Author Archive

Sykes Charity Work: Bliss

Sunday, November 6th, 2016
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Bliss is a fantastic charity which was founded in 1979 by a group of parents who were growing increasingly concerned that hospitals in the UK don’t have all the equipment they need to safely care for ill newborns. Now, 40 years on, Bliss is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to babies that have been born prematurely or sick and not only supports families, but also health professionals and research into improving the care for premature and sick babies too.

bliss-logo

Sykes Cottages is extremely proud to be supporting Bliss. As a family orientated company, this is a cause that’s very close to our hearts and we feel that the fantastic work Bliss does to help support premature and sick babies should be commended. You can find out more about the Bliss charity by visiting their website, www.bliss.org.uk or by reading the stories of people they have helped, like Georgia and Scarlett’s or Louise and Blake’s touching stories.

bliss-group-image

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.

Walk of the Month: Pluckley Village

Sunday, October 30th, 2016
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As October draws to a close, it’s time for another instalment of Walk of the Month. For October’s walk we’re heading to the picturesque village of Pluckley in Kent. This sleepy village is full of wonderful autumn colours and cosy English pubs but there is another reason visitors flock to the village during October – ghosts! Pluckley is commonly known as the most haunted village in England and has sparked our attention for a Halloween themed Walk of the Month.

Walk of the Month: Pluckley Church

Image of Pluckley Church by Julian P GuffoggCC 2.0

Home to a minimum of 15 ghosts, Pluckley is perfect for a spooky walk at this time of year. Explore the area and folklore during the day with the family or head back during the evening for a frightful walk through the village’s more notorious spots. As well as the outlined route below, make sure to spend some time exploring St Nicolas’ Church which is home to the White Lady and Red Lady ghosts, and Fright corner where you could find The Highwayman re-enacting his death.

The Walk:

October’s route is three miles long and should take around two and a half hours to complete. This is an easy track that follows orchard tracks, footpaths and field margins with 17 stiles in-between. Children will enjoy this walk during the day and this is also a great walk for dogs, as long as they are kept on the lead.

The Route:

Start the walk from St Nicholas Church, from here turn right and head up the main road walking uphill. Turn right at the Black Horse car park sign towards a gate. Go through the gate and cut across the playing fields towards a gap in the hedge that leads into the orchard.

Walk straight through the orchard keeping the windbreak to your right-hand side. When you reach the metalled track by Sheerland Farm, maintain your direction and then continue through the orchard to the road.

Walk of the Month: Oast house at Elvey Farm near Pluckley

Image of Oast house at Elvey Farm near Pluckley by MarathonCC 2.0

At the road bear left before joining a footpath by a brick wall. Follow the footpath until you reach the stile, climb over the stile and follow the fence line on your left before crossing two more stiles at the bottom.

Continue your route by going through a gap in the wall up towards another orchard and over another stile. After the stile turn left and follow the track keeping the windbreaker to your left-hand side. Bear right and head over another stile before walking towards a brick wall.

At the wall turn right and walk through the orchard towards the church. Turn left, walking past the picture postcard village green of Little Char Forstal. You’ll see a stile on your right, go over this and walk down the right-hand side of the field climbing over two more stiles to reach the road by the riding centre.

Turn right at the road and take the first road on the left past the farm and follow it to Rooting Manor. When the road bends left, cross the stile by some gates before turning left and walking along the top of the field.

As you pass through the windbreak, turn right and walk up the track. Follow this track as it leads you left and go through the orchard, eventually bearing right and up to Surrenden.

Follow the track to your right and cross a stile on the left. Walk up the right-hand side of the field to join the track and nip over the stile to continue to the road.

Cross the road and walk through the orchard before crossing the playing fields. Turn left and return to the church where you started.

To view the full route map, please click here.

Book a holiday cottage in Kent.

Shepherd's Farm House (Ref. 7364), in Kent.

Shepherd’s Farm House (Ref. 7364), in Kent.

With a ghost lurking around every corner, you’re going to need more than one night to explore all of Pluckley’s most haunted spots. By booking a stay in one of our Kent cottages you’ll be able to spend your evenings ghost hunting in Pluckley and your days exploring The Garden of England. From Dover Castle to Canterbury Cathedral, Kent is full of must-see attractions and things to do for the whole family.

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.

The UK’s Smallest Cities

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016
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When it comes to city breaks we immediately think of locations like London or Manchester, but what about the UK’s smaller cities – the unusual cities, cities crisscrossed with cobbled streets and dominated by historic cathedrals? These unique cities are ideal for weekend or midweek breaks and can be found throughout the UK. So if you’re looking to book a city break with a difference, keep reading as we list our favourite small UK cities.

