I began running relatively late in life approximately 6 years ago after taking part in a charity run organised by my previous employment.
When I began training I ran from my front door and after just a few yards, I was exhausted and wondered how on earth anyone could run any further. I was so naïve that I did not realise that you had to stretch before and after, the following day I could barely walk. However, I persevered and after completing the charity run, began looking for other organised runs to enter.
My friends and colleagues told me I had the ‘running bug’ and I began to see how addictive this sport was becoming. After taking part in local 10k races I thought it would be good to broaden my horizons and increase my distances. Where better to do so than in my home town of Liverpool!
So, in 2014 I ran my first half marathon and loved it so much that this has now become an annual event for me. So, what next? Well the answer is of course, a marathon. But which one? I had read and seen on TV that the London Marathon was the biggest and best in the world, the one that all distance runners aspire to, so surely that was the one to aim for.
I was lucky enough to obtain a place through my running club and so, the challenge was on and the training and fundraising began.
I chose to run for Tommys which is a charity that does invaluable work and research into difficult pregnancies. As both of my children were born prematurely, this has long been a charity I respect and admire.
After approximately 6 months of training in all manner of weather conditions, the week leading up to the big day arrived. This consisted of nightly meals of pasta, sleepless nights, nervousness and excitement. I felt like a kid at Christmas.
On race day my biggest anxiety was getting to London on time. I was due to get the first train out of Bognor which should have got me there in plenty of time. However……… my train was cancelled due to an electrical fault! This resulted in a 30-minute delay which meant I would not get to the start on time. I knew that it can take some time for all of the of runners to cross the start line so I was not overly concerned.
I arrived at the start line and you i’m sure you can imagine my dismay when it was practically deserted apart from a few marshals in their high vis tops collecting discarded sweatshirts and binliners. In what can only be described as a ‘panicky’ tone I asked them where the start was. After they finished laughing and high fiving each other, they pointed me in the direction of thousands of runners in the distance amidst a cloud of dust, well on their way to marathon glory.
So, with my sweatshirt duly discarded and no time to stretch, off I ran to catch up. Upon crossing the start, I was shocked to find myself running in the middle of hundreds of spectators cheering me on and calling my name (printed on my vest). I was also flanked by those huge screens showing just me, along with my arrival being enthusiastically announced over the PA system. I had visions of me being included on an ‘and finally’ feature on the news.
Also, I had no time to allow my running watch to pick up a GPS signal so I had no means of monitoring my time and distance other than guess work and the mile markers on route.
I soon caught up and was on my way passing by dinosaurs, rhinos, red Indians and sponge bob square pants to name but a few. The experience certainly lived up to the hype. The amount of support throughout was staggering, especially at Tower Bridge, the half way point where the crowds were amazing.
Children hold out their hands for a high five, people offer sweets (to keep sugar levels up) and constantly call out runners names in encouragement, spurring us on every step of the way.
At mile 17 I began to struggle but persevered and ran the whole distance without stopping.
With the end in sight, I sprinted to the finish to be handed my medal and goody bag.
I was delighted to find that I had beat my target time. Not bad for someone who 6 years ago could not run for more than a few yards without running out of breath!
London now has a special place in my heart for giving me my own unique marathon experience and now that it’s been and gone, I miss the training, adrenaline and the fun of doing it but hope to gain a place again next year!
Checkatrade.com founder and CEO, Kevin Byrne shared his successful story as one of the leading entrepreneurs at the Acumen Business Convention on the 10th May.
The networking event which was held at the Grand Hotel, Brighton marked the seventh year of the prestigious event and saw over 250 CEO’s, MD’s and decision makers all in attendance for both networking and outstanding speaking.
Having most notably won the London and South East Director of the Year Award, Kevin was keen to share his experience with others. The CEO discussed how he took an idea with no investment to a business turnover of £16million that generates a £2.7 billion a year for all of the trades on-board.
