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