On the day we were to arrive at Carolyn, Alan and their son Dougies home we first went into Swindon to the outlet shopping centre to look around. We made some great purchases and I was rapt to buy a whole new wardrobe of tops in different colours as I try to faze out the black and head towards a change to navy as a base.
Arriving at 3 pm after driving through the rural countryside and one way lanes we were met by our new furry dog friends Mac and Laurie and little cat Bonnie.
As Alan showed James how to use the ride on mower, work the spa pool etc, Dougie the son and I cooked dinner for everyone so that when Carolyn got home from work we were all ready to break bread together and chat before it was time to head to bed for their early pick up for the airport.
Another beautiful country setting and comfortable home to enjoy for the next three weeks.
We can’t believe how well behaved all the dogs have been and affectionate the cats and one rabbit have been. Each has been a joy to spend time with and you really do bond quickly.
Our first day was our food shopping day and pottering around home so the animals get used to us, a lovely walk with the dogs in the afternoon through the fields surrounding us and we enjoyed a drink sitting outside in the perfect summers evening.
The next morning after our watering the garden and taking care of our charges, including some bed snuggles with Bonnie while we had coffee in bed ( yes there’s a coffee machine), we headed off towards the Cotswolds to visit Chastleton Park stopping at the ridiculously cute town of Burford for a wander and cream tea ( of course). I managed to pick up some 3/4 pants in navy and tan to help my change over from black being my dominant colour scheme.
Chastleton manor was built in the Jacobean fashion four hundred years ago when the family had money. But their wealth soon declined and until they handed it over to the National trust they never had enough money to update anything so when the National trust got hold of it they made a conscious decision to keep it as it was. The furniture is from the house including the dining setting, and as each generation actually lived there although not updated it hadn’t fallen into complete ruin.
It’s fascinating to walk through history as it was.
The next day we were off again this time to Basildon Park another fabulous trust property given to then in 1978 by Lord and Lady Iliffe who fell in love with the dilapidated property in 1952 and started an ambitious program of repair.
The property originally built for sir Francis Sykes who made a fortune with the East India company.
Lady Iliffe had impeccable taste and with money obviously no problem they created a stunning home that they still lived in a part of even after giving it to the Trust, till their deaths.
Occasionally you have to have a day at home organising tickets and accommodation for further on in our travels and also go food shopping and haircuts etc. We do some house work and or gardening everyday to keep on top of everything and we find the animals love it when you’re outside even the cats.
Little Bonnie likes to come for her morning snuggles on the bed and Mac comes up says hello then plonks himself outside the door keeping us safe. His brother Laurie sits outside each night keeping watch while we watch tv inside with his brother Mac and Bonnie. Funny little personalities they all have. The boys are so good, go to bed when you tell them, lie still while I brush them, just very relaxed and no bother at all.
Another day we went off to Waddesdon Manor but didn’t realise we had to book in our tour of the house times so did that for a couple of days later and headed to Nuffield house.
Owned by lord and Lady Nuffield. Born William Morris he started out from humble beginnings starting with a bicycle repair shop to building one of the most respected and successful car businesses.
Having no children themselves and living very frugally ( they even sewed car mats together for the carpet in his bedroom) and famously saying ‘ you can only wear one suit at a time’ they gave away literally almost all their money for good causes including using the car factory in the height of the Polio epidemic to build iron lungs and donating them free of charge all around the UK and Commonwealth.
They gave huge amounts to hospitals etc even built a few.
Wonderful people and a lovely story.
We then went on to Greys Court a Jacobean style home where we also managed to get a private tour of the gardens which was wonderful.
We really are loving The National Trust pass its given us a great excuse to potter around the country down through villages and towns visiting places we had never heard of before and some we have seen in movies and tv series.
We went back to Waddesdon Manor and were in awe of the sheer magnitude of the collections in held. Plus as The Rothschild foundation still have a large hand in its upkeep etc it is in excellent condition. It’s actually not as old as you would think as it’s decorated in a earlier time period than when it was built.
Architecturally French Chateau and with wine cellars as you would expect from The Rothschild family we along with everyone else were ooohing and aaaahing and going WOW the whole way through.
