Thursday, 4 July 2019

Balloon Ride over Shropshire

Hot Air Balloons Telford

Last year for the Telford 50, a celebration of the town's 50th birthday my beloved Sweep arranged for us to take a hot air balloon ride after I'd mentioned this being one of my must do's in life.

With nerves in my tummy we set off for an early morning start hopeful that the weather conditions were right for the hot air balloon ride. We arrived at Telford's Town Park to see lots of hot air balloon crews turning up and unfurling their colourful silky balloons, slowly inflating, burners firing and baskets ready. Then our crew turned up and we were invited to help set up, that's part of the experience. Several of you help lay the balloon out and the powerful fan starts to blow air into the balloon envelope. Once it was inflated, the gas started to poof out like a dragon and we were nearly ready.
Inflating a hot air balloon

hot air balloon inflating Virgin Balloon Flight Shropshire Hot air balloon ready for lift off

We all heaved the basket up from its side and then clambered in using the sides of the basket to climb in and swing legs over, then it's a tight squeeze in there with all your balloon ride new chums so wear comfy clothes. One of the other passengers had a dodgy knee so it was a struggle for her. So do consider the physical aspect of a balloon ride. 
balloon basket

The basket is sort of tethered to the crew's truck and then suddenly you are released and then the surrealness starts. Up we went and so were the other balloons, different colours and styles, like baubles on a Christmas tree, hanging in the blue sky. Once you go up, it's not known what direction you will go for it all depends on the breeze really I think. The air becomes still, punctuated by the roar of the flame. Everybody goes completely silent. In fear and in awe.
Hot air balloon flying over Shropshire

Up in a hot air balloonView of Ironbridge from a balloon
You can hear dogs barking as you go over and then spot your shadow on the landscape. The towers you can see in the above image are in Ironbridge. It was fun for me as a newcomer to the county to spot landmarks such as this. I had fun watching a dog running up and down a garden, woofing up at us. I could see people stopping and taking pictures on their phones. Such a great feeling observing from above.
Landscape view from the sky
Horizon view
Then it becomes a little panicky, you realise that you have little control over the situation and you are at the mercy of the elements and the pilot's expertise,  which was amazing on both counts. Our pilot Lindsay Muir was very experienced and competes in hot air balloon competitions around the world, in fact she is probably the best female balloonist in the world. Lucky for us.
Patchwork field view from above

The landscape view from between 5000 and 2000 feet is spectacular, the striations of the fields and the other hot air balloons in the distance. Patchworks of grass and rape oil seed, clusters of trees and toy town villages, our green and pleasant land.
Hot air balloons on the horizon

Ironbridge viewBeing a lover of church exploring I was excited to see a church appearing as we floated gently over the fields of Shropshire, wonderful to see from above, the shape of the churchyard indicative of its age, the pinnacled tower and the Gothic architecture.

Ballooning over a church
Rapeseed fields from above

And then it was time to look for somewhere for the balloon to land which seems to be quite tricky to find a field with no power lines, no livestock, no buildings and enough space, plus it all depends on the direction that the balloon is travelling in due to the air currents. A few nearly but not quites and our pilot found a field, we were told to hold on tight as the basket may topple over and drag across the ground a bit. In the end we landed upright and now found ourselves in a field with a locked gate -this is where the ground crew appear and try to get you out of the field, contacting land owner and offering bottles of whisky : )
Inside the hot air balloon
The final stage of your journey is to help pack the balloon away, so it is all hands on deck and then the ground crew will minibus you back to base to be rewarded with champagne or a fresh orange. All in all a truly wonderful experience and one to tick off the list. Plus it is really romantic. deflating the hot air balloon

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Avoid These 7 Rookie Mistakes When Choosing a House Inspector

Buying a home is a huge investment, and for most people, it’s one of the most important decisions they will make in their lifetimes. 

A qualified house inspector performs thorough checks and lets you know about maintenance work and impending repair works. As a homebuyer, this helps you sniff out bad deals and gather irrefutable data points to negotiate a better deal. Moving into a house that has not been inspected can also be a safety concern. Everything from lead paint to a weak foundation can put you and your loved ones at risk.  

