Monday, 31 December 2018

Resolving to keep your resolutions this year?

woman thinking of New Year resolutions
Today is the day to make your New Year resolutions for 2019. And for many people, tomorrow is the day to break them!

A recent study by Bristol University found that 88 per cent of people who set New Year resolutions fail to keep them – although the majority of people are confident they will keep them at the time they make them.

It has probably been the same for thousands of years because New Year resolutions have a long-standing history.

The ancient Babylonians apparently made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, after whom the month of January is named.

So, how can you increase your chances of keeping your resolutions in 2019?

One tip is to make just one resolution. What do you really want to achieve this year? Your chances of success are known to be higher when you focus on changing just one aspect of your life.

If you can, break the resolution up into small steps. So, if you aim to lose weight, set yourself a monthly target – what would you like to weigh at the end of January? And then at the end of February? And so on, right through to this time next year.

Psychologists also suggest that you should give yourself a small reward whenever you achieve a sub-goal. This will help to motivate you and give you a sense of progress. So, if you hit your weight loss target for the end of January, treat yourself to a meal out. But make it a small one if you’re going to stand a chance of hitting your target for February!

And tell your friends and family about your goals. You're more likely to get support and, if you’ve made a public commitment to doing something, you will be more motivated to actually do it and avoid the failure.

So, if your resolution is that you will move to your dream home in 2019 - we’re here to help. Just give our sales team a call on 0845 450 7872.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Get shopping – it’s the New Year sale season!

Family shopping

If you didn’t have enough shopping in the run-up to Christmas, now’s a good time to head to the shops.

Many retailers started their ‘New Year’ sales on Boxing Day and certainly by 1 January, most of them will be underway and in full swing.

And then by mid-January, it’s all over – although still keep an eye open for the last-minute bargains. Some stores will cut prices again in the final few days of the sale just to shift things like last year’s models of electronics goods or last season’s fashions. And at these prices, does it really matter if it’s not quite the latest trend?

Originally started as a way for retailers to clear the stock they had failed to sell in the weeks before Christmas, the January sales are now a much-anticipated feature in the shopping calendar.

The big stores are worried though that this year's sales season will turn out to be as much of a disappointment as Black Friday was back in November. The figures suggest that although we bought more things (the number of items sold over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend was 10 per cent higher than in 2017) we were particularly choosy. The amount of money we spent actually went down by 12 per cent.

So, if the retailers are struggling to tempt us into making purchases, there could be some real bargains in the January sales this year. A winning situation for those who enjoy shopping, especially if you still have a couple of days before you need to go back to work.

Transport for London has put together a handy list of the big retail outlets in the city that are having sales:


Transport for London, however, also notified that public transport will not be running a full timetable on 1 January, so if you’re heading to the big city on that day, check travel websites and plan your journey before you set off.

Of course, if you’d rather do your shopping from the comfort of your own home, you could check out the following online retailers which, amongst others, are also having New Year sales:

If you are taking part, either in-store or online, we hope you bag a bargain – and have fun!



Thursday, 27 December 2018

Planning a New Year party

New Year party
Well, that’s Christmas done for this year! Time to start thinking about 2019.

For many people, the New Year celebrations are bigger, and often more important, than Christmas. And by their very nature, are certainly different.

While Christmas is a time for families, New Year celebrations tend to be more of an adult occasion – largely driven by the tradition to actually see the new year in at midnight (and beyond!).

If you are planning to host a New Year's Eve party, the plans are likely to be well underway by now and your invitations safely with your guests. But if it's a late decision to celebrate, don't worry, there's still time to rally people up but you need to hit the phone now.

Either way, you need to have thought about how many guests you can realistically invite as this will determine the type of party you are able to host. If it's a more informal drinks reception with finger buffet, you'll be certain to fit more people in; a dinner party on the other hand inevitably requires more space (and planning), even if it's just for the table and chairs. And then there's the dancing!

Catering should be next on the list. Whether it's light bites or a full 3-course dinner, you'll need to plan ahead and decide your menu in advance; food is always a talking point and can be the making of a good party. But don't forget to ask guests about any special dietary requirements, allergies or intolerances as you'll need to factor these in too.

After the food is sorted, turn your attention to the drinks because your options are endless. You can offer a full bar to suit all tastes, add a touch of style with a sparkling drink on arrival, indulge in a full menu of cocktails and let people get mixing or simply stick to asking everyone to bring a bottle (or two) of their choice! The latter will certainly help if you are party planing on a budget!

And it's always wise to make sure there are non-alcoholic drinks available too, especially for those who have drawn the short straw and are driving. Sparkling water, festive cordials and fruit juice are great, but there's always the option for some inspiring ‘mocktails’ too?

Music is also a key ingredient at any great party. What you play will depend upon the type of event you've planned, as well as how the evening takes shape in reality – background music is always a good starting point but something to dance to later on is almost an essential. Create your playlist in advance and leave it to roll on the night.

Party games - whether you love them or hate them, they can certainly add an element of fun to the evening.  Something where people can choose to be involved, or not, is often a good move to make sure no-one feels embarrassed or uncomfortable, although this is something usually overcome once the drinks are flowing.

And then you need to think how you will mark the stroke of midnight. A countdown to the turn of the new year – maybe from ten seconds beforehand – is always good fun, followed by a good sing-song of Auld Lang Syne. The fireworks on TV are always worth a watch too.

