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The path to happiness: Demand for homes close to walking trails surges

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Walking has never had it so good. What used to be a chore is now the highlight of the day – part of our precious hour of outdoor exercise.

It’s good for us, of course. Apart from reducing the risk for everything from certain cancers to type 2 diabetes, walking has a positive effect on mental health.

‘People say they will continue to walk more when the Covid restrictions have ended,’ says Tom Platt, of The Ramblers Association. 

Ramble on: A walker on the coast path in Northumberland, home to Hadrianu2019s Wall

Ramble on: A walker on the coast path in Northumberland, home to Hadrian’s Wall 

So expect to see demand spiralling for homes near one of our 16 national trails or other scenic paths. Here are four favourites:

Wander around Wales

Spreading from the cockle beds of Penclawdd on the north of the Gower Peninsula, past surfing beach Rhossili and picturesque villages including Port Eynon, before winding up on Swansea Bay, this 39-mile stretch of the Wales Coast Path is a mass of contrasts. 

A stretch of the Wales Coast Path close to the village Port Eynon, north of the Gower Peninsula

A stretch of the Wales Coast Path close to the village Port Eynon, north of the Gower Peninsula

‘My favourite stretch is between Langland Bay and Mumbles,’ says retired accountant Cuan O’Shea, 68, who owns a flat in Langland. ‘There is a bay around every corner, seals play on the rocks and a drink waiting at Oyster Wharf in Mumbles.’

Property prices vary hugely. Detached homes sold for on average £175,000 in Penclawdd last year, according to Rightmove, while the average asking price in Mumbles has risen by 47 per cent since 2015, a larger five-year increase than any coastal area in Britain.

A terrace cottage there now costs about £300,000. Slightly inland, Bishopston, with its two good pubs, shops and excellent comprehensive school, has three-bedroom semi-detached homes which sell for about £320,000. It is a short walk to Pwll Ddu, which re-connects to the coastal path.

Trevone Bay is one of the popular locations on the path between Padstow and Newquay

Trevone Bay is one of the popular locations on the path between Padstow and Newquay

Cornish adventure

In three days after Julia Bradbury’s recent television programme walking the path between Padstow and Newquay, estate agents John Bray sold £16.3 million worth of homes. 

The villages, with their dramatic sea views and surfing beaches, are outrageously popular, none more so than Trevone and Constantine Bay. 

Other villages, considered a bit tired a few years ago, are also getting in on the act. Dated bungalows at Mawgan Porth are being knocked down and replaced by Grand Designs fantasy homes.

Even Newquay, which has been dogged by stories of messy stag weekends, is seeing an upturn. A four-bedroom terrace on Pentire Avenue will set you back £695,000.

‘Look inland for the best value,’ says Josephine Ashby, managing partner with John Bray. ‘St Merryn and Penrose are only a short drive from the coast path, yet their prices are considerably lower.

‘St Columb has interesting architecture and is a proper working village. You will pick up a good four-bedroom house for about £400,000.’

Thames challenge

The Thames Path runs for 180 miles between Woolwich, London and Kemble in Gloucestershire, but the most romantic Jerome K. Jerome stretch is between Henley and Oxford. 

Henley on Thames (pictured) is overlooked by a beautiful Chiltern landscape of wooded hills and green fields.u00A0The average house sale was more than u00A3700,000 last year

Henley on Thames (pictured) is overlooked by a beautiful Chiltern landscape of wooded hills and green fields. The average house sale was more than £700,000 last year

Here, you will find classic pubs such as The Miller of Mansfield at Goring, where the late pop star George Michael liked to drink, and vast riverside homes.

‘Thames frontage adds 30 per cent to the value of a home,’ says Nick Warner, of Knight Frank. ‘The most prized locations are those with flood plains on the opposite bank, ensuring nobody can build there.’

The average house sale was more than £700,000 in Henley last year and Warner suggests buyers look in Wallingford for better value.

‘It’s an attractive riverside town with good amenities,’ he says. ‘And it is probably 20 per cent less expensive than Henley.’

