Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Last updated: 31st March 2020

Following the Government’s announcement asking everyone to stay at home, we’re making some changes to the way we work to make sure we’re looking after our people and our customers. We’re setting up as many of our colleagues as possible to work from home, but this will take a few days.

In the short-term, we’re only accepting new business online. That means new customers can’t buy insurance over the phone.

Existing customers: Please don’t phone unless it’s absolutely necessary.

We need to prioritise:

  • Customers who have an urgent claim, for example your car is undrivable following an accident, you are injured, or your home is uninhabitable.
  • Customers who can’t pay now as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, call us - we want to help you.

If you have questions about your renewal or want to make a change to your policy, you can use our virtual assistant. If your policy is due to renew in the next week and you haven’t opted for auto-renewal, please call us. If you have opted for auto-renewal, please make sure your insurance still meets your needs.

For more information and frequently asked questions about COVID-19, go to our Coronavirus help and support page.

Preventing winter damage – garden protection tips

The winter can be a dangerous time for your garden. By taking some simple steps in the autumn you can ensure your garden will survive the worst winter can throw at you.

Winter garden protection

Preventing winter damage is an important part of gardening. If you don’t put any protective measures in place you will leave your garden at the mercy of the cold, wet and windy weather. Even hardy plants need protecting from the winter, and evergreen plants and pot plants need particular attention. Adding shelters, staking plants, mulching and wrapping pots can reduce the risk of damage to your trees, shrubs and structures.

Frost protection

When to protect

Before there is a sign of frost you need to get your protection in place. Protective wrappings made of fleece, hessian, bracken, straw or polystyrene can be used to insulate plants, and you should get these in place between September and November.

Cultivation practices for specific plants can be adjusted from mid-summer, and positioning plants for the long-term or planting shelter belts can be done at any point in the year.

Tip one: smarter cultivation

Protection through cultivation will give you a long-term solution to possible winter damage. It will give you more efficient yields season after season and help you to save time and money.

The following tips will help you to improve your garden protection:

  • Feeding – Make sure you avoid nitrogen-rich fertilisers in the winter as these can cause sappy growth.
  • Soil cover – Without soil cover, like green manures, leaching of nutrients can occur.
  • Mulching – This will help you to avoid soil erosion and compaction that can occur after heavy rain.
  • Plant in a sheltered spot – It’s important to remember that your garden has its own microclimate. Some areas will be warmer than others, some will be wetter. Make sure you choose plants for each area carefully.
  • Keep early flowering plants away from morning sun – Plants such as Magnolias and Camellias need to be kept away from morning sun in the winter because rapid thawing can lead to bud drop.
  • Containers – These need to be kept in dry, sheltered locations and ideally grouped together.

Tip two: check structures

Before the winter hits you should carry out a thorough check of your garden structures and replace any damaged panels, posts and fences. Fitting solid fences with wind-permeable ones is a great way of avoiding damage caused by gusting, turbulence and shaking.

Windbreaks also help to protect plants in open spaces. These can take the shape of hurdles, netting or stout posts which are great short-term solutions. Planting a hedge can be a better long-term option.

Tip three: improve drainage

Wet soil can be a big danger to young or shallow-rooted trees as it makes them more likely to uproot during strong winds. Digging organic matter into your soil will help to improve the drainage. It’s also a good idea to build raised beds and keep control of the soil within the beds, allowing them to drain better. If you have the time and budget you can install porous pipes.

Tip four: shake off excess snow

If you get a heavy fall of snow this winter there is a danger of branches breaking. Shake off excess snow as it starts to build up on branches, and prune hedges to taper at the top to minimise snow damage.