Category Archives: Life Style


How to be green and stay sane


imageSarah Lonsdale tests the latest ‘eco’ products and sorts the fads from the finds. This week: an eco-makeover for an unlovely building.

The village of Over in Cambridgeshire lies exposed, like all Fenland villages, to the bitter easterlies that sweep in from the Russian steppes. Apart from a few trees, the flat semi-liquid landscape is exposed to the pitiless winds that can chill even in summer. Having grown up in the area, I still shiver at memories of seeing my breath in my bedroom on winter mornings.

The houses in Over are a typical mix of brick-built Victorian villas and mid-20th- century bungalows – rather unlovely boxes in shades of pink, yellow and grey.

One of these bungalows, however, has undergone an ugly duckling-style transformation so as to be unrecognisable. The exterior is clad in thin cedar planks ranging in hues from creamy beige to deep pink and the front façade has an almost industrial-style sawtooth roofline of three asymmetrical apexes.

Jaguar’s new F-type sports car

imageJaguar’s new two-seater sports car will be called the F-type and go on sale in the summer of 2013.

Jaguar has confirmed that its new two-seater sports car, due to be launched in the summer of 2013, will be called the F-type.

The announcement was made at the New York Auto Show, with the decision to build the car coming after the C-X16 prototype received such positive feedback.

Speaking at New York Adrian Hallmark, Jaguar’s Global Brand Director, said: "We showed the C-X16 concept in September 2011, and the reaction to it has been so positive that we’ve accelerated our development of an all-new Jaguar sports car.

"That car will be called the F-type, and it will be unveiled in production form later this year."

The aim of the F-type, said Hallmark, was to make Jaguar a world-leader in a market it had been absent from for too long.

Get the best out of your sweet peas

imageHow to grow beautiful, long-lasting sweet peas without too much hard work .

I have always thought that sweet peas are hard work. An expert exhibitor once told me that he dug his trenches 4ft deep before planting, and that non-stop deadheading was essential. To me, the frenzy of pink froth did not seem to justify all this effort.

A couple of years ago, however, I decided that I really should try again; we are frequently asked about sweet peas on Gardeners’ Question Time and I loathe giving theoretical answers.

I am not a fan of deep digging, and the soil depth in my garden is 50mm before it hits limestone brash. I wanted pyramids of sweet peas beside a yew hedge, and I knew this patch would be full of yew roots and dry as dust. Instead, I put three mini plants in a chimney pot, full of rich compost, directly on the soil, and gave them two gallons of water each, once a week.

Time to buy property in America

imageAmerican property prices are finally on the way back up. Move now to bag the best bargains, says Graham Norwood

Say it softly. But after years of misery, it looks as if the housing market across the pond is at long last making a comeback. If you’ve ever dreamt of owning a Florida holiday villa, or a chic Sex and the City-style New York apartment, it might be wise to buy it soon.

The latest figures show the first green shoots for the wider economy and a housing recovery. In the past six months, 1.9 million American jobs have been created, and unemployment is down from 10.4 per cent to 8.3 per cent. Economic growth is running at an annual 2.8 per cent. The car industry, often seen as a good barometer, is booming – General Motors sold 640,000 more vehicles last year than in 2010.

This is beginning to translate into optimism in the housing market. One builder, MDC Holdings, has reported a 32 per cent rise in orders for new houses. Another, Beazer Homes, predicts more orders in 2012 than in 2011.

Beautiful Flower Garden for Spring

imageThis spring make your garden look the most beautiful with the ideal flowers and plants. You can look after your garden and make it look like a true heaven if you keep in mind some basic steps of gardening and rules for spring gardening. Spring season is a much awaited season and this spring; turn your garden into a beauty.

With the end of winters, what most of us are looking forward to, is the spring season. The time of the year when nature’s beauty is at its peak is something worth enjoying. You can make the spring season even more fun and enjoyable by working on your spring garden this time and planting your favorite flowers in your spring garden. The spring gardens are always a pleasure to look at and it is a worldwide fact that there is no comparison of natural beauty with any other beauty. So why not create your own little heaven this spring?

2012 Geneva Motor Show: Jaguar Introduces The All New Jaguar XF Sportbrake

imageDesigned and developed on the much famed Jaguar XF saloon model, one of the biggest manufacturers of luxury cars, Jaguar Cars Ltd., has now unveiled its latest offering in the form of the all new Jaguar XF Sportbrake. This spectacular new luxury Jaguar car is slated to make a grand appearance at the upcoming 2012 Geneva Motor Show and has been conceived as complete luxury family car. To ensure maximum performance, Jaguar XF Sportbrake has been provided with a state of art self-leveling air suspension that keeps the car leveled even when fully laden with cargo. Furthermore, as an enhanced security feature, Jaguar has installed adaptive cruise control that essentially maintains a pre-set speed for the vehicle and even monitors the surrounding cars for immediate and effective braking.

Accumulation Plan and Investment Property

imageThe plans for capital accumulation are forms of investment that may have different specific purposes, but these tend to be construed as intended to give rise to a capital that can grow with the passage of time without requiring an excessive outlay. Moreover, this sum may be set aside to counter an expected expenditure in the future (from a car to a building, through the college expenses for their children).
One wonders at this point what the correct amount to be paid. The amount may be varied, depending on your abilities and your goals.

The Queen’s cars on display at Goodwood

imageThe Goodwood Festival of Speed will be home to an exceptional gathering of vehicles to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee forms the inspiration for a spectacular gathering of vehicles at this summer’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.

The event’s Cartier Style et Luxe concours d’elegance display will this year be focused on vehicles that have been personally owned or used by the Queen in a collection that has never before been seen together in public.

Premium Home and Garden Ideas

imageThe connection between home and garden is like and unbreakable vow where both complement each other. The garden interior is a portrayal of your lifestyle and preference since it is the first element noticed by guests. So the decor of your home and garden will represent your taste. It is not a compulsion to have the best garden interior with a large space occupied rather just a small place can also provide the same comfort.

What we’re driving: Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS

imageIt’s being superseded by an all-new model, but the previous 997-series 911 is still a force to be reckoned with.

The 911 is the Marmite of the car world – you either love it or hate it. From being the occasionally scary darling of enthusiast drivers everywhere, it became a symbol of 1980s excess and subsequently has been considered a bit flash, although there’s always a sneaking admiration for Porsche’s engineering-led approach and constant improvements honed on racetracks around the world.

Decorate your Apartment Balcony Just the Way you Want

imageIt’s always a challenge what to do with the rented apartment’s balcony. If you want some spice in your house and don’t want to make your balcony look like the runt of litter, follow our useful tips to decorate the apartment balcony. Now, you wouldn’t have to leave it like storage for bikes or just the milk crates. All you need is a tinge of imagination to decorate a small balcony which can be turned into a simple seating area with some fresh-looking plants.

Property Management: Fair Housing and Tenant

imageTo succeed in your career in property management, you’ll need at least a working knowledge of Fair Housing and Landlord. Fair Housing basically protects consumers against discrimination based on things like race, sex, creed. It also has provisions that, unless the community is a community of older adults (55 and over), then the units must be available to be rented to people with children.

Chiang Mai Real Estate

imageBuying real estate in Chiang Mai may be an excellent investment when you are considering retirement in Thailand. Chiang Mai has become a hub of activity for expats who wish to retire out of the rat race and to the countryside. Speak ot us today!

The Thai government will be investing billions in the infrastructure of Chiang Mai over the next few years. There are currently 5 major property and developmetal projects in Chiang Mai estimated to be well over USD 500 million in value. These include an international exhibition and convention centre project on a piece of land covering over 300 rai (about 120 acres). There is also a development project for road expansion to facilitate agricultural transport, a logistics system and a project to improve a local bus terminal in the provincial seat to support millions of incoming tourists.

Mercedes B-class review

imageMercedes’ new-look B-class has the style of its swankier siblings, but watch out for the ride.

Since my leisure activities involve muddy dogs, greasy car bits, salty boat bits, oil paints and large packages of ill-defined proportions, and exclude advanced chef-ing, d’hôtels des Posh and cashmere V-necks in delicate pastel colours, I’m not really a target customer for a Mercedes-Benz saloon. The life, suggested by these southern German cars, of plutocratic luxury combined with ravening business ethics and perhaps even paid staff has never particularly appealed.

Perhaps it’s for that reason that I have always had a soft spot for the Mercedes B-class, a compact Multi Purpose Vehicle built for people like me. The compact MPV was once Europe’s most popular C-segment model derivative, although they’ve now been overtaken by the dubious charms of the compact Sport Utility Vehicle. By contrast, MPVs are genuinely useful; big enough for arduous family duties, practical enough to look good dirty and with lots of space and flexibility.

Premium Home and Garden Ideas

imageThe connection between home and garden is like and unbreakable vow where both complement each other. The garden interior is a portrayal of your lifestyle and preference since it is the first element noticed by guests. So the decor of your home and garden will represent your taste. It is not a compulsion to have the best garden interior with a large space occupied rather just a small place can also provide the same comfort.

You can give your home and garden a composed and decent look by using sober decor for the garden interior. Conversely, the opposite for your home and garden could be true if you use a mix of vibrant colors like red, blue, green for your garden interior.

Happiness is a shed of one’s own

imageFrancine Raymond explores the joys of a haven at the bottom of the garden

Home improvement? Life improvement is perhaps a more fitting description for garden sheds. From Wendy house to tree house, from tool shed to allotment hideaway, it seems that throughout our lives we all need a space of our own at the bottom of the garden.

Eco-improving period property

imageSarah Lonsdale tests the latest ‘eco’ products and sorts the fads from the finds. This week: eco-improving period homes

It’s all very well eco-improving architecturally uninteresting homes. With apologies to residents of bungalows and houses built in the Seventies and Eighties, these often uninspiring boxes don’t look any worse – and usually look better – for extra cladding, new windows and altered rooflines.

But the vast majority of our housing stock is older, and considerably more beautiful. How do you eco-improve a period home in a conservation area without annoying the neighbours, falling foul of planners or desecrating a lovely streetscape? Yet rising fuel bills and concern for the environment are inspiring home owners to take the plunge with historic buildings in sensitive locations.

Mr Money: the real Car of the Year

imageTelegraph Motoring’s Mr Money, Mike Rutherford, considers the finalists for the World Car of the Year.

There’s been all sorts of fun and games in Geneva over the last few days concerning what can loosely be described as the best on-sale cars on the planet. Just to be clear, unlike much of the futuristic mental concept metal you’ll see on the pages of Motoring this week, I’m talking here about the models that are actually in the showrooms already, available and ready to be bought and driven away by real-world customers.

Sales of luxe doomsday bunkers up 1,000%

imageNEW YORK (CNNMoney) — A devastating earthquake strikes Japan. A massive tsunami kills thousands. Fears of a nuclear meltdown run rampant. Bloodshed and violence escalate in Libya.

And U.S. companies selling doomsday bunkers are seeing sales skyrocket anywhere from 20% to 1,000%.

Northwest Shelter Systems, which offers shelters ranging in price from $200,000 to $20 million, has seen sales surge 70% since the uprisings in the Middle East, with the Japanese earthquake only spurring further interest. In hard numbers, that’s 12 shelters already booked when the company normally sells four shelters per year.

Thorny problems: the green invader

imageHelen Yemm answers your questions on liverwort, yellow geranium and more.

Low-spreading liverwort

My garden has recently become infested with a very low-spreading green invader. I don’t think it is helxine (Soleirolia soleirolii), aka mind-your-own-business, as mine doesn’t look tufty or like anything you would want growing in your house. It seems to hold the same territory as moss, and I have therefore been working hard to improve the soil with loads of home-made compost. Have you any ideas or words of comfort?

