Winter is Coming: Prepare Your Home For The Colder Months

The Great British summer is well and truly over. Bar the odd mid autumn balmy weather, we’ve got darker mornings, bitter winds and winter coats to look forward to as winter sets in. Don’t worry, we’re not there just yet, but have you thought about how well equipped your home is to deal with the chillier months? If you’re not sure, it’s best to double check that everything is shipshape before the cold snap because the last thing you need is a winter domestic mishap that puts you out of pocket and potentially out of home.

Here are the most important areas to prepare around your home to ensure you’re ready for winter.

Pipe Down
Pipes Winter insulation
Prepare your pipes

First things first, it is absolutely crucial that you head into winter with well insulated piping. Poorly protected pipes that aren’t properly insulated are likely to freeze during winter, and with that bring an inevitable blockage that could wreak havoc inside your home; potentially a complete central heating collapse or even dreaded water damage. Of course, you can prep your pipes yourself, but we always suggest calling in the expert just to be on the safe side. For your pipes to last the winter, they’ll need to be well insulated, checked regularly and have a regular supply of warm air circulating through them. If your pipes do freeze, it’s best to summon a professional plumber as fast as possible.

Bonnie Boiler
house heating boiler
Service your boiler regularly

October 31st . Save the date. According to HomeServe, that is the day that 28% of us Brits turn our central heating on, ready for the frost. With just under a month before we reach for the dial, make sure your boiler is well pressurised, your radiators are bled and, above all, the central heating has been serviced. It’s recommended that you service your boiler once a year, so now would be the perfect time to do just that. Find a local plumber to service your boiler and check your whole system.

 First Draught
Draught proofing home WInter
Porches and conservatories are perfect for maintaining heat

It’s the little things that make the biggest difference. There’s nothing worse than trying to keep nice and cosy on a cold winter’s night only for a chilly draught to invade your home. Door and window frames, floorboards and letterboxes are the main culprits for allowing the draught in. A simple DIY session can amend these gaps and leave your home nice and toasty. You could even go the whole ten yards and install a porch or conservatory onto your property; ultimate protection for maintaining the warmth, and added space to relax in.

Glazed over
Preparing home for winter
Window of opportunity

Installing double-glazing on your property this winter has three main benefits. The obvious one is that it helps insulate your home and keep out the cold. Not only that, it’ll also muffle any unwanted sounds from outside. Third, and perhaps most importantly, installing double-glazing can help you save up to £170 a year on your energy bills. Have we won you over? Thought so. Find an expert to install double-glazing on your property.

Roof And Ready
Roof repairs and maintenance winter
Preparing your roof for winter is vital

The roof is perhaps the most overlooked part of any property, but ensuring it’s in prime condition is probably the most crucial part of our heat-saving masterplan. Winter brings falling leaves, and with that brings blocked gutters. What may be a quick-fix can easily become a major issue that threatens to undo all your hard work. What’s more, if you have cracks and weaknesses around the roof, the dastardly frost can wreak havoc and cause leaks that require a costly fix. It’s important to check your roof as often as possible before winter sets in, both from the inside and the outside. If you suspect anything is wrong, however slight, it’s probably best you find a roofer to fix the issue. What may be a relatively cheap fix could end up costing thousands if left unattended.

Ensure you’re insured
Preparing your property for Winter
Play it safe and get home insurance

So, if you’ve stuck to the plan, you should have your pipes sorted, your boiler in tip-top shape and a nice warm home complete with double-glazing and a new roof. Bring it on, Winter. Right? Wrong. The last thing you need is to be complacent and think that the job is done. It is crucial that you’re fully insured to cover the worst case scenario. Who knows what weather we could have in store?

It’s always best to cover every base and insure your home. After all, what’s the point in going to great lengths to prep your home for it all to come unstuck through freak weather?

From Go Pro to going pro – how to start up as a photographer

With the recent surge in photo-sharing apps, the introduction of selfie sticks and smartphones ramping up their camera specs – look no further than the new iPhone 6S’ 12-megapixel count and 4K video recording capabilities – it’s never been easier to capture the moment and snap away.

eBay saw searches for selfie sticks rise 700% ahead of Christmas 2014
eBay saw searches for selfie sticks rise 700% ahead of Christmas 2014

But what if you want to take it up a gear? Helping you to make the move from amateur to professional, portrait photographer David Harrison offers his top tips on entering the industry.

