The GREAT outdoors!

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We’ve never appreciated being outside more than we do now and with more gradually opening up to us, let’s get out and enjoy it

It’s the time of year when we’re normally thinking about going on holiday and spending as much time as possible outside – and with more of us likely to opt for staycations and short breaks closer to home this year, where do you start?

Fingers crossed, campsites are preparing to reopen this month with social distancing measures and a limited number of places, some will reopen second fields while others will introduce measures such as a system including timed use of showers.

If you’re a camping virgin, The Camping and Caravanning Club is a great place to start with all you need and some helpful advice:

• Stay in the open air – there are many physical and well-being benefits of camping and caravanning thanks to spending time in the fresh air

• Stay local – there will be a campsite near you, there’s no need to travel far for a change of scene and the local economies will benefit too

• Stay comfortable – there will be social distancing measures in place when they’re able to re-open campsites

The Club’s Director General Sabina Voysey said: “We believe the great outdoors will never feel greater and we can’t wait for the day when we’re able to welcome people back to our campsites. By sharing our handy guides, top tips and online content we hope we can introduce even more people to the joys of camping and caravanning.”

TV presenter Julia Bradbury is president of The Camping and Caravanning Club and created The Outdoor Guide (TOG) website to share her love of all things outdoors.

She said: “Green spaces are incredibly important to me. And they don’t have to be big, wide open landscapes. Yes, I love the Peak District and the Lake District, and Dartmoor and I love exploring the wilds of Scotland, but green spaces, parks, gardens, even simple window boxes. These ‘little bits of green’ or smaller green environs are equally important.

“Growing something, for example, in a window box is a way to connect with nature. And that is something that we have evolved to do. And it’s an important part of our makeup. We know for example, that time spent in green spaces, whether that is parks or bigger landscapes, either of those, time spent in green spaces is good for us.”

For many time spent in outdoor spaces means enjoying a walk and while Julia won’t commit to a favourite she explained that was the reasoning behind TOG: “People have been asking me for years and years about my favourite walks or where I like to stay or the pub that I was at, or where I was when I had that pie and pint, or that little woodshop that I called into, or the blacksmith/carpenter I talked to…

“So we’ve put all of that information up on the website and there are hundreds and hundreds of really good walks up on there. It’s not fair for me to say a favourite walk because I just like being out there.

“And it depends where you live. Some people will never get to the other side of the country. They’ll explore what they’ve got on their doorstep and that’s absolutely fine as well.

“Of course, the Peak District would always have a special place in my heart as will the Lake District because that’s where I made my first TV walks – The Wainwright walks – filming in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright, so those two places are special.”

Julia believes it’s just important for people to get out and enjoy it, especially now. She added: “A University of Exeter study of nearly 20,000 people in England last year revealed people who spend at least 120 minutes a week in nature are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological well being, than those who don’t visit nature at all.

“One hundred and twenty minutes a week is nothing but the benefits to all are enormous, quite simply nature and green spaces help to keep us healthy. Governments that don’t recognise this are being incredibly foolish – it’s almost like having a second health service… This study found the majority of nature visits took place within just two miles of people’s homes.”

There’s lots more information on Julia’s website The Outdoor Guide, www.theoutdoorguide.com

UK tourism industry site Visit Britain is developing a quality mark for tourism businesses, including campsites, in response to Covid-19. It aims to reassure visitors businesses are complying with government guidelines.

The National Trust is reopening some of its properties but with many restrictions still in place. Visitors can now walk in some of its open spaces locally – White Horse Hill at Uffington; Buscot and Coleshill Estate in Wiltshire; the Chilterns countryside; Ashdown, Lambourn; Bibury, Gloucestershire and Stonehenge landscape. Car parks have reopened at these sites, some with limited space on a first come first served basis.

