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7 things every homeowner should consider before winter

on Wednesday, 09 November 2016. Posted in General, News, Blog, Home Improvement and Tradespeople, Advice

Look after your home! Spend a little now to save a lot later.

1 – Clear gutters (and downpipes)

2 – Work well with plumbers

3 - Only buy good quality logs

4 – Get your roof repaired before storms

5 – Get damaged or rotten fencing repaired or replaced before storms

6 – Service garden machinery

7 – Budget for your tax return



1 – Clear gutters (and downpipes)

Blocked gutters can lead to damp problems and damaged brickwork potentially causing thousands. An annual gutter clean of tree debris and moss helps prevent this problem.

Find recommended local gutter clearing companies here.


2 – Work well with plumbers

 CarlKnill Bathrooms Plumbing Exeter Reduced Again

Photo – Carl Knill of CK One Stop Plumbing Solutions, Exeter.  'He’s very very good. He’s reliable, organises jobs well, keeps to schedule and is good with his customers.'

Plumbers are very busy at this time of year – treat them with respect! Be prepared to be flexible as jobs can over-run. If you can be available at short notice make sure they are aware of this and you might get an earlier appointment. Encourage your plumber to be clear and honest about their availability. Keep them on their toes by making sure they know you got them from OurLocalExpert.

All plumbers in OurLocalExpert have been recommended by local people like YOU!


3 – Buy properly seasoned logs!

If you buy logs, make sure they are properly seasoned for a more efficient fire.

 Sidmouth Logs Honiton Firewood

Photo – Nick and Caroline from the excellent Devon Log Store, Branscombe.

Testimonial: ‘These are the best logs we've ever had. I didn't realise our woodburner could get so hot!’

Click here for businesses in OurLocalExpert who deliver logs in the local area, and pride themselves on the quality of their wood.


4 – Get your roof repaired before storms

If you know you’ve got a dodgy roof, give it some attention before the worst of the winter storms.

 RobinsBren GooglePortrait

Photo – Bren Robins Roofing, Exeter, recommended as Very pleasant, decent person who came for small repair on roof’.

Roofers are happy to take enquiries for smaller repair work over the winter – when it can be risky to replace whole roofs.

Find recommended local roofers here.


5 – Get damaged or rotten fencing repaired or replaced before storms

Hares Fencing

Photo - fencing by Hares Landscapes.

Fencing contactors in OurLocalExpert have been recommended for the quality of their work and their products. You get what you pay for, so make sure you understand the implications before trying to cut costs with cheaper products.

Find recommended local fencing installers by clicking here.


6 – Service garden machinery

Prolong the life of any expensive garden machinery by taking it to the doctor for some TLC. 

Garden Kit in Colaton Raleigh, East Devon were recommended because: 'the knowledge of the owners & staff and their willingness to help & give advice bowled me over.'

Find recommended local businesses for garden machinery by clicking here.


7 – Budget for your tax return.

...and you thought that Christmas was expensive! If you need the help of an expert, find recommended local tax advisers here.


East Devon Restaurant News

Written by Nick Local Expert on Wednesday, 21 November 2012. Posted in Local Food, Blog

News from the Holt:

Perfect Foodie Christmas presents at the Holt, Honiton

Already stuck for ideas for a Christmas present for your beloved local foodie? 
The Holt in Honiton will be hosting whole-day bread making classes on Mon 23rd January and Monday 25th February.
They also have an evening smoking class (that’s smoking food, of course) planned for 23rd January.
Phone Joe at the Holt for more information (01404 47707).

Holt chefs Honiton

The Holt are delighted to have recently won their 2nd AA Rosette for service and culinary excellence. This accolade is a true reflection of the quality of the experience at this wonderful town gastropub, with a contemporary yet homely feel.

Over Christmas week the Holt will be hosting live music every night of the week.

Congratulations to the Railway!

More food news from Honiton, where Jean-Baptiste of the Railway is ‘proud and humbled’ by their official entry in the Michelin guide 2013. JB sends his thanks to local suppliers, clients, and his hardworking team.

What’s on at Oliva?

Oliva Restaurant in Topsham have a varied and good value weekly program:

  • Tuesday night is Paella Night – paella for two and two glasses of house wine for £19.95
  • Tuesday – Saturday evenings 3 courses for £19.95.
  • Wednesday to Saturday lunches are outstanding value, with two courses for £10.

