PROPERTY

Farmland prices hit record high

ENGLISH farmland averaged £3,353 in the first quarter of this year. New figures from Strutt and Parker?s Farmland Database reveal a 14 per cent increase over the past year and the firm expects the farmland market to outstrip the residential market in 2007 (Farmers Guardian)

West country properties gain £1,000 a day

Demand for the Westcountry’s most expensive properties is booming with prices rising by 15 per cent over the past year, new figures reveal today. (Western Morning News)

Best place to live?

With its ancient woodland, good schools and low crime rate, the Forest of Dean is one of the best places in Britain to bring up a family, a new poll shows. (Western Daily Press)

Farm buildings tax breaks

TAX ALLOWANCES on agricultural buildings have been quietly earmarked for abolition by Chancellor Gordon Brown, who slipped a four-year countdown for their removal into his recent budget. (Scottish Farmer)

ART & ARCHITECTURE

Panther in our garden

A huge panther-like cat gave a Somerset couple the shock of their lives when it appeared in their garden on Tuesday. (Western Daily Press)

Birds of prey to keep seagulls in check

Birds of prey have been drafted in to a Cornish seaside town as the latest weapon against the “terrible nuisance” of seagulls. (Western Morning News)

Otters make comeback

AFTER years of persecution and decline, the otter has made a “complete recovery” across the whole of Scotland, it was revealed yesterday.

A two-year investigation of more than 1,300 sites found traces of otters in 92 per cent of them. There is now believed to be a total population of about 8,000. (Scotsman)

ENVIRONMENT

Link to boost rural community

AN ESTATE owner is drawing up plans for a £4 million causeway to link two communities separated by a sea loch.

A fixed link across Loch Erisort on Lewis has long been an aspiration of the people of North and South Lochs. It would cut driving times to Stornoway by nearly half, to about 25 minutes.

Nick Oppenheim, owner of the Eishken Estate where a wind farm is proposed, says it needs a large business venture to justify the investment.

Mr Oppenheim is the man behind Beinn Mhor Power, which plans a £120 million, 53-turbine wind farm at Eishken to provide enough electricity for 13,000 homes. He has gifted the community six turbines, which would generate about £1 million a year locally. (Scotsman)

FOOD & DRINK

Adults only ice cream

An ice-cream man was stunned when council bureaucrats told him he needed a liquor licence for his rum and raisin dessert. (Western Daily Press)

GARDENING & PLANTS

16 APR: GARDENER JIM RETIRES AGED 104

Professional gardener Jim Webber has finally hung up his fork at the age of 104.

(Western Morning News)

APR 18: YORKSHIRE HOME FOR RARE TREE

ONE of the world’s rarest trees is taking root in Harrogate.

The Wollemi pine, a native of New South Wales in Australia, has been planted in the Valley Gardens.

The pine is a gift from Harrogate horticultural enthusiast Tony Robinson. Only 100 mature trees ? which have pendulous dark green foliage and bubbly dark brown bark ? are known to exist in the wild.

Kew Gardens in London is helping to propagate the trees to ensure their survival. The programme began after one was discovered in an almost impenetrable gorge, west of Sydney, Australia, in 1994.

It was named after the Wollemi national park where it was found. (Yorkshire Post)

HERITAGE

Blaze at manor house

A blaze which severely damaged an 18th-century manor house yesterday may have been caused by a workman. It is understood a plumber was working on the final stages of building a new roof at Kittery Court, Kingswear, South Devon, when he accidentally started the blaze, which ripped through the insulation within minutes.

The historic property was sold for £2 million in 2003 and was undergoing a renovation project thought to be worth another £2 million. (Western Morning News)

Cornish town granted lottery moneyA Cornish town has won a £47,000 lottery grant to help celebrate its heritage.

The grant is the second Lostwithiel, in Mid- Cornwall, has received from the Heritage Lottery Fund in as many years, bringing a total of almost £100,000 to the town, once the county’s capital. (Western Morning News)