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Days Out For Children This Half Term

Saturday, February 13th, 2016
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It’s the first day of the February half term and if you’re anything like us you’ll be scratching your head, wondering where the time’s gone. It feels like only yesterday we were sending the kids off to school for their first class of 2016 and now they’re home for a whole week of family fun. If this school holiday has snuck up on you, then make sure to keep reading as we suggest four fantastic days out for the kids this half term.

Go on a family walk

A family of four walking in the country

Family Outing” taken by Greg ClarkeCC 2.0

With thousands of walking routes across the UK, it’s easy to get kids out of the house this half term. Explore the British coast and collect drift wood and shells for home art projects, or trek across the country and come face to face with nature. We have a fantastic selection of walks available on the blog, to find one that’s right for you and your family simply search our Walk of the Month category. Alternatively, we’ve listed three child friendly walks for you to try out below:

  1. Box Hill Stepping Stones Walk, Surrey
  2. Lochore Meadows Country Park, Fife
  3. Friar’s Crag, Cumbria

Explore a historic house or castle

Corfe Castle in the sunlight

Castle” taken by Jim ChampionCC 2.0

The UK is covered with castles and historic houses which are not only exciting to explore but can teach children a great deal about Britain’s history. Historic houses and castle are a perfect day out no matter what the weather; you can spend rainy mornings discovering the property’s history and sunny afternoons admiring the gardens and grounds. For an extra special day out, you’ll find a selection of half term events happening at the following properties:

  1. Corfe Castle, Dorset
  2. Gibside, Tyne and Wear
  3. Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire

Take a trip to your local zoo

Mother and baby rhino eating hay at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo” taken by Nigel SwalesCC 2.0

The UK has a number of fantastic zoos to discover this half term. With plenty of ground to cover, as well as an extraordinary array of animals, a trip to the zoo is not only fantastic exercise but very educational too. If you’ve decided to visit your local zoo this half term them we highly suggest attending one of the zoo’s animal talks, as they will really help you learn more about the zoo and the conservation work they do.

You can find your closest zoo by visiting

Visit an indoor play centre

Colourful balls from a children's ball pit

Ballpit” taken by Jeremy KeithCC 2.0

Do your kids have a lot of energy? If so, an indoor play centre could provide the perfect release. The UK’s indoor play centres have been specially designed to allow children to run around, explore their surroundings and meet new friends in a safe environment. These play centres also offer parents a moment or two to relax with comfortable seating and handy cafés selling a much needed coffee booster.

Visit to find your closest indoor play centre


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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.

UK Wetlands In Pictures

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
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On today’s blog, we’re celebrating World Wetland Day, a fantastic event that celebrates the signing of the conservation of wetlands. The UK boasts a fantastic selection of wetlands, all of which make for a wonderful day out whatever the weather. In celebration of this special day, we’ve pulled together a selection of pictures from our favourite UK wetlands to show you just how wonderful British wetlands can be!

Whooper swan landing on the water amoungst ducks at the Slimbridge WWT

Bewick in Flight” taken by Jacob Spinks at Slimbridge WWT – CC 2.0

Close up of a Red Crested Pochard on the water at the Slimbridge WWT

Red-Crested Pochard” taken by Lauren Tucker at the Slimbridge WWT – CC 2.0

Water Volve washing in the water at Welney WWT

Water Vole” taken by Tony Court at Welney WWT – CC 2.0

Two white faced whistling duck walking along the pavement by some greenery at Arundel WWT

white faced whistling duck” taken by Jason Thompson at Arundel WWT – CC 2.0

13 swans swimming upriver near Shapwick Church in Somerset

Swans upriver” taken by Jim Champion near Shapwick Church in Somerset – CC 2.0

Close up of a crane at the Slimbridge WWT

Mr Crane” taken by Richard Cocks at Slimbridge WWT – CC 2.0

Five Ruddy shellducks chicks playing at the waters edge at Martin Mere WWT

Ruddy shellducks chicks” taken by distillated at Martin Mere WWT – CC 2.0

Wetlands at Shapwick in Somerset at dusk

05-Fkr-Somerset-Shapwick” taken by JoN in Shapwick, Somerset – CC 2.0

Two white crested ducks swimming on the water at Martin Mere WWT

Martin Mere Birds” taken by Pete Birkinshaw at Martin Mere WWT – CC 2.0

Green tree frog resting on a log at the Slimbridge WWT

Green Tree Frog” taken by Lauren Tucker at Slimbridge WWT – CC 2.0

Water Vole resting on a log amongst greenery by the side of the water near Arundel WWT

Vole on Boot Hill” taken by Peter Trimming near Arundel WWT – CC 2.0

Have you visited one of the UK’s many wetlands? If so, make sure to share your pictures with us on Facebook and Twitter, we’d love to see them!

