Saturday, 27 January 2018

Today is International Chocolate Cake Day

International Chocolate Cake Day
There are awareness days for just about anything these days.

Marketers love them. It’s a great way of flogging their products to millions of us every day. But some are just for fun.

We love them at Larkfleet Homes, especially ones that have something to do with food.

That’s why we thought we’d share the news with you that today – 27 January – is International Chocolate Cake Day.

If you’re like us you’re probably close to breaking those diet related New Year’s resolutions. Indulge yourself with some chocolate cake.

So, where does chocolate and chocolate cake come from?

Chocolate use originated with the Mayans and the Aztecs. Chocolate was brought to Europe in the 16th Century by returning Spanish Conquistadors. Spanish monks refined the bitter cacao by adding sugar to sweeten it. The secret was taken to France by a Spanish maid and the craze for chocolate spread across Europe.

In 18th century London drinking chocolate was the 'in thing', replacing coffee as the drink of choice among the London elite.

Up until the 19th century chocolate was only available as drink, created by grinding cocoa pods into a liquor and adding sugar and spices. A Dutchman, Conrad van Houten, developed the chocolate and a process of removing the fat from chocolate and adding potash to make it digestible.

As soon as chocolate could be solidified, industrial chocolate production quickly followed with firms like Cadbury, Fry’s and Terry’s setting up factories in the UK, most famously in Birmingham and York.

Chocolate cake as we know it today, with chocolate added to the cake batter, began to be baked in the late 1800s. Rich chocolate cakes became more widespread in the 1940s, particularly in the US.

There are many different varieties of chocolate cake available today. For a lush chocolate cake recipe, you could do worse than this one from Queen of Bakers Mary Berry.


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Tips for preventing burglary

Crime home security
One of our worse nightmares is coming home to find a door or window open and discovering that we've been burgled.

We don’t want to scare you but, according to the most recently available figures from the Office of National Statistics, the numbers of burglaries recorded by the police in the year to June 2017 was up six per cent on the previous year. And according to police crime prevention figures, homes with no security measures are five times more likely to be burgled than those with even the simplest security measures.

Generally, we live in a safe society. Communities where we have developments are wonderful places to live, but it’s always a good idea to take precautions. Here is some advice from the Home Office on securing your home:
  • Lock your doors and windows every time you leave the house, even when you're just out in the garden, remembering to double-lock UPVC doors (lift handle and turn key).
  • Hide all keys, including car keys, out of sight and away from the letterbox (remember a device could be used to hook keys through the letterbox).
  • Install a visual burglar alarm.
  • Install good outside lighting.
  • Get a trusted neighbour to keep an eye on your property.
  • Leave radios or lights in your house on a timer to make the property appear occupied.
  • Make sure the fences around your garden are in good condition.
  • Secure bikes at home by locking them to an immoveable object inside a locked shed or garage.
  • Keep ladders and tools stored away; don't leave them outside where they could be used to break into your home.
  • Ensure side gates are locked to prevent access to the rear of the property.
  • Ensure rear fencing is in good repair.
  • Improve natural surveillance at the front of your property, eg trim high hedges.
  • Consider joining or forming a Neighbourhood Watch scheme.
  • Remove valuables from view of ground floor windows.
  • Store any high value items (eg, jewellery, passports) in a properly secured safe or bank vault.
If you’re off on holiday, make your home look like someone is living in it.  
  • Use automatic timer-switches to turn your lights and radios on when it goes dark.
  • Cancel any newspaper or milk deliveries.
  • Use the Royal Mail's 'keepsafe' service - they keep your mail for up to two months while you're away. Mail sitting on your doorstep is a sign that you are away.
  • Trusted neighbours may be able to help you by collecting your post, opening and closing curtains and they could park their car on your driveway.
  • Avoid discussing holiday plans on public social networking sites - burglars can use any information you post on there to their advantage.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Missing the festive celebrations? Host a Burns' Night supper

Larkfleet Homes Burns night tips
Christmas and New Years’ celebrations are a distant memory and the lighter evenings are still a way off. So, the Larkfleet Homes' team thought; what better way to pass a January evening than hosting a Burns’ Night supper?

It might sound simple – just a meal of tatties (potatoes), ‘neeps (mashed swede) and Haggis. Not much to do there you might think. But Burns’ Night – the January day given over to commemorating Scotland’s most celebrated poet – is steeped in etiquette and tradition.