In Roman footsteps

A stretch of Hadrian's Wall near Houseteads Roman Fort.u00A0The Hadrianu2019s Wall trail has become incredibly popular over the past year

A stretch of Hadrian’s Wall near Houseteads Roman Fort. The Hadrian’s Wall trail has become incredibly popular over the past year

‘The Hadrian’s Wall trail has become incredibly popular over the past year,’ says James Middleton, regional partner at Garrington home search. 

‘The most popular stretch with walkers is between Hexham and Haltwhistle.’

Humshaugh, six miles from Hexham, has one main street, a tangle of lanes and some lovely old houses. 

A terrace cottage costs about £160,000. In Haltwhistle, close to a part of the wall that is spectacularly intact, a three-bedroom terrace house can be bought for less than £200,000. 



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Cladding repair bill is same as £230k price of this Hertfordshire flat

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When homeowner Sophie Bichener, 29, bought her flat in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, in 2017 for £230,000, she had no idea about the potentially crippling costs that lay ahead.

She moved into the flat just before the fire at Grenfell Tower, in West London, which caused 72 deaths.

Like so many other purchasers, Sophie bought moved into her flat believing that it was safe because it complied with building regulations. 

However, her flat has since deemed to be unsafe in the wake of the Grenfell fire.

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue

Like so many other flat owners affected by fire safety issues, she has been left unable to sell her property, as mortgage lenders will no longer offer loans without fresh proof of safety. 

Her block of flats has been deemed unsafe and fire safety repairs need to be carried out. 

But the bill for the repairs are eye-watering, almost matching what she originally paid for the flat. 

This summer she was quoted £202,077 to fix just her flat, which is not far from the £230,000 that she originally paid for her home.

She understands that some of the £14million-plus costs to fix her block will be met from the Building Safety Fund, but it is not yet known how much financial assistance – if any – she will get.

This leaves her facing the unknown, a situation many flat owners find themselves in through no fault of their own.  

She says it is likely that she will have to relocate during the works for at least a month.

Sophie Bichener, 29, bought her flat in Stevenage, Hertfordshire in 2017 for £230,000, but has since been quoted £202,077 to fix her flat, which has deemed to be unsafe

Sophie Bichener, 29, bought her flat in Stevenage, Hertfordshire in 2017 for £230,000, but has since been quoted £202,077 to fix her flat, which has deemed to be unsafe

Her block is home to 73 flats spread across 14 storeys. It is above 18 metres and had problems with combustible cladding and missing fire breaks.

It is unknown when the fire safety work is expected to begin as the Government has yet to confirm whether it will provide funding for her block.

But once the work does start, it is suggested that it could take 52 weeks, meaning Sophie would be effectively living on what would look like a building site for a year.

The block has already paid for six months of a waking watch at a cost of £600 a month per flat. Those payments stopped following the installation of new fire alarms.

Sophie told MailOnline Property: ‘We have a supportive network of leaseholders and so you can take time out from dealing with it. However, being in lockdown and in the flat twenty-four seven means I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure this out.

‘Knowing that when you go to work that money has already been spent has been disheartening.

‘We just have to do what we can. It is easier for me to talk about it now, but there are people I know who are suicidal. While the Government is playing ‘who is to pay’, leaseholders are struggling to survive.’

‘We have had to put our life on hold. I can’t spend any money as I know I shall have a bill at the end of all of this, although I don’t know how much that will be.

‘I’d like to get married and have children, but simply cannot afford to contemplate that at the moment.’

Campaigners have called ministers of ignoring cladding victims’ screams for help.

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, said: ‘Ministers have betrayed leaseholders like Sophie. Ignoring their screams for help, dismissing their dreams and refusing to listen.

‘Leaseholders need practical support, not more weasel words and I will continue to fight for people like Sophie.

‘Leaseholders are not to blame, but they are facing devastating mental health and financial costs as they are left to pay more in remediating their flats, than they are now worth. It is a tragic market failure and we must step in as a government to support them.’

