Category: Home and Garden

Moving to Canvey Island

Moving to Canvey Island

A Slice of Island Life a Short Commute from London

One of Essex’s forgotten corners is gradually finding its way onto the map. Grab a slice of island life before everyone finds out!

Essex is often seen as being a county that has a little of everything. The birthplace of the Essex Girl and Boy, celebrated in TV shows like The Only Way is Essex, the county is also home to the breath-taking beauty of Constable Country, and picture-postcard villages like Finchingfield to the north of the county.

Look a little harder, however, and there are even more choices. Those who favour a remote location more akin to the fens should venture out into the Dengie Peninsular. And if you fancy some island living? Simply get some independent mortgage advice in Canvey Island and you can even enjoy your very own island hideaway, while still being in easy commuting distance of the city.

A short history of Canvey

The seven square mile island has been inhabited since Roman times but was predominantly given over to agriculture till the early 20th century. In the post-war years, as London expanded at an ever-growing rate and the overspill towns of Basildon and Harlow emerged, Canvey also went into a golden period, and was the fastest-growing seaside resort in the country. Then, disaster struck in 1953 with the Great Flood. Back then, sea defences were practically non-existent, and the island was evacuated, but not before 58 people lost their lives.

Subsequently, the island was reborn. Modern sea defences measuring more than two miles in length have been installed, and most properties were built in the 1960s. Today, Canvey still has its beach and a smattering of seaside leisure facilities, but it is no longer the tourist destination that it was in the early 20th century. There are more than 30,000 residents, and the southern tip of the island is dominated by the petrochemical industry.

What to pay

There really is something for every budget on Canvey. One-bedroom apartments and park homes are available for as little as £150,000, while there is a great choice of three bedroom houses around the £250,000 mark.

Connections

It might be an island, but it is not a remote one. Benfleet Station stands conveniently just across the bridge, and from there, it is a 45 minute train ride into Fenchurch Street station, with trains running every 10 minutes. Road links have been significantly improved in recent years by the addition of a second bridge, and you can be on the M25 inside 30 minutes.

Schools

Canvey has a wealth of primary schools, six of which achieved a rating of “good” or “outstanding” in the latest Ofsted reports. There are also two secondary schools, Corneleus Vermuyden and Castle View, which achieved “good” ratings.

Shops and local facilities

Canvey has a bustling town centre that has more than enough to cater for day to day needs. The Knightswick Shopping Centre is home to a Sainsburys Superstore as well as a selection of clothes shops, banks, cafes and other facilities. There is also a good choice of pubs, bars and restaurants dotted around the town, including the Labworth Restaurant, where you can enjoy a range of contemporary dishes in a Grade Two listed building with panoramic views across the estuary.

5 Secret Cooking Methods Of Professional Chefs

Seal & Vacuum

Seal & Vacuum

Adding Some Flair To Your Kitchen

You don’t have to be a professional chef to experiment with some of the most exciting cooking methods.

Now that Christmas is over and you don’t have to think about slaving away over a roast turkey for a good while yet, your thoughts are probably turning to more exciting culinary techniques. If you want to expand your cooking skill set in 2018, then you should take a look at what professional chefs are getting up to in their kitchens. Far from being beyond your capabilities, the methods that renowned chefs use can be easily recreated in your home kitchen with the right equipment and the right attitude. So here are five of the most innovative ways to cook, with delicious results guaranteed.

Sous vide

Sous vide is one of the most popular cooking methods for a professional chef. For the uninitiated, here is sous vide explained. The food is sealed in a vacuum pack and then cooked in a low temperature water bath for an extended period of time. During that long cooking period, flavours have the chance to develop and every bit of moisture is locked into the food. It’s no wonder it’s a part of every successful chef’s arsenal. At home, you can deliver the same results with your own sous vide equipment.

Molecular gastronomy

A favourite of celebrity chefs like Heston Blumenthal, molecular gastronomy is where chemistry meets food. Using tools more commonly found in a science lab, chefs can really push the boundaries. Diners will be presented with dishes such as clear pasta, cocktail spheres and of course, food surrounded by dry ice. There are many recipes and starter kits to help you pick up the skills you’ll need.

