19Sep

We Brits chuck out 162 million nanas a year. We think this is outrageous – so sniffed out a recipe to convert brown bananas into delicious banana bread…

This is a lovely, easy recipe and uses up those brown, over-ripe bananas that everyone refuses to eat.

It is particularly delicious cut into thick slices and toasted under the grill and then served with quality butter spread on top.


Ingredients:

175g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarb

125g unsalted butter, melted

small pinch of salt

150g sugar (you can substitute this for coconut sugar or part sugar/part agarve syrup or maple syrup)

2 large eggs

3 very ripe bananas mashed (easy to mash using a potato masher)

60g chopped walnuts (or indeed any nuts or even chocolate chips) - optional

1 tsp vanilla extract


Method:

1. Preheat oven to 170C or gas 3.  Line a bread tin with greased greaseproof paper.

2. Mix in a bowl: flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt.

3. In another large bowl, mix melted butter with sugar (or sugar substitute) and add the vanilla extract.

4. Add the eggs one by one into butter & sugar mix and beat well.

5. Add the mashed banana into this mix. Add the nuts or choc chips if using.

6. Add the flour mix a third at a time and beat well so there are no air pockets of flour.

7. Pour into your baking tin and cook on middle shelf of oven for about an hour (it can take up to an hour and a quarter)

8. To check if it's ready, insert a skewer or sharp knife into the middle of the cake and if it comes out cleanish then the cake is ready.

9. Leave on a wire rack to cool in the tin. Remove from tin when cool and cut into slices and devour!


Better still, consider these tips on how to make your bananas last longer!


19Sep

Good photos are increasingly important when it comes to making your property stand out. Here are our tips…

We humans are becoming more and more visual, in terms of how we assess things. People scan the listings of the property websites, like Rightmove or Onthemarket with incredible speed, sometimes not even stopping to read the description.

Consequently, photos are of increasing importance when it comes to making your property stand out.

We take great care with our photos, and like to think we do a better job than the average agent. But here are some things that you can do before we come to photograph your property – to give it that extra edge over the competition…


Let there be light

A lack of natural light can be a big turn-off for buyers, so think about clearing window sills, drawing back the curtains and giving the windows a clean. If you have net curtains, it might be worth dispensing with these for a while, particularly if you’re trying to appeal to younger buyers.


Be ruthless on the de-cluttering

Try to think about how a room will look from a buyer’s perspective. You may love your Beatrix Potter collection, but others may see it as a lot of clutter, making the room look smaller. What’s more, you want them to appreciate the room, and not be distracted by the things in it.

So be brave and have a ruthless clear-out before the photoshoot, and maybe ask a friend, who doesn’t live there, to give you a fresh pair of eyes on the contents of a room. 

If you have a lot of stuff that you still can’t do without, consider putting it in storage for a while before the shoot and during the period of viewings.


Be frank with furniture

Unless you’re ultra-minimalist, most of us have at least one item of furniture too many in every room! So try to think about doing away with one piece of furniture in every room, or putting it into storage for a wee while.

When we visit to take the photos, we might suggest moving slightly an item or two, if it’s going to be in the foreground of a shot and appear disproportionately large.


Sparkle that kitchen and bathroom

It’s said that ‘kitchens and bathrooms sell houses’! Well, this is sometimes true of the bathroom, but almost always true of the kitchen – after all, it’s the ‘heart of the house’ for many modern buyers, who’ll spend a lot of time here. 

So again, give these rooms a good de-clutter, bin any nearly-used bottles of shampoo, clear the counters in the kitchen and give them both a good sparkle.


Stage it like a pro

We’ve all seen how the property programmes and magazines make a room look inviting with some clever touches like wine glasses or flowers on a table! But these really can make a difference, helping people imagine having good times with friends and family in your property.


Look at it from the front

Go outside to the front, to the spot where potential buyers will first see your property – after all you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Remove any bins, bikes, storage boxes, old cars, boats, caravans. Give the lawn a mow, the path a sweep, the windows a clean, and the bushes a clip. Say goodbye to any dead branches or leaves on bushes or trees, and dig up any weeds.


The same applies to the back garden too if you have one. 

Of course, all of these things may seem obvious, but look at these photos and you’d be amazed at how many people overlook them (although agents and sellers equally to blame for this lot!).


19Sep

1. Sheffield Park and Garden 

In the autumn, Sheffield Park and Garden near Uckfield bursts into stunning colour as the leaves turn myriad shades of russet, purple, and gold. Stunning areas of immaculately landscaped gardens give way to historic woodland and 250 acres of parkland to explore, while four tranquil lakes reflect the dazzling displays of autumnal colour from the trees. The Grade 1 listed garden was planted for this magical season – in the early 20th century the owner Arthur Soames introduced many of the plant species which now create this splendid seasonal spectacle.  As you stroll around, stop and listen and you might just hear the sound of steam trains approaching on the Bluebell Railway, transporting you back to a gentler time. 


2. Ashdown Forest and Pooh walk 

Ashdown Forest is nestled in the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty between Crowborough, Forest Row and is well known to our colleagues there! It is one of the largest free public access spaces in the South East. Fallow and roe deer still roam this former Norman deer-hunting ground, and visitors now flock to the Forest to enjoy the spectacular views as autumn changes the colour of the scenery along the wooded hills of the Weald to the chalk escarpments of the North Downs and South Downs. The 6500 acres of heathland and ancient woodland create the perfect environment for taking one or a combination of the mapped walks during the misty days of autumn. What makes it even more special is that Ashdown Forest is also famously the home of Winnie-the-Pooh. Take the spectacular ‘Pooh’ walk through woodland and explore the haunts of A.A. Milne's bear of little brain and his friends.


