James Martin On Time To Start Embracing British Food

James Martin Great British Adventure and food

Lauren Taylor meets the popular TV chef, after his epic road trip around the British Isles.

When it comes to TV chefs, there are only a few who’ve been chopping, frying and serving up dishes on our screens for more than 25 years – and James Martin, with his straight-talking, homely and down-to-earth manner, is one of them.

Cookery programmes have been a mainstay since Philip Harben showed BBC viewers how to make lobster vol-au-vents back in the 1940s, but even before Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson shot to fame in late-Nineties, Yorkshireman Martin was already a familiar face on telly, and has been ever since.

Following his popular foodie road-trips around France and America, he’s now back with a new show – James Martin’s Great British Adventure on ITV – plus a cookbook of the same name (his 23rd, he says).

James Martin Great British Adventure and food

Now, especially as the Brexit deadline looms at the end of March, is an important time to really embrace British food, says the chef, admitting this was one of the “fundamental reasons” for wanting to do the book and series in the first place.

“I’m a farmer, and this is an amazing country we live in. There are some amazing people producing some amazing food – whether they cook it, serve it, make it, or brew it,” Martin enthuses.

Like a love letter to Britain and its food, James Martin’s Great British Adventure takes viewers and home cooks on a journey the entire length and breadth of the land – from the Isle of Wight for feta and halloumi and Wales for the beef and lamb, to Northern Island for langoustines and Scotland for “the best fruit in the world”, along with many other gems in-between.

“It was one hell of a road trip,” Martin says. “I’ve always wanted to travel but I spent 10 years on Saturday Kitchen in the studio. I was doing home comforts that were all based here, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I wondered what it would be like, to venture out.”

He did venture out – and the result is a showcase of the best of the best; from cooking with Michelin star chefs and some of Martin’s personal food heroes – including Clare Smyth, Sat Bains and Michel Roux Snr (“I pulled my black book of chefs out”), to uncovering little known food producers and suppliers in rural locations.

It’s these people Martin is most passionate about: “The lamb farmer working in -7C up in Scotland, getting up at 5am in the morning, isn’t doing it for a new Range Rover every year – he’s doing it because he’s the seventh generation of the family, and we need to keep supporting that. If nobody shouts about it and we just travel all over the world all the time, that’s not good.”

He’s almost overflowing with stories of fascinating people and underrated produce from his exploration of the British Isles. There’s the vinegar producer in the Orkneys who set up his business in his dad’s garage, a breed of acorn-fed hairy pig called Mangalitsa in the New Forest – and another, Middle White, farmed on the Wales-Gloucestershire border. “It’s the best pork you’ll ever taste, and used to be really famous in the Thirties but now we all want pigs to look like they’ve done 100-metre hurdles, with no fat on them, but that’s where the flavour is,” says Martin.

“There are 200 Middle White sows in the world and this guy has got 100 of them – they’re rarer than the king panda” – but only because we don’t buy their meat. “People are creatures of habit,” Martin adds.

Plus, we import a lot of meat from Europe. Whatever your stance, a departure from the EU will have some bearing on this, and the British food industry in general. “There are positive and negatives,” Martin says. “Fishermen hopefully should be better off because they’ll stop exporting Dover sole and langoustine. But the offset of that is that the floodgates [of import trade] will open to New Zealand and, if we don’t sort out this bloody mess, it will decimate the lamb industry overnight.

“Everyone knows about Welsh lamb, but people always want cheaper and cheaper food – New Zealand can produce masses of it and we can’t compete against them.”

James Martin Great British Adventure and food

But the uncertainty of Brexit isn’t the only reason it’s time to take a closer look at what’s made on our doorstep. British cuisine, with its modern multicultural power, is finally having its moment in the spotlight. “Thirty years ago, we were deemed as the poor cousin around the world in terms of food, but in France I met some of the greatest chefs in the world, and their attitude towards British food and British chefs is totally different. Now we’re on a level playing field, if not better – they see London as the gastronomic capital.”

Famed for recipes that don’t overcomplicate for the sake of it, long-standing Martin fans will be be pleased to know that his latest collection stays true to that approach. “I’m still off the ethos that you should never cook anything on TV that my mum can’t get north of Watford,” he says. “I think chefs can go too restauranty and you’ll start to lose people.” And although he takes some inspiration from British classics and age-old techniques, “it’s fundamentally about the place, about the ingredients, about now”, he adds.

It’s been a long time since Martin first did work experience, aged 14, in a London kitchen, at the Park Lane Hotel (“Getting my arse kicked”) – and longevity, in a world of Instagram foodies and YouTuber cooks, is not to be sniffed at. “This book is an accumulation of 35 years of work, of knowledge, built up over the years,” he says. “And that knowledge, you can’t buy it and you can’t Instagram it.”

He’s got no time for flash-in-the-pan trends either. “The health food bloody thing or vegan month, do we need a whole month for it? We spend 11 months eating what we want, then comes January… It’s baloney,” he says, laughing.

“Food is one of the pleasures of life, and most of us don’t enjoy most things and do a job we don’t like, so for Christ’s sake, just eat what you want.”

James Martin’s Great British Adventure continues every weekday on ITV. The accompanying book, James Martin’s Great British Adventure: A Celebration Of Great British Food With 80 Fabulous Recipes by James Martin is published by Quadrille, priced £25. Available now.

