Showing posts with label cornwall. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cornwall. Show all posts

Friday 14 July 2017

Callington, Cornwall - 3 to 12 July 2017

This is our second house-sit since we retired, our longest yet. I saw this house sit advertised a few weeks ago, we contacted the owner and had a good chat over the phone, so were really happy to get the gig. She'd written a very detailed handover pack, so that helped us prepare. She asked us to arrive the day before she was leaving so we could get to know the two dogs (or more likely they could get to know us!) and to allow a comprehensive handover. 

Our journey
We broke our journey down to Cornwall with a stop at a small Caravan and Motorhome Club CS in Lympsham, just outside Weston Super Mare, in Somerset.  It was basically a three acre field next to the owners' farm, basic with no electric hook up, but the usual fresh water, waste dump and bins.  At £5 for the night it was a bargain and we were joined for a while by their Jack Russell, who came over to check us out and enjoy a tickle - he earned one of the doggy biscuits we keep in the van!  The next morning, we drove to Brean Down, a peninsula overlooking the Bristol Channel and had our breakfast enjoying the view. The tide was well out and the sands very compact, so much so that it was used as a car park, but we didn't risk it.  Unfortunately it rained for a while but we later walked along the beach - a bit flat and lifeless for our liking.  Back on the road, we drove down the M5 and A30, stopping off at the Tesco in Launceston before driving the last few miles to the house sit, the final mile down a narrow single track road with no passing places!

A very friendly Jack Russell, with hay fever!
The house and area
This is a beautiful cottage, part of what was once a number of outbuildings to the farmhouse opposite. It's L-shaped, with about an acre of lovely gardens, including vegetable beds and overlooking fields and hills - and oh so quiet.  The owner has worked really hard on the house and gardens and is justifiably proud of both.  We parked up the van and were met with a friendly smile and a hug - always a good start!  After a quick tour around we sat down with a cup of tea to chat and start a slow handover, ready for the owner's departure the next day.  We had a very comfortable double bedroom with our own bathroom and wonderful views over the fields and hills.  The owner had made us a delicious meal and we enjoyed this, soon at ease in what can sometimes be an awkward time.  I think the glass of cremant before dinner, sat outside in the warm sunshine helped!  The handover was very thorough and I hope we put her at ease, as this was her first time using trusted house sitters, so naturally there's an element of trust and uncertainty.  

This part of Cornwall is quiet and unspoiled, with ancient field boundaries and lots of very narrow lanes (too small for our van) with often an old, abandoned and ramshackle cottage along the way. Most were in a lovely situation with outstanding views; such a shame that their history was lost in time.  At the bottom of the valley was a lovely old mill, now converted into a large house. 

The pets
We were privileged to be looking after two lovely, happy-go-lucky terriers (our favourite dog breed!); one a Patterdale called Charlie and the other Bertie, a Jack Russell. We'd already been briefed on their feeding and medical needs and we took some time to let them come to us, as we find this the best way to build up a bond with the pets; work to their timings.  They are both truly delightful - well-trained and fun to be with; they're both lying down underneath the table as I type, happily watching the world go by and occasionally snapping at the flies! We were warned that they're both true terriers; if, on our walk, they spy a rabbit, deer or indeed anything on legs, they'll be off!  On our first evening we walked them with the owner through the woods of the Duchy Estate.  They were well behaved and they've been the same with us throughout the sit.  They return on command or whistle, but also have sound collars and returned when the remote was pressed - both a delight to look after.  Charlie was a little more reserved but, once he got to know us, was great fun to play with and eventually sat next to us with his chin on our leg.  Bertie came to us earlier and enjoyed a tummy tickle.  He was also a master dribbler with his ball - you would never catch him!  Both enjoyed good long walks. As the days wore on, both came to lie by us on the grass or sat with us on the benches outside.  