3. Devil’s Dyke

Rising up impressively from the South Downs and just five miles north of Brighton, lies the legendary and mysterious landscape of Devil’s Dyke. Boasting England’s most colourful habitat which really comes to its visual peak in autumn, the breathtaking view was once described by the artist John Constable as the “grandest view in the world”. The mile-long valley, the longest and deepest in the UK, was formed in the last ice age over 10,000 years ago (although rumour has it that it was dug by the Devil himself to drown the parishioners of the Weald…). As you ascend the hill, you can spot the remnants of the Iron Age hill fort’s ramparts, and the remains of a Victorian funfair can be found just outside the car park. Various trails take you on walks with magnificent views of the Downs, the Weald, and the sea, while in autumn, guided funghi hunts take place in the open downland and woodland.


4. Parham House and Gardens

Parham House and Gardens in Pulborough is beautifully set within 875 acres in the South Downs. Its 16th century deer park, Pleasure Grounds and four-acre Walled Garden make Parham a wonderful place for a leisurely weekend ramble.  In autumn, the gardens’ lilies, roses and lupins create a profusion of stunning autumnal colour. The beautiful herbaceous borders, glasshouse, and a 1920s Wendy House create the atmosphere of a timeless place that has changed little for many years. The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is epitomised in Parham’s orchard, where the trees hang heavily with fruits including damson, pear, plum, greengage, and quince. The Rose Garden’s stone paths take the visitor on a floral tour that’s a visual feast for the eyes, while the Wendy House, built by Clive Pearson in 1928 for his three daughters, is a delightful child-sized two-storey cottage built into the garden wall with its own oak front door and wrought iron balcony.


5. Borde Hill Garden 

Named by Country Life magazine as ‘One of the country’s truly great gardens’, Borde Hill Garden in Haywards Heath sits within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which affords incredible views over the Sussex Weald and the Ouse Valley. The 200 acres of garden, parkland and woodland are a treat for the senses - a riot of rich colour and intense scent, perfect for an autumn day out. The grounds are planted with trees, shrubs and perennial plant species gathered by plant hunters from all around the world in the 1700s. To the north west of the garden lies the splendid Warren Wood which is planted with spruces and pines from Japan and China, a Himalayan Juniper, and cypresses and pines from America. Stephanie’s Glade to the west is home to many rare trees which, along with those in the South Park, put on a spectacular display come the autumn.


29Apr

Although small garden can be frustrating for eager gardeners, but as with most things in life, small can also be beautiful.

Clever tricks and some careful planning can help you make the most of your outside space, no matter how tiny it may be. Here are a few principles to keep in mind when gardening in a small space.


Make use of your garden's height

What many gardens lack in width, they often make up for in height. Open shelves occupy a small footprint but enable you to display many plants at different heights. For a more quirky look, you could even use a vintage wooden stepladder for a similar effect.

If you are lucky enough to have trees in your garden, try training climbers up their trunks. A climbing rose or clematis will add another layer of colour and interest without taking up any additional space.


Clever planting

The golden rule when planting in a small space is to make every part of your garden work as hard as possible. When planting spring bulbs, try layering tulips, daffodils, and iris in the same area to create a display that will last for the whole season.

Evergreens provide structure, colour and interest all year round, so make a wise choice when you are pushed for room. Try to disperse them evenly around your garden, preferably in positions that can help disguise sheds, buildings, and other eyesores.


Fool the eye with mirrors

Nestling vintage mirrors amongst your plants serves the dual purpose of tricking the eye into thinking the area is larger than it is, as well as adding a romantic, whimsical vibe to your garden. They also provide an extra focal point without taking up much valuable space.


Utilise your surfaces

With the right tools and materials, just about every surface in your garden can become home to a plant. Potted plants can be positioned on windowsills, shed roofs, and tables and chairs. There are even plant pots available for attaching to fences, walls, and downpipes, ideal for disguising ugly buildings and softening any sharp edges.


Choose heavily scented varieties

Filling the air with beautiful scent can help give the impression that your garden contains more plants than it actually does. Just one heavily-scented rose can give your garden a lovely aroma, and positioning a lavender plant close to the door will give a relaxing fragrance every time you brush past.


Get creative

Even in a small garden, replacing annuals year after year can start to get expensive. Investing in a few garden sculptures or simply placing large urns amongst the foliage means that your garden will never be without form, height and year-round interest. When the plants around it die back they can either be replaced, or the space left clear to appreciate your work of art.

With some careful planning and by making the most of what you've got, it is possible to turn even the smallest of gardens into a sanctuary. Whether you have a small yard, a roof terrace or even just a balcony, by following some simple rules you can create a relaxing space that really punches above its weight. Last of all, remember that the silver lining of a small garden is that it is easier to maintain so you space can always be kept looking its best.

Thanks to Homebase for the image

29Apr

The growth in wealth of property investors outperformed the average entrant in The Sunday Times Rich List 2016.

Brothers and property tycoons David and Simon Reuben headed up the list of the UK’s wealthiest people after seeing their net worth rise by 35% to £13.1bn.

Of the 1000 people on this year’s List with property among their investment, 61% saw their wealth increase, with just 12%% of property investors seeing their wealth fall during the year.

Chris Hounsome, director of Mansell McTaggart’s Crawley office, said that “once again we see those investing in property seeing a steady increase in their wealth compared to other forms of asset – whether that is as a property to occupy, or a property to rent out”.

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