Oliva would be a fantastic venue for your Christmas party (for one to seventy people!) See the Oliva Christmas menu here – local seasonal food with a distinctly original Mediterranean twist.

I'm Dreaming of a (Jack in the) Green Christmas

Having started 2012 with a top 5 finish in the UK’s Best Gastropubs, the Jack in the Green will be celebrating Christmas with the finest seasonal West Country produce.
See the Jack in the Green Christmas lunch menu here, and
The Jack in the Green Christmas dinner menu here.

The award winning restaurant in Rockbeare (just outside Exeter) is now in its 21st year.

November Local Food News

Written by Nick Local Expert on Tuesday, 06 November 2012. Posted in Local Food, Blog

News from some of our favourite Devon food outlets and restaurants

Real Food Exeter (store and cafe) are finalists for R4 ‘Best Local Retailer’.

Outstanding Contribution Award for Exeter restaurant @Angelas

New additions to the OurLocalExpert listings of recommended, quality, independent restaurants.

Tuesday Wine Tasting programme at Smith’s Fabulous Wines and Spirits, Magdalen Road, Exeter.

Other food news – from La Petite Maison (Topsham), the Holt (Honiton)



Real Food Exeter (store and cafe) are finalists for R4 ‘Best Local Retailer’.

Congratulations and good luck to the inspirational Real Food Exeter (store and cafe), who have made it to the final 3 of Radio 4’s ‘Best Local Retailer’.  Judges Arthur Potts Dawson of the People's Supermarket and Simon Parkes of Radio 4's Food Programme have been to the store to find out what Real Food Exeter are all about.  What they are all about is LOCAL FOOD, seasonal, and good value – providing a positive shopping alternative in central Exeter.  Winners will be announced on 28th November.
Due to popular demand The Real Food Cafe is extending opening hours to 9.30am -  5pm Monday to Saturday at the very least up until Christmas.  Great coffee, light meals made with seasonal produce, cakes and snacks, changing gallery space for local artists, and free wi-fi too.
The store is also now open every Thursday until 8pm for late night shopping in the run up to Christmas.  Don’t just get your own weekly groceries there, how about making a local hamper of Devon Foods as a present for friends and family?

Outstanding Contribution Award for Exeter restaurant @Angelas

Angela Exeter Restaurant Award
Photo: Angela Valder of @Angelas proudly displaying her award
Exeter restaurant @Angelas on New Bridge Street have just won Devon Food and Drink’s ‘Outstanding Contribution’ accolade.  Angela Valder’s 'outstanding service' set her apart from others. Located in the heart of Exeter, the restaurant is passionate about their food and how it should be experienced. The judges found the service to be 'fabulous' and credited the restaurant for its very good use of Devon products.
@Angelas extended to 40 covers in May – taking over the shop next door.  The restaurant has lost none of its intimate charm.

Recent new additions to Our Local Expert’s recommended restaurants include:

Tasting Tuesdays at Smiths Fabulous Wines and Spirits, Exeter

Iain Smith Wines Exeter

PHOTO: Iain Smith – Our Local Wine Expert
Iain Smith will be hosting some intimate wine tastings at his wine shop (in Magdalen Road, Exeter) over the next 6 weeks.  To be held on Tuesday nights, starting at 7.30pm, with the aim of giving people the opportunity to try wines from around the world.
Each event is limited to 10 people only and will include some very nice nibbles to enjoy with the wine. Each evening will be themed and offer a range of styles flavours and price points and will therefore be priced accordingly to cover the wines on tasting.
Places are sure to go quickly, so call Iain quickly on 01392 426550 to register your interest.

  • Tuesday 6th November £15 per person - France
  • Tuesday 13th November £15 per person - Italy
  • Tuesday 20th November £12.50 per person - Spain (in conjunction with Codorniu)
  • Tuesday 27th November £17.50 per person - The Americas
  • Tuesday 4th December £15.00 per person - The Antipodes
  • Tuesday 11th December £25.00 per person - Fizz  [I’m not quite sure which country ‘Fizz’ is, but I think I’d like to go there.]

Other Local Food News

Doug Pestell of La Petite Maison in Topsham is delighted to be in the Good Food Guide again this year, but of course he should be there – here he is celebrating.
Topsham Restaurant Bub
YOU could win a meal at La Petite Maison, Topsham by recommending local independent businesses that you use and trust in our annual reader competition.