St Davids, Pembrokeshire

Well known for its spectacular cathedral, the city of St Davids’ calm atmosphere and easy pace of life would fool anyone into thinking it was a quaint Welsh town. Even though St Davids is officially the smallest city in the UK, there is still plenty to see and do here including tours of the cathedral, hikes along the Welsh Coastal Path and adventurous boat tours.

If you’d like to visit this pint-sized city on your next getaway then Sykes Cottages has a fantastic range of St Davids holiday cottages all within a few miles of the city itself.

Truro, Cornwall

Don’t let Truro’s small size fool you, as the only city in Cornwall Truro is more than equipped to cope with large numbers of locals and tourists. Known as the shopping capital of Cornwall, visitors from all over flock to the area to explore the independent shops, art galleries, pubs and restaurants. If you’re lucky enough to visit Truro during April, then you can attend the Truro Festival for Music, an impressive festival ideal for music, art and comedy lovers.

When planning your visit to Truro, be sure to check out our selection of Truro holiday cottages. These charming Cornish cottages are not only ideal for exploring the city but can also be used as a base for visiting the rest of Cornwall too.

Perth, Perthshire

With its picturesque riverside location and charming selection of independent shops and businesses, the unexpected city of Perth is the ideal location for a couple’s getaway. Here guests can take a romantic stroll along the River Tay, explore the Black Watch Castle and Museum or place a bet at the Perth Racecourse before discovering the miniature city’s many bars and restaurants during the evening.

If you’re interested in a romantic break in Perth then our selection of Perth holiday cottages are perfect for couples; with cosy fires, welcoming kitchens and plenty great places to eat and drink nearby.

Ely, Cambridgeshire

The historic city of Ely can be found just 80 miles from London, perfect for escaping the Big Smoke for the weekend. There are plenty of fantastic shopping opportunities in Ely from the independent boutiques, gift shops and craft stores to the Ely Cathedral complete with its unusual octagon tower. For an extra special day out, we suggest booking a boat trip down the Great Ouse which is sure to create wonderful memories for you and your party.

Perfect for exploring the city, our Ely holiday cottages come with stylish décor, comfortable furnishings and fantastic amenities close by.

Bangor, Gwynedd

As one of the smallest cities in the UK, Bangor can often be overlooked when it comes to booking a holiday, but with Snowdonia National Park and the North Wales coast on your doorstep, Bangor is a fantastic location for an active escape. Whether you’re taking a stroll along Bangor pier, exploring the grounds at Penrhyn Castle, or bouncing around in the underground caverns at Bounce Below there are plenty of attractions to discover in the Bangor area.

Our selection of Bangor holiday cottages are ideal for families looking to explore North Wales on their next self-catering break. These cottages come with plenty of space both indoors and out, and you can even bring the dog along as many of our Bangor cottages are pet-friendly.

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.

Where to See Autumn Colours in the UK

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016
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Cosy jumpers, roaring fires and pumpkin-spiced… well, everything! These are just some of the things that make autumn my favourite time of the year, but there is something else that makes autumn top of my seasons list and that’s the colours! Warm browns, rich oranges and deep reds are all around us at this time of year and here at Sykes Cottages, we just can’t get enough of them. In fact we’re so in love with autumn colours that we’ve put together a fantastic list of the best places to see autumn colours in the UK. So lace up your boots and pop on your woolly hat, it’s time to visit one of these scenic locations before the autumn colours are gone for another year.

Bedgebury Forest, Kent

Bedgebury Forest

Image of Bedgebury by Albert KubxcaCC 2.0

Located close to the Sussex border in Kent, you’ll find Bedgebury Forest. Here you can ride your bike across the numerous cycle paths and gaze up at the changing canopy as the wind rustles through the golden leaves. Bedgebury Forest also welcomes dogs and with plenty of trees to sniff and fallen leaves to roll in, your four-legged friend is sure to enjoy the day out! Please be aware that dogs are allowed off the lead in the forest but must be kept on the lead at all times when in The National Pinetum, around the children’s play area and on the red mountain-bike route.

Prices: If arriving by car the cost is £10 Monday to Friday and £12 at weekends and bank holidays.
Opening times: 8am to 6pm until October 28th then 8am to 5pm until November 30th.
More information: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/bedgebury

Dyffryn Gardens, the Vale of Glamorgan

Dyffryn Gardens

Image of Dyffryn Gardens by Ben SalterCC 2.0

Located in the Vale of Glamorgan, Dyffryn Gardens cover over 55 acres with formal and informal gardens, providing plenty of space for an autumnal adventure. It’s a very exciting time at the gardens this autumn as it marks the start of a five year project which will help protect the beautiful trees within their Arboretum. Why not make your trip to Dyffryn Gardens an annual one? This way you’ll be able to monitor the progress of the project and capture the true beauty of their woody collection.

