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The Vauxhall Corsa is now the top selling car in the UK, but is it better than a Fiesta? Cars & motoring editor Rob Hull spent a fortnight driving one to find out.

Britain officially has a new king of cars. Ford’s incredible 50-year stint at the top of the sales charts was brought to an abrupt end in 2021, as the Vauxhall Corsa rose to the summit of the registrations table.

The last time a motor without a blue oval on its bonnet took the number one spot was back in 1971 when the Austin 1100 boasted more sales than any other model.

This time it’s the Corsa’s overtaking of perennial favourite, the Fiesta, that is being celebrated by Vauxhall, after it had been forced to watch on as its rival dominated as the nation’s go-to new car for the last 12 years straight.

But does being crowned as the number one seller make the latest Vauxhall Corsa the small hatchback to have today?  

Britain's new king of cars: The Vauxhall Corsa ended the Ford Fiesta's 12-year run at the top of the sales charts in 2021. Does that means it's the best small model on the market today? We tested one for a fortnight to find out...

Britain’s new king of cars: The Vauxhall Corsa ended the Ford Fiesta’s 12-year run at the top of the sales charts in 2021. Does that means it’s the best small model on the market today? We tested one for a fortnight to find out…

Should we read much into Vauxhall’s rise to the top? 

Vauxhall hasn’t shied away from celebrating its recent sales triumph. Its official Twitter account has been repeatedly sharing the news to its thousands of followers like an online party popper going off, with scatterings of reports covering its victory appearing like streamers and confetti. 

Though that hasn’t stopped Ford from trying to rain on its parade. Even after the official figures confirmed the new order earlier this month, Ford UK claimed it still – theoretically – makes the most-popular ‘vehicle’ in Britain. 

That’s because it shifted more Transit Custom vans last year than Vauxhall did Corsas. Twelve thousand more, in fact.

But while some will call sour grapes on Ford’s part, the surge in Transit deliveries at the same time as a monumental decline in Fiesta sales – which saw the former favourite drop out of the top 10 entirely in 2021 – might tell a story more about company strategy over consumer demand. 

These are last year's 10 most-bought new cars. As you can see, Ford's Fiesta is missing

These are last year’s 10 most-bought new cars. As you can see, Ford’s Fiesta is missing

With the semiconductor shortage hugely impacting global car production, manufacturers have been forced to prioritise the output of particular models. 

Industry insiders suggest pandemic-related demand for vans persuaded Ford to put its commercial vehicles at the head of the computer chip queue, even ahead of the front-running Fiesta. 

It does make financial sense: vans offer stronger profit margins than passenger cars because they are less expensive to produce but are sold for similar prices. 

When This is Money asked Ford UK why Fiesta sales had taken a downturn towards the end of last year, it told us: ‘A new [facelifted] Fiesta model was announced in September ahead of first deliveries in early 2022. In the interim, the same supply issue affecting other vehicle lines is impacting Fiesta.’ 

But is this merely a case of us making excuses for Ford and deflecting from a reality that the Corsa might now be the choice of superminis? That’s why we’ve spent a fortnight driving one to find out.

A new – French – era for the Corsa

The sixth-generation Corsa is the fruit of Vauxhall’s recent takeover by the PSA Group, which bought the brand from General Motors back in 2017. 

In an automotive world of cost saving, shared platforms and model rebadging, this new ownership means the latest model is underpinned by the same chassis and parts as Peugeot’s 208.

The same can be said about the electric versions of both superminis, the e-208 and Corsa-e – the latter of which contributed towards 14 per cent of all Corsa sales last year, it is important to note. 

But we weren’t driving the electric version, instead our test car for two weeks was the frugal petrol powered 1.2-litre version, albeit in its range-topping £27,000 Ultimate specification.

With Vauxhall now under the stewardship of the French PSA Group, the latest Corsa (pictured) is mechanically similar to the current Peugeot 208

While the Corsa share the same parts as the 208 (pictured), both brands say they have been tuned to feel very different

With Vauxhall now under the stewardship of the French PSA Group, the latest Corsa (left) is mechanically similar to the current Peugeot 208 (right)

While the Corsa and 208 might be very similar under the skin, that’s not to say you could step from one to another and tell them apart only by the emblem etched into the steering wheel centre.

Vauxhall Corsa: Will it fit in my garage? 

Price: from £17,380

Price of car tested: £27,245

Engine tested: 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder, turbocharged petrol

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Drive: Front wheel drive 

Max power: 99bhp

0-62mph: 10.2 seconds

Top speed: 119mph

Fuel economy: 45.6-48.7mpg

Emissions: 134g/km C02

Doors: 2

Wheels: 17 inches 

Dimensions – Length: 4,060mm

Width: 1,765mm (1,960 incl mirrors)

Height: 1,433mm

Kerb weight: 1,090kg 

Boot space (seats up): 309 litres

Boot space (seats down): 1,118 litres

Fuel tank capacity: 44 litres 

Vauxhall makes a big point that this isn’t a copy-and-paste of its Peugeot sister car. 

It certainly doesn’t look or feel anything like the 208 from inside – and that is a very big disappointment. 

While the Peugeot feels modern, classy and a generally nice place to be, with a recessed dashboard, flashes of piano-gloss panels and high-grade materials at key touch points, the Vauxhall – even in our range-topping ‘Ultimate’ specification car on test – feels comparatively drab. 

That isn’t to say the cabin doesn’t fulfill its basic needs. 

It strikes the right balance between having a high-definition display and a number of control switches, the latter for the temperature and audio settings. 

This means you don’t have to painstakingly prod your way through sub-menus in the colour touchscreen to make the most basic of adjustments, such as warming your bottom and tuning to Radio 2. 

And it feels well screwed together and of perfectly-adequate quality. 

Though you might expect more from a small model that, in this ‘Ultimate Nav’ test car’s case, costs a barely believable £27,245. That’s more than an entry-level Mercedes A-Class!

Such a whopping financial outlay on this range-topping Corsa does give you luxuries including a driver’s seat massage function, bigger 10-inch main touchscreen, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster (available on all trim levels from SRi up) and adaptive cruise control – all features you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a supermini.

In terms of driving position, no matter your size there is enough range of adjustment in the wheel and seat to find a comfortable set-up – though there is no manipulation of the lumbar support, which is a one-size-fits-all offering.

The Peugeot 208's interior (pictured) feels modern and classy, with its recessed dashboard, flashes of gloss panels and high-grade materials at key touch points
The Vauxhall's - even in our range-topping 'Ultimate' specification car (pictured) - feels comparatively drab

The Peugeot 208’s interior (left) feels modern and classy, with its recessed dashboard, flashes of gloss panels and high-grade materials at key touch points. The Vauxhall’s – even in our range-topping ‘Ultimate’ specification car (right) – feels comparatively drab

While everything is perfectly functional, the Corsa's cabin definitely lacks the wow factor - especially for a small car that costs over £27,000 in the 'Ultimate Nav' specification we had

While everything is perfectly functional, the Corsa’s cabin definitely lacks the wow factor – especially for a small car that costs over £27,000 in the ‘Ultimate Nav’ specification we had

While the dash is bland it does have separate control buttons for the heating, which are easy to access on the move from the driver's seat

While the dash is bland it does have separate control buttons for the heating, which are easy to access on the move from the driver’s seat

The row of additional hard switches means you don't have to prod your way through arduous sub-menus in the touchscreen to make the smallest adjustments to the display and settings, which can be distracting in some new models

The row of additional hard switches means you don’t have to prod your way through arduous sub-menus in the touchscreen to make the smallest adjustments to the display and settings, which can be distracting in some new models

Can it match the Fiesta’s dazzling driving dynamics?

