Start 2020 in style with a New Year break pack your bags and treat yourself to a few days away from it all at a rather special Airbnb just a short drive from the beautiful historic town of Rye...
ONE OF THE FAMOUS CINQUE PORTS, Rye has many attractions both in the town itself and close by. Walk among the dunes of Camber Sands, visit the two local vineyards or one of the nearby historic houses or venture out to one of the line of castles built by Henry VIII along the Kent and Sussex coasts.
But where to stay? How about Scots Float House, a delightful, warm and inviting Georgian building full of character with spacious accommodation where you can experience a relaxing and enjoyable time in a family home.
Airbnb Superhost Lucy is on hand with helpful advice. Never intrusive, she has a wonderful personality and brings light and laughter to every visit. An artist, she is so charming and interesting that guests have invited her to join them for supper or a drink. Her large kitchen-diner and seating area is available for the use of guests and all three available bedrooms are spacious and comfortable. The largest has an Emperor bed and there are two shared bathrooms, one with a walk-in shower.
Lucy has a wealth of knowledge about the local area and whether you choose to spend your days discovering Sussex and Kent or would prefer to relax in front of a log fire in the cosy sitting area, she will do everything she can to make your visit as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. Respectful of your privacy, she is happy to welcome both old and new guests to her quirky home.
Breakfast is provided and you can prepare your own lunch or supper in the well-equipped kitchen or eat out at one of the many restaurants nearby such as The Globe Public House or The Devil in Rye (a modern and innovative take on Indian food). Off-road parking is at the front of the house, which stands back from the road in a peaceful setting.
We spent a restful and fun few days with Lucy and her adorable Dachshunds at Scots Float House in the Autumn and returned again in December. Incidentally, the dogs are not allowed into the parts of the house used by guests.
Scots Float House Airbnb is open all year round. We'll be going back again at the earliest opportunity and, who knows, we may see you there!
Check it out and book now on Airbnb.
2019s top car picks and no fake news…
IN THIS YEAR-END ROUND-UP of mainstream new models, given the chaos that is politics David Miles is steering away from all things political although admittedly there remain strong concerns as to how GB PLC's car industry will perform after we finally exit the EU.
However, as if politics weren't bad enough, the car industry has for a long while been wrestling with new 'WLTP' emissions and more-accurate fuel consumption legislation which required time-consuming testing of new and updated power units. Then of course there has been the real or perceived growth in demand for electric and hybrid cars in their many forms alongside the issue of the pathetically slow roll-out of an integrated nationwide charging network.
On top of all this there has been the growth in demand for SUV-styled vehicles which now account for around 40% of the total new car market. Whether this demand will continue is another hard-to-answer question. A number of senior motor industry bosses are hedging their bets and planning for a future which just might see an increase in demand for more stylish saloon cars, hatchbacks and estates as the young business execs shrug off that 'family bus' SUV motoring image.
This year we have conducted over 125 new model road tests although we have actually driven more new cars than that at the various manufacturer media driving events where a number of models are made available for short tests. The growing number of partnerships in the car industry, where manufacturers team up for strength in an uncertain world, has been on-going this year. One of the most successful expanding link-ups has been the PSA Group where to its Citroen, Peugeot and DS core brands they have added Vauxhall/Opel. A good example of the expanded PSA Group partnership's product offensive was the introduction of the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Rifter and Vauxhall Combo Life; large 5-and 7-seat, boxy-shaped but hugely practical MPVs. If you want practical carrying space and good driveability, any one of these three is well worth considering. Prices start from £20K.
If you'd prefer a more stylish and more car-like large MPV for family duties far more practical than faddy fashion SUVs then I recommend the Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer. It has up to seven seating positions but mostly it will be used as a five-seater in which layout it still serves up 632 litres of useable boot space! It comes with a wide range of fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engine, manual and auto gearboxes, and it's really comfortable to travel in. Not quite the sharpest handling family holdall but über-practical. From £25K.
If an SUV is your absolute must-have plus you have the practical need for an all-electric one, then the Kia e-Niro five-door, five-seating, mid-sized SUV could be a very sensible choice priced at £37K but because of its zero CO2 emissions you get the government electric vehicle grant and zero-cost First Year road tax. Company car drivers currently pay 16% Benefit-in-Kind tax but the Department of Transport has said that from April 2020 new electric vehicle users will pay zero BiK tax and this should further boost demand for pure-electric cars. The e-Niro has a driving range of around 282 miles between charge-ups. It's potentially my 'Car of the Year' (if I made such an award) but it has won numerous other awards and is undoubtedly a star-car of 2019.