It follows an announcement by Robert Jenrick that neither leaseholders nor taxpayers should pay for dangerous cladding to be removed. 

He said that the law will be changed retrospectively to give homeowners 15 years to take action against their developers for shoddy workmanship.  

A MHCLG spokesman responded, saying: “Building owners should make buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders – and we will introduce a new legal requirement for owners of high-rise buildings to prove they have tried all routes to cover the cost of fixing their buildings.

“We are processing applications to the Building Safety Fund as quickly as possible – and we have been clear that we will fund the removal of dangerous cladding from high rise building where remediation is necessary.

“Our approach strikes the right balance in our continuing commitment to protecting leaseholders and being fair to taxpayers – while reassuring lenders that where cladding remediation is needed, costs will not be a barrier or mean that mortgage payments become unmanageable.”

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So now Jeff Bezos has been to space, he’s an astronaut, right? Er, maybe not

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Say you’re Jeff Bezos. You’re the richest person in the world. You’ve spent billions of dollars starting a rocket company that has just launched you and three others high enough that everyone agrees you reached outer space, even if just for a few minutes. Are you now an astronaut? The answer appears to be no, at least in the eyes of the US Federal Aviation Administration, which last week revised its definitions on whom it considers to be an astronaut. But for Richard Branson, the billionaire who went to space a week earlier, on a rocket plane operated by Virgin Galactic, a company he founded, the answer might be yes.

The advent of the age of space tourism brings along a question of semantics: does the word “astronaut” describe where someone has been – outer space – or is it a job description, like pilot or sailor? After all, Nasa employs astronauts who are still waiting for their first trip off Earth. And flying in economy class from New York to Los Angeles does not qualify you as a pilot.

The New Shepard spacecraft is entirely automated, and all the passengers had to do is enjoy the up-and-down ride, which lasted not much more than 10 minutes

The FAA established its commercial astronaut wings programme in 2004, spurred by the X Prize. That competition offered $10 million for the first nongovernmental entity to launch a reusable spacecraft to space with people on board – defined as reaching an altitude of 100km, the international definition of where space begins – and then do it again within two weeks.

The winning design was a space plane called SpaceShipOne, and the FAA bestowed the first commercial astronaut wings on Michael Melvill and Brian Binnie, the pilots who flew the two winning SpaceShipOne flights. To qualify for the FAA’s distinction, a person had to reach an altitude of 80km – reflecting the earlier US air-force practice – and one had to be considered part of the flight crew, which the agency defines as “any employee or independent contractor of a licensee, transferee, or permittee, or of a contractor or subcontractor of a licensee, transferee, or permittee, who performs activities in the course of that employment or contract directly relating to the launch, re-entry, or other operation of or in a launch vehicle or re-entry vehicle that carries human beings”.

Everyone else who goes to space is, in the FAA’s view, just a “spaceflight participant”, not an astronaut. After the wings were awarded to Melvill and Binnie, the FAA did not award any other commercial astronaut wings until 2019, to Mark Stucky and Frederick Sturckow, the two pilots of Virgin Galactic’s larger successor of SpaceShipOne, aptly named SpaceShipTwo. Two other Virgin Galactic pilots received wings on the next SpaceShipTwo flight, as did Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor, who evaluated the crew cabin.

A Blue Origin astronaut’s pin on Jeff Bezos’s flight suit. Photograph: Blue Origin via New York Times
A Blue Origin astronaut’s pin on Jeff Bezos’s flight suit. Photograph: Blue Origin via New York Times

By contrast, the New Shepard spacecraft built by Bezos’s company, Blue Origin, is entirely automated, and all that the passengers had to do is enjoy the up-and-down ride last Tuesday, which lasted not much more than 10 minutes. So Bezos and the other three passengers – his brother Mark; Mary Wallace Funk, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer; and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old Dutch student – appear to fall short of the criteria to be classified as flight crew and may not be eligible for the FAA astronaut wings. (That didn’t stop the foursome from having custom astronaut wings pinned to their flight suits last Tuesday.)