One characteristic that has kept the Fiesta at the peak of its powers for so long is its finely-tuned chassis and engaging driving performance

To say the Corsa has its work cut out to match that is an understatement and this was one of the key comparisons we were looking forward to making during this two-week test.

Our £27,000-plus test car was fitted with the most powerful petrol engine: a 1.2-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder unit producing 99bhp, linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

On paper, that translates to 0-to-62mph acceleration in a thumb-twiddling 10.2 seconds and top speed of 119mph. But add to this equation fuel-sipping economy of around 46mpg and it’s probably the pick of the powerplants available. 

Punchy enough in and out of town and perfectly flexible for motorway journeys, what the engine lacks in excitement it makes up for with a relatively hushed and smooth note that only infiltrates the cabin when you’re extremely forceful with your right foot.

At motorway speeds, engine rumble wasn’t noticeable – though probably because it was being cancelled out by wind and road noise. 

How does it compare to its biggest rival? The yardstick Fiesta has a selection of smaller-capacity 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrols with 99bhp or 123bhp. These feel more urgent and responsive than the Corsa’s. At an equivalent trim level the higher-output Ford engine (which is almost a second quicker to accelerate to 62mph) will cost around the same as the Vauxhall.   

Our test car was fitted with the 99bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged engine, which, while not all that exciting, is the pick of the powerplants thanks to low running costs

Our test car was fitted with the 99bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged engine, which, while not all that exciting, is the pick of the powerplants thanks to low running costs

One reason the Fiesta (pictured) has dominated in recent years is its fantastically compliant ride and handling. The Corsa really doesn't get within a sniff of the Ford in these departments

One reason the Fiesta (pictured) has dominated in recent years is its fantastically compliant ride and handling. The Corsa really doesn’t get within a sniff of the Ford in these departments

Our test car was fitted with an 8-speed auto transmission. It can make low-speed acceleration feel snatchy, so it takes some time to learn the ideal biting point of the throttle pedal

Our test car was fitted with an 8-speed auto transmission. It can make low-speed acceleration feel snatchy, so it takes some time to learn the ideal biting point of the throttle pedal

The automatic transmission in our test car made initial dabs of the throttle feel snatchy at low speeds, but it shifts seamlessly enough once pootling along and – given that it has eight gears – never needlessly over-revs the engine like some more rudimentary gearboxes can. Most customers will have the manual, though. 

But where the Vauxhall begins to lose serious ground on rivals starts with how it rides.

While the suspension copes with obvious imperfections, such as deep potholes, lane-dividing cat’s eyes, and the odd dropped drain cover, it feels fidgety on smaller changes in road surface that trigger your senses each time the tarmac changes. 

This might partly be down to the 17-inch alloy wheels on our test car, but a Peugeot 208 with similar-size rims would waft over these minor blemishes without you ever noticing. 

Even the harder set-up of the Ford is more compliant and cushioning. 

And when you reach a series of corners, the Corsa falls even further back.

A lack of steering feel is the biggest offence – it’s lighter than a feather from a bird that’s suffered from alopecia. This is ideal for town driving, three-point turns and parking, but is far too vague for anything else.

The resistance [or lack of] in the steering reminded us of a spinner you get with boardgames like Twister – an arrow mounted onto a piece of cardboard that you can flick with your finger and watch it circulate for almost a minute: that’s how little feedback it seems there is in the wheel.

Then throw into the mix that it feels top heavy and suffers bodyroll in changes of direction and the floaty steering becomes a little unnerving. 

Frankly, it’s almost offensive to mention the Corsa’s handling in the same breath as the Fiesta’s.

Space inside the Corsa is better than most rivals in this segment. While there's lots of head and leg-room in the front and back for taller passengers, these rear door apertures are narrow

Space inside the Corsa is better than most rivals in this segment. While there’s lots of head and leg-room in the front and back for taller passengers, these rear door apertures are narrow

A luggage capacity of 309 litres with the seats up is very much middle of the road for a supermini of this size. But the space is usefully square and the boot sill not too high when lifting heavy items in and out

A luggage capacity of 309 litres with the seats up is very much middle of the road for a supermini of this size. But the space is usefully square and the boot sill not too high when lifting heavy items in and out

What it lacks in performance it makes up for with practicality

Here is the part of the review where the Corsa starts to claw back some brownie points on the Ford.

Even drivers over six foot should be able to sit comfortably up front, with lots of head and leg-room – better than most cars in its class. It’s a similar story in the back, though narrow rear-door apertures make getting in and out quite the task for anyone above average stature.

The sensation of space once inside isn’t helped by its dark upholstery and super-thick door pillars, which limit the amount of light into the car – and also hinder visibility for the driver at junctions, we should note.

As for the boot, a 309-litre compartment (with the seats up) is middle of the road for this segment, with more capacious superminis on the market, such as the latest Skoda Fabia and its 380 litres of luggage space. However, the area is ideally square and the sill is low enough to make lifting heavy items easy enough that you won’t need your osteopath’s phone number on speed-dial. 

It does – disappointingly – lack a height-adjustable boot floor, but it still trumps the Fiesta in this department.

We spent two weekend trips away with the Corsa and loaded up with a two-week grocery shop during the test drive, with the boot more than capable of swallowing everything needed from a pair of overnight rucksacks to bags filled with celery, kale and every other ‘New Year, healthier me’ ingredient you can image.

It feels like the Corsa's rise to the top of the sales charts is more about technicalities rather than its accomplishments as a small car. And for that reason we'd still choose the Ford Fiesta

It feels like the Corsa’s rise to the top of the sales charts is more about technicalities rather than its accomplishments as a small car. And for that reason we’d still choose the Ford Fiesta

Cars & Motoring verdict

For years the Corsa seemingly survived among Britain’s biggest sellers by undercutting its nearest rivals on price to make up for a relatively underwhelming drive. But with the price now inflated to par with the competition, we’re surprised it has translated to higher sales than supermini opponents. 

The price hike means it shouldn’t be all that enticing for PCP finance customers, thanks to its relatively weaker residuals. For example, a Corsa loses around 33 per cent of its original value after two years and 20,000 miles on the clock while a comparative Fiesta sheds around 28 per cent, cap hpi data suggests.

This makes it all the more imperative for consumers to strike a deal with a salesman to give a discount – which has traditionally been commonplace in Vauxhall dealerships. And we suspect this is still the case today. 

It also has impressively low CO2 figures and benefit-in-kind taxation, even by small-car standards. This has made it increasingly popular among businesses and fleets. As has the arrival of the 1 per cent BiK Corsa-e, of course.

Yet it’s technicalities like this, as well as the semiconductor trials and tribulations during 2021, that – in our humble opinion – likely pushed the Corsa to the peak of the rankings, rather than its accomplishments on the road.

Would we choose one over Britain’s former best-seller? 