Typically held on January 25th, the night is a celebration of Scottish culture. Go traditional if you want to do things properly. The menu could be cock a leekie soup (made with leeks, chicken and barley), haggis (oats and spiced sheep’s offal wrapped in a stomach lining), all served with a whisky sauce. If this doesn’t sound appealing there are vegetarian options available. Finish with the traditional Scottish pudding, cranachan, made with layers of cream, raspberries and oats with whisky and a cheeseboard followed by coffee.

As well as whisky to serve to your guests you will need to keep the beer and wine flowing for lots of toasting during the evening.

Set the mood by playing some traditional Scottish music. If you haven't got that - something by Rod Stewart might do!

Start by welcoming your guests and reciting the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

When you bring in the haggis it’s time to pipe it in while a guest recites the address to the haggis – a rendition of Burns’ poem To a Haggis.

Finish with a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Dry January doesn’t have to be boring January

Dry January, non-alcoholic drinks
If you’re anything like us, you are probably all partied out and have finally come down after the festive period – which seems like a distant memory now.

Many of us are taking part in Dry January, the alcohol awareness initiative that was original started by the charity Alcohol Concern back in 2012.

The event has grown over the years and now five million Britons are giving up the booze for a month.

Quite apart from the health benefits – including improved sleep and some healthy weight loss – giving up your favourite tipple for a month can also save you a few quid.

It is more than half way through the month though and statistics suggest that one third of folk who started Dry January will have ‘fallen off the wagon’ by now. And many more of us are thinking about quitting the campaign – along other New Years’ resolutions.

So, how can you motivate yourself to stick it out to the end of the month – and what can you replace alcohol with to keep your meals and entertaining interesting?

The team at Larkfleet Homes has a few ideas:

  • Ginger-based drinks like ginger ale or fiery ginger beer can add a zest to your evening. It goes without saying that you should avoid the alcoholic ones – at least for this month.
  • Mocktails – Host a mocktail party. Here are some great non-alcoholic cocktails that you can try. Mulled apple juice is particularly good for a cold January evening.
  • Hot drinks – Have a look at some alternatives to instant coffee - ideal for these cold winter evenings. Try sweet chai tea, Mexican spiced hot cocoa, malted hot cocoa with marshmallows or spicy cranberry drink for starters.
  • Water – Adam’s Ale is a great standby. For an alternative to boring tap water there are plenty of premium bottled mineral waters you could offer guests. Brands include AquaFina, Evian, Fiji, San Pellegrino Volvic and Voss.

Enjoy, and remember you are almost at the end of Dray January. There’s just over a week to go – good luck. If you really can’t hold out, we'll see you down at the pub!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Seven groups receive cash from Larkfleet Homes Community Fund

Larkfleet Homes Community Fund
At Larkfleet Homes we aim to help communities develop and become more cohesive.

That’s why we set up the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund. So far, it has donated nearly £50,000 to community groups and ventures across the country which support our vision of integrating new developments into the community.

Recently, the fund has welcomed applications from groups that focus on activities that enhance or develop local communities. In the past few weeks the fund has awarded grants of up to £10,000 to each of seven projects.

Applicants were invited to send their proposals which were then reviewed by a judging panel. The panel is managed by the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation which administers the fund.

The successful groups were awarded money for a range of projects and our congratulations go to:
  • Thorney Parish Council, for a zip-wire, trampolines, outdoor gym and swings for the older children of Thorney.
  • Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, for wood-working equipment for retiree volunteers to produce signage for interpretation and education.
  • Donington Parish Council, to provide a garden shed and equipment for herb and wild flower beds.
  • Families First Peterborough CIC, to continue an arts and crafts workshop for young people and adults who are leaving care homes to make their own way in the community.
  • Sawtry and District Bowling Club, to provide ramps which will improve access to the club’s facilities.
  • Moulton Chapel Youth & Community Centre, to build a playground including inclusive play equipment for children of all abilities.
  • Somerset Sight Limited, to reduce isolation and loneliness by providing six additional outings for 12 sight-impaired adults.
Our CEO Karl Hick, said: “It’s really important to us that when we build new homes for people, we actually develop communities. Being able to support the fantastic charities and volunteer groups in the areas we are working in is vital. These groups are very often the backbone of the community and the support which the winners of this round of funding offer to the people who use their services is immeasurable.