For some, this defining moment in a New Years Eve party can result in a momentary anti-climax but it's unlikely to end the party. Guests love to dance the night away into the early hours before making their way home. Hopefully most will have planned taxis well in advance, and if not, have an alternative plan in place.

But after all this, the most important thing of all is to make sure you have fun yourself! We hope you have a great New Year and look forward to welcoming you back to the blog in 2019.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Help! Santa can’t get in!

Santa comes down the chimney
Throughout the land this evening, children are going to be wondering “how will Santa get in?”.

Almost every picture you see of Santa delivering presents shows him coming down the chimney with his sack (you don’t often see one of him going back up!). But most modern houses don’t have a chimney. So how can Santa get in?

Rest assured. The same magic that allows him to get around every home in the world in just a single night means that the absence of a chimney causes him no problems at all.

But why doesn’t your house have a chimney?

Up until some time after the First World War, most homes constructed in the UK were built with the traditional open fire – and therefore with a chimney. But from the 1930s onwards, more and more homes were built with central heating.

Even then, the houses may well have had chimneys. Many early central heating systems burned coal and therefore still needed a chimney – though it would have been difficult for Santa to use.

From the 1960s onwards, we saw a switch to oil-fired or gas-fired central heating (which needed a flue – but not a proper chimney) or electric heating (which doesn’t even need a flue).

Of course, central heating is not a great innovation. The ancient Greeks had it – the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (near the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey) used what was basically the chimney from a fire outside the building running horizontally under the floors to heat the rooms.

The Romans had a similar system for heating their villas with the flues from the fire running not just under floors but through the walls.

The collapse of the Roman Empire, though, brought an end to the use of central heating in Europe.

The earliest central heating system in more modern times was probably the one used in a mill building in Derby, designed in 1793 by William Strutt. It had a large stove that heated air brought from the outside through an underground passage. The air was distributed through the building by large central ducts.

The majority of houses built by Larkfleet Homes now use gas-fired central heating. Even where we are building in locations far from a gas main – meaning there is no gas on tap – we will often fit central heating that runs from bottled gas. Sometimes we will even use electric central heating with a ‘heat pump’ – like a refrigerator running in reverse, it draws heat from the air or ground outside the house and brings it indoors.

Our gas-fired central heating uses a combination boiler, (or combi-boiler) which produces hot water not just to circulate around all the radiators fitted in your home but also for washing and bathing.

Combi-boilers are very efficient, and therefore help to keep your fuel bills down.

You also make savings because the boiler heats only the water that you use. Older boiler systems used to heat a tank of hot water (usually up in the loft) and once you had used all the hot water in the tank you had to wait for it to heat up again. Of course, if you didn’t actually use the water, all the energy put into heating it up was wasted.

We reckon Santa probably uses a combi-boiler to keep himself and the elves warm in his North Pole workshops. Or maybe he just uses magic – and a woolly vest!

Friday, 21 December 2018

Congratulations to our winners

Mr and Mrs Jest
Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Jest who attended our show home launch at Hawthorne Gardens at the start of the month.

They put their names into our prize draw – and have won a Christmas hamper.

Hawthorne Gardens is in the village of Ilton, close to Ilminster and Taunton. It consists of 47 stylish two, three and four-bedroom detached and semi-detached houses.

The new homes are built using sustainable timber frames which help to make them more energy-efficient than average houses. You can save more than £600 per year on your energy bills compared with a similar ’second hand’ home.

Each new house is fitted with solar panels which allow you to generate electricity from sunlight even on cloudy days – cutting your energy bills as well as helping to tackle global warning.

This is all part of our commitment to the environment which also includes minimising waste, reducing the use of materials and protecting wildlife during house-building.


Hurray - summer’s on the way!

Stonehenge
Things can only get better. Today (21 December) is the shortest day of the year – the winter solstice* – so tomorrow we can start the countdown to summer.

Such beliefs were taken very seriously in years gone by. The threat of starvation in a harsh winter was very real, so the turning of the year towards seasons where food would be more abundant was significant.

Throughout much of recorded history and – as far we can tell – for thousands of years before that, the passing of the year’s shortest day was marked with feasting and celebration. As it is today. It seems quite probable that the early Christians ‘hijacked’ ancient pagan midwinter festivals when choosing a date for Christmas.

Scandinavian and Germanic pagans – the Anglo-Saxons of ancient England – lit fires and may have burned Yule logs as a symbolic means of welcoming back the light. Cattle and other animals were slaughtered around midwinter, followed by feasting on what was the last fresh meat for several months. The Romans celebrated the midwinter festival as “Saturnalia”, named after the god Saturn.

The ancient Iranian festival of Yalda is also celebrated at the winter solstice. In pre-Islamic times, it heralded the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, and his triumph over darkness. Zoroastrian tradition says that evil spirits wander the Earth and the forces of the destructive spirit Ahriman are strongest on this long night. Beliefs about the presence of evil on the longest night are also contained in Celtic and Germanic folklore.

The modern Druidic celebration Alban Arthan – Welsh for "Light of Winter" – marks the death of the ‘old Sun’ and birth of the ‘new Sun’.

And Stonehenge (which is far more ancient than the Druids) is aligned to sunset on the winter solstice, demonstrating its importance to the neolithic peoples who built it. The primary axis of the monument is oriented to the setting sun – although we don’t know why. Its purpose is still a subject of debate. But its importance on the winter solstice continues as thousands of hippies, pagans and other enthusiasts gather there every year to celebrate the occasion.

