Thursday, 26 July 2018

Host your own kids' holiday club

Schools out! The six-week summer holidays are loved by children, but almost certainly feared by most parents.

In the grand scheme of things, six weeks is not a long time, but when you're faced with making sure every minute is filled with fun and frivolities, it can be a little daunting (if not a little stressful).

But, with some forward planning and creative thinking, you can nail it from the comfort of your own garden. All you need is some basic kit, good company and an aperitif planned for the early evening.

A planner is almost essential and, in today's crazy world, who doesn't love a good spreadsheet detailing who's where and when. Once you've populated it with the necessary childcare and can see the days that you've actually got to fill, the fun begins.

Here's just a few ideas to get the summer started:

1) A teddy bear's picnic
This is a surefire winner for children and parents alike. Fill your garden with picnic rugs, outdoor toys, delicious food and a few sweet treats (bear-shaped shortbreads are just perfect). Play party games like pass the parcel and musical statues. You could even create a magical treasure hunt with prizes; every child loves a prize. And don't forget to ask the children to bring their favourite teddy bear for some sort of show-and-tell. As long as the Pimm's is flowing, parents will be happy.

2) Crafty kids

Set up lots of stations outside and prepare yourself for messy play. If you're going to brave a crafty afternoon, don't hold back, you might as well get really messy. Painting, Crazy Sand, Play Doh, cutting and sticking, glitter and even face painting should be on the menu. Have a washing line ready to hang the artistic creations to dry and make the clearing up fun with some well-intended bribery; a tidying-up race is always well-received.

3) Summer splashing

Have a bit of a pool party - rest assured the paddling pool will suffice; particularly where your water meter is concerned. These soaring temperatures are an invitation for children to unveil this season's swimwear and to spend hours getting wet, without a care in the world. Throw in a slippery slide, some water pistols and the obligatory water fight and it will be an afternoon well spent. Completed perfectly with some ice-cold summer punch and retro ice creams (Choc Ices all the way).

4) The big summer camp out

There isn't much that's more exciting than camping out in your own back garden; the real beauty being the easy access to your own shower and toilet! Get the children involved in pitching the tent and setting up camp with roll mats, camping chairs and cooking equipment. Have a BBQ feast for dinner and, if you're brave enough, go for toasting marshmallows on an open fire and making everyone's favourite s'mores for dessert

Make this summer all about #makingmemories and, with these four simple ideas, you're well on your way. They all involve lots of activity and great socialising. Best of all, it's a bit of cost-effective fun in your own back garden. What could be better?

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

'Tis the season for DIY

The sunshine has to be one of the most anticipated elements of summer. It gets us outdoors, brings imagination to life and inspires us to get motivated.

In fact, it seems to turn people into raging DIY fanatics. All of those jobs that have sat dormant during the winter months suddenly carry great appeal. Tool boxes are dusted off, proudly carried by men dressed for the occasion (cue shorts and obligatory muscle vest).

The prospect of 'outdoor living' makes the garden an exciting challenge. But, is it a case of a quick tidy up or are we talking a whole garden redesign?

Here are a few places to start:

1) Quick wins

Simply getting the paint out can achieve a certain wow factor on its own. And with some amazing shades of grey and blue hitting the airwaves, a garden fence or decking area can be completely transformed in no time. Similarly, garden furniture can benefit when there's a revamp afoot. A whole new look can be achieved with a lick of paint and be finished to perfection with some simple accessories; wind-lights, pretty candles, co-ordinating cushions and beautiful napkins to name just a few.

2) Get green fingered 

Sprucing up the garden also plays into the hands of those wanting to achieve a refreshed look. It could be a great time to create that longed-for vegetable patch or even just a small herb garden. The sense of achievement when you actually deliver home produce to the table is well worth it. But, if this is a step too far, then you can simply add some new plants, create sections with over-sized mediterranean-style pots or add a touch of elegance with herb-inspired hanging baskets.

3) Add more space 

For the more enthusiastic among us, there's always the option to add a summer house to the landscape. With an abundance of choice across style, size and shape, there's bound to be one for your garden. What better way to spend a summer evening than sitting on your very own summer house verandah, sipping an ice cold something?