The small car of the year, and the UK's overall best-selling new car, has to be the Ford Fiesta. Priced from £15K, its driveability, handling, smart looks and specification all ensure this range stays ahead of the pack. Apart from 3/5 door hatchbacks, the latest Fiesta line-up includes the 'hot' ST and Active SUV-styled versions. However, it does face strong competition from the new-generation Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa models: both rival ranges will include pure-electric models so the Fiesta's dominance in its class might be coming to an end. But for now it is still a very good hatchback.
Moving up the ladder, size-wise, the family car of the year could be the excellent Ford Focus with its wide range of engine choices and spec levels in five-door hatchback and estate forms; that said, the VW Golf now outsells it plus the revised British-built Vauxhall Astra also has to be a contender. Fresh to market this year is the all-new, made-in-the-UK Toyota Corolla that comes in five-door Hatchback, Touring Sports and four-door Saloon body styles. All five-door versions are now self-charging 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol-hybrid powered with CVT automatic transmissions. The Saloon is only available as a 1.8-litre hybrid. Prices for the three-model range start at around £24K.
And then there's BMW new 3 Series executive Saloon and Touring estate. Despite strong competition from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and, potentially, the recently-revised Jaguar XE, the Bee-Em is the class leader. The addition of the just-released BMW 330e plug-in hybrid Saloon strengthens the 3 Series appeal even more (especially for company car drivers, who are its main users) although the 320d still remains my choice. The kerb appeal, handling, poise, the latest on-board infotainment, connectivity, driving functions and safety equipment keep this range ahead of all its competitors. Priced from around £32K.
Going 'roomier' is limited only by your budget. Given the space you get for the money and the specification it offers, my choice is the very recently revised Skoda Superb Estate. Priced from just under £26K, it is available as a five-door Hatchback or Estate with a wide range of petrol, diesel and PHEV powertrains plus manual/auto gearboxes plus the option of 4WD. And it's genuinely impressive. The Estate, with five seats and a cavernous 660-litre boot, is my car of choice for long journeys carrying heaps of luggage and family clutter it's next to an MPV space-wise but much better in practical terms than an SUV.
On a wider front, Skoda probably gets my 'brand of the year' award too for its broad range of roomy models that offer just that bit more in space and specification than other makes. Can't afford a Superb? Then try the Skoda Octavia instead priced from around £20K, it's still larger than its competitor models and although a new one is on its way, the current models are still formidable buys. Skoda also has an impressive range of SUVs, hence my 'carmaker of the year' accolade.
Finally in my review of real-life, non-specialist models, I turn to SUVs. Where to start? It's a huge segment stretching from the little but superb off-road Suzuki Jimny 4WD at £16K to the huge Range Rover where £171,000 would buy you a top spec model! Amazingy, you could spend even more Rolls-Royce's Cullinan costs over £250K. In fact the choice is endless. I haven't driven anywhere near all of them but in a real-life world of affordability in these uncertain economic and political times my choice is the British-built Nissan Qashqai. It was recently updated with a new range of WLTP-compliant petrol and diesel engines and is a family-fit vehicle costing from a smidgen over £20K. It's easy to live with, comfortable, roomy and the best-selling SUV in the UK and it's built in the UK. Enough said!
Have a great festive holiday and let's hope for some happy and affordable motoring in 2020. ~ David Miles
Volvo puts UK customers first with new Test Drive+ service...
THE INTRODUCTION of Volvo's new Test Drive+ programme across its retailer network is designed to provide an authentically premium service, one that's tailored to meet customers' needs and preferences throughout the process — from a convenient booking service to providing the car they are interested in at a location and for a length of time that suits them best.
Test Drive+ allows customers to choose to have a test drive at a retailer or a specific location, such as their home or place of work, lasting up to one hour to ensure a thorough introduction to the car. Alternatively, an extended test drive can be booked, offering flexibility of delivery and collection, for up to four days.
The difference in the Test Drive+ experience begins right at the point of the initial car booking, with a convenient registration and reservation system that can be accessed online (via smartphone and laptop/desktop computer) or by calling Volvo's team of Test Drive+ agents.
Customers can view a real-time calendar to see what dates and times are available, and can use an online chat service if they need support or have immediate questions.
Once a reservation has been made, customers receive an email confirmation of the request. If the test drive is taking place at a retailer, the attention to detail includes providing specific, reserved parking for the customer when they arrive.