Our East Devon competition winners last year enjoyed their meal at the Holt, Honiton so much that they’ve already returned!  The Holt is Otter Brewery’s first dining pub, and it’s an award winning venue!
Honiton Resaurant Review
Here’s prizewinner Yehudi Levine – you can see in front of him three tasting glasses – as he couldn’t decide which Otter to enjoy with his meal.  Read Yehudi’s excellent review of the Holt.

Network Premiere of Our Local Expert

on Friday, 27 July 2012. Posted in Blog, Why You Can Trust Our Local Expert

Thanks to my Mum and Dad, Joyce and Brian Hall, for taking Our Local Expert onto You Tube. 
I interviewed them in January (with the help of my 8yr old son Alfie), asking them about the experiences they’d had with different tradespeople they used from our guide.

 There are three clips altogether, none particularly professional:

1 – Why can you trust Our Local Expert?

2 – A review of Matt Sage, Domestic Appliance Engineer from Exmouth

3 – A review of Nick Foster of Eden Gardens, Sidmouth

4 – A review of Malcolm Blake of Blakes Plumbing, from Ottery St Mary

Leave your comments on You Tube or the Our Local Expert Facebook page!

Reader Prize Draw Winner - East Devon 2012

on Friday, 01 June 2012. Posted in Blog, Competitions

The winner of the reader prize 2011-12 went to Yehudi Levine of Sneatharpe near Honiton.  Yehudi’s name was picked from about 300 East Devon readers, all of who have contacted us over the last year to recommend a local business that they use and trust.  Yehudi recommended the wonderful Jason Sawyers of Sid Valley Decorators

Here’s a picture of Yehudi's name getting pulled from a hat –picked by Shaun from the also excellent Pollington’s decorators (holding paintbrush), that’s me on the right holding the hat (Nick Local Expert).

Yehudi was delighted to win his prize -  a meal at the Holt in Honiton – voted one of the Top 35 GastroPubs in the UK.

Here’s prizewinner Yehudi, taking a break from his excellent meal.

You can read his gushing review here.  It seems like he enjoyed the prize.  This included the chance to sample three different Otter Ales at the bar before choosing which to drink for his pint.  The food sounds pretty spectacular, too!

If you want to enter this year’s reader competition, just contact us telling us about a local business you use and recommend.  Your recommendations ensure the integrity of Our Local Expert - we need to know we only feature businesses that local people like you use and trust.

We have different prizes for East Devon, Exeter, and Teignbridge and Torbay readers.  All prizes represent what we stand for – quality, local independent businesses.  We hope to hear from you soon!

The Escape

Written by Nick Local Expert on Sunday, 29 April 2012. Posted in Local Food, Blog

What it's really like to eat at Combe House Hotel

The first 3 kids were delivered to school by Mum as usual – all done on foot by 9am.

I’d been working feverishly from home since 7:45, trying to clear as much as I could before our deadline to leave – 11am.

As per usual, 11am arrives and there’s still more to do.  Just one little task, should only take 5 minutes...which means 15.  All the same it’s done, and we leave.

Round to Nana’s to drop off baby Buster.  Nana’s nervous that Buster won’t be able to cope without Mummy for the afternoon, but we’re sure he’ll be fine.  He has to be fine.  We’ve got this appointment that’s just too good to miss.  A guided tour, then lunch, at Combe House Hotel.

Ever been?  It’s the stuff of legends round our way, and rightly so.

We wiggle down country lanes that make our car feel so BIG, it’s terrified of meeting a tractor or speeding postman.  Thankfully all we need to avoid is a stray chicken and a couple of pheasants.

Combe House is well hidden, but thankfully it’s also well signposted.  Every turning and tree seems to have a sign to help us find our way.  We haven’t got time to view the pretty fudge-box-cover that is Gittisham Village (just outside Honiton) – we need to make our 12 o’clock appointment.  We enter the Estate and it’s impossible to speed around the luxurious winding single-track path which takes us to the door of Combe House.  We slow down from our already slow pace, to allow for a couple of horse riders.  Closer to the house and there’s wild horses roaming aplenty – apparently they’re of Arab descent and pretty special.  The huge house looms out of the Devon fog – it must have stunning views on a clearer day. We park and approach the old mansion... we wonder if we’re underdressed...I fumble for my invitation.....but there’s absolutely no need for that.  The door is opened for us, and we are met with broad smiles, and welcomed by our first names. I thought that only happened in my village pub.  We are immediately at ease.

