Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Turn your Garden in to a Bird’s Haven

Saturday, February 14th, 2015
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Today marks a very special day in the British wildlife calendar as it sees the start of National Nest Box Week! Thought up by the good folks over at the British Trust for Ornithology back in 2007 it encourages everybody to head out in to their garden and do their bit for Britain’s bird-life. After all our garden birds are struggling! As we neaten up our gardens, renovate old buildings and generally cut back the green spaces we’re inadvertently destroying many of the spots that birds would have traditionally used to build their nests, so it’s only fair that we give a little back. To take part all you have to do is put a nest box up in your garden and in doing so you’ll be helping to safeguard some of the country’s favourite birds for generations to come.

Here at Sykes Cottages we recently put together a guide that details how you should site your nest box, something that will hopefully be useful in the coming days. But there are plenty of other things that you can to make your garden into a bird’s haven ranging from just putting out a bit of bird food through to growing a wildlife garden that will have birds flocking from all over.

Feeding

Of course it would be absolutely fantastic if our garden birds could get all of the nutrition that they need from natural food sources however the fact of the matter is that they sometimes need a bit of a hand – especially when they have a young family to feed! And this is where we come in! There is a huge variety of different foods and feeders for you to pick from but just make sure that you don’t put any up too close to any nest boxes that might be in your garden – after all you don’t want the residents to be disturbed!

Water

Just like pretty much every other animal garden birds need access to plenty of fresh water, whether it’s for drinking or to give their feathers a good clean. A regular supply of clean water will ensure that you get plenty of visitors into your garden, just remember to keep it well topped up – the chances are that this could end up being a daily job if the local birds take to it!

Get Planting

You can also lend the local birds a hand by planting a few native plants around their garden. They’ll provide some shelter, the option of a natural nesting site and food all year round – something that becomes doubly important during the winter months. Gardener’s World put together a useful list of ten of the best plants you can use to create your very own wildlife garden, click here to take a look.

So there you go, hopefully you’ll have gained a few handy tips for National Nest Box Week, and in doing so you’ll probably also gain a few visitors into your garden. We’d love to know if you do! Drop us a tweet or a Facebook post and we’ll take a look!

 

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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.

Dickens’ Britain: Celebrate the 203rd birthday of Charles Dickens

Saturday, February 7th, 2015
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Charles Dickens was, and still remains, one of the UK’s most prolific writers, penning a total of fifteen novels, five novellas and hundreds of short stories. His works include some of the world’s most beloved fictional characters, including Oliver Twist, Miss Havisham and Ebenezer Scrooge, and he is widely regarded as one of the best writers of his generation.

Today is the 203rd anniversary of Dickens’ birth, and to celebrate, we’re taking a look at some of the places that were the inspiration behind some of English literature’s most important settings.

St James’ Church, Cooling, Kent

Located amid the bleak heathlands of Kent’s Hoo Peninsula, the village of Cooling was subject to the Dickens’ treatment in the 1850s when its church, St James’, became the setting for the opening character of Dickens’ 13th novel, Great Expectations.  St James’ is the backdrop of Pip’s meeting with the convict, and is described as a desolate, sinister and bleak place. Far from being forsaken, the 13th church is a fascinating historic site with many original features, and is open daily to visitors.

Bowes Academy, Barnard Castle, County Durham

Anyone who’s read Nicholas Nickleby will recognise the infamous Dotheboy’s Hall – the imposing boarding school governed by devilish disciplinarian, Wackford Squeers – but have you heard of Bowes Academy? This was an actual Victorian boarding school located in the town of Barnard Castle, which Dickens visited on a tour of northern England. Recently, Bowes Academy was converted into apartments and renamed Dotheboys Hall as homage to Dickens novel. It’s thought Dickens based the brutal Wackford Squeers on the then headmaster of the school, William Shaw, a fact which has caused controversy since the book’s publication.

Restoration House, Rochester, Kent

Beyond the historic city walls of Rochester lies one of England’s most undervalued medieval houses: Restoration House. Dickens chose the palatial manor house as the setting for his revered character, Miss Haversham, one of the primary antagonists of Great Expectations. Looking at Restoration’s imposing exterior and dark furnished chambers, it’s easy to see why the novelist would choose this to be Haversham’s home. Today, Restoration House serves as a fascinating example of a Tudor manor house, and its house and grounds are open to the public on selected dates.

 Bonchurch, Isle of Wight

In the Victorian-era, the Isle of Wight was very much the in vogue destination for the filthy rich London elite. Queen Victoria had a holiday home here; Charles Darwin began his Origin of Species on the island; and Lewis Carroll spent many long holidays lounging on the Isle of Wight’s beaches. Dickens too, was a frequent visitor, and was particularly fond of the St Boniface Down. In 1845, the writer rented Winterbourne County House for the entire summer, and it’s thought much of his beloved novel, David Copperfield, was written during his visit.

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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.

Postcards to the Past

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
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There are few things like a holiday for making happy memories. Trips to the seaside, long walks through the countryside; we love to try and remember them in any way we can, and what better way is there than to take a photograph. You need only leaf through any treasured family photo album to find countless holiday snaps that all seem to have the ability to transport you right back to the moment they were taken.