Ceviche

One of the biggest food trends in recent years, ceviche is all about embracing the freshness of your ingredients. If you haven’t tried it, it’s fish cured in citrus juice. So you don’t even need to switch on your oven, as the juice is doing all the work! When you do make it at home, be sure to use ingredients that are as fresh as possible, and serve immediately. Done well, it is the perfect summertime treat.

Salt crust

Baking food in a salt crust is probably the easiest of these five cooking methods, but it is no less impressive. You simply mix together salt and egg white to form a sand like mixture, then cover your meat, fish or vegetables in it and then bake. The crust insulates the food, and it cooks evenly and gently. It makes for a great centrepiece too, as you’ll wow your guests by cracking open the crust at the table.

Confit

Confit is one of the most well-known cooking methods, but many home cooks are scared to give it a go. Well, make a resolution to change that this year! This cooking technique involves cooking food in fat, with confit leg of duck being the most popular example. The food is cooked at a lower temperature, and this results in the most incredible texture and flavour. Additionally, using this method will preserve food too. No wonder it’s been a French favourite for hundreds of years.

It’s time to get cooking!

Whether you choose to give all of these methods a go or you just pick one or two that take your fancy, you’ll be introducing some excitement into your kitchen. So why not think of a show stopping recipe to serve up to your family and friends this weekend? Once word gets out that you’re mastering these techniques, everyone will want an invite to your place for dinner!

Living and Working in East London

Living and Working in East London

East London is one of the most popular areas in London for young, creative types moving into the City. Although the price of renting and buying properties has increased considerably in the last few years, the area remains a cultural hub and one of the best places to live in London.

Popular areas in East London, such as Dalston, Bow and Stoke Newington are on the rise, thanks to regenerated locations and opportunities including Stratford’s transformation for the 2012 Olympics. Estate agents with offices in Leyton and Ilford are becoming increasingly busier, with more and more people wanting to move into the area to live and work.

Moving to Ilford

Ilford’s attraction may not be immediate, but cosmopolitan diversity can be found here, filled with young professionals and growing families. The transport links are very frequent, with trains running every few minutes into London Liverpool Street (LLS) and out towards Brentwood and Shenfield. Once Crossrail is running, you will be able to travel into LLS in less than 20 minutes.

Estate agents in Ilford are able to handpick excellent Ofsted rated schools, popular restaurants and green space that you will be able to enjoy whilst living here. Just outside the town centre, there’s a sea of late Victorian, Edwardian and 1920s terraces, semis and detached homes, perfect for singles, couples and families.

Living in Leyton

The east London suburb of Leyton offers affordable property for first-time buyers and families alike, and is just a few miles North of its fashionable neighbourhood, Walthamstow.

Leyton has roads of Victorian terrace houses and purpose-built flats, with a popular local shopping centre and “outstanding” rated primary schools in the area. The local transport links are reliable and frequent, with Leyton Tube Station’s Central line links to the City. It takes just 2 minutes to reach Stratford and 21 minutes to reach Oxford Circus, making it easy and manageable to work in Central London.

Eating and drinking in East London

East London has its fair share of places to eat and drink. One of the advantages to eating and drinking here is that the prices are slightly less expensive than the pricier City and West End districts. From quirky cafes, curry houses and traditional pubs, there’s plenty of choice for dining out in the East.

Five Steps to Stopping Damp and Mould

damp on wall

Damp Can Lead to Property Damage and Health Problems

damp on wallEvery house, new or old, can suffer from moisture problems. What can you do to keep your home dry and comfortable?

Moisture is a fact of life. The air is full of water particles in the form of humidity, the ground contains water that can rise up from the subsoil and rain will affect every house in the country, wherever you live.

If your house suffers from damp problems, there are a variety of possible causes, but at heart, it will either be because excess moisture is finding its way in, for example via a leaky roof or blocked drains, or moisture cannot escape, perhaps due to inadequate ventilation.

Left unchecked, dampness can result in the production of mould, which can have a variety of health effects, including respiratory problems, throat irritation, nasal stuffiness and skin complaints. The World Health Organisation issued these guidelines regarding the potential impact of damp and mould in 2009.

Here, we take a look at five measures you can take to combat the problems of damp and mould in your home.