VMware Computer SW

Buy Now!

Destined to be unveiled at the next month’s New York Auto Show, the C63 AMG Coupe is essentially a 2012 C63 AMG sedan unburdened of a couple of doors. Either way, you’re looking at Affalterbach’s prized 6.2-liter V8 engine driving 451 horsepower (481 with the optional AMG Development pack) to the rear wheels via a seven-speed Speedshift MCT gearbox. Expect a 4.4-second sprint to sixty and an electronically-limited 155 mph top end in stock trim, or 4.3 seconds and 174 mph in AMG Development spec.

Sarah Lonsdale: How to be green and stay sane

imageThis week: how happy are eco home owners?

Are Britons falling in love with eco homes? It’s something everyone involved with housing wants to know. Increasingly stiff building regulations coming into force over the next few years mean developers face ruin unless buyers are attracted to highly insulated homes full of eco-tech like solar panels and heat recovery ventilation.

Until now, the signs weren’t good: homebuyer surveys found stubborn resistance to the design and concept of eco homes, despite promises of vastly lower fuel bills. But that is starting to change, according to a report published last month, which surveyed occupants of eco homes built within the past three years, and older homes.


Geneva motor show 2012: Morgan

imageMorgan has three new models to show off at the Geneva motor show, including the world’s first electric car with a manual gearbox.

Time was when you saw a new Morgan once a decade, these days it’s more like once a fortnight.

Chief designer Matt Humphries has done a fine job in widening the roadster body to stretch over the Plus 8 bonded aluminium-alloy chassis and 390bhp, 4.8-litre BMW V8. And stretch is the word – there’s just enough room for a little finger between the cam cover and the scuttle.

Warm up your greenhouse

imageAs you prepare to jump-start your garden, use tricks that protect your plants and save fuel at the same time, says Bunny Guinness Burning furniture to keep your greenhouse warm could be seen as rather extreme. But when last year’s big freeze coincided with an oil crisis, specialist herb grower Jekka McVicar had to sacrifice all her house and oven heating over Christmas to keep her precious stock alive in the greenhouse until the oil tanker could get to her in rural South Gloucestershire to refuel. As the greenhouse plants in question were for my M & G Chelsea garden, I was exceptionally grateful.

French living: Jacqueline Morabito’s home in Provence

imageInterior designer Jacqueline Morabito’s whitewashed house in Provence, France provides the backdrop for her meticulously considered design.

Consider Jacqueline Morabito’s pared-down 18th-century house in Provence, where everything from the degree of rust on the kitchen stools to the positioning of a poetry book on the coffee table has been meticulously thought through, and you feel your own dishevelment scream out like a badly behaved English child in a French restaurant. ‘I think about everything from the smallest detail to the biggest gesture,’ Morabito says. ‘These things cannot be separated.’

Mini Roadster review Two seats, unlimited headroom and bumper car looks, but is the Mini Roadster really a sports car?

imageThe petrol engine is the BMW/PSA 1.6-litre four-cylinder with a twin-scroll turbo, in three power outputs; 120bhp/49.6mpg (EU Combined) in £18,015 Cooper form, 181bhp/47.1mpg in this £20,900 Cooper S, or 208bhp/38.7mpg in the £24,850 John Cooper Works (JCW). The Cooper D diesel has BMW’s 141bhp/62.8mpg, 2.0-litre turbo unit and costs £21,630. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with a £1,135 to £1,275 optional six-speed automatic on all but the JCW model.



Where a property is held by a couple (whether they are married or simply living together) as Joint Tenants, upon the death of the first the property will automatically pass to the survivor. The share of the one who dies will not form part of his or her Estate and will not be affected by the terms of any Will. In effect both parties own the whole property rather than a divisible share, which is why on the death of one of the Joint Tenants the property belongs wholly to the survivor.


This year’s Home and Garden Show will feature TV personality and author Steve Katkowsky, to lead seminars on how to make the most of small indoor spaces, and the “Green Building Institute” will be on hand to answer questions on how to make your home more “green.” More than 400 exhibitors in the home and garden field will be displaying their products, and offering their services, and over 100 crafters will be selling everything from pottery, to jewelry, to photographs, and designer homemade candles.

Activities for Adults and Kids:

Habitat for Humanity will be raffling off a playhouse to raise money, and providing a place to paint and build your own birdhouse (kits will also be available for purchase – great for the kids!).

The Maryland Fall Craft Show: 100 Crafters under one roof, with creative and unique gifts. Check them out to knock a little holiday shopping off your list a early!

400 Exhibitors: A huge variety of Landscapers, Interior Designers, and Home Construction companies, will all be available for questions and answers on all your tough home and garden topics.

Complimentary Design Consultation: The American Society of Interior Designers will be offering free 20 minute consultations about paint, fabric, and furniture choices and arrangement. Take advantage of a seasoned and professional eye, and bring some photos of your home to get advice on your home’s décor and style.

Go Green: Get the latest news on “green” home techniques, and products from the Green Building Institute.

Better Living Exhibits: From Health and Beauty, to making the best of a vacation, enjoy dozens of exhibits designed to help you live a better life now!

The Balloon Garden: 600 square feet of imaginative garden space constructed entirely of balloons.

Marler Haley

With Portuguese youth unemployment running at more than 25 per cent and one in 10 graduates leaving the country, you might have thought that the Mini launch presentation in Lisbon would have had its normal orgiastic obsession with the gorgeously minted yoof of Mediterranean café society hanging out in their Minis tactfully toned down.

Geneva motor show 2012: Ferrari’s F12berlinetta


Ferrari reveals 211mph, 730bhp F12berlinetta ahead of next week’s Geneva motor show.

Ferrari has taken the wraps off its “most powerful and high-performance” road car ever ahead of next week’s Geneva motor show.

The mid-front-engined F12berlinetta is powered by the latest development of Ferrari’s naturally aspirated 6,262cc V12 engine, which now develops 730bhp at 8,500rpm and 509lb ft of torque at 6,000rpm (80 per cent of which is said to be available from 2,500rpm). The V12 is mated to Ferrari’s F1 dual-clutch paddle-shift gearbox and driven through the rear wheels.

Grow your own spirit of community

How to maximise your fruit and veg and share the surplus with friends and family.

Iwas recently chatting to a friend who also rears his own meat about the great advantages of the “nose to tail” eating of our animals – using up every scrap in different and delicious ways – and it got me thinking that we certainly do not always do that with our fruit and veg.

A glut of fresh vegetables from the garden can get on top of you, leading to wastage. We spend time selecting the best varieties, sowing them, tending them, but are not always efficient about using them.

Rising number of landlords making a loss on their buy-to-let property

Rents may have risen in the private sector over the last year, but professional landlords are feeling the pinch.

The latest findings from the BDRC Continental quarterly Landlords Panel research reveals the biggest rise in the number of portfolio landlords making a loss since the Landlords Panel began in 2006.

The research shows that in the fourth quarter of 2011, the number of ‘portfolio landlords’ – those with 20 or more properties – who reported making a loss rose from just 1pc in the third quarter of 2011, to 8pc in the last quarter of the year.

Geneva motor show 2012: Range Rover’s Evoque Convertible

imageLand Rover has taken the wraps off its new Evoque Convertible concept ahead of the Geneva motor show.

“The world’s first premium convertible SUV” is how Land Rover is describing its Evoque Convertible concept car, which will make its debut at next week’s Geneva motor show.

Based on the three-door Evoque, the convertible features a fully retractable fabric roof with a roll-over protection system, four seats and a drop down tailgate. Land Rover claims that it has done all of this with minimal changes to the car’s weight and torsional rigidity.

From hairdresser to property enthusiast: a new style that turns heads

imageA hairdresser with a flair for renovation tells Zoe Dare Hall about doing up homes from rural England to Tuscany

As the founder of the Mahogany hairdressing chain, which has counted Samantha Cameron, Cheryl Cole and Greta Scaachi as clients, Richard Thompson has made some striking statements with his curling tongs.

But in the past 15 years, as his hair business has grown to include branches in London, Oxford, Bath and Manchester, Thompson has found another outlet for his creativity: property renovations. These have proven equally popular with celebrities, and include a penthouse in an old Highbury match factory, which Richard sold to the Alan Davies, the comedian, and a Georgian house in Hampstead that was bought by the singer David Gray.

Galanthophiles unite: in love with snowdrops

imageSnowdrops were love at first sight for Val Bourne, who was transfixed by their elegant pearl-drop flowers and soon on her way to becoming a collector.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote about the primrose path of dalliance leading to a dissolute, if somewhat pleasant excess. However, my road to ruin has been lined by the snowdrop. It all began innocently enough 18 years ago when I read about a honey-scented snowdrop called ‘S. Arnott’. It was large and elegant, like the pearl-drop earring in the famous 17th-century painting by Vermeer, and I made up my mind to buy one. Then serendipity (a series of agreeable coincidences) took over. Within a year I was a serious galanthophile trapped under the spell.

Home renovations: restoring heritage properties

imageRestoring a heritage building requires unwavering faith, but the results can be heavenly. Genevieve Fox meets two visionary homeowners who’ve taken on the renovation challenge and won.

It breaks the heart to see them. Hidden away in city centres, standing in the middle of the countryside, or lurking in dark woods, wrecks are out there, wanting someone to love them. They come in hundreds of different forms: abandoned follies, ruined churches or deserted lighthouses. But they all have one thing in common: potential.

Growing Basil In Your Home Garden

imageGrowing basil is easy, cheap and easy, provided you have the right conditions. There are many different types and varieties of basil that can grow in your garden, basil, often used in Italian cuisine, more exotic varieties such as basil, with its dark purple leaves. To find the type of soil with adequate water, sunlight, and care of your garden will flourish with little effort, no matter what kind of basil you choose to grow. Before you know it, you will be healthy cooking fresh pesto and pasta dishes with your own basil that grew and harvested.

Geneva motor show 2012: Citroën’s DS4 Racing concept

imageThe Citroën DS4 Racing Concept is set to make its debut at March’s Geneva motor show.

French car-maker Citroën will present a high performance “Racing” version of its DS4 crossover at March’s Geneva motor show.

Despite its name, this hot hatch is in fact a road car, albeit one that has benefited from the knowledge of Citroën’s Racing engineers, who have tweaked the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine to produce 256bhp – a record for a Citroën production car.

Living a Prolific Lifestyle

imageOne thinvg that I push my readers to experience is living proactively instead of reactively. A prolific lifestyle is one where you create your own opportunity, you take responsibility for your life and you go into your world and shape it into what you want it to be. A reactive lifestyle is just the opposite; you go out into the world and wait for life to interact with you, then you just react to each stimulus as it comes. People who live prolifically are more satisfied with their life, and I’ll tell you why.

The romance of a railway home

imageFor one couple renovating a train station was a labour of love, finds Jake Wallis Simons.

It all started in Victorian times. “One of my forebears was the stationmaster of King’s Cross Station,” says Anna Gudge. “It was a prestige job in those days. He used to wear a top hat and tails, and roll out the red carpet for the Queen. He became a big part of family folklore.”

Happiness is a shed of one’s own

imageFrancine Raymond explores the joys of a haven at the bottom of the garden

Home improvement? Life improvement is perhaps a more fitting description for garden sheds. From Wendy house to tree house, from tool shed to allotment hideaway, it seems that throughout our lives we all need a space of our own at the bottom of the garden.

Anyone would think it was the panacea for all human ills. Literature with titles such as A Shed of One’s Own: Midlife Without the Crisis, Shed Men, and Shedworking: the Alternative Workplace Revolution leaves you in little doubt.