  1. Finish what you start: Whether it’s uploading the best pic of your day to Instagram or getting a print made, it’s all too easy to snap away and never have a ‘finished ‘image. Keeping going and putting in that extra bit of effort will make it all worth it in the end when you have the perfect picture.
  2. Keep busy: Motivation is key. Never put pressure on yourself to overdo it, but do make sure you keep busy and have a range of options to work on – this will make the experience more fun! It will also give you a stack of pictures to add to your portfolio.
  3. Be passionate: Photograph what you know, what you love, what you care about and what you have access to. This will make the whole process much more enjoyable, and help you with points 1 and 2. You are unique and so is what you see, so show it!

    Okay, I'm ready for my close up...
    Okay, I’m ready for my close up…
  4. Network, Network, Network: Important in so many aspects of life – tell everybody what you are doing and, most important for your line of business, show them. You will be surprised how many people will have something you can help them with, and you may even learn something new. The more your work is out there, the more opportunities will come your way.
  5. Keep the day job! Good photography takes time. Nobody is a pro straight off the bat and – as always in life – there’s a lot to learn. If you’re thinking of becoming a professional photographer, start it off as a hobby, learn different skills, techniques and most of all, have fun! In this way you can enjoy your photography, while learning the right skills and making the contacts to take it to the next level.

    As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect
    As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect

Feeling inspired but not sure how to make sense of your shutter speed, aperture or ISO? Why not have a look for photography lessons near you? Or, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum and ready to use your skills commercially, customers are requesting all manner of photography services on Bark.com, from event photography to wedding photography and even pet photography. Why not
register with us today?

For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our other blogs?

Your health is your wealth! Alternative ways to keep your mind and body healthy from Bark.com

We live in a rat race. It’s a lifestyle where we’re constantly exposed to stress, with increasing workloads, hectic schedules and an expensive cost of living. Long work hours, unpaid overtime, stressful jobs, less time with loved ones and the length of time spent commuting has led to emotional exhaustion. Commencing burnout in 3…2…1…

According to British psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman, the overall pace of life has increased by 10% worldwide since the 1990s. You may even find that some places have seen an increase of 20%! Advancements in technology have contributed to a rise in the collective sense of urgency. The rate at which we communicate and work has increased, contributing to more stress-induced illnesses. A vicious circle, you may agree!

At Bark.com, we believe in working hard. However, we also see the importance of a more harmonious work-life balance. With that, we’ve taken inspiration from a variety of our Sellers to compile a list of alternative ways to fix ailments and keep your mind and body healthy – particularly in this hectic world we live in.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture comes from traditional Chinese medicine and is most commonly used to treat pain. Acupuncture is a technique where thin needles are inserted into the body at specific points, to manipulate the ‘flow’ of energy or Qi. Like blood in the circulatory system, Qi goes through the body via pathways, which are called meridians. According to the University of Miami, when factors like stress, injury or poor nutrition disrupt the regular flow of Qi, health issues follow. Acupuncture can also sometimes provide a boost in your immune system, which is key if you lead an unforgiving and fast paced lifestyle. Not only is Acupuncture good for pain, it is also a natural way to treat anxiety. Experts claim that it works faster than therapy, while keeping you drug-free at the same time. If this alternative treatment is for you, why not search for an Acupuncture specialist in your area?

Acupuncture in practice
Let the Qi flow…

Reiki Healing

Taking inspiration from Asia once more, next on our list is Reiki Healing. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. But how does it differ to Acupuncture? Reiki is based on the principle of ‘laying on hands’ to activate healing and restore physical and emotional wellbeing. During Reiki, a therapist can channel energy into a patient by means of touch, so it is once again a natural healing process. Reiki is a very spiritual type of healing, but there is no religious belief associated with its practice. Reiki has become very popular recently with therapists practicing across the UK. Need to find the balance? Then find Reiki Healing practitioners near you.

Reiki Healing in Practice
Channel your energy with Reiki

Hypnotherapy

What do you think of when you think of Hypnotherapy? Do you see hypnotherapy as something that is associated with comedy? Do you see hypnotherapy as a way to end an addiction? What about stress relief?