1) Check for a simple problem

Builders and contractors will suck the air in through their teeth and tell you damp is a tough thing to solve, but sometimes there is an obvious cause. Is the water coming from an evident source? It could be as simple as a missing roof tile, damaged flashing or a blocked drain that is causing the problem.

2) Ventilate

In many cases, the reason for dampness is that there is insufficient opportunity for the moisture in the air to escape, meaning condensation forms on any available surface. Keep a good airflow throughout the house, particularly in areas where there will be more moisture around, such as the kitchen, bathroom and utility room.

Each of these rooms should have vents and / or extractor fans. Check they are working and are not blocked by either debris or badly positioned furniture.

More broadly, it is also good practice to open the windows every day, even if it is just for a few minutes. Not only will that help ventilate, it will also make your home feel and smell much fresher.

3) Wipe it down

If the mould covers a small area, you can often get rid of it by wiping down with water and sugar soap or vinegar. The latter is effective, but the smell will hang around for a few hours. Think carefully before going crazy with the bleach. Sure, you will get rid of the mould, but bleach is highly irritating to the lungs and eyes, so you might cause more problems than you solve.

4) Dehumidify

A dehumidifier essentially sucks the moisture out of the room and collects it in a bucket, which you can then pour down the drain. It will definitely be effective, and can be a great solution in an older house that does not have effecting damp proofing. You can buy one for as little as £35.

5) Get professional help

If the above tips don’t solve the problem, it is time to call in the experts. If your mould problem keeps coming back, you could be putting your family’s heath at risk, as well as allowing serious and even structural problems to develop. The sooner you get it fixed, the better, so don’t delay.

Upcycle Oak Beams For A Stylish Dining Room

Oak beam dining table

Oak beam dining tableHomemade furniture and accessories add a personalised touch to the home. Learn how to upcycle oak beams to make your dining room stylish!

The terms recycling, repurposing, reclaiming and upcycling are batted about in the DIY industry. These terms are used often and whilst they all have their own specific meaning, they ultimately come down to the same thing – the reusing of materials, and furniture to create something brand new.

Much loved oak beam furniture can become unloved and dowdy if it has been sat around gathering dust for a while. It’s time to breathe new life into the furniture by giving it a little TLC.

Shabby chic furniture can give a room a stunning, contemporary feel. Shabby chic is where furniture and furnishings are chosen for their old appearance and signs of wear and tear, or where new items are distressed to achieve the appearance of an old antique piece.

There are several ways you can upcycle oak furniture, such as distressing, reupholstering and painting.

Distressing oak furniture is a great way to add some character and style to the home. Distressing gives a weathered look to furniture to produce an appearance of age and wear. Use various tools to make natural marks and grooves in the wood and gently sand the surface. Paint the base colour and allow to dry. Sand the parts you would like to be weathered, and use a wire brush to put light scratches in the furniture. Lastly, add a top coat to seal it all off!

Upholstering furniture, such as wooden chairs, can give it a new lease of life. Simply add a new padded seat cover on the chair and a shabby chic paint finish – and voila!

There are many ways to upcycle furniture to help update a room without the added expenditure. Think of it as a little DIY project, something to tackle at the weekend that will feel rewarding once it’s complete!

Why Suffolk Gardeners Are Choosing Artificial Grass

lawns

lawnsLow maintenance and cost benefits make fake grass surfaces a winner

Artificial grass has come a long way in recent years as the techniques and technology involved in its manufacture become more advanced. More gardeners in Suffolk and other parts of the UK are appreciating the benefits of installing an artificial surface to replace traditional grass and enjoying a combination of year round use, durability, low maintenance and longer term cost savings.

Some artificial grass specialist suppliers are seeing increases of business as high as 50% since 2010. Some of the reasons why:

Easier maintenance

While a lawn will require mowing on a regular basis during the spring and summer, not to mention possible fertilising and other treating such as weed and moss removal, an artificial surface requires next to no maintenance.

At most fake grass requires the occasional sweep if leaves and other debris falls on it but otherwise, once its laid, an artificial surface makes no more demands on the gardener’s time.

Lower cost in the longer term

While an artificial surface will cost more to install than laying natural turf or seeding, over the longer term it should work out cheaper than the costs of maintaining grass.

It’s possible to install artificial grass oneself or to engage the help of professional installers if looking for artificial grass in Bury St Edmunds and surrounding parts of Suffolk.