Looking for a long-term fix

imageMaria Fitzpatrick asks five experts for their home improvement advice

What’s in a name? Not much if you are Volkswagen, which trades model names like Top Trumps. As from this year, the 39-year-old Passat name graces the rumps of two entirely separate models, the first in Europe, the second in North America and the Far East. The larger American Passat is built at VW’s new Chattanooga plant in Tennessee, whereas European Passats continue to be built in Emden, Germany.

Instant winter colour: hot gardening pots

imageSimple winter containers are a great way to brighten the gloom, says Ed Cumming.

Much of the country is recovering from snow, and gardens are drab and brown. It’s the perfect time to spruce things up with some instant winter colour. A few well-chosen containers can tide things over until spring. Though many garden centres offer pre-planted versions, nothing beats making your own from scratch. A pot, some evergreen foliage and a couple of trays of colourful bulbs or bedding plants are all you need.

Wego Travel Search

Wego Travel Search

Wego is the leading travel search site in the Asia Pacific and Middle East. Available in more than 50 localised country sites and 30 languages, Wego searches hundreds of global travel websites including airlines, hotel chains and online travel agents, using powerful yet simple to use technology. We have been around since 2005 and we power travel search for various first tier players such as Yahoo!, MSN, STB &

Mail order flowers

imageMail order flowers: get ready for some colourful arrivals
Using mail order is a great way to add variety to your floral collection with minimal fuss – provided you know what to look for.

It’s always tempting to try something new – a new holiday destination, the new beaujolais. And in recent years the number of new plants appearing at mail-order nurseries seems to have become a flood; it can be hard to distinguish between what is just a “me too” version of an old favourite and what is both new and actually worth growing.

Venice: a new haven for overseas property investment

imageThe city of canals is again attracting wealthy investors. Caroline McGhie finds out why it is worth a punt.

In a troubled world, we gain solace from spiritual uplift and physical beauty. Few places have the ability to touch the heart and move minds like Venice. For decades it has been a place to visit rather than one in which to buy property, but gradually things are changing. British estate agents have developed connections there, and some big money is about to arrive. “Ocean’s nursling”, as Shelley described it, is becoming a connoisseur’s place to purchase.

Chelsea Flower Show: Telegraph garden designer Sarah Price

imageElizabeth Grice meets Sarah Price, the young designer carrying Telegraph hopes for success at Chelsea this year.

If you were pressed to associate Sarah Price with a flower it would probably be the autumn crocus: a mauve, reticent cup of colour that spears through the earth with a startling lack of warning when everything around is beginning to die back.

First-time buyers return to property market

imageFirst-time buyers made a surprise return to the housing market in January while repossessions fell to a four-year low, in some rare good news for the property market.

The number of mortgages given out in January was 58,610, an increase of 30 per cent on last January, according to chartered surveyors E.serv.

Of these loans, over 15,300 were lent on homes costing less than £125,000, the price bracket that typically attracts first-time buyers. This represents a rise of almost a third since last year, and was the highest number of mortgages given out on such properties since March 2008.

Citroen DS3 review

imageCitroën’s latest DS3 might be one model too many, says Neil Lyndon.

I am walking through a prosperous town in the south-east of England early on a Saturday evening. The young groovers are beginning to come out for their larks. A new Mini passes on the street, driven by a young man with a girl in the passenger seat. On the tail of the Mini comes an almost identical couple in a new Citroën DS3.

Tour Auto: seeing France the fast way

imageAs one of the greatest classic car events around, the Tour Auto combines action, adrenalin, stunning scenery and sumptuous lunches.

The annual Tour Auto is the most extraordinary classic car event many of you will have never heard of. Held in France for the last 20 years, it’s a loving recreation of the Tour de France Automobile, which was first run in 1899 and took competitors on a gruelling route around the country’s nascent road network in examples of the very earliest “horseless carriages”.

Grow your own cut flowers

imageBetter-looking, better for the environment and easier on your purse. Once you know how to grow your own cut flowers, you’ll never go back.

Put the current national obsession, grow-your-own, together with make-your-own and it’s not surprising that growing cut flowers and using them to make arrangements for your home is the next fast-growing hobby.

Homes in search of a character

imageYour house is in the perfect location, but it’s as ugly as sin. Fear not. A growing number of people are turning to cosmetic surgery to rejuvenate their homes

You love your house, your street, your neighbourhood. The schools are first-rate. Transport links are excellent. In short, everything’s pretty much perfect. There’s just one problem: there’s no des in your res. Your house is a carbuncle. You would sooner reverse through the front door than look at it.

Top gardeners inspire with new books

imageHow to get fired up by reading the successes and failures of gardeners.

If you are looking for a good gardening read now the cold, wet weather has set in, there are some fascinating new books on the shelves to choose from. The ones that caught my eye describe the creation of gardens by gardeners themselves. These titles are quite different to the more aspirational, picture-led gardening books, which can leave you feeling inadequate and unsatisfied. Quite the reverse, the tales of triumphs, setbacks and backaches will inspire you to start hatching plans for new projects.

As anyone who has designed a garden knows, this is a stimulating experience and one you learn a lot from. You feel there is part of you in the garden, giving you a strong bond with the place.

Fiat Panda review

imageThere’s a lot riding on Fiat’s new Panda, not least a battle of the tiddlers against the VW Up and Kia Picanto.

The phrase “Small cars, small profits” is the blunt retort credited to Edsel Ford when presented with the first proposals for the Fiesta. In the even more Lilliputian world of sub-B cars such as the Panda, or its new rivals Volkswagen’s Up or Kia’s Picanto, you need to get the production right or you can lose money on every car you sell.

Edinburgh – The 10 best northern cities to buy property

imageFive years ago the towns and cities of northern England and Scotland symbolised the UK’s bullet-proof housing market. Prices were going up almost as quickly as new flats were being built. That has all changed now, of course. The days of endless price increases are over.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. These areas contain some of the most spacious properties in the country. Large gardens are the norm not the exception, and a decent family house is the price of a Mayfair garage. After the Government this week confirmed plans for a new high-speed railway line linking London and Birmingham, the distance between north and south is set to shrink even further.

Upsides to the downturn for property investors

imageThe uncertainties facing the market in 2012 will create unexpected bargains for keen-eyed property investors. Graham Norwood explains how to make the most of the tricky year ahead. New Year resolutions tend to be about losing something from your life. Weight, cigarettes, or that third glass of wine. But canny house buyers will be doing just the opposite; using 2012’s uncertain outlook to make fresh fortunes from anticipated price cuts.

Industry pundits say values in most areas will tumble by as much as seven per cent in the year to come. This is thanks to a triple whammy of rising unemployment, public sector cuts and a weakening UK economy. Add in the effect of inflation, currently at five per cent, and the price fall could be the equivalent of 12 per cent, or £60,000 on a £500,000 home.

Green Property: Refurbishing derelict homes

imageSarah Lonsdale tests the latest ‘eco’ products and sorts the fads from the finds. This week: refurbishing derelict homes

It is a contemporary scandal of monstrous proportions. There are about two million families in this country who need homes but who are priced out of buying or renting because of a lack of supply. Yet there are thousands upon thousands of houses lying empty – nearly three quarters of a million in England alone.

In the Midlands, North East and North West, great swathes of perfectly sound Victorian terraces, in better condition than ones in Fulham or Putney that change hands for over £1m each, are standing derelict; boarded up, their roofs stripped of lead, the elements slowly doing their destructive work.

Top cars of 2012

imageThe next 12 months will see a battle of the city cars, more safety measures introduced and plenty of historic motorsport action.

After last year’s roller coaster of politics and economics, previewing 2012 is going to be about as effective as lighting a match in a gale, although there are some things I am looking forward to. Chief amongst these is the forthcoming battle of the tiddlers between Volkswagen and Fiat over their new Up and Panda models. There’s little love lost between both chief executives, Martin Winterkorn and Sergio Marchionne respectively, and the fight between the two has already got quite dirty so watch out for fireworks.

Husqvarna to emulate MINI in BMW stable

imageThe Swedish/Italian manufacturer’s new boss explains how the brand will sit in BMW’s two-wheeled portfolio.

If the new Nuda doesn’t make it entirely clear where Husqvarna is aiming to be, the hoped-for position of the brand within BMW is clear, according to German Husqvarna MD Klaus Allisat.

He says Husqvarna intends to be to the two-wheeled version of what MINI is to the BMW’s car division. But why not use the Swedish brand, with its strong pedigree in off-road competition, simply to build dirt bikes, since the S1000RR showed that BMW could muscle straight in to the superbike sector against established players and succeed using its own brand?

The Sweeney stays loyal to Ford

imageFilm remake of the 70s TV show uses the new, high-performance Ford Focus ST hatchback.

A film remake of The Sweeney will feature the new ST version of the Ford Focus

Flying Squad detectives Jack Regan and George Carter (Ray Winstone and Ben Drew taking on the roles made famous by John Thaw and Dennis Waterman) will drive the hot-hatchback as they give chase to London’s criminals.

The ST features a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine developing 247bhp. The black cars used in the filming should be rather more rapid and responsive than the cars used in the original 1970s television show. Ford’s strong link with the series saw Regan, Carter and their Flying Squad colleagues using a string of Granadas, Consuls and Cortinas as they cleaned up the mean streets of London.

Fasten your seat belts. Chelsea’s finest garden is about to take off

imageBryony Gordon visits Diarmuid Gavin’s much-talked about Irish Sky Garden.
Honestly. Anyone would think there was an ash cloud hanging over the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. I had been hoping to go up in the air in Diarmuid Gavin’s much-talked about Irish Sky Garden, but when I get there I am told that for the time being all flights are grounded. Chaos! Dismay! A sea of disappointed faces stare glumly at the flower show’s star attraction: on previous days Gavin had treated Chelsea Flower Show-goers to some pantomime cheers from the pod in the sky (and, fittingly, Christopher Biggins has been for a “flight”).

How to get a new car at a bargain price

imageMotoring writer Neil Lyndon explains how to get a new car at a bargain price.

In a period when any capital investment is likely to lose you money, it’s horrible to be forced into a major purchase. However, for those who have no choice but to buy a new car, it could hardly be a better time.

If you can walk into a showroom with unencumbered funds to spend you ought, within reason, to be able to name your own price. The salesman will smile knowingly and try to kid you that he makes his money on part-exchange deals and hire purchase, but let him see a big bunch of fifties and see how fast his expression changes.

Make a rotation plan

imageMake a rotation plan to plant vegetables in different areas every year.

If you grow vegetables, it’s very important to plant them in different areas every year – a practice called crop rotation. This discourages the build-up of soil-borne diseases and pests and also improves yields, because different crops deplete the soil in different ways.

What to remember when you buy overseas


Wherever you buy, remember these top tips for purchasing property overseas.

Try to visit the country in the off-season as well as when it looks its best

Bargain on price, especially if it is a new-build home

Ensure you get a full list of relevant fees and charges

Remember to budget for any service fees for communal areas in new schemes

If buying new, research the track record of the developer

Get an independent survey

Use an independent legal adviser who knows the country

Never sign any document you do not understand

Plan ahead and change currency for the purchase when exchange rates are most favourable

Ensure flights to your chosen location run year-round and are offered by more than one carrier

Let’s all go wild in the garden

Let nature take its course in your plot and go wild in the garden.


Just how much of this country do we devote to our gardens? More than a million acres, apparently. Imagine the impact it could have on biodiversity if we all gave up just 10 per cent of our plots to wildlife. This is the challenge that Jordans Cereals, partnered by farmer and science presenter Jimmy Doherty, is putting to the gardening community.

