Travel Here’s looking at yew: the Borrowdale trees

The continuous ridge of russet, stone-strewn lakeland mountain encircles a valley floor as flat as a paddy field. Lights of farms are beginning to spark and the cries of tawny owls reverberate around the bowl of darkening fells. In the distance, sunset pinks the snow-dusted peak of Glaramara. It is a suitable stage to approach the most notable trees of northern England.

Almighty pod: Skye Gyngell cooks with cardamom

More potent than its size suggests, the tiny cardamom is equally good in sweet and savoury dishes. And, says Skye Gyngell, its aniseedy flavour is utterly irresistible

The root of the problem: Britain's trees are under threat from a disease that has a dark history

Samuel Muston discovers the deadly past of the pathogen that is blighting our forests

Top tips for cutting costs in the New Year

The streets are littered with the remnants of Christmas – browning pine trees and binbags bursting with tinsel and shredded wrapping paper.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Just another day in paradise

In the necklace of islands that make up St Vincent and the Grenadines, picture-postcard beaches and encounters with turtles are simply part of life

Deck the halls: The best Christmas decorations are to be found in the garden

The most startling snow is the kind that sticks to twigs and branches so that everything in the garden is etched in an unusually graphic way. Along with the rest of the country, we had that snow in the early part of the month and it made a landscape that wasn't completely monochrome, but almost, with thick white lines marking the tracery of the hazels and small scoops of snow piled like ice-cream in the upright, open seedpods of the Regale lilies.

Here's to the early years: The Pre-school Learning Alliance's playgroups are facing an uncertain future

By rights, it should have been Belle Tutaev's three-year-old daughter, Mary, who was credited with the founding of the pre-school playgroup movement. "She wanted friends," her mother, now aged 81, recalls. "We lived in central London in a flat. We only saw children going past our window and on to school." Her elder brother, Christopher, aged seven, was already at school and Mary felt left out. "I tried to find out if there was anything available but I was told that because we were not in a needy family, there would not be much support for us."

Pucker up, it's a bumper year for mistletoe

It may not be around for future generations, so we should enjoy the rites of this native plant while we can, writes Jonathan Brown

Sleight of land: The creator of Painshill was a one-man expenses scandal

Luckily for visitors to this Surrey gem, his deceptions live on

Going with the grain: A new wave of craftsmen is seeking to capture the magic of old timbers and rustic beams

Adrian Swinstead's showpiece table – a toughened glass disk resting on three gnarled and gleaming black oak pillars, broad as elephant legs – exemplifies the delight he takes in making ancient history part of contemporary furniture design. A delight that began 15 years ago when a sculptor friend introduced him to the jet dark bog oak, rarely used by other furniture makers, that has, since, become a "passion" and central focus in many of his cabinets, cupboards, benches and tables .

Longleat Estate: From little acorns, mighty oaks grow

One of my favourite areas of woodland is the Longleat Estate in Wiltshire, near Warminster. It is probably better known for its safari park, but that's not for me. Since January 2009, Longleat has also been home to 200 oak trees planted as a growing monument to the evolutionary thinker Charles Darwin.

Dylan Jones: 'One ancient hollow Baobab tree in Zimbabwe is so large that up to 40 people can shelter inside it'

Oh dear. I have fallen in love again. This time with a tree. A deciduous tree. The African Baobab (Adansonia digitata) is often called the upside-down tree, as its branches look like enormous roots. Others have called it the Tree of Life as it's capable of providing shelter, food and water for the animal and human inhabitants of the African savannah regions where it grows. But it will always be the upside-down tree to me.

Report highlights threat to biodiversity

A fifth of the world's mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians are under threat of extinction, a major report warned today as governments continued to discuss efforts to tackle losses to the natural world.

A magnificent forest. But the Government may wield the axe

Michael McCarthy goes down to the woods, the latest target for the Coalition's cuts

Starter's orders: A beginner's kit of plants and bulbs for creating your first garden

When I was young (despite Freud's credo), the thing that I most envied my brother was his Meccano set. The first kit contained most of the basic struts, screws and other components necessary for simple skeleton constructions. Subsequent sets added cogs, axles, wheels and arcs to fill in the gaps and put together more complicated creations.

Simone Kane: I talk to the trees. Well, now's their chance to answer back

Autumn is an appropriate moment for visitors to take a bite out of the new Talking Trees Trail, an apple orchard tour just launched by the National Trust at Cotehele in the Tamar Valley, Cornwall (nationaltrust.org.uk/cotehele).

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
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On your feet!

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Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
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German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

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