Some sites have been able to reopen further with gardens, parklands, estates and car parks welcoming visitors. Booking is essential at all properties although the houses themselves will not be open. Those you can now visit locally include: Cliveden and Basildon Park in Berkshire; Stowe, Waddesdon and Hughendon, all in Buckinghamshire; Buscot Park and Greys Court in Oxfordshire.

Visit the National Trust website for details
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/how-to-book-your-visit-and-what-to-expect

A National Trust spokesperson said: “We knew that once we started a gradual opening of our gardens and parklands, tickets for our places would be very popular; particularly with such fine weather.

“We’ve made careful decisions about which gardens and parklands can open, and we have limited their capacity to ensure everyone can adhere to social distancing to maintain the safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers, which remains our top priority.”

Historic Blenheim Palace in Woodstock has also reopened its formal gardens and walks for visitors to enjoy. Again booking for dates and times is essential as numbers are limited. The Palace has introduced a number of safety measures such as installing hand washing facilities and sanitisers, operating a cashless system and screens at kiosks. Visit www.blenheimpalace.com/ for all you need to know.

Walk around the beautiful gardens of Stonor Park near Henley which has welcomed visitors again and enjoy the offerings from street food vendors too. Pre-booked tickets are a must with timed entry only. The street food will also need to be booked in advance. For more information and to book visit www.stonor.com

You can also enjoy a walk around Windsor Great Park, observing the now customary restrictions and Savill Garden has reopened to friends and members as well with a further phased opening planned to welcome more people to appreciate the splendour of the gardens.

Make the most of the English outdoors and celebrate it as The Camping and Caravanning Club says on its website ‘the good times will never feel better’ and ‘the outside will never feel greater’.

• Share with us where you like to go. Which places are you longing to get back to? Get in touch with us via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and share your pictures

Explore education

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With many of us having more time on our hands, there’s never been a better time to learn something new

Always wanted to learn a new language or are you looking to boost your career with further skills? Whatever your age or circumstances there’s a course for you.

Are you a parent who wants to get back into learning? Didn’t get the grades first time round and want a fresh start? Need to boost your CV with qualifications in your chosen career or simply want to learn something for fun – whatever your reasons there are a variety of options available.

The Open University has helped thousands get the qualifications they need from their own home but if you’re not sure you want to commit on a long-term basis why not try OpenLearn, the free learning platform.

Courses consist of bite-size learning experiences designed to fit into busy lives. There are more than 900 short courses to choose from, ranging from one to 100 hours of study. Many are adapted from OU modules and allow you to earn a ‘statement of participation’, although not a credit towards a qualification.

OpenLearn aims to break down barriers to education such as access, cost and lack of confidence.

To find out more about the range of courses available visit https://www.open.edu/openlearn/

Activate Learning is an educational group with colleges in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Surrey that can help you make the right choice to suit your needs depending on what’s right for you and your ambitions.

Develop your artistic talents, turn your hobby into a business or advance your career with Activate Learning’s part-time courses for adults whether that’s one of the 400+ leisure courses, professional courses to help further your career or gaining access to further education.

Find out more

For information visit

LEARN AT HOME WITH OXFORD UNIVERSITY

Adult learners of all ages, and from more than 160 countries worldwide, gather together on Oxford University’s short online courses.

In fact, demand in recent months has been so strong that the University is offering a summer term of online courses for the first time ever.

Summer courses begin in the weeks commencing June 15th and 22nd. Choose from creative writing, psychology, philosophy, social entrepreneurship, archaeology, politics and more, at www.conted.ox.ac.uk/online

Modelled on face-to-face teaching, online courses take place in a virtual learning environment and class sizes are kept small to maximise interaction between students and the tutor.

Additionally, the Continuing Education Department have launched a ‘Curious Minds’ campaign, aimed at keeping brains active during these challenging times. It’s a large collection of free online learning resources, chosen by academic staff of the Department.

‘Curious Minds’ – www.conted.ox.ac.uk/curious-minds – brings the world straight into your home: museum collections, recorded lectures, language learning, music and more. It’s all about staying connected with learning!