Top 10 property safe havens abroad

As an economic hurricane rages through traditional destinations in Europe and the US, buyers must look abroad to these top 10 property safe havens.

The euro is in crisis. Stock markets are in freefall. Two prime ministers have been sacked. Italian debt is at record levels, and Spain faces an early election tomorrow. Across the pond, America’s annual budget deficit is measured in trillions.

One by one the traditional destinations for British house-hunters are becoming badlands. Rather than stay in the quagmire, it’s time for buyers to seek new pastures. There are always safe havens if you look hard enough.

Kevin McCloud: How to build your dream home

imageThe path to creating your dream home can be fraught with peril. Kevin McCloud, king of self-build, shows Christopher Middleton how to ensure your project is successful.

People who appear on Grand Designs are always running out of things: time, or money, mostly. But however bad things look, they never seem to lack confidence.

“On the whole, people who opt for self-build don’t suffer from self-doubt,” observes Kevin McCloud, the programme’s long-standing presenter, with a wry smile. “In the 15 years we’ve been doing the programme, I can’t recall a single self-builder who has ever turned to me and asked, ‘Do you think I’m doing the right thing?’ It just doesn’t go with the territory.”

That said, given the continuing growth in self-building, and the likely relaxation in planning laws, there will be plenty of people willing to pick McCloud’s brains when he speaks at Grand Designs Live in Birmingham next week. Before the ground is broken, they’re all ears. It’s only once the project is under way, he says, that self-builders put the earplugs in and the blinkers on.

“Of course without a certain amount of self-belief, nay arrogance, none of these projects would ever be built. If people approached the construction of their own home in a spirit of fear and dithering, worrying about all the things that could go wrong, then the majority of these projects would be killed stone dead at birth.

Apple day: A celebration of core values

imageOrchards around the country are hosting apple days to encourage everyone to make the most of a bumper harvest.

Autumn is here and apples are falling from the tree. They’ve had a great summer, particularly the English varieties, and orchards around the country are hosting apple days to encourage everyone to make the most of a bumper harvest.

With commercial growers feeling the financial pinch, there is special incentive to turn a profit from the fruiting weeks. Many growers are sticking to October 21, the official “Apple Day” started in 1990 when Common Ground, a collective of growers, held a celebration in Covent Garden. Others are holding their own apple days throughout the month.

Ted Hobday is head guide at the Brogdale Fruit Collection in Kent, which grows a staggering 2,200 different varieties of apple. The farm is holding an apple festival – Britain’s largest – on October 22 and 23. “The apples are coming two or three weeks early this year,” he says, “and they don’t seem to have lost any of their flavour. The plums this year lost a little bit of their taste, but the apples seem fine.

“Also, I don’t know why, but more seem to be dropping than usual. In spite of this, the crop seems pretty good.”

Seat’s Mii city car

imageSeat’s take on the VW Group’s new city car platform, the Mii, goes on sale at the end of the year.

Hot on the heels of Skoda’s Citigo, Seat has taken the wraps off its own version of the Volkswagen Group’s new city car, the Mii.

Like the Citigo, the Mii is based on Volkswagen’s Up! four-seater and will use the same three-cylinder engine in 59- and 74bhp guises, each of which can be equipped with an eco upgrade pack (think start-stop and energy recuperation systems) to bring CO2 levels down to less than 100g/km.

The car will be available with a manual or automated manual gearbox, the latter featuring two electric motors “to help manage the smooth gear change”.

Like the Skoda, the Mii can be purchased with a City Safety Assist system, which uses lasers to detect other traffic and warn the driver of any impeding frontal impacts. There’s also a portable satnav device, just like the one you can get in – yes, you guessed it – the Skoda.

So what makes the Mii stand out from the Up! and Citigo? Well, according to Seat it’s the car’s “Mediterranean modernity”.

Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid prototype review

The world’s first diesel/electric plug-in hybrid, based on the Volvo V60, goes on sale next year. We get an early drive.

They said it couldn’t be done, but Volvo has chipped away at the idea of a diesel/electric plug-in hybrid and plans to put the concept on sale next year. There are no prices yet and that could be key, as a massive sticker price will banjax the prospects of this V60 estate for all except a few wealthy eco types and government departments buying environmental credibility with your taxes.

The new car uses Volvo’s tried and tested D5, 2.4-litre, five-cylinder turbodiesel as a base, which seems to fly in the face of the company’s recent announcement that in future its cars will only use 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines, but the engineers are unrepentant, saying that there was little fuel economy advantage in using a four-pot engine and that this car should offer high performance as well as low emissions.

How to supersize your pumpkin

imageFancy a place on the podium? Take note of these prize-winning tips on how to supersize your pumpkin.

In the run-up to a competition, professional athletes pay attention to the “one-percenters” – their diet, rest and time spent in the sun – small things, but together they make a big difference to performance. And so it is when growing a prize pumpkin.

If you sow the seed of a variety bred to be big, such as ‘Atlantic Giant’, in the rich soil next to the compost heap, chances are you’ll have a 3st gourd by autumn. But watch those “one-percenters” and you can achieve a 20st prize-winner the size of Cinderella’s carriage.

Older homeowners sell up to start renting

imageEquity-rich, older home owners are selling up and renting to release cash for retirement or the next generation.

The smart money is with the older home owner these days. Generations who have lived through successive housing booms are equity rich and in a position to downsize and help the young by releasing capital. They have more choice than ever before. Older people can join the growing ranks of more involved grandparents, or move to rented accommodation, or spread their wings and travel. Whichever way – the decisions of the old impact on the young.

Modern chic gardens to visit

imageOn September 25 the Society of Garden Designers is hosting a one-day open garden event across the country. ..

September may be the end of summer, but all is not over for the dedicated garden visitor. In fact, September 25 could be one of the highlights of the year for the legions of us who enjoy a chance to make a detailed critique of other people’s gardens.

The Society of Garden Designers (SGD) is showcasing the work of some of its members with a one-day open garden event up and down the country. All the gardens featured, most of them private, were chosen to be at their seasonal best and have been established relatively recently, so this is an excellent opportunity to see design of a more contemporary style than is generally found at stately public venues. See box, right, for the full list of 10 gardens.

BMW M5 review


BMW has switched to turbocharging for its latest M5. Is it still the leader of the super-saloon pack?

Even by its own lofty standards, the M5 is a big one for BMW. It is with this car that it created the supersaloon genre back in 1984, when it slotted the engine from its M1 supercar into a humble 5-series. The result was not only the fastest production four-door in the world, but also one that handled better than most sports cars.

Queen Elizabeth Hall: Sixty years of growing vegetables

imageThe Queen Elizabeth Hall rooftop garden proves you can grow your own vegetables anywhere .

Pick a fine September afternoon, wend your way along the Thames riverbank, past the entertainers, the beach huts and funfair, and climb the winding stairway to the roof garden on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. There, up above the concrete geometry, you’ll find a sheltered suntrap with stunning views, and somewhere lush, green and growing. Take off your shoes and walk on the lawn, watch the insects dipping into the 100-variety-strong wild-flower meadow, admire the container-grown allotments and sip an English Garden cocktail (made with elderflower, gin and lemonade).

Overseas property: Jade Jagger’s Ibiza villa for sale

imageJade Jagger’s chic Ibiza haven is on the market, a five-bedroom villa near the sleepy town of San Joan in the north of the island.

Put the names Jagger and Ibiza together and it sounds like a rather wild and unrestful combination.

Not so, according to Jade Jagger, eldest daughter of Sir Mick and owner of a tranquil five-bedroom villa (which she is selling) near the sleepy town of San Joan.

“The north of Ibiza, where I live, is completely different from the south, where that whole dance and club scene is based,” says Jade. “In fact, I first came to the island 10 years ago because I was looking for a place to bring up my children.

Less a car and more an iPad on wheels

imageNeil Lyndon tries to make sense of Volvo’s new range of in-car gadgetry .

Karl Benz (1844-1929) was not in a position to attend the recent event at which Volvo paraded its latest cars. But, if he had been looking down from automotive Valhalla, the inventor of the motor car might have wondered what they were talking about.

Instead of discussions of transmission systems, cooling methods, fuel delivery or any other problems that Benz overcame in obtaining propulsion from an internal combustion engine, this event concentrated on such features as a new Volvo’s ability to find a restaurant in a town you are visiting and secure a table before you arrive.

Jaguar is back on top

imageJaguar may yet return to the big time with its XF saloon, says Neil Lyndon.

For the introduction of its latest range, Jaguar chose the Perthshire highlands – as heavenly a place as any in Britain to try out the fastest road-going Jaguar ever to enter production. Long sightlines and relatively unbroken road surfaces allow a high-performance car to be driven with a freedom you might never find south of Nottingham.

Despite these attractions, however, I doubt if I used more than a third of the powers of the new £97,000 XKR-S. If you so much as rest a toe on its throttle pedal, the five-litre V8 engine growls through its four exhaust tail pipes like a hell-hound protecting a bone. If you do press the pedal to the floor, it flings you back in your seat and takes off in a tumult of sound and motion.

Online House Hunter: Middle ground

imageIF you want to live at the very centre of things, where should you start searching?

The centre of Britain has long been sought but even in this age of the Sat Nav it’s not easy to find. For a start, do you want the start of Britain, the UK, the British Isles, England or some other definition of your home land. And what do you mean by the ‘centre’ – the middle of a circle that encompasses everything, or the middle of diagonal lines from the furthest land points?

The BBC looked to settle the argument in 2002 when they reported on Ordnance Survey’s definition of the centre of Great Britain: “According to the Ordnance Survey’s definition, the centre of Great Britain (factoring in its 401 associated islands) lies on Brennand Farm, about seven kilometres north-west of Dunsop Bridge.” That’s Dunsop Bridge in Lancashire. But all you’ll find at the ‘centre’ is a peat bog.

Modern chic gardens to visit

imageOn September 25 the Society of Garden Designers is hosting a one-day open garden event across the country.

September may be the end of summer, but all is not over for the dedicated garden visitor. In fact, September 25 could be one of the highlights of the year for the legions of us who enjoy a chance to make a detailed critique of other people’s gardens.

The Society of Garden Designers (SGD) is showcasing the work of some of its members with a one-day open garden event up and down the country. All the gardens featured, most of them private, were chosen to be at their seasonal best and have been established relatively recently, so this is an excellent opportunity to see design of a more contemporary style than is generally found at stately public venues. See box, right, for the full list of 10 gardens.

Cleve West: Working on the allotment can be creative

imageHe won Best in Show for the Telegraph at Chelsea this year, but as Cleve West explains in his new book, ‘Our Plot’, working on his ramshackle allotment can be just as creative

You don’t need to be a designer to express yourself on an allotment. The very ramshackle nature of recycling, improvising and modifying means the plot is a natural canvas and inspiration for creativity. Decay in all its forms is more acceptable on an allotment than in a garden. Rotting wood, rusting metal, moss, lichen and fungi are not just the natural ingredients, they are the stars of the show.

There are no restrictions on materials at an allotment. Plastic, glass, toys, household objects and all sorts of rubbish have their own peculiar charm with the power to become a vignette of the life and character of the plot-holder. It’s this that makes them so appealing.

My space: Tom Kay, entrepreneur

imageWest Country property special: Entrepreneur Tom Kay shows us round his home in St Agnes in Cornwall.

Ten years ago I was working in London as a chartered surveyor. I realised it wasn’t the life I wanted, so I packed it all in and fled to St Agnes in Cornwall. I grew up in Norfolk, near the sea, and studied marine biology; I always loved the outdoor life, and I think the water called me back.

