Happy Halloween from an Oddly Orange Sykes Cottages!

October 31st, 2014
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MWA HA HA HA HA! Happy Halloween from Sykes Cottages! We hope your day’s been as zombie-filled, cobweb laden and jack o’ lantern lit as ours. Over the past week, the staff at Sykes HQ have carved their way through a veritable pile of pumpkins as part of Chester’s Zoo latest Act for Wildlife campaign, Go Orange for Orangutans.

Halloween Blog - Orangutan

Via Flickr

Go Orange for Orangutans is a project raising money for the heavily endangered Sumatran and Bornean Orangutans, whose numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate. The drop in orangutan numbers is a result of habitat loss, with over 80% of the animal’s rainforest home destroyed.

It’s thought there are no more than 7,300 orangutans remaining in the wild, and they could become extinct within our lifetime. Along with its partners, Chester Zoo aims to raise awareness and funds for these majestic creatures before it’s too late. Here at Sykes, we were more than happy to do our bit for this worthy cause, and thought the theme ‘Go Orange’ could tie quite nicely into this year’s Halloween celebrations.

Whether its clothing, face paint or pumpkins, the ‘Go Orange’ campaign asked businesses and organisations to pick one day in October to get their orange-on and raise some cash for orangutans. And what better way to do so than with a pumpkin carving championship! Over fifty staff members signed-up to take part in the event, each donating £2 to enter their sculpted squash in the competition. Here’s a handful of some of the petrifying pumpkins we came up with.


Pumpkins 2

Alas, like all contests, there could only be one winner and after much deliberation from our independent adjudicator, this wondrous pumpkin – carved by Claire Davies – was declared winner:


We’re yet to tot-up the money raised for the zoo’s campaign, but we’ll be sure to let you know just how much was raised by our orange-antics on Facebook & Twitter.

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.

Healthy Halloween Treats Competition

October 30th, 2014
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We aren’t daft at Sykes Cottages; we’re well aware that Halloween and healthy don’t go hand in hand – especially when it comes to the kids. With the spoils of the trick or treating, it can seem like all kids eat over Halloween is sweets. We’ve decided to see what we can do to change this by launching our Healthy Halloween Treats competition. We’ve asked a select group of bloggers to see if they can create an alternative to the usual sugary fare that will still keep kids happy. This isn’t an enviable task; we all know how much the little ones love their sweets, but the ideas we got back were fantastic. From snail porridge to spiders web pizzas and many more gruesome delights, take a look at our healthy Halloween treats and see what you think.

The Entries

the mummy diary

The Mummy Diary’s eyeball cupcakes and spider bites

Niki at Play and Learn Everyday put together some healthy pumpkin cookie bites using oats, honey and pumpkin purée, and she also made some fantastic pumpkin teething biscuits so even the younger children can get in on the Halloween fun. Then there was Ellie at The Mummy Diary who came up with some delicious looking banana and chocolate chip cupcakes, complete with an eyeball topping (maybe not quite so delicious looking), and also some spider bites made from a healthy and easy to make fruit and nut mixture.

hijacked by twins

The spiders web pizza from Hijacked by Twins

We also had a brilliant entry from Tina from Trials and Tribulations of a Brummie Mummy who made some mini pizzas made to look like witches hats, spookily shaped Halloween sandwiches, chocolate witches fingers and the classic toffee apples! Next up was Kirsty from Hijacked By Twins. She whipped up some pizzas with a spiders web topping made from carrot strips and olive slices, as well as some creepy banana ghosts and a batch of delicious looking mini pumpkin pies. Another top idea came in from Donna at Red Head Baby Led. Donna turned an ordinary pack of oranges into some fantastic miniature pumpkins complete with a sugar free jelly filling and of course some scary faces carved into them!

married to a geek

Married to a Geek’s fruity blood bath

Then there was a particularly ghastly graveyard scene produced by Angeline at Daft Mamma! Featuring a witches cauldron, pumpkin patch, gravestones and even some slimy eye balls made from grapes, it’s one that’s sure to get the little ones tucking into their five a day over Halloween! Simone from Married to a Geek went all out with her entry making strawberry ghosts, a goblet full of ‘Devil’s Drencher’ and marshmallow eyeballs, and she even threw them all together to make a fruity blood bath! Then there was Louisa from Eat Your Veg who produced two cracking recipes. First up was her mini orange pumpkins with a blood sorbet (don’t worry it was just frozen raspberries and honey) and also a cauldron full of blood soup served up with Halloween inspired cheesy toasts.

mummy memories

A spiders web cake from Mummy Memories

Up next we had Mary-Kate at Mummy Memories who made a healthy version of a classic chocolate cake using a natural sugar alternative. The cake was topped off with a homemade peanut butter icing and a scary spiders web made from YoYo Bears and raisins so there’s plenty of fruit in there too! Otilia from Romanian Mum came up with two devilish desserts, first up was a set of cake pops featuring pumpkins and ghostly faces followed by her own take on the Bruce Bogtrotter cake from Matilda with an extra creepy Halloween topping! And finally we had Louise from A Strong Coffee. Louise made a selection of creepy delights that the younger kids would enjoy. From a ham sandwich disguised as a spooky spider to some snail porridge, and even a witches brew with ogre’s eyes made out of kiwi fruit, what more could you want?