Kevin commented on his achievement;
“This was a great evening and I was extremely pleased to speak about my success story with like-minded individuals. My story is very unique and it is great to share with others on how to build the right company culture and how to drive a business.”
The evening also saw Founder of Cobra Beer, Karan Bilimoria, Author of Brand Famous, Linzi Boyd and Founder of Acumen Business Law, Penina Shepherd all sharing their business stories.
Guests at the Acumen Business Convention were treated to a three course lunch, public speaking and two interactive workshops.
Checkatrade is a free, online service that is dedicated to helping you find the right trade or service. With over 25 per cent of UK households using Checkatrade, they ensure that their tradespeople are fully vetted before they become a member of Checkatrade and once they join, members agree to have feedback from their customers put online for all to say. Checkatrade has gained over 2 million reviews of tradespeople to date.
For more information about Checkatrade or to find the perfect tradesperson for you, visit www.checkatrade.com.
Find this article on the Building Construction Design website – http://www.buildingconstructiondesign.co.uk/news/successful-event-for-checkatrade-founder/
Summer is fast approaching and soon the improving weather will tempt us all to swap cosy nights in for patio BBQ’s and lazy Sundays spent in the garden. Many of us are guilty of neglecting our gardens in the cooler months; the motivation for keeping overgrown grass and shrubbery under control is often forgotten when the rain and chill forces us indoors. Now is the time to neaten up those outdoor spaces in preparation for spending more time in what can become one of the most rewarding and relaxing spaces of our homes – Make your garden a hub for social gatherings by trying out some of these tips to make it all the more inviting.
- Depth over distance
We aren’t all lucky enough to own vast expanses of land to work with, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get creative with smaller gardens and utilize smaller spaces too. Raised or staggered flowerbeds can provide new dimensions of depth and create the illusion of more room by allowing you extra spaces to plant colourful blooms. There are heaps of options out there which allow you to maximize your garden’s potential for housing flowerbeds without dominating too much floor space – Think upwards, not outwards! Landscapers can assist in choosing the best layout to suit the shape and size of your garden or, if you have an eye for design yourself, your local garden shop should offer some ready-built choices to place and plant yourself.
- Pot Planting is a thing of the past
We are so accustomed to seeing flowers sprouting from pots that it can be fun to mix things up. Surprise visitors to your garden by treating them to the sight of geraniums bursting from less conventional containers. Colourful wellies can in fact be the perfect base for planting when filled with some soil and bulbs in the summer; Just make sure to select plants with small root systems and drill a few holes in the bottom first to ensure proper drainage. Why not hang a few from fences as alternative flower baskets which blend perfectly with the theme of the outdoors and brighten up the parameters of your garden?
- Welcome the Wildlife
Bird houses and tables are great for nature, but can also act as quirky accessories in the garden. Little brown boxes for birds to nest in can appear bland and boring – So why not give them a colourful lick of paint and transform that hidey-hole into a renovated, modern townhouse for sparrows and blue tits or possibly even a woodpecker?
There are a range of ready-made bird houses out there which already feature these quirks, some resembling miniscule dolls houses with their little shuttered windows and delicate features. Similarly bird tables can be painted to match the colour scheme of your garden, transforming them into a feature.
Our homes are filled with mirrors and reflective spaces and we’re all aware of the illusions of space and openness they can provide. Extend this to your gardens by hanging mirrors with ornate, vintage frames. This idea can look particularly effective if you have climbing plants or overgrown shrubbery creeping up fence panels as you can nestle a mirror amidst a gap of the greenery, creating an unexpected reflection glimpsed by those who walk by. Be very conscious when placing your outdoor mirrors – For the best effect they should be positioned so that they reflect outdoorsy views, such as more plants or open spaces, rather than reflecting plain fence panels or the back of your house. For safety, also be very aware of how the sun hits your garden and avoid placing mirrors in direct sunlight.