James Martin Great British Adventure and food

So, if you are inspired by this article and need a stunning kitchen to work in, why not take a look at this fine property with it’s stunning Evie Willow kitchen.

Luxury Contemporary Property For Sale Preview

This is a property preview of a truly stunning detached New England style home occupying a mature plot measuring approximately 0.6 of an acre, in the heart of wonderful countryside in the charming hamlet of Hazeley Lea, just three miles north of Hartley Wintney.

Take a look at the preview video above and be impressed with the breathtaking high specification space.

New to the market - Guide £2,150,000

The luxurious accommodation is arranged over three floors, providing around 4,500 sq. ft. of exquisite space, including a vast high specification kitchen/breakfast/family room by Evie Willow. In addition to the comprehensive range of fitted units and a central island with seating, wall to wall bi-folding doors open to the Southerly rear garden and bar/terrace area and swimming pool.

luxury kitchen by Evie Willow property for sale
luxury kitchen by Evie Willow property for sale
Luxury Evie Willow Kitchen / Family Room

Further ground floor accommodation includes a fine reception hall, triple aspect sitting room with log burner, home office, play room, utility room, cloakroom and a bedroom with en-suite bathroom / wet room shower

reception hall property for sale
A fine reception hall

There are six bedrooms in total, and the sweeping staircase leads to the first floor with the master bedroom and three further double bedrooms, all with fitted storage and en-suites. On entering the master bedroom suite there is a stunning bespoke Evie Willow dressing room, a superb en-suite bathroom / shower room and a vast bedroom space.

vast master bedroom property for sale
The vast master bedroom
en-suite dressing room to master bedroom by Evie Willow
The luxury Evie Willow en-suite dressing room to the master bedroom
en-suite to master bedroom property for sale
Luxury en-suite bathroom and shower room to master bedroom

The second floor features a further bedroom with en-suite bathroom and an additional room which could be used as a games/cinema room or bedroom.

Guest bedroom property for sale
Superb Guest bedroom suite
en-suite to guest bedroom property for sale
En-suite to above bedroom

The south facing rear garden is mainly laid to lawn and flanked by trees. Immediately to the rear of the property is a large patio area which leads to a heated outdoor swimming pool which is run by air source heat pumps. To the front is a gravel driveway with parking for several vehicles leading to a double carport with wood store and storage shed.

swimming pool property for sale
Heathed swimming pool

Further features include underfloor heating to the ground and first floor, Cat 5 cabling and a Sonos speaker system. There is active planning permission in place for further extension works to include an indoor swimming pool or space for gym/studio.

Located around thirty five miles from central London, the property is particularly well placed for the commuter, with both the M3 (j4a 6 miles) and M4 (j. 11 9 miles) motorways within easy reach providing easy access to the Thames Valley corridor and motorway networks.

Mainline stations at Winchfield (about 6 miles), Reading, Basingstoke, Hook and Fleet provide fast and regular rail services to London Paddington or Waterloo. Heathrow Airport is about 35 miles and Farnborough Airport is about 12 miles distant. All distances and times are approximate.

For further details telephone 01252 620640.

Check out how video can enhance a property sale or let.

6 Decor Trends to Brighten Rooms and Banish Winter Blues

Is your home looking a little lacklustre and drab as January drags on? Gabrielle Fagan reveals six easy ways to hit refresh.

January can be a bleak month on all levels – but if your rooms are look as though they’re suffering a bit of a winter hangover, take heart, as there are plenty of bright, new decor trends on the horizon.

You don’t need to rush out and arrange a major revamp – some little touches can be enough to lift a space and provide that all-important refresh.

Here are six decor trends that will make a big impression on rooms this year, and could help banish the blues and take your home from drab to fab in no time…

design to banish winter blues

1. Tell a texture story

If you want to give a scheme some ‘wow’ factor, look no further than texture. Layering a mixture of soft fabrics – from fluffy sheepskin cushions and chunky wool throws to cowhide rugs – will not only draw the eye, which is essential in a muted scheme decorated in neutrals that could otherwise look bland, but also add cosiness.

Adding texture is all about layering, so have a few key pieces, like a statement rug, a velvet chair, or a leather sofa, and then add smaller accessories and soft furnishings until the room feels complete.

Don’t forget that your scheme need never be ‘set in stone’. Moving or replacing a few texture-rich accessories is an easy way to re-energise and refresh the whole balance of a scheme.

Plunder Next’s spring/summer collection for texture treats. Our favourites include their Knitted Jute Drum Seat, £70 (available Feb), and Mono Berber Rug, £50-£180. The range has lots of touchy-feely cushions too, including an Ethnic Tufted Stripe Cushion, £18; Textured Pom Pom Cushion, £14, and Diamond Geo Cushion, £16.

design to banish winter blues

2. Make it mellow yellow

Yellow has crossed over from the fashion catwalks – the colour was big news at the 2019 spring/summer shows – and is predicted to make its mark on our homes.

The colour’s associated with energy and optimism – we could all do with a dose of that this year – and you can easily play with all its hues, from bright daffodil yellow, through to the palest lemon.

This is also a shade that works well in bold contrast, or blended with similar shades and tones – don’t be afraid to experiment.

Another bonus: Pops of yellow will act like beams of sunshine in any room, no matter what the weather’s like outside.

design to banish winter blues

3. Follow the fringe

Fringing – think the swishy, flamboyant Charleston dresses of the 1920s – is making a comeback in decor and home styling.