The costs of a lawn mower and fuel or power to run it is one expense. There’s also the cost of fertilisers, weed killers and other treatments along with a possible increase in the gardener’s water bill if on a meter due to possible watering. The use of a sprinkler will see water use shoot up especially in dry conditions – they can use as much water in one hour as a family of four might use in a day.

Wider use

Artificial surfaces can be used most of the year round while there are times when it’s best to keep off natural grass. Excessively wet grass can become damaged if subject to heavy footfall as can grass in the grip of even a light frost.

This can be a particular issue when letting pets out to get some air and exercise as they can easily damage grass when wet or frosty.

Cleaner home interior

A sometimes overlooked benefit of an artificial surface is a likely cleaner inside to the property as dirt and other debris isn’t trailed into the house by footwear from damp grass outside.

An artificial surface can also help people who suffer with allergies; natural grass can harbour pollens that may set off allergic reactions in sufferers.

Environmental advantages

Most artificial grass is made from recycled materials such as plastics, and a good installation can last around 25 years.

While grass is a wholly natural substance, there are environmental implications in tending it:

  • Water

    – large amounts water can be used in keeping it nourished; it’s a precious resource under increasing demand from an ever-increasing number of households

  • Mowing

    – fossil fuels such as petrol or electricity are used to power lawn mowers and over several years of grass cutting this mounts up. There’s also noise pollution from the use of the mower itself

  • Chemicals

    – using weedkillers and fertilisers effectively puts chemicals in the garden and on the grass that can cause dangers to wildlife and are potentially hazardous for family pets and young children. They also tend to be flushed into the drains when it rains

The overwhelming case for artificial grass

There’s no doubt artificial grass has a lot to offer in terms of cost savings, environmental benefits and saving valuable time on maintenance. Even a basic activity such as mowing can easily swallow up one or two hours a week, and then you may not be able to use the carefully tended grass if conditions are either too wet or too dry.

Artificial grass, on the other hand, once laid is ready for use pretty much all the time and requires next to no care.

Double Your Off-Street Parking Without Losing Your Lawn

Suregreen grass reinforcement

Suregreen grass reinforcementCreating extra parking space using special surfaces on your grass

Car parking can be a particular problem for some; although the number of cars in many households is ever-increasing, generally newer house building features smaller gardens and surrounding land areas and a reduction in the number of garages being built. There’s also the issue of where to park if work is being done where owners might usually leave their cars – for example, if parking on the street and roadworks are in progress.

Parking on your lawn is an option, but usually a less than satisfactory one as grass can soon become damaged from tyres; a problem exacerbated after rainfall and during frosty conditions. Help is at hand though.

Grass reinforcement solutions

Specialist surfaces are available designed to protect grass when heavy loads such as cars are placed on it. A Witham based company offer various options with their Suregreen grass reinforcement range of mesh and matting.

Mesh

Available in various types depending on what levels of ‘traffic’ the grass is likely to experience ranging from occasional and heavier pedestrian use up to the parking and manoeuvring of cars and other vehicles.

As its name suggests, it’s an interwoven mesh made of plastic and is designed to reinforce the grass as it grows. The roots and sward of the grass intertwine with the mesh to create a stronger, reinforced surface. This, coupled with its ability to spread the weight of vehicles, helps preserve the grass.

The mesh is available in various specifications and grades; some versions are capable of bearing loads of over 7 tons and vary in design depending on how quick drainage is on the specific area of grass. Some mesh types are more suitable for sandy based grass with quicker drainage whereas others are designed for clay type surfaces where drainage is much slower.

The mesh is available in various sized rolls and is easily laid and fixed in place usually using U pins at specific intervals. For example, if laying a 2 by 20 metre roll of mesh then something like 200 pins would be required.

Ground protection mats

Made from HDPE (High Density Polyethylene), these mats – typically just over 12mm thick – are simply put in place on the grass to provide a sturdy, non-slip surface. They protect the grass by spreading the weight of the vehicle and preventing its tyres from pressing into the surface and eventually causing ruts.

However, many mats are necessary to provide the required area of parking and grass protection can be laid and interlocked with simple connectors to give a single, solid surface. They’re a more durable solution than fibreglass or plywood, and can offer good levels of grip on more uneven grass surfaces and – due to their composition – can handle expansion and contraction as weather conditions and temperatures change.