Even if it means having to be patient for a few months for a Ford Fiesta to be delivered, we would prefer to wait to have what is a more rounded car. It’s far better to drive, has a more eager petrol engine, and will hold its value better. As practical as the Corsa is, it’s still the runner up in our opinion.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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You may expect Britain’s housebuilders and construction firms to be a sure-fire win for investors this year. After all, house prices are soaring – this month it was revealed they were up 7.6 per cent on a year ago – and there is plenty of pent-up demand for housing.

And yet the sector is underperforming. The FTSE100 index of the UK’s biggest companies is up 12 per cent over 12 months, but housebuilders Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Developments, Bellway, Persimmon and Berkeley Group are all worth less than they were a year ago. 

So why are they underperforming – and does it mean it’s a good time for investors to get stuck in? 

Time to invest?: House prices are soaring and there is plenty of pent-up demand for housing

Time to invest?: House prices are soaring and there is plenty of pent-up demand for housing

Why the sector could be good for income seekers 

Richard Hunter, head of markets at wealth platform Interactive Investor, is one expert who believes the sector’s underperformance is ‘surprising’ –­ a sign it may not last. ‘There is good mortgage availability, house prices are rising and interest rates are very low,’ he says. ‘These conditions should offer housebuilders a solid and supportive backdrop.’ 

Some experts had feared that the pandemic would cause chaos in the housing market. However, the reverse has happened as the economy has remained robust and the pandemic has created new trends that have supported house prices.

David Smith, manager of investment trust Henderson High Income, which invests in Bellway and Persimmon, is positive on the outcome for builders. He says: ‘Demand for new homes has stayed robust given low interest rates, fairly low unemployment, wage inflation and the trend to upscale to larger homes in the wake of lockdowns and working from home.’ 

Darius McDermott, managing director at wealth platform Chelsea Financial Services, agrees that the sector is looking cheap from an investment perspective. ‘The sector is generating huge amounts of cash, thanks to high house prices and large profit margins,’ he says. ‘In conditions such as these, such companies can become cash machines.’ 

The major housebuilders are expected to return this year to the record £5.1billion profit mark achieved before the pandemic – and to then exceed it in 2023. 

As most of this cash is likely to be returned to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks, they could be a good option for income-seeking investors. 

Where the cracks are showing in the sector 

But it’s not all been plain sailing for the housebuilders. 

Households are feeling the pinch as inflation leaps to a 30-year high of 5.4 per cent. This could affect their ability to buy new homes and curb the amount lenders will give them. The Bank of England is under renewed pressure to raise interest rates to rein in inflation, which could also reduce the amount that homeowners can afford to borrow. 

Housebuilders are also facing a large bill to remedy dangerous cladding on blocks of flats, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has demanded builders pay £4billion towards the cost of fixing dangerous blocks where cladding has left homeowners unable to sell their properties. This will affect housebuilders’ profits. 

But Thomas Moore, manager of investment trust Aberdeen Standard Equity Income, believes that industry action to resolve this issue could prove a winner for housebuilders.

‘A resolution to the cladding issue would help lift the sector in the eyes of investors, especially if it reduced the risk of punitive sector-wide taxes,’ he says.

So which firms will help build your portfolio? 

Picking individual stocks is one way to invest in housebuilders. However, each has its own strengths and weaknesses. These need to be considered before choosing which one to go for. 

Hunter believes Taylor Wimpey is in ‘increasingly good shape’. Its recent trading statement highlighted the success of its strategy of going on a spending spree during the pandemic to buy up plots of land to build on in the coming years. ‘The bold strategy is already beginning to bear fruit,’ says Hunter. Taylor Wimpey shares are at £1.57 this week, down 1 per cent on last year. 

Hunter also likes Persimmon, which he says has addressed some of the issues over the quality of its new builds and customer satisfaction it was facing pre-pandemic. With an annual dividend yield of nearly 10 per cent, the shares could be a win for income seekers. 

Russ Mould, investment research director at wealth platform AJ Bell, tips relative unknown Springfield Properties, which he believes is a possible takeover target after private equity swooped in and took over rival Scottish builder Miller Homes recently. ‘It specialises in Scotland, where house prices are lower than in England and could catch up a bit,’ he says. ‘It also has a good land bank [that it can develop on] and has dealt well with supply chain issues.’ 

The shares are at £1.56, up 17 per cent on this time last year. 

Aberdeen’s Moore rates Galliford Try, recently buying more shares for his fund. The firm offers something a little different as it sold off its housebuilding business to focus on non-residential construction. 

‘We see growing evidence that Galliford Try has turned the corner in its finances,’ he says. ‘There is growing evidence of its success in generating cash and growing earnings.’ 

Moore believes that the company looks cheap, especially given the amount of cash sitting on its balance sheet. Galliford Try has also committed to achieving net zero carbon across its operations by 2030. Its shares are up 34 per cent in the past 12 months at £1.76.

Try funds that focus on housebuilding stocks 

Investors can also gain exposure to housebuilders through funds and investment trusts. This avoids the need to choose which to invest in and means you don’t have all your eggs in one basket. 

Jason Hollands, managing director at wealth platform BestInvest, says that many of the so-called value funds, which target out-offavour businesses, are currently snapping up housebuilders. 

Man GLG Income has 12 per cent of its holdings in UK housebuilders. Among its top ten holdings are Bellway, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments.

‘The latest fund update said that exposure to housebuilders had been a positive contributor [to the fund’s performance] during December,’ says McDermott. The fund has generated returns of 19.5 per cent over the past three years. 

Hollands likes Artemis UK Select, which buys undervalued growth companies, and has a 5.5 per cent holding in housebuilders. He is also a fan of Liontrust UK Ethical which has a 5.3 per cent holding. He says: ‘To put it in context, housebuilders represent about 3.5 per cent of the FTSE All-Share Index, so these are relatively bold positions.’ 

However you choose to invest in housebuilders, you need to be able to withstand a bumpy ride. Until the cladding scandal is fully resolved and inflation falls to more manageable levels, share prices could be volatile. 

Long term though, we all need somewhere to live, and these companies are sitting on huge cash piles. So even if they aren’t quite as safe as houses from an investment perspective, they’re a solid bet. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Shamed banker Antonio Horta-Osorio attended Euro 2020 final as well as Wimbledon when he breached Britain’s Covid rules last summer










Shamed banker Antonio Horta-Osorio attended the Euro 2020 final as well as Wimbledon when he breached Britain’s Covid rules last summer. 

The former boss of Lloyds Bank had a weekend of sporting fun in July, when he should have been at home isolating due to travel restrictions. 

It emerged late last year that Horta-Osorio, 57, had attended the Wimbledon finals on the weekend of July 10 and 11. 

Shamed: Antonio Horta-Osorio (pictured with wife, Ana) became chairman of Credit Suisse last summer

Shamed: Antonio Horta-Osorio (pictured with wife, Ana) became chairman of Credit Suisse last summer

But that same Sunday, it has been revealed, he also went to Wembley to watch Italy beat England in the final of the Euros, sources told the Financial Times. 

During both events Horta-Osorio, 57, should have been isolating, having jetted in to the country on a private plane. 

Horta-Osorio became chairman of Credit Suisse last summer. 

But he was forced to step down last weekend after the bank found out about his Wimbledon misdemeanour – plus another breach of Switzerland’s restrictions which occurred when he travelled to a wedding on the Iberian Peninsula at the start of December. 

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North risks being left behind in electric car revolution after data reveals that one London borough boasts more charging points than six cities combined










The North risks being left behind in Britain’s electric car revolution after Government data revealed that a single London borough boasts more charging points than six major cities combined. 