You can interpret it elegantly and traditionally, with upholstery fringing on armchairs and sofas, or go for an ethnic, arty vibe with a colourful tribal wall hanging. However you use it, fringing is fabulous.

design to banish winter blues

4. Touch wood

Natural materials, particularly wood, are essential for today’s stylish homes. It’s all about celebrating the beauty of natural materials and craftsmanship – think heirlooms and sustainability – and the unique grain of timber.

Don’t limit yourself to one piece. The chic take on the trend is to choose furniture made in different tones of wood, from pale ash to ebony, and let is share a space. Leave it raw and unstained to reveal the gorgeous imperfections of the knots and grain.

design to banish winter blues

5. Let red rule

Let the warmest shades on the colour spectrum – rust, red and rose – warm your rooms (it’s cheaper than turning up the central heating!).

Our newfound boldness with colour means we’re less timid and more prepared to splash on those bright shades these days – but even used sparingly, these shades will make an impact without being too dominating, especially if you lean towards the brown-based terracotta hues.

Experiment with bed linen and accessories to test your enthusiasm, or paint a headboard or feature wall if you want to make a statement. Seeing red can be positive!

design to banish winter blues

6. Pay a floral tribute

Nature’s finding its way into more and more interiors, and flowers, potted plants and succulents – both real and faux – are an easy way to bring natural appeal to rooms.

Displaying bouquets in clear glass vases can have a transformative effect on a space. As a transparent vase displays all of its contents, the possibilities for decorative ideas extend beyond flowers, and you could use them for fruit or collections of beachcomber finds too.

Change the atmosphere with blooms – a fresh cut bunch from a garden will enhance a country/rustic effect, while an elaborate display of exotic blooms makes a luxe touch.

Preview Exquisite Property For Sale Soon

We will be showcasing this exceptional property on the open market soon, but for now some of the feature photographs are shown in this post.

This magnificent country house provides around 8,500 sq. ft. of splendid living space, designed to deliver exceptional standards of quality and style.

Vast reception hall
The vast reception hall

Built entirely out of Bath stone with stone mouldings, sash windows and Romanesque columns, it is clear that when first built every effort was made to choose precisely the right materials befitting this home.

The breathtaking reception hall sets the scene for exploring around 8,500 sq. ft. of superb space and the hall is representative of the quality found throughout this wonderful property. There is a substantial living room, a Clive Christian fitted study, a dining room and a Clive Christian fitted luxury kitchen and utility room.

property swimming pool
beautiful grounds

Set in grounds of around 11.5 acres and brushing shoulders with beautiful countryside including the renowned Finchampstead Ridges. Within the park like grounds there is light woodland, landscaped gardens, paddocks and excellent equestrian facilities including a superb stable yard and adjacent sand school.

property equestrian facilities
luxury property in Berkshire

The property is well positioned within its grounds to maximise the southerly aspect, with superb views over the grounds. Vast patios  lead to the external swimming pool, nestling within superb landscaped gardens. Nearby there are extensive areas of unspoilt countryside including Finchampstead Ridges and the National Trust heath and woodland, noted for its fine walks and rides.

Clive Christian kitchen
Clive Christian Kitchen

There is a substantial living room, a Clive Christian fitted study, a dining room and a Clive Christian fitted luxury kitchen and utility room.

staff quarters living room
high specification staff quarters

There is a superb guest suite / staff quarters comprising living / dining kitchen area, a fine bedroom with luxury en-suite. There is also a gym/bedroom seven with and en-suite and there is an entertainments room.

photo wellington college
nearby Wellington College

Located about 5 miles to the south west of the charming market town of Wokingham there is excellent schooling in the area including Wellington College which is about a mile distant.

Telephone 01252 842100 for further details.

Luxury Property Rental Preview

photo period property

This property preview is showcasing a beautiful country house, which is due to the market soon with an anticipated guide range of £7,500 to £8,500 p.c.m.

The property is a significant freehold steeped in history dating to the 15th century. Formerly the Manor House of Great Bramshill Manor, the house began as a timber framed hall in the late medieval period and it was progressively extended and developed through to the 19th century.

The result is a substantial Grade 11* listed country house of several periods, culminating in extensive refurbishment and development between 1990 and today by the current owners; resulting in a rare achievement where historic character and subtle contemporary fuse perfectly.

photo property farmhouse kitchen
farmhouse luxury kitchen

There are many notable historic architectural features including three massive Tudor chimney stacks, each with three separated diagonal flues on a rectangular base.

Inside the house there still exists magnificent Tudor brick fireplaces with four entered arches and the original 15th century winding staircase has been preserved.

photo property banqueting barn
banqueting / entertainments barn

Immediately outside there is a magnificent Grade 11 listed banqueting barn dating to the 17th century, formed of six timber frame bays, with gabled projecting porch. Leading off of this barn there is a wonderful gym space with shower.

photo property banqueting barn
banqueting / entertainments barn
photo property banqueting barn
gymnasium

Within the grounds of around 3.3 acres the formal gardens and entertaining areas are of special note, featuring a heated swimming pool and a tennis court.

photo property swimming pool
swimming pool
photo property swimming pool
swimming pool with entertainments barn in background
photo property tennis court
tennis court

For further details about this property, telephone Jacy Barwick on 01252 842100 or visit our residential letting agents and property management experts

5 Winning Behaviours Students Need for Academic Success

Getting good grades isn't just about intelligence, it's about using crucial study approaches. Two education experts tell Lisa Salmon more.

tips for academic success

With the festive season over, it’s time for many young people to focus their minds on more serious pursuits, like studying and exams.