 Our Runner Up

Now came the hard bit as we were given the difficult task of picking out a winner and also a runner up to the competition. As you can see all of the entries were fantastic so it took some real deliberation amongst the increasingly hungry team here at Sykes HQ however there were two that we kept going back to. Just pipped to the post was Louise from A Strong Coffee. We absolutely loved her spooky spider sandwiches, and thought that the use of kiwi fruits as ogre eyes were fantastic!

spider sandwiches

A Strong Coffee’s Spooky Spider Sandwiches

 The Winner

This meant that our winner of our Healthy Halloween Treats Competition was the entry from Louisa at Eat Your Veg. They looked, and sounded, suitably terrifying and were full to the brim with copious amounts of fruit and veg – all in all the perfect Healthy Halloween Treat!

mini pumpkins

Mini Pumpkins with blood sorbet

blood soup

Blood soup and cheesy toasts










So there we go, hopefully you’ll agree with our choices but make sure you keep your eyes peeled for any future competitions that we’ll be running. We’d also like to say a massive thank you to everybody who took part! All of the entries were brilliant and they’ve certainly inspired all of us here at Sykes HQ!

Jamie Tomkins

By Jamie Tomkins

Jamie is a big fan of long weekend walks with the dog, especially when there is the chance to refuel with lunch in a country pub. Living in Lancaster for three years gave him the perfect opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Lake District.

Favourite Films for Halloween

October 29th, 2014
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Here at Sykes Cottages, we love Halloween. When the wind is rattling at your door and the rain is pounding against your window, we know there is no better feeling then snuggling up on the sofa with a warm blanket and a cauldron of sweets. If you’re planning to stay home this Halloween, the team here at Sykes HQ have some great suggestions for your viewing pleasure; from family friendly movies to horror films, our selection is sure to offer plenty of inspiration this Halloween.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Image provided by Leanne

A heart-warming story with a loveable protagonist may not be your first thought when it comes to Halloween, but it’s exactly what you get with The Nightmare Before Christmas. The film follows the Pumpkin King Jack Skellington and his dog Zero as they try to spread Christmas cheer across Halloweentown with disastrous consequences. The spectacular storyline and characterisation combined with the incredible soundtrack and stunning visuals of the film is what makes it not only my favourite Halloween watch, but also a favourite to watch throughout the year! – Leanne


Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

As one of my favourite fantasy films, Labyrinth takes top spot on my Halloween movie playlist. Not only is the film filled with fantasy creatures, magic and adventure, but with the added bonus of musical numbers – many involving the legendary David Bowie – there really is something for the whole family to enjoy.  The film follows Sarah’s adventures in an otherworldly maze as she overcomes the Goblin King’s challenges to save her baby brother Toby. This is a classic film and one you won’t regret watching even if you’re stuck singing the tunes until next Halloween. – Nicole


Image taken from IMDb.

Image taken from IMDb.

If I’m honest, I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to watching horror films! This meant picking my favourite Halloween film was always going to be a struggle, but after some thought I picked Casper. It tells the tale of a young ghost who – along with his three ghoulish uncles Fatso, Stretch and Stinkie – lives in a rickety mansion called Whipstaff Manor. The film is about Casper moving on to “the other side” whilst dealing with a greedy heiress, the affections of a young girl, and even attempted exorcisms – not to mention all sorts of mischief from his uncles. All in all, Casper makes the perfect alternative to the usual Halloween fare, and is definitely a film that the whole family will enjoy over the Halloween period! – Jamie

Hocus Pocus

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

For me, it’s not Halloween unless I’ve watched the early 90′s gem that is Hocus Pocus. The obsession started as a kid, when my sister and I would sit down and watch it on Disney Channel every year; it’s a tradition that I’ve never quite grown out of. You can put my love affair with this film largely down to Winifred, Sarah and Mary Sanderson who are evil witches raised from the dead. They are comedy genius and I’ll never get tired of their hilarious catchphrases, withering glares and of course, their rendition of ‘I Put a Spell on You’. Throw in a talking cat, a zombie who constantly loses his head and a trio of unlikely heroes, and you have everything you could ever want from a Halloween cult classic. – Lousie

Sleepy Hollow

Image via IMDb.

Image via IMDb.