Home inspection services are also recommended if you are someone who is trying to sell your house. Inspection reports put potential buyers at ease about the condition of the home and help you close the deal faster. Home inspection reports also let you resolve disputes that relates to the condition of the house by ensuring maximum transparency. 

While there is no denying the importance of getting a home inspected before finalizing the deal, it’s equally important to choose the right inspector. The following are 7 mistakes most new homebuyers make when selecting a home inspection service. 

Selecting a Service Without Checking Sample Reports

All reputed home inspection services allow customers to look at their sample reports. Just like their name suggests, these are dummy reports that show you how their final report is going to look like. Most reports by reputed firms include multiple photos of problem areas as well as a detailed description of the problem. Some reports also include repair advisory that lets you know the possible cost of repairing the issue. 

House inspector services usually have a dedicated page for sample reports on their websites.

Not Understanding the Time and Cost Implications 

A lot of people don’t realize that home inspection can take about 2 to 3 hours to complete. This means they need to make arrangements to ensure the house remains available for inspection. People trying to buy a house may need to schedule a meeting with the real estate agent or the current homeowner to ensure a smooth inspection. 

Home inspection services are also not cheap. This means it’s only advisable to get a house inspected after all other details have been checked and agreed upon by both parties. Standard home inspections cost around $400 to $700. The price is dependant on the location of the house and total square footage. Bigger the house, the more cost it takes to inspect it. 

Not Enquiring About the Exclusions 

A standard home inspection service typically does not include pool inspection, radon inspection, sewer scope checks, and garage inspection. What’s included in the standard package depends solely on the home inspection company. 

This is why it’s important to ask about the exclusions and the list of addon services that may be bought to cover them. 

Picking a House Inspector Who Has No Insurance

Home inspectors need to have liability insurance as well as insurance to protect its employees from workplace injuries. Liability insurance helps cover the cost of any damage that happens during the inspection process. Something like occupational accident insurance protects inspectors by covering their medical costs if they happen to get injured when performing checks. 

These are vital because not having insurance may force you to pay compensation if the house gets damaged or if the workplace injury leads to a lawsuit.

Selecting a Home Inspection Firm That Also Does Repairs

You need a home inspection firm that does not offer home repairing services. This ensures that the inspection company has no vested interest and they have nothing to gain if the house needs repairs. 

Oftentimes, home inspectors have sister firms that does repair works and they get commissions for every referred customer. Do your research by checking online reviews and looking up the parent company of the home inspection service. 

Not Knowing What the Inspection Includes 

You want a service that offers a comprehensive inspection for a lower cost. To make sure you get a good deal, you need to know what the inspection service includes. All standard packages should include thorough inspections of the plumbing, electrical systems, roof, foundation, and basement. Inspectors should also look for moisture damage, wood rots, and issues such as asbestos, mold, and lead paint. 

Picking an Inspector Unwilling to Discuss the Findings in the Report

You typically don’t want an inspector who just sends you the digital report and calls it a day. A good inspection firm will take the time to explain the report. They will explain what repairs need to be done urgently and which ones are minor. They should also inform about potential safety hazards and provide recommendations about mitigating them. 

* Guest post

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

I got married and how I’d do a wedding in another lifetime

We did it, we went off and got married. It was very lowkey and did not take much organising for it was just us, two witnesses at a registry office followed by afternoon tea at a hotel. I purchased a flowery satin dress in a blush pink colour and Sweep wore a suit that he already had – very untypical I know but that is what we both wanted at the time. In fact, it cost us hardly anything for the whole day since we had recently purchased some land and felt like that was more important to be frugal. A large wedding was out of the question also as we have a really, really small family and are quite introverted. We went to the registry office in Sweep’s work van decorated in ribbons, met our lovely witnesses, said our vows and then all went for cakes, scones, cocktails and tea. All back in time for my son home from school!
chimney sweep wedding

However, in another lifetime I’d have had a large family who would fuss and want a large wedding party to attend, I’d have tons of friends and would have spent a long time planning everything from the dress to the favours and the flowers. When I was younger I was obsessed with weddings and went to bridal fayres to try dresses on for fun, I studied floristry at an agricultural college, completed a wedding coordinator course and was convinced that was the job I wanted, a bit like J-Lo in the Wedding Planner. Funny to look back at this. 