Looks like the boys want a road trip
Our days
We often woke with the sunrise, which appeared over the hills through our bedroom window at about 0500 - such a delight. Sometimes a regular visitor - a large beautiful buzzard - would be sat on the garden fence.  It was the perfect time to just get up and take the dogs for a good walk in the cool of the dawn.  Even at this early hour the wildlife was all around us. We also walked the dogs in the evening, finding several routes around the local paths and lanes. Back at the cottage, we sorted the dogs' meds and breakfast before we had ours.  If staying at the cottage, we pottered during the day, perhaps doing some weeding (we introduced the owner to permaculture) and watering, interspersed with playing with Charlie and Bertie, or just sat outside reading our books.  We did have one day out, which was fine with the owner as we knew we could leave the dogs for a few hours (with Radio 4 playing in the background!).  We had a lovely return trip to the Eden Project, our third visit since it first opened in 2001.  On the day we visited it was very warm outside and even hotter in the rainforest biome.  We'd also planned a return trip to the Lost Gardens of Heligan, but decided to give it a miss this time; we'll return one day.  In this part of the world there are so many places to visit or walk around; it's a beautiful part of the country.  I also managed a 15 mile bike ride around the lanes - the hills are very steep here!

A hot day at the Eden Project

And to finish...
I collected the owner from Gunnislake train station on her return,  We'd arranged to stay over that final evening so she wouldn't have to worry if her train was delayed.  I cooked us a vegetarian dinner (halloumi kebabs with satay dip, Thai vegetable curry and fried rice, finally Creme Catalana with a (freshly picked) rhubarb and ginger base) and we enjoyed a glass of cava sat outside beforehand, catching up on our respective experiences over the past days. This is one of the delights of house sitting - meeting interesting people and sharing ideas, adventures, pasts and laughter. Having stayed over on this final evening, we shared breakfast before saying our goodbyes. We were off to spend a day and night exploring Tintagel (on a car park that allowed overnight stays), with another night at a beachside CS in Somerset before our drive home.  This has been another great housesit, in a lovely part of the UK. We were blessed with great weather, a beautiful property in outstanding countryside and two delightful dogs to look after.  We hope we may be able to return one day.

Tintagel castle

Tintagel car park - £4 for 24 hours

The Somerset CL on the farm beyond those trees

Sunday 8 September 2013

Life's for living

Our drive home took 7 hours, with a stop on the M5 for lunch.  You can see from the video that we enjoyed the journey as much as the time on the site.  As it always does when we travel in a motorhome, it got us thinking about when we can buy our own.  Time waits for no man (or woman) and my parents didn't get the chance to retire together and live their dreams, so perhaps we should do it now.  Perhaps we should make the leap and take some risk to buy our own van. There's a few things we need to line up first, but maybe, just maybe, we can actually buy our own van next year.

Back to crunching the numbers, checking, searching, dreaming.  Life's for living.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Life's for chillin'

My business card feels at home at the Maenporth beach cafe

We've had a lovely, lazy day.  It rained most of the night - hard - but the morning started nice and sunny.  After a lazy breakfast the rain came in again, but by the time we'd washed and cleaned up it was looking a lot brighter.  So we wandered down to Maenporth beach with our coats.  After a quick wander around the beach we headed onto the coastal path heading west.  After about a mile we found a large rocky cove, with lots of open, pebbly space.  We wandered around here for a while, soaking up the peace & quiet and collecting a few special stones for the deck - it's something we do at every new beach we visit!

We then headed back towards Maenporth. Ready for a break, we had a tea & coffee at the cafe on the beach.  Cathy had a scone with jam and clotted cream, I had a very tasty crab sandwich.  We then wandered onto the beach - the tide was out.  Cathy enjoyed a paddle and I bimbled around some of the rock pools. The sun was out and it was very warm, a marked difference to yesterday (when we left the van this morning there was still a pile of ice in the grass from the hail storm).

Returning to the van we sat in the sun for a while before preparing dinner.  Tonight it was a ratatouille baked in the oven with chicken thighs wrapped in Parma ham, plus sautéed potatoes, washed down with a bottle of rosé. We baked some bread rolls ready for tomorrow's lunch and I went off to do the washing up while Cathy did some packing.

We're now sat watching the clear sky darken, listening to some music.  It'll soon be time for a brew and a read before bed - with such a long journey home we have to leave the site by 0800 tomorrow morning, so will need to be up early to empty waste, unplug, pack and head off.  It's been a lovely break and we've quite enjoyed staying on one site for 4 nights, although we look forward to exploring more of Cornwall when we have our own, smaller van.  Our next motorhome trip is a long year away but we'll save up and enjoy the fortnight away in France - after all, life's for chillin'.