4) Light it up

Then there's the lighting - another great addition to any outdoor space that can create the most magical backdrop for alfresco dining. With your DIY hat on, you can go crazy with the colours, the twinkling and the location to make sure that you create a range of stunning effects to highlight the best bits of your new found garden.

5) Don't forget maintenance 

When you've finished having fun and being creative, you can add clearing the gutters, washing the windows, mowing the lawn and jet washing the patio to your summer DIY radar. It's all in the name of owning and maintaining your own home after all.

The good news is that by time the autumn is upon us, those indoor DIY jobs will still be waiting. So don't quash the momentum and pack up the tool kit. Instead, enjoy the indoors safe in the knowledge that your garden looks fantastic.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Do you know your muddling from your shaking?

We hit the month of June and instantly start to look forward to long summer days, where you can sit outside for hours just watching the world go by. The patio sets have had their annual clean, the parasol is set to provide the shade and the children are dancing and skipping through the magical waterfall you've created with the sprinkler.

Sounds perfect, right?

Add in the chance to sip something cool and refreshing and you have that instant feeling of being on holiday. It's like creating your own little haven, right there in your garden.

It's a summer cocktail culture; the chance to mix up some amazing concoctions that always taste their best outside - in the sunshine. Whether it's a backyard BBQ or a garden picnic, the chance to create something refreshing, seasonal and delicious should not be missed.

And don't hold back. Let your imagination go crazy. Try different flavours, add new mixers, throw in the herbs and decorate with a fresh garnish. Cocktails are supposed to tempt the taste buds if nothing else.

Grab a glass and treat yourself to a summer cocktail, packed with ice and brimming with big summer flavours.

So, where to start?

Make the most of seasonal fruits like strawberries, blueberries, watermelon and peaches. Citrus fruits can provide a refreshing twist, guaranteed to wake up those taste buds. Pair with some fragrant herbs for that extra zing; strawberry and basil or watermelon and mint are just a couple of tempters.

For the alcohol element, go with the lighter options such as gin, rum, Aperol or Pimms. And really go for it with the mixers. There's an abundance of amazingly refreshing tonics, sparkling delights and fresh juices out there. Pairing them with the right spirits and accompanying herbs can be great fun. Every cocktail is like a delightful experiment, and you'll soon get to know which combinations work best.

Presentation is key too. Invest in some funky glassware. Mason jars are right on trend and guaranteed to wow your guests. And then there's the garnish. Adorn the glass with fresh fruit, a herb sprig, a colourful straw and maybe a pretty ribbon to finish.

There's so much more to jumping on the cocktail bandwagon than meets the eye, but it's great fun and can be enjoyed all summer. Just remember a wining cocktail is an art and the two things you need to master for the best home cocktails are muddling and shaking; we'll leave it with you!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Your last chance to win £1,000!
Time is nearly up on our customer survey. So, hurry if you want to be in with a chance of netting yourself and your family £1,000.

We launched a survey to get the thoughts and experiences of house buyers. You’ve got until 31 July to take part.

Go to to let us have your views.

Complete our survey and we will enter you into our prize draw for a chance to win £500. Agree to a follow up interview and you will be entered in a second draw to win a further £500.

The Larkfleet Homes team is always working to develop new ways to provide the best possible products and services for our customers. We want to know what house buyers really think of the housing market and what they want from housebuilders like us.

To help us, we teamed up with First Time Buyer Magazine, What House and What Mortgage to develop and deliver this comprehensive survey to find out what you, our customer, is really looking for in a new home.

The survey covers everything from the type of property people are looking to buy or have bought (whether it’s for their own use or an investment) through to topics such as location, size and energy efficiency.

It takes less than ten minutes to complete at The survey is being managed by independent marketing company OlsenMetrix Marketing and all the data collected will be anonymous.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

What to do if you find hedgehogs in the garden

Glancing out of the kitchen window this morning we spotted a hedgehog getting busy around the lawn. It was broad daylight. Hedgehogs are nocturnal. They are active at night. They may come out at dawn and dusk when the summer nights are short to forage.

If you see one during the day, it’s either unwell, a pregnant hedgehog gathering nesting materials or a recent mum taking a break from the nest to find food and water. You can tell the difference. If it’s unwell and in distress the hedgehog will be slow moving, lethargic or appear to be sun bathing.

