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Out is the new in: It’s time to spruce up your outside space

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Out is the new in: Spruce up your outside space for social gatherings when restrictions lift

Gardens and other outdoor spaces are about to take on a whole new importance. So fresh inspiration may be needed to keep up appearances.

The easing of restrictions from March 29 will allow groups of six people, or two households, to gather in private gardens again, and alfresco meet-ups may stay popular for some time. 

So if you’re planning a long-awaited lunch party or evening with friends and family, you’ll want your outside space ready and on-trend.

Cheers! Alfresco dining is returning so you'll want your outside space ready and on-trend

Cheers! Alfresco dining is returning so you’ll want your outside space ready and on-trend

‘Tie your garden ‘room’ together with indoor schemes,’ says Wil Law, home design stylist at John Lewis. 

‘That might mean a Scandi vibe, with neutral, organic textures that bring a more natural look. For others, it is about coloured glassware and crockery that creates a party vibe.’

Thanks to the milder weather, John Lewis has seen sales of picnic hampers, cool bags and rugs increase 123 per cent week on week.

Here’s how to get your garden ready for some well-deserved get-togethers.

SEATING PLANS

Combine style and comfort with practicality and sustainability. Danish designer Mater has reproduced a table-and-chair design from 1955 in timber and steel; it is now made from plastic salvaged from the sea. 

The Ocean Collection comes in concrete green or black (chair, £206, table, from £462). Or try Next’s Bali bench set (£899).

HOME COMFORTS

Flashy flamer: The Phoenix Flower brazier (£260)

Flashy flamer: The Phoenix Flower brazier (£260)

Beautiful cushions add luxury to your garden. For a splash of colour and cheer, try the Fermob Trefle outdoor cushions, (from £52). For extra comfort, place a throw or a blanket on each chair. 

The Heal’s merino and cashmere herringbone throw (£149) will offer an ultra-cosy feel.

For cheap and cheerful, Dunelm’s linen-mix throw at £14 will do the trick.

LIGHTEN UP

Pretty lighting will transform your gathering. For an ambient glow, try a string of weatherproof lantern lights that can be hung along a wall or used with extra long crooks to hang over your table (£28, thewhitecompany.com).

You can also make the day last longer with eco-friendly soy wax candles. Try Neom’s Happiness fragrance which blends seven essential oils of white neroli, woody and powdery mimosa and zingy lemon (from £16).

SET THE TABLE 

Bamboo tableware is a sustainable material and less likely to smash than china. Try Japanese tableware brand Kinto’s bamboo fibre and melamine range (from £3).

Seagrass placemats add a wonderful rustic touch. Try The White Company’s mats handmade in Vietnam (£16 for set of two). 

Seasonal table decorations and centrepieces are easy if you add home-grown foliage and flowers.

READY, STEADY, COOK 

Cooking outside will allow you to spend more time with guests. The go-to option for no-fuss grillers is a gas unit. 

The Morso Forno Gas Grande BBQ has an aluminium body with a minimalist design (£599). 

Charcoal enthusiasts might prefer the Weber Master-Touch Premium BBQ (£375).

Those with the biggest budgets might splash out on a table with an in-built firepit where you can cook. 

The stylish range at Bramblecrest allows you to add a griddle and use the fire as a mini BBQ (from £2,871). 

For smaller gardens and more modest budgets, try a tabletop BBQ such as the Berghoff’s for £149.

KEEP WARM

The fun shouldn’t stop when temperatures drop. Moda’s outdoor heater looks like a smart floor lamp with a pleated shade and a rattan weave base which comes in four colours (£495).

The raw steel brazier at Cox & Cox makes a great centre piece (from £195). 

Or splash out on statement designs at arpestudio.co.uk, such as the Phoenix Flower brazier (from £260).

What your home really needs is … Kilner jars 

A three-litre Kilner jar costs £8 at Dunelm

A three-litre Kilner jar costs £8 at Dunelm

Kitchen storage one-upmanship has turned the spotlight on the Kilner, a type of glass jar invented about 180 years ago by John Kilner, a distant ancestor of TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

The jar was a revolutionary way of bottling food before refrigeration: its two-part lid, made up of a heat-sealable disc and a screw band, forms a pressure seal. 

Another version has a lid attached by a wire mechanism which, when clipped shut, forms an airtight seal with the rubber ring around the rim of the jar.

Your home needs Kilner jars because their elegantly utilitarian appearance suggests that you are a fan of 19th century waste-not-want-not beliefs which are once more highly relevant in this eco-conscious age.

You may be drawn to the idea of displaying these containers, filled with flour, pasta, sugar or beans, on a shelf for Instagram shots.

