Our second house sit in England was also our shortest, and it was located in a small village outside of Shipston-on-Stour in the Cotswolds.  In case you are unfamiliar, the Cotswolds are a fairly hilly area in the country, historically used to graze sheep.  That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the countryside.

When we arrived at our new home, the owners Emma and George gave us a full rundown on how things worked around the house, and even made us dinner the night we arrived, and lunch the afternoon before they left on their trip.  This was the first house sit we’ve had that the owners hung around for a full day to help us figure out the schedule and care instructions for everything we needed to do.  It was extremely helpful, and I kind of wish more of our house sits were arranged with an extra day to get to know everything we might need.

For this house sit, we were charged with taking care of four energetic puppers, feeding a couple of chickens, and the over-all ‘make sure the house doesn’t burn down’ sort of tasks.  Each day three of the dogs required an hour-long (or longer) walk to work out all of their excess energy (the fourth was a bit too old to be going on romps around the hills), and this was my main task for the week.  Near the end of our time in Swanage, Ian began to get some kind of tendinitis in his foot, and he was laid up for most of our time in Shipston because of it; but since he was the one waking up early in the morning to get the dogs up and fed, it seemed like a pretty even trade off.

On the very first day we were there, I heard the sound of horse hooves, clip-clopping outside the front of the house, and looked out to see something I had never expected.  First, three men on horses trotted up to the neighboring house, and then a pack of no fewer than fifty hunting hounds came tearing down the street and into the property next-door.  A few minutes later, a hunting party of nearly one hundred boys and men on horseback lined up on the street and trotted off after the hounds onto the property.  For our first time in England, it was fascinating to see an actual Hunt take place. Read More

In the small village of Lacock in Wiltshire, sits the National Trust location, Lacock Abbey.  Originally built in the 13th century as a nunnery, and turned into a private residence in the 16th century, Lacock Abbey has quite a history to it.  In fact, it is considered the birthplace of photography, as William Henry Fox Talbot’s photographic negative of one of the abbey’s mullioned windows is considered the first of its kind.

All of that is cool and all, but none of those factoids are the reason for our visit to the abbey.  Oh, no.  We went out of our way to visit Lacock Abbey, because it was one of the original filming locations for the Harry Potter movies.  Ooooh, yeeeeah!  I got to walk the halls of Hogwarts!

As it is still mid-winter, a lot of the National Trust properties have a somewhat limited access.  Some larger parks aren’t open until more of the flowers and foliage come in, and many of the buildings which are private residences don’t even open their doors to visitors until the fall.  Luckily, Lacock Abbey’s grounds are open most of the year; the home itself however, was closed.  We were kind of bummed to hear that the abbey wasn’t open to viewers, but we wandered around the grounds for a while, and found some pretty cool places to take some pictures. Read More

If I seeks, I geeks; and oh boy have I been geeking out recently!  As we prepared our luggage and loaded the car in Swanage, we had two main objectives for the day.  First, I couldn’t leave the Jurassic Coast until I had visited one last natural, nerdy destination, Charmouth Beach.  A significant source of paleontological history, and a continuing wellspring of fossilized remains to this day; I decided I absolutely had to try my luck at finding my own fossilized souvenir to commemorate my time on the Jurassic Coast.

So, when Helen and Ian arrived home bright and early (after nearly 24 solid hours of travel) we welcomed them back home, but wanted to get out of their hair and on our way, so that they could get some much needed rest, and we could get on the road.  After hearing a bit about their holiday and sharing some of our more memorable moments of Bugsy and Spike with them, we thanked them for their hospitality and packed up the car.  Before we left, to thank us for taking care of their pups and home, they gifted us with some really delicious Australian macadamia nut honey, and a beautifully painted boomerang (which Ian confidently told us he knows how to throw… I think we’ll find a nice place on the wall of our future home to hang it up instead).  After patting Bugsy and Spike on the heads, and thanking Helen and Ian once more, we were on our way to Charmouth Beach, a bit over an hour drive down the coast.

Unfortunately the farther west we went, the worse the weather got; and, once we got to the beach (which was being pelted with rain and a swirling wind), we found the ocean churning with powerful waves.  Though the tide was supposed to be technically going out, the height and power of the waves negated any discernable tidal change, and we were forced to skirt the very base of the cliffs to get into a more fossil-rich area of the beach.  Alas, after almost two hours of hunting through the rocks and clay along the very back of the beach all the way up to where the waves rushed over the sand, all I had found was the imprint of an ammonite fossil in the soft, clay-like slate which the cliffs were predominantly made up of. Read More