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    • Halifax / Estate Agent / House Builder / 1 Reading / 0 Ratings
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      30.08.2014 12:09

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      Shoddy and calculating. Steer clear!

      Had a horrible experience with Halifax mortgaging, the advisor said that we wouldn't be able to get more than £40,000 from them, and suggested we each get a personal loan on top to help us buy a house!
      She told my partner that he had to quit his job and get a better one before anyone else would touch us.
      We mentioned all this to our current advisor (with another bank) and his jaw dropped - everything that Halifax had said to us was to insight panic and make us sign with them quickly.

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    • Samsung ST66 / Digital Camera / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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      30.08.2014 12:02

      Advantages

      • "Facial detection"
      • "Ease of use "

      Disadvantages

      • "Battery lasts less and less each time"

      Almost a DSLR in disguise

      What a brilliant camera. I bought one for myself and my mother and we've both had amazing results, despite having very different uses - I play around with focus, and take lots of detailed landscape shots; she takes photos of people mostly and needs simplistic controls.
      I love the auto focus, and wish I could post in some sample shots, I'm THAT happy with them. This camera has seen me through online selling, sunsets, fireworks and sparklers, close ups of butterflies, four different countries, and the odd selfie!
      So good, Ive put off buying a DSLR for years. This camera is worth your money, whatever you want it to do for you.

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    • More +
      30.08.2014 11:10
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "Ease of use"
      • "Nice big screen"

      Disadvantages

      • "Less apps than the App Store (Apple)"
      • "Poor photo quality"
      • "No flash player!!"

      For students and commuters, not all rounders.

      I bought myself this tablet to take to college and help me with writing up my notes and assignments since my laptop weighs a tonne. It's got a lovely big screen and is relatively lightweight, certainly easier to transport than a laptop or netbook, so it fits the bill for students or commuters.
      However, another aspect of it's intended use with me was for social networking, online games, and apps. This is where my love for the Tab started to sway.. I couldn't watch videos or YouTube postings on my newsfeed, nor could I play online games, because there's no Flash Player installed on the product.
      Minor setback I thought, as I tried to install it, but the Samsung rep I bought it from in store told me you can't actually put Flash on the Tab! That was it for me, I took the product back - it may be cheaper than an iPad but it's still a hefty price and I need to know I'm getting my money's worth.
      All in all, great for commuters who just need to jot down figures, bullet points or read the news; and serious students who want to take their notes and essays with them, but this isn't for you if you like apps, showing off your family photos, or mindless online entertainment.

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    • More +
      30.08.2014 10:44
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "extensive gardens"
      • "Good Cafe"

      Disadvantages

      • "More local goods in gift shop would be better"
      • "Rooms may not be completly repaired"

      A bit unsure

      This is a most unusual place in that some of the rooms are in good original condition with a small number restored. The National Trust's policy of repairing rather than restoring is perhaps overstating the case. I would make the distinction of only structural repairs. There are a number of rooms with flaking paint or wallpaper which I think comes under repair. To some extent the rooms in poor condition are somewhat drab and depressing though I suppose it gives a flavour of a country house in demise. Another issue is the paving around the house has a significant quantity of weeds emerging which would benefit from being composted! The main walled garden is currently a grass meadow and there is a separate vegetable garden enclosed in another walled garden. The volunteers where all very friendly and talkative. There were a large quantity of stuffed animals and the main state rooms where ornate.

      The tea room was in the most part very good in particular the cakes and scones. My only criticism would be that the cauliflower and blue cheese soup could have done with great seasoning and a greater proportion of cheese and cauliflower. The ham in the sandwiches was of a good quality. Prices are average for an attraction. If you frequently visit National trust properties do not forget to get a hot drinks loyalty card!

      The gift shop was very typical National Trust gift shop, you can almost say once you have been in one you have been in all of them. A greater proportion of local exclusive products would be an improvement.

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    • More +
      30.08.2014 10:38
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "Recently restored"
      • Free

      Disadvantages

      • "Car park limited and not free for EH members"

      An interesting bequest

      One of the very few English Heritage properties that are a furnished house and one of very few that do not have an admission charge ( I have never heard of a property that cannot have an admission charge!)

      The audio tour is only available on a wifi enabled android or iOS device. There is complimentary wifi in the first room but is rather slow. So if you have fast internet at home you would benefit from downloading the app prior to arriving. Though if you are not in touch with that technology there is a room guide book as well as an academic book on most rooms.

      The rooms are lightly furnished and compliment the Kent style of architecture. One of the key highlights of this property is the artwork including some from Low Countries masters such as Frans Hals and Vermeer as well as Gainsborough and Constable.