Combe House Hotel Honiton Restaurant

Relaxed hotel guests and diners alike sit comfortably around the choice of lounges – each room seems to boast a huge roaring fire.  Outside it was a cold, damp, late winter’s day – inside it’s like Christmas Day today, and I guess it is like that every day at this time of year.

The cheerful Manager Mark Lovell welcomes us warmly, and we soon find we are chatting like old friends.  He introduces us to Ruth Hunt, the owner, who proudly shows us around the House and Hotel, the renovation of which has clearly been a massive undertaking.  There are up to three choices of venues for a wedding, and these must be memorable weddings.  One huge room is flanked by Oak panels and huge portraits – showing family members that used to own this historic house.  We pass through a sleek modern bar which wouldn’t feel out of place in an exclusive nightclub.


We are taken into the old staff quarters, where we see a wonderful old kitchen – complete with flag stone floor and one massive central table.  The end wall of this huge room is spanned by a single metal stove which must be over 12ft long.  The stove is warmed by jumbo logs (all sourced from within the estate, of course).  There is no electricity in this old kitchen, so lighting is by candle chandeliers. I understand that this room is used for intimate family meals the night preceding a wedding, it must be incredible.

Honiton_Accommodation          Luxury_Devon_Accommodation

Upstairs we get a glimpse of what it’s like to stay here.  Most suites seem to overlook the wonderful estate, and all are impeccably decorated with a wonderful range of styles to choose between.  From traditional elegance to modern and understated.  If you want you can even hire the private thatched cottage with its own private walled garden.

Outside, there must be as many gardens as there are rooms.  The enormous croquet lawn doubles up as the marquee site for weddings.  The back garden leads us to the recently restored vegetable garden which provides 40% of the restaurant’s food.  Rows and rows of carefully co-ordinated planting ripens on a weekly basis to keep fresh supplies coming to the kitchen.  There isn’t too much veg on show at the moment as we eagerly await Spring, but there is more parsley than I’ve ever seen in my life.

On the way back to the house we do a double-take, as we pass an outdoor bath under a thatched roof.  Rainwater is harvested then heated in a water tank over an outdoor wood fire. This is plumbed into the hot tap of the al fresco bath. Honestly.


As we enter the house again, we enjoy the same wonderful welcome we did when we first arrived.  By now we recognise half of the staff, as we’ve been introduced to each one as we’ve passed.  They’ve all greeted us with genuine, welcoming smiles, which make us feel close to Royalty.

There are more incredible function rooms and guest rooms – each with their own identity and history.  We are speechless.  As well as the history of the hotel and its different rooms, we learn of the history of Ruth and Ken the managers.  They have worked throughout the world running and marketing the finest hotels (and the finest chains of hotels).  At Combe House Hotel they have pooled their experience to create one single, independent masterpiece.  Guests to the hotel aren’t just from well-heeled corners of London.  The hotel is also incredibly popular with locals from within Devon seeking the same escape that we are enjoying this afternoon.

We enjoy aperitifs beside a roaring fire, and choose from an astounding menu.  We are not in a hurry, and we are not hurried.  It’s like Christmas Day with someone else cooking.  And the people cooking happen to be Master Chefs of Great Britain.

From the menu alone it’s clear that the food is local. Game and fish are well represented, as are seasonal vegetables (from the back garden).  We make our selections and enjoy our canapés, still beside the crackling fire.  We are then invited through to our table – inside a bay window overlooking the grounds (and roaming horses).   We are given a selection of homemade bread, all exquisite, and an extra introductory course.

The luxury is overwhelming us, and the real world is creeping back into our consciousness.  Go away real world, let us relax and enjoy this, we deserve this!  We work so hard - at work and at home with our four children -please give us an afternoon off!  We should have planned better.  We should have taken the whole afternoon off.  But who’s going to take Daisy to dancing?  Who’s going to take Alfie and Soren swimming?  Nana can’t cope with baby Buster all afternoon, she was terrified of a couple of hours to begin with.

