Archive for February, 2014

Show your support for Fairtrade Fortnight

Friday, February 28th, 2014
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It’s Fairtrade Fortnight, an annual event raising awareness for the challenges and hardships farmers face in the developing world. For the next two weeks, events will be taking place across the country to highlight the need for sustainable prices and decent working conditions for the overseas farmers who provide some of the nation’s favourite produce.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

This year’s campaign focuses on the humble banana, undoubtedly the UK’s favourite fruit. On average, we eat over 5 billion bananas a year- 13 million a day to be precise. Yet, thanks to supermarket price wars, the price we pay for a banana has almost halved in the past decade, whilst the cost of production has virtually doubled- does that sound fair to you? Well, it certainly didn’t to us, and that’s why we’re backing the Fairtrade Foundation in their bid to raise awareness of the importance of buying Fairtrade.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Since the early nineties, the Fairtrade Foundation has been confronting unethical trade practices to help empower underprivileged producers in developing countries. Their logo has been creeping on to packaging and labels in supermarkets extensively over the past few years, with some of the most popular Fairtrade products being coffee, chocolate and wine. Now, the charity has turned its attention towards our favourite cylindrical fruit, and we want to let you know about some of the great events happening in your area over the next Fortnight where you can find out more about Fairtrade and do your bit for the banana growers who work long hours to deliver our favourite yellow fruit.

If you’re in Scotland this weekend, come along to the Bake a Difference Coffee Morning which is taking place in Fairlie, Scotland’s first Fairtrade village. Here, visitors can tuck into an array of top Fairtrade coffee and cakes, whilst little ones can get busy decorating bananas. The coffee morning will also feature a talk with a Juan Santelices of Fair Business Alliance, who will be giving his thoughts on the importance of Fairtrade and why everyone should get behind the campaign to oust overly-cheap bananas.

Gloucestershire will also be playing its part in Fairtrade Fortnight thanks to the organisers of the Thornbury Fairtrade fair. Sample a wealth of Fairtrade foods, join in the quiz or talk to real Fairtrade coffee producers to hear how the charity’s affected themselves and their business. The event is open from 10am to 12pm tomorrow, so come down and show your support if you’re in the area.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Fairtrade fanatics in the town of Edenbridge, Kent, have taken things a step further with their inspired event, Come Dine With Us, an evening of foodie fun presented by six local celebrity chefs. Watch as these culinary maestros cook up some delicious fodder using only Fairtrade ingredients, before choosing a winning dish. The event also features a six course, fully Fairtrade meal, so we hope you’re hungry!

If you’d like more information on the Fairtrade Fortnight events taking place in your area, click here to access the Fairtrade Foundation’s events calendar.

We hope this blog has shone some light on the impact that buying Fairtrade has on the farmers and producers who provide our favourite foods. If you aren’t convinced, head to your nearest Fairtrade Fortnight event and speak to those who have been directly affected by the efforts of this great charity.

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.

Top Welsh Beaches

Thursday, February 27th, 2014
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In honour of the fast approaching St David’s Day, we’d like to celebrate one of Wales’ best loved features: the fabulous Welsh coast line. The beautiful Welsh coast stretches for over 850 miles, housing some of the UK’s most beloved beaches, coves and bays. With this ample selection of beaches on offer it can be hard to decide which seaside town is right for you, so to help you make this difficult decision a little easier, we’ve comprised a list of the best beaches to suit a whole range of summer activities.

Swimming at Porthmynawyd

Dinas Fach and Porthmynawyd: Picture by  Richard Law, CC.

Dinas Fach and Porthmynawyd: Picture by Richard Law, CC License.

The wonderfully clear channels and tempting hidden caves that surround Porthmynawyd make it the perfect location for swimmers; couple that with the lush green backdrop supplied by the surrounding Welsh valleys and you can’t go wrong! As Porthmynawyd is protected from the strong currents that run between the mainland and Ramsey Island, the waters make for easy swimming at any time of year.

Surfing around Llangennith

Llangennith Beach, Via. Flickr

Llangennith Beach. Via Flickr

Llangennith beach is one of the UK’s most popular surf spots. With reliable surf throughout the year and favourable winds you are sure to catch a few good waves on a day’s outing. There are a number of surf schools dotted about the area, so whether you’re looking to try something new or polish off your existing surf skills, Llangennith is the place for you!