What we do know is that Stonehenge was built in several phases over a period of around 1,500 years.

We can promise that if you reserve a new Larkfleet home on the winter solstice (or indeed, at any time) it will be built rather more quickly than that. And for the next few days, through to the end of the year, you can reserve a new home for just £99 and (on selected plots) win a seasonal gift as well.

*Solstice derives from the Latin word sol, which means "sun", and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning "to make stand”. It reflects the fact that the sun’s position in the sky relative to the horizon at noon, which increases and decreases throughout the year, appears to pause in the days surrounding the solstice. The date of the winter solstice varies - it can be anywhere between 20 December 20 and 23 December 23. However, 21 and 22 December are the most common dates. The next time the solstice occurs on 23 December will not be until 2303!


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

New Year, new home?

Christmas greetings
The Christmas and New Year holidays are traditionally a time to start thinking of plans for the year ahead.

They can range from fairly straight-forward (but not necessarily easy) New Year resolutions - such as losing weight and being nice to your mother-in-law – through to more life-changing plans. Such as moving house, maybe?

If you are thinking of a new home, it’s not too late to squeeze in some house-hunting before the end of the year.

The last opening day before Christmas for most Larkfleet Homes and Allison Homes show homes will be Friday 21 December. But they will be open again on 27, 28, 29 and 30 December before taking a two-day break on 31 December and 1 January.

And don’t forget, until the end of December, you can reserve your new home for just £99. If you do, you might also win a Christmas gift to help your New Year move. Offers include:

  • Fitted carpets in your new house
  • Your rear garden turfed
  • £1,000 towards your legal fees
  • A 42-inch HD television
  • An Apple iPad

The deals are being offered on selected plots at:


  • The Croft at Baston, Baston
  • Boston Gate, Boston
  • Collingham Brook, Collingham 
  • Oakley Rise, Corby
  • Gretton Valley, Corby
  • Nettleham Chase, Nettleham
  • Pinchbeck Fields, Pinchbeck
  • Whittlesey Green, Whittlesey

As well as your ‘present’ you will, of course, get a superb energy-efficient new home with a ten-year insurance-backed warranty. What a great start to the New Year!

Our head office at Larkfleet House will close on the afternoon of Friday 21 December 2018 and reopen on Wednesday 2 January 2019.

Monday, 17 December 2018

A Dickensian Christmas

Charles Dickens' Christmas stories
Charles Dickens has probably had more influence on the way that we celebrate Christmas today than just about anyone else.

At the beginning of the Victorian period, the celebration of Christmas was in decline. The move of a large part of the population from rural villages to big cities as a result of the industrial revolution meant that traditional celebrations, which were a feature of village life, were abandoned. Dickens helped to reverse this and to create new ‘traditions’ to replace the old.

He was not alone, of course. Possibly equally influential was Prince Albert who brought the German custom of decorating the Christmas tree to England.

The singing of Christmas carols (which had all but disappeared at the turn of the century) began to thrive again, and the first Christmas card appeared in the 1840s.

However, it was the Christmas stories of Dickens that really revived the idea of Christmas as a time for celebration.

In October 1843, he began writing A Christmas Carol and it was finished by the end of November. The book captures in many of its chapters what Dickens observed taking place around him in London – and then built upon this.

The Spirit of Christmas Present takes Scrooge into the city streets, with their mud and sooty snow, to witness how the poor celebrated the festival.

However, the theme of A Christmas Carol is not Christmas feasting. It is a story of conversion, of release from the imprisoning chains of grasping covetousness worn by Marley's Ghost into the freedom of compassion and generosity. Dickens made his story a vehicle for delivery of the real message of Christmas.

The Spirit of Christmas Present therefore shows Scrooge not just the family celebrations so familiar to us now, but also the crowds hurrying to church and chapel 'with their gayest faces' – something rather less familiar to most of us today.

Whatever you will be doing this Christmas, it may well be as a result of traditions which Charles Dickens and Prince Albert revived and created nearly two centuries ago.

And whatever you are doing, we hope you have fun.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

More hot air from Larkfleet!

Pat Smith (left) and Nikki Gunn from Edenham Village Hall with one of the new hand dryers that has been installed at the hall.
We couldn't resist the pun in the headline - but this is a 'good news' story for a local community and for the environment.

The village hall in Edenham - not far from our head office in Bourne, Lincolnshire - is reducing its carbon footprint and improving hygiene thanks to a donation from the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund.

The fund has given £250 to Edenham Village Hall to help pay for hot air hand dryers in the toilets, allowing the hall to end the use of paper towels.

Now, you may think that electric hand dryers would be something of an environmental disaster, but it turns out that actually they are far 'greener' than paper towels.

They use fewer resources than towels because towels constantly need to be produced and transported to users, and eventually they take up space in landfill. Even when compared with recycled paper towels that are composted (which are better than those made from virgin materials and sent to landfill), air dryers are more eco-friendly. If you are interested, check out the report here for details of research studies.

For the village hall, there are other benefits as well. Pat Smith of the village hall committee said: “This is a much more hygienic system for all our groups using the hall – everyone from the toddler group through to dog training handlers, Edenham school children and the senior citizen Christmas Party.

“And the dryers are always available, unlike paper towels where the dispenser requires refilling on a regular basis. It also saves us a bit of work as we no longer have to deal with ordering the towels and accepting delivery.”