This is the HQ of my eco-friendly outdoor clothing company, Finisterre. We’re based on the site of an old tin mine, 100 metres from a cliff top in St Agnes, overlooking the beach. The views are spectacular. The location is important for what we do. The winds come in right off the Atlantic, so when it’s windy and rainy, it’s extreme: rain hammers down on the tin roof – it keeps you aware of the power of the elements.

New Jensen Interceptor to be built in Britain

imageA new version of the Jensen Interceptor will be built at Browns Lane, the previous home of Jaguar.

These are the first images of the all-new Jensen Interceptor, set to be launched next year and built in Britain by CPP Global Holdings.

Like the original Interceptor, which was produced between 1966 and 1976, the new version is a four-seater GT car with a long bonnet and fastback rear.

CPP, a British specialist automotive group, has been appointed by Jensen’s owners, Healey Sports Cars Switzerland Ltd, to engineer, develop and build the car. This will take place at Browns Lane in Coventry, where CPP is to set up a production facility having purchased the site used by Jaguar between 1951 and 2005.

Make the most of the light fantastic

imagePlant your garden to take advantage of the light in the late summer.

I have a passion for late-spring and summer flowers, and plant my main border to look at its most striking when the sun is at it height and just being outdoors and amongst it all is pretty much a dawn-to-dusk compulsion for me.

Until fairly recently, therefore, each September I would kick myself for my perennial inability to find space for more of the good-looking late-summer stuff – more of the daisies and grasses that are so upstanding and plentiful in the gardens of those that I regard as real horticultural grown-ups.

Jobs for the garden this week: Treat weeds

imageWatch the compost heap and treat perennial weeds in the garden this week.

Watch the heap

Take care not to compost the old flower stems of any plants that are nuisance seeders — not just weeds. Steer clear of fennel, verbascums, feverfew and alchemilla.

Sort out biennials

Leafy first-year plants may have appeared in inappropriate places. Weed out or pot up for later redeployment.

MINI Coupé review

imageDoes MINI’s new Coupé lives up to its billing as the ‘sportiest’ model of the range thus

In the beginning there was the Mini. It was 1959 actually, and it took about five seconds before BMC’s product planning boffins produced variations on the theme such as the Traveller, Moke, Van and Pickup, plus the Riley Elf, Wolseley Hornet and Clubman. Then 120 or so special builders arrived, with catchy names like Many Mego, Deep Sanderson and Butterfield Muscateer. I’ve always had a hankering after a Unipower, but apparently all 75 are now in Japan.

So who can blame BMW for wanting that lucrative business for its new MINI – although it’s not so new now, as it’s now 10 years old, with the Cowley plant this week celebrating the production of the two millionth MINI. Yet while Sir Alec Issigonis’s miracle Mini and Dave Saddington’s assuredly retro MINI are different cars from different eras, both share a singular gotta-have-it factor that needs to be kept constantly simmering.

Gardens to visit: Ightham Mote, Kent

imageIghtham Mote in Kent is one of the country’s most romantic moated manor houses.

Lose yourself in this romantic moated manor house, described by historian David Starkey as “one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses”. Built nearly 700 years ago, this house has been owned by knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high-society Victorians.

Highlights include the picturesque courtyard, Great Hall, crypt, Tudor painted ceiling, Grade I listed dog kennel and the private apartments of Charles Henry Robinson, who gave Ightham Mote to the National Trust in 1985.

Oxford landmark 4 Folly Bridge for sale

imageMax Davidson studies the options for the buyers of 4 Folly Bridge – an Oxford landmark that is for sale.

Student lodgers, anyone? Whoever buys 4 Folly Bridge, a castellated property on an island in the heart of Oxford, will first have to decide what to do with the lodgers. There are seven of them, inhabiting four separate floors, and compared with Oxford students of old, they are living in the lap of luxury.

They have televisions, microwaves, fridge-freezers, washing-machines and proper non-creaking beds. And I only counted one spider in the entire house, which must be an Oxford first.

The students are studying at the Oxford Business School, which currently owns the property, and it is quite possible that the new owner will also see its buy-to-let potential. It is already licensed by the council as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and brings in about £52,000 rental income a year, or 5 per cent of its capital value.

Frankfurt Motor Show 2011: Seat IBL concept

imageSeat showed a four-door Mondeo-sized concept car called the IBL at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

It doesn’t for the moment presage a production car of that size, but Seat will launch a new Leon next year and word is some of the elements of this design, such as the sharp-chiseled side lines and the thin headlights, will be relevant to the Leon.

These cues have now been seen on three successive Seat concept cars, so they must mean something.

Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 review

imageThe world’s first-ever diesel/electric hybrid passenger car, the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4, goes on sale this autumn. Is it worth the wait?

Former General Motors boss Fritz Henderson described making petrol hybrid cars as “expensive squared. But making diesel hybrids,” he added, “now that’s expensive cubed.”

So welcome to the world’s first diesel/electric hybrid car, an expensively cubist creation from Peugeot-Citroën. First shown in Paris last year, this new driveline goes on sale in the 3008 SUV in November and in the following five months will appear in the 508 range and the RXH, an upmarket all-road estate. Yet even as it was being launched, rivals were muttering darkly that the Peugeot would be noisy and smelly.

Chelsea Flower Show 2011: What to buy

For Stephen Lacey deciding on what to buy after the Chelsea Flower Show is where the fun starts


After doses of Chelsea Flower Show razzmatazz – show gardens, floristry extravaganzas and celebrity spotting – I love diving into the Great Pavilion to immerse myself in plants.

“A bloodstained flag hoisted to its pole on a windless day” was how the Edwardian plant-hunter Reginald Farrer described the red Himalayan poppy, Meconopsis punicea.

And, displayed in all its perfection by Kevock Garden Plants, from Lasswade, near Edinburgh, here it was, luring me to part with a dollop of cash and defying me not to kill it. Since I do now manage to keep blue poppies plump and perennial, I think I shall have a go at meeting this one’s more fastidious demands for constant moisture and perfect drainage.

Frankfurt Motor Show 2011: Gerry McGovern interview

Land Rover’s Director of Design, Gerry McGovern, tells the Telegraph all about his opinion-dividing concept for a new Defender.


Gerry McGovern, Director of Design at Land Rover, explains the design process and reaction to his concept for a new Defender, which is being displayed at the Frankfurt Motor Show:

“These concepts [the DC 100 and DC100 Sport] show we are now getting serious about putting a new Defender into production. There’s been several sorts of reaction since the pictures first went out; most of it positive, some sitting on the fence and a small amount has been negative. I think that’s from the traditionalists. You need to remember, though, that we aren’t going to be able to sell the current vehicle after 2015 in some markets. It doesn’t meet modern crash standards, or emissions requirements and it’s got no air bags. It’s great, but it’s from a bygone era.

How to achieve an exciting burst of new spring colour

imageWe show you how to achieve an exciting burst of new spring colour with perennial flowering tulips.

When you’ve been gardening happily in one plot for years, you get impatient for new colours and plants to excite you. There’s often not enough space to shoehorn in an exciting new shrub or tree, however. The answer is to plant bulbs: titivate your palette trying zany new combinations and feel smug when they come up trumps.

The older I get, the more I like to indulge myself. A few hours and pounds spent with bulb catalogues now gives fantastic rewards at times that are potentially low points on the colour Richter scale. Even the novice gardener can create original displays that will make the most experienced pro drool with admiration.

How to fit a gym into your home


More people are putting a home gym on their wish list, but it needn’t cost a fortune .

Which room is the current must-have for the best houses – a marble bathroom, a restaurant-quality kitchen or an opulent bedroom? None of the above, it seems. The new craze in interiors is for a home gym, and former tennis star Tim Henman is just one of the many getting in on the act.

High-end houses won’t be seen without them, according to architect Nick Norden, who specialises in sumptuous dwellings in north London’s affluent Hampstead. He estimates that 80 per cent of his clients have a fitness studio high on their wish list – and they are prepared to build into the basement to get one.

Frankfurt Motor Show 2011: Mercedes-Benz F125


Sometimes things are just so clever it’s difficult to fully understand them at first glance. So it is with the F125 Frankfurt Motor Show concept car from Mercedes, which looks at least a decade into the future.

Superficially this is a big old limo with unfeasible gull-wing doors and a questionable plutocratic interior. “There are no clues as to the replacement S-class,” said one tight-lipped PR. Delve deeper though and there’s technical gold under the skin as befits the Stuttgart brains who built it.

Powered by a hepped-up fuel cell of the type that Mercedes is currently trialling with the B-class F-cell models, the F125 uses four separate drive motors on each wheel as well as components from the SLS AMG E-Cell supercar.

Plants which look good together

imageVal Bourne picks plants which are good together, like this hazy study in mauve works well with dewy mornings and low autumnal light .Combinations that peak in late September and October, when John Keats’s season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” is providing dewy mornings and gauzy light, are an excellent idea.

This trio of plants catches the gentle, slightly decadent mood perfectly. The aster and the sedum make a strong contrast in form, the aster by providing a graceful haze of lavender-blue flowers, the sedum with its stocky, dark silhouette. The effect is blurred and softened by the penstemon that threads around and between them.

Win VIP tickets to the Goodwood Revival


The Telegraph has partnered with Goodwood to offer one lucky winner and a friend VIP tickets to the Goodwood Revival.

The first Goodwood Revival took place in 1998 with the intention of recreating the romance and glamour of motor racing as it used to be.

The fast, flowing circuit following the Battle of Britain airfield’s perimeter road was active from 1948-1966. The latter year became the cut-off point for eligible cars when Lord March realised his dream to revive racing at the circuit.

A house where the Beatles once drank

Ed Cumming visits Heroes of Alma: a house that was once a pub where The Beatles drank .


Most old boozers have a celebrity story or two. Corner any publican in a quiet minute and they’ll tell you about the time when Noel Gallagher came in, or the month George Best stayed. But few can have had as glittering a parade of punters through their doors as the Heroes of Alma, in St John’s Wood, north-west London.

Located in Alma Square, a mere lofted drive from Lord’s cricket ground, the pub was the local for Abbey Road, the world’s most famous recording studio. When the Beatles were recording there during the Sixties, the Heroes of Alma was where they would beat a retreat for a restorative pint or two.

How to downsize and modernize

Ruth Bloomfield meets Julia and Peter Acornley – the empty nesters who swapped period for contemporary when they downsized their home.


When Judy and Peter Acornley’s children left home they realised, like generations of empty nesters before them, that a five-bedroom Edwardian family home was too roomy. Their solution to the problem was to build a contemporary house in the same town where they had brought up their two boys.

In the process they divested themselves of almost all their possessions, saw their timetable spiral, and had to cope when their builders went bust mid-project. And even though their award-winning new house is much smaller than their old, it actually turned out to be significantly more expensive.

The vegetable garden in a bag

Bunny Guinness learns that a tarmac space can be turned into a successful vegetable garden.


The site of a well-tended vegetable garden burgeoning with assorted greens, purples and yellows always sends me weak at the knees. When I first clapped eyes on GreEn 16, a community garden in Newham, east London, I was more impressed than usual.

This garden is 13m by 35m and, despite being sited on tarmac, it is highly successful. It gets around the problem by using large one-ton builders’ bags. The 120 bags have been filled with compost and vegetables are crammed in tightly. By having tall plants (sunflowers, sweetcorn, beans) in the palette, the whole space comes across as productive and green and the builders’ bags are surprisingly unobtrusive.