Westminster has 1,095 charging ports, which outstrips the 977 available in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham. 

London has over a third of the 21,925 devices in England. 

Running out of steam: Westminster has 1,095 charging ports, which outstrips the 977 available in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham

Running out of steam: Westminster has 1,095 charging ports, which outstrips the 977 available in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham

The data will fuel driver concerns over ‘range anxiety’ – the fear of driving an electric vehicle and running out of power. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in November that up to 145,000 charge points are to be installed across the country each year through to 2030, when a UK ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel car sales comes into effect. 

Ministers are trying to encourage drivers to switch to greener vehicles but concerns linger that infrastructure is not being built quickly enough to support the rapid growth of electric car ownership. 

Electric vehicles accounted for 26 per cent of total car sales in December. 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has warned that investment in public charging points has not kept pace with the surge in electric vehicle ownership. 

The DfT said £1.3billion has been pledged for more charge points. ‘We want as many people across the country to have the opportunity to make the switch to electric vehicles,’ it said. 

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Young investors have outperformed their older counterparts and professional investors since the start of the pandemic, according to a new study.

Investors aged between 18 and 24 outperformed all other age groups, enjoying a 22.8 per cent return since the start of the pandemic.

Those in the 24-34 and 35-44 year old age brackets were not far behind the youngest investors, returning 20 per cent and 19.2 per cent respectively in the two-year period. 

The data from investment platform Interactive Investor drilled into its customers’ performance by age group and compared them to the average fund. 

All three age groups beat the average customer portfolio return of 14.5 per cent over the same period and the FTSE All Share index which gained 6.7 per cent.

Older investors, aged over 65, by comparison returned 12.3 per cent over the two years and were more likely to opt for individual stocks like Glaxosmithkline and Astrazeneca.

Despite the meme stock phenomenon which sparked a new generation of investors, the research shows young investors did less share picking and focused on backing investment companies.

Interactive Investor has attributed younger investors’ success with this higher-than-average exposure to trusts – at 34 per cent on average for the age group versus an overall average of 23 per cent.

However, it may also reflect the trusts that they held, with popular names such as Scottish Mortgage scoring big returns through the pandemic. 

But while younger investors have performed well over two years, their outperformance stalled in 2021 and slipped slightly behind older investors.

Investors over the age of 65 returned 14.6 per cent in 2021, compared to 13.8 per cent for the average Interactive Investor customer and 13.1 per cent among 18-24 year olds.

Young investors have turned their back on individual stocks, instead opting for investment trusts which performed well last year

Young investors have turned their back on individual stocks, instead opting for investment trusts which performed well last year

The investment trust sector has proved to be a popular asset class for investors: data from the Association of Investment Companies shows the industry raised £14.8billion of new money last year.

The closed-ended structure has previously been overlooked by some everyday investors but it gives managers the opportunity to invest in illiquid assets like infrastructure and renewables which have proved popular in recent years.

Another benefit investors have found is that income is less lumpy than equities. 

Eleven trusts featured on the AIC’s ‘Dividend Heroes’ list for increasing their dividends for more than 40 consecutive years, including City of London Investment Trust and Alliance Trust.

AGE PERFORMANCE 
Column  24 month return 18 month return 12 month return 
18-24  22.8%  19.5%  13.1% 
25-34  20.0%  16.8%  12.9% 
35-44  19.2%  16.0%  12.7% 
45-54  16.6%  13.7%  13.1% 
55-64 14.1%  11.2% 13.4% 
65+  12.3%  8.6%  14.6% 
Source: Interactive Investor 

This is likely due to the higher exposure to equities among this age bracket: stocks made up 42.9 per cent of the portfolios of 65+ investors compared to 23.3 per cent among 18 to 24 year olds.

Interestingly, II said its average investor was not able to beat the FTSE All Share and FTSE 100 last year – which returned 18.3 per cent and 18.4 per cent respectively.

However, they still beat the professionals at their own game when compared to a multi-asset portfolio rather than one just invested in shares. The IA Mixed Investment 40-85 per cent Shares sector which was up just 11 per cent across the year.

Scottish Mortgage, Britain’s largest investment trust, was the most popular holding across all age groups.

Baillie Gifford’s flagship trust has returned 300 per cent over the past five years, while the FTSE All-Share Index has returned just 10 per cent over the same period.

However, the trust, which took early bets on Tesla and Amazon, has underperformed over the past six months and a further tech sell-off has seen its share price fall more than eight per cent since the start of the year.

While Tesla has remained a popular stock for Interactive Investor customers across all age brackets, they say individual stocks do not dominate the portfolios of 18-24 year olds.

However, this differs from data from fee-free share dealing app Freetrade, which has 1.2million UK customers, of which 27 per cent are between 18 and 25. Its investors can buy individual shares, investment trusts and ETFs.

Leading tech stocks like Apple and Amazon make up 50 per cent of the portfolios of all investors across all age groups, although younger investors seem to have adopted a ‘satellite and core approach’, with S&P tracker funds particularly popular.

Freetrade investors between 36 and 45 are the least risk averse with 60 per cent of the top buys being tech stocks, suggesting they are looking to maximise growth before shifting towards income as they approach retirement.

There were also some subtle variations between men and women’s performance, according to Interactive Investor.  Women performed slightly better than men in the past year – 13.9 per cent versus 13.7 per cent.

Since the start of the pandemic, women saw returns of 14.3 per cent just ahead of the 14.2 per cent earned by men, which the platform said could be because they had a higher exposure to investment trusts but differences in portfolios are minimal.

‘It’s encouraging to see that our customers have managed to navigate the ongoing market uncertainty since the start of the pandemic in 2020,’ said Interactive Investor boss Richard Wilson.

‘Over the 24 months of data collected, our customers have outperformed both the FTSE 100 and FTSE All Share, and our younger investors have demonstrated a particularly impressive performance, helping to pave the way for their longer-term financial security.’ 

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Many moons ago on a work trip to Tokyo I interviewed the head of Ito Yokado, one of Japan’s biggest supermarket and fast food chains, now part of the Seven & I group.

In exchange for granting an audience, the then chief executive, Masatoshi Ito himself, wanted to know from me how on earth Marks & Spencer managed to make such fabulous margins on its ready-made meals.

He was moving into convenience foods – one of the first in Japan to do so – and was desperate to know how M&S got away with charging such high prices for cheddar cheese topping on a baked potato.

Trusted: While M&S has had to trim back on margins, the profits on its convenience foods are still plump while the quality is one of the best to be found on the High Street

Trusted: While M&S has had to trim back on margins, the profits on its convenience foods are still plump while the quality is one of the best to be found on the High Street

Mr Ito wasn’t knocking M&S, but wanted clues so he could do the same. It was a good question then, when the group was the pioneer in ready-meals, and remains so today.

While M&S has had to trim back on margins, the profits on its convenience foods are still plump while the quality is one of the best to be found on the High Street.

And it’s these high standards in the food division which have powered M&S to be the fastest growing grocer over the Christmas period. 

With sales up 10 per cent, it reported its highest-ever revenue for the festive period, which will help it to make a healthy £500million for the year. 

As the company adverts repeatedly tell us, ‘This is not just food, it is M&S food.’ For once, the slogan may be right.

