Gardening Tips

images-2Thinking about next year is really important. Starting in the dark days of winter let’s look ahead to the spring and do some planning for the vegetable garden and what we need to do in the greenhouse. Not just the vegetable name and variety but the proposed date of planting as well. If like me, you’ve not planted your broad beans, onion sets and garlic, you can still start them off in the greenhouse. Then catch a mild day outside when the broad beans are showing growth above their pots or their containers to get them transplanted into their rows. Try dwarf varieties and plant 9 inches apart. Don’t plant too close, this stretches the growth; makes the stems weak and they topple over. You can always cane at the ends and down the row and help support with rough string, around the canes. Try 18 inches between single rows, 2 foot between double rows. Planting early this year gives you a longer harvesting season next. Onions once showing some growth can be planted 3 to 4 inches apart in the row with a foot between the rows. You can sow at this time when soil conditions allow, sowing finely in the row; about three quarters of an inch deep; again with a foot between the rows. You can thin these as and when to get regular spacing. Keep pot plants well watered! For garlic? Look for virus and nematode free varieties. When you get the bulbs, split them into individual cloves and plant 3 to 4 inches deep with 6 inches between and row spacing of a foot. Top dress with nitrogen (sulphate of ammonia) over the winter and make sure that the beds in the case of broad beans, onions and garlic are kept cultivated. Regular hoeing allows you to check for pest and disease, forms a moisture retaining surface and keeps the plants free of weeds. There is nothing to stop you from growing fruit trees in even the smallest garden and even in pots; but you require to select the right stock type for the variety. Always plant at the same depth as the original. Make a good-sized hole to accommodate all the roots then put in the stake first. Place the tree on the leeward side of the stake, spreading out the roots and put good topsoil around them. Firm the soil gently in layers around the roots. Use John Innes No. 3 Compost in spacious pots. Look for varieties in your area that produce good crops. You may have a neighbour with a good variety. Go for that. Apples in the north are notoriously difficult to ripen and getting the right variety is essential. Find a spot for planting that receives stacks of light or direct sunlight and a wall or fence is ideal to give support to the young tree and absorbs heat which is given out over a long period. Look for a suitable apple stock which controls the eventual size of the tree. You will find that M9 or M26 (M stands for Malling, the name of the research station that bred it) are the best. M27 is too weak a rootstock and the MM 106, MM111 and M25 produce trees too large. You won’t need to get a ladder out to pick fruit and standing on the ground is a safer bet to prune, spray for pest and disease and train. Horizontal training wires 2 feet apart starting at 2 foot should allow branches of cordons, espalier and fan trained trees to be tied in neatly! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; TP: 01977689858 MO: 07967730010

Women's Fashion - Online

GO weekend away 2This week the Editor of silverlinksnetwork spoke to Online fashion boutique Gray & Osbourn about their business.

It was 1989 when top London fashion buyers Kate Gray and Sandie Osbourn had the idea to bring what they considered to be the best of each season direct to the customer. Between them, they'd been buyers at Harrods, Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser and Selfridges. They created a small, dedicated team, an office was found on London's Oxford Street and the business was born. It was called Classic Selection and the mailing list had less than 500 names on it (the internet was still in underground military bunkers). By 2001, they considered the name Classic Selection had begun to feel rather old fashioned and hardly appropriate for a company committed to keeping fashion fabulous at any age, so they rechristened themselves Gray & Osbourn, made yet another office move and a little while later, launched online. 

Gray and Osbourn conducted a survey recently that may be of interest to our readers. It has revealed that 40 plus women looking for a weekend away favour UK travel hotspots over destinations such as Paris or Barcelona. The brand’s survey results saw 80% of female respondents name the UK as their favourite getaway for the weekend.

Amongst these women, UK locations that featured highly were London; as well as the beautiful landscapes of the Lake District, Cornwall and Yorkshire. Within the last two years 23% of women surveyed, confessed to taking 3-4 weekends away, whilst 17% have enjoyed 10 or more short trips.

The survey also found that these women were fashion conscious when travelling. When asked to state their ‘must-have’ item of clothing for a weekend away, 35% chose either a stylish scarf (Including. wraps, shawls, pashmina’s or ponchos) or a chic cardigan. With Britain’s ever-changing forecast, the modern lady wants to make sure she’s comfortable on her weekend getaways. The art of packing allows women to confidently combine fashion and practicality, accentuating her style with statement essentials.