Karl Hick, CEO of The Larkfleet Group of Companies, said: “We were particularly pleased to support this project because of the positive impact on the environment.”

The Larkfleet Homes Community Fund supports groups that enhance or develop local communities. It makes grants to charities or voluntary organisations within ten miles of any housing development by Larkfleet Homes or Allison Homes.

If you want to know more about the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund and how an organisation that you are involved with could get a grant, visit www.tiny.cc/larkfleet-fund.

Our photo shows Pat Smith (left) and Nikki Gunn from Edenham Village Hall with one of the new hand dryers that has been installed at the hall.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

More than just houses


Front cover of Larkfleet Review
At Larkfleet Homes we're proud to be part of The Larkfleet Group of Companies which also includes Allison Homes.

But there is more to the group than house building. The winter 2018 edition of our magazine The Larkfleet Review, which includes news from across the group, has just been published.

The eight-page publication looks at new sites that The Larkfleet Group of Companies has opened across the country, reports on some of the group's R&D activities and highlights some of the grants made by the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund.

It also reports on the group's recent award wins, training activities and market research. There's a feature on housing for the over-55s and a story about how our colleagues are delivering solar power in India, Mexico and Kenya - all rather warmer and sunnier than the wintry UK!

If you would like to know a bit more about Larkfleet, you might find The Larkfleet Review to be interesting. You can download a copy from here.

And if you want to know even more, check out the group website at www.larkfleetgroup.co.uk.

Monday, 10 December 2018

It’s panto season – oh yes it is!

Beauty and the Beast poster
Pantomime is a much a part of the British Christmas tradition as turkey and mince pies. So here’s a handy list of the seasonal theatrical offers in some of the towns and cities where we are developing new homes.

  • In Boston – where we are developing at Boston GateAladdin is being staged at the Blackfriars Theatre and Arts Centre until 2 January.
  • On 3, 4 and 5 January Peter Pan is visiting Oakham, close to our development at Farriers Reach. In nearby Stamford Sleeping Beauty will be waking up daily from 27 December to 1 January. 
  • There’s a choice of two pantos in Peterborough as well – Peter Pan at the Key Theatre until 6 January and Robin Hood at The Cresset until 30 December. So you could easily catch both if you live at Whittlesey Green.
  • Entirely appropriate, we think, to the agricultural area around Spalding you can see Jack and Beanstalk at the town’s South Holland Centre until 31 December. It’s only a short distance from the new homes at Pinchbeck Fields (oh yes it is!).

Wherever you go, we hope you have a truly magical theatre experience.

Above: Beauty and the Beast is at The Cube, Corby. 




Friday, 7 December 2018

Another win for Larkfleet

Larkfleet Homes CEO Karl Hick (left) being handed the Peterborough Business Awards trophy by Shailesh Vara MP.
Larkfleet Homes walked off with another trophy at the recent Peterborough Business Awards. We picked up the title for ‘corporate social responsibility’ – mostly in recognition of the contribution we are making to local ‘good causes’ through the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund.

We set up the fund because we believe it’s important that when we build new homes for people, we help to develop robust, living communities as well.

The fund supports charitable projects that enhance or develop local communities. Any charitable cause or community project operating within ten miles of any Larkfleet Homes' or Allison Homes' development can apply for these grants.

We work in partnership with Cambridgeshire Community Foundation which manages the fund independently of Larkfleet. Grants of between £250 and £5,000 (more in exceptional circumstances) are awarded on a quarterly basis – details are at www.tiny.cc/larkfleet-fund.

Small grants of less than £250 are administered directly by Larkfleet Homes because we recognise that many small groups, seeking small donations, may not be able to meet all the requirements of the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation’s application process. Applicants who want to apply for funding of less than £250 can fill in the form on our website at www.larkfleethomes.co.uk/community-fund.

The fund has welcomed applications from groups that promote the environment, support residents or bring communities together.

So, if there is a group that you are involved with, and it operates within ten miles of one of our sites, why not get in touch and see if we can give you some cash?

Our photo shows our CEO Karl Hick (left) being handed the Peterborough Business Awards trophy by Shailesh Vara MP.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Merry Christmas offers from Larkfleet


Santa's sack with presents
We’re getting into the Christmas spirit at Larkfleet Homes with an offer to open Santa’s sack for house buyers who reserve a property before the end of the year - and with a reservation fee of just £99.

Selected plots at all of the following developments are included in the offer:

  • The Croft at Baston, Baston
  • Boston Gate, Boston
  • Collingham Brook, Collingham 
  • Oakley Rise, Corby
  • Gretton Valley, Corby
  • Nettleham Chase, Nettleham
  • Pinchbeck Fields, Pinchbeck
  • Whittlesey Green, Whittlesey

Buy one of the chosen homes at these developments and you could get any one of the following:

  • Fitted carpets in your new house
  • Your rear garden turfed
  • £1,000 towards your legal fees
  • A 42-inch HD television
  • An Apple iPad

Come along and try a lucky dip in Santa’s sack!

As well as your ‘present’ you will, of course, get a superb energy-efficient new home with a ten-year insurance-backed warranty. What a great start to the New Year!

All our normal assistance with a purchase is available as well – things like part exchange if you need to sell an existing property and (also on selected plots) the government’s Help to Buy scheme.

Help to Buy means you can get 100 per cent of a new Larkfleet home with just a 75 per cent mortgage and a 5 per cent deposit. The remaining 20 per cent of the purchase price is paid for through an equity loan from the government (subject to approval). It’s almost like an extra Christmas present!