By the time students are old enough to take national exams, they tend to study using ingrained habits, believing they know what works for them. But just because the way you study has worked (at least to some extent) in the past, doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily work again, warn education experts and authors Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin.

The pair, who have both been sixth-form teachers, have learned that past success doesn’t correlate with future success, and achievement isn’t just about superior ability, but about sticking to habits, routines and strategies that deliver results.

So after speaking to thousands of students about how they study and what they do every day or week that makes a difference, Oakes and Griffin have written The Student Mindset (Crown House Publishing, £9.99) to identify the key traits and behaviours all students need to achieve their goals.

tips for academic success

“We work the way we work because that’s how we’ve always done it,” says Oakes. “Even when results at a new level of study suggest our approaches are no longer effective, we persist, doing more of the same, pedalling harder and hoping.

“In many cases, students eventually give up, concluding they’re not intellectually capable of study at a more challenging level. But they’re often wrong. It’s the non-cognitive elements of study that defeat them – the new habits, routines and approaches they’ll need. New levels of study demand new tactics and strategies.”

And Griffin points out that while there’s been plenty of debate around how much academic performance is predicted by inherited intelligence, it’s actually the non-cognitive element of study – habits, systems and behaviours – that students can change as they grow.

“Rather than debating precisely what proportion of our success is due to genetic predisposition, we should instead be supporting students in changing the ways they work as the programme of study demands change. This way, we prepare them more effectively for an uncertain future,” he explains.

Griffin and Oakes say the five key traits and behaviours needed for academic success at any level are: Vision; Effort; Systems; Practice and Attitude (VESPA).

tips for academic success

1. Vision

The authors say determined and successful students know why they’re going through the struggle of demanding study, and have strengthened their ability to defer gratification because they have a goal in mind which pulls them forward.

“We’ve seen the impact a magnetic goal can have on learners,” says Griffin. “But goal setting needs to adjust as students grow. It isn’t just a case of plucking potential grades from the air and hoping for the best – high-vision students are increasingly aware of who they are and what they stand for, and this growing self-awareness allows them to create a compelling vision of what success looks like, and what the future holds for them.”

So, for example, they don’t just focus on wanting to be a doctor, they know why, such as believing equal access to healthcare is crucial.

“This way, they can persist for longer and stay positive during difficult times,” explains Griffin.

2. Effort

The authors stress successful students equate their academic success with hard work.

“Putting effort into study isn’t a symptom of weakness for these people. They’ve surrounded themselves with peers who feel the same and are exacting in their standards and expectations of themselves,” stresses Oakes.

As students begin working at a higher level, the successful ones incorporate – subconsciously in some cases – ideas about everyday signals (or leading indicators) telling them how much effort they’re putting in.

Plus, they “snack on learning rather than binge”, so they might read a chapter of a textbook per week, summarise their notes in four half-hour sittings, write an essay in stages, or review their understanding by testing themselves on a topic.

“In short, they actively set themselves work,” says Oakes. “This switch from the passive completion of directed tasks, to the active sequencing of independent study sessions that work as leading indicators – a crucial part of unlocking higher levels of effort.”

tips for academic success

3. Systems

Successful students have developed systems that allow them to organise time and resources, say Griffin and Oakes, so they have neat files and folders, complete with handouts methodically arranged, so they can make connections between useful materials and therefore learn faster. They prioritise according to need and impact, and meet deadlines.

4. Practice

Successful students work on their weaknesses, spending uncomfortable study time operating at the edge of their ability, isolating the things they can’t do and fixing them. They complete extra work for handing in, done under timed conditions, and then pay close attention to feedback.

Oakes says many students hit crisis point when revision strategies used successfully in the past suddenly seem useless, as once information is fully absorbed, it then has to be used to analyse unfamiliar data, solve a problem or construct an essay argument.

“For students loyal to memorising information, this can be a shock,” says Oakes. “High practice students learn to adjust the way they revise, mastering the content as the course goes on so the bulk of their preparation involves high stakes exam-style problem solving. They are calmer and better prepared as a result.”

tips for academic success

5. Attitude

Successful students know two things that unsuccessful ones don’t: Failure is an important part of success, and learning is composed of a series of sharp inclines, plateaus and setbacks.

Mastery happens slowly through deliberate effort and application. Griffin explains: “All students face ‘the dip’ – when progress halts and backslides. It might have happened before, but what works at one level – reconnecting with our successes, reminding ourselves of our positive qualities, comfort eating and watching a bit of TV – might need adjustment as challenges arise more frequently.”

High attitude students have a broader and more robust range of tactics when times are tough, such as a strong support network they regularly rely on, because they don’t equate asking for help with intellectual inferiority.

“And they have techniques for handling stress,” says Griffin. “They know exams are not a test of their self-worth.”

tips for academic success

Luxury Lodges And A Conservation Success Story

Make Namibia The Hottest Safari Destination Right Now

Travel Nambia Photo

Best known for its dramatic landscapes, the southern African country is now attracting visitors with its wildlife, says Sarah Marshall Press Association.