Starters arrive and the real world recedes.  Starters are amazing.  We don’t get out much, but when we do it’s never like this.  We try to eat quality local food at home but we never serve it like this.  We don’t think to put this with that.  This is outstanding.  Portion sizes are perfect – not too generous but not too mean.  We are able to stop and appreciate each mouthful.  We’d love to ask what each element of each dish is, but we just enjoy the incredible flavours.  I’m enjoying the taste of the food so much that I barely remember to sip my delicious wine, and that never usually happens.  We start to relax into this incredible escape we’re enjoying.


Service is impeccably timed, friendly and unobtrusive.  Mains arrive and mine surpasses my incredible starter.  I’d love to make a description like a judge on MasterChef, but I wouldn’t do the food justice and I’d sound stupid.  My main course looks and tastes incredible.  Unfortunately the real world is now catching up with us and we need to check the time.  Could anyone else pick up the kids if we were to let this adventure continue a little longer?  Probably not.  It’s our fault, we’re the ones who chose to have four children.  We have to pick up the pace on our main courses, which is a crime to my pork belly on sour cabbage, to my black pudding croquettes and braised onion.  I’ve stopped to reminisce about it again, now as I write this, my mouth is watering.

The unwelcome intrusion of my wife’s mobile phone allows Plan B to come together, which buys us an extra 10 minutes, allowing us to take dessert.  Now this is really good.  If desserts were always like this, I’d have desserts more often.  My favourite part of my dessert is the Griottine cherries.  Right now they taste better than a glass of the finest dessert wine.  I stopped at my first glass of wine because the real world will need to be faced again soon, and drunken Dads aren’t usually that rational or patient.

As we said our thankyous and left, it felt like we were leaving our host family from a cultural exchange, or that we were leaving our rented holiday home.  My wife was even given a complementary goody bag of sumptuous Combe Estate preserves – a wonderful touch.  We’d been there for less than 3 hours, but Combe House Hotel was already a wonderful memory within my life story, an escape that was over so soon after it had begun.

...and then it hit me, we were home, the adventure was over.  That same saddening feeling you get when you return from a holiday and realise that it’ll be a long time until the next one.  We will return, we already yearn to.  Lunch was extravagant but not unaffordable – in fact good value for a treat which will last for a long time in the memory.  We know we could even just call in for a relaxing morning or afternoon tea or coffee, which will encourage us to show off our new favourite place to visiting guests from ‘upcountry’, as they say in Devon...but the only problem with doing this is that it might show up the service at our own home as not quite as welcoming as that at Combe House. 

Kingskerswell reader wins a meal at Riverford Field Kitchen

on Thursday, 22 March 2012. Posted in Blog, Competitions

Anne England from Kingskerswell was delighted to hear she’d won a meal, after recommending local businesses that she uses and trusts.

Anne was a great help when we were compiling the first edition of Our Local Expert for Teignbridge and Torbay.  She recommended 8 different businesses for our guide – which helps local people avoid the fear of hiring ‘rogue traders’ and ‘cowboys’.  You can trust the businesses we feature, because they’ve all been recommended by local people like Anne.


Here she is enjoying lunch at Riverford Field Kitchen – which can’t be beaten for hearty fresh local food.  Anne described her meal as ‘lush’, and was delighted because it gave her an opportunity to give her dog a great walk, too!

If you’d like the chance to win a meal at a quality independent restaurant, or money to spend on local food, just recommend a local business you think is good enough to feature in Our Local Expert.  We want to hear of businesses that are trustworthy, who provide a quality service, and who hold the customer in the highest regard.

An Ode, An Ode, to Magdalen Road

Written by Nick Local Expert on Wednesday, 19 October 2011. Posted in Local Food, Blog

Last year Exeter slipped from No.1 to No.2 in the 'generic cities of England' – town centres sporting brands that make one city look like the next.  Please help keep Magdalen Road the thriving, independent hotbed of quality local food for which it is famous.  Support those wonderful, original shops.

This poem is bound to help:

An ode to Magdalen Road, Exeter

I hear that there’s a new Waitrose
Well I ain’t gonna be the one who goes
Deserting all that expertise
Of the food shops who really like to please

I love the shops who source locally
Who really care about qual-i-ty

Gibsons Plaice puts a smile on my face
Don’t need to twist my arm to visit Pipers Farm

I call into Bon Gout, and Hills Veg and Fruit
To fill up on provisions for the best foodie missions

To miss Iain Smith’s Wines would be such a crime
And I haven’t yet seen the cafe called Bell Green

And even if a superstore
Offers to deliver at your door
Ask on Magdalen Road and you just might find
That their service ain’t so far behind.

