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Walmley Pages

Remember to Relax

Funny how after a vibrant and colourful Spring as we approach July all things seem to settle down and become more muted and perhaps understated. The bright greens, yellows and blues calm and soften as the season draws on. Birds that not so long ago were vibrating along every hedgerow are quieter and , after raising their chicks, more tired `cos kids can be very demanding of parents time and energy. Ready for the school holidays are we? This is a good time to dawdle along the valley and across the meadows just looking and listening and just breathing in some fresh air. Remember though to please be in control of your dog and clean up after it. Remember to please consider pedestrians when you are on your bike, all the valley paths are to be shared with care. Remember how lucky we are to have such a resource as the New Hall Valley Country Park and remember that it needs caring for and looking after. It really is a jewel in Walmley`s crown , it is as good an example of Community asset that we could wish for.

We are now nearer to next Christmas than we are to the last so lets get out into our gardens and relax. The glorious scent of the neighbour`s barbeque, the throbbing bass from a passing car, the house alarm that has been going since midday, the mowers, the strimmers……….. Still ,as of yet no sound of gunfire or rumble of tanks, I like to live in a country that people strive to get into rather than out of, don`t you ? ( apart from a Scottish Nationalist of course )

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local publication delivered free to homes and businesses in Walmey, Minworth and Sutton Coldfield.

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Water, Wood and Wild Wander

Just a week or so after reading this it will be Midsummers Day !

How does a year go by so fast? At least we seem to be having proper seasons this year. Not much snow for snowmen though.

A great show of blossom this spring with the May (hawthorn)

lasting a full month, Apple and Cherry blooms promise a bumper crop later. In the Valley our grasslands are starting to reach a peak of colour as all the wildflowers compete for the attentions of moths, butterflies and bees. Join us for a Wildflower Wander through some of the best meadows in the West Midlands. Meet at the Water Mill 2.00pm Sunday June 8th. Hope for sunshine and we`ll see how many of the over 100 species are on view. Bonus is that the Mill is open and so is the tea room. Also in the Valley we are having a Grand Balsam Bash ! Sunday June 22nd 9.30am and we will try to clear the Plants Brook of this Himalayan invader to give our indigenous water plants and wildlife chance to grow and flourish out of the shade cast by the Balsam. Wellies essential.

How many readers recognise the name of “Jones`s Wood”??

This is the patch of ancient woodland next to the Deanery School and is in need of some urgent TLC. A meeting is to be held at the school on Wednesday June 11th 7.00pm to explore setting up a Friends group and to discuss ongoing issues and future maintenance. Nothing heavy ,just a bit of help for a neglected but much loved patch of Walmley past and present.

If you care about Walmley , the Valley or the Wood, come along to any or all of these events supporting our Community.

 

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local publication delivered free to residents in Walmley, Minworth and Sutton Coldfield areas.


LEAVES ON THE LINE

Thank goodness that is over , February I mean. It always feels so tired and grim and long. Let us now look forward to sap rising , burgeoning birdsong and green shoots shooting. March is when we can feel the quickening of the natural world, which is all around us. (well it is until it`s built on!) Birds and bees start to give overt displays of that for which they are known. Of our garden birds the Robins, Blackbirds and Thrushes have probably already sorted out their partners and their nest site territories but most of our feathered friends will delay for the hopefully better weather at the months end. The winter visitors disperse and we await the arrival of the first swallows to herald spring.

Celandines, violets and primroses are all to be found in and around the New Hall Valley blooming low to the ground waiting to be discovered and admired . Towards the end of the month look out for the explosion of white blossom along the blackthorn hedges to be closely followed by the aromatic and unmistakeable hawthorn.

This is always a time of hope as we feel winter is behind us and we can anticipate summer coming even as we enjoy spring. Don`t get too excited though, always remember that April 1st is All Fool`s Day !

Talking of fools, I wonder whether any attack of common sense has broken out , since I wrote this in January, and that folly of vanity has been cancelled. Yes, of course I mean HS2. Just a thought ,but if it was cancelled then the Washwood Heath industrial site will not be required. Logic then suggests that the Peddimore site plan could be moved to that location and we would not need to develop that Green Belt at all. As I said , just a thought.

