lawyer.

Weave Some Magic at Home, with New-Wave Rattan, Raffia and Bamboo.

modern rattan decor

No longer confined to retro schemes and conservatories, nature's most versatile materials are making a stylish comebacks, says Gabrielle Fagan.

We’re all waking up to the magic of weave, with rattan – that blonde, slim, easy-on-the eye material – enjoying a starring role in homes right now.

Pinterest and Instagram are full of stunning examples of how rattan can lend a ‘wow’ factor in a way that solid wood simply can’t, and it’s totally in tune with our growing desire for natural products and organic designs in our living spaces.

modern rattan decor

Rattan was a huge hit in the Seventies, a trend that stuck for at least a decade, and has endured as a staple of the conservatory – but perish the thought that this is just a predictable reincarnation.

Designers have so transformed it, with punchy colour and imaginative chic new shapes, that pieces are good-looking enough to be focal points in all areas of the home.

Not only that – they’re seemingly so entranced by all things woven right now, they’ve also turned their creative attentions to raffia, bamboo, and even simple straw.

modern rattan decor

“Rattan really is the ‘super food’ of the homeware world,” declares Sophie Garnier, founder of Kalinko (kalinko.com), specialists in hand-woven rattan furniture and accessories made in Burma.

“Practically, the material is solid all the way through the vine, which makes it incredibly strong, and its flexibility means it can be woven into any shape. It also accepts paints and stains like wood, so can be made in a variety of colours and finishes.”

Not least, it’s a good choice, Garnier points out, if you want to burnish your eco-credentials. “It grows very quickly all year round and is harvested without harming the tree and also grows back very enthusiastically, so an A-star for sustainability,” she enthuses.

Lightweight yet sturdy, it can also look fresh and modern depending on the shape and finish you choose, notes Garnier.

Summing up its appeal, she says: “It brings the essence of the outdoors inside, which is very soothing and, while an obvious choice in the summer, will look great all year round in both classic and contemporary homes.”

What are you waiting for? Work the weave at home, with a variety of beautiful products…

modern rattan decor

Keep it light

Woven furniture won’t dominate a space, which makes it ideal for compact spaces and especially good for renters as it’s easily transportable, says Kate Butler, head of product design at Habitat.

“Fast-growing materials like rattan and bamboo are increasingly becoming key materials for us, and we’re incorporating these strong and lightweight materials into more modern designs that take advantage of their versatility,” she explains.

“They allow us to create more interesting 3D shapes, from fluid curves to angular forms, so we’re moving away from traditional rattan associations – which confined it to the conservatory – to more inspirational, contemporary ideas for the home that allow you to add more personality to a space.”

She highlights the Nadia bedframe (designed by Matthew Long), made from four individual rattan sections which clip together for easy assembly, and Habitat’s range of rattan light shades, which simply fit over a bulb.

modern rattan decor

Mix ‘n’ match

Double up for maximum effect – two chairs are better than one because they’ll look as though you’ve committed to a style, rather than bought a random piece.

If you want to make a statement, choose a rocker or a classic Peacock-style chair. The latter with its high back, which is also called a fan chair, originated in the Philippines and its striking style has featured in many iconic photographs over the years.

modern rattan decor

Scene-stealer seats

If you like a laid-back vibe, hanging chairs are ultra-fashionable currently, and Cox & Cox has an open weave Round Rattan Cocoon Chair, £650. It comes with a stand or a hook so it can be hung from the ceiling. Enhance the cosiness by draping with a Curly Sheepskin – Natural, £175.

modern rattan decor

Store & stun

We can never have enough storage – but there’s no reason it should be boring. Turn it into eye-candy with wicked weaves featuring soft, blushing shades, which can hold everything from household essentials to toys.

modern rattan decor

Divide & Rule

Unique pieces, like a folding screen, will conjure a tropical vibe in a living area. And you can ramp up the effect with other accessories, such a mirror, wall-mounted woven platters, occasional seating or a lamp.

modern rattan decor

This is why you Shouldn’t let Summer pass without Cooking Outside with the Kids

outdoor cooking with kids

There's just something about making dinner out of doors. So, marshmallows at the ready, says Ella Walker.

One thing is guaranteed to ruin the vibe of any summer party, and that’s a parent shrieking across a sun-scorched garden: ‘IT’S HOT – I TOLD YOU TO STAY AWAY FROM THE BARBECUE!’

Usually, there’d be a few expletives in there, a spilled beer, a freshly-bunned burger dropped in the dirt, as well as an overwhelming panic bound up in love and the understandable fear of third-degree burns.

outdoor cooking with kids

Fire and small children can be a stressful mix. But that doesn’t mean it can’t ever be done – and provide an afternoon of fun, bonding and ridiculously good food.

Dawn Isaac, author of 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside (Kyle Books, £14.99), notes that “it’s always more exciting having a sandwich outside”.

And you know what’s more exciting than a sandwich – especially outdoors? A burger. Or a hot dog. And if you speared that hot dog sausage on a twig (OK, a Lakeland skewer) and blackened it over a fire yourself, things are exponentially better. That’s as an adult – just imagine doing it aged eight. Talk about mind-blown.

Chuck in some marshmallows turned lichen-orange as they melt into a tooth-sticking goo, and you just know your kids may never go to bed again. Largely that’d be down to the sugar coursing through their tiny bodies, but also because cooking in the open air – and learning to prep your own food in the process – is quite simply intoxicating. As much so as it is watching the dancing belly of a fire flickering away.

outdoor cooking with kids

“Kids love getting stuck in in the kitchen, so getting them to help with cooking really encourages them, especially when it’s more of an adventure outdoors,” says Genevieve Taylor, grill extraordinaire and author of veggie barbecue book Charred (Quadrille, £16).