      It was a shame that the suffolk collection was closed on two seperate visits. It looks like this property is short - staffed.

      The parkland is extensive and certain views highlight its proximity to London from this affluent suburb. The Parkland is extensively used by dog walkers so do be careful! The car park pricing is not particularly flexible with a choice of 2 hours at £2.50, £4 for 4 hours and then £3.50 per subsequent hour. I would prefer a fixed rate per hour pro rata to the amount you put in.

      There is a cafe on site which offered a wide range of dishes. Though do be beware that there is competition from locals for outside chairs in the shade in the summer.

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    • More +
      30.08.2014 10:31
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      Disadvantages

      • "Not much to see"
      • "Downscaled Distillery"
      • "No lavender oil"
      • "Hot cafe"

      A lavender farm in demise

      The farm which is located east of Heacham has changed markedly since our last visit and not for the better. Upon arrival it was not clear what was available to see - what time does the distillery demonstration run, when are the trips to the field, what tours were on offer? Clear signage to the museum was also lacking. Last time the farm shop used to be the distillery and as you drove in there was a lovely lavender fragrance. This has now been relocated to a small canopy near the gift shop. The full sized distillery works was the best part of the whole farm last time and this has now gone.

      In regard to retail, the shop had sold out of lavender oil at 11.30 am which is probably one of the most popular items to buy which was disappointing. The range of other items was overpriced and consequently no one in the group bought anything. I found it strange that the farm shop was selling lavender products from a different farm! The gift shop felt as though it was a tourist trap.

      We were going to dine in the cafe however, the ventilation was not very good meaning it was very hot and would have been too uncomfortable to dine. The range in the cafe seemed somewhat limited and was not attractively priced. At least the cafe at nearby Sandringham is well ventilated. I was originally expecting to spend a few hours here but left after 45 minutes. The ones I like nearby in Yorkshire are better than this.

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      30.08.2014 10:27
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "Reasonable Cafe"
      • "Friendly guides"

      Disadvantages

      • Expensive
      • "More rooms could be open"

      An insight to the royal family

      Sandringham which is located in the north of Norfolk and is used by the royal family principally as a Christmas retreat but also in the summer. The visitors centre, car park, cafe and garden centre are located on the other side of the road to the house and gardens.

      Only part of the ground floor- five large rooms are accessible to the public ( a few more would be nice). The rooms contain a wide selection of royal family artefacts. It was intriguing to see the table laid out with jigsaw puzzles in progress. There are no well- known pieces of art from the royal collection which possibly reflects the more recreational use of the property although there are some beautiful portraits of Princess Alexandra and her daughters.The property is filled with more object d'art that has accumulated. The room guides were very friendly and often engaged in conversation without prompting. It was nice to see the dining table set up and of course a menu in French (do not worry, there is an English translation available). At the time of our visit, there was a small exhibition in the ballroom of the painter Edward Seago.

      The gardens are extensive and as it was a hot day it was hard to appreciate them fully. The gardens looked well kept, it would have been nice if a garden tour was provided perhaps on a clubcar, so the highlights of the garden would not be missed. The church was very ornate and is worth a visit but again, a clubcar service from the house/ visitors centre is really required for older visitors.

      The cafe was well ventilated. The Summer vegetable soup was nice as were the cakes perhaps slightly on the expensive side. The gift shop was reasonable and contained a reasonable number of medium priced original gifts though I still think this could be extended.

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    • More +
      30.08.2014 10:25
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "Clubcar from visitors centre"
      • "Good visitors centre"

      Disadvantages

      • "Greater proportion of local goods in gift shop"
      • "Wouls be nice if a flower/ veg garden could be incorporated"

      Gradually improving

      I last visited this National Trust property in 2011, when all the guest facilities were in porta - cabins. The transformation of 'The New Inn' as a visitors centre and all the required guest amenities is a real improvement and improves the welcome to the property significantly. The shuttle clubcar between 'The New Inn' to the Eastern Lake pavilion is a real asset and cuts out a 15 - 20 minute walk that is not particularly interesting. I would go further by adding that it would be great if the club cars could be used as a garden highlights tour as it is easy to miss key features. I thinks its a great idea that you can hire one for less mobile groups and associates. Unless you go for that there is a fair amount of walking to do with some hilly terrain. I would also appreciate it if the garden could be signposted as we did go off- route adding an unwanted 25 minute extra walk! So do take care with your map reading skills. If you are unfamiliar with the site do ensure you get a map of the site. One helpful feature is that on the ground close to the follies there is a plaque stating its name which can pinpoint where you are. Just to ensure you know what to expect, this is not a garden of flowers or a walled produce garden which is usually present at national trust properties, it is a landscape garden. It is a garden with trees and follies which are supposed to represent the political ideas of Lord Cobham perhaps as a criticism towards Walpole. The follies often have reference to philosophers and Greek myths. Though I do not think that should stop them having a good flower and walled produce garden!