Maenporth beach


Tiny mussels - a few years and they'll be big enough to eat!

Contemplating..... Meditating.... Ruminating.... Dreaming.... Wishing

Camper van apron in use in the camper van!

Friday 6 September 2013

Life's full of surprises

The golf course is white with hail but the surrounding hills are unaffected
I've just returned from day two of the Agile On the Beach conference.  All four of us (Chuck, Rob, Dan and me) really enjoyed and we have some ideas for improvements when we get back to the office.  It was a lovely sunny but slightly chilly morning as I cycled the Cornish lanes to the Tremough Campus.

But during the day the weather turned to heavy showers, which meant Cathy spent her day in and around the van.  But she read two books, learned some more Spanish, listened to some music (thanks Frank & Mandy - the speaker's great!) and cooked dinner, so when I returned the van was lovely and warm and the food in the oven smelled delicious.

My commute back to the van was interesting to say the least.  Coming out of the campus it was a lot cooler and it had clearly rained, but the roads were either gently steaming or dry.  The first half of the ride was fine but when I turned off to head down the last steep, narrow lane, I could see some hail on the road.  As I descended the hail was thicker and thicker, with rainwater pouring down the side of the lane.  As I approached the bottom of the hill there were cars stopped in the lane that clearly were struggling to move through the ice.  In some places the hailstones were 2cm deep and at the bottom it was at least 10cm deep, including quite a lot of water!  I stopped to take a few photos before carefully making my way up the hill, carefully cycling in the gully with water pouring down it.  More cars were parked in the lane so I had to walk around them. At the top of the lane, on Maenporth Road, there was a large traffic jam as cars struggled to move.  On the final descent to the campsite the water torrent had washed away most of the ice, but it was still quite slippery.  I stopped again to take a photo of the field by the road completely white, with all fields around it unaffected. Returning to the site I locked up the bike and entered the warmth of the van.

We've eaten now. (Cathy did the cooking!) The starter was our own home grown, huge pomodoro tomatoes, with goat's cheese, rapeseed oil, black pepper & Anglesey sea salt.  The main was a delicious stew of chicken, tomatoes, leek, red peppers, carrot, giant white beans, rosemary and hot paprika, cooked slowly in the oven.  With some oven baked bread rolls and a glass of wine, it went down very well. We're now sat, feet up, glass of wine, music in the background, listening to the rain. The forecast for tomorrow is heavy showers, but I'm sure we'll head off for a walk to the beach or along the coast. I've just the washing up to do then no doubt I'll soon be asleep.

Bright sun this morning, deep ice this evening - life's full of surprises.

The car is stuck in the ice

This one too

The start of the 'total gridlock' in the country lanes

The torrent of water was my escape route on the bike

10cm deep at the bottom of the hill

Like a mini-glacier in Cornwall

This looks so weird

The van's windscreen deals with the hail

Thursday 5 September 2013

Life's full of ups and downs

We remain parked up in the Pennance Mill campsite as we're booked in for 4 nights.  This is the longest we've stayed on any site - before it was 2 nights.  But we're quite enjoying putting down roots for a few days and leaving things around the van, rather than having to pack up each morning.

I was up at 0630 this morning as it was a work day for me. Four of us are attending the Agile On the Beach conference at the Tremough Campus in Penryn, over 2 days. Working for a company called On the Beach, I felt we had to attend! Luckily the campsite showers were nice and hot even at that time of the morning.  It was a bit misty first thing, but as the sun rose this soon burnt off.  I made us both a brew and had some breakfast, then packed my rucksack, left Cathy for the day and unhitched the bike from the back of the van.  Heading out of the site and turning right, I immediately hit a 12% climb - not a good way to start my day! Google maps told me it was a 4.5 mile ride to the campus.  What it omitted was the roller coaster ride of steep downs and even steeper ups.  Having lived in Cornwall in the past I should have expected this, but forgot! On small country roads I had to stop a few times to check the map, but eventually made it to the campus breathless, thighs shaking and very sweaty! It was a good job I had a granny gear on my hybrid bike.  After cooling down and a couple of strong, black coffees to steady my nerves (I'd had to cross the very busy A39), I enjoyed the first day of the conference.