Prices: £8.80 for adults, £4.40 for children and £22 for families.
Opening times: 10am to 5pm until October 30th then 10am to 4pm until November 30th.
More information: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dyffryn-gardens

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Westonbirt

Image of Westonbirt by Mark KentCC 2.0

Westonbirt is possibly the best place in the UK to view autumn colours as their Arboretum is home to over 15,000 tree specimens from all over the world! Here you can follow one of the Arboretum’s many walkways or take to the skies and look down over the colourful foliage from the STIHL Treetop Walkway. October highlights at Westonbirt include the Japanese maples, Cappadocian maple and Sweet gum where as in November, visitors should look out for the Nikko maple, Native oak and Paperbark maple.

Prices: £9 for adults and £4 for children.
Opening times: 9am to 5pm, last admission is 4:30pm.
More Information: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt

Bodnant Gardens, Conwy

Bodnant gardens

Image of Bodnant Gardens by Paul PierceCC 2.0

The world-famous Bodnant Gardens cover over 80 acres of land above the River Conwy. Home to National Collections and Campion Trees, guests could spend hours exploring the variety of exotic and colourful plants on display. There is a wonderful selection of events taking place at Bodnant this autumn, including a specialist walk to see the autumn colours on October 12th and the ‘Head Gardener’s Walk’ on November 16th where guests can find out all about the gardens’ history and development.

Prices: £12.38 for adults and £6.20 for children.
Opening times: 10am to 5pm until November 1st then 10am until 4pm until the end of December.
More information: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.

New Covent Garden Soup Recipes  

Sunday, September 25th, 2016
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Sykes Cottages recently teamed up with New Covent Garden Soup to offer a prize for their Great British Soup Competition. The competition was a fantastic success and New Covent Garden Soup received some delicious recipes from customers all over the UK. As the competition runner up and winner of the Sykes Cottages prize, we thought we’d share Lucy Haughey’s recipe for ‘Carrot, ginger & coconut soup’ with you.

Lucy’s ‘Carrot, ginger & coconut soup’

This yummy recipe for four people takes just 10 minutes to prepare and a further 20 minutes to cook. When speaking to Lucy about her recipe, she advised adding big floating cheese-topped croutons to the soup when serving.

Ingredients

  • 500ml chicken or veg stock
  • 6 chopped carrots
  • 2 grated garlic cloves
  • 1 chopped sweet potato
  • 1 chopped large white onion
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • Nugget of fresh ginger
  • Coriander
  • Seasoning

Method

  1. Add all the vegetables to a large pan, pour in the stock and seasoning and simmer until soft.
  2. Once soft, blitz all the ingredients together.
  3. Pour into four separate bowls, add some coconut milk and chopped coriander before serving.

Click here to view Lucy’s original recipe.

As well as Lucy’s tasty recipe, there were also several other recipes we couldn’t wait to try! We’ve included some of our favourites below but to see all the recipes entered into Great British Soup Competition please click here.

Mama Manuela’s ‘Chicken and almond soup’

Image from New Covent Garden Soup website.

Image from New Covent Garden Soup website.

This family favourite has a wonderful Mediterranean feel and is perfect for four people. The recipe will take around 40 minutes to make and is inspired by Mama Manuela’s Spanish heritage.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 litre of water
  • 1 large chicken breast (diced)
  • 1 small celery stick
  • 1 hand full of toasted almonds (crushed)
  • 1 hand full of barley

Method

  1. Add the oil to a pan and fry the garlic.
  2. Remove the garlic and set to one side. Add the diced chicken and fry until golden brown.
  3. Poor a litre of water into a sauce pan with the diced celery, barley and almonds. Cook until barley is ready.
  4. Add the chicken and garlic before serving with toasted bread and butter.

Click here to view Mama Manuela’s original recipe. 

Hayley’s ‘Spiced pumpkin and garlic’

Hayley’s heartwarming soup recipe will serve up to four people and takes around an hour to make. Hayley discovered this yummy recipe when she bought a Halloween pumpkin and wasn’t sure what to do with it. For an extra treat she advises topping with crumbled stilton and crispy bacon before serving.

Ingredients

  • Half a medium pumpkin
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp All spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Cut the pumpkin and onions into chunks and halve the head of garlic. Place on a baking try and roast in the middle of the oven at 200c for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the veg stock in a pan.
  3. Blitz the roasted onion and pumpkin together in a processor. Squeeze in the roasted garlic and give the mixture another quick blitz.
  4. Add the spices and pumpkin mixture to the stock and combine together.
  5. Roast the pumpkin seeds and add to the top of the soup before serving.

Click here to view Hayley’s original recipe.

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Nicole Jones-Gerrard

By Nicole Jones-Gerrard

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 husband.