Newton Abbot train station again! I have been here so many times now!
My host Sue picked me up and we went back to the house where I've been several times now and there waiting for me was Monty (left) Harry (centre) and Rufus (right)....Alice made an appearance later on.
Everybody was standing in the new summerhouse that was being built by Tony's brother Nick. This house is another that I could quite easily move into. It is in a brilliant location, my hosts are wonderful, kind, generous people and the animals are all wonderful and great fun.
Nick stayed for a few days finishing off the summerhouse, which was nice. We had several cuppas and shared stories of days when 'things' were 'different'. It was good to have company. Then my friend Nick Eggleston, who has been doing a bit of touring, came back to visit for a few days. We went to Apple Day at Cockington Court and watched a traditional Punch and Judy show along with several highly amused under tens, we went to Torquay on a day when the sun was red (according to storm Ophelia apparently), we also went to Totnes and Dartington and had a good walk around in the rain!
it has been such a productive couple of weeks. I got my hair cut, caught up with my lovely leather lady from Artisan Leather, managed to finish off my red shoes and bought some new print making toys from Hobby Craft. My hosts came back a couple of days ago and I've had two lovely dinners with them and have really enjoyed hearing about their holiday.
This is another place I hope to return to. I'm always made to feel welcome here. It's a pleasure to stay.
Off to Bath for a weekend sit next.
I arrived in Exmouth on the train on a busy Friday afternoon at the beginning of October. I stepped off the train and Darth Vador got on! there was some sort of Star Wars celebration going on at the Pavillion on the seafront.
The place where I was staying for the week was literally 5 minutes walk from the beach. It was an old coach house converted into a house and an airbnb by my lovely hosts Debbie and Larry.
I met all of the pets at the same time. They were all from Portugal and Debbie spoke to them in Portugese and English! Tricky is a lovley natured old lady. She gets excited over gravy bones and chewy strips and less so about walking to the local open space.
Oliver and Bish are full of character. Oliver the ginger cat has the most amazing knowing kind of eyes, he stares and you feel like he can read your mind. Bish had a bit of a tumble when he was little and as a result he hasn't got much muscle in his hind legs, he's a lovely affectionate inquisitive cat. Neither of them were a bit of trouble, they came when I called and especially when there was goat's milk on offer and Tricky was the same.
I managed a walk out along the Jurassic coastline a couple of times, which was fantastic. People were sunbathing and eating ice creams on the beach in October!! It used to be winter in October when I lived in England. Although, I must admit, I never lived near the coast, I do love being near the sea. I met two lovely neighbours while I was there, Steph and Sue and had tea with them one on Friday morning, the other Friday afternoon, that was a very social day :).
I can't believe how quickly my time went there in Exmouth. I could have easily stayed a month! I really hope I get to return here. Overall I would say that it is one of the best sits I've been on so far. Accommodation was brilliant, hosts were really lovely, the beach and shops were close and the pets were great to be with.
Next housesit is in Kingsteignton! Back to my wonderful hosts Tony and Sue, their lovely boys and Alice.
Arrived in Taunton to smiles and hugs from my host Gill. Fitzhead is beginning to feel very homely. This my third time here now and Bori, Kat and Leo remembered me. Yay!
The first weekend of the housesit coincided with Wellington Town Food Festival. That was fantastic! Pork pies, cheese, pickles and cider everywhere! and it was a beautiful sunny day. The second weekend was the 10 Parishes Festival in Wiveliscombe. In contrast to the first weekend the weather was horrendous! However, the food was still great and people turned out in their droves with wellies, raincoats and brollies to eat locally produced venison burgers, fresh bread, pizzas, cakes and much more and watch the live entertainment including a themed wheelbarrow parade.
Fitzhead hedgerows were brimming with brambles and my hosts have an enormous apple tree in their garden. Perfect ingredients for a 'Brumble' (bramble and apple crumble). If you were wondering what the picture is bottom right....it's home made brumble with a generous helping of Lidl's Milbona Coconut Greek Style Yoghurt and Clotted Cream...yum.
