2014 Chester Duck Race

September 22nd, 2014
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Laughter filled the streets of Chester this Saturday as the 2014 Chester Duck Race kicked off on the River Dee. Hundreds of people turned up in support of the Babygrow Appeal ready to watch the 5,000 rubber ducks and 70 corporate ducks take to the water!

The Sykes team turned out in force to cheer on our star racer, Nigel the Duck. Although Nigel didn’t win he was really pleased with his performance saying that all his hard work and training had definitely paid off. The winner of this year’s corporate duck race was Frank the Boiler Repair Man, a fantastic duck who had the lead on his competition right from the off.

Along with the corporate duck race there was also 5,000 mini ducks released to race down the river, a number of baked goods, knitted crafts on sale and some wonderful choir performances by  the children of St Werburgh and St Columba’s who really sang their hearts out.

The day was a big success and a lot of fun. The team here at Sykes Cottages would like to say a huge thank you and congratulations to Lesley, Janet, Angie and all the volunteers involved in making the event happen; they have worked really hard and raised almost £20,000 for the Babygrow Appeal.

We’ve attached some of our favourite pictures from Saturday below for you to browse through and remember, you can make a donation to the Babygrow Appeal at any time by simply visiting their just giving page.

The corporate ducks on display before the big race.

The corporate ducks on display before the big race.

Some of the fantastic volunteers who gave up their Saturday for a great cause.

Some of the fantastic volunteers who gave up their Saturday to help out with the event

The corporate ducks getting ready to make a splash

The corporate ducks getting ready to make a splash

Corporate ducks making their way down the river. Can you spot Nigel?

Corporate ducks making their way down the river. Can you spot Nigel?

There he is, giving us a wave as he heads towards the finish line

There he is, giving us a wave as he heads towards the finish line

This little guy needed a little extra help

This little guy needed a little extra help

Mini ducks getting ready to dive in!

Mini ducks getting ready to dive in!

Sink or swim time for the mini ducks.

Sink or swim time for the mini ducks.

There they go, 5,000 mini ducks take the plunge

There they go, 5,000 mini ducks take the plunge

Riding the wave; mini ducks make their way towards the finish line.

Riding the wave; mini ducks make their way towards the finish line.

nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her fiancé.

The UK’s Best Service Stations

September 21st, 2014
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When I initially suggested the idea of a blog post about service stations, it took quite a bit of convincing the rest of the team! ‘Who would want to read that?’ they asked. Eventually, with the promise that I would give my findings a bit of the Sykes Cottages treatment (think heritage, stunning views and picnics), my colleagues agreed to a post about service stations being written and I was more than happy to take the reins. Service stations aren’t known for their charm, and making a visit to one is often a necessity rather than a choice, but there are a few gems around; read on to see where you can find them.

Motorway Service Station with the Best Views

Tebay Service Station View

The view from Tebay Service Station Image via Flickr

Tebay services in the Lake District is the ideal rest stop for stunning views that are a change from the continuous tarmac and brake lights of the motorway. The building of the station backs on to a lake, which gives an amazing view that even the weariest of travellers will appreciate!

Motorway Service Station with the Best Loos

Cleanest Loo

Image via Flickr

Perhaps not the most glamorous of topics discussed on the Sykes Cottages blog, but nevertheless a clean loo can make or break a service station – or anywhere really. To discover the best service station loo in the UK I headed straight to the source, so to speak, the Loo of the Year awards website. The current holder of the best motorway loo accolade is Cambridge Extra Services on the M11 who show a high quality of cleanliness. Well done!

Motorway Service Station with the Best Food Choices

Bread

Image via Flickr

When you think of motorway service station food you instantly think of food that is greasy, fast and quite overpriced. That is often still the case, but there are a few service stations that are looking to change this and provide hungry travellers with local, wholesome food! Gloucester Services on the M5 is one of these service stations, which tantalises travellers taste buds with artisan breads, seasonal fruit juices and homemade pies amongst others.

Motorway Service Station with the most Unique Aspect

Happendon Services

Image via Flickr

Not only is Happendon service station in Cairn Lodge one of the cheapest motorway stop-offs around, it was also once the location of Douglas Castle. If you head around the back of the service station you will find the fantastic remains of the castle which used to house the powerful medieval family, the Douglases. More recently, the remains of the castle stand proudly at the service station, giving a nice backdrop for tired drivers to replenish their batteries.