In this other lifetime I would love a wedding by the sea, perhaps the Cornish coast or in Dorset, for there is something about the sea and drifts of pink sea thrift that I find very romantic. I’d look for large group accommodations where we could all stay, it would be child friendly and even allow the dogs to stay, after all they would be included in my dream wedding; girl dogs would be wearing flower collars and our Burt would wear a bowtie. Accommodation like party houses would allow friends and family to stay together and enjoy the wedding reception without being far away from their beds at the end of the evening so nobody would need to worry about a taxi. My son could have space to be away from it all when the noise became too much and it would be easy to look after family members who may need a rest from the long day. It would be a wonderful gathering and surrounded by gorgeous gardens where we could have our wedding photographs taken.
Summer Garden

Having a wedding party that involves as many flowers as possible would be my dream. However, the next best thing for me is that the land that we purchased will become partly dedicated to growing cut flowers, gorgeous English flowers for other brides so I feel I have my dream in a sort of way. I attended a DIY wedding some years ago where the bride had grown her flowers in a polytunnel and it worked out so well. Seasonal flowers in jam jars, cans and bottles adorning the church and the marquee was very summery – scented Sweet Peas, Astrantia, blush roses, frothy Lady’s Mantle and Ammi with dots of pastel corn flowers.
English cut flowers

The grounds where the wedding would be set would also have to be very flowery with deep herbaceous borders and roses scrambling up arches and arbours. Some of the gardens I visit on my travels would be perfect, summer gardens with lupins, spires of delphiniums, pink peonies and purple foxgloves; beautiful grounds for our guests to chat and have drinks from afternoon to evening. These are the items I would prioritise, the location, comfort of guests and the floral aspect. On a limited budget, thinking about what is most important to you is the best thing to do and then compromise on the rest. For instance, the cake is something I am not too bothered about, something simple and summery would be my ideal, nothing fancy. The dress too, a proper ivory wedding dress for my dream wedding (although I loved my real dress for my actual wedding) but if I’d had a large event, I still would have chosen something on the budget end, very simplistic and plain but classy. Bridesmaids dresses would be off the peg from a high street store.
Wedding day itinerary

There was something very liberating about the way we chose to get married but if circumstances had been different, I would have loved a larger wedding to share with other people and one where it was the whole day and evening. The thing I missed the most was having photos done of the day as I have just a few snaps. It would have been great to have those pictures within the English country garden of grand house and pictures with family members.

However, I did love our day and our two witnesses were very special people. There was no stress and the day felt so relaxed, plus we spent less than £300 with most of that the admin fees for registering the marriage and the registrar ceremony, we even had the cocktails knocked off our bill as the ones we wanted were not available and now I am selling my dress so perhaps this was the cheapest wedding ever! The most important thing is the marriage and life going forward.

Mr and Mrs

*Collaborative post

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Knocking through walls and creating a new doorway for our bedroom

The changing home plans in our quirky house has driven my poor husband mad. He’s had the house for ten years and has done lots of work on it which I am slowly unravelling. This year one of our main objectives in the house is to create a new bedroom for me and Sweep and this has required rearranging the rooms. The front part of the house was once a cottage and the rear was a church hall with meeting rooms on an upper floor. At one time the meeting room had been converted to be a self-contained flat with its own kitchen and bathroom but these plans were changed and it became an upstairs living room. However, a few months down the line and we (or rather I) changed our minds and decided that the room would make an amazing bedroom with an ensuite and another room off here for my son’s bedroom. To link the room with the cottage side we had to knock a door through into the landing of the cottage….Sweep was not thrilled at this as he had blocked up a door between the two sides years before…ooops. In my defence, life changes and the doorway we knocked through was yet another door that had been blocked up long ago, so Sweep found the lintel and easily knocked the bricks out to create a new doorway. I should add here that he has building experience and knows what he is doing, it's a supporting wall and you can't just start knocking doors through anywhere.
Knocking a doorway through