Vauxhall’s urban concept car revealed

Vauxhall is the latest manufacturer to unveil a two-seater urban mobility concept ahead of the Frankfurt Motor Show.


Vauxhall will reveal this striking two-seater electric car at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week.

With a range of 60 miles and a top speed of 75mph, the as-yet-unnamed car is inspired by the need for low-cost urban transport, especially for younger drivers and those on a very tight budget.

According to Vauxhall, the concept has “production potential”. If made, it will compete with a new generation of electric urban runabouts such as the Renault Twizy. It’s a far more sporty proposition than the Renault, with aggressive frontal styling based on the forthcoming Ampera extended range electric hatchback.

Racing David Coulthard

It was virtual versus reality in what was being billed as the world’s biggest race, but just how did David Coulthard get on?


So this is it, virtual versus reality in the world’s biggest race. In one corner David Coulthard, 13 times Formula One race winner and current commentary box sidekick to Martin Brundle. His weapon: a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. His task: to set the fastest lap possible around a “mystery” UK circuit in a 15-minute time slot.

His opponents are many and varied. In fact, with the race open to anybody around the world with a Playstation 3, a copy of Gran Turismo 5 and an internet connection, the scope is enormous. For my part, I’ll be joining six competition winners at Mercedes-Benz World in Surrey. Our job is to take on DC in real-time, setting the fastest lap we can manage in a virtual version of the SLS AMG, on a virtual version of the same track.

Chelsea Flower Show: The Telegraph’s hat-trick

Cleve West scooped Best in Show at the Chelsea Flower Show with his tranquil sunken garden – an unprecedented third consecutive win for the Telegraph.


Stephen Lacey talks to the team behind this winning streak It was a beaming Cleve West that I found at the Chelsea Flower Show at 7.45am on Tuesday, just after the announcement that the Telegraph garden had won the coveted Best in Show at the award. He had just phoned his partner Christine and his father who, he said, “was all choked up”.

He had also shed a tear himself, he admitted, thinking how proud his mother, who died last year, would have been, too. For although she had seen him win two Chelsea gold medals for his previous gardens, this was the first time he had scooped the big one.

For the Telegraph, and the team at Crocus who build our gardens, Cleve’s win is triply exciting, for it has produced a tremendous hat-trick: three Best in Show awards for the Telegraph over three consecutive years. In 2009, Ulf Nordfjell took the top prize with a stylish fusion of English cottage gardening and Scandinavian minimalism. Last year, Andy Sturgeon won with a beautiful contemporary gravel garden.

And now Cleve has triumphed with his atmospheric sunken garden, which plays traditional dry stone walls and modern sculptural columns against a painterly wash of flowers, herbs and parsnips from his allotment.

St Lucia: Bowled over by the island of calm

Trust Andrew Strauss to do something a little bit different. When England cricket captains buy Caribbean property, you expect them to plump for the Royal Westmoreland in Barbados, a luxury resort where every other villa seems to be owned by a celebrity sportsman. Michael Vaughan has a villa there. So does Freddie Flintoff.


Not Strauss. The man who has just led England to world domination on the cricket field by crushing India 4-0, is a mild-mannered, retiring type who seems happier away from the limelight than hogging centre stage. He lives in the quiet Buckinghamshire town of Marlow with his Australian wife, Ruth, and their two small boys.

Instead of the glitz of Barbados, Strauss has opted for the understated chic of St Lucia. It is the most beautiful island in the Caribbean to its admirers, but not one where you would expect to find Simon Cowell chatting to Sienna Miller under a palm tree.

Gardening Against the Odds entries

A ravishing display of potted flowers in a Notting Hill street, a community oasis in Haringey and a ”therapeutic” organic market garden for disadvantaged people are among the entries coming in for this year’s Sunday Telegraph Life Gardening Against the Odds awards.


Prescila Bisa’s colourful display near Portobello Market delights neighbours and tourists alike. Despite undergoing an operation for breast cancer and radiotherapy, Prescila helps three other neighbours with their gardens. “I would like to encourage people to keep planting in every space we can. We can have a greener London and a beautiful neighbourhood,” she says.

On the other side of the capital in Haringey, a derelict site next to the railway line was a magnet for vandalism, rubbish dumping and prostitution. Now the Gardens Community Garden at Doncaster Gardens features tree ferns, perennials, shrubs, mosaic and willow sculptures. It is nominated for an award by Andrew Newman, who says the garden provides a safe and secure area for local activities such Easter Egg Hunts, Carols by Candlelight, christenings and even funerals.

And in Sandwell, a borough of the Black Country, the Salop Drive Market Garden has been nominated for providing gardening therapy for the lonely, bereaved, those with learning disabilities or suffering long-term illness.

Goodwood Revival 2011: Nick Mason interview

Nick Mason, Pink Floyd drummer and racing driver, talks to Andrew English about the magical Goodwood Revival.


Sometimes, no matter how high falutin’ you might be, life has a way of bringing you crashing to Earth. So just as this interview starts, Nick Mason, Pink Floyd’s drummer for 46 years, gets a knock on the front door.

“Sorry about that,” he apologises when he returns to the phone. “We’re having some furniture delivered.”

“So you’ve got an afternoon assembling flat packs,” I joke.

“Yes, that’s why I’m skulking in here talking to you,” he replies.

Wow. You might imagine that, after 200million album sales and immortalisation in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Floyd’s head of syncopation and owner of an exquisite car collection including a Ferrari 250 GTO, would spend the summer relaxing over witty repartee and mint juleps, not puzzling over the instructions for a Billy bookcase.

But then Mason has always had a strong work ethic and while he’s proud of his long-service award to the Goodwood Revival, he has never confused messing about in cars with work.

“It might come as a surprise to some people,” he says, “but I’ve always understood that the music pays for the motor racing and it takes precedence. The only Festival I missed was in 1993, when we were on tour. I have a policy of not giving up the day job.”

But while the gig diary is clear, this year’s Goodwood Revival (September 16-18), of which The Daily Telegraph is national media partner, isn’t quite business as usual for Mason and his cars. The Ferrari will be on the TT grid, but with Mark Hales and Martin Brundle behind the wheel. His son-in-law (Marino Franchitti, professional racing driver and brother of IndyCar champion, Dario) will drive the Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage and his daughter or wife will drive the Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica.

“Annette [Mason’s second wife] usually drives it,” he says, “but she had a fall off a racehorse a couple of weeks ago so I’m not sure whether we’ll run her or not.”

So Mason is taking a back seat from the driving duties. Any particular reason?

“Funnily enough it’s a bit like Stirling [Moss]. I find that after 40-odd years racing, the quotient of fear against excitement has changed, particularly at Goodwood, where there’s a big difference between me and Mark [Hales]. You end up spending the whole weekend revving yourself up and it becomes more stressed and less fun.

“So I thought I’d try being le patron for a change. It means I can enjoy the Saturday night ball, have a drink and then ponce around on Sunday morning looking important.”

Mason has entered his cars and family at the Goodwood circuit since its reopening in 1998. In that first year, Annette had a big accident in the Maserati Birdcage. Does Mason worry about his family and his cars?

“Yes I do. It’s wonderful that the circuit is as it was back in the day and the cars are going quicker, but the track’s a bit short of run-off space. Long term, if there are more big accidents, then Charles [Lord March] might be forced to put in chicanes, which would be a tragedy.”

It’s not as though Goodwood doesn’t try to keep things safe, though. “Anyone who has driven there has had loads of briefings reminding them to be sensible,” says Mason. “Charles does everything possible to contain things, but people do go out there and get excited.”

And while Mason reckons Goodwood’s grids contain some of “the sharpest historic racing cars in the world”, are those modern modifications good for the sport?

“The modifications do worry me slightly, but I don’t think it’ll change the face of historic restoration, because Goodwood is quite specialised. Not every E-type owner will rush out and super tune their car ready for the event, so it’ll be fine as long as everyone understands what it is. And, to some extent, the cars need to be prepared in that way, because there’s more of a tendency to put modern racing drivers behind the wheel, which I think makes fantastic racing.”

But the dangers, while real enough, are a small part of the Goodwood appeal, which Mason admits jogs a few memories. “I was there in its heyday,” he says, “with my dad, spectating at the TT when the Astons caught fire. You can see just what Goodwood was like back then. At Silverstone it’s a lot more difficult to remember what it was like.”

Does he have a favourite corner? “It’s the one after the pit straight, the double apex at Madgwick,” he says. “You know when you’ve got it right, with that little bump which tells you you’re on line.

“The great thing about Goodwood, though, is that it’s all hooked up together, so the exit to one corner is the entry to the next and so on. My most challenging one is the unnamed right-hander, because it looks daunting, but I always end up thinking I could have carried a bit more speed through there.”

Now in its 14th year, the Revival remains an extraordinarily popular event. Why does Mason think it’s been such a hit?

“What’s so good is that you can mingle with the whole motor-racing experience,” he says. “You can see the cars, talk to the drivers, engage with other enthusiasts. What’s more it’s an event that engages the public. There’s such a massive difference between the British Grand Prix and Goodwood.

“Both get huge crowds, but what happens on the track at the Grand Prix is the show and that’s it. What happens at Goodwood, however, is the crowd becomes part of it; like extras in a film. I think that’s partly about the details that Charles puts in place.”

Mason’s modesty is legendary and is so profound it is occasionally mistaken for stand-offishness. He once replied to an interviewer that he was not famous, but was part of a famous enterprise.

It’s his skill and enthusiasm rather than fame and money that have earned him a place in motor-racing hearts; he’s earned it the hard way and a measure of that is his favourite Goodwood anecdote.

“There I was moaning on to Doug [Nye, journalist and motoring historian] about the E-types beating the Ferraris in the TT race and how that wasn’t how it was in period and he said; ‘What you need to remember, Nick, is that this is a circus and you are just the monkeys’. I think that’s fine. And if you don’t like it, well, you don’t have to race.”

With that, Nick Mason hangs up and returns to assembling the flat pack.

Summer cocktails: celebrate the fruits of your labour

There’s nothing better than these deliciously decadent drinks that combine fruit and berries grown in your garden with fine liquor.

What kind of a day can’t be improved with a cocktail? That combination of sweetness, with something sharp to cut it, plenty
of ice and a good slug of strong alcohol just opens the happiness valve a little wider.

Many of the best cocktails use fruit that is perfect for picking right now. Although standing over a jam pan may be the ideal occupation for a wet weekend or a chilly evening, when the sun’s out, I want a long, cool drink to enjoy in the garden.

You can have an August holiday but the garden doesnt need to

Francine Raymond on the delights of eating outside, and how to fit furniture into your garden.


When designing my previous garden 30-odd years ago, I can’t remember dedicating such a large portion to the sole purpose of sitting and eating. Now nearly a third of my new plot has been set aside for just that. Perhaps in the meantime we have become a nation of alfresco diners, maybe the weather really is warmer, or possibly I just spend a lot more time sitting down.

If people ask for help planning their gardens, I usually say: start from the house and look outwards, not just to design the view in the distance, but to work out the bit you use most frequently.

A couple of weeks ago, as a birthday present, my sons came and constructed a huge deck for me. Solidly built of scaffolding boards, the result is chunky and ready to take tables and chairs, benches, pots and planters.

Ten tips for buy-to-let

We offer ten tips for a buyer who is looking to let their property out for the first time.


1 Look further afield
It may be that you can find more affordable houses, or keener demand for rented property, in a different part of the country from where you live.

2 Do your sums
Work out the monthly rent you can expect against the cost of your monthly mortgage repayments. Factor in the size of the deposit required (some mortgage firms now want 25 per cent), plus what happens if the property sits empty for a month or two.