Monday, 3 December 2018

Winning winter breaks

Reindeer sleigh

Once the weather turns from glorious sunshine to drizzling rain, the default is to batten down the hatches, light the fire and hibernate for the winter months. But what if it was a time to explore all that winter breaks had to offer, especially when the season becomes festive?

Short breaks at this time of year tend to be about the culture and the sightseeing, often deemed the perfect opportunity to tick something off the bucket list. A winter break always seems to carry an element of magic, simply because popular destinations are bustling cities backdropped with twinkling tights and glistening snow.

So, what are the options for a winter adventure?

Staying close to home is a great opportunity to explore what's on your doorstep. With so many wonderful and historic cities in the UK, there's an abundance of things to see and do. Most will offer a festive buzz with a Christmas tree centre-piece, illuminated streets, an outdoor ice rink and a traditional Christmas market. The highlights being Edinburgh, Bath, Birmingham, Manchester and of course London's Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

But to go a little further afield simply expands the magic a little more. Finding the perfect festive destination is all about looking for something cosy, mysterious, magical and if possible, snowy; the epitome of Christmas all in one place. Here's just a selection of some of the best places to bring this to life.

Lapland, Finland

Nothing screams 'quintessential Christmas break' like a whistle-stop tour to the home of Father Christmas. Whether you’d like to meet the man himself, feed the reindeer, go exploring on a sled or discover a secret village, there’s something for everyone. You may even be lucky enough to see the natural wonder of the Northern Lights or simply enjoy a snow fight in the cold. A stay in a traditional log cabin with roaring fire is surely the making of the trip.

Copenhagen, Denmark

A genuine Christmas city, making it impossible not to get in the festive spirit. And the best place to soak up the atmosphere is at one of the city's famous Christmas markets. Tivoli Gardens is without doubt the city’s number one Christmas market complete with gifts, decorations, snacks, cookies, sweets and hot drinks. The historic gardens are full of decorated wooden houses, snow-covered trees, Santa’s reindeer, Christmas lights, and the true Nordic Christmas atmosphere.

Nuremberg, Germany

Otherwise known as Germany's Christmas City, Nuremberg is sure to be a memory-making trip. From the delicious smell of festive spices in the world-famous Nuremberg gingerbread to the magical Christmas market itself, Nuremberg is agreed as one of the best European cities for a festive getaway. You can chow down on bratwurst and drink mulled wine until your heart’s content, and if you're lucky enough, it will snow as you stroll through the city whilst it sparkles with twinkling lights.

New York City, USA

New York is undoubtedly one of the most magical cities to visit in the countdown to Christmas; it simply transforms into one of the most festive winter wonderlands. Every borough is adorned with sparkling Christmas lights and charming trees whilst pop-up holiday markets can be found outside of subway stations, providing excellent gift ideas and festive fun. Some of New York's best holiday sight-seeing spots include the Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, and Saint Patrick's Cathedral.

Christmas is simply a magical time of year and to experience the best of what is has to offer all over the world, try to fit some of these magical destinations on to your festive bucket list; you can't be disappointed.



Friday, 30 November 2018

Rocking around the Christmas traditions

Writing a letter to Santa
The 1st of December is nearly upon us. The advent calendars are ready and waiting and the festive countdown is all but underway.

For children, the excitement of Christmas is already unbearable, and the 25th December can't come quick enough. Counting down one day at a time feels like the longest journey ever, a little like setting off on a family holiday.

The reality is that for anyone else, those 25 days are just not long enough. The build up to Christmas can, and does, begin before December but there is something symbolic about the 1st day of advent. The festivities suddenly become socially acceptable, and people actually consider dusting down the Christmas jumpers.

In less than a month, there's seemingly so much to fit in and an abundance of festivities to tick off. The list of Christmas traditions is ever-growing and the opportunities for festive fun just keep on giving.

Advent calendars are a long-standing must, having gained popularity in Germany in the late 1800s. Early advent calendars simply presented a beautiful Christmas picture behind each of the 24 doors. Today, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes with children (and adults alike!) enjoying anything from chocolates and sweets to toiletries and your favourite tipple.

And then there's the Christmas cards and the point at which the advent countdown becomes a race against time. It's a lovely festive gesture but a Christmas card list can soon get out of hand; writing the cards always takes longer than expected. Christmas card etiquette certainly divides the crowd too; there's the ones who send their greetings in November and those who miss the Christmas post deadline every year!

A certainty in most households though is the tree, without which, is Christmas really Christmas? The evergreen trend has been going strong since 1841 when Prince Albert put a Christmas tree up at Windsor Castle, marking the beginning of a wonderful tradition. The decorating of the tree is a happy time, each and every one capturing its own charm and setting the scene for Christmas morning.

But before the big man arrives, a visit to see him and talk about your wish list is a memory-making essential. Nothing beats the magic of a Santa's Grotto and for children, the anticipation of being on the 'naughty or nice' list is more than exciting. Christmas really is nearly here by now and attention can be turned to the festive menu.

Will it be a traditional turkey roast with all the trimmings? Trimming such as pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce and stuffing to name just a few. Until the 1950s, turkey at Christmas was deemed a luxury and to this day, it remains a wonderful festive treat. So too does figgy pudding; a Christmas staple laced with lush fruit and lots of alcohol. Traditionally made a week before advent on what is known as 'stir-up Sunday', a Christmas pudding is nothing short of a festive icon.