The next step was to shop around for internal doors and find one to suit the period style of the property. C&W Berry have a large range of doors from oak to walnut and glazed or unglazed. We needed a wide door of 2ft 9 and wanted a four panelled Victorian style. C&W Berry have a range of period styles on offer, 1930’s, Victorian, Edwardian and contemporary to suit your taste and also different sizes so something for all homes. Alas we did not know of them at the time and most of their doors are available for national delivery. We searched for ages until we eventually found one locally through reclamation that needed a lot of work – stripping the paint, sanding and shaping to fit the doorway. The door is now hung and needs to be painted, I’ve chosen grey, the house is slowly turning grey but it is such a great versatile colour. From the hallway side this will blend in from a dark grey walls up the stairs to a lighter grey on the landing, medium grey door and architrave, whilst the other doors will be white with grey architrave – we thought this would be a interesting visual way of differentiating the original other side of the house.
Interior door examples
Images from C&W Berry 

The door looks like a front door with a doorstep to another home to me, so I am going to add some playful accessories with a bumblebee door knocker, a door mat, a sign like a house name and a pot of plants on either side.
Vintage doorway
The new doorway, just the grey undercoat so far on the architrave

Bee door knocker from The British Ironwork Centre

As for the bedroom, we have picked the paint colours so far, a dark blue and a dusky pink on contrasting walls. Sweep is going to build a wall of shelving, a bit of industrial style but we shall see. We have been getting inspiration from coffee shops with scaffold board shelves, metal brackets and lighting made from Kilner jars. 

The staircase up to the room on the other side needs blocking, this was where all the Brownie, Scouts and Sunday School children would walk up the room. We had a plumber round recently and he recalls the room from his childhood Scout group. The stairs will then have a floor built over them to take advantage of the full size of the room.  Hopefully this will be done before his chimney sweeping busy period starts again mid August….eeek! Currently we are waiting for the next rainy period to start work on this again, it's too hot for indoor projects at the moment! I'll keep you updated on how this room development goes and show you the finished room of my dreams.

*Collaborative post

Friday, 3 May 2019

Ways to improve the future chances of selling of your home

Currently we are not thinking about moving house but always at the back of my mind I think well you never know, maybe one day we will downsize when the house gets to be too much to maintain. This year we are having quite a lot of work done to the property and fortunately my husband has building and carpentry skills and so is able to do most of the work himself to save money. We are altering the layout of the house to make it more functional and this would most definitely make the house more saleable in the future. The house was previously the church hall and meeting rooms so the space is unusual and vast – the front of the house is more traditional and so the aim is to make these two halves gel more together.

I have been thinking about ways in general to add to that saleability, elements that will make your home more attractive and appealing to future buyers.

Curb appeal
This is a must to and probably the easiest solution and the one I get most fun from. Our house was originally a murky pebble dash brown colour and my husband painted it white with a black border around the base – it instantly improved the look of the property. When I moved in years later, I wanted to paint the gate and doors in a soft grey colour for a classy look. Added to this are plants and flowers to soften the edges. Make sure fences are not broken and looking shabby, fix boundaries, add a new coat of wood preserver and generally do a walk around of the property removing broken pots and rubbish. Now is the time to take a trip to the tip to get rid of all those things that accumulate at the side and back of the house too. A lady I know is looking to move house and top of her list is to check out the garden, a little care and attention to the borders and beds can give people that warm glow and place your property to the top of their shortlist.
Old house
our house previously

white house
House now

The door to your home deserves to be a showstopper and where better for entrance doors that Pirnar, a company whose range of innovative doors will give the wow factor and improve the saleabiity of your home in the future. Their high quality artisan doors have been built to a high specification with features such as LED lighting on the door handles and smart lighting as you approach the door – enchanting and also with safety in mind. A door from Pirnar will delight guests and of course those future buyers, a great first impression showing your excellent choice in materials and a key indicator of what the rest of your home is like and the care you have placed in it.
Pirnar entrance door
Pirnar doors

Cosy sitting room
What could conjure up an image of cosiness better than a wood burning/multi fuel stove in a sitting room. With a hearth dressed with bundles of kindling alongside piles of logs and a mantel adorned with candles. Having a lovely fireplace will be attractive to potential buyers, it’s a focal point for a room and with the popularity of woodburners for cost saving, this will make your property stand out. My chimney sweep husband says if you’re selling, get your chimney swept and obtain a certificate of sweeping so your buyers can be assured it is safe.