Dog Walking on Cwmtydu

Cwmtydu Beach. Via Flickr

Cwmtydu Beach. Via Flickr

Our four legged friends love to run along pebbled shores, slide down towering sand dunes and basically get filthy in the salty surf! For a walk to remember we would suggest taking your doggy pal to Cwmtydu beach. This wonderful stretch of coast is open to dogs all year round and is perfect for photos, especially if you can catch the seals and dolphins playing in the background.

Family fun in Llandudno

Llandudno Beach. Via Flickr

Llandudno Beach. Via Flickr

I personally spent many summer days along the Llandudno coastline; watching Punch and Judy, riding the donkeys and exploring the pier. There is so much to do for children in this fantastic area that you’ll be spoilt for choice! If you’re looking for an extra special day out then visit Llandudno during the Victorian Extravaganza in May where you’ll find colourful characters and fantastic fairground rides!

Welsh Culture on Llanddwyn Island

Llanddwyn Island. Via Flickr

Llanddwyn Island. Via Flickr

Famous for being the home of St. Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, Llanddwyn Island is a fantastic location for discovering Welsh culture. Along with the tragic tale of St. Dwynwen the island also plays an important role in Wales’ maritime history as it was used for the shipping of Welsh slate. This is a fantastic area to visit for Welsh culture and if you head down to the beach you’ll find glorious sand and maybe even a seal or two!

A little privacy at Watwick Bay

Watwick Bay. Via Flickr

Watwick Bay. Via Flickr

This wonderfully remote bay in south Wales is perfect for a romantic stroll along the sands or even a full day relaxing in the sunshine with your favourite book as you observe the little boats bobbing along the shore. The hours will simply tick away at this secluded sanctuary and as the area is so quiet you can even try your hand at fishing during the early morning or mind evening.

This fantastic selection of beaches are easily accessible from anywhere in the UK so there is really no reason not to visit the Welsh coast this summer. If you’re looking for a picturesque place to stay whilst you explore the dazzling coastline then take a look at out Welsh coastal cottages. This wonderful selection of cottages are available for booking now and offer a fantastic alternative to a stuffy hotel room, with plenty of space for your bucket, spade and trusty surfboard!

nicole.westley

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.

Meet the Team: Direct Marketing

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
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Have you ever wondered about the people behind those Sykes Cottages brochures that you get through the post? Who writes those emails that pop into your inbox? How our advert ended up in that magazine? Well wonder no more as today, for the second part of our ‘Meet the Team’ series we’re talking to our direct marketing team. A small but perfectly formed team of four here at Sykes Cottages who work throughout the year to ensure that our brochures are the best that they can be and that you’re kept up to date with all our latest properties, sales and anything else going on here at Sykes Cottages! We asked the team a few questions so that you can get to know them better.

Kate Wadeson – Direct Marketing Executive

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role

I am CIM qualified to a Post Graduate level and have spent 10 years working in various marketing roles. In a nutshell I am responsible for the management and implementation of all direct marketing efforts. I have just returned from Maternity leave and have started some exciting new projects!

I love spending time with my little boy and rediscovering the magic of childhood – from simple pleasures like nursery rhymes and peek-a-boo to family days at Llandudno and Chester Zoo. I also enjoy travel, live music, theatre, food and keeping fit with yoga, walking and swimming. I try to live the “Good Life” with my allotment and chickens but love spas and shopping too much to truly convert; a girl can never have too many shoes or bags!

What is your favourite part of the job?

The variety each day brings – working for a rapidly growing business is really exciting and keeps us all on our toes, the Directors are keen to innovate so we never stand still! There is a real buzz at Sykes with a genuine family feel across all departments. The sense of pride winning the British Travel Award for Best Large UK Cottage / Self Catering Booking Company and every year when we achieve an Excellent rating from TripAdvisor is clear and makes you feel part of something very special!

How long have you worked at Sykes cottages for?

Five years (wow time flies).

What has been the biggest change at Sykes since you started working here?

The number of cottages: the first brochure I produced had just 1,200 cottages we now have a massive 4,500. And we’re still growing – that’s pretty impressive!

Where is your favourite place in the UK? Is there anywhere you’d like to visit?  

I love the Lake District, it’s where I was born and bred and will always remain my “home”. Living in North Wales I still get to enjoy spectacular lakes and mountains but have easier access to gigs! We went to Kent with Sykes Cottages last year and had an amazing time, this year we would like to head to the opposite coast and visit Pembrokeshire.