As other retailers are reporting as well, there is a big shift in how customers are shopping. It also looks as though M&S joined forces with Ocado in the nick of time as online sales – and in-store pick-ups – rose by just over 50 per cent. 

Sales were down in the stores by 10.8 per cent while stores in retail parks outperformed those in city centres.

What’s also interesting is that while the rest of the grocery trade is mainlining on price cuts, M&S has kept its head and so far avoided going into battle on pricing. Quite the reverse.

At the half-year stage, chief executive Steve Rowe made the point of saying that maintaining quality is core to its food business, and that it would be ending promotions on some lines and improving ‘Dine In’ meals to ensure customers maintain their perception of ‘trusted value’.

While it’s a horrible expression, the strategy makes sense. Despite recent problems, M&S is still one of the great legacy brands which customers do trust and will continue to do so. 

It also suggests quality will remain the Holy Grail, one which will feed into higher margins. Mr Ito would be pleased.

The big question now is whether the big US and UK private equity houses on the prowl for opportunities in the grocery market – especially the ones which missed out on Morrisons – will take another peek at M&S. If so, the shares, despite a strong rise in the past 12 months, are still looking rather cheap.

The Two Martins

A couple of the City’s biggest beasts are also on the prowl: The two Martins – Sorrell and Gilbert.

Former WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell is out hunting for deals again, having just snapped up the Californian-based data consultancy, 4 Mile Analytics, to add to the Media Monks subsidiary, part of his S4 Capital group.

Over at AssetCo, Martin Gilbert, founder of Aberdeen Asset Management, now known as Abrdn, has come out tops in the bidding war for boutique asset manager River & Mercantile, after Premier Miton Group pulled out.

The pair might be brilliant deal-makers but it’s time they renamed their businesses. S4 sounds like an ageing pop group and AssetCo is ditchwater dull, though at least both are better than Abrdn.

Despite Brexit

Remember Project Fear? How there would be a bloody exodus of talent from Britain and a mass migration of bankers from the City? There were warnings that 230,000 jobs would be lost because of Brexit while JP Morgan claimed it would have to move 4,000 roles.

Yet at the latest tally, around 7,000 financial jobs have gone elsewhere while JP Morgan has lost 400. Of course there are bound to be shake-outs, but that will be because of business evolving, rather than Brexit.

The prophecies of doom were always political, never based on financial, practical or geographic facts. While no-one wants to crow, the fact is that the general jobs market – and the City – are in fine shape. 

What’s more, headhunter Hays says Brexit has boosted opportunities for Brits, and that the UK is now one of the strongest recruitment markets in the world. Tant pis.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Britain’s ‘loneliest’ bat is found living in a cave amid fears its species was extinct… and now the hunt is on for a mate

  • Britain’s loneliest bat has been found living in Sussex cave searching for a mate
  • ‘Lonely Joe’, a greater mouse-eared bat, sighted over Christmas for first time
  • The male, last seen in 2019, is the last-known survivor of the species in the UK










It was the last known survivor of its species and had not been seen for two years, raising fears it had died.

But Britain’s loneliest bat has been found living in a Sussex cave – sparking off a search for a mate.

‘Lonely Joe’, a greater mouse-eared bat, was sighted over Christmas for the first time since 2019. 

The male, who was discovered as a baby in 2002, is the last-known survivor of the species in the UK, where it was previously declared extinct in 1992. 

‘Lonely Joe’, a greater mouse-eared bat, (pictured) was sighted over Christmas for the first time since 2019

‘Lonely Joe’, a greater mouse-eared bat, (pictured) was sighted over Christmas for the first time since 2019

He was found living in a Sussex cave – sparking off a search for a mate

He was found living in a Sussex cave – sparking off a search for a mate

Dr Fiona Mathews, biology professor and chairman of the Mammal Society, has called on the public to look out for greater mouse-eared bats.

She said: ‘There could be some hanging out in Sussex, Hampshire or Dorset. In Europe they are often found in stately homes, castles or large barns.’ 

Growing up to 8cm long and living as long as 35 years, the greater mouse-eared is the largest of Britain’s 11 bat species. Lonely Joe’s location is being kept secret over fears ‘nature tourists’ might disturb him.

Wine cellars, hidden corridors and attics would be the first places to look, in a hunt for the secretive bats.

Until the 1970s, a colony of 20 survived in tunnels under West Sussex, but they did not successfully breed and their numbers dwindled until in 2002 there was just one lonely bat left, thought to be the last hope for the species.

He was a baby when discovered so is now thought to be almost 20 years old.

Scientists believe that an undiscovered maternity roost had been lost, perhaps through development, refurbishment or fire, causing the last breeding area for the bats to be lost.  

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Aldi’s Christmas cheer as it vows to remain the country’s lowest priced supermarket










Aldi promised to remain the country’s lowest priced supermarket this year as it celebrated its best ever Christmas sales.

Chief executive Giles Hurley said budgeting would be the ‘top priority’ for most families as the country faces a cost of living crisis.

Living costs are rising due to soaring energy bills and higher prices of other goods. Families also face higher taxes.

 

Aldi was boosted by customers looking to shake off last year’s Covid-dominated Christmas by buying premium festive foods

The Bank of England expects inflation to hit 6 per cent by spring while analysts have warned that the energy bill price cap could jump by more than £700 in April.

National Insurance rates will rise in April, costing taxpayers an extra £12billion.

The average shop is also becoming more expensive as grocery prices jumped the most in December since spring 2020, rising by 3.5 per cent from a year earlier.

Hurley said: ‘The top priority for most families this year will be managing their household budgets in the face of rising living costs.

‘As the cheapest supermarket in Britain, Aldi will always offer the lowest prices for groceries, no matter what.’

The comments came as the German discounter said Christmas sales topped 2020 levels, which were boosted by strict lockdown rules.

In December it saw a 0.4 per cent uplift from 2020, and an 8.1 per cent increase from 2019. It said it was the UK’s fastest growing supermarket.

Aldi was boosted by customers looking to shake off last year’s Covid-dominated Christmas by buying premium festive foods.

Its ‘specially selected’ range saw its highest ever sales and overall the supermarket sold more than 43m mince pies, 21m pigs-in-blankets and 118m Brussels sprouts.

Sales were also buoyed by it opening 50 stores over the year, bringing its total to 950. Meanwhile, the upmarket northern supermarket chain Booths laid its own claim to having had the strongest Christmas, hailing its best ever festive sales.

Sales grew 6.5 per cent from a year earlier in the last three weeks of December as it was also boosted by shoppers looking to celebrate the lockdown-free holiday with champagne, cheese and mince pie sales soaring.

Mince pie sales were 8pc ahead of Christmas 2020 while champagne sales jumped 21 per cent and artisan cheese sales were up 17 per cent, the company said.

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Clear night skies are quite a rarity in Britain – but when the clouds do break, the cosmos is always ready to put on a show, as these incredible pictures reveal in mesmerising fashion.

They’re all taken by Dan Monk, 30, an astronomer and the Director of Astrophotography at Kielder Observatory in Northumberland.

One photograph captures the majesty of the Milky Way, which he explains is ‘roughly 100,000 light-years across’, while another illustrates the Andromeda Galaxy – a ‘collection of half a trillion stars’ – and a third shows the Comet Neowise passing the Earth at 144,000mph.

