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TOURIST TIP: Visit the historic 300 year old birthplace of Winston Churchill

Posted by Emma Righton on Thursday 17 March

With its own special place in British history, Blenheim Palace is the birth place of the late Winston Churchill and home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.

Just eight miles outside Oxford, the World Heritage Site is steeped in more than 300 years of history.

The 18th Century baroque palace and over 2,000 acres of parkland and gardens offer visitors a fascinating insight into how the other half lives.

The grounds, created by one of Britain’s most famous landscape architects Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, boast an unrivalled combination of unspoilt natural beauty, historical monuments and wildlife.
And Blenheim Palace is a great place for walking, and, according to new research, it is home to the greatest collection of ancient oak trees anywhere in Europe!

It’s thought that a centuries-old area of the estate called High Park was originally created by King Henry 1 as part of a royal deer park in the 12th Century.

Around 90 per cent of the woodland is made up of oak trees and it’s thought at least 60 of these date back to the Middle Ages.
To buy tickets click here.


Images courtesy of Blenheim Palace website.

TOURIST TIP: Oxford on Two Wheels

Posted by Emma Righton on Thursday 10 March

When you visit Oxford you’ll notice that practically everybody is riding a bike. That’s because not only is it the easiest way to get around, it’s also a fantastic way to explore.

With 38 colleges spread out all over town as well as some beautiful green spaces and historical and literary hotspots, Oxford on two wheels is the way to go.

Here’s our recommended mini itinerary for a day out in Oxford:

Start at Magdalen College off the High Street where famous writer Oscar Wilde was a student.

WEB Oscar

While you’re in the area head over to Radcliffe Square just off the High Street and visit Brasenose College, where Prime Minister David Cameron got his degree.

Then it’s time for some greenery. Head to Port Meadow, at 440 acres it is the largest area of common land in Oxford.

Bordered on the western edge by the River Thames and full of wonderful wildlife (and curious cows!), a classic Oxford activity is to cycle up the west side of the meadow up to the Perch pub, then continue up north for round two at the Trout in Wolvercote, where Inspector Morse was often filmed.


You can reach the meadow from Walton Well Road, Aristotle Lane and Wolvercote. At the eastern edge of Port Meadow you can access it via Burgess Field.

After all that cycling it’s time for some culture and a whistle stop tour of the famous Ashmolean Museum in Beaumont Street then head round the corner to Pitt Rivers Museum on South Parks Road.

Visit St John’s College in nearby St Giles where former Prime Minister Tony Blair was a student then finish off with a refreshing drink just up the road in the Eagle and Child pub (also St Giles), where Tolkien and mates formed the famous Inklings writer group.


If you want a more detailed guided cycling tour of the city, we like Footprints. To find out more, click here.

PROPERTY NEWS: New buy to let tax explained

Posted by Emma Righton on Wednesday 9 March

The Government is bringing in a new tax to try and help the housing shortage, as well as give first-time buyers a chance to get on the property ladder.

From April 1, anyone buying a second home or buy-to-lets will be hit with a higher rate of stamp duty.


But what does it really mean for stamp duty?


At the moment if you buy a residential home, you pay a stamp duty at a progressively applied rate that depends on how much the property is worth.

So you pay nothing on the first £125,000, then at each of four value thresholds, a higher rate of tax is applied on the portion of the price above that level – up to 12 per cent on anything above £1.5m.

Anyone who buys a second home or buy-to-let will have to pay an extra 3 per cent surcharge in stamp duty, from April onwards.

In basic terms it meant that there will be a 3 per cent tax (currently zero) to pay on homes worth up to £125,000, 5 per cent tax (instead of 2 per cent) on homes costing between £125,001 and £250,000 and so on.


What does this mean for ‘buy to let’ landlords?


They won’t be able to deduct mortgage interest from their rental income before it is assessed for tax, but will instead get a flat rate 20 per cent tax credit.

This means those paying higher-rate tax will lose half of their relief, while some others will be moved up into this bracket and so see their tax bill dramatically rise.

Changes have also been made to the way landlords pay tax when they decide to sell their buy-to-let properties.

At the moment, capital gains tax isn’t due until the end of the tax year, but from April 2019 they will have to pay the bill within 30 days of selling a property.

This means landlords will have to pay much more than second home buyers, and they will also face heavier taxes on their profits.

This is because the maximum tax relief available to landlords will drop from 45 per cent to 20 per cent.


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