Spent lots of hours walking Boris and meeting up with friends I'd made last time I was in the village. In fact I'm not entirely sure where the time went. I was painting a mural for my entry into the Rotorua Mural Symposium for a few days....but then it seemed to flash by.
After picking up my hosts from their three weeks away I stayed on for another 10 days, helping to decorate. One of those days we went for a whistle stop trip out to Glastonbury, I've never been there before, it was such a wonderful place.
Autumn is definitely in the air now and winter is fast approaching. The trees have turned and the conkers are bursting open as they hit the ground. I'll miss Boris, Kat and Leo, they've become such good companions. The one big drawback of housesitting is having to leave and say goodbye.
Next I'm off to Exmouth, on the Southwest coast of Devon.
It was a very drizzly Tuesday morning in August and we were booked on the train to Newton Abbot from Birmingham New Street. Nick Eggleston who was over visiting decided to tag along with me on this housesit.
I'd been to the Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey earlier in the year, and also visited Debbie, so I'd already seen a little of Bovey and met Poppy and Peppa, two very wiggly cocker spaniels. I'd also been in touch with the Devon Guild of Craftsmen before arriving and was scheduled to have an interview for some voluntary work an hour after we arrived. That went very well and I worked/volunteered there for two and a half days a week for the duration of this housesit doing some research, web editing, database updating and print ready promotional artwork. It was really lovely being back in a working environment and with such lovely creative people.
The walks around Bovey were spectacular, Parke National Trust Property has some long and very interesting walks; through woodlands, along historic railway lines, next to a medieval weir....it really was incredible. One of the walks was banked on either side and tall trees created a canopy over like a big tunnel...at dusk the bats flew through, it was a fantastic experience!
Poppy and Peppa had a particular liking for brambles, as did we, walks were very slow paced while picking and eating them. Goodness knows how they managed to eat them straight of the bush without getting all tangled up. Other highlights of the walk were the Himalayan Balsam that was beautiful and pink and in full bloom, the smell of that together with the bracken, on warm days was lovely.
Considering this sit was a three week one it went very quickly! In what seemed like no time at all it was time to get back on the train to Fitzhead.
There weren't any pets involved in this sit. I was in the Midlands for a couple of weeks, the first week I stayed at my aunt and uncles house, the second week my sister decided to take her children on holiday and left me in charge of her house. So technically a housesit!
My only responsibilities here were to make sure my elderly parents, who lived a short 10 minute drive away were fed and watered. It was lovely to see them again. It has been four and a half years since I last saw them. When you see friends and relatives after that long it really drives home the distance between NZ and England.
At the beginning of the second week I had a visitor all the way from New Zealand! Nick Eggleston, a very well known artist in the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand, came out to visit and to catch up with his family and I showed him around my local area. On the second day of landing in the UK I took Nick on an adventure to experience IKEA Birmingham. I think he was suitably impressed.
in an attempt to get over the jet lag and to prove that there was some wildlife and green open space in the Midlands, we went for a walk and saw foxes, magpies, swans and squirrels.
I was incredibly lucky to arrive at this sit in total luxury, it was only a 30 minute car ride from my previous sit, so my host Gill, very kindly, gave me a lift....it was such a treat not to have to catch a train or bus with my ever growing suitcase and bags.
Mother and daughter, Bryony and Tilly met me at the door and introduced to Heidi, a gorgeous, and very vocal Hungarian visla. I'd never heard of this breed before and I've never met a dog that is so totally golden brown! I then met two of the largest cats I think I've ever seen....Milly and Snoops. Beautiful, but oh so huge, not overfed, just all over big. I found out later on in the sit they were both outdoor cats and hardly spent much time indoors except for mealtimes and occasionally at night.
Then there was Whispa, the gorgeous Rex rabbit with amazing markings and two guinea pigs.....Magic and Holly. A few days later Florence the guinea pig arrived. My host has guinea pigs of her own and boards other people's guinea pigs too.