- Accessorize your Patios
Patios can serve as the centre of garden gatherings and Summer BBQ’s, so make sure yours is up to scratch before you host your next outdoor party. Amplify the appeal of your patio by using patterned fabrics on outdoor furniture or bright parasols to create spots of shade. Accessories like rustic, sturdy outdoor lanterns are not only stylish but can provide the ambient flicker of candlelight as the sun begins to set. If your guests have a habit of staying late, consider taking the inclusion of lighting a step further by investing in some outdoor fairy lights – They can be hung from pagodas or even entwined around bushes to cast a twinkling, dreamy effect on the night.
Enjoy making the most out of your garden this Summer!
When the Newton family of Blandford Forum lost little Ted to cancer at just 10 years old it sparked something incredible in them. They chose to keep his spirit alive and in his memory, the charity Teddy20 was formed.
Teddy Rocks started out with a few bands in a local pub, The Greyhound in Blandford Forum back in 2012. This year the event reached Festival status with a new location, Stour Meadows, and a capacity of 2,200 people!
Tom Newton, Teddy’s big brother, and band member himself worked tirelessly with his crew to bring on huge acts, including The Hoosiers, From The Jam, Gentleman’s Dub Club and Don Broco who performed to the huge crowd from the Ted Newton stage over the weekend.
Other acts over the 4 days included InMe and The King Blues, plus Room 94,Luna Wilson, Cardinal Bay,Dead! and The Gospel Youth. Saints of Sin,The Dirty Youth and Dubheart who performed from the second stage, The Sunrise Stage.
Tom and his family had a dream, to raise as much money as they could to help children fighting cancer, and support their families. After this weekend, they should feel incredibly proud of themselves. Teddy Rocks 2017 is set to be even bigger than this year!
Checkatrade.com were the main sponsors of the event this year and Claire Hossell (Head of Finance) attended the event.
I’ve seen a lot of these big renovation projects on programmes over the years and by no means did all of them go to plan! But at least back in the 1990s there were lots of properties that were in need of updating and, because it was generally only first time buyers or builders who wanted to buy them, they often got them at a bargain price.
However, in the years since property make-over TV shows boomed, things have changed. I find many people these days who are desperate to do a property up end up overpaying for it because there’s just so little of that kind of stock on the market. And in far too many cases, they pay more than the property would be worth even after the upgrade.
So if you want to make money from doing a big refurb or are hoping it’s a ‘cheap’ way onto the ladder, you’ll need a lot of luck – unless you can afford to buy a real wreck for 100% cash, which reduces buyer competition.
All that being said, if you do still want to pursue your dreams of turning a dreary, unloved property into a beautiful home, then the first place to start is to really understand how the property is built and whether it’s structurally safe. Depending on the age of your property, this could be done via an RPSA qualified surveyor (www.checkaprofessional.com), who will give you an idea of the property’s condition and what needs doing, when. If you need to have a valuation of the property as well, consider a RICS HomeBuyer Report and if it’s a big old house or one that is just normal brick construction, then upgrade to a RICS Building Survey, which will give details of defects, repairs and likely on-going maintenance. Some building surveyors have also helped me understand potential costs involved in fixing problems or carrying out major works.
Once you have a good idea of the property’s condition, it’s also wise to get gas and electrical surveys. Make sure you use a Gas Safe Engineer and an electrician who is ‘Part P’ registered.
Personally, I wouldn’t exchange on a property unless I’d had those three things carried out: an individual property survey that I’d instructed myself (i.e. not just a lender’s valuation) and gas and electrical checks – especially if I was buying a wreck. There are just too many things that can hide behind walls or under floors that can cost a fortune if you don’t have them checked out, over and above obvious signs of things like damp and mould.
Next it’s about budgeting for other essentials, such as whether to repair or purchase new windows, roofing and flooring and, in this day and age of increasing utility prices, looking at what you can do to make the property more energy efficient.
Finally, it’s the job most people start with – but I’m afraid it must come last – and that’s what you spend on a kitchen, bathroom, decorating and furnishings. My advice here is not to spend a fortune on these initially, just in case any hidden problems come to light post-refurb and you have to rip everything out a few years later because the roof leaks or there is damp and mould invading your newly-decorated walls.