Motorway Service Station with the Best Place to Stop for a Picnic

Picnic

Image via Flickr

Mostly due to its incredible views, Killington Lake service station on the M6 southbound is arguably the best UK service station to stop off for a picnic. With picnic tables placed alongside the lake you can take in the views whilst you have a break from driving. Perfect!

So there we have it, five of the best service stations that our motorways have to offer! Do you have a particular service station that you always stop off at? Have you ever visited one of the above? Let us know via twitter or facebook, we’d love to know!

Leanne Dempsey

By Leanne Dempsey

A lover of reading, eating and shopping Leanne will often be found spending time with her two pugs or snapping away on instagram. A big fan of the city, She likes nothing more than getting away for a weekend break in the UK, her favourite places being London and Bath.

Why You Need to Attend the Egremont Crab Fair

September 20th, 2014
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The Egremont Crab Fair was established way back in 1267 and is still the most highly anticipated event in Cumbria’s calendar; with impressive cart racing and disturbing gurning, this fair is a true British delight, one that shouldn’t be missed! In honour of this year’s fair we’ve thrown together the top five reasons why you need to attend this entertaining event.

1. The raising of the greasy pole

raising of the pole

At dawn on the fist day of Egremont Crab Fair, the greasy pole is raised at the Market Cross; the pole is nearly 30ft tall and greased to make it harder to climb. Youngsters from the town will climb the pole tearing off ribbons at the lower levels to exchange for prizes in the town. The person who reaches the top of the pole first will win the grand prize!

2. It’s all about the gurning…

Egremont Crab Fiar winner

… and here is the current World Champion, Tommy Mattinson, showing us how it’s done! As the highlight of the fair, gurning is a highly competitive sport in Egremont where competitors are challenged  to pull a grotesque face whilst placing their face through a horse collar.

3. Fancy an apple?

1962's Parade of the Apple cart

Traditionally known as the ‘Scattering of Apples’, the Parade of the Apple Cart is one of the fair’s longest running traditions. Originally started when the Lord of Egremont would scatter crab apples amongst the children in the town. A sweeter apple is now used in the Parade with men, women and the Crab Fair Queen throwing them out to the crowd.

4. How about a spot of wrestling?

cumberland wrestling

Cumberland wrestling that is! A great spectator sport, well unless you fancy falling flat on your back in the middle of a field. Cumberland wrestling is when you lock hands behind your opponents back and try to throw them to the ground, the wrestler that lands face up on the ground loses.

5. Smoking the pipe

smoking

During this competition each adult is given a pipe which has been filled with black twist tobacco, the winner of the competition is the competitor who smokes his tobacco in the quickest time.

There are many more reasons to visit the fair including children’s races, live music and local ale. For more information on this event, the location and its history, be sure to visit the Egremont Crab fair website. They also have a Facebook and Twitter page where you can send in your best gurning pictures using the hashtag #tweetyourGurn!

All of the images for this blog were taken from the Egremont Crab Fair Facebook account. 

nicole.westley

By Nicole Westley

As a food lover Nicole can often be found in the kitchen, covered in flour and experimenting with new tastes! When not making a mess she loves to explore her Celtic roots by roaming the Scottish countryside or exploring the bays along the Anglesey coast with her fiancé.

Avast me hearties! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day

September 19th, 2014
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Ahoy land lubber, Blogbeard here. Today be Talk Like a Pirate Day, and to mark the occasion, the scurvy dogs at Sykes Cottages have been busy dishin’ the dirt on Blighty’s most notorious pirate haunts.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

As a humble gentlemen of fortune, I don’t claim to be an expert in all things swashbuckler. But what I do know is that England was birthplace to more morally-questionable buccaneers than any other country in Europe. The question is, where did these roguish sea-goers drop anchor on their return to Britain? We’ve been finding out with a little help from our resident pirate, Blogbeard.