The Department for Continuing Education at Oxford University offers more than 1,000 part-time courses each year for adult learners across the globe, including undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Find out more

Star Q&A: Julia’s outdoor jewels

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To say TV presenter Julia Bradbury loves the outdoors would be an understatement, so much so that she set up The Outdoor Guide website packed with wonderful walks, picturesque pubs to stay in and everything you need to get out and enjoy yourself

Q. Let’s start with exactly what it does mean to you to be outdoors and its particular importance while we’ve been in lockdown?

A. I think a lot of people have reconnected with nature and with green spaces during lockdown. People talk about being able to hear the birds sing and they are noticing things like flowers in bloom, more bees in the gardens, along hedgerows and in their parks, cleaner air and lack of noise pollution. There is no doubt that the plus against all the negativity of the Coronavirus is that it has made people more aware of nature. I hope the message is coming across loud and clear that we need nature to protect us from viruses like COVID-19; it’s because of the manmade breakdown of nature that this disease has crossed over. The more forests, oceans and wildlife habitats we destroy the more endangered humans become.

Q. Did you always have a love of the outdoors as a child, any special memories?

A. I was incredibly lucky. I had a dad who adored the great outdoors. I went to school in Sheffield, I grew up in Rutland and Sheffield and after school and at weekends my dad Michael, a Derbyshire man, would take me walking around Buxton and the Peak District, which is where he used to go exploring with his brother when he was a little lad. They were fantastic bonding experiences for him and I, but also, I think it planted this seed deep in my psyche, deep in my heart and deep in my brain, to appreciate and love the outdoors.

Q. Do your children share your love for the great outdoors?

A. Yes, and in fact, their favourite day from last year was a cold, wet October windy day when they got dressed up from head to toe in their outdoor guide waterproofs. We all zipped up so the only thing that was exposed was our faces and we went out into the sheet rain. We had a full-on wet leaf fight and rolled down the hill, jumped in puddles, and we got soaked. They often talk about that day and they just want to go out and roll in the leaves again.

Q. You’ve recently done a Q&A on The Outdoor Guide with psychologist Jonathan Hoban about mental health, what did you take from that?

A. We started doing our lockdown sessions which are up on TOG for people to access who have been struggling with mental health issues throughout this period. We touched on topics like keeping routine and how important that is for lockdown, how it’s okay to feel angry and how it’s alright to feel emotional. I actually had a day a few weeks ago, in the midst of the lockdown period when I just lost it. I couldn’t stop crying; all because I couldn’t get an iron to work. It wasn’t about that of course – it was the whole situation, all the questions and uncertainties that we are all facing. It’s OK not to be OK all the time! It’s very beneficial to have these weekly discussions with Jonathan, hopefully for lots of people.

To find out more visit The Outdoor Guide website at https://theoutdoorguide.co.uk/

The GREAT outdoors!

Round & About

Featured

We’ve never appreciated being outside more than we do now and with more gradually opening up to us, let’s get out and enjoy it

t’s the time of year when we’re normally thinking about going on holiday and spending as much time as possible outside – and with more of us likely to opt for staycations and short breaks closer to home this year, where do you start?

Fingers crossed, campsites are preparing to reopen this month with social distancing measures and a limited number of places, some will reopen second fields while others will introduce measures such as a system including timed use of showers.

If you’re a camping virgin, The Camping and Caravanning Club is a great place to start with all you need and some helpful advice:

• Stay in the open air – there are many physical and well-being benefits of camping and caravanning thanks to spending time in the fresh air

• Stay local – there will be a campsite near you, there’s no need to travel far for a change of scene and the local economies will benefit too

• Stay comfortable – there will be social distancing measures in place when they’re able to re-open campsites

The Club’s Director General Sabina Voysey said: “We believe the great outdoors will never feel greater and we can’t wait for the day when we’re able to welcome people back to our campsites. By sharing our handy guides, top tips and online content we hope we can introduce even more people to the joys of camping and caravanning.”