An eruption of feathers rudely awakens the day, sending billowing clouds of rusty, sun-singed dust into the dawn sky. Wings beating frantically in a syncopated rhythm, large flocks of quelea birds shift and shape, creating a strobe effect which is both dazzling and disorientating to any potential predators.

When distances are vast and environments extreme, safety in numbers makes sense.

In Namibia, a sparsely populated, semi-arid expanse with landscapes of cinematic proportions, life seems that little bit larger than anywhere else. Lone oryx are dwarfed by sculpted dunes the colour of cayenne pepper, and the Atlantic-lashed coastline is smudged away by an overpowering, clogging fog.

Dramatic scenery has always been this southern African country’s USP, but now its rich and varied wildlife is getting some airtime too. Historically, most land was used for farming, putting pressure on wildlife by cutting off vital corridors; wide-roaming cheetah, for example, were hit particularly hard.

But following the declaration of Namibia’s independence in 1990, nearly three-quarters of the country is now managed by community conservancies and an increasing number of private landowners are shifting to tourism.

One of last year’s big profile openings was Omaanda Lodge, a first foray into safari by Belgian-born hotelier Arnaud Zannier. An hour’s drive from Nambia’s international entry point Windhoek, the fenced 9,000-hectare private Zannier Reserve neighbours Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, run by conservationists Marlice and Rudie van Vuuren. The charity’s latest project, the Shiloh Wildlife Sanctuary, was set up by the couple’s friend Angelina Jolie to care for orphaned elephants and rhinos. When the Hollywood actress became aware that adjacent farmland was for sale, she urged the Zannier family to get involved.

A luxurious lodge of 10 hand-thatched, adobe-walled huts is now a vital part of the Naankuse story, with the reserve providing a stepping stone into the wild for rehabilitated animals. But the mountain-fringed savanna also has its permanent residents, who I meet on an afternoon game drive.

Travel Nambia Photo

Passing a mob of meerkats, who spring from their burrows like a jack-in-the-box, we go in search of “blankets” – the code name used for rhino. Emerging from a camouflage of silver-grey camphor bushes, two pregnant white rhino females make their way to a man-made watering hole.

“One more and we wouldn’t allow you to post that on Instagram,” informs my guide, Jonas, referring to the dangers of geotagging one of Africa’s most endangered animals. The cost of 24-hour security runs into thousands of dollars per month, he tells me, which explains why financial support from the private sector is of growing importance to Namibia’s anti-poaching efforts.

Another company with conservation at its heart, who are also investing heavily in Namibia, is Natural Selection. I visit two of their newest management acquisitions in Etosha Heights, a former hunting concession on the southwest border of Etosha National Park, a sprawling game reserve in the northwest, equal in size to Israel.

Built 10 years ago, Etosha Mountain Lodge is a collection of seven wood-panelled villas hugging a hilltop, with 180-degree views begging to be photographed at every hour of the day. More modern, the revamped 11-chalet Safarihoek features a convivial open-air bar and dining area, with equally splendid panoramas of the plains. Both operate game drives in the 60,000-hectare reserve, and with rates starting from around £200 per night, they offer one of the best value safaris in Africa.

The immediately surrounding acacia scrubland is streaked with brilliant-white calcium carbonate trails and glinting dolomite rocks; it soon leads to grasslands baked blonde by the sun, which beam brightly even on overcast days.

Not far from our early morning explosion of quelea birds, two bat-eared foxes appear from their den, bathed in a buttercup light. We watch them guard their young fervently, chasing off an opportunistic jackal who dares to come too close.

Travel Nambia Photo

Around us, shepherd’s trees sag with gargantuan sociable weaver nests, which tug at their twiggy crooks and laden the boughs like a leaden toupee; while at our feet, frenetic ground squirrels ricochet like pinballs, calling game over by disappearing into their holes.

No branch or burrow goes to waste; everyone has learned to make use of available resources.

Although fenced to prevent the potential transmission of diseases, there are pockets along the reserve’s 70km border with Etosha, where animals can easily break through. There’s even talk of creating direct access to the park sometime in the future, cutting down the current journey time of 90-minutes each way to the nearest official gate. Although Namibian red tape can be thicker than most.

Besides, there’s enough game in this private area to keep guests amused, minus the self-drive crowds leap-frogging between Etosha’s water holes and with the bonus of being able to drive off-road.

Travel Nambia Photo

Testing the strength of our 4×4’s tyres, we tussle with dense, thorny acacia bushes to catch glimpses of black rhinos, and we spend hours in the company of laid-back elephants as they shower themselves with dust.

Cats are also pussy-footing around the reserve, scoping out a potential new home. During my stay, a lone male lion makes a kill outside Safarihoek’s photographic hide, his conspicuous drag marks leading us to his lair beneath a bush.

Travel Nambia Photo

But his snarling behaviour in defence of his hard-earned prey is a reminder that the transition from a hunting lodge to safari camp cannot happen overnight.

That’s especially the case with antelopes, who were the main quarry for hunters. Stocked in large numbers for that very purpose, they still have a dominant presence, but, understandably, many are on high alert.

Sitting still in silence, we watch a herd of muscular eland saunter over the horizon, their hulking, boxy shoulders broader than a team of an NFL American football players. Numbering more than 50, it’s a formidable sight.