Dan, who is originally from Sunderland, started learning about the night sky in his teens and eventually turned to astrophotography as a way to see more stars. He says: ‘Although looking through a telescope is an amazing experience, the human eye can’t compare to the detail that a camera can “see”.’

Northumberland, the Lake District and Wales are among his favourite settings for celestial photographs in the UK. ‘There are currently 15 designated dark sky places in the UK as recognised by the International Dark Sky Association and The Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is the largest by area,’ he says. 

He continues: ‘The most exciting part of photographing the night sky is being able to expose yourself to breathtaking locations at night. Sitting under a dark sky surrounded by a serene landscape with the sound of the camera clicking and recording ancient photons of light is a magical experience.’ Scroll down to see awe-inspiring examples of Dan’s work… 

Look up and you'll see the Milky Way, as captured through Dan's lens. This striking picture was snared at Broad Haven South Beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales. According to Dan, the Milky Way is 'roughly 100,000 light-years across, meaning if you travelled at the speed of light it would take you 100,000 years to cross the galaxy'. He adds: 'The New Horizons spacecraft that was sent from Earth in 2006, travelling at over 36,000mph (57,936kph), took nine years to reach Pluto. It would take it two billion years to travel the diameter of the Milky Way'

Look up and you’ll see the Milky Way, as captured through Dan’s lens. This striking picture was snared at Broad Haven South Beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales. According to Dan, the Milky Way is ‘roughly 100,000 light-years across, meaning if you travelled at the speed of light it would take you 100,000 years to cross the galaxy’. He adds: ‘The New Horizons spacecraft that was sent from Earth in 2006, travelling at over 36,000mph (57,936kph), took nine years to reach Pluto. It would take it two billion years to travel the diameter of the Milky Way’

Another mesmerising shot of the Milky Way captured at Broad Haven South Beach. Describing the sky, Dan explains: 'Here we can see the core of our galaxy, known as the Galactic Centre. It is the brightest part of our galaxy due to the large population of stars. Right at the heart of the Galactic Centre sits a supermassive black hole which is over four million times the mass of our sun!'

Another mesmerising shot of the Milky Way captured at Broad Haven South Beach. Describing the sky, Dan explains: ‘Here we can see the core of our galaxy, known as the Galactic Centre. It is the brightest part of our galaxy due to the large population of stars. Right at the heart of the Galactic Centre sits a supermassive black hole which is over four million times the mass of our sun!’

This spectacular image shows the aurora borealis over the ruins of the 14th-century Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Dan says of the light show: 'It was a decent display with obvious structure visible to the naked eye.' Ever wondered what causes the aurora borealis? Dan reveals: 'The Northern Lights are caused by Earth-directed charged particles released from the sun that travel through space and then connect with Earth's magnetic field. The solar particles are then carried into the polar regions via the magnetic field which then end up interacting with gasses high in Earth's atmosphere producing the aurora.' As beautiful as they are, aurora displays are a rare occurrence in Britain, Dan reveals. He says: 'In the UK, the Northern Lights take perseverance to observe. Typically, we might see a handful of decent displays throughout the year, depending on solar activity. More northern latitudes, such as the north of Scotland, see them more frequently than northern England. We would see the lights more often if we didn’t have such gloomy weather!'

This spectacular image shows the aurora borealis over the ruins of the 14th-century Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Dan says of the light show: ‘It was a decent display with obvious structure visible to the naked eye.’ Ever wondered what causes the aurora borealis? Dan reveals: ‘The Northern Lights are caused by Earth-directed charged particles released from the sun that travel through space and then connect with Earth’s magnetic field. The solar particles are then carried into the polar regions via the magnetic field which then end up interacting with gasses high in Earth’s atmosphere producing the aurora.’ As beautiful as they are, aurora displays are a rare occurrence in Britain, Dan reveals. He says: ‘In the UK, the Northern Lights take perseverance to observe. Typically, we might see a handful of decent displays throughout the year, depending on solar activity. More northern latitudes, such as the north of Scotland, see them more frequently than northern England. We would see the lights more often if we didn’t have such gloomy weather!’

Behold - a 'starry sky' over Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Dan enjoyed a 'stunning clear sky' on the night that he captured this striking picture. According to Dan, the brightest lights in this image are 'stars that make up some of the prominent winter constellations'. Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda and Aries are visible, he reveals

Behold – a ‘starry sky’ over Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Dan enjoyed a ‘stunning clear sky’ on the night that he captured this striking picture. According to Dan, the brightest lights in this image are ‘stars that make up some of the prominent winter constellations’. Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda and Aries are visible, he reveals

Feast your eyes on the Geminids meteor shower of 2018, as captured at Sycamore Gap (of Robin Hood: Princes of Thieves fame) in Northumberland. The image is a composite of multiple images taken over three hours. Dan says: 'The Geminids are one of the most active showers of the year and under a dark sky you could potentially see one shooting star every one to two minutes, at its peak.' Explaining the science behind the celestial show, he says: 'The Geminid meteor shower has a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of up to 120 meteors per hour. This means if the radiant of the shower was directly overhead, you were in perfect dark skies with no moonlight, and you could look in every direction of the sky all at once, you’d see 120 per hour. This is impossible, but if the shower occurs on a moonless night, from a dark location you may see one meteor every one to two minutes on average.' Want to see them for yourself? Dan says: 'The Geminds peak on December 13 and 14 every year and are best viewed in the northern hemisphere due to the high radiant'

Feast your eyes on the Geminids meteor shower of 2018, as captured at Sycamore Gap (of Robin Hood: Princes of Thieves fame) in Northumberland. The image is a composite of multiple images taken over three hours. Dan says: ‘The Geminids are one of the most active showers of the year and under a dark sky you could potentially see one shooting star every one to two minutes, at its peak.’ Explaining the science behind the celestial show, he says: ‘The Geminid meteor shower has a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of up to 120 meteors per hour. This means if the radiant of the shower was directly overhead, you were in perfect dark skies with no moonlight, and you could look in every direction of the sky all at once, you’d see 120 per hour. This is impossible, but if the shower occurs on a moonless night, from a dark location you may see one meteor every one to two minutes on average.’ Want to see them for yourself? Dan says: ‘The Geminds peak on December 13 and 14 every year and are best viewed in the northern hemisphere due to the high radiant’

A shot of the 'shooting stars' during a Geminid meteor shower taken in 2020 in Northumberland. Dan describes the stunning snapshot as a 'composite image showing seven meteors caught during a one-hour timelapse'. He adds: 'I’d have loved more meteors but the clouds arrived!' Shedding light on the origins of meteors, Dan explains: 'Meteors are tiny grains of dust from our solar system that burn up high in Earth's atmosphere. They can be anywhere from 50 to 80 miles above Earth's surface'

A shot of the ‘shooting stars’ during a Geminid meteor shower taken in 2020 in Northumberland. Dan describes the stunning snapshot as a ‘composite image showing seven meteors caught during a one-hour timelapse’. He adds: ‘I’d have loved more meteors but the clouds arrived!’ Shedding light on the origins of meteors, Dan explains: ‘Meteors are tiny grains of dust from our solar system that burn up high in Earth’s atmosphere. They can be anywhere from 50 to 80 miles above Earth’s surface’

This incredible shot shows the Comet Neowise (also known as C/2020 F3) shooting through the sky in County Durham in July 2020. Dan spent five nights trying to capture the comet, and eventually enjoyed success early one morning when this composite image was captured. Dan explains: 'The speed of a comet changes dramatically due to their highly elliptical orbit. They slow down when further from the sun and speed up when near. When Comet Neowise was passing Earth it was travelling roughly 144,000 mph, twice the speed of Earth orbiting the sun'