In these cases, you should seek expert advice. Pick up the hedgehog carefully, protecting your hands with gardening gloves. Place it carefully in a high-sided box with a towel, fleece or blanket in the bottom for it hide under. Offer meat-based (not fish) cat or dog food and water. Visit the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website for more information on what to do. There is a handy FAQ section here.

If it’s preparing a nest it will be moving around quickly and with a sense of purpose. You don’t need to do anything in this case. In the summer, food should be plentiful. In dry weather leave out water in a low dish and keep it topped up. Leave Mrs Tiggy Winkle to get on with her business and don’t disturb her.

Don’t try and move it on, especially in the breeding season.

Hedgehogs are protected, in England, Scotland and Wales, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Schedule 6 and in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985, Schedules 6&7. What this means is they are: “protected from being killed or taken by certain methods under Section 11(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The methods listed are: self-locking snares, bows, crossbows, explosives (other than ammunition for a firearm), or live decoys. The species listed are also protected from the following activities: trap, snare or net, electrical device for killing or stunning, poisonous, poisoned or stupefying substances or any other gas or smoke, automatic or semi-automatic weapon, device for illuminating a target or sighting device for night shooting, artificial light, mirror or other dazzling device, sound recording, and mechanically propelled vehicle in immediate pursuit.”

There are loads of things you can do to make your garden hedgehog friendly. There are plenty of ideas here.
  • If your garden is fenced, make a hole in the fence at ground level about the size of a CD case for them to get in and out.
  • Avoid slug pellets because these are poisonous to hedgehogs.
  • Don’t be too tidy. Leave a messy corner of leaves and garden rubbish piled up for them to hide in.
  • Never leave out bread and milk for hedgehogs – this can make them very ill.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Summer 1998 – what was hot and what was not

Larkfleet 20th Anniversary
It’s our 20th anniversary and we’re  planning some celebrations later in the year. We thought we would get the ball rolling with a look at what was happening in summer of ’98 – what was hot and what left us cold.

The average house price was round £112,000, ASBOS became a thing in 1998 and a new £2 coin came into circulation.

In sport, Pete Sampras won Wimbledon and France had just won the FIFA Wold Cup – beating Brazil 3-0. Sound familiar?

Three Lions ’98 had a three-week stint in the charts – at least until England came home. This summer has had a familiar ring about it. The Spice Girls, Boyzone and All Saints were all hot while the album chart was dominated by the Corrs and their album Talk on Corners.

Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg’s movie about the D-Day landings, was taking cinema audiences by storm, there was Something About Mary and Marvel’s The Avengers assembled on the big screen for the first time.

Unfortunately, the summer weather in 1998 was not quite as nice as it has been so far this year. Summer 1998 was one of the coldest, dullest summers on record for the UK. June and July were also noted as the second wettest combination of months since records began in 1869!

Due to the weather more of us than usual jetted off in search of the sun. Over 50 million visits abroad were made in 1998. The vast bulk of these trips were package holiday flights to Spain, Turkey and Greece.

It seems that this year is a little different and more of us than ever before are staying at home and making the most of what the UK has to offer.

Festival packing hacks

packing for a festival
Are you off to a music festival this summer? There’s more to getting your packing right than you might think. It’s not just about tents, wellies and alcopops.

Here are some of our top hacks for getting your festival packing right.

First off, make sure you have your ticket – you’re not getting on to the festival site without one!

Also, take photo ID, money and cards. Put these in a money belt you can wear under your clothes to keep them secure.

Make sure you have toiletries, suntan lotion and any medicines you normally need. And don’t forget the toilet paper. And talking of toilets, take some menthol rub to wipe under your nose to mask the smell of the loos, otherwise you could be holding on all weekend.

Remember to take a small first aid kit with things like painkillers and meds for dodgy stomachs. Festival food and booze could wreak havoc on your weekend.

For camping you will need a tent, roll mat and sleeping bag. Take a warm top because it can get cold at night – even in the summer. Avoid pitching your tent at the bottom of a hill. You will get flooded out if it rains and end up in a muddy swamp.

Take something unique along to decorate your pitch making your tent instantly recognisable in a sea of tents.