They’re organised and they’re perfectly able
To deliver food to your home for your table.

Magdalen Road, Exet-er
I love yer

Feedback about BAD local businesses is also welcome!

Written by Nick Local Expert on Monday, 25 July 2011. Posted in Blog, Home Improvement and Tradespeople, Why You Can Trust Our Local Expert


On Saturday 9th July we attended an event held by the Senior Council for Devon, in Exmouth.  

We were invited because our guide of recommended local businesses proves particularly popular with people who are old – many of who feel vulnerable to ‘cowboys' and 'rogue traders’.  Some old people are simply no longer able to perform work on their own houses and need recommendations of quality local tradespeople they can trust not to rip them off.

On the day we ran a prize draw - £10 to spend on Exmouth Farmers Market for each recommendation supplied.


Photo – Nick on the Our Local Expert stand at ‘Improving Life for Yourself’, Exmouth.

One Exmouth lady told us of a particularly nasty aerial installer in Exmouth who had taken advantage of a local man suffering from Motor Neurone Disease.  The installer had taken their vulnerable customer to the bank to withdraw something like £300 at the time.  When he was later called back to correct work done badly the first time, he expected the customer to pay a further £150.

Obviously we do NOT feature this business in our guide, but the information provided is useful to ensure that we do NOT invite them to feature – even if they should be recommended in the future.

To learn more about what we do with the recommendations we receive, see our Frequently Asked Questions page.

The contributor will collect her prize of £10 to spend at the wonderful Exmouth Farmers Market.  She told us that the news made her day!

Photo – Exmouth's fortnightly Farmers Market




Cowboys and Rogue Traders in your area?

on Tuesday, 15 March 2011. Posted in Blog, Home Improvement and Tradespeople, Why You Can Trust Our Local Expert

How you can be alerted to ‘rogue trader activity’ in your area.

As the recession starts to bite, Devon and Cornwall Police were today warning of door to door callers offering tarmac work in Budleigh Salterton.  In their own words: “Please be aware of the risks of employing such callers. The standard of work and the cost will often not be what you expect. Threats and intimidation are also employed to get the customer to pay outrageous prices, especially the elderly and vulnerable. Please have nothing to do with these people and look out for neighbours who may be approached. All suspicious callers should be reported to the police.  Please phone us with any information on 08452 777 444.”

The above alert was made by Devon and Cornwall Police’s ‘community messaging service’ – which allows you to be updated about local criminal activity (and potentially criminal activity) by telephone, text or Email.  To sign up to this free alert service for your local area follow this link to Community Messaging Service.

The above message relating to rogue tarmaccers ‘scored a hit’.  In the words Devon and Cornwall Police:  “A community messaging recipient responded promptly, enabling police to stop-check and identify the occupants of a vehicle. Although no actual offences were committed in this case these people will have realised that their card is now marked and may not try their tricks here for a while. The police officers involved were suspicious but there was not enough evidence to take direct action. Well done that recipient.”

If you need quality local tradespeople you can trust – use Our Local Expert – where businesses featured have been recommended by local people.  For tarmac driveways throughout Exeter, East Devon, Teignbridge and Torbay, Bovey Macadam have been highly recommended to us by several readers.

Further information:

Follow this link for good practice suggestions of how to work well with tradespeople.

Follow this link to understand more about different Trade Associations, accreditations, quality assurance bodies and membership organisations that tradespeople often use.


Why Buy Local Food?

on Monday, 03 January 2011. Posted in Local Food, Blog


Supermarkets tend to buy varieties of fruit and vegetables that travel well, don’t bruise easily, last well, and keep ‘looking good’ – irrespective of flavour.  Obviously this can be further enhanced with preservatives, waxes and other treatments.
Local food in Devon farm shops doesn’t need to get shipped to foreign countries to be washed, graded or packaged, so you can buy tastier varieties which don’t need to be able to ‘bounce’ or have a long shelf life.


As local food hasn’t been travelling around the globe before arriving in your farm shop – chances are that it’s been picked more recently – so will have higher levels of nutrients and vitamins.  For example, vitamin C is well known to reduce over time.
Research has suggested the modified-atmosphere packaging used for pre-packed salad (to increases the shelf life of the leaves) might also destroy many of the vital nutrients in the salad.  And there was I thinking I was enjoying a healthy salad in December!