So, we've made it to planning the Christmas lunch, now to live Christmas Eve; perhaps one of the most magical nights of the year. A pantomime, Christmas Eve boxes, treats for Santa, stockings at the end of the bed and a little festive tipple. And surely, it's early to bed, because if you're not fast asleep, he won't come!

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

Planting trees
There’s no doubt that trees are taken for granted by the very people who enjoy them every day.

Trees are just there, right?   

In the back garden, the local park, along the road side and, of course, in the many forests we use for cycling, walking and picnics, trees are just there. They are a part of our landscape and we watch as they change through the seasons, perfectly filling a gap at every point. The stunning colours through autumn, the stark silhouettes of winter, the lush green leaves in spring and the beautiful blossoms of summer. 

You can’t beat a game of hide and seek in a dense forest, or a tree house to create the best childhood memories. And then there’s the great job they do of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, providing a habitat for insects and wildlife, turning sunlight into energy and of course growing and nurturing delicious fruit. 

In the main, they are a fairly low maintenance and self-sufficient addition to the landscape, particularly in relation to the huge benefit they provide. 

So, back in 1975, trees were handed some well-deserved recognition with the launch of National Tree Week. Established by The Tree Council, one of the UK’s leading charities for trees, the initiative saw a national replanting of trees after the outbreak of Dutch Elm disease. 

And now, 43 years later, National Tree Week is the UK's largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of the winter tree planting season which runs from November to March each year. 

More than just an event in the calendar, National Tree Week has already inspired more than a quarter of a million people. It’s all about encouraging communities, schools and interest groups to have a positive impact on their local treescape.

It’s a great opportunity to encourage everyone of all ages to get their hands dirty and plant some much-needed trees; we’ve been celebrating their importance for hundreds of years, but the job is far from done. 

Often known as the lungs of the earth, trees play an important role in the world we live in, yet deforestation is clearing forests at a phenomenal rate. Although they still account for 30 per cent of the world’s land area, masses half the size of England disappear each year. In fact, the world’s rainforests could vanish in a hundred years if this current rate of deforestation continues. 

And it’s happening on our doorsteps too. Despite the belief that a tree is never far away, most European countries have a greater abundance of wooded areas in comparison to us. 

At Larkfleet Homes we plant many new trees every year in and around our new housing developments and, wherever possible, we retain existing trees. We also aim to protect the wildlife around our development sites.

National Tree Week is a great, long-established initiative to keep our trees going, and it’s so easy for you to get involved. Schools and community groups can join the Tree Council as a member organisation and get lots of ideas and inspiration for successful tree planting activities.   

You can also pull a group together yourself and get your hands mucky for the benefit of your local area. Maybe there’s some vacant land, a local project or even a school that could benefit from the planting of more trees. And even better if you involve the children too; it’s a valuable pastime for helping them to understand the benefits that trees provide to us all. 

And don’t forget to tell everyone about your activities too. Spread the word and encourage friends and family to join in and help your local community; there’s a free poster on the Tree Council website and then there’s the power of social media. 

So, if you’re inspired and keen to get started, simply check out the Tree Council website to see if there are any events near you to join in.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

On show at Collingham Brook

The Larkfleet Homes show home and sales centre at Collingham Brook
We’ve just opened a new show home at our Collingham Brook development in the highly sought-after Nottinghamshire village of Collingham.

The five-bedroom house is of the design that we call Thirsk – a detached home with a double garage. You can buy one for just £429,995.

The show home has been decorated and furnished to give you an idea of what your own house at Collingham Brook could look like - even if you choose to buy one of the other nine different property types on offer.

And our ‘show home promise’ is that we use only full-size furniture and ‘no tricks’. We’re told that other developers sometimes use things like shortened beds and remove internal doors to give an impression of more space.

Collingham itself offers an array of amenities including three churches, three pubs, a post office, medical centre, pharmacy, dentist, takeaways, butcher and convenience stores, library and a primary school. There are regular train and bus services to Lincoln and Newark – and from there you can get a main line train to London, making Collingham Brook convenient for commuting or for leisure days out in the capital.

The university cities of Nottingham and Lincoln are within easy reach by car or on the frequent local bus services.

With the rolling landscapes, parks and woods of Robin Hood country in the west, and the traditional seaside experience of the east of England coast just a day trip away, Collingham is an ideal centre for active families.

All the homes at Collingham Brook are built using eco-friendly timber frames and they are all fitted with solar panels that will cut your power bills by allowing you to generate your own electricity. In addition, they are all covered by a ten-year insurance-backed warranty to give you total peace of mind about your new house purchase.

Why not come to take a look around the village and our new show home?



Thursday, 22 November 2018

Eating out with Larkfleet


Celebration table place setting
It’s a great tradition that when we have something to celebrate, we go out for a meal. Not so great for the diet, maybe, but heck, it’s a celebration.

So, whether you’ve just reserved a Larkfleet home, completed a purchase, or moved in – here’s a list of places to eat near each of our developments.

We confess we’ve not eaten in all of these ourselves (maybe doing that should be our New Year Resolution?) so it’s just a list without recommendations. But we’ve had fun putting it together from some internet research and a little local knowledge. Each of the entries is a link through to the eating house named in the list. We hope you find it useful.


And around our sites down in the south west of England you could try ..








Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Black Friday deals – save up to £20,000 on your new Larkfleet home

Black Friday deals on new homes
Is this a ‘first’? Over the past few years we’ve seen Black Friday deals cutting the costs of a whole host of goods – but we cannot remember seeing it being applied to houses.

This year, though, Larkfleet is picking up the Black Friday theme and giving discounts of up to £20,000 on selected homes if you reserve before 30 November and then complete the purchase before the end of the year.

From Ivybridge in Devon to Collingham in Nottinghamshire, there are some great deals on offer.

  • £5,000 off selected two and three-bedroom homes
  • £10,000 off selected four-bedroom homes
  • £20,000 off selected five-bedroom homes
  • £15,000 off selected bungalows

So, a two-bedroom Holland style bungalow at The Croft in Baston which was £260,995 now costs just £245,995 until the end of the month and the detached five-bedroom Musselburgh house at Collingham Brook which was £344,995 is now available at the Black Friday price of £324,995.

All the details, including a full list of the homes covered by the Black Friday deal, are here.

But just what is Black Friday anyway?

It started in the USA and has now spread across the world. It is the Friday after the US Thanksgiving holiday which is always on the fourth Thursday in November. Most employees get Thanksgiving as a day off (it’s like an English bank holiday – including the fact that in many places, it usually rains!). Many people also take the Friday off as well, giving them a four-day weekend.

To tempt buyers into the shops, retailers started offering special deals on the Friday. And then it spread to the rest of the weekend. And then to all the following week. So Black Friday is now a week-long (or longer) retail bonanza.

And where does the name come from? Apparently, it comes from the idea that this is the day that shops ‘move into the black’, meaning they have enough money to cover their costs while reducing prices.

Whatever the name and meaning, though, Black Friday is good news for shoppers – and now for house-hunters, too!

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Best books for children

Child reading book in library
If you’re thinking of buying a book as a Christmas gift for a child, here are some suggestions for ones that you might put under the tree.


We hope you will have fun browsing and that your young friends will have fun reading whatever you decide to buy.

But why restrict this to Christmas? A book may be for Christmas, but reading is for life. Opening up the world of books to young minds is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

And, if you make use of your local library, it need not be an endless expense.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Get your boiler serviced – save money, save lives

Boiler being serviced
Getting your boiler serviced might not just save you a load of money – it might also save your life.

According to the government, more than 4,000 people go to hospital accident & emergency departments each year because of carbon monoxide poisoning and 50 people die. Most of these tragedies are as a result of faulty central heating boilers.

If you are a landlord, you have to get the boiler in any rental property checked each year. But if you are a homeowner, there is no legal requirement to do anything about making sure your boiler won’t kill you. We think it might be a good idea, though!

If you’ve bought a new Larkfleet home, your brand-new boiler will be covered by a warranty and we’ll have given you all the paperwork for this. But the warranty is only valid if you get the boiler serviced regularly.

Knowing how important it is, we recommend that you make sure whoever looks after your boiler is registered with Gas Safe . Only technicians on the Gas Safe register are legally allowed to work on gas boilers.

As well as keeping you safe, getting your boiler serviced regularly should save you money. A proper inspection and service by a qualified technician will make sure your boiler is running as efficiently as possible and isn’t squandering energy. This will not only cut your bills it will also cut your ‘carbon footprint’ and make some small contribution to tackling global warming. And every little helps!

Regular servicing should also extend the life of the boiler, meaning it will be longer before you eventually need to replace it. That could save you a load of money too!

Once each year should be your target for servicing. As we head into winter, now is the time to do it.

A boiler breakdown over Christmas may put a real hold on your celebrations – have you ever tried to get an emergency plumber over the Christmas holidays? Even if you can find one willing to break into his or her festive holiday to come to help you, you can expect to pay a hefty fee. And, if the boiler needs a spare part that the plumber doesn’t have in the van, you could be without heating until the stores open again after the Christmas break.


Wednesday, 14 November 2018

House prices moving up again

Cheaper to buy than rent
House prices rose by 0.4 per cent in October – the first monthly increase since February – according to property website Your Move. The average price of a home in England and Wales is now £304,433, up from £301,367 last October.

Your Move says that prices in most regions continued to show growth, with the exception of the south east and north east which showed modest falls.

Overall, though, if you look at the figures for a full year rather than just for October, the annual rate of house price inflation is continuing to fall and is now down to 1.1 per cent. That’s the slowest rate of growth for six years.

But the picture varies across the country. The East Midlands (where we have many of our developments) bucked the national trend, with annual growth of 2.8 per cent.

In London, annual price growth slowed substantially in the past month, falling to just 1.8 per cent, yet there was still an increase of £10,889 in the past 12 months with the average price of a home in London now £620,571.

Meanwhile, figures from estate agent Hamptons suggest that there has been a ‘real’ fall in rents over the past ten years. Over the past decade rents have risen by 22 per cent, but the consumer prices index (CPI) which measures the average cost of goods and services (or the cost of living) has risen 24 per cent.

As with house prices, though, the figures do vary by region. Hamptons says that in the East of England (where we also have many developments) ‘real’ rents have risen by 7.5 per cent over the past 10 years.

And if you look at the short-term trends, Hamptons says that the average cost of a new let in Great Britain rose to £977 per month in October as rental growth accelerated to 2.0 per cent - the highest level since February 2018.

Every region recorded a rise in rents, with the East of England seeing the biggest increase at the equivalent of 3.9 per cent per year.