Light and portable

Each mat weighs about 40 kg so they’re convenient to move around being only the weight of two suitcases filled to most airlines’ luggage allowances.

Due to their portability, these mats make for an ideal temporary surface. For example, if you need some ad hoc extra parking for an event at your home such as a party, or to provide parking while work is going on in the street where you normally park such as pipe laying or similar, then ground protection mats offer a flexible solution.

Saving your lawn

As the above illustrates, there are ways of creating extra parking and hard standing for cars and vehicles without ruining your lawn.

Luxury Garden Dining at Its Best

Brighton Corner with 2 stolls and an armchair

Brighton Corner with 2 stolls and an armchairWhen the clouds clear after what felt like the longest, dreariest winter ever, our thoughts immediately turn to enjoying the great outdoors. We start planning days out, camping holidays and weekends at the coast. And even if we can’t spare some time away to embark on our holidays and outings, chances are we’ll at least plan a sunny afternoon BBQ or invite our friends and family around for a picnic lunch in the garden.

Spending time outside can do us the world of good. The sun is a source of Vitamin D, which is wonderful for the immune system and great for the heart. Being outside in the fresh air is a natural mood booster and helps you to keep active.

Summertime is a time for entertaining people in the garden, relaxing with a BBQ sizzling in the background or even just taking the afternoon out to read a book in the sun.

If you’re looking for luxury garden dining furniture to help entertain your guests on or a sofa set to relax on in the evenings, we think our Brighton Corner Set ticks all the boxes. This corner set is perfect for enjoying the long sunny days and warm summer evenings on.

The Brighton Set is a luxurious seating arrangement with plenty of space for up to eight adults. The relaxed seating set is ideal for those who enjoy entertaining family and friends in the garden and are looking for suitable seats for people to relax in.

The corner set is constructed using Aluminium frames and a 5mm core weave. This combination of materials will give you a sturdy and resilient frame work, and ensure that your set will give you years of maintenance free service. It’s also really easy to keep the cushions soft and clean, just mix a mild detergent together and sponge them down. To keep the framework clean, we recommend using warm soapy water to clean the frame and then hosing it down clean.

The set comes fully built, with the exception of the table legs, so the seating area can be set up and used within a few minutes of unpacking. The table comes with a parasol hole so that the set can be in shade with ease.

Garden Makeover Ideas For Spring 2017

landscaped garden

landscaped gardenGarden makeover ideas based on requirements, commitment to garden care and limitations of the space such as too much shade or being overlooked. Choosing help wisely.

Transforming an outdoor space to suit individual tastes and requirements

Creating a garden to suit specific requirements and complement the look and feel of a property is a highly popular home improvement. In the wake of various garden and home makeover television programmes, magazine articles, and the growth of specialist landscape gardening specialists, more people are becoming inspired to make better use of their garden.

From simple and inexpensive alterations to major overhauls, there’s much scope regardless of garden size.

The decline of the ‘flat grass’ garden

The time honoured garden, often the type laid down in new build homes, is the bog standard lawn with maybe a little hard standing somewhere near the back wall of the house and a few borders around the perimeter of the garden.

Many find this somewhat limiting; for one thing, a lawn is out of action for large parts of the year when heavy rain and frost strikes, and it can be a rather uninspiring look compared to what’s possible with some imagination and design expertise.

Deciding on a change

Choosing from a wealth of options for a garden makeover can be narrowed down when deciding what is wanted from a garden and how much time will be devoted to its upkeep.

Requirements

Is creating a genuine outdoor space to spend time in desired? If so, hard surfaces such as decking, patios and paths may be worth considering along with types of garden furniture.

Is low maintenance required due to lack of time (or even interest in spending time tending to the garden?). If so, ‘low maintenance’ plants and shrubs should be considered – and this makes an even stronger case for removing all or part of a lawn that requires mowing, seeding, watering and fertilizing, from time to time.

Are there any limitations? For example, is the garden in the shade much of the time, thus precluding certain types of plant from flourishing or preventing grass from getting enough sunlight? Is the garden overlooked? Is so, is it practical to improve privacy with taller plants, young trees or building a wall?