Budleigh Farm

Pynes Farm shop near Budleigh Salterton have a simple philosophy – when they run out of this season’s crop (on the shelves of their farm shop), they go and pick some more produce from the adjoining fields.


Supermarkets enable us to eat whatever we want, whenever we want – by shipping in all fruit and vegetables known whatever the season.  The foods that are most out-of-season at home will be the ones which have to travel the furthest – whose nutrient and vitamin content will decrease the most given the time required for transportation.

Our bodies thrive on eating this season’s food this season!  Think about it – summer fruits have a high fluid content when we are likely to be hot, dehydrated and most need it.  Winter vegetables don’t just provide warming comfort food.  Carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin C; kale eases lung congestion and is healthy to the immune system. Seasonal eating also ensures a variety of food is eaten throughout the year, rather than getting stuck in the rut of the same old 2 veg.  This widens the variety of nutrients introduced to your body – increasing your resistance to illness, and lessening the risks of food allergies and intolerances.  If winter root vegetables don’t inspire you, try adding the often overlooked celeriac into your mashed potato, or roasting some swede with added parmesan.


Exmouth Farm

Buying food from local farmers means that you know where your money is going – to local people who will then spend that money locally.

Supermarkets now have such huge purchasing power that they can often dictate the prices they pay from suppliers – squeezing every last penny from suppliers to help themselves make more profit.  If imported foreign food isn’t badged as ‘fair trade’ do you imagine that it is fair trade?  Unfair trade can mean child labour, it can mean workers being paid less than a fair wage, and being displaced from their homes and families for the only work available.  Instead of feeding us at a loss to themselves, foreign farms should be supplying their own people, at a fair price.


 Exeter Fishmonger Gibsons Plaice

This isn’t just about meeting and understanding the perspective of your local farmer / butcher / fishmonger – you can benefit from their experience to learn how you should cook the food they are offering.  Why not use their experience to expand your boundaries – ‘I’ve never seen that vegetable – what is it and what would it go well with?’ ‘I know I like plaice, so what other fish do you think I might try?  And how would I cook that?’  Even Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall turned to Exeter fishmonger Richard Beynon (Gibson’s Plaice) for advice.
Certainly more fun than getting trolley-rage, or talking to a supermarket shelf before buying the same-old same-old.


Farm Shop Sidmouth

If Devon farmers make a fair return on their work, they will be able to afford to keep farming, and the glorious Devon countryside we all love so much (fields full of crops, hedgerows and roaming herds) will be preserved.  There is even an argument that local crops themselves counter the carbon produced by local vehicles and industry.


Supermarket food can be shipped from literally the other side of the world (New Zealand Lamb, New Zealand apples), and sometimes it then suffers a second trip to be processed (washed/waxed/’dressed’) and packaged to make it look more appealing to the customer.  How much unnecessary transport do you need? Buying local means that your food may have travelled a shorter distance than you have, to buy it.  Remember to take your own bags and empty egg boxes to the farm shop when you visit.


Our Local Expert believes in supporting local food, and many of our recommended suppliers offer readers like you special offers.  Pynes Farm Shop (near Budleigh Salterton) have a weekly changing special offer for our readers, Gibsons Plaice Fishmongers in Exeter offer a 10% discount on fresh fish to readers of Our Local Expert.  We often have special offers to promote from local independent restaurants.

To see all special offers to our readers see East Devon Special Offers, and Exeter Special Offers.

Many thanks to the wonderful Pynes Farm Shop (between Otterton and Budleigh Salterton) for their help with the above article.  Pynes is a great place to buy local produce, as they try to have every food item you may need available to you in one place, almost all of it local!  

"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur"

on Thursday, 16 December 2010. Posted in Home Improvement and Tradespeople, Blog

Why Cut-Price does not mean Quality

Quality Exmouth builders Roach and Colestell us that “too many customers are choosing their builders based on price alone – and not considering that you get what you pay for”.

It’s becoming more common for them to be invited to quote for a job, and then lose out to a cheaper competitor.  Four times this year, Roach and Coles have been invited back to such customers, to put right the job that the cheaper, inferior, builder had done badly.