Now with Sykes Cottages’ Postcards to the Past, you and your loved ones can revisit those happy times together. All you have to do is upload your chosen photograph, complete the accompanying form and before you know it you’ll have your very own personalised digital postcard complete with a note from yourself, whether it’s a letter to someone in the picture or just why you remember that moment with such fondness. You can share this postcard with your friends and family, and who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of it on the Sykes Cottages website.

Make your own Postcard to the Past today!

Postcards to the Past

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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.

England’s Top 10 most picturesque counties revealed

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
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It’s a debate that’s raged on for years: which of England’s eighty-three counties is the prettiest? Could it be Somerset with its treasured Quantocks? Dorset with its inspiring Durdle Door? Or Norfolk with its beloved Broads? To settle this once and for all, we asked one thousand Brits to tell us which English county they love the most – here’s what we found.

Cornwall voted most picturesque county in England

Image by Darren Flinders is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Darren Flinders is licensed under CC 2.0

That’s right, one in five respondents voted Cornwall as England’s prettiest destination, and it’s hardly surprising, given the county’s evocative mix of coast and country. Cornwall is a firm favourite among many UK holidaymakers thanks to its wonderful beaches and rugged heathlands, not to mention its seemingly endless heritage. You can find out more about England’s prettiest region by visiting our brilliant new visitor guide, Discover Cornwall.

Image by James Whitesmith is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by James Whitesmith is licensed under CC 2.0

Yorkshire was voted England’s second prettiest destination in the poll, with a respectable 18% of the vote. Despite failing to topple Cornwall from its picturesque pedestal, God’s Own County remains one of the UK’s most revered holiday destinations, and was dubbed Europe’s best destination at the World Travel Awards in 2013.

Coming in a close third was Cumbria, whose world-famous national park – the Lake District – will certainly have helped the county climb up the rankings. But the Lakes aren’t the only thing this northern county has to shout about; head to the coast, and you’ll find some of England’s most beautiful, secluded and windswept beaches, as well as a handful of charming towns and villages.

Which English counties completed the top 10? Find out below…

Picturesque 3

The Leadership Factor polled 1,019 British adults in December 2014 on behalf of Sykes Cottages.

Top 10 Most Picturesque Counties in England

  1. Cornwall
  2. Yorkshire
  3. Cumbria
  4. Devon
  5. Kent
  6. Derbyshire
  7. Northumberland
  8. Dorset
  9. Isle of Wight
  10. Gloucestershire

So there you have it: a definitive shortlist of England’s most picturesque counties. Do you agree with the top 3? Which English county would you choose? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter – we’d love to hear from you.

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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.

Blue Monday made you mardy? Discover the UK’s happiest places!

Monday, January 26th, 2015
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There was a debate at Sykes HQ on when exactly the fabled Blue Monday phenomenon occurs. Some “celebrate” it on the third Monday of January, others on the fourth, whilst some resolute Debbie Downers are crying into their cereal by the second. At Sykes, we like to think we’re more glass half-full than that, so don’t let Mondays get us down ‘til the fourth – AKA – today.

And so far, it hasn’t been that bad. Yes it’s cold and dark. And yes, parting from our slumber was such sweet sorrow. But in retrospect: things could be worse.

If you’re struggling to see the light at the end of a long, dark January, visit one of Britain’s happiest towns this January and feel your spirit soar. Here’s a look at five of our favourites.

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Image by Phil Beard is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Phil Beard is licensed under CC 2.0

The people of Harrogate laugh in the face of Blue Monday and for good reason. On a number of occasions, this northern town has been crowned the happiest place to live in the UK, and residents aren’t going to let some crummy Monday in January mar their reputation for jubilance. Even the most miserable wretches will feel a smile work its way on to their face at the sight of this charming spa town, which is often thought of as Yorkshire’s prettiest settlement. From its stylish shops to its Roman relics, a trip to happy Harrogate could be just what you need.

Taunton, Somerset

Image by Somerset Photos is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Somerset Photos is licensed under CC 2.0

Somerset’s always struck me as happy-go-lucky sort of place, so it’s no surprise that Taunton – Somerset’s county town – is ranked among Britain’s happiest places to live. This endearing market town has all the right credentials when it comes to contentment: welcoming pubs, family friendly restaurants and lots of things to see and do. Plus, it’s warmer than other towns on the happiest places shortlist, making it a winner for those in need of some Vitamin D. Taunton’s countryside isn’t too shabby either, with two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Exmoor National Park on your doorstep – sigh no more.

Inverness, Scottish Highlands

Image by Dave Conner is licensed under CC 2.0

Image by Dave Conner is licensed under CC 2.0

Despite being the UK’s northernmost city, Inverness is often ranked among the country’s cheeriest places to live. The plucky Scots have learnt to live with the city’s infernal weather, a feat which alone deserves your R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Then again, with such a backdrop, it’s easy to see why locals can live with a downpour or two. Inverness is encircled by some of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes, making city life a less bitter pill to swallow. Speaking of cities, Inverness itself is really rather special; once the stronghold of Scotland’s much-feared Picts and site of many a bloody battle, Inverness is a proud city whose heritage rarely fails to raise a smile among visitors.

Blue Monday? What Blue Monday?

In a few hours, Blue Monday will be over, and the anxious, crest-fallen and dejected will have no grounds for sullenness. But what comes next? Terrible Tuesday? Woeful Wednesday? Or will you – like the inhabitants of Harrogate, Taunton and Inverness – take the remainder of January each day as it comes?

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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.