      The cafe was good with a reputable 5* hygiene rating. The soup was good as were the scones and cake.Prices are average for an attraction. If you frequently visit National trust properties do not forget to get a hot drinks loyalty card!

      The gift shop had a slightly larger range than a typical National Trust gift shop, you can almost say once you have been in one you have been in all of them. A greater proportion of local exclusive products would be an improvement.

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    • More +
      30.08.2014 10:22
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "part of HHA"
      • "Friendly guides"
      • "Nice house"

      Disadvantages

      • "Garden is run down"
      • "Jam + Cream in potty in cafe?"
      • "Poor Quality toilets"

      Great Art Collection

      This house is owned by Viscount Coke and was designed by William Kent. It contains an extensive collection of art by masters such as Claude Lorrain, Rubens, Van Dyke and Rubens. There are 7 Claude Lorrain's located here which is more than the Queen owns! The state rooms are extensive. The main hall takes inspiration from the Pantheon in Rome though they have not opted for an open air arrangement. The room guides were very friendly and often engaged in conversation without prompting. Some of the furniture could do with restoring. One of the highlights of the visit was the extensive kitchen complete with a vast quantity of copper cookware.

      It is nice that a shuttle clubcar is provided from the house to to the walled garden, though I would have felt safer if seat-belts were provided. It would have been a 15- 20 minute walk otherwise. The Walled garden is a restoration and therefore was a bit disappointing. The greenhouses need some serious work and must have had little attention for 30+ years.

      The tea rooms were good perhaps slightly on the expensive side. I was personally off put by the fact than the jam and cream for the cream tea were located in an old-fashioned china potty. The gift shop was ok but most items are overpriced and an increase of original items in the £5 - £10 bracket is much needed. The restrooms could do with upgrading. It would be nice if it opened a few more days in the week.

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    • More +
      30.08.2014 10:18

      Advantages

      • "Commutable distance to London"
      • "Nice Setting"

      Disadvantages

      • "Dirty Carpet"
      • "Rooms vary in quality"

      Economy price, excellent hotel.

      This Hotel is great if you bring a car .It is a big step up from Travelodge and Premier Inn for the same price! Getting to the hotel is not too much of a problem but there are roadworks, so it is better to go around the back onto Bulls Cross Lane then go to the end then turn Left then turn next left then right then next left then right to the end then you are on the roundabout to Cheshunt, M25, The Hotel. Also, if travelling into London go to Cheshunt Station, it is better to go on Saturday and Sunday as you can park your car when you like but if you go on weekdays you have to wait until 9.30am. There is some very nice wildlife such as foxes, deers,rabbits and different kinds of rare breeds of birds which makes you comfortable in the outside souroudings. The rooms are very large even for 3 people. Bathroom is large and bathtub is very long. Also they have a computer corner which is free with internet, free photocopying , free tea, coffee etc in the lounge area. Breakfast was large and very good. You need to eat it quickly or else it will go cold. Wouldn't recommend having dinner there as it is expensive but if you go on Bull Cross Lane turn right continue straight on there is a Toby Carvery which is good. Nice hotel for £66 a night but I wouldn't pay the full £119 rate.Two very minor issues is that the reception carpet is dirty because it is beige and people have walked with muddy shoes so it has stained it a bit .Also bring your own toliet tissue as it is very poor quality and very rough.

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    • More +
      30.08.2014 10:13

      Advantages

      • "Nice Villeroy + Boch Bathroom"

      Disadvantages

      • "Room is Small"
      • "Breakfast could be more extensive"
      • "Staff could be friendlier"