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a free publication delivered to homes and businesess in Walmley and Sutton Coldfield.


Drops and Drips

February is the month that most of us just want to see the back of.

It`s short and gloomy and seems to last so much longer than 28 days. “February fill dyke , be it black or be it white “is an old adage that just about sums it up , although there is another that runs

“If February brings no rain it`s neither good for grass nor grain”. So you pays your money and takes your choice but on a brighter note if Candlemas day is cloudy and wet they reckon that winter is over and there is no more hard weather to come. (Candlemas was the 2nd. Did it rain ?)

Hopefully we are seeing some signs of Spring stirring. Snowdrops will peak during this month and be quickly followed by crocuses.

Should be some interesting types popping up around the village centre where many new ones were planted last Autumn. Look out for them. In a couple of places in the New Hall Valley, Sutton Coldfield one of the earliest wildflowers will already be coming into bloom. The understated Dog`s Mercury will throw little sprays of greenish white flowers. Look for it in undisturbed ground along old hedges and in uncultivated woodland. No, I have no idea where the name came from , any ideas?

Hope you have remembered to make your voice heard over the issue of Green Belt development. Speak up , fill in the appropriate form and send it in . Your voice is Our voice so do not leave it to everyone else, whatever your view , state it.

Short and sweet , as I hope this month is . Don`t forget my card on the 14th

This article is written by Sutton Coldfield resident Jeff or Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley Road.  Printed in Walmley Pages Magazine which is delivered to homes and businesses in Walmley and Sutton Coldfield.


The rise and rise of the Bitcoin

From being a little known oddity confined to the geeks of Silicon Valley just four years ago, the Bitcoin is heading all the technology news boards and has even got some central banks running scared. So, what is it, how does it work and why does it matter?

 

The Bitcoin was created in 2009 by an unknown programmer called Satoshi Nakamoto, a name that is widely believed to be an alias. Although it is generally considered to be a crypto or virtual currency, it was originally just a means of exchange for online transactions. The way the transactions are processed is in the realm of the serious cyber boffins, I barely understand it myself, but suffice to say there is a definitive log of all transactions and when they occurred. Bitcoins are created by “Miners,” people who use computers or networks of computers to solve increasingly complex algorithms. If you think processing the transactions is complex, don’t even try and think about Bitcoin Mining. There are currently around 12.2 million Bitcoins in existence but there is an absolute cap of 21 million on the number that can be created. Bitcoins are also anonymous, they don’t have serial numbers like banknotes, and the people who own them are anonymous too – rather than a bank account, owners have a wallet which is accessed using a username and password.

 

So far, so geeky, but this is where it starts to get interesting. Although the Bitcoin is not a currency, in many ways it acts like one. Bitcoins can be used to pay for a huge range of online transactions, anything from school fees to casino chips, and increasingly they are accepted by physical retail outlets such as bars, bedding retailers and even burger stalls. Bitcoins can be bought using one currency and then sold in another currency, making them an effective medium for transferring money out of a country that enforces currency restrictions. Because Bitcoin owners are anonymous, there are widespread reports of them being used to fund drug deals, illegal arms trading and international terrorism. There are also claims that Bitcoins have been used for money laundering, though there is little evidence to support this. Most importantly, the value of Bitcoins fluctuates wildly. The first units produced in 2009 had a value of less than 2 cents. In November 2013 the value of 1 Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $1,250. A few days later the value plummeted by more than half in just one day when the People’s Bank of China, the Chinese central bank, banned the conversion of Yuan into Bitcoins.

 

It is worth considering what has driven this heavy demand for Bitcoins and the dramatic increase in value that goes with it. In China, citizens are limited to taking $50,000 of currency out of the country per year. The Bitcoin represents a heaven sent opportunity to get round this restriction. India also has similar limitations in place, coupled with a currency that is prone to serious inflation. It is no surprise that the Indian central bank moved to limit conversion of Rupees into Bitcoins. With such dramatic increases in value, speculators have inevitably jumped on the bandwagon, further fuelling the volatility in price. What is surprising is that, after the dramatic drop in early December, the value of the Bitcoin has already stabilised at about $800.