Heidi is a wonderful dog, incredibly well behaved, very affectionate and a real talker. She tells you exactly what's on her mind. The main photo of Heidi (above) was taken on the day that I was trying to take a serious photo for her portrait drawing, this was her at her silliest. Such an adorable dog!
We had some big walks around Vivary Park and this is when I found out that Heidi loves to chase squirrels! I was often dragged along by Heidi oblivious to the fact that I was still attached.
One day I decided to go in search of the French Weir. In my usual way I followed my nose and got totally lost. I met a lovely Irish lady walking her dog and asked if I was heading in the right direction, she showed me the way to French Weir but asked if I had seen the Willow Cathedral created by Stefan Jennings. When I said I hadn't she went out of her way to show me this wonderful living willow sculpture in Longrun Meadow. It was quite spectacular. Having found my way to French Weir once, we tried it again and this time the place was full, there were people in the cafe, kayaking, doing an outdoor exercise class, playing rounders and generally having a lovely time. It was great to be out in a park that was being used.
Friday 21st came round way too quickly my three weeks in Taunton Central flew by!
My train journey from Newton Abbot to Taunton ran smoothly. No delays this time! I got to Taunton and my hosts were waiting at the station for me.
We travelled home via the gas pump and a quick lesson on how to fill 'the beast' a 3L LPG landrover which was mine for the next week or so. I have to admit, due to the incident on the way to the house involving a very large agricultural vehicle and a very tight lane I wasn't looking forward to driving anywhere! Most journeys seemed to involve reversing and holding your breath. I did brave it a couple of times, but only out of necessity to get provisions from the local village.
We got to the house and I was introduced to the animals, Boris the very glossy coated, German Pointer, Kat possibly the tiniest cat I have ever met and Leo a very vocal cat with a wonderful personality. I was then given a tour of the house......it took me until day two to use the right door to get to where I thought I was going!! So many rooms and doors to remember! The house dates back to the 16th century and is quite beautiful. There is a tenanted 'barn' in the garden, also very beautiful, but the tenants were away on their holidays too, so it was pretty quiet. To complete my tour we went on three local dog walks, two in the car, the other on foot. My dog walks with Boris were all carried out on foot, Boris didn't seem to mind, in fact a couple of times he lagged behind on the home stretch.
Horror on day three!....I managed to lock myself out without my phone and with no idea where to go for help! I came back from a dog walk and went outside to fill up Boris' water bowl, pulling the door to behind me. It just happened to be possibly the worst day I could have done this too....the farmer and his wife opposite were busy with their son's prom arrangements, Denise, the lady whose address and number I had been given was out at a sports day and my hosts' daughter Rachael was out for the day, she was out of range for a phonecall and wouldn't be back until 7! Having said that It wasn't such a bad day, I busied myself with another walk, I did some weeding and went round to Denise's house for a cuppa and a natter when she got back.
On another day when we were out walking Boris managed to catch a rabbit! He was very proud of himself and was very reluctant to give it up. I was very proud of him too and took lots of photos.
I spent some of my time sewing with a piece of William Morris printed fabric that Gill, my host had given me before she left. We have a mutual appreciation of William Morris and Burne Jones and I decided to make matching aprons for my host and her granddaughter for when they have their baking days.
I loved getting to know the animals, they all have such gorgeous personalities.
Leo sounds like he is saying 'now' whenever he comes into the room, he carries around brushes and socks and several other items and eats his food way too fast. Evidenced in a chuck up all over my ipad.
Kat climbs up onto your shoulder when you least expect it and has the sharpest but thankfully the smallest claws....and Boris, likes to nibble when he wants to show affection! which, I found, is not great when you are in your very thin cotton pj's! ouch!
I have to admit I was quite proud of myself at the end of this particular house sit. A few years ago I don't think I would ever have dared to stay in a house by myself...and now look...isolated, alone and perfectly fine! I faced some huge fears here and managed to eliminate them.