The kitchen as the hub of the home
The kitchen is a room that will have the capacity to sell your home. The current trend is for sociable spaces and any steps you can take to alter and update the kitchen along these lines will pay off. Repainting the cupboards and changing the door handles is a quick update, I love white chalk paint and find it a cheap solution to perk up kitchen cupboards. The kitchen here is reasonably big but was initially very unsociable with no spaces to stop and chat, the room felt too transient. My husband built a central island that is a focal point and a space to perch and have a coffee. I have since also added a kitchen table and chairs, also new stools at the breakfast bar helped to change the room to one that felt very family orientated.  Think about how people feel in a space and if you anticipate moving one day, keep this in mind when making alterations. 

As mentioned, our home is unusual in that the rear has an adjoining village hall not in use anymore but now part of our home. We are having to think very carefully about how we develop this space and I think a family room will be the best option. A space for all, to eat, to play and to relax.

Kitchen space

*Collaborative post

Monday, 29 April 2019

Ways to create a summer entrance to your home

The blossoms are now falling from the trees giving way to lush green leaves unfurling and the swallows have returned to blue skies, summer is on its way. I have started spending more time in the garden and this is when I like the outdoors to transition into my home with doors wide open and fragrant scents of lavender and herbs in the air, breezing into the hallway or the kitchen. I like that feeling of the summer vibe being really apparent as soon as you approach the front of the house and of the garden carrying on into the home. It makes me happy to add little touches to transform the house entrance into a fresh new summer look and also consider long term improvements for a lighter summery style.
I love a home that feels both inviting and interesting to look at and have put together what I consider key aspects to create a summer entrance to your home:
Entrance Doors
The very first feature to bring visual impact to any home are entrance doors that are eye catching and bring light into the home, think of early morning rays beaming in through glazed door windows and the warm tones cast all day. Doors such as those from Pirnar, a family company started in 1968 who specialise in luxury innovative doors, create instant appeal and sophistication. Pirnar’s many options that can be chosen to suit your own tastes are door with windows set within them, or windows above and beside the door for optimum light, add to this illuminated door handles or surrounding LED illumination for balmy summer evening ambience. The choice of door finishes like aluminium or wood make their doors a very personalised feature for your home, the finishes can be chosen too, high gloss or matt, painted wood or perhaps the aluminium in different shades.
Entrance doors

Colour is something that can easily change the whole look of the house, a coat of paint over a weekend and instant new appeal – be daring with a summery colour; punchy pink or coral, a fresh green, sky blues or a cheerful sunflower yellow. There is a town nearby here that has many colourful doors, similar to a coastal village where the style is much more daring and it pays off, you can’t help but smile at their colourful charm. If a colourful front door is too dramatic for you then perhaps some colour to accessorise the entrance instead.
yellow front door

Blue Front Door
Accessories such as door mats give a seasonal perk-up to the house front. There are so many fun designs to choose from and they are inexpensive. I love how you can really choose something that reflects your personality such as your love for cats or sausage dogs or playfulness with fun statements. The 'hello' decal sticker shown below is my must have and for a keen instagrammer like me, it fits in well for those front door photo shots. And I still love lanterns, tall ones with candles in, either side of the door look lovely and welcoming as the evening comes.cheerful door accessories
Pots and plants are a must have to spell out summer - hanging baskets, troughs and urns filled with flowers such as geraniums, roses and petunias. Create your own planters in colour coordinated pots by using a spray paint for your own unique look, a colour to accent against your front door perhaps. Galvanised buckets look very summery filled with daisies and will last all season. Splashes of colour created by flowers can be done on a budget and if you remember to water, feed and deadhead regularly, they will flourish into the autumn. 
summer planting around a door
I adore climbing or rambling roses the most and for me they create the perfect summer entrance - there is a rose colour and type for every taste and a scented one will intoxicate both your guests and the bees. Recently I've bought a peachy one to adorn some grey painted trellis (to match the front door) and this will grow alongside a clematis - another climber where you can find almost any colour.
roses around a cottage door