Volvo wants to ensure the test drive experience is relaxed and gives people the best possible introduction to a new car. The Test Drive+ hosts are product specialists whose aim is to ensure the customer understands everything they need to about the car, including its state-of-the-art technology and world-class safety credentials, in order to maximise their test drive.
Kristian Elvefors, Volvo Car UK Managing Director: "The test drive is a critical element when people are making the important decision about whether or not to buy a new car, so we want to make sure it's an experience that makes them feel at ease and valued as a customer, and which also reflects the premium quality of our brand. With Test Drive+ we have looked at every aspect from the customer's point of view to make it as flexible and informative as possible. We want people to enjoy an ideal introduction to our cars, one which is completely designed around them."
Test Drive+ is available nationwide, initially for the multi-award-winning Volvo XC40 compact SUV — one of Britain's most in-demand premium models. The programme is set to extend to further cars in the Volvo range, beginning with the newly-launched S60 saloon.
Participants in Test Drive+ must meet Volvo Car UK's eligibility requirements.
Find out more at Volvo Cars
Sky Original drama Chernobyl explores the truth surrounding the disastrous nuclear power plant explosion in 1986 a story of incredible heroism and sacrifice, but also shocking lies and conspiracy...
THE RESULT OF EXTENSIVE RESEARCH, Chernobyl seeks to tell the stories of those directly involved in causing the catastrophe, and those affected by the nuclear fallout felt across the world.
Jared Harris (Mad Men, The Crown) stars as Valery Legasov, a nuclear physicist who is one of the first people to grasp the scope of the nuclear disaster. Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson: Apple Tree Yard; The Theory of Everything) is a scientist committed to getting to the bottom of the cause, while Lyudmilla Ignatenko (Jessie Buckley: Wild Rose, Beast) is the wife of a firefighter who was first on the scene. Stellan Skarsgård (Mamma Mia, Thor) plays Soviet Deputy Prime Minister Boris Shchergina, leading the government commission from a safe distance.
Directed by The Walking Dead's Jonas Renck, the five-part series is committed to a realism that refuses to shy away from the horrors, both physical and psychological, inflicted upon the victims of this uniquely horrifying event.
A deeply moving story about how individuals act when faced with something inexplicable, this drama seeks to honour the spirit of those who helped stop the devastation from spreading even further.
The BBC calls it "TV that doesn't just get you thinking, it stops you sleeping" ***** and the Irish Independent says: "Devastatingly powerful — no piece of dramatised non-fiction has ever felt this authentic" *****
Investigating the lengths to which governments will go to cover up atrocities and suppress the spread of information, Chernobyl also acts as a timely warning that the truth will out.
"Riveting — and utterly horrifying… beautifully crafted… one of the best television dramas so far this year" ***** — The Telegraph
"Gripping, weighty drama is a triumph… timely, bleak, intelligent and compelling" ***** — The Independent
"A drama so powerful you can almost feel the radiation pumping out of the screen" ***** — The Times
"Compelling, vital television… a staggering, unmissable achievement which will haunt you for weeks… one of the most affecting and haunting shows to emerge this century" ***** — Metro
H2O an ocean of reasons why you should drink only canned water…
ARIEL BOOKER, CO-FOUNDER of CanO Water has listed below the key reasons why you should drink canned water. First, and most importantly, with approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans each and every year, plastic pollution is one of the biggest problems affecting our environment today.
Some great reasons why you should only get your water from a can:
# Aluminium cans are the most recycled and recyclable beverage container on the planet
# Aluminium cans are infinitely recyclable and do not lose any quality during the recycling process
# Recycled cans can be repurposed and back on the shelves within as little as six weeks
# 75% of the aluminium ever made is still in productive use today — some of it first being mined in the 1800s!
# Aluminium cans contain more than three times the recycled content of glass and/or plastic — the average aluminium can contains a massive 68% recycled content
# Aluminium cans are a commodity which means recycling companies are incentivised to pick them up
# Cans stay cooler for longer; we might be biased but there is nothing nicer than a cool CanO Water on a baking summers day!
And get this — recycling just one aluminium can saves enough energy to:
# Run a TV for three hours
# Boil a kettle four times
# Power a laptop for four hours
# Power your mobile phone for a day
# Power a hairdryer for one hour
# Power your shaver for a day
# Power a light bulb for a day
# Power your iPad for four hours
Recycling? Can Do! Check out the source at canowater.com