“Thank you to everyone who contacted us about the fund. We really look forward to hearing over the coming months how the donation has helped your group.”

Karen Leader of Sawtry and District Bowling Club told us: “As a club we’re really passionate about bringing together a wide range of different people from our community. It helps reduce isolation for some and encourages people to take part in physical activity which is fantastic.

“By successfully being granted money from the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund, we’ll be able to make our club even more inclusive by improving access to the bowling green and club house. People of all abilities will be able to take part. We are so grateful, and I know it will help make people happier, healthier and feel more connected for years to come.”

Cambridgeshire Community Foundation manages The Larkfleet Homes Community Fund on our behalf. If you are part of, or know of, any community or voluntary group that wants to find out more about the fund visit, telephone 01223 410535 or email

Monday, 15 January 2018

How does it feel? 8 ways to banish the Winter blues

beat Blue Monday plan activities
Apparently, today is Blue Monday. No, it’s not a celebration of the tune by the band New Order. It’s the day of the year that Britons feel the most miserable.

Blue Monday is the most depressing day of the year.

Of course, we're all different. so it is an average. How do you feel today?

Originally conceived by Sky Travel, the date of Blue Monday (typically the third Monday in January) is arrived at by a complex formula created by academic Dr Chris Arnall that considers factors such as post-Christmas debt, the weather, low motivational levels and time since failing on those New Year’s resolutions we all make.

But fear not. Let’s make the day as positive as we can. Never ones to get down in the dumps, the Larkfleet Homes team has come up with a few suggestions to help you banish the winter blues.

  1. Get as much natural light as you can. Get out doors as much as possible and take steps to let as much natural light as possible into your home.  Keep the curtains and blinds open and cut back any foliage or plants which block light.
  2. Try and have as healthy a diet as possible. Consider dietary supplements that can boost moods. Get some daily exercise, reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake and get regular sleep at night. But don’t forget the old adage that a little of what you fancy does you good – you’re not a Spartan.
  3. Book a holiday and enjoy some winter sun. If you can’t go on holiday, now’s the time to plan your summer holiday. Looking at all those pictures of bright blues skies and sun-kissed beaches should help to lift your spirits.
  4. Curl up with a good book – something positive and inspiring – or settle down to watch a favourite film.
  5. Brighten up your home with flowers. Your best choice is orange as research has shown that longer wavelength (orange) light has a positive effect on mood and cognitive function.
  6. Giving your self something to look forward to will help to keep you positive. Organise a social event with family and friends. Or, plan a weekend activity.
  7. Keeping warm will help to keep the blues at bay. Feeling cold makes us feel miserable, we think you’ll agree. Wrap up warm. Have hot drinks and keep your home heated as much as possible.
  8. Do something creative or indulge in your favourite hobby. That should distract you from the negative aspects of the season.

Whatever you do be positive and remember – Spring isn’t far away – some Spring flowers are already bringing a splash of colour to front gardens and roadsides up and down the country.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Rejuvenate your old stuff with upcycling

Rejuvenate old stuff upcycling
January New Year de-cluttering underway? Perhaps you have found a few things that you are attached to and can’t bring yourself to bin, even though you’re not using them.

That’s where upcycling comes in. Why not give that old chair or table a new lease of life with some simple sanding, varnishing or repainting? What else can you rejuvenate to suit your 2018 style and décor?

So, what exactly is upcycling? In brief, it is the creative re-use of unwanted items into something new or a new product altogether. You could produce some new furniture for your home – or even sell what you make via Ebay or Etsy if you’re feeling entrepreneurial.

Got some tired Ikea furniture? Before you chuck it, consider spray painting it another colour to match your new décor. Be right up to the minute and use Pantone’s Ultaviolet – colour of the year 2018.

If you have untreated wooden storage boxes, give them a makeover by waxing or oiling them to change colour and look.

Tired of that boring plain pine chest of drawers? Paint the top and sides in a colour of your choice. Then, choose a complementary wallpaper and cover the drawers. Also, consider changing the handles. You can find loads of accessories and fittings in DIY stores like B&Q.