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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.

Discover… JRR Tolkien

Monday, February 1st, 2016
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Few figures in the history of the English language are as well-known or much-lauded as John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Born in 1892 in South Africa, JRR Tolkien was the creator of the Lord of the Rings saga and an eminent scholar of the English language. Passing away in 1973, the luminary is known worldwide as a creator of fantastic fantasy worlds, and as a classic Englishman who enjoyed a remarkable and altogether studious life. Discover more about Tolkien’s relationship with Britain at Sykes’ Isle of Inspiration.

Cheddr George

A turbulent childhood

Moving to England at the age of four upon the death of his father, Tolkien settled with his mother and brother in the small village of Sarehole, Birmingham, leaving eight years later to live with a Catholic clergyman after his mother passed away. His time spent in the countryside idyll would later inform Tolkien’s conception of the Shire, a location featured in a number of his fantasy works.

Academic notoriety

Working studiously, the young Tolkien was able to secure a place at Oxford’s Exeter College where, in 1915, he achieved a first-class degree in linguistics. Experiencing – and escaping unscathed from – the horrors of the Somme as a lieutenant during the First World War, the newly-wed Tolkien took up a post at the University of Leeds and began what would become a notable career in the study of ancient Germanic languages. Providing translations and criticisms of great works such as Sir Gawain, Sir Orfeo and Beowulf, Tolkien’s work in Leeds, and later Oxford, greatly informed the subject’s debate and study, making waves in academia even to this day.

Literary genius

While working as a professor in the 1920s and 30s, Tolkien began writing fantasy stories in earnest with his writing group, The Inklings – members included Owen Barfield and CS Lewis. In 1937 he published The Hobbit, sketching over a hundred drawings to support what was then regarded as children’s fiction, and through the next decade worked on the Lord of the Rings, releasing The Fellowship of the Ring in 1954 and both The Two Towers and The Return of the King in 1955.

A force in fantasy

Both of these works of high fantasy – known the world over thanks partly to the Peter Jackson motion picture reimagining – were greatly informed by Tolkien’s knowledge of language, Germanic history and the great epics of Norse mythology, and the work is now a keystone of the fantasy genre. International bestsellers long before the films were produced, the releases afforded Tolkien an early retirement, one that he enthusiastically embraced with his wife Edith. The writer was made a CBE in 1972, a year before his death.

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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.

Walk of the Month: The Best Walks in Britain

Sunday, January 31st, 2016
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It’s the first Walk of the Month for 2016 and we’re kicking things off in style by compiling a list of the best walks in Britain! Isle of Inspiration, a recent addition to the Sykes website, has shown us that Britain has a lot to offer walkers; from coastal paths to rugged country routes, there is a lot of ground to cover. The following walks are all featured in Isle of Inspiration and come with a strong tie to some of the UK’s most recognisable artists, so when you walk along these routes you could be walking in the footsteps of Barbara Hepworth, Kate Bush or even William Wordsworth.

Rosedale Mineral Railway Walk

Covering just one mile this walk should take no more than an hour to complete and takes in some fantastic views of the Yorkshire Moors. Whilst following the path, walkers should look out for evidence of the ironstone industry; a row of terraced houses which were originally built to house railway line workers, are of particular interest.

See the full walk here: Rosedale Mineral Railway

Hole of Horcum Walk

Both Kate Bush and Emily Brontë were big fans of the Yorkshire Moors and when following this five mile route, it’s not hard to see why. With panoramic views, archaeological remains and beautiful Yorkshire scenery, this three mile walk is more than worth the effort. To see more of the moors, walkers can opt to take a diversion making this walk closer to seven miles long.

See the full walk here: Hole of Horcum

Seaford to Eastbourne Walk

If you fancy a day walking along the beautiful south east coastline then this 13.8 mile walk is for you, but be warned the route takes around seven hours to complete and is not recommended for beginners. For those brave enough to take on this challenging walk, you’ll be rewarded with sensational views of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head.