      Ok, but not again

      I found this hotel very simple and generally lacking in comfort, the Reception Area, Restaurant and Meeting Room are very modern and are very well designed. However, the modern and well designed feel does not extend to the bedrooms and bathrooms. The bedrooms were quite cramped, in need of refurbishment and lacked plumage. Parts of the room were clean but the carpet had black stains and looked unsuitable to walk on without shoes. Some of the wooden furnishings were dusty and the television programs were not in the correct order. The bed was small and very uncomfortable because it was hard and lumpy. The bathroom was refurbished to a good standard but was far too small and the soap and shampoo was in a dispenser also the bath towel was thin and small so consequently unsuitable to get dry with. One pleasing thing about the room was that wifi was free and it had a telephone with reasonable charges.
      I went to the vending machine for a bottle of water in which I put a 2 euro coin, I found out it had run out of the product (you can only find out once you’ve paid) and it returned my money in 10 cent pieces! It is cheaper to buy the 1 litre bottle from reception. The staff on reception are friendly if you speak French, if you do not they are quite miserable. The breakfast was severely disappointing and comprised of one 5cm croissant and a 30cm piece of baguette on a paper table mat. There was also a table with cornflakes (sometimes replaced with frosties) and chocoflakes. There was dilute orange which had separated in the jug, hot chocolate, tea, hot milk and fresh cold milk. Dinner was good but if you are part of an organised trip it is a set menu with only one option, it mainly consisted of local homemade dishes. A lunch was also provided which could have been improved, it consisted of a filled baguette, apple, crisps and water. It stayed the same throughout my stay.
      This Hotel is located out of the town of Mons en Barouel which is on the outskirts of Lille. There is nothing of interest in the locale so any trips need to be made with a car. In my opinion, this hotel is ok for a short budget stay in a suburb of Lille. Do not expect a luxury stay it is a modest, mostly not refurbished 2 star hotel, nothing more!

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    • More +
      30.08.2014 10:09

      Advantages

      • "Friendly Staff"
      • "Pleasant rural location"

      Disadvantages

      • "Choose correct Coffee!"
      • "Noise from terrace"

      A rural retreat

      Despite its rural location accessed via single track road it is suprisingly well located for excursions to many destinations such as; Stratford Upon Avon, Banbury, Daventry, Northampton, Leamington Spa and Rugby. Obviously a car is a must for this location.

      Check- in was efficiently dealt with, it was nice that they accepted the Telegraph newspaper vouchers especially considering the distance to the nearest newsagent. We were given a semi - refurbished 2 double bed room which was clean and has benifited from the refurbishment done. It is good that they have rooms of this category as they are not always that easy to find. This room is suitable for 3 and 4 people though if the 3rd and 4th person are an adult you may find it hard to book as it is the policy not to include this room type with 3 or 4 adults in any promotions and is only bookable by telephone. Though I did set precedent after complaining on this matter, it would be nice if they could make this a permanent arrangement and available online. The room was clean and comfortable, my only criticism would be that there is insufficent light within the room. The location of the room was on the first floor but was overlooking the terrace from the bar which did mean some noise disturbance. The cleaner did not replenish tea supplies in the room.

      The breakfast was extensive and comprised: bacon, egg, sausage, mushrooms, tomato, hash brown, baked beans, toast, Danish pastries, pain-au-chocolat, croissant, Alpen , Kellogg's cereals, cold meat, melon, pineapple, fruit salad and yogurt. If you are a coffee drinker I would advise against asking for 'coffee' as it is from a machine and instead ask for a 'latte' or a 'cappucino' which is made from a coffee maker (ie it requires a barista not a button pusher) and significantly nicer. There is little choice in nearby other breakfast establishments. Victoria was a friendly member of staff in the restaurant. The view from the breakfast room is stunning and you would think you are in area of outstanding natural beauty.

      The room was £72 per night B&B for three adults which I thought was reasoanble and I would stay here again for a similar price. The leisure facilities looked good but I did not have time to use them.

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    • Sprowston Park Golf Club / Sporting Venue / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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      30.08.2014 10:05

      Advantages

      • "Free ice buckets"
      • "Rooms are well apointed"

      Disadvantages

      • "£50 credit card hold per night"
      • "No a/c"

      Nearly Perfect

      The check- in could have been a little bit more friendly however the rest of the staff were very friendly and accommodating. It is a shame they do not accept Telegraph newspaper subscription vouchers unlike some hotels. For 3 or 4 persons, the extra person charge only applies if extra beds are required eg. 1 King and 2 Zbeds but not if you choose a 2 double beds twin so ensure you make the correct room selection! I was pleased that ice buckets were sent upon request, free of charge. Wifi should be free in all of the hotel.

      The room itself was well- appointed and clean though not free from maintenance issues. The light bulb in the lamp needed changing on the first night which was done the next day. On the second night the sink plug would not release but was fixed in 30 minutes upon notification. The room contained two double beds which is suitable for a family group. My main criticism of the room was the temperature - it was stifling hot. This may be partly caused by the fact that the swimming pool is two floors underneath the room. . However, we did have the fan on and the windows open yet, it was still too hot. Perhaps a future investment program for the hotel would be to install air conditioning or have more powerful fans available. A further concern was that because the space opposite the room formed part of the swimming pool complex it meant a strong chlorine smell was present in the corridor, happily it was not present in the room. The bathroom ventilation could have been improved as it took a long time for condensation to pass.