With key items to suit every aspect of her life, this survey highlights that today’s forty plus woman still wants to be confident and stylish. When travelling, a ladies wardrobe is an affirmation to her love of fashion and active lifestyle.

GO weekend away image 1

Fiona Holmes, Managing Director at Gray & Osbourn, said:

“It’s clear from this research that our core demographic enjoy a varied and culturally diverse lifestyle. From frequent weekends away to spending quality time with loved ones, the Gray & Osbourn lady is always finding interesting ways to enjoy life. This survey closely reflects ladies fashion choices, picking key and stylish pieces that match their lifestyle.

With our fashion forward approach, we want to ensure that our customers find real inspiration for all their travel and leisure adventures. Learning more about our customer's travel habits allows us to identify with their needs. Ensuring that our customers look and feel good for every occasion is important to us and insights such as this help to ensure we are delivery fabulous fashion.”

Fashion for 40+ women is very much a talking point amongst older women who feel that most of the recognisable High Street brands get it wrong. We all recall the attempt by Mary Portas to create a range for older women which she retailed through Selfridges. There was not universal agreement at the time that she had got it right. The whole episode was the subject of a TV series. Gray and Osbourn feel that they have steered clear of the obvious pitfalls and have adopted a buying policy which produces a collection with high levels of approval. You have to judge that for yourselves. So follow the two links and reach your own conclusion.




Beautiful Windbreaks

In our quest for interesting people and products we have discovered Diana Robbins who makes the very best windbreaks we have ever come across. Not only are they very strong, robust and well made but they are also come in great colours and designs. They are made from sailcloth and she tells us that she will make them bespoke if you know what colours you want. 

We invited Diana to appear on Silverlinks and she has submitted this article about her and her product. We think you will find it interesting. 

Dart Designs – The Inspiration

windbreaksDart Designs hand builds high quality designer windbreaks made from a combination of new and recycled sailcloth. The windbreaks have abstract designs based on sail shapes and they are individually created from real yacht and windsurfing sails, incorporating original nautical features, so that no two are exactly the same.

Diana has had this idea for over 20 years, but it was not until the summer of 2009 when she was made redundant from her position as a lecturer that she finally found herself in a position to enable her to realise her idea. Dart Designs was formed as a result of her experience as an International windsurfer, and her passion for the coast, windsurfing and sailing. Twenty years ago, whilst competing, she was given some advertising banners made from sailcloth from one of her sponsors, and had the idea of stitching them together to make a windbreak. “My Grandmother and Grandfather had an upholstery business, and my Grandmother was a very clever seamstress. She made this first windbreak and it has been much admired over the years, with many people asking where they could get one similar, and in fact it is still in use today” Diana is always inspired by the coast and loves to be near it whenever possible. “This product for me is a wonderful reflection of the charm of the coastal lifestyle,and inspired its creation”

diana robbinsThe inspiration was also brought about by the general lack of choice and poor quality of the majority of windbreaks currently available, and the desire to create windbreaks which are of high quality, durable, unique, individual, and beautiful. These windbreaks are larger than usual and have steel tipped and capped wooden poles. The windbreaks are lightweight and extremely durable. What better material to use than sailcloth; it is designed to be used in the elements. “If you love the beach why put up with poor quality windbreaks that all look the same and only last a season. These look fantastic on the beach, will probably last a lifetime and can even be personalized with chosen sail numbers, e.g. a birthday or wedding date. Lots of people have bought them as special presents”.

Environmental and sustainability benefits were also a driving force. “Sailcloth is petrol based, and takes a long time to decompose when buried in the ground. Recycled sailcloth has a lot of life left in it, as it is extremely hardwearing. It also softens and takes on an attractive distressed weathered patina with age, which only serves to add to its attractiveness and appeal”

“Setting up this business has enabled me to have a complete lifestyle change” Diana runs the business from home, beside the beautiful River Dart in Devon where she lives with her partner David and 17 year old son Ben. “David helped me convert our garage in to a workshop. A good friend lent me an industrial sewing machine, and I was very lucky to have some good contacts in the sailing industry to source materials”.

Diana runs the business completely on-line. “The fact that the windbreaks are only available on-line adds to their exclusivity.”