But hopefully, if you instruct thorough surveys and checks before you start and make sure all the renovation and refurbishment works are carried out properly, there’ll be no need for any of that ripping out! Take your time, budget carefully and don’t cut corners.
Need more help on finding your wreck and renovation experts to help you? Visit Checkatrade.com
Designs on Property Ltd
A Derby brickwork boss has been invited to Westminster to showcase his apprentices to the Housing Minister MP’s, and the UK’s leading house-builders on the future of Britain’s construction industry.
From a recent Checkatrade member survey 33% of respondents said they would consider taking on an apprentice. To show Checkatrade’s support for this, MD Gavin Dutton will be attending the event on May 3rd 2016.
The Building Britain’s Future event will showcase bricklaying skills by apprentices building a wall in front of Big Ben, on Speakers Green within the Parliamentary estate on May 3rd. This will be the first time an event of this type will have taken place in Parliament.
The culmination of this event will be a reception in Westminster that will be addressed by both Amanda Solloway MP and Ian Hodgkinson but will also include speeches from Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis MP and the Minister for Apprenticeships, Nick Boles MP.
Ian, who founded his successful bricklaying business in 1990, set up his own brickwork academy last year, and is going to expand on the what he has already started with a National Construction Academy (NCA). This will be is a stand-alone academy that will be rolled out across Britain to help build the 250000 houses this country badly needs.
It will be unique in that way it will be set up, it will include intensive training and be influenced by one of the industry’s leading brickwork specialists. It’s goes to show what can be done working closely with employers and the academy to train up our country’s school leavers and get them building.
Ian Hodgkinson has worked on many TV shows and recently helped Nick Knowles and BBC’s DIYSOS build a whole street with his Academy Students.
Ian said “It’s the perception of a bricklayer’s career that needs changing, construction has great prospects, safe working conditions, great earning potential, I have made a big bold promise to youngsters who join my academy that they could be earning £1,000 a week within five years if they work at it. We just need to show youngsters that there is an alternative to university and building is excellent career to have with so many possibilities.
Ian added: “I am absolutely delighted to have been invited to Westminster and would like to thank Amanda Solloway MP for having the vision to help get my message out that bricklaying is the career of choice and with the my New National Construction Academy and opportunities such as this, we are absolutely confident that we can show young people how rewarding a career in bricklaying can be.”
Recognising the need to attract young people into the industry, trade vetting service Checkatrade encourages young aspiring tradespeople to consider an apprenticeship with their members. With over 95% of Checkatrade’s members anticipating a greater workload in 2016 and 62% of members expecting to create jobs in the near future, it is a very exciting time for aspiring apprentices.
Checkatrade and Trading Standards Approved member Mike Cipriani from Gas Secure Ltd, Mansfield said: “Our apprentice has just finished his third year and he has never had a day off sick. He is now able to undertake 90% of install work by himself with supervision. From day one we ensured that he was treated as a trainee and he has responded with an incredibly positive attitude.”
Craig Phillips, TV personality, DIY and construction expert and ambassador for Checkatrade said: “If you’re an aspiring tradesperson, I really do recommend considering an apprenticeship with a member of Checkatrade. You can rest assured that you are working for a decent, vetted employer which will be so important to your growth and development.”
Recent figures released from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) highlighted that the current skills shortage within bricklaying and quantity surveying was at its shortest supply level since 1998.
Amanda Solloway MP for Derby North said “This is such a fantastic opportunity to promote bricklaying as a genuine and credible choice for young people to undertake as a career. There certainly needs to be more effort in encouraging the uptake of bricklaying from apprenticeship level and that begins with altering and improving the perception of the industry.
“Bricklaying can be an incredibly rewarding career both from a job satisfaction and financial perspective and can lead to all manner of possibilities for career progression. We have to show that vocational careers have equal weighting to those that are more academic. Ian certainly has the enthusiasm and experience to champion this campaign and I will certainly do all I can to help”.