Breathe some new life into your dull pine kitchen table. You could paint it using bold contrasting colours. Cover the top with patterned oilcloth. Consider converting it into a wash stand, office desk or console table using paints, tiles and wall paper. There are some ideas here.

Upcycle old chairs with paint, decoupage or recovering in a new material. Add padding to a plain wooden kitchen chair.

Paint old flower pots to bring a splash of colour to your window sill or potting shed.

Rejuvenate metal patio chairs by spraying them to create a jazzy ombre effect.

If you have some old pine shelves give them a new lease of life by sanding, repainting and adding a contrasting wall paper to the back of it to add interest.

There are a million things you can do to transform your old belongings into something new and beautiful. Explore Pinterest if you are stuck for some ideas.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Larkfleet gives football’s next generation a helping hand

Larkfleet Homes sponsors Baston Juniors FC
The FA Cup is in full swing. The Fourth-Round draw has been done and local side Peterborough United scooped a home draw against either Fleetwood or Leicester City.

We enjoy football at Larkfleet Homes, so we are delighted to help youngsters in nearby Baston enjoy the ‘Beautiful Game’.

We are helping talented local youngsters to stay dry and look cool by sponsoring waterproof jackets worn by Baston Junior Football Club’s under-14s squad.

The new Joma Bench Rain Jackets, featuring the club badge and players’ initials on the front, with the Larkfleet logo on the back, are worn by the U14s to keep them warm and dry on the training pitch and on match days.

Baston Junior FC was established in summer 2015 and they have been successful in their first couple of seasons. The current U14s squad played its first season in the U12 Division 1 of the Peterborough Junior Alliance League.

They won the League Cup and finished second in the league. They also reached the final of the Lincolnshire U12 County Cup, which was held at Stamford’s ground.

As U13s in the 2016/2017 season the team won the coveted PFA Cup played at the ABAX Stadium, home of Peterborough United, and just missed out on winning the league.

The ambitious team is playing up a year for the current season 2017/18. Despite being an U14s squad, Baston Juniors are currently playing in the Peterborough Youth League U15 Division 2.

Our joint managing director Helen Hick said: “Larkfleet is committed to supporting the local community and it’s a pleasure to sponsor the Baston Juniors FC rain jackets.

“We consider ourselves to be a winning team here at Larkfleet and it is great to be associated with such a successful local football team. Our logo will be on display when the players are out and about in the region representing their team.”

Who knows, some of these lads could be playing in the FA Cup in the future.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Dealing with a cold snap

January is well and truly here. And with it comes more cold weather. The coldest months of the winter in the UK are usually between now and March - and it's certainly cold outside right now!

So, how can we make sure we keep warm and stay healthy as the mercury drops? Here are our top tips for keeping warm as temperatures plunge this winter.

  • It’s easier to warm yourself up than it is to raise the room temperature. Instead of turning up the heating, add another layer of clothing.
  • Layering up with several layers of thinner clothing is better than a single thick layer of clothing.
  • Any exposed surface on your body will cause you to lose heat. Cover up and make sure you wear a hat when you go outside.
  • Keep cosy under the covers by using an electric blanket or a hot water bottle. Never use the two together though.
  • Make sure you block out any drafts. Buy draft excluders or have a go at making your own. Get a foam swimming buoyancy tube – cut it in half, cover in fabric and slide it under the door.
  • Draw your curtains and blinds to keep in heat as dusk falls.
  • Don’t forget to set your programmable thermostat so that your home is always toasty when you get in from work. You can even set it using your smart phone.
  • It’s not the most cost-effective way of heating – but if you enjoy baking you will find that having your oven on will provide a boost to your heating.
  • Get some handwarmers to put in your coat pockets when you’re out and about.

Stay warm and stay healthy this winter.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Our New Year’s resolution - promoting construction skills, diversity and training

HBF Construction Skills Pledge Larkfleet Homes
We all make New Year’s resolutions, don’t we? And sometimes it’s hard to stick to them. If we’re honest we have usually abandoned them by the end of January.

But we’re made of sterner stuff at Larkfleet Homes. We have made a New Year resolution for 2018 - to work with suppliers, subcontractors, local colleges and others to help to plug the ‘construction industry skills gap’.

To do that we have joined a list of companies which have signed the Home Building Skills Pledge developed by the Home Builders Federation (HBF).