TV presenter Julia Bradbury is president of The Camping and Caravanning Club and created The Outdoor Guide (TOG) website to share her love of all things outdoors. She said: “Green spaces are incredibly important to me. And they don’t have to be big, wide open landscapes. Yes, I love the Peak District and the Lake District, and Dartmoor and I love exploring the wilds of Scotland, but green spaces, parks, gardens, even simple window boxes. These ‘little bits of green’ or smaller green environs are equally important.

“Growing something, for example, in a window box is a way to connect with nature. And that is something that we have evolved to do. And it’s an important part of our makeup. We know for example, that time spent in green spaces, whether that is parks or bigger landscapes, either of those, time spent in green spaces is good for us.”

For many time spent in outdoor spaces means enjoying a walk and while Julia won’t commit to a favourite she explained that was the reasoning behind TOG: “People have been asking me for years and years about my favourite walks or where I like to stay or the pub that I was at, or where I was when I had that pie and pint, or that little woodshop that I called into, or the blacksmith/carpenter I talked to…

“So we’ve put all of that information up on the website and there are hundreds and hundreds of really good walks up on there. It’s not fair for me to say a favourite walk because I just like being out there.
“And it depends where you live. Some people will never get to the other side of the country. They’ll explore what they’ve got on their doorstep and that’s absolutely fine as well.

“Of course, the Peak District would always have a special place in my heart as will the Lake District because that’s where I made my first TV walks – The Wainwright walks – filming in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright, so those two places are special.”

Julia believes it’s just important for people to get out and enjoy it, especially now. She added: “A University of Exeter study of nearly 20,000 people in England last year revealed people who spend at least 120 minutes a week in nature are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological well being, than those who don’t visit nature at all. 120 minutes a week is nothing but the benefits to all are enormous, quite simply nature and green spaces help to keep us healthy. Governments that don’t recognise this are being incredibly foolish – it’s almost like having a second health service… This study found the majority of nature visits took place within just two miles of people’s homes.”

There’s lots more information on Julia’s website The Outdoor Guide, www.theoutdoorguide.com

UK tourism industry site Visit Britain is developing a quality mark for tourism businesses, including campsites, in response to Covid-19. It aims to reassure visitors businesses are complying with government guidelines.

The National Trust is another taking its first tentative steps to reopening some of its properties and the sheer joy of being able to set foot somewhere other than your doorstep or local park is overwhelming.

With many restrictions still in place, the Trust has welcomed visitors to walk in some of its open spaces locally – Runnymede; Witley and Milford Commons; Frensham Little Pond; Hindhead Commons; Swan Barn Farm, Black Down and Marley Common in Haslemere; Petworth; Lavington Common at Woolbeding; Selborne Common and Hydon’s Ball and Heath, Godalming. Car parks have reopened at these sites, some
with limited space on a first come first served basis.

As from the beginning of June, some of its sites have been able to reopen further with gardens, parklands, estates and car parks welcoming visitors. Booking is essential at all properties although the houses themselves will not be open.

Those you can now visit locally are: Hinton Ampner, Mottisfont and The Vyne in Hampshire; Polesden Lacey, Hatchlands Park, Claremont and Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey and Standen House and Garden and Nymans, West Sussex.

Visit the National Trust website for details, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/how-to-book-your-visit-and-what-to-expect

A National Trust spokesperson said: “We knew that once we started a gradual opening of our gardens and parklands, tickets for our places would be very popular; particularly with such fine weather.

“We’ve made careful decisions about which gardens and parklands can open, and we have limited their capacity to ensure everyone can adhere to social distancing to maintain the safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers, which remains our top priority.”

Historic Painshill is welcoming visitors again with appropriate social distancing measures in place. The grotto, upper floors of the Gothic Tower and gift shop are closed but the tearoom is open for takeaways and picnics can be enjoyed in the grounds. Bookings must be made in advance and entry numbers are restricted, visit www.painshill.co.uk/visiting-painshill-covid-19-pandemic/
RHS Wisley has also partially reopened to the public, again with limitations on numbers and with areas such as glasshouses, alpine houses, bird hides and play areas staying closed.

Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, said: “We are delighted the government has said it is safe to reopen our RHS Gardens because it is proven that spending time outside in green open spaces surrounded by plants has an immensely positive effect on our health.

“We look forward to welcoming our members and visitors safely back and to bringing the joy of plants, flowers, trees and nature back into people’s lives, which for so many will be a much-needed tonic.”

There is limited capacity to comply with government guidelines and booking is essential. Visit https://tinyurl.com/y9l7b4gs

Make the most of the English outdoors and celebrate it as The Camping and Caravanning Club says on its website ‘the good times will never feel better’ and ‘the outside will never feel greater’.

Salute our Forces

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Our Armed Forces are something for us to be proud of at any time as they work to keep us safe and now they are helping to fight coronavirus

Armed Forces Day on Saturday, 27th June, is the chance to show your support for those who make up the Armed Forces community whether they are serving troops, their families, veterans or cadets.

There are many ways to get involved and show your support and while this year things are very different due the current restrictions, it’s important to acknowledge the part our Armed Forces are playing in the fight against coronavirus.

The national celebration in Scarborough has been cancelled as have the local parades and tributes but that doesn’t mean you can’t still say thank you.

#SaluteOurForces is a simple way for anyone to pay tribute to the British Armed Forces for their hard work, dedication and efforts to and keep everyone safe in the UK and across the world. Send a photo or video of yourself or your friends and colleagues saluting, find out how to do it properly at https://www.armedforcesday.org.uk/get-involved/saluteourforces/ – did you know the Royal Navy salute differently to the Royal Air Force and the British Army?

Show your support for our Armed Forces and help provide a much-needed morale boost as they work not only to defend the UK and its interests around the world but at the moment through the Covid Support Force.

As part of their work in the fight against the coronavirus, the Armed Forces have helped with the building of the new hospitals, providing test centres, delivering vital PPE and ventilators and working with the ambulance service.

Find out more

Show your support, visit

Scrubs help

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Huge thanks goes out to all those who have been making scrubs in their homes and the schools coming together to make face shields for our NHS and key workers, read their stories here.

CHOOSE YOUR AREA:

Gardening leave

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How does your garden grow? Does it rival Chelsea Flower Show or is it just patches of green and brown in need of some love and attention? Once it looks good, sit back and enjoy it in style and comfort

We’ve had some good weather in the last few weeks and that has definitely been a bonus as we all adhere to the ‘stay in’ restrictions. The other thing it’s meant is that we’re all enjoying our gardens more – showering them with TLC and generally being more appreciative of our personal green space.

And as we move towards summer with fingers crossed for both sunshine and being able to be with our family and friends again, let’s get out in our gardens and make the most of them!

It’s really important at this time to think about our mental wellbeing as well as keeping physical activity up, simply weeding and prepping pots for new plants boosts your spirits. Then sit back and admire your handy work in some stylish furniture on your patio or decking and under the shade of a gazebo!

The lawn

The crowning glory of many a garden is the lawn and whether you’re attempting to emulate Wembley-like turf for the kids to play football on or a lush green carpet to simply sit back and admire, how do you achieve that? You may have had to reseed in the spring with regular feeding, the lawn is a living plant like any other in your garden and needs nurturing. Cut the grass little and often and give it air if needed, make deep holes to allow it to become aerated and you’ve given yourself a good start.

Pots and containers

If you only really have a patio or small space to make the most of, pots and containers are the answer. Not only are they a practical way to grow plants, they’ll be easier to maintain – just remember they need a lot of root space, water and stability to protect them from the wind. And there are a great variety of pots and containers out there now not just the traditional terracotta, although you could update these with a lick of paint making them as colourful and attractive as the plants they’ll hold.