Hypnotherapy is more frequently being used for stress and anxiety treatment. So if life is becoming too exhausting, maybe now is the time to search for a hypnotherapist who can help you through it. Like many alternative treatments, hypnosis can help you relieve and manage your stress levels, but it also aims to eliminate or reduce the problems causing the stress internally. Oftentimes, for example, there are things that have happened in the past that we have not dealt with. Hypnotherapists claim that they can help you change the way your mind tells your body to deal with certain situations – ultimately helping you to stay relaxed and in control.

Hypnosis treatment in practice
Take control of your mind…

Massage Therapy

If Reiki, Acupuncture or Hypnotherapy are not for you, then why not choose to go down the Massage Therapy route instead? Massage has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, you can choose from among 80 massage therapy styles with a wide variety of pressures, techniques and movements e.g. Swedish, Deep Tissue, Sports and Hot Stone Massage. Similarly to the other therapies, massage can provide stress relief as well as help with certain medical conditions. Before you find your Massage Therapist and get booked in, you might want to ask yourself why exactly you want the massage. Do you simply want some ‘me time’, some relaxation or do you need relief from a health condition? Be mindful of this to make sure you’re getting the best massage for your needs.

Therapist doing massage
We all need some ‘me time’…

Have you tried any of the above, or do you have a favourite alternative treatment? Let us know!

For other top tips and advice from Bark.com, why not check out our other blogs?

From one hit wonder to Wonderwall – top tips for picking up the guitar

Time to busk your way to fame
Time to busk your way to fame. Picture: Phil Gray

So – you have your first guitar and your dreams of being the next front man of Pink Floyd are almost too much to handle. But how to progress from air guitar or awkward clunky chord changes to be the guitar strumming, heart-stealing star of the show? Like anything worth doing, time and effort is involved – but there are also some basics that are often forgotten and can make the difference between the one hit wonders and the wonderwalls. Professional singer and guitarist Dan Crisp shares his top tips for guitar learning:

Set-up: First thing’s first, have your guitar checked so you’re not getting frustrated by the instrument going out of tune or the strings being too high – top culprits for quitting early on. Get off on the right foot and it will make things much easier further down the line.

String check! If the strings are dirty and hurting your fingers, the answer is simple – change them. If you start to associate playing the guitar with getting rusty fingers, you’ll be put off from picking it up. Playing the guitar should be a pleasure, not a chore.

Replace your strings to avoid rusty fingers
Replace your strings to avoid rusty fingers

Learn songs that you love: Like rocking out to some AC/DC or chilling with some Ed Sheeran? Find a simple chord version of your favourite song to help you learn chords and chord changes. It’s great to learn basic chord shapes by themselves, but this will also make the task a lot more fun and keep you motivated!

Scales are important: Do you know what a pentatonic scale is? Time to up your game! Knowing scales inside out is a must if you’re interested in playing solos. Learn the major scales, minor scales and pentatonic scales until you can do them in your sleep. The pentatonic scale will be your first port of call when playing blues and rock solos and can really expand your repertoire.

Patience: Like with any new skill, you’re not going to write your Magnus Opus overnight. Enjoy the small victories, like learning something new or playing a pleasant sequence of chords. When learning, every piece of progress should be celebrated. Jimi Hendrix didn’t learn overnight, and you won’t be able to either – it takes time and effort.

Jimi Hendrix, the legend of legends
Jimi Hendrix, the legend of legends

Most of all, remember that practice really does make perfect.

If you’re ready to dive in headfirst and put your passion for music into playing an instrument why not make it the guitar! There are professionals tutors based throughout the country, so why not start your search for guitar lessons here. If you’ve got a budding band behind you that could also do with a little tuition, why not find them bass guitar or drum lessons?

For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our other blogs?

Ultimate Cleaning Checklist: 176 Things You Should Clean at Home [Free Download]

Whether you are a mum, running around like a headless chicken tidying up after everyone, a dad with a treasure trove of tools and equipment or a student looking to move house, you will always need a hand have someone asking you to clean up!

We have spent many hours quizzing our cleaners and stay at home parents about every nook and cranny of cleaning to compile the most comprehensive checklist for you.

Which type of cleaner are you?

Do you sweep everything under the carpet with Mont Blanc piling up under the coffee table or do you prefer to tackle the dirty stuff head on?

If you have a burning desire to tackle head on, or you just wish you did, here is a powerful list for you to get stuck into.