The crew definition, however, was vague enough that one could wonder whether a passenger could qualify as a contractor, and whether some of what they did could fall under the “other operation” part of the definition of crew. On the same day that Bezos made his trip to space, the FAA added a new requirement for the astronaut wings: “Demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human spaceflight safety.” A statement from the agency explains: “The FAA has now changed the focus to recognise flight crew who demonstrate activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human spaceflight safety, among other criteria. This change aligns more directly to the FAA’s role to protect public safety during commercial space operations.”

Virgin Galactic has started the paperwork to obtain FAA commercial astronaut wings for Richard Branson and the other two first-time space flyers on the July 11th flight

The New Shepard passengers do not appear to have performed such activities. A Blue Origin spokeswoman declined to say whether the company would nominate Bezos and the other passengers for the FAA commercial astronaut wings. A Virgin Galactic spokesman said the company has started the paperwork to obtain FAA commercial astronaut wings for Branson and the other two first-time space flyers on the July 11th Virgin Galactic flight. Virgin Galactic is making the case that they were crew members, performing tasks to evaluate how the spacecraft experience will feel for future customers, although the company is still assessing the implications of the revised criteria.

The revised FAA criteria also, for the first time, creates honorary commercial astronaut wings “to individuals who demonstrated extraordinary contribution or beneficial service to the commercial human spaceflight industry”. The honorary awardees would not have to meet all of the usual requirements. In the end it may not matter what the United States government thinks. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have each created their own astronaut pins to bestow on customers, who are likely to pay at least hundreds of thousands of dollars per flight. In addition, an international organisation of past and present astronauts, the Association of Space Explorers, has created pins to recognize everyone who goes to space. One design – an up-and-down chevron topped with a five-pointed star – is for people who go on short suborbital flights. For those who reach orbit, there’s a variation, adding a circle that indicates they have been around the planet.– New York Times

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Social Democrats activists consider deferring request on leadership contest

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A group of Social Democrats activists who want to see a leadership election in the party is looking at deferring their request to consider such a contest until after a new general secretary is appointed to the party.

A draft letter to the party’s national executive, signed by two councillors and 14 others, seeking the leadership contest emerged on Friday evening.

The letter, which has not been sent to party authorities, requested the national executive meet to hold a vote to call a leadership election.

It pays tribute to the party’s current co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall, who it states “have done exceptional work”, but adds that “it is now time to move to the next stage”.

The party released a statement later the same evening saying its TDs are “united behind co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall”. This statement was shared on Twitter by all six of the party’s Dáil Deputies.

One of the councillors who signed the draft letter, Kildare representative Chris Pender, responded with his own social media post saying: “Anyone who’s read the letter will know it states we don’t have an issue with the leaders, but we believe in the democratic right to vote for that/those leaders.

“A leadership contest would give members the opportunity to show support for the current leaders, if that’s what they want.”

Cllr Cat O’Driscoll, who sits on Dublin City Council, was the other public representative who signed the draft letter.

Motivations

Sources insisted the motivations behind seeking a contest include giving the Social Democrats’ membership a say in who leads the party, as well as an issue of timing. They say with no general election expected imminently, it would give the next leader time to prepare.

It was also revealed on Friday that Brian Sheehan, a former director of the Yes Equality campaign, is to step down from his role as Social Democrats general secretary in early September. The decision is not connected with the call for a leadership election and those behind the draft letter were unaware of Mr Sheehan’s decision to leave the job.

However, it has prompted a rethink of the request for a leadership contest.

The Irish Times understands the activists are considering a new version of the letter that takes Mr Sheehan’s departure into account and would not seek a discussion about a leadership contest until after his successor is in place and has had some time in the job. A source suggested the approach with any new letter would be “a bit more cautious”.

On Monday, a party spokeswoman ruled out any contest for the leadership, either before or after the appointment of a new general secretary.

“The rules of the party state any leader must be a TD and all of our TDs are united in their support for the party leadership. The general secretary position is entirely unrelated to the party leadership,” she said.

Ms Murphy and Ms Shortall have jointly led the Social Democrats since its establishment in 2015.


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