3 Research the market as a whole
Consider the effects of the Government’s decision to cap the amount of rent it allows housing-benefit recipients. The same applies to the Article Four restrictions (on the type of tenants you can take) that some councils are planning to impose on landlords.

How bedrooms are changing for modern life

The pressures of modern life are changing our habits in the bedroom, says Maria Fitzpatrick .


Is it just me, or is everyone having problems in the bedroom these days? It used to be easy: bathe it in cool, restful colours and remove any daytime distractions that might jump between you and your full eight hours’ sleep. Now, that vision of the bedroom as a pared-back haven of calm is out of kilter with the way we live. With space at such a premium, bedrooms have to wear many hats, only one of which is a nightcap.

I know this dilemma well. In a cosy Victorian terraced house, my bedroom has become more of a secondary living room and an office. Blame Wi-Fi, too; now we can “plug in” to the internet anywhere in the house, day-to-day life, with all its paraphernalia, has sprawled with it.

Fun for the weekend: hire a Caterham

Buying a car for your loved one’s birthday is a little expensive for most of us, so why not hire one instead?


Two years ago, my father turned 60 and, until a few weeks ago, I was still mulling over the ideal birthday present for him (no point in rushing these things). In an epiphany, however, it hit me: a Caterham Seven.

My Dad loves cars, and Caterhams present a minor challenge but are fairly easy to drive in comparison with anything else in the go-kart league. If, like me, you haven’t got the requisite £13,650 for the cheapest Seven, or £10,000 for a second-hand model (residuals are strong), there’s option C – Caterham’s scheme, Hire-A-7.

The Lotus range-extender

Range-extender technology could offer the best combination of low emissions and real world practicality. We try the latest system from Lotus.

As the electric vehicle (EV) market grows, one of the major problems facing designers of pure EVs is getting sufficient range from batteries that can’t cope with long journeys.

The alternative is to have a full hybrid such as the Toyota Prius or Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4, in which a petrol or diesel engine combines with an electric motor. However, in such models, electric-only range is restricted to just a few miles.

An African gardening exchange

Ed Cumming reports on the charity Send a Cow, which helps African farmers get the most out of their land.


The famine in the Horn of Africa is a terrible reminder that in some parts of the world the weather and its effect on crops is a matter of life or death.

The charity Send a Cow provides animals, plants and expertise to help African farmers get the most out of their land. In addition, it has acquired a great deal of insight into growing in dry, arid countries and can show British gardeners how to save money and resources too.

Founded in 1988, the charity was started by a group of dairy farmers who were angry that European regulations meant that they were slaughtering healthy dairy cows. Realising how big a difference even a single animal could make to a poor village, they began sending cows from their own herds to Uganda. The charity has gradually expanded and now works in Ethiopia, Cameroon, Lesotho, Rwanda, Zambia and Kenya too.

Cows are important because, as well as providing nutrients and fats in their milk, their manure is a core component of compost. The benefits of compost are at the heart of what the charity teaches, particularly where farmers find commercial fertilisers too expensive. Where there isn’t room for cows, donkeys, goats and even rabbits can help, too.

Saudi Arabia takes step to build world’s tallest tower

Saudi Arabia is set to start work on building the world’s tallest skyscraper in a bid to outdo Gulf neighbour Dubai, which inaugurated its own record-breaking skyscraper less than two years ago.


The Saudis awarded a more than $1 billion contract for a spire that will soar two-thirds of a mile high, to be named the Kingdom Tower. It will have a Four Seasons hotel, serviced apartments, luxury condominiums and offices, encompassing, in all, about 5.4 million square feet.
Saudi Arabia takes step to build world’s tallest tower: The Kingdom Tower
A model of the world’s tallest tower to be built in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

Mr Money: Fisker performs a miracle

Telegraph Motoring’s Mr Money, Mike Rutherford, talks to Henrik Fisker about his take on green motoring.


What do you do when you have one of the most glamorous jobs in the global motor industry – chief designer at Aston Martin – but you’ve grown tired of being stuck behind the drawing board in Warwickshire?

If you’re Henrik Fisker, you bravely – foolishly, some would say – turn your back on that safe job and, effectively unemployed, you then sit at your kitchen table quietly designing the petrol-electric car that Aston Martin wouldn’t or couldn’t build when you were in its employ. Next comes the little matter of raising the $1,000 million-plus needed to establish a new motor manufacturing company. After that, the dream becomes reality as you start watching your own production line building your cars which, naturally, wear badges bearing your family name.

Helen Yemm: the garden inspector

In the first of a regular series, Helen Yemm visits readers’ gardens to help restore order to their plots and solve tricky horticultural problems.

On the face of it, Andrew Stanley makes an ideal first Garden Inspector victim. Among droves of couples who applied (“couples”, that is, where the female side clearly pens a niftier note and wears the more creative gardening trousers), Andrew seems a rare find: a solo gardening man.

This should be a challenge, I thought, anticipating a garden full of the classic man things – straight lines, primary colours, lollipop-pruned shrubs and a too-short-for-comfort lawn. But Andrew, it turns out, harbours a dark secret (well, more than one, actually, but more of that later), by which I mean he has a wife, Mary – conspicuous, on the day I visit, by her absence at work.

And although it is she who does most of the flowery stuff and a lot of the pruning, it is Andrew, retired and keen as mustard on his allotment, complete with a greenhouse and productive compost bins, who takes on the heavy, hard work and was thus in charge of me for the morning.

The perfect setting for outdoor opera

The gardens at West Green House, Hampshire will offer the perfect setting for outdoor opera, says Francine Raymond.


Marylyn Abbott is an extraordinary person. When the view from her garden at Kinnerton Green in Australia (featured by Monty Don in his series Extraordinary Gardens of the World) was threatened, she upped sticks and moved to England.

She had visions of a cool garden encircling an old English house. What she found at West Green House was an 18th-century baroque gem in dire straits, bombed by the IRA, whose lease she bought from the National Trust. It was surrounded by 10 acres of old parterres protected by brambles and fields of daffodils, bluebells and cow parsley.

For sale: Three of the best mill houses

We all want to live in an idyllic mill house, and here are three of the best country retreats.

imageDurnsford Mill, Mildenhall, Wiltshire

Riverside retreat £1.35m-1.75m

Looks Situated two miles east of Marlborough, this idyllic mill house, featured on the cover of The Field in 1963, dates back to 1778. Crammed with period features, all the principal rooms overlook the stunning gardens and the River Kennet, whose waters are famous for trout.

Sporting estates are the greatest prize

Every self-respecting billionaire should own their own country estate – it’s the ultimate prestige purchase, discovers Caroline McGhie.


It is one of the things we do best. Our sporting estates offer more romance, spectacular landscape and historical resonance than any in the world. The great salmon rivers of Scotland, the dancing chalk streams of Hampshire, the majestic hills of Leicestershire where the Quorn Hunt rides out, the woodlands and pastures of rural England teeming with pheasants – these are crucial ingredients in this highly specialised niche market. What new billionaire doesn’t dream of being monarch of the glen to his own Glenbogle?

Flower arranging lessons from Chatsworth House

Sarah Raven meets the flower arrangers who keep Chatsworth House brimming with colour


Chatsworth House in Derbyshire has just under 300 rooms. At least 10 and often up to 25 of these are decorated with flowers all year. On a weekly basis, the two flower arrangers, Lucy Wharton and Mick Brown, make up to 40 arrangements between them.

Chatsworth buys in very little, with almost all flowers picked from the perennial cut flower beds right at the top of the kitchen garden, where they have space for magnificent 30-feet runs of just one plant.

Buy a modern home in the country

More and more people living in the countryside are opting for modern homes rather than pastoral pastiche.


You might think that very few people go for uncompromising modernity in the country, yet those who do can attract huge admiration. The Turvill family built Bavent House at Reydon, on the reed beds of Suffolk, in what you might call “fairy-tale-modern” style. Clad in zinc and iroko, the house is reminiscent of a beach hut, while the uneven roofline is like an ancient settlement or distant castle.

Departing from the vernacular still takes courage, though. “We had to defend ourselves, explain why we weren’t doing a pastiche country house, but now we feel we made the right decision,” says Lucy Turvill, a pharmaceutical consultant who moved into Bavent House almost a year ago with her husband Richard, who owns a laundry business, and their daughter Clear, 12. “The materials are just wonderful. The wood has faded to a soft colour and mimics the reed beds.”

‘Driving’ the Formula One British Grand Prix

Welcome to the world of Formula One simulators, where you can drive the new Silverstone Grand Prix circuit without even getting in a car.


In an effort to understand a little more about what Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and the rest of the Formula One grid have to contend with this weekend, I spent an afternoon driving as fast as I could around the new Silverstone circuit in a grand prix car. Not in the real thing – that would be so 20th century – but in an F1 simulator.

It’s a strange and rather surreal truth about modern F1 that when not actually racing, drivers spend much of their time sitting in darkened rooms completing invaluable test and development miles on incredibly sophisticated simulators. When the sport is trying to reduce costs by limiting the amount of on-track testing, simulation is a neat solution, which is why the biggest teams spend vast sums on creating bespoke simulators that mimic every nuance of the real thing.

Music wasn’t better in your day – but Lawrence Watson’s retrospective is still a must-see

imageOne of my favourite photographers is exhibiting in London for the next two weeks. You can see work by Lawrence Watson, who has photographed rock ‘n’ roll icons and pop culture for 25 years, in a sweet little gallery at the top of Kingly Court in Soho. I went to the launch party last night (and – scream! – was lucky enough to spot the elusive Islington Twins). There’s LL Cool J performing live in front of an enormous boombox, Grace Jones looking both terrifying and beautiful, Damon Albarn’s adorable puppy dog eyes, Isaac Hayes and his weird moobs, the famous picture of Pulp and the mannequins, Morrissey contemplating using a gun, and 25,000 more.

It’s the first time I’ve thought “that was popular culture then, and this is now.” The images depicting the rise of 90s hip hop, indie and rave culture seem to be from a different world. Just as pictures of Woodstock, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles defined the immediately previous wave of popular culture, now the parent to our modern scion is Liam’s snarl and Run DMC’s swagger. It brought home how much the music industry has changed in the last decade.

Alan Titchmarsh beats Monty Don in TV garden war

Trees can be used to decorate your wedding or party and make a great impact One of my most lasting and memorable images of the Royal wedding was definitely those trees.

imageThe two 25ft hornbeams (Carpinus betulus) in the transept and the six field maple (Acer campestre) in the nave dressed up with their lush, fresh, lime-green spring growth were unexpected, natural and beautifully understated.

Their symbolism did not register with me until later, when pointed out by the florist, Jamie Marlar, director of Shane Connolly whose brief included English, natural, seasonal and ethical. Field maple symbolises humility and reserve, while hornbeam represents resilience.

New BMW M5 revealed

BMW’s new £73,000 M5 saloon promises a compelling blend of performance and refinement.


BMW has released details of its new M5, the fifth generation of its flagship performance saloon, which it claims provides the dynamics of a trackday car with the civility and comfort of a true grand tourer. It goes on sale in November, priced at £73,040.

It features the most potent engine ever devised by BMW’s high-performance M division, making its world premiere. The previous naturally aspirated V10 has been ditched in favour of a twin-turbocharged, 4,395cc V8 which develops 560bhp from 5,750-7,000rpm. The two banks of the V8 are arranged at 90 degrees, the space within the V being occupied by the two turbochargers and catalytic converters.

London’s rich sell as foreign money pours in

Britain’s rich and famous are moving out of central London’s most up-market districts and being replaced by wealthy overseas buyers, according to new research.

imageSavills, the estate agent, says £3.7bn of foreign money is pouring into the prime London housing market every year and especially into areas such as Mayfair, Kensington, Notting Hill and Chelsea.