For more information, please visit www.bricklayers.com
Checkatrade proudly sponsors Teddy Rocks Festival!
29 APRIL-2 MAY 2016, BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND
Teddy Rocks Festival announce move to new 2,200 capacity site in Blandford Forum
Full line-up released including The King Blues and InMe, alongside headliners The Hoosiers, Don Broco, Gentleman’s Dub Club and From The Jam
Teddy Rocks Festival is delighted to announce that, due to overwhelming support and unprecedented demand, the festival is moving to a brand new location. Originally due to take place at the Marsh and Ham site, Teddy Rocks has been relocated to Stour Meadows in Blandford, situated behind the Hall & Woodhouse Brewery and alongside the River Stour.
With an increased capacity of 2,200, the new site allows another 800 tickets to be released over the weekend for the charity event, raising more money to help fight children’s cancer.
The full line-up has also been released. Headliners The Hoosiers, From The Jam, Gentleman’s Dub Club and Don Broco will take to the Ted Newton stage over the weekend.
Don Broco, the final headline act to be announced, said:
“We’re very excited to have been asked by Tom to be part of Teddy Rocks this year, an incredible event for a fantastic cause. We’re all looking forward to a top weekend.”
There will also be many other exciting acts performing, such as the recently confirmed InMe and The King Blues, plus Room 94, Luna Wilson, Cardinal Bay, Dead! and The Gospel Youth. Saints of Sin, The Dirty Youth and Dubheart will also be performing, on The Sunrise Stage.
Tom Newton, Teddy Rocks Festival’s founder says:
“Teddy Rocks has been growing every year and we’re so excited to be announcing our best line-up yet! With a bigger capacity at the Stour Meadows site, we’re giving more people the chance to see what we hope will be the most awesome festival Blandford has ever seen. We can now raise even more money to help fight children’s cancer and we have the potential to make a genuinely huge difference to more children and their families – so get out there and buy a ticket!”
Teddy Rocks Festival 2016 will take place during the first May Bank Holiday and will, for the first time, feature three stages: the Ted Newton Stage (main stage), the Sunrise Stage (second stage) and, new for 2016, the Danny Coker Stage, for acoustic music and other entertainment. The family-friendly festival will have a number of food vendors on site, serving a mix of street food and take-away. The Greyhound pub, based in Blandford Forum, will also be providing a bar serving drinks at local, not festival, prices.
Tickets* are now on sale at teddyrocks.co.uk/tickets
Weekend tickets (general admission): £49.48 (£45 + £4.48 booking fee)
Day tickets (general admission Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon): £16.50 (£15 + £1.50 booking fee)
Children’s tickets (under 12s): FREE
All proceeds from Teddy Rocks will go to Teddy20, a charity founded to fight children’s cancer.
Checkatrade proudly sponsors Teddy Rocks Festival 2016!
Teddy Rocks Festival was set up by Owen Newton in 2009 to raise money for Children with cancer and is now in memory of Ted Newton who sadly lost his life to cancer in June 2010 aged 10. Owen Newton wanted to raise awareness of childhood cancer by supporting, respecting and playing cricket, currently raising around £140k to date.
While many children who are suffering from this illness are not able to participate in the sport Owen knew raising money would enable these charities to continue helping and supporting both the children and their families.
Owen decided to call upon the cricketing community of Blandford, Dorset to support him in his effort to raise much needed money for CLIC Sargent: a charity that supports children living with cancer, Kingfisher Ward (Dorchester), Piam Brown Ward (Southampton) and Bone Cancer Research.
Owen and his family were overwhelmed as the event raised £10,000 and even more surprised when people began enquiring if it was to become an annual event.
From then Teddy20 has grown bigger and better by raising more money from organising other events such as Balls, Challenges and Music Festivals like Teddy Rocks Festival.