      The housekeeping staff did a good job of tidying the room and stocks were replenished throughout the stay. On one occasion, the cleaner asked which variety of biscuits we preferred which was a nice touch!

      On the restaurant side of things, it is good to see it has a 5* food hygiene rating. The breakfast is worth getting in a package but a bit expensive at £15.25 per person per night to add on. It was nice that at breakfast the napkins were cloth. On one night we had dinner at the Zest Bar + Grill over in the golf club house. The beef goulash was very good with tender meat and well seasoned gravy which was enjoyed - £9 was reasonable. The blueberry cheesecake was rather disappointing as it did not taste of anything and the accompanying ice-cream was not up to the required standard and contained ice particles which is not a good sign. It was not worth the £5 charged.

      I think this property should implement a different pricing strategy as I thought £135 B&B a night for an ap leisure off-peak customer was a bit on the high side. I would stay here again maybe when it's not so hot and when the price is right!

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    • North And South (DVD) / DVD / 2 Readings / 2 Ratings
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      30.08.2014 09:30
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • "Did I mention Richard Armitage??"
      • "Mr Thornton"
      • "Mr Thornton"
      • "Richard Armitage"

      Disadvantages

      • "Depressing in places"

      Period drama at its best!

      Cor... Wow! If you havent seen this period drama you are in for a treat!
      Based on Elizabeth Gaskell's fine novel this drama is a must watch.
      Richard Armitage (who I confess Id never heard of before watching this)
      Stars as Mr Thornton the wealthy cotton mill owner in the small industrialised town of Milton.
      Daniella Denby Ashe (her from Eastenders) stars as Margaret a country loving daughter of a vicar forced to move to a grimy sooty town and harshly objecting to Mr Thorntons uncouth behaviour towards others!
      An early scene has Margaret entering the cotton factory and the cotton fibres floating like snow around her. It looks visually stunning!
      I will say however that similar to eastenders the subplot of the drama is ultimately depressing. In keeping with the era it was recreating poverty disease and death are rife. The main plot of course is the developing relationship between John Thornton and Margaret Hale and the train station ending while completely different to the book is fabulously well acted. Move over Mr Darcy!
      Also starring is Sinead Cusack as the domineering and protective mother of John Thornton and Pauline Quirke as the,rather too big for her boots, servant to the Hales. Stealing the show from these though is Brendan Coyle the union man
      whose ill daughter befriends Margaret.
      There are 2 dvds in this set with 4 episodes overall. The dvd includes a commentary which is also well worth a listen to. A brilliant opportunity to own this amazing period drama. Who needs Pride and Prejudice?

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    • Playmobil 3269 Rock Castle / Playmobil / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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      30.08.2014 08:40

      Advantages

      • "not a computer game in sight!"
      • "can use alongside other sets"
      • "keeps the kids entertained for hours"
      • "playmobil is always fantastic"
      • "attention to detail"
      • "durable "

      Disadvantages

      • storage
      • price

      Brilliant buy, durable and loads of play value

      Playmobil has always been a must have favourite in our house and we have quite a collection building up. This gorgeous Rock Castle was one of our best purchases. My son was 5 when we purchased it. He had been wanting a castle playset for a while and having weighed up all of the options we decided upon this playmobil set. We made the right choice , my son is now 11 years old and the castle still has pride of place in his bedroom.
      The attention to detail in this set is fabulous, as it is in most playmobil, with a lock on the dungeon doors and pieces of food for the medieval table. It takes a little while to set up though. We got round this by carefully opening the box in advance and wrapping the empty box up for the birthday and then having the assembled castle all ready to go.
      My son also has a collection of pirate playmobil which is regularly used alongside rock castle with battles between soldiers and pirates. I like this about playmobil that the sets can be used in combination with others or on their own which makes them ooze play value.
      It is worth bearing in mind especially if you have very young children that there are several small accessories with this set. When we first bought it we kept some of the treasure coins to one side as we imagined they would soon be lost or eaten. ( I actually sucked several up in the hoover) The coins are minute. That being said they sit in a lockable treasure chest which my son always found a very exciting part of the set, along with the dragon living underneath the castle. As long as you have a corner of your room that this can sit assembled in I heartily recommend it! Just be prepared for it to stay in your room for several years it will become an all time favourite!

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