Once alerted to our presence, however, they vanish in a storm of dust, hooves thundering louder than a cavalry bidding retreat.

“Trust takes time,” my guide, Matthias, assures me. And in a world fraught with dangers, you need be careful about who you trust.

It’s a survival instinct that keeps Namibia’s wildlife wild.


How to get there

Cox & Kings (coxandkings.co.uk) offer a private self-drive 13 days/10 nights Highlights of Namibia tour from £5,365pp (two sharing), staying at Omaanda Lodge, Etosha Heights Safarihoek Lodge and Etosha Heights Lodge. Price includes international flights from London, car hire, the services of a private guide and some meals.

Travel Nambia Photo

Sell Or Add Value To Your Home? Phil Spencer Shares Some Top Tips

Phil Spencer photo

Whether you’re thinking longer term or considering putting your property on the market soon, TV’s Phil Spencer has some advice. By Vicky Shaw.

Here, TV property expert Phil Spencer, shares his insight into current housing trends, as well as the property pitfalls to watch out for…

“I’ve been involved in the housing market for over 25 years and, as with all things, there are trends. There are elements of fashion and, as with clothing, fashion changes, so be careful of that and don’t go too far out on a limb.

“There was a trend for open plan and generally opening things out, but I’d say that’s changing again.

“More en-suite bathrooms have been prioritised recently. They take up more space and don’t always add huge amounts of value when re-selling, so it will be interesting to see if this lasts. Pantries and larders are also on the up, as we crave more and more space.”

sold board

What do home owners need to be mindful of when thinking about making improvements – are there pitfalls to watch out for?

“Simply put – bad DIY. It’s obvious when somethings been done cheaply, we should all be mindful of that. You also need to be realistic with the space you’ve got. Every property has a ceiling price and as long as you’re aware of that, then you’re good.

“I would say you need to be consistent. I’ve seen expensive bathrooms in cheap houses and it can look very out of place. Always match the price bracket of fittings to that of the house.

“Also, not to make things too personal to you and your taste and lifestyle. If you’re doing it for you, great, but if you want to re-sell be careful. You always need to appeal to the largest possible denominator – there is a reason people use magnolia!”

What should home owners bear in mind when considering whether to move or improve?

Forexpert advice on your property valuation and top selling tips, go the McCarthy Holden home page and click on valuation, for a free no obligation property appraisal.

Ask An Expert: Why Is My Toddler More Interested In The Christmas Packaging?

A psychologist tells Lisa Salmon why children often like the box more than the toy.

My two-year-old son plays with the Christmas boxes and wrapping paper more than his presents. Why does he love the packaging so much?

Dr Shona Goodall, a clinical psychologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital who has appeared on Channel 4’s Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, says: “Many of us have spent a small fortune on Christmas presents only for our toddlers to seemingly push them aside in favour of the cardboard boxes or wrapping. But Christmas packaging has more benefits for children than you might realise.

“Children of this age tend to take a great deal of interest in packaging at Christmas because removing it is often the first thing we encourage them to do. The sensory sound of the ripping noise is a quick win for them to master – it improves their hand-eye coordination and strengthens their finger pincer grip.

Childe in Christmas box

“Free (but safely supervised) play with packaging therefore offers a blank canvas to explore what they can do with the paper and boxes at their developmental stage and get creative and learn, without fear of getting it wrong.

“Playing with packaging can have other beneficial effects on their development too – it can help your son instigate positive behaviours like recycling.

“Young children love to copy at this age – you might have noticed your son will often look at you right before he’s about to do something. Caregivers attune to their child’s responses and assist them to make sense of the world, and research has shown praise will positively reinforce them to do it again.

Child in cardboard box

“By encouraging the behaviour you want to see more of, such as putting something in the bin or recycling, you can lay a fantastic foundation upon which to teach him about sustainability. That’s your chance to chat through some of the materials being played with to educate him about where they come from and where they could go next.

“So, playing with packaging will not only aid your son’s development, but also sow the seeds for him to learn all about recycling and sustainability for both your children and future generations”

For more on cardboard packaging, visit Beyond the Box

Dr Shona Goodall
Dr Shona Goodall - Interveiwed by Lisa Salmon, Press Association

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

6 Alternative Christmas Trees For Small Spaces

alternative Christmas trees

Hannah Stephenson shares some dinky options for space-starved homes - or anyone who can't face the faff of a full-size tree.

Bit short of space? Can’t fit a big Christmas tree into your home, but still want something natural-looking to replace it?

Well, good news. There are wall hangings, houseplants and smaller potted trees that’ll do the job nicely and bring some festive sparkle into your home, even if you live in the smallest space with just a little walk-round room.

So, what are the options?

alternative Christmas trees

1. Nordic Rope Ladder Hanging Christmas Tree, £20, notonthehighstreet.com

A minimalist yet rustic alternative to the classic Christmas tree, this hanging tree is only 80cm tall and can be tucked up neatly against a wall. Add baubles of your choice and drape it with fairy lights to bring it to life. A great choice for those with very tight space to work with, anyone who can’t ‘cope’ with pine needles – or to decorate other areas of the home.