Another day trip to Oxford to catch up with David and Gerry, friends I met in New Orleans in 2000 we coincidentally sat at the same table in the same bar we had with Pratek and Damian just over a week earlier.
A few wines, lunch and then a move to a cocktail bar later………
Isn’t it wonderful catching up with people all over the world in their home towns.
We also caught up with our previous house sit couple Tony and Pam for morning tea in Newbury, a lovely couple I’m sure we’ll see again, already planning our next house sit for them with Honey girl next year.
Other day trips have seen us drive to Bourton on the water. An historical town that was completely overrun with tourists but luckily we got there before it was tooo ridiculous and enjoyed a cuppa at a cafe beside the stream and the great motor transport museum.
On the way home we stopped at the ruins of a Roman villa. It’s incredible how much history England and the UK have and these Roman villas are so unexpected when they’re very much like you would imagine you’d see in Italy. The same bath houses, mosaic tiling etc and there are so many of them.
We took a look at Bicester outlet village LORDY LORDY it was all designer shops and incredibly full of people queuing to get into some of the stores!!
It has a fake fascade feel about it like a movie prop town, Disneyland vibe especially with the people queuing. Anyway we did a lap up and back then hopped in our car and drove to the Tesco superstore just down the road… more our price level haha.
Another home day saw us finally get into the spa pool outside here. Lovely must get into it one evening and look at the stars.
We’ve been lucky to get some recommendations from UK friends about where to go and what to see.
So thanks to Sue and Terry we headed to Woodstock another of those Cotswolds beauty towns.
Not far from Woodstock is Blenheim palace which looks to be beyond fantastic and we will have to try to get there next year when we return as we ran out of time on our day trip as we needed to get home to feed and walk the boys before heading to The Carpenters Arms pub to meet Louise and Tammy two lovely friends we met on our day trip to Doubtful sound in NZs South Island in February. Wonderful to catch up and look forward to seeing them next year.
But although we didn’t have time to give Blenheim Palace a tour we were able to travel the short distance to the town of Bladon to the church of St Martins the resting place of the Churchill family in particular Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill 1874-1965 not a bad innings for an overweight, hard drinking smoker with the stress of running a country during war time.
Our friend Louise had recommended Snowshill Manor with its totally eclectic hoarding by Charles Wade. It’s incredible mix of ordinary items that he seemed to collect en-mass all housed in a manor he bought solely to store his collections, whilst living in a little cottage out back is a great visit.
Even better it’s National trust run so used our pass.
I’ll let the photos show the variety of wares.
I think he was a little mad, definitely eccentric and at 61 he married his wife whom was 44 at the time and for several years they lived in the small hoarders cottage before leaving the estate to the National trust.
Another fabulous day out recommended by Louise was the British Motor museum in Gaydon.
Loved it, happily spent hours there. Great day out for all. So many awesome displays. They also have a collection of first and last off the line production cars.
Our days were passing by and we still had places to see as well as start planning our departure from the UK. Our tickets for the moto GP finally arrived which was a relief as it was less than a week away.
Our two boys Mac and Laurie along with Bonnie the cat have become quite the furry family, coming upstairs in the morning to say hello and sit by the bed or on the bed for Bonnie while we read or go online. The boys love their walks and we’ve seen, deer, squirrels, hawks, rabbits, dogs, sheep and horses on just about every walk.
There are some Black sheep in a field with some black and white ones which I’ve found out are called Badger faces, a Walsh breed. White with black underbellies and black stripe down their face.
On our last Monday at our final house sit we drove to Hughendon Manor.
This was interesting as it was the home of The Victorian British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. It featured beautiful gardens with deck chairs for visitors to sit in and a display about the use of the Manor during WW2 as a secret map drawing property. This only came to light a few years ago as all who served there had been signed to the secrets act. Along with memorabilia of The Disraelis time there and gifts given by Queen Victoria it made for an interesting trip.
Their grave is in the churchyard next door and in the church there is a memorial to him by Queen Victoria who trusted him as a close friend.
Some of our drives to these places take up to an hour and a half to get to, but half the fun of the day out is travelling through the countryside and villages. There’s usually a first stop at the tea rooms when we get there for a tea and scone or something light to eat.