If you wish you started doing things instead of actually doing them, you’ll already know that it’s not always easy to break out of our habits, cleaning being no exception. You have most likely mastered your muscle memory for your current routine and changing that might take a little time.

But take heart!

Our planner is a great place to start, full of golden nuggets of information to carry you on the road to clean.

Using The Cleaners Checklist

The checklist helps you break down cleaning tasks into a manageable pieces.

  • Light: 1-2 times per week
  • Medium: 1-2 time every 3 months
  • Deep: 1 time per year

You can even add family members to each task to help you out and slash cleaning times. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not give a price for each item and watch how eager the children become to earn their pocket money!

Cleaners Checklist (Excel)

House Proud?

Show us your best cleaning moments by uploading them to Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram with the hashtag #barketer. We love to see what inspires you and be house proud. If you have any extra cleaning tips, please let us know in the comments below and we may add them to the printable list.

Cleaning aficionados, do you think we have missed anything? Please let us know and we will update the list!

Download The Ultimate Cleaning Checklist (Printable)

Get the customisable Excel spreadsheet here

P.S. Did we mention it’s free to download? We’ve spent many hours creating this cleaning planner, if you have found it useful please bookmark it and share with your friends and family.

P.P.S. If you can share it by Facebook and Twitter, we may even send you a free Bark goodie bag!

DIY disasters

DIY, that classic British pastime. There’s nothing better than working hard on something in your home on a nice relaxing Sunday, then being able to smile proudly the fruits of your hard labour.

Sometimes, though, it is worth getting an expert in to offer a helping hand. Courtesy of the internet and other people’s home disasters, we’ve been able to find a few snaps of eager DIYers who might have benefitted from a little outside assistance…

The Electromaniac

Badly wired doorbell
How to save on electricity bills. Photo courtesy of wonderfulengineering.com

We can’t help but wonder what might happen if you’d been caught in the rain… If you’re not so keen on a shock to welcome you home, perhaps you’d be better off looking for a local electrician.

The Elastic Bands Enthusiast

Tap attached with elastic band
Don’t leave the tap running… Photo courtesy of gfjamesplumbing.com.au

Let’s face it, if there’s any way of putting that ball of elastic bands sitting on your desk to good use, this isn’t it. If you value being able to turn on your taps, find a plumber here.

The Divorcee

Home repair clock
What’s the time? Time for a new clock. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail

Anyone think this is reminiscent of the German man who cut all his possessions in half when breaking up with his long-term girlfriend? It may be time to invest in a new clock…

The Acupuncturist 

Sustainable gardening…. Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

Sheer genius or pure laziness? If you’re sprinkler’s on the blink, and you don’t fancy getting this arts and craftsy, you can find sprinkler repair specialists who can help to end your garden drought.

The Tetris Champion

A creative approach, sure… Photo courtesy of Danielbrewer.co.uk

Some blocks were just not meant to fit together – time to find a door fitter.

The Baker

Roof tiling disaster
No one will notice! Photo courtesy of ThereIfixedit.com

Note to self, gingerbread houses are not fit for real life purpose. Or is it processed cheese? Either way, find a roofer here.

The Scouts/ Brownies Graduate

Badly fixed wall
How knot to repair your wall…. Photo courtesy of ThereIfixedit.com

You spent hours learning how to master the Sheepshank and the Clove Hitch, so damn it, you’re going to find a way to use it! Or, accept that neon blue doesn’t quite match rock red and find yourself a bricklayer.

DIYers, we salute your valiant efforts, but there is no shame in defeat. Some things are simply better left to the professionals.

For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our other blogs?

Get Inspired, Get Fit This Autumn

To put elite sport into some sort of context, the England Rugby World Cup squad have been in a training camp for almost ten weeks in attempt to get fit and focused for the upcoming tournament, which gets underway in just under two weeks. That’s almost three months of fine tuning fitness and ensuring each squad member is at the top of their physical game once kick off comes on 18th September, a process described as ‘grim’ by Saracens Back Row Billy Vunipola. England Coach Stuart Lancaster is adamant when he says: “If you are not fit, everything else falls apart”.

Obviously, we are not all elite athletes at the top of our game. To some of us, just getting to the gym or putting some sort of effort into exercise is an achievement in itself. Nonetheless, if sporting events like the World Cup or the US Open have got you inspired, here are some useful tips to help you get fit and in better shape this autumn.