Taylor’s all about stretching yourself when it comes to barbecuing too – kebabs, plastic cheese squares and bangers are all very well, but what about cumin spiked falafel burgers, miso grilled aubergine, and sweet potato wedges with oregano? She notes in Charred that “pretty much any vegetable you can think of can be elevated by a little fire and smoke” – and getting kids involved with spicing up BBQ fare is a great place for you to all start.

“Mine have always loved sniffing the jars of spices and choosing what they fancied, which works a treat as they can both be quite fussy,” explains Taylor. “Getting kids used to spices early gets them used to the idea of food from all over the world and teaches them that spices don’t always need to equal heat.”

outdoor cooking with kids

Also, anything that tricks them into taking an interest in vegetables – regardless that it might mean torching them to smithereens over a campfire – must be positive. Think wrangling with butter drenched corn on the cob, or stealth-eating (shock horror) veg on skewers, because if you’ve threaded it yourself, you’re going to have to eat it, right? Even if there are mushrooms hiding amongst the chunks of pepper…

YouTube cook Ian Haste, author of The 7-Day Basket (Headline, £25), says: “My kids eat every single veg there is. If you’ve got them to cook it themselves, they’ve done it, and they’ll try and eat it, because they’re stubborn.”

Add the thrill of potentially-singed fingers, and a few atmospheric stars overheard, and your kids might just scoff everything you brought outdoors in the coolbag.

outdoor cooking with kids

“Fried cheese sandwiches are really popular and so easy to make on a BBQ – you can always leave out any bits they don’t fancy,” adds Taylor. “Getting kids to choose, or at least giving them an element of choice, is empowering and doesn’t mean they feel forced to eat everything.” And talking of cheese, watching anyone – no matter their age – try flame-seared halloumi for the first time is arguably a beautiful (if squeaky) experience.

Halloumi aside, there’s the whole getting into nature, learning new skills and ‘making memories together’ thing too – and memories attached to food have a different kind of vividness to them. Childhood picks them up like sticky burrs (like making flapjacks with your granny, eating jelly for the first time, building a fire in the garden and throwing bananas and chocolate wrapped in foil into the coals…).

outdoor cooking with kids

And of course, wild cooking together means the usual dedicated in-charge barbecue person won’t be all alone wreathed in smoke – you’ll have someone to chat to and share the very tough task of wielding the tongs with. Go forth, and make fire. Just have a bucket of water on standby…

Want your Little Ones to Love Gardening? Here are the Tools to Give Them a Head Start

children gardening

Former Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins helps us select the kit to get your children interested in gardening.

Gardening can be child’s play if youngsters are given the right tools for the job.

Now, former Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins, head of organic horticulture at Garden Organic (gardenorganic.org.uk), the national charity for organic gardening, has helped us select some basic pieces of equipment to enable kids to plant and grow seeds, care for them and to encourage them to spend time in the garden.

children gardening

1. Tamper and sieve

“Children will love using a tamper to stamp on the soil to firm it and enjoy getting their hands dirty sieving the soil to produce a light crumbly mix,” he says.

These items will get them directly involved in preparing the soil and help improve seed sowing success and avoid any disappointments.

Good seeds to sow for little hands include sunflower, runner beans and sweet peas.

children gardening

2. Hand trowel

Serious young gardeners will be able to prepare beds for sowing, transplant seedlings and remove weeds with a good set of hand tools. Very young children will just enjoy a bit of digging and exploring the soil to look for worms and insects, which is always a cause for great excitement.

For younger children, colourful garden tools are widely available.

children gardening

3. Watering can

Playing with water – especially in hot summer weather – should encourage children into the garden, so a watering can is a must-have. Buy one with a rose to allow for gentle watering so they can get involved with regularly caring for their plants and make sure that the watering can is the right size and holds the right amount of water for the size of your child, so he or she can easily lift it.

Among the best is the Little Pals Children’s Watering Can Kit which includes a metal watering can, pink hand trowel and spotty gardening gloves (£15.90, Amazon www.amazon.co.uk)

children gardening

4. Compost bin

If you have a compost bin, you can help teach them the importance of recycling kitchen scraps and garden waste. Why not get one they can decorate too, making a lovely fun feature in the garden? They can then use the compost to help their plants to grow.

children gardening

5. Wildlife feeder

Just letting your child fill up your regular bird feeder should engage them, especially when they see birds feasting on the seeds and nuts they have given them.

There are plenty of kits on the market to make your own bird feeder or bird house, or alternatively you can recycle old bits and pieces from your home to give them a fun activity of creating a habitat for wildlife, which will help them feel more connected to the garden and make them aware of the many creatures which use your open space.

Alternatively, invest in a good one for your child such as the Yukon Feeder (£24.99, CJ Wildlife – birdfood.co.uk) which enables three different types of bird food to be placed into different slots, to attract a variety of birds.

children gardening

6. Gardening clothes

The oldest clothes are probably the most sensible ones for kids to wear when gardening but if they are going to get their hands dirty, it may be wise to invest in a pair of junior gardening gloves in their preferred colour.

A good bet could be the Vgo gardening and DIY gloves for four to five-year-olds (£14.98 for two pairs, Amazon)

And don’t forget, most importantly, to get your child to wear a hat on sunny days.

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