This incredible shot shows the Comet Neowise (also known as C/2020 F3) shooting through the sky in County Durham in July 2020. Dan spent five nights trying to capture the comet, and eventually enjoyed success early one morning when this composite image was captured. Dan explains: ‘The speed of a comet changes dramatically due to their highly elliptical orbit. They slow down when further from the sun and speed up when near. When Comet Neowise was passing Earth it was travelling roughly 144,000 mph, twice the speed of Earth orbiting the sun’

This enchanting photograph shows a 'lone tree in a field' on the side of the A69 in Northumberland. Dan spotted the tree from his house and headed out to capture it. The most prominent constellation visible in the picture is Ursa Major, also known as ‘The Great Bear’, Dan reveals, though he notes that the most recognisable part of the constellation is 'The Plough' or 'Big Dipper'. Dan adds:'I took this image using a tilt-shift technique, which is where the stars gradually get more out of focus towards the top'

Northumberland was the setting for this poignant shot taken in the wake of Storm Arwen, which raged through England in late November 2021. Dan describes the picture as 'the calm after the storm', adding that 'Northumberland took a battering from Storm Arwen'. Dan recalls arriving at work after the storm and counting 70 fallen trees across the access track to the observatory. He adds: 'On the way back home I spotted this surviving tree alone in a field and I had to stop to take a snap.' What can we see in the sky? Dan reveals: 'This part of the Milky Way is known as the Cygnus Region, which is rich in ionised clouds of hydrogen that typically sit thousands of light-years from Earth. You can see them as reddish/pink blotches in the image.' He adds: 'Astrophotographers like to use special hydrogen filters that isolate the light emitted from these regions which helps them stand out'

LEFT: This enchanting photograph shows a ‘lone tree in a field’ on the side of the A69 in Northumberland. Dan spotted the tree from his house and headed out to capture it. The most prominent constellation visible in the picture is Ursa Major, also known as ‘The Great Bear’, Dan reveals, though he notes that the most recognisable part of the constellation is ‘The Plough’ or ‘Big Dipper’. Dan adds: ‘I took this image using a tilt-shift technique, which is where the stars gradually get more out of focus towards the top.’ RIGHT: Northumberland was the setting for this poignant shot taken in the wake of Storm Arwen, which raged through England in late November 2021. Dan describes the picture as ‘the calm after the storm’, adding that ‘Northumberland took a battering from Storm Arwen’. Dan recalls arriving at work after the storm and counting 70 fallen trees across the access track to the observatory. He adds: ‘On the way back home I spotted this surviving tree alone in a field and I had to stop to take a snap.’ What can we see in the sky? Dan reveals: ‘This part of the Milky Way is known as the Cygnus Region, which is rich in ionised clouds of hydrogen that typically sit thousands of light-years from Earth. You can see them as reddish/pink blotches in the image.’ He adds: ‘Astrophotographers like to use special hydrogen filters that isolate the light emitted from these regions which helps them stand out’

Cast your eye above and you'll see a breathtaking picture of the Milky Way over the 16th-century Lindisfarne Castle on Northumberland's Holy Island. 'It was my first visit to Holy Island and to the impressive Lindisfarne Castle,' Dan recalls. 'It’s very photogenic at all angles - I couldn’t stop running around with the camera.' Describing the dark ribbon across the sky, Dan says: 'The plane of the Milky Way is filled with gas and dust. The gas and dust can be regions of star formation or leftover material from dead stars. Our galaxy has a high concentration of carbonaceous dust which can be seen as a huge dark rift in the plane of the Milky Way, blocking the light from distant stars'

Cast your eye above and you’ll see a breathtaking picture of the Milky Way over the 16th-century Lindisfarne Castle on Northumberland’s Holy Island. ‘It was my first visit to Holy Island and to the impressive Lindisfarne Castle,’ Dan recalls. ‘It’s very photogenic at all angles – I couldn’t stop running around with the camera.’ Describing the dark ribbon across the sky, Dan says: ‘The plane of the Milky Way is filled with gas and dust. The gas and dust can be regions of star formation or leftover material from dead stars. Our galaxy has a high concentration of carbonaceous dust which can be seen as a huge dark rift in the plane of the Milky Way, blocking the light from distant stars’

This stunning picture shows 'the Milky Way breaking through the summer twilight over the Isle of Man'. Dan was positioned on the southwest coast of Scotland when he captured the photograph. 'I wasn’t intending on going for this shot, but I quite liked the effect from the pockets of light pollution coming from the island,' he says. When it comes to stargazing, the camera can capture far more than the human eye, Dan reveals. He says: 'The unaided human eye, when fully dark-adapted, can see roughly 2,500 - 3,000 stars in one hemisphere. When taking a long exposure using a highly sensitive camera sensor, that number is increased into the millions. The Milky Way structure also becomes brighter and more prominent than seen with the naked eye'

This stunning picture shows ‘the Milky Way breaking through the summer twilight over the Isle of Man’. Dan was positioned on the southwest coast of Scotland when he captured the photograph. ‘I wasn’t intending on going for this shot, but I quite liked the effect from the pockets of light pollution coming from the island,’ he says. When it comes to stargazing, the camera can capture far more than the human eye, Dan reveals. He says: ‘The unaided human eye, when fully dark-adapted, can see roughly 2,500 – 3,000 stars in one hemisphere. When taking a long exposure using a highly sensitive camera sensor, that number is increased into the millions. The Milky Way structure also becomes brighter and more prominent than seen with the naked eye’

Dan calls this picture 'The Road to the Milky Way'. The composite shot shows the Milky Way over the Kielder Viaduct, a 19th-century bridge in Northumberland. 'In the UK, the galactic centre [of the Milky Way] is in the best position for us to view in the summer, but the light summer nights prohibit our views,' Dan explains, adding: 'The best times to see it are before we lose astronomical darkness in mid May and when astronomical darkness returns in late July.' He adds: 'To get the best view of the night sky it’s important to travel as far as possible from the artificial lighting that plagues urban areas. City lights shroud the fainter stars which dramatically reduces the amount of stars that the human eye is capable of seeing'

The above photograph shows a tree on the side of Northumberland's Military Road silhouetted by the Milky Way. Dan adds: 'Just to the left of the Milky Way there’s a small elongated fuzzy patch. This is the Andromeda Galaxy which is a collection of half a trillion stars, 2.5million light-years away!' The photograph is a 20-second exposure, Dan reveals, adding: 'The longer the camera sensor is exposed to light, the brighter the Milky Way will become. Taking exposures of 10 to 30 seconds is typical for a nightscape'

LEFT: Dan calls this picture ‘The Road to the Milky Way’. The composite shot shows the Milky Way over the Kielder Viaduct, a 19th-century bridge in Northumberland. ‘In the UK, the galactic centre [of the Milky Way] is in the best position for us to view in the summer, but the light summer nights prohibit our views,’ Dan explains, adding: ‘The best times to see it are before we lose astronomical darkness in mid May and when astronomical darkness returns in late July.’ He adds: ‘To get the best view of the night sky it’s important to travel as far as possible from the artificial lighting that plagues urban areas. City lights shroud the fainter stars which dramatically reduces the amount of stars that the human eye is capable of seeing.’ RIGHT: The above photograph shows a tree on the side of Northumberland’s Military Road silhouetted by the Milky Way. Dan adds: ‘Just to the left of the Milky Way there’s a small elongated fuzzy patch. This is the Andromeda Galaxy which is a collection of half a trillion stars, 2.5million light-years away!’ The photograph is a 20-second exposure, Dan reveals, adding: ‘The longer the camera sensor is exposed to light, the brighter the Milky Way will become. Taking exposures of 10 to 30 seconds is typical for a nightscape’