Everybody made me feel so welcome here in Fitzhead. Thank you to everybody, especially Gill, Dave, Rachael, Ella, Jamie, Denise, Chris, Hannah and Dan.... I have made some really good friends, I have some incredible memories and I am really very sad to leave.
I will be returning to Fitzhead to do a longer sit in the Autumn and I can't wait!
After a slight train delay I got to Newton Abbot.....an hour delay but only 11 mins by train! ah well.
My hosts were waiting at the station ready to take me back to meet up with the animals again. I managed to arrange this sit while I was sit #7 in Kingskerswell and Sue and Tony had very kindly invited me over for Easter Sunday lunch with their friends, so everything was very familiar and it didn't take long for me and 'the boys' and Alice to become reacquainted.
I arrived a couple of days before my hosts were due to go on their trip, but that was lovely, I was able to get my bearings around Newton Abbot and the dog walking areas before being left to my own devices.
Harry, the boxer, is a lovely sweet natured dog. When I walked into the kitchen first thing in the morning Harry would get up and speak and then do this funny bashful kind of gangly walk waggling his head and his stumpy tail simultaneously. Rufus the spaniel shot up and went into his normal mild state of panic, picking up anything he could find to show me, sometimes a toy or a tea towel, or both.....Monty the Schnauzer took it all in his stride, such a lovable little dog with a bad temper. His 'Caution' collar and lead say it all.
This sit went so fast, probably because I crammed so much into it. Starting with food poisoning! Note to self, don't eat cooked rice that's been in the fridge for more than a day. My first Monday was a bit of a write off. Managed a couple of dog walks on that day looking very green. I got myself some of those energy/immune system booster tablets....unfortunately I didn't read the tube and popped one in my mouth. I frothed at the mouth and looked like a rabid maniac....
There was a brilliant nature reserve called Hackney marshes not far from the house. But I made the mistake of taking Rufus out via cat street, I have called it this on account of the big evil black cat with the metal claws that chased us along the street...twice!! She took an instant dislike to Rufus....I was running away and shouting at the cat to go home....I'm sure at some point in the not too distant future I will have nightmares about this encounter.
On a more pleasant note.....I saw the Red arrows fly over for the Torbay air show....drove to the Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey and met lots of lovely makers....went to Teignmouth and met some more shoemakers....and walked around Newton Abbot, several times!
I planted the veggie garden, picked up endless poos (well there are three dogs, it's not glamorous all the time!) and generally had a bloomin' good time in Kingsteignton. My final night and a hedgehog came to visit. Apologies for the poor quality photo, but I was holding the torch between my knees!
I really enjoyed my stay here and hope I get invited back to sit again!
It was less than an hour from St Germans to Totnes on the train and yet the weather was incredibly different....it turned out to be a glorious afternoon.
Debbie, my host was waiting for me at the station and my new home for the next week or so was only five minutes away on the lively River Dart, so we went straight there for a cuppa. This house was very special. There were huge windows that looked out over the river where people swam and kayaked frequently and after school there were groups of children who paddled. The weather was amazingly warm throughout this sit in marked contrast from the last!.
I'd already been over to meet Rosa who is a gorgeous brindle and white English Bull Terrier. We said hello again and I started to unpack. John, my other host, happens to be the owner of Tanner Bates Leather Company and School, he'd very kindly invited me to join in on the Basic Leather Skills course that he was running over the weekend. So off we went for the introduction evening. Sat and Sunday were taken up with the course, which was great fun! Seven people all made a belt and then something of their choosing. It was pretty impressive to watch the jump from knowing nothing to producing something quite complex by the end of day 3.
Because Rosa slept for most of the day I took the opportunity to hang out at the Leather workshop which was a wonderful 2 mile walk along a well wooded footpath. One gorgeous evening before dinner I walked around the Dartington Estate....wow!! what an amazing place, so much to see. I won't write all about it here because it would take too long, but it's a fascinating venue for education, events, business enterprises and entertainment.