An idea I spotted that looks great if you have a front garden or yard space is a little bench or a bistro table and chairs because if the evening sun is at the front, well then why not......? Sat there with a glass of wine/ mug of tea and being sociable to the neighbours or watching the evening passers-by sounds great to me. Garden furniture at the front of the house is very welcoming. It shouts of summer and sharing, I think that's what the key thing is about creating a summer entrance - it's a cheery hello of a space, not closed off and hiding like winter, of welcoming in rays of sunshine through doorways, of shiny materials and gloss or pretty seaside colours and fun accessories, of being seen and breathing in scent, of feeling relaxed and sociable. These extra elements to the front of any property will give the summer feeling and make you smile everytime you walk into the house.
pretty front of period property terrace

*Collaborative post

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Visiting Liverpool this spring #DinosaursUnleashed

It's nearly the school Easter holidays and I am thinking of places to take Little Bird to so he has a varied two weeks, one where he is occupied and has new and exiting experiences. A favourite city trip is top of the list and where better than the place I went to university.....Liverpool. 

Ever year we go to this fab city and find something to explore, we find Liverpool so vibrant and always offering new events so it's always interesting. This year, Liverpool ONE have a fantastic augmented reality event called Dinosaurs Unleashed which incorporates technology and dinosaurs for a super prehistoric adventure with the family. There is an app that you download and when you visit the shopping area Liverpool ONE there are dino activities for you to take part in - collecting points when you find giant dinosaur eggs to hatch, then go to feed them at 'Chavassic Park', then once fed they are ready for the Battle Arena. The event has been put together with National Museums Liverpool to provide an informative event that is fun whilst learning fascinating facts about dinosaurs. Little Bird would love this and the benefit is that I can do some shopping and we can go for a bite (!!) to eat too.  I think he will especially love petting the dinosaurs that we find and having pictures taken with them. Special park rangers will be on hand to assist with the app, offer dino facts and to help you have a great time. 
Liverpool ONE Dinosaurs Unleashed

After this I think a trip to the World Museum would complement our shopping and dino experience. I used to help out at this museum when I was a student so this is a particular favourite place of mine and I love to take Little Bird there. The dinosaur gallery is excellent with life size casts of dino skeletons and footprints. The rest of the museum is equally brilliant, especially the bug house and the aquarium. My area was in the natural world galleries, helping with the bird specimens and learning museum curation techniques. There is so much to see here and I recommend combining the museum with some retail therapy so the dinosaur themed day will work very well for us and keep everyone happy. And if the weather is hopefully sunny like the lovely spell we have been having, then a skip through the Liverpool ONE fountains will be fun.

Every time we visit Liverpool we like to have a walk around Albert Docks with its maritime history and cultural feel. The duck boat always makes Little Bird laugh and it's pleasant to sit and both people and boat watch. If you're feeling arty then the Tate is a must and is free entry (as are most of Liverpool's galleries and museums). Over Easter there is a colourful bunny trail at the Docks, collect stickers for the trail booklet to keep your children entertained. Also there will be an Easter themed selfie station and crafting activities.
Albert Dock

Liverpool always puts on such a good show and is a city to be relied upon for events on school holidays to entertain as a bonus to its attractions. We could spend a few days there so our one day will be absolutely jam packed full. Finally I will take us to the cathedral preferably when I know the bells will be ringing as I've been lucky enough to see them being rung up in the tower. Some time to gaze at the gothic architecture is always a favourite of mine and luckily Little Bird also likes to explore and do the mouse trail around the building. 
Anglican Cathedral Liverpool

Have you visited Liverpool and what did you like to do? Have you any family recommendations?  We can't wait to see the dinosaurs and see if we can remember their names.

