Monday 28 March 2016

Easter house sit in Carmarthenshire

We were looking for a house sit over the Easter long weekend and found a lovely place - looking after a barn conversion plus two dogs, two cats and some chickens on a 6 acre small holding, not far from Carmarthen and a short ten minute drive to the beach - perfect. I contacted the owners via the Trusted Housesitters website and a few days later we had a chat with them on Skype. Originally there were also a couple of rescue ponies too, but they were rehomed by the RSPCA just before we arrived.  We decided to take Nido, our campervan.  Although there was a room for us in the house, there was also space on the drive for the van, with electric, plus we could use the van for any day trips.  So we decided to use the house during the day but sleep in the van. 

Thursday 24 March 2016
We were both working today, although I worked from home in the morning and had taken the afternoon off.  I collected the van from the storage site at around midday, which gave me plenty of time to water and fuel up, load up our clothes and food and give him a good clean. Cathy arrived home at about 4pm and we were on the road soon after. The roads were quite busy as it was the start of the Easter long weekend. Our route took us through the centre of Wales along the A483. This is mostly single carriageway and winds up, down and around the hills, so in the dark and rain the drive down this unfamiliar route was 'interesting'.  At one point the top of a pass was thick with fog and on a few occasions, to ease the stress and rest my eyes for a short while, I pulled over to let the cars queueing behind pass me.

We arrived in the village just after 9pm and I parked up by the pub to walk out and find the house in the dark. Luckily one of the owners was looking out for us, so having said hello I drove through the gate and parked up in front of the garage building. Once hooked up we popped into the house to meet the owners, who were very friendly and well prepared for a new set of house sitters.  The tea and cake were very welcome and we sorted out the house handover, plus cat and dog feeding routines.  After a long day and as it was now very dark outside, we decided to do the rest tomorrow morning and returned to the now warm van for a welcome sleep.

Friday 25 March 2016
The next morning we woke to clear blue skies and bright sunshine - lovely!  This was especially welcome as the last two weeks at home had been nothing but thick grey cloud. I made us a brew and sat outside, fussing the dogs, until Cathy was up and dressed.  We walked up to the chicken coops to learn the feeding and cleaning routine, then a cuppa with the owners to finish off the handover before they left for their own trip away.  We made the most of the welcome fresh eggs, cooking these with spinach and toast, eaten outside in the warm sunshine enjoying the view over the hills and countryside.  We had a play with dogs Sunny and Bubbles before locking up and driving out to make the most of the good weather - the forecast for the rest of the weekend was pretty dire.  

The owners had kindly left us a parking permit for Pembrey Country Park. We drove down and into this lovely area, a mix of large grass areas, pine forest and dunes, leading to miles of sandy beach.  There were various car parks dotted around and we pulled up in one behind the dunes.  It was sunny and warm so out came the shorts!  There were a few people out walking, some with dogs. The tide was out so it felt like we had the huge beach all to ourselves.  We walked east, towards the Gower peninsular in the distance, Cathy collecting some lovely oyster shells of various colours. At the far end we reversed our route and walked back along the tide line, picking up a few more shells and some small, smooth pieces of driftwood for our garden.  The first skylarks of the season could be heard but not seen.  However, near the end of the walk one flew up and held station only about 10 metres high - a lovely song.  We really enjoyed being back by the sea again (it's where we belong!) and returning to the van our faces were glowing from the sun and wind.

Back at the house the dogs were pleased to see us and we had a bit of a play with them - Bubbles didn't want to let go of his tennis ball until he spotted some of the shells Cathy collected; he particularly liked the whelks for some reason! The sun was still shining brightly and it was lovely sat outside, sheltered from the breeze.  We enjoyed a brew before heading indoors to cook some food.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing, playing with the dogs and enjoying the peace and quiet.  Once the dogs had been fed we watched some TV until it was time to put the chickens to bed for the night.  The dogs had a final wander outside before we locked up the house and returned to the van.  The sky was clear and the stars amazingly bright thanks to the lack of artificial light - what a lovely place.

Pembrey Sands - beautiful spot

Any scraps for a hungry doggy?

Lovely quiet pitch

Fresh eggs for breakfast 

Chicken coop with a view

Saturday 26 March 2016
We woke to grey skies and increased wind - outside I mean!  I was first up and fed the dogs before letting them out for a run while I checked the cats' food and water.  Next it was the chickens' turn - coops cleaned, food and water refreshed and letting them out to roam around (except for one that has a leg problem so needs to be locked in for its own safety). Back at the van I made us a brew, then we went into the house to enjoy our breakfast - more fresh eggs! By now the expected rain had arrived and this became increasingly heavy during the day, as the wind also strengthened.  So today was an 'in' day, catching up online, reading and just chilling. Even with the poor weather, we enjoyed looking out over the hills as the clouds and rain rolled in from the south west. 