See the full walk here: Seaford to Eastbourne

Zennor Head Walk

Probably the easiest walk in our selection, the Zennor Head Walk takes just 30 to 40 minutes to complete and covers one mile. When following the route, walkers will be treated to fantastic views of Cornish countryside and coast, some of which are bound to have inspired the work of the iconic artist Barbara Hepworth.

See the full walk here: Zennor Head

Cliff Top Walk

This is the easiest of our Cheddar George walks and a brilliant introduction to the area. At just three miles long, this walk should take around two hours to complete and incorporates some of Cheddar George’s most iconic scenes. From the Horseshoe Bend and Lookout Tower, to The Pinnacles and Black Rock Gate, it’s easy to see why this area inspired JRR Tolkien.

See the full walk here: Cliff Top

Extended Cliff Top Walk

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous then why not take on the extended cliff top walk? With a longer walking route, you’re able to see more of the area’s incredible landscape and fantastic wildlife. This walk follows a five mile route and will take around three hours to complete. Walkers should take care as the path has some rough sections and steep climbs; it is not advised to undertake this walk when the weather is windy or foggy.

See the full walk here: Extended Cliff Top

Mendip Hills Walk

At 5.3 miles, this walk will take just overthree hours to complete and is fantastic for the more experienced walker. The ascent is 314.1m so suitable walking shoes and a walking pole are advised. Whilst walking, we suggest keeping an eye out for the herd of British Primitive Goats which can be found grazing on the cliffs.

See the full walk here: Mendip Hills

Semer Water Walk

The Semer Water walk offers a fantastic day out for experienced walkers, where they can ramble along the 10 mile route as they take in some of the Lake District’s most iconic scenery. The walk takes a minimum of five hours to complete and with many stopping points along the way, there are plenty of opportunities for a picnic with fellow walkers.

See the full walk here: Semer Water

Grasmere and Rydal Water

This is a relatively easy walk, with some steep sections appearing over the 5.6 mile route. In total, the walk should take just over two hours to complete but if you want to stop off and admire the scenery, we would suggest allowing two and a half hours. Whilst on your walk, be sure to stop off at Dove Cottage which was once home to poet William Wordsworth.

See the full walk here: Grasmere and Rydal Water

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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.

Discover… JMW Turner

Saturday, January 30th, 2016
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Superluminal skies; dreamy, swirling landscapes; a deft attention to detail – few have ever commanded paint and brush with the same skill as Joseph Mallord William Turner. An English romantic painter who brought the same skills and efforts that until his time had only been reserved for historical pieces or portraiture, Turner irrevocably advanced and broadened the scope of painting, showcasing the Britain of the time in glorious Technicolour. Visit our Isle of Inspiration page to explore more about the artist’s intertwined relationship with the British Isles.

JMW Turners Yorkshire

A natural talent

Turner was born in 1785 in Covent Garden, London, to a barber and wig maker and his wife. While staying with various uncles throughout the south of England as a child, Turner began to display a natural talent for sketching and painting, a skill that his father encouraged by displaying and selling his son’s works in the window of his shop. The nascent artist was noticed through this small-scale selling, and in 1789 he was accepted to the Royal Academy of Arts.

Developing skills

At the academy, the young artist’s skills bloomed greatly. Beginning with a style that was traditional and architecturally-focused, Turner’s artistic gaze began to lean towards landscape painting, with which he was exceptionally gifted. At age 17 he was presented with the Great Silver Pallet for his landscape drawings, and throughout his time studying, works of his were included in many of the Royal Academy’s exhibitions.

A fruitful career

Upon leaving the school, Turner began a variety of small artistic undertakings to earn a livelihood, and later took the step of travelling through Europe. Visiting France, Switzerland and Venice, the artist found a great amount of inspiration for his works, and began experimenting with a style of painting that was later touted as a predecessor to the impressionist art movement.

An eccentric end

Despite lecturing at the Royal Academy, Turner began to withdraw from the world, painting continuously but only spending any time with his father, whom he lost in 1829. Still selling and exhibiting his paintings, yet dropping in and out of depression over the death of his father, Turner lived in relative isolation until he died in 1851 in Chelsea, London.

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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.