By making the pledge we are committing to recruit the best possible talent and to train people to the highest standards.

Our CEO Karl Hick said recently: “We are part of a growing momentum for really tackling this crucial agenda. It is vital to nurture the future of the construction industry if we are to build the homes that the country needs.

“By being proactive in terms of engaging staff, and by being inclusive and diverse in our recruitment, we will be able to future-proof our workforce to continue to deliver high quality new homes.”

The Skills Pledge covers topics we care about, like diversity, training, promoting careers in construction and other related issues.

At Larkfleet Homes we already invest heavily in training and skills development. We are one of the sponsors of the newly-opened Greater Peterborough University Technical College which aims to give young people ‘hands on’ as well as theoretical training for careers in the engineering and construction sectors. We also work with New College, Stamford.

So, you see, we are committed to developing the skills our industry needs for a sustainable future and we will continue to do that throughout 2018 and beyond.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Larkfleet starts work on Oakham retirement homes and dementia care unit

Larkfleet Homes The Croft
There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over one million by 2025 and reaching two million by 2051, according to figures published by the Alzheimer’s Society.

It’s estimated that 70 per cent of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems.

It is an increasing problem for UK society, one which the Larkfleet Homes team is committed to help solve.

We have started construction work on a ‘continuing care retirement community’ (CCRC) in Oakham, Rutland. It will provide 62 one and two-bedroom homes for ‘independent living’, 54 properties for ‘assisted living’ for people with specific care needs and a 60-bed specialist care home for people with dementia.

The CCRC is part of our Oakham Heights development – a major urban expansion of Oakham being built on land between the Oakham bypass and Barleythorpe Road.

We are starting on the essential infrastructure work – the installation of roads and services – at Oakham that will mean construction of homes can start later this year. The independent living retirement village will be developed under our award-winning ‘The Croft’ brand.

Larkfleet's first development under The Croft brand at Bourne won a Silver Award in the keenly-contested Best Retirement Development category in the prestigious WhatHouse? Awards in 2014. The following year The Croft at Baston was shortlisted in the same award and was named runner-up in the HouseBuilder Awards for best retirement housing.

The Oakham Heights CCRC will provide a much-needed facility for the aging population of Rutland. It will also create around 90 jobs for local people.

Monday, 1 January 2018

What's new in design for 2018

Larkfleet Homes design trends 2018

Now that the New Year is with us, many of us are thinking about a fresh start in 2018. Perhaps you’re thinking about a new car, a new kitchen, or redecorating the lounge. Whatever you're thinking about we’ve got a few ideas that could help you stay on trend.

According to the home decorating and renovation website Houzz there will be several traditional schemes making a comeback for home decoration in 2018.

Houzz released a list of the top 10 design trends it expects to see next year based on the opinion of its network of professional and consumer users. As well as offering ideas for decorating any room in the house, the website can provide you links to the latest products and even hook you up with decorating and building professionals in your area.

So, what’ trending according to Houzz?

  • Colourful kitchens – More colour will be used in kitchens to make the room feel warmer and make it even more like the hub of family life. Plum and warm pinks like Dulux’s Heartwood colour of the year.
  • Rich colours – To match the use of colour in the kitchen richer colours throughout the home will add a warming and cosy feel.
  • Say goodbye to stainless steel – In the kitchen, unconventional materials for sinks will come to the fore. Materials like stone, concrete, granite and copper will start to gain ground.
  • Go floral – Flowery prints and chintzy patterns will start to make a comeback. Designs will use bold contrasting colours.
  • Go vintage – Vintage accessories will become popular. Vintage lighting fixtures will gain popularity. There could even be an industrial theme in terms of metal and enamelled pendant lighting.
  • Open sinks and baths – Deeper trough sinks will become popular. They will be open with chrome and brass pipe work and traps.
  • Concrete it over – Well-established as a building material, concrete may become more popular decoratively – specifically in the form of kitchen worktops.
  • Go for wood – Painted wooden walls, once popular in kitchens and bathrooms, could become more common in other rooms around the house.
  • Tiles – Intricate designs and patterns will become popular to counterpoint bold, warm colours.
  • Minimalist bedrooms – Colours and designs of bedrooms will become uncluttered and calming.

For more ideas for what to do with your décor in 2018 visit