Rally Your Fitness

The US Open got underway last weekend, so what perfect time than to delve into your cupboard, dust off your racquet and don that Fred Perry polo? Sport England estimates that there are 4,118 places to play tennis in England, Scotland and Wales. That’s 21,186 courts in total, so ample space to get involved. What’s more, tennis is great for improving your health; studies show that playing for three hours a week can halve your risk of death from any cause. In a fitness context, tennis is a real whole-body workout, and just 30 minutes of serving, rallying and arguing over touchline calls with the umpire can burn 300 calories.

Of course, not all of us are the second coming of Roger Federer when we take to the courts, but that shouldn’t put you off. There’s loads of ways to get into the sport and Bark.com help you if you’re looking for tennis lessons to get started.

Tennis Lessons UK
Serve yourself into shape
Brace yourself, Rugby is coming

In around a fortnight’s time, just about everybody in the UK will proclaim themselves an ardent rugby fan and profess to know everything there is to know about the game. In all seriousness, the Rugby World Cup, getting underway from 18th September in the UK, will generate major interest within the country and may well inspire many to pursue their new found interest in the sport. If your one of those looking to join the scrum and kick-start a belated rugby career, the sport is seriously good for building strength and endurance. Just remember that the game is as tough as it looks.

With that in mind, if you don’t fancy the challenge of facing off against a brick-wall of a forward every Saturday, there’s always touch rugby, an ever growing spin-off of the game.

And if you’re a seasoned pro about to kick of a new season of rugby, you’re likely going to need a physiotherapist or require massage therapy at some point during the year, so bare us in mind when the time comes.

2015 Rugby World Cup inspired
Tackle your fitness head-on
Different Strokes

If you fancy something a bit more tranquil, there’s always swimming. Perhaps the easiest sport to participate in alongside running, swimming is regarded as perhaps the most rewarding form of exercise.

Swimming is great for muscle toning, a perfect way to increase your lung volume and it takes away the stress of impact on your joints that exercises such as running brings. Surprisingly, according to a recent article in The Guardian, one in five UK adults cannot swim. It seems to be one of those things that of you don’t learn as a child, you’ll likely never learn as an adult. That is not to say that you’re never too old to take to the water; the same Guardian article states that 2.3 million adults are keen to learn to swim. If you’re one of those keen to learn, or even if you’re interested in taking the next step and fancy yourself as the new Michael Phelps, find a swimming teacher now.

Swimming exercise strength fitness
Mould a swimmers body
Inner Peace, Outer Strength

Of course, getting fit and improving your lifestyle isn’t all about immersing yourself in competitive sport; there’s a growing demand in the UK for a ‘mind over matter’ disciplines of yoga and Pilates. Around 30,000 yoga classes are taught each week, with around 460,000 people practising yoga in the UK each week. What’s more, the likes of yoga and Pilates aren’t solely about improving mental focus, it can be very beneficial to gaining core strength and flexibility that will only aid other sports you partake in as well. Just ask Ryan Giggs, the legendary Manchester United and Welsh winger that attributed his absurdly long career to the benefits of yoga. There’s even talk of the discipline becoming an Olympic sport.

So next time you wake up after a gruelling rugby match or a strenuous run, stiff as a plank and cursing your advancing years, why not try your hand at Yoga or Find Pilates Classes and keep yourself forever young?

Yoga Lessons UK Pilates
Channel your energy

For other top tips and advice from Bark.com, why not check out our other blogs?

Keeping cool with Back to School – top tips for kick-starting the Autumn term

Get ready for the school run!
Get ready for the school run!

Just when you thought you had enough on your plate trying to keep the kids busy during the summer holidays, Autumn term comes running round the corner, bringing with it a long to-do list to get them focussed and back into study mode.

We know there can be a lot to remember and little things that can easily slip your mind but not to fret, Bark.com are here to help with five top tips for preparing for the return of the school run.