Outdoor entertaining

This is the fun part of the garden and even if we can’t have our friends and family round to enjoy it at the moment with us, making those video calls with a glass of wine in the garden does at least make it more bearable! More and more now gardens are becoming a true extension of people’s homes so the need for a paved entertaining area with space for a table and chairs is essential.

The ambitious among you could also get your teeth into a pizza oven too, it could be used as a wood-fired fireplace even if you aren’t hungry. Sunken fire pits are becoming more popular and for the really decadent, how about a hot tub to help extend the use of the garden into the evening and in the cooler weather?

Talking of the weather, while we’ve been lucky the past few weeks with some glorious sunshine to enjoy, we all know how fickle the English climate can be so some sort of shelter is a must, choose a summerhouse, gazebo, pergola, awning, shade sails or umbrellas – you’re spoilt for choice if the weather does spoil the party.

Water features

You’ve got the basics done so now it’s time to take it up a notch, how about a water feature to enhance the space and provide a focal point, not to mention the relaxing sound running water makes. Water features don’t just mean ponds, there are any number of ornamental structures available which needn’t take up a great deal of space but can be a real talking point.

Flooring

Decking or natural stone paving are the most traditional methods of flooring for your garden space, think about what you want to use your garden for and if it’s uneven and you want to avoid enormous amounts of levelling then gravel may be the answer.

Lighting

How about shedding some light on your garden too – it will allow you to eat, read or just sit and enjoy it long into the evening and lighting doesn’t have to mean multi-coloured Christmas tree-like adornments, although if it’s a party garden that may be ideal. From spotlights to tea lights, stylish decorative lighting needn’t cost the earth. The right lighting really can add a magical touch to your garden but make sure you position it well – you don’t want guests to feel they are being interrogated!

Play area

Many gardens need to fulfil more than just one function, as well as being somewhere to relax, for many families they have to be somewhere children can play too. So how to combine the two? Perhaps screen off an area using trellis, use a shed to store bulky equipment, consider natural materials for swings and playhouses so it blends in more than manmade alternatives – it’s more environmentally friendly too.

Growing your own

If you’re lucky enough to have room in your garden to grow some veggies, there has never been a better time to give it a go. Not only does it deal with environmental concerns but it’s also a cheap alternative, why not get the kids involved and turn it into part of home schooling too! Nothing beats the taste of fresh veg, herbs and fruit grown by your own hands and don’t let lack of space stop you, tomatoes and strawberries can be grown in pots.

Vertical gardens

These are a great way for people with small gardens to surround themselves with plants. Green walls and vertical gardening allows urban-dwellers to make more of their space. Specialist green wall companies are popping up who can install and help maintain your systems.

Wildlife friendly gardens

Do your bit for the environment with plants and structures that attract wildlife, birds, insects and small mammals. Log piles, hedgehog boxes, bee hotels and more will help to bring wildlife that is interesting to watch, and keep down pests such as slugs and aphids. Many plants are attractive to pollinating insects too.

And most importantly once you’ve created your perfect haven make sure you take time to enjoy it with a glass of something refreshing!

Need some inspiration...

Many gardens can be toured virtually while closed, take a look at:
RHS Wisley – enjoy the Glasshouse, Wisteria Walk, Rock Garden and The Mixed Borders as well as aerial views of the gardens
The National Garden Scheme (NGS) has launched a virtual library of tours around its gardens, find out more at ngs.org.uk
Virtual tours, gardens through the ages and top gardening tips can be found at

Save music venues campaign

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A new national campaign has been launched by Music Venue Trust to save hundreds of grassroots music venues at imminent risk of being closed down – permanently.

Without these independent venues the live music scene in the UK will die. These grassroots venues play a crucial role in the development of British music, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills. These venues also play a vital role in the cultural and economic vibrancy of any village, town or city.

Currently 556 venues are at risk including The Northcourt Centre, Abingdon; The Boileroom, Guildford and the Fiery Bird, Woking.