*Collaborative post

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Road tripping Shropshire #StoppingDistance

Now the spring is here there is nothing that we love more than getting out onto the road and exploring. A whole new county to look around and discover the history of, from the start of the Industrial Revolution at Ironbridge to the cairns and Iron Age hill forts atop some of the majestic hill ranges in Shropshire. At any available opportunity, we love to go on road trips, sometimes with nowhere in particular to go to, we head out in a direction and just come across interesting places.

Wenlock vintage road sign

It is however clear to me that driving around Shropshire is a lot harder than it was back in Cheshire and this is for several reasons, mostly the hills and narrow lanes. Therefore, it is very important that our car is safe on the roads by having regular services and checks. The main aspect of living here in Shropshire is the high terrain, my village is the gateway to the Shropshire Hills so many times we are off over a hill or down into a valley and with the UK weather being so changeable the road surfaces can quickly change and affect driving.

Kwik Fit have been running a Stopping Distance campaign to raise awareness of altering your stopping distances in different weather conditions; twice as long to stop in wet weather and a whopping ten times as long to stop in icy and snowy weather. Certainly, driving around my new area which is incredibly rural and remote has had its difficulties over the winter, some of my routes being up in the hills had a decent amount of snow and some areas receive a lot of rainfall and run off from the top.
Above Church Stetton

So for example crossing the Long Mynd and its very steep drops, which we drove over at the weekend is very nerve wracking at times and close attention needs to be paid to the weather and road conditions, also ensuring that the car isn’t going to break down!! Making sure the car is roadworthy is something that can be checked with an MOT test at Kwik Fit and they are able to provide checks to brakes, batteries and of course tyres.  

Were you aware of the recommended stopping distances? Take a look at this video.

Added to the rainfall making the roads wet is the land drain run off from fields and the streams so even in the summer, most of the narrow lanes seem to have trickles of water running to torrents after a downpour. Stopping distances on the narrow single lanes need to be adhered to as you never know when you will meet a car coming from the opposite direction and the brakes need to be swiftly applied. There are a lot of tractors thundering around the countryside and it’s common to find yourself reversing back down a single track lane to a passing point when finding yourself face to face with a large tractor or milk tanker (I dread this!). With the hedges being high in places, you really have to gingerly drive down some lanes in case other road users are not as careful as you.
Driving in Shropshire

Then add lots of animals into the mix, cows crossing the road, lone sheep on a hill road, horse riders.

Mud on the roads from farm traffic is another to be careful of for making the road slippy .....did I mention pot holes too!! 
Cows going to be milked

PotholesRural driving, especially in Shropshire has encouraged me to take better care of my car for if I'm driving around with Little Bird I want us to be very safe and definitely not break down or come back to my car and the battery is flat. Also to drive much slower on these narrow roads, taking greater care and regularly looking at the tyres. I didn't do this and learnt the hard way with a flat tyre on a busy road near Shrewsbury.

Collaborative post

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Adding curb appeal to your home

As I walk down any street, I'm always looking at houses and their gardens for ideas, looking in admiration of their curb appeal or sometimes thinking to myself, what would I do to make it look better. How a property looks from the front is of course incredibly important when selling up but also for that feeling of pride that we all have for our homes. With all the houses I have lived in, how it looks to passers-by has been very much an area I have put much thought into. I think the Scandinavian concept of hygge has had a great influence on me and I very much want my home to look cosy and inviting. Having people comment on the home makes me very happy and seeing people looking as they walk down the road.
A pretty home I walk past

In my last house I tried to add greenery to the front although there was just a small drive, in my attempt to make it more cottagey. I planted up pots of flowers, sprinkled wild flower seeds into the gravel and added hanging baskets and window boxes of seasonal interest. Lovely exterior doors are key and this was on my list of things to change, something striking to bring out the best to the house frontage and improve the overall look of my property.

