This was one of our favourite house sits so far – a lovely home in a great location with a sweet dog – what more could we ask for? We started off our trip to England with a week in the Cotswolds and then enjoyed 3 1/2 weeks of a single house sit which felt like just the right amount of time for a trip, particularly in this location. I would definitely go back again if they asked us.
We flew into Gatwick via Westjet once again, managing to snag $800 return flights from Kelowna, via Calgary. We have been very happy with Westjet so far – we definitely have more space and leg room than on other discount airline flights and we’ve often been able to book roomier seats (exit row or bulkhead) for an extra fee ($10-40), which we feel is well worth the price. We do have to pay extra for checked baggage ($25/bag each way), and food is available for purchase only, but we prefer to bring our own snacks anyway. A bonus is that Westjet never overbooks and bumps you so that’s always nice. Our favourite flight is to leave Kelowna in the early afternoon, have a short layover in Calgary (Vancouver is our second choice), and then fly to London, Gatwick overnight. We usually arrive in mid to late morning, check into our B&B, have a long nap, go out for supper, and then head back to bed by 9pm. By the next day we are mostly over our jet lag and ready to start our travels.
Once again we stayed at Gatwick House B&B which is convenient, familiar, and easy walking distance to pubs and restaurants. We can take a city bus directly from the airport for cheap easy transport, catch a cab for about £5-6, or pick up our rental car and drive the 3km. Because we are return customers, our hosts usually let us check in early, as soon as the room is clean, so this time, we were in our room before noon.
The next morning, we drove to Wargrave, a small village near Reading, where we stayed at a B&B for two nights. As big fans of Midsomer Murders on Netflix, we enjoyed doing a self-guided driving tour to several nearby towns where we visited some of the sites where the show is filmed. We also saw the windmill on a hill, where Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was filmed in 1968. We enjoyed a couple of pub dinners within walking distance of our B&B, and had an early supper out on a sunny patio overlooking the Thames river one afternoon.
Next, we drove to the Cotswolds, and checked into an Airbnb “apartment” in the tiny hamlet of Broadwell, near Stow on the Wold. It was a two bedroom, 2 bathroom suite in the upper level of garage on the hosts’ property, and was very thoughtfully decorated and kitted out with everything we would need for the next five days. Each day, we took a long walk on one of the local Cotswold trails – the bluebells were in full bloom and the forest floor was glorious – and we spent our evenings at home watching British TV, or sitting out on our little deck.
Finally, after our week of R&R, we were ready to head to the village of Bridge, about 5km south east of Canterbury. It was an easy drive on the motorway, and took about 4 hours including a short stop for lunch.
We arrived at our housesit and the owners and their sweet pup, Jaffa, met us at the door. As always, there was a whirlwind of conversation, as we toured the house, got to know each other, and asked/answered many questions. We had a nice dinner, and the couple provided us with a binder filled with detailed explanations of the workings of their lovely home. Then they went off to finish packing and we brought in our stuff and got settled into our room.
The house was absolutely beautiful. Built in the 1920’s, with an extensive addition added on about 20 years ago, it boasted 6 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, a lovely huge kitchen complete with Aga, as well as breakfast room and a large lounge. There were a multitude of other rooms as well as a large stone patio and over an acre of beautiful landscaped grounds. We were in heaven.
Our room was at one end of the house – a large corner room with windows over-looking the fields of oats next door. It had nice ensuite with a large walk in shower and plenty of storage for our clothes, which we don’t always seem get at every house sit.
Jaffa was an 11 year old collie cross. I never could figure out what he was crossed with but he had ears like a German Shepherd and reminded me a bit of a coyote. As soon as we arrived, he snuggled right up to us and seemed very happy to meet us. We all went out for a walk to see some of the best places to walk, and over the weeks we stayed there, we found many foot paths and bridle trails through farmland, woodland, and quiet country roads. It was absolutely lovely. Jaffa was extremely well behaved on and off leash and his recall was excellent. He knew his routine well and would always come and remind me if it was time for “walkies”, or eat, or check on the greenhouse, or go to bed.
Our trip was not without its challenges, but it was nothing we couldn’t adapt to. Just before our hosts left, they let us know they had a last minute plumbing problem. That morning, the master ensuite had sprung a leak, and there was water was dripping through the ceiling into the lounge. They had called a plumber and he came that evening to see if he could set things right. In order to stop the leak from doing any more damage, he turned off the Aga which supplied hot water to that side of the house, and promised to return in a few days to fix it and get the water running properly again. In the meantime, we would use the electric stove and oven – totally fine with us – and we’d just bring a bucket of hot water in from the scullery room when we wanted to wash dishes. Luckily, there was a dishwasher that worked fine so it was very little bother, and the hot water in our ensuite worked fine.