Above you'll see a beautiful snapshot of the Milky Way over Buttermere lake in Cumbria's Lake District. 'This part of the Milky Way runs through the constellations Aquila and Scutum,' Dan says, adding: 'It has a prominent rift of dust which is easily visible to the naked eye from a dark sky site.' According to the astronomer, one of the biggest challenges in astrophotography is 'cloudy weather'. He says: 'Unfortunately, perfectly clear nights in the UK are few and far between. Astro images usually take a lot of planning.' Describing the conditions that he endures when out photographing, Dan says: 'The winter months can be tough when I’m out until the early hours in temperatures as low as -10 degrees, but overcompensating with warm clothing does the job'

Above you’ll see a beautiful snapshot of the Milky Way over Buttermere lake in Cumbria’s Lake District. ‘This part of the Milky Way runs through the constellations Aquila and Scutum,’ Dan says, adding: ‘It has a prominent rift of dust which is easily visible to the naked eye from a dark sky site.’ According to the astronomer, one of the biggest challenges in astrophotography is ‘cloudy weather’. He says: ‘Unfortunately, perfectly clear nights in the UK are few and far between. Astro images usually take a lot of planning.’ Describing the conditions that he endures when out photographing, Dan says: ‘The winter months can be tough when I’m out until the early hours in temperatures as low as -10 degrees, but overcompensating with warm clothing does the job’

The Simonside Hills, a hill range in Northumberland, were the setting for this magical shot of the Milky Way. Describing his clifftop perch in the photograph, Dan admits that it was 'scary standing on the edge of a cliff at night.' Where is the sun in relation to the Milky Way? Dan explains: 'Our solar system is 26,000 light-years from the centre of the Milky Way. It takes 250 million years for The Sun to do a single orbit of the galaxy'

Above you'll see the Milky Way over Cawfields Quarry, a park in Northumberland. Dan says: 'Gazing up at the Milky Way from a tranquil countryside location really helps put life into perspective. Thinking of the countless possibilities in space and time make you realise that you’re just an infinite blip in the cosmic timescale.' While the entire Milky Way has 200 to 400 billion stars within it, according to Dan, here 'we are looking at a relatively small section that could contain tens of billions of stars'

LEFT: The Simonside Hills, a hill range in Northumberland, were the setting for this magical shot of the Milky Way. Describing his clifftop perch in the photograph, Dan admits that it was ‘scary standing on the edge of a cliff at night.’ Where is the sun in relation to the Milky Way? Dan explains: ‘Our solar system is 26,000 light-years from the centre of the Milky Way. It takes 250 million years for The Sun to do a single orbit of the galaxy.’ RIGHT: Above you’ll see the Milky Way over Cawfields Quarry, a park in Northumberland. Dan says: ‘Gazing up at the Milky Way from a tranquil countryside location really helps put life into perspective. Thinking of the countless possibilities in space and time make you realise that you’re just an infinite blip in the cosmic timescale.’ While the entire Milky Way has 200 to 400 billion stars within it, according to Dan, here ‘we are looking at a relatively small section that could contain tens of billions of stars’



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The ruckus over customers being given heat saving tips by energy suppliers disguises a bigger problem – that British homes are among the most poorly built and leakiest in western Europe.

So when the cold weather does set in – and energy prices spike as they have done over the past few months – households face a big hike in heating bills.

As well as lousy Government policy on the energy price cap, much of the blame should also be laid at the door of Britain’s big housebuilders, which for decades have been putting up low-quality housing.

Lagging behind: Too many homes built in the UK over the past 50 years are in the dark ages compared to those on the continent where double, if not triple glazing is par for the course

Lagging behind: Too many homes built in the UK over the past 50 years are in the dark ages compared to those on the continent where double, if not triple glazing is par for the course

They have been allowed to get away with such poor standards on all aspects of building – from insulation to quality of workmanship – because of lax Government regulations.

Too many homes built in the UK over the past 50 years are in the dark ages compared to those on the continent where double, if not triple glazing, and underfloor heating are par for the course.

Who can forget the damning Dispatches TV programme two years ago about the hundreds of new-builds by Persimmon, our second biggest builder, which had multiple defects from no fire safety barriers to wobbling walls? Yet Persimmon had a five-star rating from the Home Builders Federation.

Which is why all the various plans afoot by the Government to help customers with energy bills in coming months are just sticking plaster, and missing the bigger issue.

It’s only by insisting that developers build to the highest levels in the future, and by helping homeowners improve insulation, that we will get anywhere close to solving the problem.

Households could save at least £500 a year with better insulation, according to the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group.

As well as a proper grown-up energy policy, the Government should be working fast to devise workable insulation schemes rather than the various gimmicky ones it usually comes up with. 

The last one, the Green Homes Plan, lasted six months. Until then, it’s worth taking on board the Ovo Energy tips to its customers to help save on heating, which have had to be withdrawn because they are deemed offensive.

Contrary to public opinion, they are eminently sensible: eating porridge for breakfast, putting on another jumper and doing a couple of star jumps are just common sense.

Supermarket cheap

As shoppers are fast finding out, a little Lidl goes a long way.

The German discounter claims to be the UK’s fastest growing bricks-and-mortar supermarket after great Christmas sales.

In the four weeks to December 26, Lidl reports sales rose 2.6 per cent, mainly because so many customers switched from other supermarkets because of its competitive pricing.

What Lidl failed to show though – like its German arch-rival Aldi – is whether the sales increase came from existing stores or its recently opened ones.

This would be pertinent to how sales are doing overall, as eight stores opened in December alone. Lidl also boasts that sales over the past two years are up by 21 per cent.

Yet Lidl’s claim that it is the fastest-growing supermarket during the festive season is under challenge as grocery tracker Nielsen suggests that Marks & Spencer was the fastest-growing food retailer, with a 9.4 per cent rise in sales over the past three months, while sales at Lidl were up 8.5 per cent.

Sounds to me rather like there is a lot of splitting of hairs going on as to who has done the best. 

But this fierce competition can only be good for the shopper in terms of prices. Such is the competition that Lidl has even promised that it will remain the lowest-cost destination.

Tesco and Sainsbury’s are now due to give their updates, so we will get a fuller picture of the overall sector. 

What is clear is that total food sales were up over the festive period and Nielsen forecast Britons spent £7billion on food in the two weeks to Christmas. In contrast, online non-food sales were down by a sharp 14 per cent in December.

Hardly a surprise, with most customers still stuck in semi-lockdown WFH limbo.

Lawyers beware

Don’t be envious that newly qualified lawyers are being offered £150,000 a year as a starting salary. Most of the firms paying these big bucks are American.

Paradoxically, one of the reasons they are having to fork out so much is that so many young lawyers are leaving: all part of what is being called the Great Resignation.

The reason they are leaving is because they are burnt out and overworked.

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