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The great outdoors: Even the smallest garden can swing a property deal

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The pandemic has changed our views on many aspects of daily life, even our gardens. 

Often considered a time-consuming chore pre-Covid, working in the garden is now seen as a pleasure, and was listed as the second most popular lockdown activity last year.

That’s after watching television (no surprise there), according to GlobalData market research.

Green-fingered: Gardening became a top lockdown hobby making gardens a bigger selling point in the property market

Green-fingered: Gardening became a top lockdown hobby making gardens a bigger selling point in the property market

Clearly, this has had a dramatic effect on the housing market.

‘City types started swapping their two-bedroom homes for places with big gardens in cheaper rural areas after the first lockdown,’ says Ed Jephson, of Stacks Property Search. 

‘Gardens became extremely important and it wasn’t just a summer phenomenon; it has continued throughout the winter and up to the present.’

Newcastle House in Bridgend, South Wales, has a garden which is the property’s main selling point. 

Previously owned by a family of renowned local horticulturalists who imported several rare plants from abroad, it was revamped 20 years ago by the Chelsea Gold Award-winning landscape designer Peter Dowle. 

Screened from the busy road by a high wall, the York stone courtyard garden with its semi-circular portico seating area is a highlight. 

‘This is a really secluded, private place,’ says Nick Hegarty, who is selling the house on behalf of his mother for £1.6 million (wattsand morgan.co.uk). ‘Step through the gates and you could be in the South of France.’

It is impossible to quantify exactly how much a beautiful garden such as this adds to the price of a property, but it vastly improves its saleability.

The gardening expert, broadcaster and writer Martin Fish last October sold his 18th-century cottage in the village of Rainton, North Yorkshire. 

In the 12 years he had owned it, he created a beautiful garden, planting 30 types of trees and 2,500 ornamental plants. It paid off for Fish: he sold the house for £650,000 within ten days of it appearing on the market.

Of course, not many people have the expertise or the money needed to create such an outdoor show-stopper. So how do you make the most of a pocket handkerchief back garden in suburbia, especially if you are working to a tight budget?

‘Creating a good first impression is important,’ says Fish, who also has a prize-winning vlog, Pots & Trowels, on Facebook. 

‘Make sure paths are swept, borders weeded and hedges trimmed. Put a lick of preservative on the boundary fences and freshly stain sheds and wooden furniture.’

Fish’s core philosophy is to attract people into every part of the garden.

‘Having two seating areas — one with small bistro-style table and chairs — often works well,’ he adds. 

‘Clipped evergreens such as yew and bay in decorative pots will add height to the patio. Break up the view by dividing the garden with a trellis. Experiment by making your lawn a different shape; an oval can look interesting.

‘Invest in raised bed kits to grow salads and vegetables; children will love that. And a small water feature will make lovely relaxing background sounds.’

Privacy is often an issue in towns, so Martin prescribes planting pleached trees to prevent being overlooked. To add instant colour, he favours pots of pelargoniums, fuchsias, dahlias and petunias.

Research shows gardens improve our quality of life. A recent survey by the National Garden Society revealed 92 per cent of people found their gardens were ‘extremely important’ to them during lockdown. 

And 87 per cent said the key benefit gained from their garden during lockdown was ‘it helped relieve stress’.

Yet you don’t even need to live at ground level to have a green space and reap the emotional and financial benefits.

‘Balcony gardens in apartments have come on in leaps and bounds since lockdown,’ says Jekka McVicar, the herb specialist who now designs gardens for over-65s developer Riverstone. ‘People are using them both for food production and to improve their outlook.’

McVicar noticed an upsurge of interest in herb growing when different herbal teas became popular. Now thousands of people are planting mint, camomile and rosemary ‘for the pot’.

The flowers from coriander and dill can be added to salads, and lavender can not only be used on woollens to keep the moths away, it also makes good ice cream.

‘A balcony garden adds so much to an apartment,’ says McVicar, who has won the Victoria Medal of Honour from the Royal Horticultural Society. 

‘All herbs smell amazing in the sunshine and the scent of jasmine at night is particularly gorgeous. To unwind with the balcony doors open and that beautiful aroma wafting on the air is utterly relaxing.’

And just like a conventional garden, a balcony garden is sure to impress prospective buyers, so it’s likely to sell for a good price in double-quick time. 

On the market… With acreage

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Instagrammer captures abandoned Welsh property in series of eerie photographs

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Who would live in a house like this? Instagrammer photographs abandoned Welsh property – complete with a bottle of Champagne for ‘Grandad’s’ 90th birthday, dishes still in the sink and a newspaper dating back to 1956

  • Photographs reveal the rooms have been untouched for decades and house opened bottle of Champagne  
  • Discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex while exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales 
  • Kyle said: ‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory’ 
  • ***Do YOU know who lived in the abandoned house? Contact izzy.nikolic@mailonline.co.uk*** 

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An abandoned Welsh house has been captured in a series of eerie photographs complete with a bottle of Champagne for ‘Grandad’s’ 90th birthday and dishes still in the sink.  

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: ‘Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can’t be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx.’  

The property has been dubbed ‘Granddad’s abandoned house’ after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. 

A piano can also be seen with sheet music still in place along with clothes hanging up and dishes still in the sink.