To help with a good night’s sleep take ear plugs and blindfold to block out the 24-hour partying.

If  bad weather is forecast, take enough changes of clothes in case you get wet. And take a lightweight waterproof jacket or coat.

Have a head torch to help you find your way round at night and take duct tape – use it for ripped tents or split wellies.

Take some camp food, cereal bars and snacks. Freeze your milk, fruit juices and water as it will stay fresher for longer in your cool box.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Give your crib the holiday vibe

Holiday inspired interior design
You know that feeling when you’re on your holidays and you see something that catches your eye and you think it will go really well in the living room?

If you have recently been abroad and picked up a memento at a flea market you’re probably wondering what your going to do with it now you have got it home. You don’t want to get rid of it because it reminds you of what a great time you had.

To help you out we have put together some design hints to bring the holiday vibe flooding back into your home.

Give your home the Spanish treatment. Say ‘si senor’ to tiles ,decorative ceramics, light colours on walls and dark, exposed wood. Other very ‘Spanishy’ features include decorative wrought iron work, terracotta and stone floors.

Holidays in the eastern Mediterranean are ever-popular and resorts in Cyprus, Greece and Turkey dominate. Thinking about bringing  the sunny Greek or Turkish style into your home? Make it blue. Play around with shapes and buy fabrics and accessories with lots of geometric patterns. Decorate lots of blue and white and use tiles and brightly coloured ceramics.

If Italy is your thing then just go with great slinky design - think Milan fashion, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Ducati and you won’t go far wrong.

Ethnic design is popular. If you’ve been to places like Morocco and you want to evoke the sights and sounds of the casbah then decorate using bright colours, with contrasting textures and shapes. Use low level seating, geometric rugs, pouffes and cushions.

For more inspiration take a look at Houzz, Instagram and Pinterest.

Friday, 13 July 2018

How to keep your beach body in trim this summer

holiday fitness
You know that keeping in shape is a year-round job. But in the summer, we often find ourselves under more pressure to buff up the abs and lose the bingo wings than normal. Most of us are looking forward to sunning our beach-ready bods by the sea.

You’ve got yourself into shape, but how do you keep that way? Worried that inactivity will help you pile on the pounds? Well, we’re here to help with our top tips for keeping summer fit.

Little and often – use your body weight to maintain muscle mass and definition. Sit ups, crunches, press ups and planks should all form part of a regular routine that you can do anywhere.

More cardio – when you’re out and about walk faster than you normally do and take deeper breaths.

Burpees – these can be done anywhere and will really work your whole body, giving you a cardio workout and improving your core strength at the same time.

Stay hydrated – in warmer weather it is easy to become dehydrated. This has a really negative impact on our health. Carry a reusable water bottle with you and remember to take regular sips of water. If you’re feeling thirsty you’re already dehydrated.

Swim! – while you’re away take advantage of the pool to get some exercise. And you will have nature’s biggest pool, the sea, right on your doorstep.

Eat healthily – while you’re on holiday it’s easy to eat well. Fresh veg and fish is everywhere.

Stay active – why not rent a bike or go for long walks. Not only will you be able to get a real feel for your destination, you’ll be getting fit too!

Hope you have a great holiday.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Tempting fetes

Larkfleet Homes Baston in the Blitz
Nothing says summer in England more than a traditional village fete. A lot of people make fun of them, but we think that’s unfair. There’s plenty to enjoy at a good fete, not least beer, Pimm’s or bubbles in the refreshment tent.

You’ll almost always find a good cream tea. And then there are the thousands of ingenious ways which local charities and community groups devise to part you from your hard-earned cash. Human fruit machine anyone?

A local fete is a great way to get outside in the sun, meet people in your local community, catch up on the local gossip and have a few drinks.

Keep an out for your local parish magazine, that’s bound to have information in it about events that are happening near you.

When you’re online, check out Google, social media and Facebook for local events.

Fetes and community events aren’t always traditional though.

If you are in or around Baston in August check out the Baston in the Blitz event.

Baston in the Blitz, held on the weekend of 4th and 5th August, is a WWII extravaganza. There will be more than 60 trade stalls, some 70 display groups and over 500 WWII re-enactors putting on a 1940’s themed displays over the weekend.