 

Despite everything that has happened, it looks as if the Bitcoin is here to stay. The US Treasury has made no move to outlaw it or limit transactions and the number of physical outlets that accept Bitcoins is increasing exponentially. Only when all 21 million Bitcoins have been mined will we know a realistic value for it, something that is estimated to happen by around 2017. In the meantime, it is an excellent example of technology being used to create genuine wealth and at the same time respond to a real need.

Graham Iek

IT Consultant     

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local magazine delivered free to Walmley, Sutton Coldfield and surrounding areas.


Christmas and New Year is the time for giving – but what are the tax implications?

As this is the ‘Season of Goodwill’ in this month’s tax tips we are focusing on the tax implications of Giving.

Charity Donations

Firstly let’s consider the donations you make to Charities. Many people are aware that if you make a donation to a charity via the gift aid scheme, then the charity will receive an additional payment of basic rate tax from HMRC. But what many people paying higher rates of tax may not realise is that they can also benefit from tax relief on donations.  By declaring their charitable Gift Aid donations, they can claim relief equal to the difference between the higher rate of tax and the basic rate of tax at 20% on the total value of the donation.  So if you donate £100 to a charity, and you are currently paying tax at 40% you can claim additional tax relief which saves £24 tax!

‘Small’ gifts

What about the gifts to family and friends? Well you can make small gifts up to the value of £250 to as many individuals as you like in any one tax year and they will all be exempt from Inheritance Tax when you die.

Annual exemption

You can give away additional gifts worth up to £3,000 in total in each tax year and these gifts will also be exempt from IHT. There is also provision to carry forward the unused part of the £3,000 exemption from last tax year.

Wedding gifts/civil partnership ceremony gifts

If you give cash or gifts or because of a Wedding or civil partnership, then this will be exempt from IHT if it is below the following limits:

Parents –  each up to £5,000

grandparents and great grandparents – each up to £2,500

anyone else – up to £1,000

Regular gifts or payments that are part of your normal expenditure

If you make regular gifts out of your after-tax income, these can also be exempt from Inheritance Tax. These gifts will only qualify if you have enough income left over to maintain your normal lifestyle.

Any other gifts

Gifts in excess of the above exemptions, but which were made more than seven years before the donor dies are free of IHT. However, if you reserve any benefit from a gift – such as continuing to live in a house you have given away- “gift with reservation” rules may apply tax as though your gift had never happened…

 We offer a free 30 minute consultation, so if you would like any additional information regarding the above or any other tax issues concerning you, then please contact us or visit us in our offices in Walmley Village, Sutton Coldfield.

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local magazine delivered to homes and businesses in Sutton Coldfield, Walmley, Minworth and surrounding area’s.


Property Has the nation rekindled its love affair with property?

After a five year drought, the television schedules are awash with property programmes once again. Grand Designs is enjoying its annual run of programmes, but these are all brand new projects rather than updates on programmes that were first run a few years ago. Kevin McCloud can also be seen in Man Made Home, a quirky series about building a beach hut from recycled materials. Sarah Beeny, who made her name showing amateurs how to make money out of property development, is now telling them how to achieve their dream house for half the cost of upsizing.

Caroline Quentin has recently finished her latest series of Restoration Home, a programme about people who spend hundreds of thousands of pounds restoring historic properties that should probably have been left to crumble to dust. Meanwhile, a brace of architects are showing self builders how to create a perfect home for a pittance in The House that £100k Built. Recently, I saw the first episode of Location, Location, Location, that wasn’t a rerun from six years ago, in a long time. In case you’ve forgotten the concept, this is a house hunting show fronted by Kirsty Allsopp and Phil Spencer. All this and I haven’t even started on the numerous property shows that litter the daytime television listings.

Sutton Coldfield hasn’t returned to the days of 2006 when this kind of programme was at its height. The money no object, fortunes to be made exuberance of the mid noughties is long gone and may never return. Instead, the focus is more on getting the absolute maximum of bangs for your buck. For instance, the concept of Sarah Beeny’s show is that people who have run out of space can extend and renovate their current property for half the cost of selling up and buying a bigger house. But we can still take heart from this; people are passionate about property again and that can only be good news for the housing market.

Craig Brown

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local magazine delivered free to homes in Walmey, Minworth and Sutton Coldield