Budget

This will obviously determine how far a makeover can be taken. It’s important to direct funds where they’ll make the most difference. For example, if planning some hard standing or paving, then top quality stone is important. Once down it will be there for years, and compromising on quality is a false economy.

Finding an experienced, specialist supplier of popular stone types such as limestone paving, as opposed to the off-the-shelf route via DIY stores is key.

Levels and pathways

A popular and effective way to transform a garden is through the use of different levels and the use of paths to make more use of what may have been just a large lawn. A good garden designer can soon show you what alternatives are possible and, along with making for a space more adaptable and enjoyable to spend time in, make your garden look more interesting. This can be achieved by perhaps the use of curves in pathways, maybe a water feature if you’re prepared to maintain it, and careful positioning of certain plant types so the colours complement each other and the space in general when they bloom.

Lighting

Carefully placed lighting can make a difference and make your garden usable in the evening during the warmer months. A wide choice of lights to accentuate water features, outdoor sculptures and certain plants or small trees is available, and a good designer can suggest where might be a good place to position them.

Choosing help wisely

There are a number of garden designers and landscape gardeners around, but choosing a suitable one needs careful attention. Recommendations from friends and people you trust is an ideal starting point, but if that’s not possible then online research and checking their websites – they’ll often have a web presence with photos of their work is the ideal way forward.

The Best Wood Burners for Conservatories

wood burner in conservatory

wood burner in conservatory

Why You Should Invest in One

Wood burners are great for those who want to keep energy bills down, and they’re a super stylish addition to a room too.

We think of conservatories as places to enjoy during the summer, but there’s no reason why they can’t be utilised all year round. Yes, they do get chilly in the winter – there’s no getting around that. While they don’t retain heat as well as the other rooms in your home, they can be heated though. If you invest in something like say, a wood burner, you can keep your conservatory warm and toasty all throughout the colder months. So, to help you get the most out of your conservatory this winter, here are some of the best wood burners out there.

Flavel Arundel Wood Burning Stove

Flavel-Arundel-Multifuel-Stove-Mk2-CU

Now, when you picture a wood burner you’ll more than likely have a traditional piece in mind. The Flavel Arundel Wood Burning Stove is far from old-fashioned though. The large glass pane and sleek, minimal design give this wood burner a really modern feel. It will fit right in with a more contemporary conservatory as well. The result? You get the best of both worlds!

Mendip 5 SE Claret Enamel Stove

0001889_mendip-5-se-claret-enamel

Want to bring a little bit of retro charm to your conservatory? Then go for the Mendip 5 SE Claret Enamel Stove. The most eye-catching aspect of this wood burner is the traditional hand enamelled finish. Available in a wide range of colours, the most striking of which is bright red, this will be a really stylish talking point in your conservatory.

Morso 7648 Wood Burning Stove

morso7648

If you’re trying to add a little Scandi style to your conservatory, then you’ll love the Morso 7648 Wood Burning Stove. This stylish cylindrical stove is ultra-modern and will look great in the centre of a room thanks to its eye catching pedestal. It’s DEFRA approved too, making it the perfect addition to a conservatory with serious style and efficiency aspirations.

Chesney’s Shoreditch XLS 4 Series Stove

the-shoreditch-xls-4-series

Last but not least is Chesney’s Shoreditch XLS 4 Series Stove. This stove is the perfect combination of modern and traditional designs. The log store in the base gives it a rustic feel, but the clean lines and cool grey colour are very much contemporary. As a result, this is a wood burner that would fit into any design scheme.

Why choose a wood burner?

Wood burners are great at warming up a room quickly – and you just can’t beat a real fire for that cosy feeling. It’s important that you have your wood burner installed by a professional and that all current regulations are adhered to. If you live in a smoke-controlled area, be sure to check that your new wood burner is DEFRA approved. As long as you pick carefully, there’s no reason why you can’t add one to your luxury conservatory.

Which one is right for you?

Investing in a wood burner for your conservatory means that you can heat the room quickly and efficiently. They’re also incredibly stylish, and make for a great focal point to build the design scheme for the rest of your conservatory around. Whether you’ve got a traditional conservatory or a modern glass winter garden, there’s no reason why keeping it warm means sacrificing on style. So, which one will you go for?