Bristol

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

With its ancient harbour and favourable location on England’s west coast, Bristol was popular with pirates. Take a walk near the city’s historic harbour, and it’s easy to imagine galleon sails blowing in the breeze. Not only was Bristol a popular port for illicit activities, it was birthplace to one of the most notorious pirates in history; Blackbeard. Murderous, evil and down-right bad-ass, Blackbeard was no Jack Sparrow, choosing to murder, steal and trade slaves rather than prance about with a bottle of rum. Although by no means a nice chap, Blackbeard’s legacy is one of the most romanticised versions of piracy that exists today – god only knows why.

London

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

As a rule, pirates were probably glad to see the back of London. The 18th century saw an increase in security around England’s dockyards, due in part to the huge rise in smuggling along the English coast. This made the capital, as well as other large ports, a dicey place for the seafaring scally. London in particular, was home to Execution Dock, a grizzly wharf where unfortunate buccaneers were put to death. After being publically disposed of, the corpses were coated in tar, locked into cages and hung from cranes in full view of passing sailors as a warning.

Plymouth

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Birthplace to the ‘king among pirates’ Henry John Avery, Plymouth was another popular place for pirates to drop anchor and make ashore with their doubloons. Its location on the Devon coast made it accessible for voyages to the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, but also made it an easy target for foreign pirates to pillage English goods. One such plucky brigand was Jean Bart, a French pirate who made a famous escape from Plymouth in a small rowing boat, and amazingly made it to the shores of France unscathed.

Whitby

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Take one look at Whitby and you’ll be daydreaming about pirates. This ancient town on the North Yorkshire coast may not have been the biggest pirate cove in England, but its residents have kept the romanticism and legacy of piracy alive to this day. Whitby and its surrounding villages were more popular with local smugglers than notorious buccaneers, but the odd one did stop by now and again to decant their exotic wares. If you’re travelling to Whitby, why not visit when the annual Pirate Festival takes place? You’ll get to dress up, eat grub, and swap a tale or two from the high seas. Plus, it’s for a good cause, so why not eh?

Avast sea-dog, here be cottages!

Abandon hope all ye who enter a Sykes holiday cottage. These beauties will have you hook, line and sinker faster than a siren from the sea. With hundreds of coastal cottages up and down ‘ar fair Isle, you’d be a bilge rat to miss out!

Jonathan Tuplin

By Jonathan Tuplin

Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.

The Scottish Referendum: How The UK’s Landscape Could Have Changed

September 19th, 2014
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The polls are closed, the votes have been tallied and it has been confirmed: Scotland is staying in the United Kingdom! There was a lot of talk during the run up to the referendum regarding politics and how various policies would change, which is rightfully so, however we thought that we would take a look at the more geographical changes and how statistically the UK’s physical landscape would have changed if the vote were a yes. Take a look at our nifty, easy to read graphic to see how the UK would have changed if it had lost it’s highland crown.

United-UK-Geography

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How The UK’s Landscape Could Have Changed

The campaigning is over, the polls have closed, the votes have been counted and Scotland is still a part of the United Kingdom! We were all told about the possible changes to the political landscape of the UK but what about the statistical, geographic ones? Here are a few of the things we would have lost here in the United Kingdom had Scotland become an independent country.

We could have been shorter

Without Ben Nevis, the UK would have been 854 foot shorter…

This is equivalent to 366 Shetland Ponies stood on top of each other.

We could have been shallower

If we would have lost the deepest body of water, Loch Morar, which is 310 metres at its deepest point, the UK would have been a little shallower… Even The Shard, the highest building in the European Union is smaller than this, standing at 306 metres.

We could have lost most of our coast

The UK coastline stretches for 19,895 miles however 11,550 of those miles are from the coast of Scotland…

This is equivalent to travelling from London to New York, a 3452 mile journey, three times with some miles left to spare!

We could have had fewer national parks

The UK would have had two less national parks with the potential loss of Cairngorms and Loch Lomond. These two national parks have a combined area of 2468.4m2 ….

This would have been an area loss twice the size of Luxembourg!

Leanne Dempsey

By Leanne Dempsey

A lover of reading, eating and shopping Leanne will often be found spending time with her two pugs or snapping away on instagram. A big fan of the city, She likes nothing more than getting away for a weekend break in the UK, her favourite places being London and Bath.