Artists will be performing ‘at home’ gigs in support of their local venues, chosen from a list of venues currently in crisis which can be found at the campaign website www.saveourvenues.co.uk.

Each venue will have their own fundraising page with a clear target of the funds it needs to raise to stay afloat throughout this difficult period. Once a target is reached any excess revenue will go to the central #saveourvenues fund to help the wider grassroots music venue community.

HOW CAN MUSIC FANS GET INVOLVED?

1. Donate to a specific venue’s fundraising page by clicking this link www.saveourvenues.co.uk to see a list of local venues that urgently need help.

2. Watch ‘at home’ shows by artists supporting the #saveourvenues campaign. Click here www.saveourvenues.co.uk to see a list of shows coming up.

3. Donate to the national #saveourvenues fund via the website www.saveourvenues.co.uk

4. Help spread the word on social media using the hashtag #saveourvenues and the campaign link www.saveourvenues.co.uk.

One of the main drivers of this initiative is the musician Frank Turner whose recent series of ‘Independent Venue Love’ shows for local venues raised thousands of pounds and provided a major inspiration for this campaign.

Turner said: “The UK live music industry is staring into the abyss right now. I’m not able to save the whole thing on my own, but I decided to do a series of livestream shows to raise money for specific independent venues that I know and love, and that are in serious risk of disappearing right now. The success of these shows demonstrated the love that exists between music fans and their favourite grassroots music venues so the #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of building on that and hopefully giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them survive.”

Music Venue Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd said: “Without the support of music fans and artists literally hundreds of the UK’s grassroots music venues could go out of business, never to return, in the coming months. Please help to save every single grassroots music venue in the UK so that it can reopen after this crisis and continue to be a home to our musicians and our communities.”

To find out more

Room for improvement

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With the majority of us spending more time at home at the moment how about lavishing some love on your home and considering how you can improve it, Karen Neville looks at some ways to make the most of your home…

Renovating your home allows you to put your own stamp on it and make the space work for you and your family.

Think about exactly what it is you need, and make changes that will make life easier, whether that’s creating an extra room in the loft, knocking down a wall to create a family-friendly kitchen-diner or adding a conservatory, there are numerous ways you can improve your home and add value as well as falling back in love with where you live.

So what are the most popular ways to add value to your home and feel like it’s one of the family again…

Extension

The most popular way to increase the value of your home is to add space with an extra room, an additional bedroom will earn you the most money. Perhaps you need to make more space for another member of the family or your teenager no longer wants to share with their younger sibling – which could be the answer to a more harmonious life for all under the roof.

Loft conversion

This is a great way to add value and you don’t need planning permission to create a home office or children’s play area. If you don’t have room to add on a room then the only way really can be up!

Loft specialists Access4Lofts Guildford say: “Loft space is often underused or not used at all. The most common reasons for this include challenging or limited practical access to the loft as a result of a small hatch opening or a poor-quality ladder and insufficient usable storage in the loft space from either a lack of, or no suitable flooring or shelving.
“Space can be converted into safe and convenient storage for less than the price of a garden shed. Benefits include reduced utility bills from enhanced insulation and a noticeably decluttered and organised home which looks and feels bigger.”

WOODEN FLOORING

A relatively simple way to improve your home, giving it a fresh, clean look is to switch to wooden flooring, whether synthetic, such as laminate, real wood or engineered. Check out what’s best for your purposes and your lifestyle. Wood’s growing popularity means it’s another way to increase potential sale value should you move.

GARDEN MAKE OVER

Right now our gardens seem more precious than ever. If yours is looking neglected, it could be worth paying someone to sort it out. Add fences or trees to provide privacy, make a specific seating area, perhaps add a patio or decking. It’s also worth considering a covered area such as a pergola or awning or perhaps even a summer house to allow for the British summer weather! Another simple boost can be a garden shed and they needn’t just be for storing your lawnmower etc, take it up a notch and it could be an outdoor office, children’s play area or guest bedroom.