The wooden slats are rounded natural twigs from the bayur tree, making all of these unique.

alternative Christmas trees

2. Mini Letterbox Christmas Tree, from £32, BloomAndWild.com

A survey commissioned by Bloom & Wild found that people are downsizing their trees in a bid to cut down on costs and needle dropping – with 79% of those quizzed saying they’re opting for a smaller tree this year, while 65% of millennials will be buying a cheaper option, without sacrificing the ‘Instagram-worthy’ tradition of buying one completely.

Their mini letterbox trees, which are real and rooted, arrive with decorations, lights and a pop-up pot in a letterbox-fitting box, and can be planted in the garden after Christmas.

alternative Christmas trees

3. Mini Christmas Tree Trio, £25, Marks and Spencer

If you only have space to spare on your windowsill, this trio of frosted mini trees, in winter embossed tin containers, would make a classy edition. You’ll ideally need to place them in a cool position with some natural light and, while they’re fine kept indoors for a few weeks, after that you’ll need to move them outdoors if you want them to survive, and plant them either in a patio container or the garden. Once you’ve done that, they should continue to thrive (you’ll want to make sure the compost never totally dries out but don’t let the tree get waterlogged either, and adding some plant food to their water between late spring and early autumn is advised).

alternative Christmas trees

4. Houseplants (Luxury Basket £30), Wyevale Garden Centres

Who says it has to be a Christmas tree? There are other ways to bring some festive greenery into the home, including houseplants. If you have the space, consider gathering some houseplants together, with some white specimens, such as orchids and lilies, to create a ‘frosted’ look. You could also go for a red and green arrangement to give a room a traditional festive feel, and go as big or small as you like.

alternative Christmas trees

5. Plant Terrarium, £66.99, crocus.co.uk

Terrariums have become the must-have addition to living areas, and if you haven’t the space for a tree then you could consider planting a feast of festive plants in one of these glass enclosures instead, which should keep going beyond New Year.

Once you’ve had enough of them, you can easily change the style by swapping in new plants next year. This one’s produced from sheet glass and brass, with an antique bronze finish.

alternative Christmas trees

6. Pot-grown Tree, from £20, Wyevale Garden Centres

Eco-friendly gardeners may prefer a smaller version of the traditional Christmas tree. They can look superb – and this one is pot-grown, so can be planted in the garden afterwards.

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

Are you a DIY Dodger? Join the Ever Growing Club?

From leaky taps to holey walls, a new survey suggests we'd rather put up with problems than attempt to fix them ourselves. Abi Jackson finds out more.

avoiding diy top tips

Have we lost our DIY mojo? OK, so some of us never had any desire or inclination to get handy with the hammers and paintbrushes to begin with, and wouldn’t have a scooby when it comes to spanners and spirit levels – but there was a time when every household had an overflowing toolbox, maybe a workbench in the shed or garage, and the will and know-how to tackle at least those ‘safe and simple’ DIY tasks.

This may no longer be the case, though, as many of us are now certified DIY-dodgers, according to a new survey by glass specialist Pilkington (pilkington.com/en-gb/uk).

avoiding diy top tips

Broken toilets, damaged walls and leaky taps top the list of tasks we just can’t seem to get around to tackling, the poll of 2,000 UK homeowners found, with 21% of respondents admitting they were ‘happy’ to live with holes in their walls, rather than attempting to fix them. Meanwhile, 17% said they put up with dripping taps, and 14% confessed to living with a malfunctioning toilet! Broken door handles, it seems, are a DIY job 12.5% are happy to dodge.

I’ll get round to it one day…

Of course, if you don’t have any DIY experience, it’s understandable that the idea of tackling such tasks might be overwhelming – but why are we losing the motivation to do-it-ourselves?

avoiding diy top tips

According to the Pilkington poll, laziness, poor skills and lack of time are among the most common excuses, with 41% saying they’ll get the jobs done eventually (we all know this can go on for years!). A further 26% admit they haven’t fixed an issue because they’ve simply got used to living with it, while 21% confess they don’t know how to tackle the task. Almost half (40%) said they’d rather call in the professionals to get the job done.

“We used to be a nation of proud DIY-ers, but it seems the pace of modern life has left us with little time to get around to fixing those all-important jobs,” says Pilkington’s brand and communications manager, Julia Berkin. “Rather than spending time on home projects, homeowners are instead looking to the experts to help with renovations, and relying on innovative products that make their lives easier.”

avoiding diy top tips

Should we ditch the DIY dread?

To be fair, sometimes time really is short and there’s no rule that says we have to add ‘DIY expert’ to our ever-expanding lists of demands. Plus, if a job really would be better handled by a professional, well, that’s what they’re there for, right?

But that said, if we’re totally honest, procrastination and laziness are often the main culprits in why we aren’t getting things done ourselves, and many DIY tasks might actually be a lot simpler than you think (not to mention a lot cheaper to tackle yourself).

avoiding diy top tips

5 simple steps for repairing a hole in a plastered wall

Want to buck the trend and get on board with DIY? To help, we asked the pros at Homebase (homebase.co.uk) to talk us through one of the nation’s apparently most-dodged DIY job: Filling in holey walls…

  1. Preparing the damaged area

Use a bolster chisel and club hammer to remove all loose material around the area to be patched, and undercut the edges. Once this is complete, wire brush the brickwork to remove all traces of loose material.