  1. Prep the kit: It’s no secret that the start of a new school year involves a lot of additional costs, whether that’s the all-essential new uniform and shoes, funky stationery or a rucksack to help them carry their books home. So make sure you plan ahead and look out for those great back-to-school deals to keep costs down. If you’ve got a particularly long check-list, why not make a day of it? Going with another parent may help ease the stress to it too!
You never know what they might need...
You never know what they might need…
  1. Clear out and organise: Spring cleaning is fairly common place, but what about a Summer spruce? As the warmer months draw to an end, it’s also time to start thinking about packing away the summer dresses and getting out the woollies. It’ll make the morning rush far less stressful, especially for those with big families, if you can avoid wardrobe mix-ups from the outset, as well as keep your little ones happy and sniffle-free. And if you need an extra helping hand, why not look for a local cleaner to ease the load?
  1. Find homework help: For both schoolchildren returning to the classroom, and Mum and Dad at home, the new school year means new level of work to tackle. Being a parent often requires you to also be an ad hoc tutor – but if the thought of racking your brain to remember what an iambic pentameter is, or what SOHCAHTOA stands for, maybe consider a private tutor to help bridge the gap. On Bark.com, we have a range of specialised professionals available to help children achieve the best grades possible, with backgrounds in subjects including:
  1. Expand their horizons: While keeping on top of studies is vital, we all know the importance of hobbies and work/life balance, so why not look for fun and creative extra-curricular activities to keep your child active and entertained. Whether you’re looking for piano lessons or guitar lessons, dance instructors, martial arts classes or even sculpting teachers, there’ll be plenty of things they can take up in the local area to give them some variety as well as new skills.
DISCLAIMER - Sunday mornings may be sacrificed
DISCLAIMER – Sunday mornings may be sacrificed
  1. Have fun! While the summer holidays may quickly seem like a distant memory, there are plenty of festivities to get the children feeling motivated and excited throughout the autumn months. From harvest festivals, to Bonfire night and, of course, Halloween, there’s family fun to be had all around so get ready for the trick-or-treating! Why not even find a local sewing class and see how creative you can get with your costumes?
Pumpkins, broomsticks and sweeties galore!
Pumpkins, broomsticks and sweeties galore!

For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our other blogs?

September is the new January… improve yourself and your skills with Bark.com

Forget New Year, September is the perfect time for new beginnings. Summer has been and gone, the days are getting shorter, the evenings are getting darker and the air is cool as winter slowly sets in.

There’s something different about September, which makes it more of an annual turning point than January. September sees the start of a new academic year, and even though the Bark.com team have been out of school for quite a while, we always feel a sense of renewed determination and eagerness as September sets in. We think of September as a clean slate, a time of self-evaluation and a time to start a new project. With that, we’ve put together the top ways to improve yourself and your skills this September – all with the help of Bark.com!

Learn a language

Have you ever thought about learning a second language? Learning another language not only opens your mind and teaches you about different cultures, it also makes you stand out in a competitive job market where skills are key; think amazing job opportunities and salary increases! Need more convincing? Research the cognitive benefits. Many physiological studies have noted that the brains of bilingual people operate more efficiently than single language speakers, particularly in the areas of decision-making, multitasking and memory. Find French lessons, German lessons, Spanish lessons or even Chinese lessons, you’ll at least have some fun bragging rights by the time you become fluent!

Find language lessons
The world is your oyster!

Conquer the fear of public speaking

What’s your greatest fear? Do Spiders scare you? Are heights not your thing? Do you avoid deep water like the plague? All of the above are amongst the top 10 greatest fears across the world, but what was number one in the USA? You guessed it – public speaking! As Jay Leno once said ‘I guess we’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy’. If you’re one of those people who can’t stand the thoughts of speaking in front of a group, then take the fear into your own hands and find public speaking lessons this September – you won’t regret it!

Find pubic speaking lessons
Get ready to take the mic!

Channel your creativity through photography

Are you Instagram crazy, a filter fanatic so to speak? Did our latest photography blog inspire you to unleash your inner photographer? Search for photography lessons this September and go from amateur to pro. From shooting to editing, this is a fantastic creative outlet to explore before the year is out. You’ll have your own studio before you know it…

Find photography lessons
Channel your creativity through photography

Protect and empower yourself with self defence

Feeling empowered is a great feeling, particularly when it comes to safety. I’m sure many of us would like to feel safer on our streets as we go about our daily lives. The numbers of people, especially women, taking the necessary steps to feel more secure is increasing. Self-defence classes are popular, as students can learn how to predict, prevent, identify and avoid violence. When we think of self-defence we immediately think of just martial arts, but the crucial difference is that self-defence combines situational awareness into the mix. Find the self-defence classes which teach you the skills you need to keep yourself safe in this big bad world!