That’s going to end up costing the customer a lot:  the price of the first builder, PLUS the subsequent work of the quality builder – i.e. much more than the original cost quoted by the quality builder, that was deemed too expensive.

In summary – if you want a quality job done right, first time, you need to choose a quality builder – who is unlikely to be the cheapest quote offered.

You can trust all builders who feature in Our Local Expert to be quality - as they have been recommended by local people like you.

[See also related blog, explaining why cheaper prices are being offered in the current economic climate:  ‘Don’t hire a Cowboy – even if they’re cheap’]

Don't hire a Cowboy Builder - even if they're cheap!

Written by Nick Local Expert on Friday, 06 August 2010. Posted in Home Improvement and Tradespeople, Blog

A reminder of why you shouldn’t use Cowboy Builders

In the current economic climate less people are moving.  Staying put and not moving into new homes means there is still a need for redevelopment, renovation (or more commonly, repairs) to the house you stay in.

There are bargains on offer! 

With less demand for new homes in Devon, many building firms have laid off tradespeople, and competition is rife for building work.  Existing local builders have less new-build projects, plus they have to compete with the newly laid-off tradespeople. You must have noticed an increase in flyers for handymen, fencing or driveway businesses, which often advertise just a mobile phone number as the sole method of contact.  Anyone who works from home will have noticed an increase in people calling at your door offering great deals for immediate work.  We’ve even heard of lorries laden with paving parked outside driveways in St Thomas, Exeter, while the representative touts for work.

How can a cowboy builder offer such low prices?

If you compare quotes – one quote from an established, reputable local builder, another from a newly laid-off and newly self-employed tradesman, the reputable builder is likely to quote a higher price. Their valuable experience tells them how different jobs will pan out in different types of building.  They will be cautious not to under-price a job as they are aware of potential pitfalls, and will forewarn you accordingly.
The cowboy builder needs income, quickly.  Unexpectedly out of work they still have bills to pay.  They will be more desperate to win the job at all costs.  Someone whose experience comes from site work for new homes may well know how to install 100 identical bathrooms quickly, but not be flexible when it comes to installing five completely different bathrooms, taking into account the needs of the customer and the needs of the existing building.  They will not be aware of potential pitfalls, and will price the job purposefully low in order to secure the job, not allowing for contingeny.  They may not even possess the skills for pricing your construction job properly, including the cost of all the materials needed, removal of waste, cleaning up, etc.  Someone with only building site experience may not understand the needs of the family who are living in the house in which they are working.  They may not take suitable precautions to safeguard your carpets, curtains and soft furnishings from damage.

What can happen if you employ ‘builders from hell’CowboyBuilderExeter

If you chose the cheapest option and they haven’t priced the job properly, you might be in for a nasty shock.  What happens when the unforeseen problem happens?  Someone after a quick buck might just cover it up and not mention it to you.  Obviously it will come back to bite you one day.  The unforeseen could have been foreseen by an experienced contractor (hence the more expensive quote), and they would have advised you to plan accordingly.  Maybe your chosen cheaper builder does leave you happy with the completed job, and you pay them.  What happens in six months time in the middle of a stormy Devon night when you realise that your roof is leaking?  You phone their (mobile) number and it’s been changed.  Even if they had been insured, you can’t get hold of them to find out.  This time you get a professional to have a look – someone local, who has a good reputation, who has been recommended to you.  Imagine if that person tells you that all the renovation work you had done in the summer was of such bad quality that it needs to be done all over again.  How much will this end up costing you?
1 – The price of the cheap original work performed by the cowboy builder.
2 – The price to remove all this awful building work.
3 – The price to perform the renovation properly (as originally quoted by your quality and experienced local builder).
That’s likely to total two or three times what you were originally quoted by either builder.

How can I tell I’m choosing a quality builder, not someone who’s ripping me off?

Our Local Expert only features quality independent builders and tradespeople who have been recommended by local people like you.  This means you can trust those we feature to use quality workmanship and provide a good standard of customer service.  They may be more expensive than those touting for work door-to-door in the short term, but I hope you can see why they should be your chosen contractor.

Click here to see our guide on how to work well with tradespeople

Reader Competition

on Monday, 12 April 2010. Posted in Blog, Competitions

Tell us who YOU think is good - you could win a prize!

Reader Competition

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Please send your feedback using our recommendations form – you might even win a prize (drawn annually)!


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