A three-litre Kilner jar costs £8 at Dunelm. But if you are seeking jars for a variety of uses, including homemade marmalade, or for soaking oats overnight for breakfast, Kilner, the original company has a wide range, including a spaghetti dispenser for £19.50.

ANNE ASHWORTH  

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Minister has ‘no idea’ how many funds will escape 10% stamp duty, says Doherty

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Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has been accused of having “no idea” how many forward purchase agreements were in place to bulk buy houses before they were exempted from an increase in stamp duty on multiple purchases.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty made the accusation after Mr Donohoe said such information “is not collected by the department. However I will explore with the Minister for Housing whether it is possible to put in place a reporting regime for agreements of this nature”.

Mr Doherty criticised the Minister for not attempting to establish how many housing units and developments would be bought by vulture funds without being subject to the 10 per cent stamp duty obligation.

“This is about Maynooth all over again and you’ve no idea how many of them are there,” he said in reference to the purchase by an investment fund of an entire housing estate in Co Kildare, which sparked controversy around the squeezing out of first-time buyers.

The subsequent public anger prompted the Government to impose a 10 per cent stamp duty, instead of the normal 1 per cent, for bulk purchases of 10 or more houses in a 12-month period by an individual or corporation.

Mr Doherty told the Minister: “You have no idea how many forward purchase agreements are in place yet you exempted every single last one of them from the 10 per cent stamp duty.”

He added that the Minister had no idea either how many transactions had been completed since the financial resolution was introduced last month.

“And really doesn’t that speak volumes of the fact that you were kicked dragging to this point where you didn’t want to be in the first place which was you didn’t want to tax the vulture funds.”

Raising the issue during finance questions in the Dáil he said “you have exempted something that you don’t know how much is there. You don’t know how many bulk purchases over the next number of years because you have no knowledge of how many agreements are there.”

But defending his approach Mr Donohoe said he was motivated to have policies to deal with the bulk purchase on family houses but also to “get the balance right between also allowing more homes being built in the future”.

He said he had information about the kinds of purchases and forward purchases that took place in recent years but the information “isn’t available to me” in relation to purchases currently being completed or under way.

But he insisted “that doesn’t undermine the policy rationale for what I did”.

Mr Doherty said the Minister could have got some information from published reports online but “you didn’t even look, you didn’t even want to find out. You came before this House and you said every single forward purchase agreement for homes is exempt that is already entered into a contract.

“And actually every single one that you actually complete over the next number of months we’ll exempt all of them as well.”

The Minister insisted however that he put the policy in place to get the balance right between trying to address multiple purchases but also allow supply of more homes in the future.

He added that if they extended the increased stamp duty to forward purchases “the net effect would be less homes being built in the future.

“I want to see more homes available and that’s why I believe the policy we have in place gets the balance right.”

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The Cotswold house being sold with a 94-year-old tortoise

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This pretty period property in the Cotswolds has an unusual feature that is being included in its sale. 

While new homes may occasionally try to tempt buyers by including additional items for sale, such as furniture or even a car, this Grade II listed property is on the market for £825,000 with a more unusual – and elderly – offering.

It has a 94-year-old resident tortoise that resides in the garden of the four-bedroom detached house in Wiltshire’s Box.

A 94-year-old tortoise is part of the sale of this stunning four-bedroom home in the Cotswolds

A 94-year-old tortoise is part of the sale of this stunning four-bedroom home in the Cotswolds

Resident Hercules is a local village celebrity and is an impressive 94 years old

Resident Hercules is a local village celebrity and is an impressive 94 years old

The property is called the The Old Diary and is bursting with character features. But its most charming feature is arguably Hercules, the tortoise.

After moving into The Old Dairy in 2007 and becoming custodian of the then 80-year-old resident tortoise, the current owner of the property soon discovered that Hercules is folklore in the village of Box and somewhat a creature of habit.

The current owner – of both the property and the tortoise – has lived in the property for the last 14 years and reports that Hercules can be expected to begin hibernating around 20 October, until emerging again on or very close to 20 April the following year in line with the start of warmer days. 

This is a feat they have seen repeated annually with complete accuracy.

When not hibernating, Hercules is a low-maintenance garden resident who enjoys a diet of lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes.

While it’s no secret that Hercules is a local village celebrity, a less well-known fact about this four-legged garden friend is that following a visit to the vet in the 1970s, it was confirmed that Hercules is in fact female.

Beyond the walled-garden where Hercules resides, there is plenty more outdoor space to be enjoyed.