Now I’m in another house and I’m starting the same thought process all over again, plenty of flowers and a new door are required. This house is very different in that the front is away from the road and actually the whole side of the house faces the road and there is no pavement. But I have an area that I want to make pretty to give that welcome feel as people pass on their way to the church or the village shop.

So, how can you improve curb appeal?

A striking front door that creates a fab first impression.

House front doors

I think the first thing I notice are house front doors and how they set a property off. It’s the central point or where the eye is drawn initially and everything else just frames it. From old wooden country cottage to modern town and city living, investing in a classy front door will create that key first impression. The world of doors have moved on with innovative doors offered by Pirnar, a family grown business with a whole host of technology for the sophisticated home. Theatrica is a super modern door as it is an entrance that is contactless with no door handle, it slides away, pretty neat hey! But how does it do this……well it opens by touch or face recognition and for this the company has received several awards. Pirnar also offer a large range of doors that will suit any property with a number of designs and finishes – classic looks with stained glass and contemporary sleekness. The options of wood, glass or aluminium mean that you can find a door to suit your property and with the designs being so unique it will be an exciting addition to your home. Door designs such as the Premium with rectangular window lights cast interesting light effects into the hallway and LED illumination to the door brings night time security and a glamorous feel. Fingertip recognition sounds amazing, no more scrabbling around for keys - this always happens to me. Certainly a lot of thought and craftsmanship has gone into these doors. 
Increase home value with front doors
Image from Pirnar

For me, a coat of grey paint on our wooden door will be in order to freshen it up (the dogs have scratched it so much) to tie in with the grey garden gate which is the imposing factor of our ‘front’ yard or as I’m calling it, our 'yarden'. I usually add a seasonal floral door wreath to keep things up to date and have allowed some self seed hollyhocks to stay by the gate post.

Greenery to soften the edges

My house needs double curb appeal as the outside gate presents to the road and then the main door to the home is for those invited further and those that don’t mind doggy paws jumping up at them. Outside by the self seeded hollyhocks, Sweep has created a brick raised bed where I add perennials and spring bulbs. Inside the yard by the door, I have framed it with scented climbing roses and pots filled with colour in the spring and summer. Over winter we move two standard holly trees here for evergreen fairy light hung loveliness.
Front yard curb appeal

It's good to think of the journey that is taken by a visitor to get to the front door. Planting lavender perhaps either side of a path gives a pleasant scent and adds a frothiness to the look. Box balls and standard trees such as bay gives structure and a combination of these provides impact and rhythm within a design. I do love curb appeal that shows the character of those that live there and an element of quirkyness shown by the door furniture, perhaps a fox door knocker (I want a bumble bee one) or a house number sign that reflects the interior style of the house. Being in the country, my style is very different to those houses I see in our nearest town of Shrewsbury, where a more contemporary and classic look of sleek sophistication works better - simple topiary balls and cones, evergreen shrubs and balanced planting....less is more. 

Sometimes the easiest thing to do for quick and easy curb appeal is simply tidying up and repairing any elements; boundary fences a fresh coat of preservative, mending broken panels, clearing away broken pots or removing dead hanging basket contents. I get really mad (inside in my head) when I see dead plants. Or the worse one is broken toys and garden furniture in front gardens. 
Flowers in pots by the front door

Whatever your budget, a weekend spent beautifying the front of the house is well spent - with bedding plants from the plant nursery, new pots, tidying up, mowing grass and repainting. The front door will always be the best element to provide picture perfect curb appeal but if like me, on a real shoestring budget at the moment, paint brushes and faux door wreaths are your friend.

This summer I shall be rearranging the pots in the front yard for a more pleasing look and adding some trellis for a gorgeous passion flower to climb up. I'm looking out for an outside door mat with some foxes on as there is a bit of a fox theme throughout the house.  We are also adding to the country village look with more cottage annuals at the front and an honesty stall at some point for our home grown plants. We purchased an old milk churn at an auction in the village hall last year and I shall be filling this with gorgeous flowers this summer. 

What curb appeal tips do you have? I'd love to hear how you add that wow factor to the front of your home. 
Old church hall

*Collaborative post