Teddy Rocks Festival will be in Stour Meadows, Blandford Forum, Dorset on 29 April – 2 May 2016. After it’s triumphant success in 2015 raising a whopping £24,000, the fifth Teddy Rocks Festival will continue on it’s mission to raise thousands of pounds to help children fighting cancer.
To find out more go to – www.teddyrocks.co.uk
When you hear people talk or you see the word ‘Checkatrade’ what do you think? I’m sure if you haven’t heard of us or have never used our services, you may think of Plumbers, Electricians, Roofers the general trades and a ‘call centre’ of staff signing them all up, taking their hard earned cash & giving them no guidance or checking to ensure they are who they say they are.
This could not be further than the truth. Checkatrade has been built with a strong ethos and values at its heart, with the sole aim of ridding the country of rogue traders. Not only do we have Plumbers, Builders and Electricians we also have Chimney Sweeps, Locksmith’s and Marble Specialists along with lots more. We help each and every trader and follow their journey with them as they grow through Checkatrade.
In writing this blog, I was trying to think of the ‘unsung heroes and heroines’ who work here in our offices over the UK– they may not be on the ‘frontline’ signing up the traders or dealing with their membership queries, but they are important and vital cogs in the wheels of Checkatrade.
The team in Reception – They create the vital first impression when a trader or consumer calls or comes into Head Office. They go above and beyond to help and advise them not because they have to but because they love to. They look through all the feedback cards we receive from consumers and upload them onto the system to be sent to the Spot Checkers for them to ensure the feedback is genuine.
The team in the Vetting department – They ensure all the correct checks are carried out. In total we have up to 18 considerations whilst vetting a business, 14 of these being checks. These include ID references, insurance, qualifications and professional memberships. If the Trader is in one of our partnered Trading standards areas these can increase up to a total of 25 considerations.
Our Membership Materials Administrator – Without this lady, no one would have their feedback cards, Checkatrade Vinyl’s, Starter Packs and so much more. She is certainly kept busy, especially now that we have almost 20,000 members!
The Complaints team – Most people assume when companies are well know they receive high amounts of complaints. But I believe because Kevin has built such a reputable business, through an incredible team and ensuring trades are fully vetted so that consumers can trust us so we don’t fall into this bracket. we receive 1 in 200 people complaints on poor workmanship compared to the national average of 1 in 5. Our complaints team are fantastic and work patiently to try and reach a happy conclusion for both the trader and the consumer.
Our motivating Personal Trainers – They are here 5 days a week, keeping the staff motivated both in work hours and out. It’s great to have a work-life balance, so to be able to go to the gym during work instead of having to go after is fantastic! Not only do they do one on one sessions with every employee they also hold classes outside of work which they donate all the money raised to charity.
So, when you’re searching Checkatrade for a trader to do some work around your home or garden, take a minute to think of the small army of people behind him, supporting him and ensuring you can always find a tradesperson you can trust.
It’s a Wednesday morning the week after the long Easter weekend; I begin to get ready for a day of work ahead. Whilst I try to make something half decent out of my messy, bedhead hair, I hear my mum and sister muttering under their breaths.
They begin to discuss how they dread the thought of going to work; how the managers do not care, how there is no support, how the people they work with backstab others at any chance they can, how there is no room for progression and most importantly, how they do not believe what the company is doing is right for their customers.
As I drive to work it dwells on me how lucky I really am to be part of such an amazing organisation that I do truly believe in. Checkatrade, with its strong values and ethics, makes every staff member feel valued within the company and are given great responsibility of being part of Kevin’s dream. Arriving at work I walk into the courtyard, welcomed by a dozen smiles and ‘good mornings’ from my friendly work colleagues.
Still in thought about the discussion I heard this morning, I make my first call; a trader who needs some support with his membership. Upon finishing the call I realise how great it is to fully believe in the service we offer and how amazing it is to have a huge impact on many customers around the UK when they are choosing a tradesmen for work in their home; whether that be for a tiler, decorator or cabinet maker!
Being part of the Checkatrade family is one of the best decisions I’ve made and am so lucky to be part of an amazing team of people.