Peter (1)Peter Morgan – Direct Marketing Coordinator

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role

I currently look after the direct marketing campaigns here at Sykes. This includes producing 15 different brochures and mini brochures throughout the year together with emails, press advertising and other ad-hoc campaigns. Outside of work I enjoy spending time with family, live music and running.

What is your favourite part of the job?

I love the psychology of marketing. It’s all about understanding who our customers are and what matters to them. Only then can we tailor a message that really does the job.

How long have you worked at Sykes cottages for?

I’ve been with Sykes for almost 18 months now. It’s a great team here and I’ve loved every minute!

Where is your favourite place in the UK? Is there anywhere you’d like to visit?

That’s a tough one! I love the beaches of Cornwall, especially the stunning Watergate Bay. Further north, Anglesey is a big favourite with its rugged scenery and wild coastline.

Sally Holmes – Brochure Production and Marketing AssistantSally

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role

The main aspect of my job is to put together any brochures that are sent throughout the year. This will be from the initial brochure selection process, to then running a script with these selections in, and then setting the pages to the desired layout, selecting properties to be used as features along the way. As well as this, I help to compile various customer and owner emails that are sent out every couple of weeks.

In my spare time I like to keep fit by going to the gym and swimming, and am also very interested in crafts. I often create cards and jewellery. I am also currently undertaking an open college course to obtain a diploma in event and wedding planning.

What is your favourite part of the job?

My favourite part of my job is when it comes to our major brochure production time which is Sept – Dec time. The process of taking a page of properties and arranging them to look presentable and to the Sykes format is always exciting. Each day you are working on a different part of the country and whilst it’s a crazy few months, when you see the final result in print, it is extremely rewarding.

What has been the biggest change at Sykes since you started working here?

I have been at Sykes now for just over 7.5 years. The majority of my time here has been as the Team Leader in our Reservations department. (You may recognise Sally from when she gave us her top tip for booking a Summer holiday cottage last month!) I have been in the Marketing Department for just under two years. The biggest change by far is the size of the company. When I first started there were around 15 people that worked here and there’s now around 200.

Where is your favourite place in the UK? Is there anywhere you’d like to visit? 

My favourite place in the UK is Devon. I have had many family holidays down there since I was a teenager and adore every part of it. The way of life seems much calmer than up here with both it’s coastal and country areas.

 Suzie Agnew – Brochure Production and Marketing Assistant

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role

My job involves helping with the production of brochures and mailers throughout the year and various email campaigns to customers and property owners.

Interests outside work include socialising with friends, who come round to dinner a lot as I love cooking, going to Chester Zoo (me and my hub are members), watching movies and football (LFC supporter).

What is your favourite part of the job?

All of it!

How long have you worked at Sykes cottages for?

8 years

What has been the biggest change at Sykes since you started working here?

How big the company’s got! When I started we had a small office in the centre of Chester with about 20 staff. Then when we moved to Lime Tree House we only occupied half the building – now we’re bursting at the seams!

Where is your favourite place in the UK? Is there anywhere you’d like to visit?

Favourite place is probably the Lake District. We go every summer for my husband’s birthday and it’s just so picturesque and relaxing. I’d love to go to Dorset and also somewhere really remote and rugged in Scotland.

We hope you have enjoyed meeting our direct marketing department, if you’d like to see the handiwork of our direct marketers, why not request a brochure and we will pop one in the post for you! If you missed meeting our reservations department last month then click here to see their interviews, and don’t forget to check back next month to see which department we’ll be introducing you to then!

Leanne Dempsey

By Leanne Dempsey

A lover of reading, eating and shopping Leanne will often be found spending time with her two pugs or snapping away on instagram. A big fan of the city, She likes nothing more than getting away for a weekend break in the UK, her favourite places being London and Bath.

Sykes Cottages Favourite Welsh Recipes

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
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In honour of St David’s day on Saturday, and this week being Wales Tourism Week 2014, we are celebrating all things Welsh with a week full of Wales-inspired blog posts. We thought that we’d start off by tickling the taste buds and featuring some Welsh recipes; Wales has inspired many a tasty dish of food from Welsh Cakes and Bira Brith to Cawl and Welsh rarebit and today we’re sharing a few of our favourites!

barabrith

Image via Flickr.