Find self defence classes
Be prepared, protect yourself!

Dance like no one’s watching!

Looking for an activity that is good for personal fitness and is enjoyable at the same time? Get your dancing shoes on! Creativity is one thing that dancing can provide that regular gym exercises can’t. As Contanze Mozart once said: “Dancing is like dreaming with your feet”. This type of exercise is also both aerobic and anaerobic, so you will always get a full body workout. Whether you like ballroom dancing, tap dancing or hip hop dancing, there’s a genre for everyone. Side step to Bark.com to find the best dance lessons in  your area.

Find dance classes
Express yourself through dance

We hope we have motivated you to improve your skills this September. If none of the above are for you, then browse our lessons and training page for more inspiration. Let us know which one you choose and remember; Orange is the New Black, Tuesday is the new Thursday, and September is the new January.

For more Bark.com top tips, why not check out our other blogs?

Gone with the Wind – how to make the most of your autumn garden

By Andy McIndoe, Gold Medal winning Chelsea designer for the last 22 years

The highlights of the autumn garden are some of the most heart-warming and surprising and can represent a great opportunity for garden projects. Maybe it’s the rich fall colours that seem to glow even on dull days. Or perhaps it’s that lush burst of growth of the grass, encouraged by morning dew and more frequent rainfall. The gardening and landscaping year is far from closing, there’s plenty that you, or your gardener can do to make the most of the season and prepare for the future.

Grass Blades morning dew
Morning dew in the garden

There is a treasure trove of seasonal plant material on sale in garden centres and nurseries. Even if it’s still alive, get rid of summer bedding from those patio containers and pots. There are lots of wonderful autumn and winter container plants that will really brighten up the patio and doorstep: violas, pansies, heathers, heucheras, cyclamen and a host of foliage subjects. Many of these will stay looking good through winter.

There are also all those lovely spring flowering bulbs to plant in preparation for another season. Plant any small bulbs such as snowdrops, iris and fritillaries as soon as possible; they deteriorate quickly if left out of the ground for long. Hold off planting tulips until late autumn as if planted too early they can suffer from frost damage or the disease ‘tulip fire’. Daffodils and narcissi can be planted at any time.

Spring daffodils plant anytime
The signal of springtime!

Leaves are falling, so keep gathering them regularly and do not leave them lying on the grass. It’s best to mow them up with the mower on a high setting if possible. This chops the large ones coarsely and adds a few green grass cuttings that help the composting process. It is certainly much less backbreaking than raking – quicker too – so if you don’t have the right equipment, ask your local lawn care professional for advice.

Remember, if you’re looking for help around the garden, autumn is often the best time for planting trees and shrubs, and can be a good time of year for general garden maintenance, as well as removal projects once barbecue season is over. Some shrubs will give instant impact if planted now and they can also benefit wild birds that visit your garden. Cotoneasters are a great choice – tiny white flowers in spring that attract bees and other pollinators, scarlet berries in autumn and winter that the birds really enjoy. If you are thinking of a planting a tree, think beyond spring blossom. Sorbus and malus both have colourful fruits that provide winter food for birds, if you can tempt them to something organic away from the bird feeder.

Red Pommes of firethorn Pyracantha
Autumn Beauty

If you choose just one shrub to plant it has to be a hydrangea: these have gone from being old fashioned to super-trendy in the past couple of years. They are at their best in autumn when their brighter colours fade to something far more sophisticated and beautiful, before they turn parchment in winter. For flower arrangers this is the time to cut them and dry them to preserve their faded beauty.

Whatever you have planned for your garden, ground preparation and careful planting gives the best results. So fork over the ground and mix in plenty of garden compost or shrub and tree planting compost. analysis of website . Dig a hole that’s plenty deep and wide enough and plant firmly. Always stake and tie any new trees securely.

While summer is unfortunately drawing to a close, this is certainly no time to abandon your garden. Taking care of your garden now will reap rewards all through autumn and winter and give you the chance to play host when others can’t!

Andy McIndoe
Andy McIndoe

Follow @AndyMcIndoe on Twitter for more expert insights.

Andy is MD at Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centres, as well as a tutor and blogger at the online gardening school MyGardenSchool.

 

 

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