GO GREEN

We’re all trying to be more eco-friendly and aware of our planet and not only can these measures help you save on your bills but they can also add value to your home if you do decide to move. Double glazing, solar panels, adding or improving insulation can all make a real difference, as can LED lighting.

SERVE UP A KITCHEN MAKE OVER

If you decide to make just one improvement to your home, then the kitchen – the heart of the home – is the one to go for. But if you don’t have the resources to go for a complete overhaul then replacing the drawer and door fronts and keeping the units can make a huge difference. Even small changes can help renew your relationship with your kitchen, try new worktops, unique tiles, or quirky doors and handles for a simple lift.

CONSERVATORY

Natural lighting is always a great way to give a home a fresh lease of life and a conservatory with huge windows will certainly fit the bill as well as giving you extra space – use it as an additional living room or a stylish dining area. Most people won’t want to compromise on their garden space so consider sliding doors as the perfect way to blend indoors and outdoors.

EXTRA STORAGE

Creating extra storage in your home allowing you to declutter and streamline can give not just your home, but you a lift too, knowing the toys are stored away and there’s not ‘stuff’ all over the place! Build shelves or create cupboards in a variety of nooks, corners and under the stairs.

KNOCKING THROUGH ROOMS

An open plan living area can result in more room for dining in and entertaining making your existing space more attractive and look less cramped.

BATHROOM

Neutral shades and classic styles are the best way to make a splash with a new bathroom. Allow plenty of natural light to stream in, consider spotlights otherwise..

ROOFING, SOFFITS AND FASCIAS

Fascia boards and soffits play a vital role in protecting your home. They are crucial to the structural integrity of a property and usually mounted where the roof meets the outer walls of your home, fascia boards and soffits support holding guttering in place.

Gorgeous with George

No one is a bigger advocate for putting your money where your house is than architect, campaigner and TV presenter George Clarke. He says: “There’s no place like home. Whether it’s transforming a tiny bedroom or managing a large-scale build, we all have the possibility of experimenting with our environment and improving the way we live.

“My advice is to make it personal and beautiful. Your home is like an extended member of your family, unique and personal and its design should reflect that.”

George and his family live in a 1960s house in Notting Hill he has fully refurbished. “It’s not a big house,” he says, “but it has everything I need. My garden studio has to be my favourite part. I’m never happier than when I’m in that space… whether working, reading, sketching or watching TV. It contains most of my books on architecture and design as well as many architectural models of beautiful buildings from around the world. My studio goes some way to proving even the simplest and smallest of structures can be life-changing.”

For more on George & his work, visit

2.6 Challenge

Round & About

Featured

Thousands of you should no doubt have been running in the London Marathon tomorrow, Sunday, 26th April, and aside from the personal disappointment, charities large and small will miss out on the millions the annual event raises.

The Virgin Money London Marathon is the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event, raising more than £66.4 million for thousands of charities in 2019.

Many of these charities have had to reduce or stop services at a time when vulnerable members of society need them most; thousands of staff have been placed on furlough and many charities will not survive the next few months.

The 2.6 Challenge has been set up to help save the UK’s charities and you don’t need to be a runner to take part.

All you need to do is dream up an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 that suits your skills and complete it on Sunday, 26th April – when the 40th London Marathon would have taken place.

The 2.6 Challenge can be any activity you like – from running 2.6 miles to holding an online workout with 26 of your friends.

Whatever your age or ability, you can take part – it’s not just for superheroes but for home heroes.

Choose your #TwoPointSixChallenge, head to the ‘donate or fundraise’ buttons on the website to save your chosen charity, then complete your challenge.

Whether you’re running around the balcony for 2.6 miles, doing 26 press-ups with the dog on your back or bench-pressing 26 kilos with your grandchildren, your help to save the UK’s charities which have all been affected by the impact of the coronavirus.

Do your bit

Help to inspire the nation by sharing pictures or videos of your challenge on social media using the official hashtag #TwoPointSixChallenge to be part of the campaign.