Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Sykes’ Guide to British Butterflies

Saturday, June 7th, 2014
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You might not know it but today sees the national Butterfly Education and Awareness Day (BEAD). Now it might be one of the lesser known events in the national wildlife calendar, but that doesn’t make it any less important, after all a 2011 report run by Butterfly Conservation found that just under three quarters of the UK’s butterfly species have “decreased in abundance” and that butterflies remain one of the UK’s most threatened wildlife groups. So in order to do our bit for BEAD we’ve decided to put together some information on butterflies in the UK, with some great places to go to find them and even some pointers on what you can do to lend a hand to the cause.

Where to see some Butterflies

Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterflies

via. Flickr

Sadly, thanks to their recent decline, butterflies are a bit harder to come by out in the great outdoors. However, there are still a few areas where you can go to catch a glimpse of them. You could pay a visit to Arnside Knott in Cumbria, known for hosting to some of the UK’s best species such as the Scotch Argus and Grayling, or there’s also the Caedari Butterfly Reserve in Herefordshire which is the perfect spot to catch a glimpse of the beautiful pearl-bordered Fritillary.

Stratford Butterfly Farm

via. Flickr

Alternatively you could plan a trip to somewhere like the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm. With hundreds of the world’s most beautiful species of butterflies as well as countless types of creepy crawlies, not to mention some great educational activities for the little ones, it’s definitely worth a visit. Or there’s also Pili Palas, Anglesey’s top family attraction. With one of the UK’s premier butterfly collections, plenty of cute animals (including John, Paul, George and Ringo the meerkats), and even an adventure playground for the kids to burn off a little bit of excess energy, you’re sure to have a good time. Just remember to check out our Stratford-upon-Avon and Anglesey holiday cottages for a home away from home on these trips!

What you can do to help out

Monarch Butterfly

via. Flickr

Luckily there are still plenty of things that everybody can to help out Britain’s butterflies. One of the major contributors to their decline is the disappearance of their natural habitat, so why don’t you give them a little hand? It’s a lot easier than you would think to make a butterfly haven in your own garden, all you need to remember is to get plenty of flowers for the nectar. A good variety of suitable plants that flower throughout the butterfly season (from March until October-November time) would be perfect, and you can also leave out any over-ripe fruit that you might have lying around the house for the Red Admirals and Painted Ladies to tuck into; they’re particularly keen on pears, plums and apples. Or, if you fancy you could always try breeding your own butterflies, it’s relatively straightforward and when they’re fully grown you can release them into the wild to help bolster the dwindling population.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading this and you might even be doing something in honour of BEAD. If that’s case, or even if you have any suggestions on what others can do to help, we’d love to hear from you. Or maybe you’ve got some great snaps of butterflies lying around the house, if so feel free to send them in over Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to see them!

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.

Guide to the 2014 HRS Chelsea Flower Show

Monday, May 19th, 2014
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Starting tomorrow, May 20th until May 24th, the Royal Hospital Chelsea will play host to the iconicRHS Chelsea Flower Show and welcome a crowd of over 157,000 to this highly anticipated event. Said to be the London Fashion Week of the horticultural world, green fingered trend setters can expect to see inspiring show gardens, extravagant floral displays and a sneak peek into the newest gardening trends. With so much going on you’ll want to make sure you’re at the venue early, know exactly what exhibits you want to see and of course where you’ll be spending your lunch hour. That’s where our convenient little guide to the Chelsea Flower Show comes in handy, so keep reading for a few hints and tips that will help you make the most of your day!

Getting to the Chelsea Flower Show

Via Flickr.

Via Flickr.

As the country’s capital, making your way through London during a busy event can be a logistical nightmare. To help you navigate the crowds and reach the showgrounds on time, here are just a few of the transport links you may want to consider for the Chelsea Flower Show:

Public Transport

Just a ten minute walk from the showground, Sloane tube station is perfect for city commuters. This station can be accessed on both the District and Circle Lines.

If you decide to travel by the iconic London Bus, then make sure to hop on numbers 11, 137, 211, 360 and 452 as they provide the closest stops to the showground.


Cycle racks can be found opposite the London Gate entrance in Burton’s Court, perfect for those who wish to travel light and help look after the environment.


There is a public car park available outside of the Transport for London congestion zone, in Battersea Park which is around 20 minutes’ walk from the showground. Please be aware that parking is on a first come first serve basis at this car park.

Show Highlights

Via Flickr.

Via Flickr.

The organisers of this year’s Chelsea flower show have really outdone themselves with a whole host of displays, stalls and show gardens. To help make sure you don’t miss out on 2014’s best bits, we’ve listed a few of the shows highlights below which should definitely be at the top of your to do list!

From the Moors to the Sea

Celebrating his 50th year in horticulture, Alan Titchmarsh is marking the event by designing a special garden for RHS Britain in Bloom. In his first design project for the Chelsea Flower show in almost 30 years, Alan promises to deliver a beautiful garden celebrating the floral heritage of the UK. Not to be missed, ‘From the Moors to the Sea – a celebration of RHS Britain in Bloom’ is sure to draw in a large crowd this year.