The property is full of character features including wooden beams and an Aga in the kitchen

The property is full of character features including wooden beams and an Aga in the kitchen

The property is for sale via estate agents Hunter French, in Corsham, with a price tag of £825,000

The property is for sale via estate agents Hunter French, in Corsham, with a price tag of £825,000

The inside of the period home spans three floors and includes this living room with a cosy fireplace

The inside of the period home spans three floors and includes this living room with a cosy fireplace

The ground floor of the property also includes this large and bright conservatory that leads to the garden

The ground floor of the property also includes this large and bright conservatory that leads to the garden

To the front of the house, there is a gravel driveway and lawned garden bordered by flowers. 

Also in the garden is an outbuilding that was once use as a double garage, but now offers itself as a space with potential for new owners to explore as it was previously transformed into a charming café.

Inside, the period home spans three floors. To the ground floor, there is a kitchen and breakfast room that can be accessed via the tiled entrance hall and boasts a blue Aga.

The formal dining room has access to the cellar and provides the perfect setting for entertaining, while the sitting room is centred around a cosy open fireplace.

Currently a working-from-home space, the third reception room is the oldest part of the property and completes the ground floor, alongside a utility room, cloakroom, and a conservatory.

As well as the family bathroom, there are three bedrooms on the first floor, while the fourth bedroom on the top floor has an ensuite and living space.

The outdoor space includes a driveway and an outbuilding that was once used as a double garage

The outdoor space includes a driveway and an outbuilding that was once used as a double garage

The character property in Box has four bedrooms including a main suite on the top floor

The character property in Box has four bedrooms including a main suite on the top floor 

The top floor includes additional living space that can be used to accommodate extra guests

The top floor includes additional living space that can be used to accommodate extra guests

Helen Whiteley, of property website OnTheMarket.com, said: ‘It certainly isn’t every day you come across a property for sale with its very own resident tortoise.

‘At the age of 94, Hercules has so far lived through two World Wars as well as the reign of four British monarchs, George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II.

‘If she could, I’m sure she would be able to tell some of the most amazing tales. As it stands, now both the property and Hercules are seeking their next owner to act as their custodian with each full of character, albeit in rather different ways.’

The current owner - of both the property and the tortoise - has lived in the property for the last 14 years

The current owner – of both the property and the tortoise – has lived in the property for the last 14 years

There is plenty of outdoor space that Hercules uses, including a lawn and flower beds

There is plenty of outdoor space that Hercules uses, including a lawn and flower beds

The outbuilding offers the potential for new owners to explore as it was once a charming café

The outbuilding offers the potential for new owners to explore as it was once a charming café

Lauren Walsh, of estate agents Hunter French, in Corsham, – which is handling the sale – said: ‘The Old Dairy is an incredibly charming home filled with character and would make for a wonderful family home looking to make their next move.

‘While Hercules the tortoise is undeniably one of the most popular characters in the local village, Box itself has a lovely sense of community and offers great places to spend days out with family and friends, whether this be in the great outdoors or at one of the welcoming pubs or restaurants on offer.’

The outbuilding could be used as guest accommodation or as a bed & breakfast option

The outbuilding could be used as guest accommodation or as a bed & breakfast option

The inside of the outbuilding could be transformed to help produce an additional income

The inside of the outbuilding could be transformed to help produce an additional income

The village of Box is on the southern slope of the ByBrook valley and in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,

Many of its buildings are made from the natural Box stone which has been quarried in the surrounding area since at least the 8th Century.

The average price of a property in Box is almost double the £329,735 national average at £601,284, according to property website Zoopla.

Peter Gabriel established his state of the art ‘Real World Studios’ in Box and this has helped to attract people from the entertainment industry to settle in the village.

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Ireland’s data commissioner loses sole regulatory oversight of Facebook in Europe

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Europe’s top court on Tuesday endorsed the power of national data watchdogs to pursue big tech firms even if they are not their lead regulators, in a setback for Silicon Valley companies such as

Facebook. The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling could encourage national agencies to act against US tech companies such as Google, Twitter and Apple, which all have their European Union headquarters in Ireland.

Many national watchdogs in the 27-member European Union have long complained about their Irish counterpart, saying that it takes too long to decide on cases.

Ireland has dismissed this, saying it has to be extra meticulous in dealing with powerful and well-funded tech giants. The ECJ got involved after a Belgian court sought guidance on

Facebook’s challenge against the territorial competence of the Belgian data watchdog’s bid to stop it from tracking users in Belgium through cookies stored in the company’s social plug-ins, regardless of whether they have an account or not.

“Under certain conditions, a national supervisory authority may exercise its power to bring any alleged infringement of the GDPR before a court of a member state, even though that authority is not the lead supervisory authority with regard to that processing,” the ECJ said.

Under landmark EU privacy rules known as GDPR, Facebook faces oversight by the Irish privacy authority because it has its European head office in Ireland. – Reuters

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