A huge electrical storm happened while I was in Totnes. It lasted 3 hours and was unlike anything I'd ever encountered. There was no rain or thunder, just flashing lights. I looked on line and there were over 450 strikes per hour recorded! Freaky!
I took Rosa out for a short walk once a day, on account of her sore paw. There were some tricky rules around stick throwing and holding, but I managed to figure them out...and Rosa loved to spin in a way that only English Bull Terriers can.
On the second weekend that I was there there was an Artists open studios event on - this was fantastic. I made contact with several professional artists and spent the whole day wandering around the centre of Totnes. On the same weekend I was out walking and stumbled upon a food festival at Dartington. There was music and free tasting stands...chilli chocolate with coffee beans...yum! it was a perfect end to a wonderful housesit.
Totnes is an wonderful place to visit, there is a genuine community feel to the place and you really get that Totnesians care immensely about their environment. I really looked forward to doing the drawing of Rosa, although it was such a short sit that I decided to do it when I got to my next. I was really pleased with the result, and I think John and Debbie are too.
I was waiting for the train for St Germans when I became aware of a number of men carrying beer glasses on the platform. The train arrived and suddenly several more appeared. One of them sat next to me with a full glass on the train, so I asked him what they'd all been up to in Newton Abbot.
It turns out there was a beer festival and they'd come from far and wide. The guy that I spoke to was one of a group of six guys who had all worked for Cornwall Council in the Planning department at one time or another. (I was a planner in a previous lifetime, so it was familiar territory for me). Turns out beer festivals are great fun, you buy points at the start of the day and then exchange these points for a measure of an oddly named beer. You can study them all in the booklet provided and discuss their merits with fellow drinkers or just join the queue and have a measure of whichever one just happens to take your fancy.
Anyway, it was my good fortune that this guy knew the journey well and gave me a heads up about being in the correct carriage for St Germans....only the first four carriages stop at the station, and you have to be in the correct carriage to able to get off. Fortunately, I was in the correct carriage.
For such a tiny place St Germans has it's fair share of architectural delights. The ex Cornwall Cathedral was well worth a visit, I couldn't quite believe I was seeing first hand, stained glass windows designed by Burne Jones and made by the William Morris company, I learnt a lot about these artists when I as doing my illustration degree. Port Eliot is also an amazing place, one of the few National Trust properties in England that is still a home. The Viaduct, looked almost unreal, what an incredible piece of engineering.
I said goodbye and set off for my new sit. I'd already got the keys to the house because the hosts left a couple of days earlier. I let myself in, and there, peeping around the door was this tiny little one eyed dachshund called Henri. He greeted me with a very waggy tail and then peed on the floor. I took this to be a good sign.
Henri was so amazing to look after, he followed me around and loved to be carried and cuddled. He also loved to sleep in, which suited me just fine!
One thing I will remember about St Germans is the weather! I had a couple of good days but then it turned completely to custard. The rain came and didn't go away. I was hoping to get to the Eden Project, but I decided to go to Plymouth instead. Amongst other things, I saw the Gin Distillery, Smeaton's Tower a huge serpent sculpture near the Barbican theatre and a very large wooden boat.
In terms of activity in the village, the odd steam train came whistling through, there were a couple of private events on at Port Eliot. The Eliot Arms pub and Scholars, the new cafe, both hosted bands, but on the whole it was a quiet place. The highlight of my week became the free bus to Waitrose, I really enjoyed my little excursion with the local retired folk! Everybody was very friendly and they all said hello and goodbye.
Three weeks passed and it was tie to leave. It was heartbreaking seeing little Henri looking all confused through the glass in the front door. I have to admit I got rather too attached to Henri and ended up sobbing all the way to the station. I don't think it'll be the first or last time. I love arriving at a new housesit, but it's always a huge wrench to leave.