A cookie is a very simple text file that gets downloaded onto your computer, tablet or phone when you visit a website. They generally contain two bits of information: a site name and a unique user ID. Once the cookie is on your computer, the site “knows” that you have been there before and can then use that knowledge to tailor the experience that you have.

Cookies are used for many different functions – including essential functionality, such as storing items in a shopping cart and for authentication and security – and non-essential functionality, such as recording how many people are visiting a website, personalising content, targeting advertising and recording user preferences.

A new EU law, in effect from 26th May 2012 in the UK, requires websites to state when they are using non-essential cookies, and allow the user to decline non-essential cookies. This is why you will have seen a banner at the top of the page the first time you have visited this website after this date, giving you the option to decline non-essential cookies should you wish.

For more information on cookies, please click here (http://www.allaboutcookies.org/).