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: 'Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can't be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx'

Pictured: A piano can also be seen with sheet music still in place along with clothes hanging up

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: ‘Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can’t be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx’

The property has been dubbed 'Granddad's abandoned house' after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. Pictured: The exterior of the property

The property has been dubbed ‘Granddad’s abandoned house’ after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. Pictured: The exterior of the property 

Random debris including a broken bicycle, piping, empty tins and folding tables and chairs were left strewn throughout the house

The discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex (pictured) while he was exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales

Random debris including a broken bicycle, piping, empty tins and folding tables and chairs were left strewn throughout the house

Mr Urbex said: 'I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn't too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open'

Mr Urbex said: ‘I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn’t too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open’

The discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex while he was exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales.

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone’s ‘dream family home.’

He said: ‘I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn’t too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open.

‘Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many.

‘The porch area had been trashed, however the seating still remained intact and of course the champagne bottle for his 90th birthday still left on the fireplace.

He added: 'Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many'

Dishes are left undone in the sink in the kitchen

He added: ‘Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many’

Kyle says he has now been left wondering about the story behind the house. He added: ‘While the place appears to have been ransacked by vandals, clothes still hang in wardrobes; one of the few signs of the home it once was’

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone's 'dream family home'

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone’s ‘dream family home’

Mr Urbex added: 'Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind'

Mr Urbex added: ‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind’

‘I found it quite sad really given all the memories just left to be forgotten about. As well as the house there was a caravan hidden at the back in all the overgrowth which had more memories inside, old books and so on.

‘I managed to uncover an old bike in the shed which looked like it had been there quite a while.

‘Alongside all of these findings I came across a newspaper dated from November 3 1956.’

Kyle says he has now been left wondering about the story behind the house.

He added: ‘While the place appears to have been ransacked by vandals, clothes still hang in wardrobes; one of the few signs of the home it once was.

‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind.’

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Foley to bring school reopening plan to Cabinet on Tuesday

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Minister for Education Norma Foley says she has every confidence schools will reopen fully from late August and early September.

Ms Foley said there was ongoing engagement between her department and public health officials on the matter but all schools were set to reopen.

Strong mitigation measures would be in place in schools to ensure that they would continue to be controlled environments, she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show on Monday.

Covid-19 infection rates among children were at their highest when children were not at school and public health experts had pointed out “on a consistent basis to schools being a very significantly controlled environment”.

The safe operation of the Leaving Certificate exams and enhanced summer camps indicated that the safe operation of education could be maintained, she said.

A plan would be put in place to allow schools to “draw down” CO2 monitors and the Minister said she was confident there would be enough monitors for all schools by the start of the new school year.

In relation to Covid-19 vaccines for children, Ms Foley said the “expertise” lay with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) from which her department would take guidance.

“I have received confirmation that the 16 to 18-year-old cohort should be in a position for online registration in the coming days, and I have been advised that the 15-year-olds cohort are still being considered by NIAC and there has been no definitive timeline given,” she added.

Ms Foley will bring a plan to Cabinet on Tuesday outlining enhanced public information campaigns, the outcome of antigen testing pilots, and the purchase of C02 monitors to assist in ventilating classrooms.

Capacity limits on school transport services will also remain in place.

Government sources were adamant on Sunday that second-level education would resume in the autumn, despite concerns among public-health officials that the wave could grow following the reopening of indoor dining today, before peaking in September.

“Schools will reopen,” a senior Coalition source said.

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Over 40 complaints made about ‘unsuitable’ books on English curriculum

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Some books being studied by Junior Cert and Leaving Cert English students feature “disturbing and sick content” and material that is “clearly unsuitable for minors”, complainants have told the Department of Education.

The department has received more than 40 complaints on the issue in recent months, with one email to Minister Norma Foley describing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood as “nothing but sadistic, upsetting and of no moral learning or value to students”.

The acclaimed dystopian novel is based in a patriarchal totalitarian state where women, or handmaids, are forced to produce children for commanders.

One “concerned parent” said they were “perturbed” that their teenager was studying the novel Room by Irish author Emma Donoghue.

‘Questionable’

They said many of the topics in the book were “questionable” and that greater consideration should have been given before the book was “forced upon sensitive people in this day and age”. The Booker-shortlisted story is told from the perspective of a young boy held captive in a small room with his mother.

The emails, released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, were from parents, one of whom said they were “appealing to and begging” the department to change the curriculum.

One parent expressed “shock and concern” about the prescribed reading lists, citing a perceived “lack of vigilance regarding the age appropriateness” of some books. “The material is offensive, abhorrent and clearly unsuitable for minors,” they said.

The curriculum could “only be described as the sexualisation and desensitising of our children… there needs to be an investigation into this whole sordid affair”, another complaint said.

‘Enslaving’

One person said the book list was “enslaving” students to “abominable ungodly content”, while another sarcastically suggested there was “nothing to stop” Fifty Shades of Grey, the bestselling explicit erotic romance novel, being added.

Some emails were directed towards Ms Foley personally, and called for her to be fired and “held directly responsible”. The department’s response stated that the curriculum at all levels was considered to be for all learners “regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic background, gender or orientation”.

It said it was important that each book was viewed “in its entirety rather than being reduced to particular sections which may be especially controversial”, and that the texts had “strong literary pedigrees” and featured on curricula internationally.

There were also several emails sent to the department in defence of the curriculum, predominantly from students.

The text-list working groups for each subject, convened by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, are comprised of teachers, third-level lecturers, staff from relevant support agencies and experts in children’s and young adult literature. The curriculum did not change this year though the Minister said it would be reviewed in the coming months.


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