This all means that you are still better off buying rather than renting. A recent study found that it is cheaper to buy than rent in every region of the country. Average savings are at least £2,000 per year.

You can check out all our new homes here and see what you can afford to pay on a mortgage here.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

What to do in the garden in November

We’re not yet quite in the winter season, when even the keenest gardeners can sit back and relax. This is still the tail-end of autumn so there are a few tasks you can get out of the way before frosts set in.

Autumn leaves on the lawn
The leaves are still falling, but don’t wait until every last one has left the tree. Continue to clear fallen leaves off the lawn to keep it healthy. If you leave them too long they will kill the grass underneath.

And talking of leaves, if you’ve not done it already, put nets over your pond (if you have one) to prevent leaves falling in. If you need to clear pond weed, lay it next to the pond for a day or two to allow wildlife to escape back to the water.

If you haven't already aerated your lawn, there's still time to do it before winter. Either use a lawn aerator or simply insert a garden fork at regular intervals and lean it back slightly to let air in.

And now’s the time to give the lawn its final cut of the year. Set the blades on your mower to their maximum height and give the grass a trim that will last the next few months until it starts to really grow again in spring.

Now is also the time to edge your lawn, to create a neat and tidy appearance that will make future maintenance easier.

November is the ideal month for planting daffodils, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs. If you are planning to make roses a garden feature next year (and for years to come) November is also good for planting bare-root bushes. Existing roses could usefully be pruned to prevent ‘wind rock’ during the winter, when gales blowing through the branches can loosen roots.

Tender plants need protecting from frost, gales and freezing rains – and now is the time to do it. Move plants into a greenhouse if you have one or consider wrapping plants or pots. Also think about putting pot stands beneath pots and tubs to prevent winter water-logging.

And finally – remember that winter can be a tough time for birds. Now is the time to get into the habit of regularly putting out food and water. Apart from the pleasure of seeing birds in the garden this winter, you will be helping yourself. Birds are gardeners’ friends and will keep pest numbers down all year round.

There is lots more advice on this month’s gardening tasks on the Royal Horticultural Society website at https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/in-month/november.


Friday, 9 November 2018

Time to get away?

Beautiful Barcelona
Summer holidays seem like a long time ago – especially if you decided to get away before the schools took their break – and Christmas is still a few weeks off. Many people are thinking that this is a good time to take a long weekend to recharge their batteries now that the clocks have gone back and it's definitely ‘autumnal’ outside.

But where to go?

We’ve taken a look at some of the recommendations being made by people who know about these things. Here’s what we’ve found.

The Daily Telegraph https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/articles/best-european-city-breaks-and-hotels/ lists not just cities in European countries such as France, Italy and Spain, but also recommends hotels in each of them. Rival newspaper The Guardian has a different list of cities and hotels at https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/european-city-breaks-for-autumn-preferred-hotels while Conde Nast at https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/european-city-breaks-for-autumn-preferred-hotels provides yet more options.

Trip Advisor https://www.travelsupermarket.com/en-gb/blog/inspiration/top-10-autumn-city-breaks/ gives its view on the top ten city destinations that includes not just Europe but also the Americas.

If you don’t want to travel so far, the UK still has much to offer – even at this time of year. The Guardian presents its list of ten ideas at https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/sep/23/top-10-autumn-weekend-breaks-small-uk-british-town-city. The Evening Standard’s top 25 selection is at https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/travel/25-of-the-best-autumn-breaks-in-the-uk-a3357496.html.

Or you could just stay at home! Turn your phone off, unplug the TV and curl up with some of those books you’ve been meaning to read for ages – like the ones you took on your summer holiday but never actually found time to look at.

Or maybe (dare we mention it?) take a weekend out to do some Christmas shopping before the stores get too crammed with folk like us who leave everything to pretty much the last minute.

Whatever you do, wherever you go – have fun!

Our photo shows beautiful Barcelona - a city mentioned on several of the top destination lists above.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

You can’t have hygge without candles!


Candles for hygge
The Danes allegedly burn more candles per person than any other nation – and that’s all to do with hygge.

If hygge (pronounced 'hue-ugh') has passed you by, let’s explain that it is the Danish idea of being comfortable and cosy. It has been something of an international lifestyle and fashion trend over the past two or three years. It’s all good (we reckon) but maybe slightly over-hyped (which is definitely not hygge!).

And whenever you hear about hygge, you soon end up hearing about candles. In the winter, the Danes burn them all day long to create a cosy, welcoming lighting for the room (we’re talking about home here, not the office – but there’s a thought…). In summer they come in handy for light once the long days come to an end. Apparently you just can't have hygge without candles!

And have you noticed how often there is a candlelit garden, teamed with twinkling lights and an open fire in romantic comedies? This could be a ploy by Hollywood to tap into our desire to have more 'hygge'.

Candles provide a more natural light than electricity. In Danish they are called levende lys which means “living light”. After a day under the strip lights of the office, shop or factory, levende lys provides a definite change of style.

But hygge is more than candles, of course. You can make your home more hygge with smart, minimal and intentional design. "Less is more" is the unofficial hygge motto. So, if you’re thinking about how to make your home more hygge, ask yourself, "Does this piece of furniture or item make me feel more relaxed or cosy?" If not, consider moving it or giving it away!

And your lifestyle can be more hygge if you ‘chill out’. Stop rushing about. Relax.

When you get home tonight, light some candles, wrap yourself up in a blanket and drink a warming cup of hot chocolate. Happy hygge!