 

Bara Brith

Ingredients

  • 300g Mixed Fruit
  • 200g Light Muscovado Sugar
  • The zest of one orange
  • 250ml Hot black tea
  • 350g Self-raising flour
  • 2 Table spoon of mixed spice
  • 1 Beaten large egg
  • 50g Butter, plus a little extra to grease and serve

Instructions

  1. Put the fruit, sugar and orange zest into a bowl. Pour in the tea then stir everything together and leave to one side to soak over night.
  2. The next day, heat the oven to gas mark 3 (160C) then grease and line the base and sides of a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment.
  3. Put the flour and spice into a bowl then beat in the soaked fruit and liquid mixture. Add the egg, then the butter and beat until you have a stiff batter then pour into the loaf tin.
  4. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, covering with baking parchment if the top starts to look too dark. Use a skewer to check if it is cooked, if the skewer doesn’t come out clean then give it another 10 or so minutes in the oven.
  5. Leave to cool then serve sliced. We think it is best enjoyed with a slathering of butter and a cup of tea.
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Glamorgan

Image via Flickr.

Glamorgan Sausages

Ingredients

  • 225g Breadcrumbs
  • 125g grated cheese
  • Three medium eggs beaten
  • Milk
  • Salt & pepper
  • ¼ Tablespoon of dry mustard
  • 175g Shredded leek that has been sautéed in butter
  • A heaped tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • For the coating
  • 100g Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Medium egg
  • 4 Tablespoons of milk
  • Vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Put the breadcrumbs, cheese seasoning, leeks, mustard and parsley into a bowl and mix well. Add the beaten eggs to the mixture and mix together to form a firm dough, if the mixture gets dry then add a little bit of milk.
  2. Divide the dough into 16 and make each portion into a sausage shape.
  3. For the coating
  4. Beat the egg and the milk together then place the breadcrumbs on a plate and season. Take one sausage at a time and coat it in the egg mixture then roll it in the breadcrumbs. Leave the sausages to chill for half an hour.
  5. To cook
  6. Heat a little oil in a frying pan then add a few sausages at a time. Cook over a medium heat until golden all over. Ensure that the heat is not too high as the sausages may burn and won’t be cooked through.
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Image via Flickr.

Welsh Rarebit Muffins

Ingredients

  • 225g Self raising flour
  • 50g Plain flour
  • 1 Tablespoon of Baking powder
  • ¼ Tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ Tablespoon of salt
  • ½ Tablespoon of mustard powder
  • 50g Strong grated cheese
  • 50g Strong cubed cheese
  • 6 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 150g of Greek yogurt
  • 125ml of Milk
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C (Gas mark 6)
  2. Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, then in a separate bowl mix together the cheese and wet ingredients.
  3. Once mixed, combine both sets of ingredients together and divide between 12 muffin cases.
  4. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until golden before removing and cooling slightly.
  5. Tuck in and enjoy!
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We hope that our favourite Welsh inspired recipes have tickled your taste buds and have inspired you to cook up a feast this weekend! Why not spend St Davids day in Wales and book a self catering holiday? And if you try out one of these recipes, don’t forget to tweet us and let us know!

Leanne Dempsey

By Leanne Dempsey

A lover of reading, eating and shopping Leanne will often be found spending time with her two pugs or snapping away on instagram. A big fan of the city, She likes nothing more than getting away for a weekend break in the UK, her favourite places being London and Bath.

Sykes’ Spring Sale!

Monday, February 24th, 2014
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Here at Sykes Cottages HQ the clouds are clearing and the sun is streaming through the windows, filling the office with a warm glow and reminding us that spring is on its way. The spring weather is ideal for a cottage getaway- warm enough for an adventurous day sightseeing, and cool enough for an intense hike through the hills! During spring the UK is filled with an array of beautiful sights; trees beginning to bud, baby animals in the fields and flowers popping up all around us. We want you to make the most of this beautiful season and to help you out we are launching a very special spring sale!

18501

Tyddyn, North Wales & Snowdonia. Ref: 18501

That’s right today marks the first day of the Sykes Cottages Spring Sale where you will see a delightful selection of cottages reducing their prices for the spring season by up to 25%! Click here to view our special collection of cottages that are taking part in the spring sale. We have everything from modern log cabins set alongside beautiful lakes to stunning character cottages in the heart of the British countryside. Our discounted weeks run from April 25th until May 24th and then start up again from May 30th to June 28th so you can make full use of this enchanting season. There is simply no reason not to get away this spring so take a look at the Sykes’ Spring Sale today and give yourself a little something to look forward to!

nicole.westley

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.