Sept 4-13, 2017
We had two days off between housesits which we spent in the Cotswolds, and then we headed south for a 2 1/2 hour drive to the small village of Stour Row, near Shaftesbury, Dorset. Along the way, we made a stopover for lunch in the famous city of Bath, leaving the car in the Lansdown Park & Ride, and catching the bus that left every 15 minutes, and dropped us off right downtown (£5.50 return for the 2 of us). The city was quite beautiful but a bit too big, busy, touristy, and pricey for my liking, and the hour we spent there was plenty. I didn’t have any urge to spend £20-35 each to visit the famous geothermal pools, as we have plenty of hot springs at home in British Columbia. And so we were back on the road around 2:45, and arrived at our next house sit right on schedule at 4pm.
This time we were sitting for a young couple who were on their way to Chile to run the Patagonian International Marathon. Laura has set herself a challenge to run a marathon on all 7 continents in one calendar year. So far she’s run the London Marathon, the Everest Marathon, and the Banff Marathon. Apart from the physical challenge, she is running for charity and you can donate here if you are interested. Her husband, a well known mountaineer, was at one time the youngest person to climb the seven summits, reaching the top of Everest on his 20th birthday. Clearly, these two are an extraordinary young couple and we really enjoyed getting to know them.
We had two lovely mini pointer crosses to care for on this sit – a male who was very fun and rambunctious, and a female who was very shy and cautious. Both are rescue dogs from Cyprus and unfortunately, given her demeanour, there’s no doubt that the female has been terribly abused in the past. We had to take very special care with her and worked hard to gain her trust. Both dogs were very sweet and it was a joy to care for them for the week.
We had a really nice room with a super comfortable queen bed and a private ensuite and our bedroom window looked out onto a courtyard. The cottage was a converted stable and was nicely finished with a open plan for the kitchen, living, and dining room, two bedrooms and an office.
We were at the edge of a tiny village, and we could walk right out the door to the footpaths running through open fields and into the woods. There was an excellent farm shop about 2 km away in East Stour, and a larger Tesco and other stores in the town of Shaftesbury, only a 5km drive away.
When we arrived, the couple took us out for a walk in the fields to show us where to run the dogs, and then showed us around the house. Once again, we were left with detailed written and verbal instructions, and we connected on Whatsapp to stay in touch during the trip. They made us supper and we visited for the evening, getting to know each other. Their plan to was leave around 9am the next day, and so we were all off to bed by 10. The dogs are pretty funny and know their routine very well. At 10pm, they get up and walk to the bedroom and wait for their beds to be moved, then they curl up and go to sleep. Seriously, you could set your watch by them.
It took the little female pup several days to start to relax around us, and she spent a good part of her day snuggled in her doggy bed in the office where she felt safe and comfortable. However, she enjoyed her walks which were kept brief due to a sore paw, and we often went in to sit with her in the office for a visit and snuggles.
The boisterous male pup was hilarious and full of beans. We had to keep the bedroom doors closed because he loved to run off with socks and shoes if given the chance. He really enjoyed his longer walks in the fields and Erik would often take him in the afternoon while I stayed home with the little girl.
We didn’t head off anywhere exciting on this segment, being more than content to sit home, read, watch TV, knit, and go for walks. The weather was quite cool and showery much of the time but we were always able to get out for walks between the showers.
We made a trip to the grocery store every day, and a couple of times we walked around the town of Shaftesbury to see some of the sights, including “Gold Hill”, the famous steep cobbled street that was featured in a 1973 Hovis Bread commercial. It has been used as a film location several times now and in fact, one afternoon when we were walking around town, we saw some filming going on.
Near the end of our 9 days, Steve, our friend from Bournemouth, picked us up and we went into town for supper. We had a good catch up, not having seen him since our last visit to the UK in 2014.
On our last full day, we drove 20 minutes north to visit a National Trust site – Stourhead – a beautiful old Palladian mansion with gorgeous sprawling gardens. Luckily, the sun came out for a little while, so we enjoyed a long walk around the lake, where we took many photos of the park-like surroundings. Afterwards, we drove to the Compton Abbas Airfield with its grass runway, where we had a nice lunch and watched the small planes take off and land. It was a nice day trip, and the only day that we spent 4-5 hours away from home.
That evening, we tidied the house, swept and vacuumed, and generally made sure everything was in tip top shape. We picked up bread, milk, butter etc, and replaced anything we had eaten from the cupboards. Originally the couple had expected to be home very late the next day and we had intended to stay over that night before heading to Liverpool, but it turned out their flight landed at noon and so we were able to get away a day early. We booked a B&B in Cheltenham for the night, and headed to Liverpool early the next morning, giving us more time to visit the city, so it worked out well.
Our little female pup had gradually been venturing out into the living room during the day a few times which was a good sign, but quite amazingly, on the morning that her family was due home, she came into the living room, sat down, and didn’t want to go back into her safe space in the bedroom. I thought she might need to go out for a pee, so I took her out briefly, but when we got back, she went straight back to the carpet and sat there waiting. Eventually I brought her bed out into the living room (which had been unsuccessful on previously occasions), and she happily climbed in and curled up for a snooze. I really do think she knew somehow, that her “mom and dad” were on their way home that day.
I do love the excitement when the families come home at the end of a long trip. The dogs are always so excited and happy! It’s wonderful that they are able to stay in their own home when their people are travelling, and they do settle in and get to know the caretakers pretty quickly, but they are always happy when mom and dad are home again.
We chatted for 15-20 minutes to let them know how everything had gone (in addition to my daily updates on Whatsapp), and left them a card and a jar of chutney. They gave us a 4 pack of Chilean Beer which was fun to try, and we headed off for the 2 hours drive to Cheltenham, at about 2:30pm.
Overall, we were really happy with our second house sit. We loved the house and the dogs, and had fun being a “homebody” in the lovely countryside. And every time we hopped into the car for a drive, we marvelled at the beautiful green rolling hills. I do loved the pastoral views of rural England.
And so now we are off to Liverpool for a few days to see the sights and to visit some places where my ancestors lived over 150 years ago. Can’t wait!
Next up: Liverpool!