Lunch done, we continued to watch the rain, which finally eased later in the afternoon. Sunny and Bubbles were grateful for their evening feed.  For us, I'd made a chicken and veg stew which had been slowly cooking on the hob and we enjoyed this with some red wine. By now the sun was setting so it was time to put the chickens to bed.  Cathy and I rounded them up. They'd laid us three eggs, all different colours, as if they'd been especially dyed for Easter; we'll enjoy those tomorrow. Cathy washed up while I enjoyed a hot shower, then we settled down to watch some TV with a brew. The last job was to let the dogs out for their last run, then move the clocks in Nido forward one hour ready for BST.  Bubbles did his usual disappearing act, legging it off into the darkness and returning half an hour later! I'm hoping to get out on the road bike tomorrow... if the weather holds.

Sunday 27 March 2016
Happy Easter! I'd bought Cathy an Easter egg, but she started on it last night, so it'll have to be real fresh, free-range eggs again for breakfast!  It was windy and rainy in the night.  I was first up, flicked on the heating then dressed and went into the house to feed the dogs and cats.  As usual the dogs were ecstatic to see me (cupboard love!) and the cats aloof.  With them fed, watered and fussed  it was the chickens' turn.  Finally, it was Cathy's turn to be pampered - tea and choccie biccies in bed.  I'd hoped for a bike ride today, but it was cold in the blustery wind with the occasional sharp shower and I hadn't packed inclement weather clothing. So we decided a walk would be better for the conditions.  

Whenever we do a housesit in a new area I buy the relevant Ordnance Survey map, so I worked out a circular walk.  Cathy had a little trouble getting ready as Bubbles had taken a liking to one of her walking socks!  I saw him trotting across the patio towards the house with it in his mouth - he's a right character and the older Sunny turns her nose up at him - she just wants a tummy rub and food!  Socks recovered, we headed out past the pub and into the fields.  The ground was quite heavy in places, the first half being mainly across the fields and hills and the return on small country lanes.  It was windy all the way around but at least the rain stayed away, so our faces were glowing from wind burn and some sunshine when we returned. 

Back at the house we had tea and cake (why not!) and Cathy went off for some 'Egyptian PT' (aka a snooze!) while I made some vegetable pasta sauce and watched the Oxford/Cambridge boat race.  The Oxford ladies won and the Cambridge crew did well to even finish considering their boat nearly sank in the choppy conditions.  But the Cambridge men pulled it off - the better team obviously! The pasta sauce is for the home owners.  I always like to leave something if I can. They might not get home until late, so at least they can warm up the sauce and cook some pasta with little effort.

The sun was shining but it was really chilly in the stiff westerly wind, no doubt cooled by the sea which isn't far away.  So I dipped in and out, playing with the dogs and popping back in to sit at the sunny kitchen table.  Cathy finally emerged from her slumber and went off for a shower before settling down to read.  I did similar and brought some food over from the van to eat later - a simple salad with some cold meats.  I also found a bottle of gin and some tonic in the van - rude not too - and it was nice to celebrate the first light evening of British Summer Time, sat in the peace and quiet of the house. This place is lovely.  It was originally built in the 1680s as the Tythe barn for the village church, which is on the opposite side of the road.  It has had various storage uses over the years, but this conversion has been completed very sympathetically and to a very high standard.  We feel lucky to be able to look after it and the animals for a few days - one of many such gigs on the Trusted Housesitters website.

Enjoying the sunshine

Dining table with a view

Just one cuddle?

Whereas Bubbles just wants to play ball!
Monday 28 March 2016
Last night Storm Kate hit the south coast.  We had a lot of wind and heavy rain but we woke to bright sunshine, albeit still a chilly wind.  First priority was feeding the dogs, cats and chickens, plus a bit of mad run around with the dogs.  Bubbles like to chase a tennis ball but he doesn't like to let it go, so we only get to play it once!  In the meantime Sunny just likes a tummy-rub.  We had breakfast inside the house before cleaning up and readying Nido for the off.  One last cuddle with the dogs (and a little treat!), house locked up and we headed off.  We have some friends - Dave and Angie - who live near Llandrindrod Wells and we had arranged to stop off on the way for a catch up.  Dave and Angie were also in the Royal Navy - same branch as me - and I've always kept in touch with them.  It was great to catch up and they kindly provided a lovely lunch.  It was great to see their bouncy dog - Fudge!  Dave and Angie are retired and their passion is hill walking - they have a great website called Marsarnen Ramblers where they record all their walks, well worth a visit.

Well fed and watered and after a good chat (kindred spirits) we left them to take Fudge out for a walk and continued our drive north.  Back home, we cleaned and emptied the van before I returned him to storage.

It's been another great house sit.  The owners were very friendly and extremely organised and we really enjoyed looking after their beautiful house and lovely animals.