Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Where to see the Solar Eclipse

Thursday, March 19th, 2015
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I’m sure that by now you will have heard all about it but tomorrow is a momentous occasion in the British calendar. That’s because we’re due to experience our first substantial solar eclipse in over 15 years. Sure there have been a couple take place since that date, however here in the UK we’ve been right on the periphery of them and haven’t been able to get the full experience. But all of this is due to change tomorrow! According to the experts, it won’t be until 2090 that we have another eclipse on these shores to match what we’re due to experience tomorrow, so here at Sykes, we’ve decided to try and give you the lowdown on the best places and ways to make the most out of the event.

The eclipse is due to start somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean and will hit the British Isles not too long after 8am. It will be at its fullest point at around half past nine onwards depending on where in the country you are. Because of the path that the sun is due to take, the eclipse will be at its fullest the further north and west that you are, but don’t worry! Even in the least affected areas there should be at least 85% coverage of the sun, making it a fantastic spectacle no matter where you are!

Scotland

As I said before the further to the North you are the better the eclipse will be, making Scotland the prime viewing location. According to the experts, the Torry Battery in Aberdeen will be one of the best spots going to catch a glimpse of the eclipse. Normally it’s the ideal spot for people hoping to see the dolphins that call the North East Coast of Scotland home, however its Easterly aspect and uninterrupted views out over the harbour and North Sea will make it perfect for viewing the solar eclipse.

Cornwall

As seems to always be the way, it sadly looks like the Great British weather will play a part. Experts have forecast that much of the UK will be experiencing some cloud cover during the eclipse and of course this will obstruct the spectacle. Happily however, the forecast in the South West is a good deal clearer than other areas which may well make it the best spot in the country. Add to this the fact that Cornwall is due to experience the eclipse before anywhere else in the UK with it reaching its zenith over Penzance just after 20 past nine.

Obsevatory

Or there’s also the option of heading over to one of the many observatories dotted around the UK countryside. After all, it’s at times like the solar eclipse that they really come into their own! We’ve been seeing more and more of these installations opening up with the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland being the prime example.

So there you go, hopefully you’ll enjoy experiencing this rare event, but remember to do so carefully! Experts recommend that you use a device along the lines of a pinhole projector which will allow you to see the eclipse without risking any damage to your eyes. Fingers crossed that that weather holds off for long enough for us all to catch a good glimpse of it!

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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.

Where is England’s Prettiest Village?

Saturday, March 14th, 2015
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Did you know that today sees the start of English Tourism Week? The event is designed to showcase the best that England has to offer all of it’s visitors and we thought it would be rude to not join in. So for today’s blog we’ve decided to have a look and see if we can find England’s prettiest town, but we’re going to need a bit of help deciding! After much deliberation we’ve managed to narrow it down to a select few and this is where you guys come into it! We’d love it if you could have a look through the list and let us know which one would get your vote.

Castle Combe, Wiltshire

For the first village in the list we’re going to head down to the Cotswolds. Castle Combe always seems to feature in lists of the prettiest places in England so it was the logical place to start! With its traditional market cross and countless stone built cottages, Castle Combe has to be considered as one of the quaintest places in the whole of the country. If you think that the village rings a bell it’s probably because it has been used in the filming of numerous TV shows and films, from Agatha Christie’s Poirot through to Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of War Horse.

Mousehole, Cornwall

Next up we’ve got the Cornish fishing village of Mousehole. Once one of the main trading centres in Mount’s Bay, Mousehole has had a somewhat turbulent past, including a raid by the Spanish in the 16th Century that saw the whole village burnt down save for one house which still stands to this day! Thankfully though things are a bit quieter these days. Since the mid twentieth century the Mousehole has been part of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which has helped it preserve the charm that once saw the famous poet Dylan Thomas label Mousehole as “the loveliest village in England”.

Castleton, Derbyshire

Affectionately known as the “Gem of the Peaks”, Castleton is truly steeped in history. The village is overlooked by the remains of Peveril Castle, built for one of William the Conqueror’s staunchest supporters, and it’s also famous for its four ‘show caves’, namely Peak Cavern, Blue John Cavern, Speedwell Caver and Treak Cliff Cavern. Then there’s the scenery! Found at the very western tip of the Hope Valley, Castleton is bordered on three sides by the steep sided hills that typify the Peaks and lurking around two miles from the village is the imposing Mam Tor, where you’ll find some of the finest views in the area.

Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire

Next up we’re heading up to North Yorkshire and to the village of Hutton-le-Hole in particular. Situated at the southern tip of the North York Moors National Park, Hutton-le-Hole is arguably one of the most picturesque spots in the country. With traditional stone built cottages, the babbling Hutton Beck that runs through the village and wide expanses of grassy common land, helpfully maintained by the herd of free roaming moorland sheep, it looks like the perfect place for a summer’s picnic.

Haworth, West Yorkshire

haworth

Haworth

And for our next village we’re going to head over to Haworth. We have to admit that Haworth is a bit of a favourite here with the Sykes team, so much so that Louise put together a guide of what you should get up to there following her stay last year. Haworth is probably most famous for being the home of the Brontë sisters whilst they wrote the vast majority of their works, and the village is sure to live up to the expectations of even the most fervent of their fans. Or if that isn’t your cup of tea, you could easily spend an afternoon exploring the quaint little shops in the village – Ms Beighton’s Sweet Shop comes highly recommended!

Staithes, North Yorkshire

And finally we’re going to end with the seaside village of Staithes in North Yorkshire. Once one of the largest fishing ports on the North East coast, Staithes has a long standing maritime connection; in fact it was there that Captain Cook first found his love for sailing whilst working as a grocer’s apprentice. These days there are still a few fisherman who operate out of Staithes, however, it has become more of a base from which you can explore the dramatic Yorkshire coastline, mainly thanks to the Cleveland Way passing the village and coastal paths leading up to the beautiful Boulby Cliffs.

So there you go, the Sykes Cottages shortlist for the prettiest English village. Hopefully you’ve managed to pick one of them out, if so do tell us, you can get in touch over either Facebook or Twitter! Alternatively if you know of somewhere that you think is deserving of a mention in the list do let us know!

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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.

Britain’s Best Woodlands

Sunday, March 8th, 2015
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How many of you have heard of the European Tree of the Year competition? I’m going to hazard a guess that there aren’t too many. Well here at Sykes we only found out about it a few days ago and sadly we were a little bit too late to lend a hand to the British entries in the competition. However the entry from England still finished in a respectable sixth place – a fair bit better than the majority of our entries into the Eurovision song contest! Although we might have been a little late to the party the competition still made us realise how brilliant some of Britain’s woodlands are and so we’ve taken a look and tried to track down some of the best – take a look and see what you think!

Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

Where else could we start but with Sherwood Forest? Not only was it the home of arguably Britain’s greatest folk hero and his merry men, Sherwood is actually the site of England’s entry into the Tree of the Year Competition, Major Oak. Legend has it that Robin Hood and his followers actually used Major Oak as their hiding place from the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men and to this day it still remains one of the most famous tourist attractions in the area. Nowadays, Major Oak is well over 800 years old and weighs over 20 tonnes, so I think we can let it off for needing a little hand from the network of joists and props to keep its branches up.

Wistman’s Wood, Devon

Tucked away in a quiet corner of the beautiful Dartmoor countryside is the fantastic Wistman’s Wood. Apparently back in the eighteenth century the local reverend stated that “it is hardly possible to conceive anything of the sort so grotesque as this wood appears,” but I couldn’t disagree more! Wistman’s Wood looks like it has been transported right out of a novel written by J.R.R Tolkien and dropped into the Devonshire landscape. Local legend states that the wood was originally planted years ago by a group of druids and you can certainly see what spawned these rumours!

Kielder Forest, Northumberland

Last but by no means least we’ve picked the Kielder Forest in Northumberland. Sure it may be the largest man-made woodland in England but that isn’t its main claim to fame. Instead it is probably best known as one of the few Dark Skies areas in the country as there is so little light pollution there. This has made it one of the best places in the whole of the United Kingdom for people who are looking to catch a glimpse of the myriad of constellations, not to mention the odd comet and shooting star that cross the nights sky. In turn this has seen the opening and the rise of the Kielder Observatory. Built completely out of renewable and locally sourced materials, the observatory now offers a wide variety of courses and camps that cater for all levels of experience making it well worth a visit!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading about our choices of some of the top forests in the country but do remember that it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to British woodlands. There are so many out there that are well worth a visit! Or maybe this post has inspired you into a woodland break? If so you’re in the right place! We’ve got a wide selection of log cabins that are perfect for exploring Britain’s forests, take a look here.

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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.

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.