The next morning, we had breakfast and sent our hosts off to the airport, encouraging them to relax and not worry about the house – we would manage just fine and deal with the plumber in a few days. As they would be travelling in China, we had both downloaded an app called WeChat to communicate with one another, as WhatsApp and many others, are blocked in that country. This arrangement worked very well for the whole trip.
After they had left, we did a little unpacking and got settled in and then set off to take Jaffa for his first walk. We were only a block away from the house when my cell phone rang – it was our hosts. In the rush of leaving that morning, they realized they’d left an important backpack at home. Immediately, we offered to bring it to the airport, so we quickly dropped off the dog at home, and jumped into the car for the 75 minute drive to Gatwick. They were waiting at the drop off area when we arrived, so we passed them the bag and I’m happy to say they made it through security and to their gate just in time. They would never have had time to drive home to pick it up. Of course, they were immensely grateful that we’d brought the backpack but I was just happy I’d had my phone turned on at the time so we were able to help them out.
And so it had been a rather eventful start to what ended up being a very relaxing house sit. Over the three weeks, we had plenty of opportunities to do short day trips to the surrounding areas of interest as Canterbury is located on the south eastern corner of England, and our village was an easy 30 minute drive to the coasts on all three sides.
One day, we drove to Dover to walk along the famous cliffs and to watch the ferries and lorries coming and going at the busy port. Another day we drove to Whitstable and had lunch on the docks, and on one hot and sunny bank holiday afternoon, we made the mistake of thinking we’d find a parking spot along the busy beach in Broadstairs. Instead, we drove along the streets and looked at the beach from the car, before driving back home.
We drove to Hythe one afternoon, and rode the old 1/2 size railway to Dymchurch and back that the gardener had recommended, and we also visited a few Kent villages where some of my way-back Goldup ancestors lived. While we were in England, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married. We briefly thought about taking a train to Windsor and trying to catch a glimpse of the couple when they did their post-wedding carriage ride, but we soon realized that it would be so crowded, it was unlikely we’d be able to see anything, so we elected to stay home and watch the wedding on TV.
And of course, we made plenty of trips into Canterbury itself. It was only about 4km away from the house, and we did most of our shopping at the Waitrose there. We could park at the grocery store for free for 90 minutes, and so several times, we left the car and walked into the old part of town. One afternoon, I bought a pass and visited the beautiful Canterbury Cathedral, while Erik went to get his hair cut. A few days later, I went back to see the cathedral gardens. We also enjoyed walking around the old part of town and seeing so many historical buildings, as well as watching the punters on the Great Stour River.
One thing we love about housesitting is getting to know the neighbours and this time was no exception. One older lady who lived just down the road, invited us over for drinks one evening, and we had a nice visit and enjoyed getting to know her and see some of her beautiful old house. In addition, we looked forward to visiting with Sarah who came to clean the house once a week, as well as David, the gardener who pruned the hedges and cut the lawns once a week. In fact, David and his wife, Lesley, invited us over to their home one evening and gave us a tour of their own beautiful English garden, and their 15th century house. They both had hobbies and Lesley showed us the beautiful doll houses she made, as well as David’s model train village that took up an entire room.
And as for Jaffa, well, he was very sweet. He knew his routine to a tee and would definitely let me know when it was time to go for our morning walk, or for his biscuit and bedtime. There was a greenhouse with many seedlings that needed to watereing every day and Jaffa insisted that we walk out back and check on it a few times a day. Although there was a gardener as well as another lady who came to weed the flower beds, Erik did cut the lawn twice and I weeded the veggie garden just for the fun of having something to do outdoors.
During our trip, the weather was mixed with some very warm sunny days, and other cooler showery ones, with the temps ranging from 12C – 24C. We were lucky not to have too much rain though, as I didn’t have proper shoes for walking on very muddy tracks. Next trip, I plan to bring two pairs of running shoes so when one gets wet and muddy, I have another pair to wear while they dry out. In a perfect world, I’d have a pair of wellies stored at Gatwick airport to wear whenever I arrive in England.
Eventually our idyllic visit came to an end. Our hosts arrived home and we did a walk through the house and shared stories. We headed off to Gatwick to stay overnight at our usual B&B and catch our flight home the next morning. It was another wonderful trip and I’m happy to say, our hosts left us another excellent five star reference on the Trustedhousesitters website.
If you are interested in joining Trusted Housesitters, you can get 20% your membership fee (and give us two free months) by following this link.
Next up: Another trip to England on Aug 21 for three back-to-back housesits followed by a week in Crete.