The demand is leading to UK owners selling their homes and moving to outer London, creating a “champagne tower effect” with the distribution of wealth in the capital.

Savills’ report, called World in London and published on Friday, says British sellers of homes in central London have outnumbered British buyers by 30pc this year, compared with 5pc in 2008. Meanwhile, foreign buyers have outnumbered foreign sellers by 58pc in 2011, up from 23pc in 2008.

Secrets of America’s most expensive home

Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter Petra is said to have bought the most expensive house in America at £92m. Cassandra Jardine takes a look inside


A present-wrapping room. What a perfectly lovely idea. A permanent home for those messy rolls of paper, string and tags is one of those little luxuries that we all need but never realised, until Petra Ecclestone, Bernie’s younger daughter, showed us by buying, reputedly, the most expensive house in America as her second home.

With her £56 million Chelsea home undergoing a two-year renovation, the F1 heiress can now nip off to her new pied-à-terre in LA to give a boost to her model/actress/designer career plans. With Manor House in Bel Air – on the market for $150 million (£92 million) – she has bagged the essence of the look-at-me-I’m-rich aesthetic. With 56,500 sq ft of floor space, this 1988 chateau is larger than Versailles, but considerably less classy.

Bryan’s Ground: an Edwardian idyll

The planting at Bryan’s Ground in Herefordshire, home to the garden quarterly Hortus, reflects its two creators’ passion for the Arts & Crafts period.
There is little sign of the 21st century at Bryan’s Ground, where names such as loggia and skating pool are still in usage, and visitors arriving by car are directed to ‘Parking for Motors’. No, the era conjured up in David Wheeler and Simon Dorrell’s Herefordshire garden is Edwardian, the period of Lutyens and Jekyll, sleepy vernacular architecture, abundant topiary and colour-schemed washes of flowers. ‘The Arts & Crafts period. We love it,’ Dorrell says.

The Edwardian era also pervades the civilised gardening quarterly Hortus that the couple publish here together, which eschews glossy paper and colour photographs.

Chelsea Flower Show: The Garden of Eden must have looked a lot like this

Britain holds its breath. London SW3 today witnesses the annual miracle. ”And the parched ground shall become a pool,’’ prophesied Isaiah, ”and the thirsty land springs.’’


He wasn’t talking about the Chelsea Flower Show, but might have been. Yea, even the drought-stricken lawns of the Royal Hospital will bring forth gardens. The habitation of dragons, as the Prophet might have continued, shall become a field of tents, and it shall blossom abundantly, and there shall be petunias, and strawberries, and Pimm’s. Chelsea takes place every year, and every year I can hardly believe that it has happened. It is a spectacle, a folly, a garden show which seems to contravene every principle of Nature. I love it.

Motorhome renting guide

A home on wheels is just the ticket for a festival or family holiday, but what do you need to know before you set about renting one?

“It was more than a motorhome… it was a car I could go to the bathroom in.” Wise words from Homer Simpson, which will be especially apt if you’re planning on visiting a festival this summer with its overflowing WCs or, frankly, if you’re travelling anywhere at all with small children.

The convenience (if you’ll pardon the pun) of a motorhome, camper van or RV (recreational vehicle) isn’t restricted to bathroom habits – you’re also never more than a few feet away from a cup of tea or a cold drink from the fridge.

Citroën DS4 review

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a crossover; a mash-up of a coupé and five-door hatchback, with a sport utility’s ride height and slightly compromised accommodation. The Americans have made a black art of mixing styles in this manner, some of which end up with all the charm of pants which you can wear on your head.

And why is it called a DS? That comes from Flaminio Bertoni and André Lefèbvre’s original DS of 1955, a car whose sheer eroticism, élan and singularity moved the structuralist philosopher Roland Barthes to describe it as “a new Nautilus”. Citroën could never follow that, but last year it relaunched the DS badge on the front of a three-door, hot-hatch version of its nondescript C3 with a weird floating-roof design and uprated running gear.

Embracing homes from the seventies

Why homes built in the seventies are worth more than a second look.

imageFew eras have committed more heinous crimes against good taste than the Seventies. Who can forget all those shaggy carpets, bean bags and lava lamps, to say nothing of the massive sofas and the starburst clocks on the wall.

And why did people suddenly decide that turquoise, lime green and orangey brown looked good?

Yet not everything about Seventies homes was equally vile. We may snigger now at the naff lounge in Abigail’s Party, but the decade’s homes had redeeming features too.

Dumfries House: a Sleeping Beauty brought back to life by the Prince of Wales

Saved by Prince Charles from the auctioneer’s hammer, Dumfries House – a time capsule of 18th-century furnishing – has been restored to its former glory Dumfries House has been portrayed as an 18th-century Sleeping Beauty.


Adam-designed and Chippendale-furnished, it remained untouched for 250 years, so the story goes, before being kissed by a prince and startled into trembling new life. Astoundingly, this fairy tale is largely true.

Until this gem of an estate was ‘saved for the nation’ in June 2007, few people even knew of its existence. Yet its contents, dating from the mid-1750s, when it was built by the 5th Earl of Dumfries, include at least 50 pieces by the great British furniture maker Thomas Chippendale – some specially made for the house – along with the finest surviving collection of carved Scottish rococo furniture.

SLS AMG Roadster undergoes testing

Drop-top version of the V8-powered Mercedes SLS AMG revealed ahead of the car’s September debut.

imageMercedes has released pictures of a lightly disguised version of its SLS AMG Roadster undergoing testing, before the car makes its official debut at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

Like the coupé upon which it is based, the Roadster has been developed independently by AMG, the high-performance tuning arm of Mercedes.

However, it trades the supercar’s “gullwing” doors for a fabric roof that can fold away in just 11 seconds while travelling at speeds up to 30mph.

Mr Money: another winner from Citroën

imageCitroën could be on to a winner with its DS5. That’s Mike Rutherford’s verdict, who has been impressed with the style and value of the French firm’s coupé-crossover.
Contrary to what you might have heard, Citroën’s DS5 coupé-crossover wasn’t unveiled at the Shanghai motor show earlier this month. It actually made its world debut at a private party in the city’s business district the night before the exhibition opened.

Royal wedding: A motorbike is the perfect way for Prince William to get away from it all

imageYou don’t have to be a disaffected Hell’s Angel to appreciate life on two wheels , writes Stephen Bayley.

Mildred (a local girl): “What are you rebelling against?”

Johnny (a gang leader): “Whaddya got?”

This fine exchange is cinema’s source of the now universal idea that the motorbike is a symbol of rebellion. It comes from the 1953 movie The Wild One, which starred a 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T (and Marlon Brando). Just as Brando’s fictional Johnny – in his Schott Perfecto leather jacket – inspired many real-life imitators, The Wild One had its origins in fact.

Sculptures that define the Goodwood Festival of Speed

imageApart from the famous cars and drivers – and the glamour – the other main talking point at the Festival is Gerry Judah’s sculpture celebrating an important motoring milestone.

A Festival of Speed without its famous sculpture would be like a wedding without the cake, Christmas without the tree or a Martini without the olive. It just wouldn’t be the same.

Saab gets €150m lifeline from China’s Hawtai Motor Group

imageSwedish car maker Saab appears to have secured a cash injection after Hawtai Motor Group, a Chinese company, agreed to invest €150m (£135m) to rescue the business.

The investment means Sweden’s two most famous automotive brands are now backed by China after Geely bought Volvo from Ford last year.

An ailing Saab was acquired from General Motors for $400m (£243m) by Dutch car maker Spyker, but its turnaround plan has been hindered by disappointing sales. This sparked a liquidity crisis that led to Saab halting production on April 6 as unpaid suppliers stopped deliveries.

Peugeot sets ‘electric’ Nürburgring lap record

imagePeugeot’s EX1 Concept has set a lap record at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife for an electric car.
Peugeot has set a record lap time at the Nürburgring Nordschleife for an electric car.

The company’s EX1 Concept Car was driven by Stéphane Caillet, driver and technician at Peugeot’s Research and Development Centre, around the 13-mile circuit in a time of nine minutes, 1.338 seconds.

Expats expand horizons in the quest to live the dream


Adventurous Britons are seeking new places to settle, says Laura Henderson.

The global recession has cast a pall on many of life’s “big” adventures. Take the legions of eurozone émigrés who, until recently, were enjoying sun, sea and sand on fixed sterling incomes from savings and pensions.

Have we got mews for you?


The rear quarters, once just for servants and horses, are enjoying a revival by offering a taste of village life in the heart of London, says Graham Norwood

Lords and ladies might still rule in Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, but in the property world the servants are taking their revenge. Mews houses – staff quarters and stables once owned by Britain’s grandest families – are back in fashion.

The chocolate-lovers’ good homes guide


High-end foodie shops are a sure sign of a buoyant property market, says Caroline McGhie

Who would have thought that chocolatiers and cake-bakers could be wealth indicators in an area? But if you think about it, those handmade truffles and macaroons can be bought only where disposable incomes are high. Even in these economically challenged times, though spending has been cut back on holidays it has increased on cupcakes. To seek out the most buoyant local property markets you could do worse than follow your sweet tooth.

My space: Fiona Goble, craft author


Craft Author and knitting blogger Fiona Goble shows us round her kitchen extension in Hertfordshire

This sunny room in our house in Hertfordshire is an extension of the kitchen. It has a skylight, so even on a dark day it’s lovely and bright. I have a workroom upstairs, but I do all my knitting here – you can see all the colours as they are. It also means I can put the washing on or stir the spag bol as I’m working.

A perfect classical house


The Pediment in Northamptonshire is a display of British classical style at its best, discovers Clive Aslet

The sun is shining, tea and Victoria sponge are on the terrace. A magnolia in full flower at the front of the house completes the scene. This is The Pediment, in the stone-built Northamptonshire village of Aynho, the remarkable home of John Jackson, the lawyer, businessman, author and countryside campaigner, and his wife, Rowena.

How to go green in style


Sarah Lonsdale tests the latest ‘eco’ products and sorts the fads from the finds. This week: a luxury finish

When it comes to home interiors the prefix “eco” still has the tendency to conjure up images of hair shirts. And those on a budget or who want to be really saintly can always find reclaimed wall tiles or rustically finished tables from reused floor planks for their homes.

What to wear for the royal wedding


Treat it as a particularly nationalistic holiday and festoon yourself in union flags, just like everyone else What shall I wear to watch the royal wedding?

Martha, London

Well, Martha, nothing educates more than example so I shall tell you what I will be wearing: pyjamas, bed socks and a pair of toothpicks, holding up each of my eyelids. As you might have discerned, this is an outfit with a toothpick-prodded eye more on practicalities than aesthetics, and the practicality here is that certain editors are making certain writers watch the wedding even though these writers live in a different time zone and therefore will need to be awake and pretending to care about things like “succession” and “balding princes” at 4am. Not that I’ve ever been one to complain. Stoic – that’s what they’ve always said about me, and by “always” I mean “never”.

What the royal wedding means for the Beckhams


Could Prince William and Kate Middleton steal the celebrity crown from David and Victoria? Of course not At this pivotal time for our nation, there are certain questions I am asked more than any others in my formal capacity as Sometime Writer of a Page Designed To Be Taken Desperately Seriously. Perhaps the most common one: “Is Alex Reid still a celebrity?” (The short answer: it’s complicated. We’re going to have to deal with it in full next week.) Second only to that inquiry, however, is the question: “What does the royal wedding mean for the Beckhams?”

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