Our trip on the Tuesday of our last week was to Ascott house another home of the Rothschild family, but this one they actually use and so with an arrangement with the National trust five large rooms are open for visitors from 2-6 pm most of the summer months and a fair bit of the grounds which are fantastic.
The five rooms are also still used by the family so look comfortable and homely considering the collections they hold. Dutch masters, Gainsborough, Turners along with one of Britain’s largest Chinese pottery collection which is so beautifully displayed. Unfortunately no photos are allowed but you can google it.
We planned our Wednesday to include James mowing the lawn/ field in the morning then going out in the afternoon, however fate had a different idea.
James accidentally mowed over the mole deterrent in the garden, breaking one of the belts under the mower, as well as shredding the deterrent.
Googling any local repair shops that specialised in the ride on turned out a lucky hit as the one we contacted was the one they had bought it from and use to service it. They hoped to collect it that afternoon but it was Thursday morning so Wednesday became a right off day.
The rest of Thursday was our start to get ready to move on plan, cleaning, sorting and waiting to hear about the mower.
I think we were just hoping we could get it fixed and back and grass sorted before they got home. We sourced a new mole deterrent and spent a few evenings in the spa enjoying watching the stars come out and our last days in the countryside.
On Thursday evening we traveled back to Burghclere to drop a box of things to our new friends Tony and Pam for them to store for us till next year. We all went to the pub for dinner and we got to say goodbye to Honey again with the hopes that we’ll see them next year to stay if all goes well.
We got the mower back late Friday afternoon and James quickly got onto the lawn. However the repairers had mentioned that there were some other issues coming up with the mower due to general wear and tear but could probably wait till it was taken in for its end of season service. However this didn’t end up being the case and before James could finish the grass it stopped working because the transition belt went. Oh well we had done our best.
Another more stressful event happened. We were expecting our home owners rerun around noon on Saturday. But we heard nothing all day. What had happened to them? We had dinner booked with friends and an Airbnb booked for that night.
We had to cancel both as it transpired they had given us the wrong return date.
They were coming home on the Sunday!
We were relieved that nothing serious had happened and we were able to rebook with our friends for the next night.
We got up early Sunday, fed our babies and sadly patted them goodbye , knowing they would only be alone for just over an hour, and made our way to the park and ride at Towcester to take us to Silverstone race track for the motogp.
Everything went smoothly and we had a great day. It was very warm and we were grateful to get to Sanjees house for shower before going to dinner with Gerry and David.
Sanjeev is a delightful host with the most and insisted he drive us and pick us back up so we could make use of the two for one cocktails. 😂.
Our room was beautifully styled and Sanjee was hysterically funny, great story teller, he’s missing his calling as an entertainer for sure.
One thing we saw outside Sanjees house was a robot delivery happening. A cooler box on wheels driven remotely to a house with a delivery of shopping, the people came out, opened the lid, took out their stuff, closed the lid and the cooler box turned around said Thank you and rode off up the road. Incredible.
Monday we decided to visit Bletchley Park, home of the decoders during world war 2 as it was very close by. Great visit, well worth it if you’re interested in espionage etc.
Most incredibly we ran into Adrianne and Michael from our cruise last year. We had lost their contact details as I’d wanted to visit them when we were in NZ and was so disappointed not to find them. What a hoot. We had a cuppa with them and Michaels sister and brother in law before making sure we had inputted their details into our phones and hopefully we’ll see them in NZ some time.
We spent quite a few hours at Bletchley before making our way back to where it all started in Ealing early June at the Grange lodge. We knew we’d be comfortable and close to Heathrow for dropping the car off the next day.
It was strange handing the car in after three months and catching the bus to Gatwick to get our flight to Alicante, Spain and new adventures ahead.
We had a fabulous time in the UK and loved our house sitting gigs. They gave us the opportunity to live really like locals including our very own pets, all of whom we fell in love with. We can’t believe how well behaved all the dogs are in the UK.
Even the cats loved cuddles and purred away happily.
Below is a field harvested near our last home. It was an awesome sight.