In the meantime, Cathy enjoyed her breakfast of bacon, eggs and peppers before spending the day on a sunny and sheltered Maenporth beach.  Unfortunately, a 'blow out' in the bikini department meant she couldn't enjoy a swim, but she relaxed on the sand with her kindle.  As the cloud cover increased she returned to the van for lunch and a chilled out day reading.

The conference finished at 1700 and I emerged to a cool, strong breeze & mizzle.  The ride back was interesting on damp, slippery roads; Chuck passed me at one point and asked if I needed a lift as he was worried I was all over the road, but I reassured him I was fine and just avoiding the many potholes and gravel patches.  Returning to the van, I had time for a quick brew and shower before heading back up the hill to head for Gyllyngvase beach, via Swanpool beach, for the party.  Forty minutes later we headed into the marquee to get our free pint of Tribute.  A few chats later, and having been 'papped' by the official photographer, we queued up and grabbed our share of the very tasty hog roast.  Cathy told the young chef she had walked 2 miles for this so gained an extra ration!  We caught up with the other OTB guys for a chat and a couple of beers before heading back.  The beach party was good fun, with live music and an excellent location - I love Cornwall! The walk back was 'interesting' to say the least - very dark, small lanes with what seemed an endless stream of cars - had we stumbled on the Cornish equivalent of the M25!? After several stops to clamber up the bank and wave our torch at the oncoming cars, we eventually made it back to the van.  Cathy headed off to bed, glad to still be in one piece after a traumatic walk back, while I enjoyed a glass of red wine while writing up this blog - it' a dirty job but someone has to do it.

Tomorrow is another conference day for me - looking forward to it.  Cathy will plan her day depending on the weather.  The bike commute is tough, but if I did this every day I'd soon be fit.  All four of us want to go back and persuade our CEO to relocate On the Beach to - well - on the beach.....Cornwall style! There is something refreshing, invigorating and exciting about being in the south west.  Or maybe I just miss living by the sea.

Come tomorrow night, I can relax for a night and day to enjoy the local beaches and seafood.  I'm really looking forward to it and hope to return to work refreshed and reinvigorated, ready for new agile challenges.  Still loving the motorhoming life.
She's enjoying her 'free' pint of Tribute at the Beach Party
The On the Beach Dev Team - at the Agile On the Beach Party - on the beach!

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Life's a Beach

We're parked up at the Pennance Mill Campsite, about 3 miles south of Falmouth, between Swanpool and Maenporth beach. We picked up the van from Steph & Ian at Live the Dream Motorhome about 0900 and, after loading up, hit the motorways. It was a really warm day and the long, seven hour drive was only broken up by a lunch stop on the M5 and a refuel on the A30. The campsite is very quiet; clearly the families have left and so it's peaceful.

Having set up, hooked up and after a cup of tea, we headed off for a walk to the find the beach. About 20 minutes later we reached Maenporth Beach, a small sandy cove with a great looking cafe, plus a bar & grill called The Cove.  After a wander up and down the beach we took the coastal path heading north.  Cathy enjoyed the blackberries and the path was lined with lovely fragrant honeysuckle. About  2 miles on we reached Swanpool beach.  This also has a cafe right on the beach, plus a restaurant called Indaba with a great looking seafood menu - I think this will be our lunch spot on Saturday!

Stomping along the small lanes, we returned to the van ready for some food and Belgian & German beer.  We enjoyed this with some spring rolls and koftas, sat outside under the awning. In the meantime the curry was cooking in the oven.  Awning de-rigged, we moved inside to eat.  Now it's time for bed as I'm up early for day one of the Agile On the Beach conference, at Falmouth University in Penryn, along with 3 of the guys from work.  It should be a good couple of days, plus I get to cycle to work, although it's a tad hilly around here.  Coincidentally, most of the signs around here mention 'On the Beach' - lots of synchronicity going on. So time to sleep now after a long drive and an early start tomorrow. No doubt Cathy will have a lazy day!

First attempt at putting up the awning
All set up

Maenporth Beach

Maenporth Beach cafe

Above Swanpool Beach - menu looked great!

Enjoying some Belgian beer

More enjoying of Belgian beer!