The tagline ‘Heads will roll’ tells you all you need to know about Sleepy Hollow, a 1999 horror film directed by Tim Burton. Sleepy Hollow was the first film that frightened me; I spent weeks – nay, months – after watching it scurrying down the stairs, afraid that a headless, axe-wielding Hessian was hot on my tail. Though damn-scary, the eccentricity of Johnny Depp’s character, Ichabod Crane, adds some comic relief, whilst Tim Burton’s enchanting creations will feel familiar to anyone who’s seen The Nightmare Before Christmas. In short, Sleepy Hollow is a great introduction to horror for younger viewers – just be sure to have hide-cushions at hand! – Jonathan.

So what do you think? Will you be adding our frightful list of movies to your Halloween night viewing, or do you have your own ‘must watch’ movie for All Hallows Eve? Either way, we would love to know which films you’ll be watching this weekend, so make sure to let us know via our Facebook or Twitter page.


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.

Five Of Britain’s Scariest Mythical Creatures

October 28th, 2014
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There are a few things we’re not short of here in Britain; coastline, forests and motorways are a few that spring to mind. With so much history and folklore, we’re also not short of a mythical creature or two! We’ve all heard of friendly pixies and elves, but what about the not-so-friendly creatures? In honour of Halloween, we’ve put together a short list of some of the scariest, creepiest and downright spooky mythical creatures that are sure to leave your blood curdled and your spine chilled.


Lonely Road

Image via Flickr

The Gwyllgi is a Welsh mythical creature also known as ‘The Dog of Darkness’. The Gwyllgi appears in the form of a large, black mastiff with red eyes and accounts of the creature suggest that it haunts lonely lanes and roads during twilight. Some have described the Gwyllgi as having the head of a man but the body of a large dog.


Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Nuckelavee is a horse-like demon that inhabited parts of Northern Scotland and lived in the sea, only coming on-land to feast on humans. When on-land the Nuckelavee rode a horse, however it was indistinguishable from its own body.

Screaming Skull

Screaming Skulls

Image via Flickr

Most counties in England have at least one tale of a skull which resides within a stately home or other ancient building and that causes storms, poltergeist activity and screams when it is removed from its position within the home. It is thought these screaming skulls are entrapped spirits although the origin of these spirits is often unknown.

The Bean Nighe

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

The Bean Nighe was a small washerwoman who always wore green and had webbed feet. She resided beside empty pools and streams, washing the blood-stained clothes of those about to ‘meet their maker’.

The Lantern Man

Lantern Man

Image via Flickr

A myth based in Norfolk, The Lantern Man is a visualisation of a man holding a lantern, who used the light to lure in travellers to his vicinity. He was believed to be dangerous and would attack anyone who came near him, however this belief varies throughout Britain.

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.

The UK’s Best Halloween Attractions for 2014

October 27th, 2014
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Throughout the UK people are getting ready for the scariest day of the year. That’s right, Halloween is almost upon us and whether you love it or hate it, there is no escaping the things that go bump in the night! Here at Sykes HQ, we love a good scare and can’t wait for the arrival of All Hallows’ Eve when we’ll be visiting some of Britain’s scariest attractions. To help inspire you on a frightful outing this Halloween, we’ve put together a selection of the five best attractions to visit on Friday 31st.

The York Dungeon

Picture provided by Leanne

Picture provided by Leanne

With dark corridors, sinister characters and a severely creepy atmosphere, York Dungeon is the place to be this Halloween. As well as the usual villains and suspicious personalities, the dungeons are introducing an all new menace: The Master of Tricks himself, who – armed with his Wheel of Misfortune – will be baffling guests with his despicable deceptions and dares.

Tulleys Pumpkin Patch and Scare Fest

Image from Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Tulleys Farm has catered for everyone this Halloween by putting on an eerie but not-so-scary show for children during the day before going all out with their adult scare fest. Voted the UK’s number one attraction at the Scream Awards, Schocktober Fest at Tulleys Farm is sure to scare your pants off with no less than seven haunted attractions!

Edinburgh Ghost Walks

Image from Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

With victims of the plague roaming the streets of old town and the Mackenzie Poltergeist terrorizing Greyfriars Kirkyard, it’s no wonder Edinburgh is known as the world’s most haunted city. Book your ghost walk with City of the Dead, who not only provide world class story tellers, but are the only tour in town with access to Edinburgh’s Covenanter’s Prison.

The Big Sheep Halloween Festival

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

By offering children a haunted hay ride and daylight haunted house, The Big Sheep in north Devon is really pulling out all the stops for kiddies this Halloween. Not content with tricking little witches and wizards, The Big Sheep also offers an evening party where adults are invited to join in a live haunt in their zombie zone before heading into the most haunted house in Devon.

Alton Towers

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

Known for its intense white knuckle rides, Alton Towers is the ultimate UK destination for thrill seekers. Combining their world famous rides with late night openings and terrifying scare mazes, Alton Towers is reaching out with cold icy fingers hoping to draw in lost souls for a spine-tingling family day out.

We hope this list of British attractions has encouraged you to take your ghoulish family on a scary day out this Halloween. We would love to hear all about your scary adventures so be sure to keep us up-to-date through Facebook or Twitter.


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.