As well as a thrilling battle re-enactment, there will be plenty of food and dink on offer and there are also music shows, presentations, a Punch & Judy show, a Dambusters presentation and George Formby experience among other attractions.

Visit for full details.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Advice for a great holiday

Larkfleet Homes holiday checklist
Don’t let your holiday turn into a wet weekend. Get you and your family organised so that you don’t have to worry about anything when you get to your hotel or villa – just sit back and relax by the pool for two weeks.

To help you get into the holiday swing we have put together this handy checklist of things to do to help you prepare and have the time of your life – after all, you’ve earned it.

Before you go remember to –
  • Dig out your passport in plenty of time. Give yourself time to renew it.
  • Make sure you’ve got all the travel documents you will need such as visas. Also, check that you have a valid driving licence.
  • Renew your travel insurance and make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you’re going to a destination on the continent.
  • Check your baggage allowances – you don’t want to be unpacking your smalls in the check-in area because your bag is too heavy.
  • Secure your home – nothing will bring you back down to Earth more quickly after a holiday than to find that your homes has been burgled. Have a member of your family, friend or trusted neighbour keep an eye on your house.
  • Order your travel money in plenty of time. And make sure you tell your bank that you are going away to avoid the embarrassment of having card transactions declined because it thinks your card has been nicked due to unusual activity.
  • Arrange pet care and make sure you choose a reputable kennel or cattery for your pooch or moggy.
  • Pre-book any car hire and/or airport car parking.
  • Finally, select some great holiday reading – check out our recent blog post for some solid gold recommendations.
Most of the holiday tour operators have handy checklists on their websites – Thomas Cook and Tui are both good.

Happy travels from the whole Larkfleet Homes team.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Our beach fiction picks for summer

Larkfleet Homes beach reads
As June turns into July and the school year winds down, many of us will be looking forward to jetting off to foreign parts or settling down on a beach closer to home.

Even if you’re simply spending time at home in the garden soaking up the sun what better way to pass the time than by catching up on your reading?

There are plenty of great reads out there now. Whether you’re into hard-bitten noir detective stories, historical fiction or chick lit, we have picked a few books that should definitely be in your suitcase this summer.

Larkfleet Homes beach reads Stephen King the outsider
  • The Outsider – Stephen King
  • The President is Missing – Bill Clinton and James Patterson
  • The Fallen – David Baldacci
  • The Cabin at the End of the World – Paul Tremblay
  • MacBeth – Jo Nesbo
  • Down the River unto the Sea – Walter Moseley
  • Babylon Berlin – Volker Kutscher
  • Forever and a Day – Anthony Horowitz
Michael Ondaatje Warlight Larkfleet Homes
Historical fiction 
  • Warlight – Michael Ondaatje
  • Circe – Madelaine Miller
  • The Atomic City Girls – Janet Beard
  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock – Imogen Hermes Gowar
  • The Burning Chambers – Kate Mosse
  • Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen – Alison Weir
  • The Falcon of Sparta – Conn Iggulden
Fern Britton Coming Home Larkfleet Homes
  • Shelter in Place – Nora Roberts
  • The Family Gathering – Robyn Carr
  • The Good Luck Charm – Helen Hunting
  • Surprise Me – Sophie Kinsella
  • Daisy’s Vintage Cornish Camper Van – Ali McNamara
  • Crudo – Olivia Lang
  • Coming Home – Fern Britton
  • The Summer of Impossible Things – Rowan Coleman
Children of Blood and Bone Adeyemi Larkfleet Homes
Children and Young Adult
  • Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
  • The Moxie – Jennifer Mathieu
  • The Start of You and Me – Emery Lord
  • Not if I Save you First – Ally Carter
  • One of us is Lying – Karen McManus
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • The Kissing Booth – Beth Reekles
  • Letters from the Lighthouse – Emma Carroll
  • The Legend of Podkin One-Ear – Kieran Larwood
  • See you in the Cosmos – Jack Cheng
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon – Kelly Barnhill
  • The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman
There are some great titles in here. There’s nothing wrong with getting your books online, but if you can, and there is one where you live, do consider using your independent bookshop.

Hope you have a great time this summer.