  1. Mixing the new plaster

Mix the plaster according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a gauging trowel to sprinkle the plaster powder into the water, while stirring with a clean stick. When the plaster is thick and creamy without lumps, turn it onto a dampened board. Helpful hint: To prevent lumps from forming, always add the plaster to the water and not the water to the plaster.

  1. Filling the patch with plaster

Once the new plaster is ready to use, thoroughly dampen the area of the wall that needs to be patched. Use a plastering trowel to slide a good amount of the mixture onto the plasterer’s hawk. Standing close to the patch, tilt the hawk towards you and, with a continuous movement, lift half the plaster onto the trowel.

Hold the trowel horizontally but slightly angled towards the wall. Press the plaster into the patch and move the trowel up the wall, gradually flattening it. Avoid flattening the trowel against the wall as this is causes suction and pulls the plaster off the wall. Repeat this process until the patch is slightly overfilled, but don’t overwork the plaster, as this weakens it and makes it fall off.

  1. Smoothing off

Once the surface is covered, smooth the plaster to an even thickness, holding the trowel at a slight angle so only one edge touches the plaster at any one time.

After about 45 minutes, the plaster will start to set. Once this has happened, go over it again lightly with a dampened trowel to smooth the surface. After a further 20-30 minutes, splash the surface with cold, clean water then trowel to a fine, smooth surface. Be sure to keep the trowel damp and not to overwork the surface.

  1. Filling deep holes

If the patch in question is deep, you might need to put on two layers of plaster. To do this, apply the first layer of plaster to half the depth of the patch. When it has partially set, scratch up the surface and leave it to set fully without drying out. Apply a second coat, and repeat the process as above.

 

 

avoiding diy top tips

Want a Stylish Christmas Tree this year? These 3 Decorating Trends are Gorgeous and Easy!

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Choose between frosty, copper or emerald, says Gabrielle Fagan. A Christmas tree is the star of the celebrations, but choosing a style can be as tricky as untangling the tinsel.

But this year, banish seasonal stress by taking inspiration from these three decor themes – frosty, copper or emerald. Then add the bells and baubles, sit back and wait for the compliments.

“A Christmas tree is such a seasonal statement and nowadays isn’t just for friends and family as its style is often shared on social media, so we all want it look as beautiful and stylish as possible,” says Lee Jackson, Christmas stylist and designer for Dobbies garden centres.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

“The main influence on tree trends over the last few years can be summed up in one word – ‘craft’. The huge resurgence in activities such as needlepoint, felting, paper crafts, hand-stitching and crochet are reflected in the styles as well as the materials – from wool and wood to felt – used for tree decorations, giving them a lovely personal hand-crafted feel.

“The other influence is the Japanese craze, Kawaii, which means unashamedly cute, and that’s played a part in the popularity of cutesy woodland animals dancing across tree branches.

“Squirrels, deer, hedgehogs, stags and even mythical creatures like unicorns are all having their moment this year in the seasonal limelight.”

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Let it snow…….

“Our Snowy Forest tree trend uses lots of silver tones and snow-tipped animals to bring a midwinter landscape to life,” says Jackson of the Dobbies offering.

“A traditional colour-combo of red and white is classic, but this interpretation is fresh but simple and conjures a stylishly serene, icy winter wonderland.”

Its Enchanted Garden theme, inspired by foliage and flowers, is a little more rustic. It features a selection of wooden and fabric decorations, featuring animals and birds, starting from £2.99 each.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

STYLE TIP Create your own ‘snow storm’ with Artificial Snow, 100g bag, £2, from Hobbycraft. Simply spread glue where you want the snow to stick – on baubles and present wrapping – and sprinkle on. Follow the white and red colour theme when gift-wrapping parcels displayed under the tree and go all out with beautiful red and white ribbon and gorgeous gift tags.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Conjure a copper glow

“Our amber story – inspired by the golden tones of autumnal forests – is my absolute favourite,” said Fionnuala Johnston, senior designer, John Lewis.

“This colour theme has natural layers of beautiful tones from amber through to rich chestnut. This beautiful rustic environment full of wildlife has a cosy and warm feel, making me want to snuggle up with fur throws and mulled wine after a long walk.”

STYLE TIP Amber tones are in tune with the fashion for metallics, especially burnished copper, which adds lustre to any scheme. Shine a light with a Copper Tea Light House, £7.99, Lights4Fun and a Wired Copper Light Garland, £25, Cox & Cox. Add to the party atmosphere with a Party Fan Set (3), in copper and gold effects, £2.99, in store, Homesense.

Christmas decorating trends 2019

Go green…

“This pays a nod to the sensory haven of a tropical rain forest and the Emerald collection incorporates clear glass, feathers and tropical leaves to create a lush, luxe Christmas setting,” says Dan Cooper, Christmas buyer, John Lewis.

“Inspired by nature, these decorations feature toucans, dragonflies, snails and parrots, with succulents and moss as well, to create an enchanting festive wonderland.

“A favourite is the Banana Leaf hanger, a glass decoration shaped as an on-trend monstera leaf in a vivid green hue.”

Christmas decorating trends 2019

STYLE TIP Work stems of faux foliage into a tree to make it look fuller. Dress a mantel with a green garland: Real Christmas Garland, White & Silver, £65, John Lewis. Ramp up the luxe by treating a sofa to velvet cushions in shades of green: Plain Velvet Cushion, in Dark Spruce or Ivy, £25, John Lewis.

Christmas decorating trends 2019