Hope on the Horizon

Help for Heroes are supporting a stunning garden designed by Matthew Keightley called “Hope on the Horizon”. This beautiful garden will be in the shape of the Military Cross which is a medal awarded to individuals that have shown extreme bravery. With many gardens being designed to celebrate the centenary of the First World War, Matthews garden was inspired by his brother, who is due to make his fifth tour of Afghanistan next year with the RAF.

Peter Rabbit Herb Garden

With three distinct areas, the “Peter Rabbit Herb Garden” is sure to be a big hit, not only with children but with the older generation who have grown up with Beatrix Potter books stacked on their bedside tables. With the combination of a natural garden, a greenhouse garden and of course Mr McGregor’s vegetable plot, this very special garden is sure to lift your spirits and encourage your imagination to run wild!

Facilities, Food and Drink

Via Flickr.

Via Flickr.

When attending a large event, you never quite know what to expect and the Chelsea Flower Show is no different. Luckily, this popular event has a whole host of fantastic facilities on offer, not to mention an array of eateries! To help you get to grips with the showground environment, we have listed some of the key facilities you will have access to and our opinion on the best catering options.


There are many great facilities available to you at the Chelsea Flower show all designed to help you make the most of your day. The key facilities to look out for on the day are as follows:

  • Cloakroom – There is a small cloakroom available in Ranelagh Gardens, please be aware that bags may be searched when handed in.
  • ATMs – For the use of all major debit cards ATMs are available within the show grounds at a small extra charge.
  • Bandstand – There is a bandstand and a picnic area available in Ranelagh Gardens, ideal for alfresco dinning; enjoy a light lunch whilst a variety of bands entertain you.

Please be aware that there are no pets allowed in the showgrounds (with the exception of guide and assistance dogs) and that children under the age of five, babes in arms, push chairs and prams are not permitted into the showground for safety reasons.

Food and Drink

There is a wide selection of catering facilities available at the Chelsea Flower Show offering a range of delectable dining options from sandwiches to a three-course meal. We have put together a short selection of our favourite catering options that you must try whilst at the show:

  • Champagne & Seafood Restaurant – A very popular restaurant where you will be served fresh seafood in a wide variety of flavours. Accompanied by Laurent-Perrier Champagnes, this restaurant is sure to provide you with a decadent lunch time meal.
  • Plateau Picnic Area – Nestled within the trees, this area offers a real ale bar, wood-fried pizza, strawberries and cake! Perfect for a light lunch, this area would be ideal for large groups.
  • Rock Bank Food Court – A delicious facility offering pulled pork and rotisserie-style chicken along with a deli counter, coffee and Pimm’s bar.

We hope that everyone attending the Chelsea Flower Show this year has a fantastic time. If you’re unable to make the event then be sure to catch BBC two‘s coverage  where they will be bringing you the very best of this year’s show along with all the behind the scenes action!


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.

Best UK Exhibitions for 2014

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
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Home to some of the world’s most inspirational artists, the UK boasts a dynamic selection of native painters, sculptures and craftsmen. Not only is Britain home to these talented individuals but we have also built an array of monumental buildings in which to showcase their ground breaking work. With such a wide choice of venues and art available to us, it can be hard to decide which exhibition to visit. Here at Sykes Cottages, we want to assist you with your struggles by suggesting the best UK exhibitions to visit this year. Below you will find an enticing selection of 2014 exhibitions with information regarding the location, artists and of course the work on display!

Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of a War

Via Flickr.

Work by Stanley Spencer, picture via Flickr.

Usually found at the Sandham Memorial Chapel, this very special collection of paintings is now touring the UK for the first time in 80 years. Presented in a fantastic exhibition, Stanley Spencer’s work has been displayed beautifully at the Pallant House Gallery where it will remain until June 15th. This collection of work draws on Stanley’s experience as an orderly in the Royal Army Medical corps and comes to the Pallant House Gallery just before the 100 year anniversary of the First World War. Not to be missed this fantastic exhibition is a must see for anyone living in or visiting the Chichester area.

Barbara Hepworth: Within the Landscape

Work by Barbara Hepworth, picture via Flickr

Work by Barbara Hepworth, picture via Flickr

From July 5th until September 28th the legendary art of Barbara Hepworth will be on display at Abbot Hall Art Gallery. Containing some of the artist’s most iconic sculptures, the exhibitions will also showcase prints, photographs and ephemera depicting the artist’s love of the landscape. Set amongst the rolling hills of the Lake District, we predict that these magnificent sculptures will draw in quite the crowd this summer. Easily enjoyed by all generations, Barbara Hepworth’s work is sure to inspire you and provide some wonderful pictures for the family album.

Chance Find Us

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, picture via Flickr.

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, picture via Flickr.