Diana was delighted with the response she received in her first year, and the business has grown from strength to strength, with numbers of sales continuing to grow. “The windbreaks seem to appeal to a certain kind of person who just fall in love with them, and decide that they have to have one! I have received some wonderful feedback from customers, which is proudly displayed on the website!”

The product has won awards for design and Innovation, which include a silver medal presented at ‘The British Invention Show’ in 2009, and has been featured in several national magazines.

Diana works long hours, which running your own business inevitably involves, but loves the flexibility “I am happy to work lots of hours when the weather is miserable, but can go windsurfing when the sun comes out and the wind blows. I would recommend running your own business to anyone. If you are passionate about something – go for it. It is never too late. Some might think that it wasn’t a good idea to start a business in a recession, but then again, if you can start a business in a recession and it works, hopefully it should continue to be a success. If you have a product people fall in love with, they will buy it!”

Some of Diana’s designs have ‘clear’ windows in them, making it ideal for keeping an eye on the children, or looking at the view. So often the wind on a beach is on shore and the view is obscured with the windbreak.“ Because each windbreak is unique, it enables you to define your pitch and stand out from the crowd in style, making it easy for children to spot on a crowded beach!”

The windbreaks also come with a part sailcloth and polyester weather resistant carry bag. The design is inspired by yacht racing buoys that you find out at sea. The bag has an adjustable shoulder strap making it easy to carry and feels very light when placed on the shoulder. “I noticed how people struggle on the beach trying to carry windbreaks with the poles sliding out, and the windbreaks un-rolling, whilst loaded down with other beach gear, and have struggled with this myself!”

Diana has ideas for new products made of sailcloth, but only wishes she had more time to develop them “I have been much busier than I anticipated, so at the moment this has left little time for further product development”

Diana Robbins

Dart Designs

Dart View Cottage, Staverton, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6NX

Web: Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel: 01803762698

My Devon

Best walk:  Beside the River Dart from Staverton to Dartington to Totnes

Best day out: Windsurfing with Ben my son at South Milton Sands, near Kingsbridge, followed by a fabulous beach barbeque with friends.

Best place to eat: Rosie’s café at the Sharpham vineyard, Ashprington. Fabulous Alfresco dining with amazing views of the River Dart.

The Vineyard Café

Tel: 01803 732178 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Best View: Looking back at the Salcombe Estuary from Bolt Head


Life Coaching in Later Life

life coachingGuest post by Life Coach Directory

For many of us, reaching retirement age signals a time to sit back, relax and reap the rewards of a hard working career. These are the years to rediscover your passions outside of work, watch your family grow and enjoy a few well-earned getaways across the globe. For some of us however, the reality of the situation is much different.

You may feel at a loss without a daily routine, losing your sense of purpose. You may not have the funds to enjoy a Mediterranean cruise, or you may simply be afraid of what the next stage of your life has in store. Coming to terms with your twilight years happens to us all at some point, and when that happens it is easy to feel de-motivated and anxious. This needn't be the case however.

In fact, this period of your life should be one of the most exciting. Leaving your mid-life years behind you and entering retirement age is always going to be catalyst for change; it is how you deal with this change and cope with the emotions it uncovers that will define your later life.

For some people, the very thought of creating a 'later life plan' or a list of goals is terrifying. How do you know where to start? Is it too late to change your life? And how on earth are you supposed to put these goals and aspirations into practise? At this point, you may want to consider speaking to someone who specialises in this area - like a life coach.

A life coach is an individual who looks to help others reach their goals and find purpose in order to feel more positive and fulfilled. Using specialist techniques based on psychological principles and intuition, a life coach can offer you the tools you need to face emotional barriers, helping you view later life in a new light.

There are many different tactics used by life coaches and to find the one who will be most suited to you and your personality, you'll need to find out a little more about them. On the Life Coach Directory, only those who meet a strict proof policy are listed to ensure members are qualified. As well as their contact information you'll find an in-depth profile where member's talk about themselves and the way they work, as well as listing their qualifications and specialist areas.

Not only that, but the directory has a wealth of information relating to life coaching - from useful fact-sheets and FAQs, to articles written by life coaches and upcoming local events. Find out more about the world of life coaching and what it could offer you by visiting Life Coach Directory today.

George Broadbent

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