A dynamic artist led project, Chance Find Us is brought to you by a collection of artists from the North East and hosted at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. The work covers many fields including drawings, sculpture, installations and painting; all pushing the limits of modern art. Each artists work is different but connects through a recurring theme of the opposition of order and the implication of the chance encounter. This exciting exhibit includes a number of new pieces created especially with the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art in mind and will be on display until September 4th

So there you have it, our choice of the best art exhibitions to visit in 2014. If you’re thinking of travelling the country this year in search of Britain’s greatest artwork then make sure to check out our holiday cottages, with both modern and classic properties on offer we have something to suit all tastes!


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.

Sykes Cottages’ Best Gardens for the Summer

Sunday, April 27th, 2014
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I think that it’s safe to say that summer is well and truly on its way. The clocks have gone back, the temperatures are rising and even though it is only April every now and then you get catch the unmistakable smell of a barbecue. I think that most of you will agree with me when I say that summer is the season to be outdoors, whether it’s sneaking in a spot of sunbathing or just enjoying a nice meal outdoors, and where’s better for doing all those things than in the garden? This is why we’ve had a look and tried to find some of our favourite gardens from the Sykes portfolio, so take a look and see what you think.

The Summerhouse, Bembridge, The Isle of Wight

The Summerhouse, the Isle of Wight ref no 20969

The Summerhouse, ref. 20969

If you’re looking for the perfect place to spend a summer afternoon in the great outdoors then the Summerhouse on the Isle of Wight is just the spot. With the stunning panoramas over the surrounding countryside you’ll never lack for scenery whilst enjoying a little tipple on the deck. Or you can retreat into the hot tub for a nice relaxing soak, and when you start to get a bit peckish what more could you want than firing up the barbie and tucking into an al fresco meal in the evening sun.

Norton Grange, Norton, Worcestershire

Norton Grange, Worcestershire, ref no. 19077

Norton Grange, ref. 19077

On the other hand you might fancy something a little grander. If so then take a look at Norton Grange. This Grade II listed country house is tucked away in a quiet corner of the Worcestershire countryside giving you phenomenal views over the nearby hills. Add to this the cottage’s private woodlands which are perfect for a gentle stroll on a summer morning, and also the private, heated swimming pool and you’ll never want to leave!

The Granary, Coed Morgan, Monmouthshire

The Granary, South Wales, ref no. 15022

The Granary, ref. 15022

Or you might just be looking to get back in touch with nature. Well if this is the case then The Granary would be perfect for you. Situated in the heart of the South Wales countryside this luxury cottage comes complete with its own pond right in the back garden and of course the resident ducks! Aside from that you can expect a daily dawn chorus courtesy of local bird-life, and remember to keep your eyes peeled for visiting pheasants, kingfishers and maybe even the odd woodpecker or two!

Hopefully reading this will have got in the mood for a spending a bit of time in the great outdoors. Well if that is the case why don’t you think about staying in one of our cottages this Summer? They’re perfect for making the most of some summer sunshine!

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.

Sykes’ Guide to Spring Flowers

Saturday, April 26th, 2014
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The UK is home to a number of native and foreign flowers that bloom during the spring months and awaken our gardens from their wintry slumber. Here at Sykes we love the bright colours and heavenly scents commonly associated with spring flowers and to celebrate this colourful array of plants we’ve compiled a list of our favourite flowers along with a guide on where to find them this spring. So keep reading for an eye catching display of the UK’s best spring flowers.

Paeonia (Peony)

Paeonia are a spring time favourite here in Britain; easy to grow and very adaptable, these flowers are ideal for green-fingered beginners. For your chance to view a 100 meter peony border head to Penshurst Palace and Gardens in west Kent during May or June when their peonies are in full bloom.


The crocus is one of the first flowers to bloom after the New Year.  Covering the ground in a rich purple, these flowers are hard to miss on a bright spring morning. We would suggest a visit to Kew Royal Botanic Gardens this April to view their gorgeous crocuses as they carpet the ground between Victoria Gate and King William’s Temple.


Via Flickr

Via Flickr

The daffodil is a much loved flower, especially in Wales where it takes pride of place as one of their national symbols. For a chance to view hundreds of daffodils all at once take a trip to The Glorious Gardens of Argyll and Bute in Scotland where the daffodils take shelter in the 50 acres of woodland.


Found in ancient woodlands throughout the UK, a field of bluebells is almost magical when viewed on a spring evening. These dainty flowers can be found in almost all wooded areas but for a truly enchanting experience we propose a visit to the private wood at Cotton Manor; the perfect spot for a picnic amongst the flowers.


Growing on tress or on shrubs the beautiful Magnolia is wondrous to behold and my personal favourite of all the spring flowers. The Great Gardens of Cornwall currently have seven charming Magnolia Campbellii Champion trees which shouldn’t be missed this spring – make sure to squeeze in a visit before the flowers begin to fade.

Aquilegia (Columbine)

The alluring Aquiline can be found hiding in meadows and woodlands just like the ones found at Bodnant Gardens. Not so easily spotted these colourful flowers can sometimes be passed by, but be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the brilliant white petals standing out against the fresh green spring grass as these pretty flowers will not disappoint.

If you’re thinking of escaping the city and exploring the British countryside is search of spring flowers this year then don’t forget to visit our spring sale page where you will find all our latest offers and discounts!


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.