We regularly hear lovely housesitting adventure stories of housesitters making friends with their hosts, discovering new locations and being delighted with their housesitting gigs. This story is not unlike that, with a housesitter we’ve known for a while telling us how thrilled she was with her mystery housesit. Looking after a gorgeous dog in a chocolate box village in a perfect Midsomer Murder Mystery setting in Southern Oxfordshire. Here is Mary’s story of her lovely Christmas housesit in the English Countryside.
While many chose to nestle up at home with friends and family this Christmas, I decided to support a couple in celebrating early retirement while they sailed around the Algarve.
This Christmas I spent three glorious weeks housesitting a 16th century cottage with original beams and walls; two cottages joined together, inter-connected by a landing “bridge” on the first floor with a courtyard running underneath it. The cottage proved to be our mystery housesit. It was located in a chocolate box village to die for – and indeed many people have during the voluminous episodes of Midsomer Murders oftentimes filmed here.
Not that I’d planned to be on my own anyway, having checked first that it would be okay for my daughter and her boyfriend to join me for Christmas. And when friends got to hear I was in the heart of South Oxfordshire countryside alongside the Thames, several were lured westwards by the promise of Wellington Boot walks followed by a craft beer and a log fire in an historic pub.
Providing Pet Care for Daisy
The main living focus of the housesit was Daisy – a 17 year old Whippet who I was informed could pass away at any time and I shouldn’t take it personally if it happens; just call the vet I was told. She was a very gentle and accommodating old dame provided we met one particular requirement. When she sat down to rest, she expected to be wrapped up and tucked in with blankets completely smothering her head, as if she receded into the womb. This she announced with a high-pitched whine that was impossible to ignore.
Daisy was surprisingly sociable. She loved to come out in the car with us. And when I took her to the local dog-friendly pub, a short hop from the front door, it was she who strolled around introducing me to drinkers and diners who greeted her with a “hail Daisy”
Because I lived less than an hour’s drive away from this housesit, I had been able to meet with the owners on two occasions beforehand. On my first visit Daisy came over and sat on my foot, which I took to be an auspicious sign. By the time the family set off, good relationships had been established all round and I was comfortable and confident I could execute the housesit exactly as they needed. I received a guided tour of the house and an introduction to the sophisticated audio visual technology, which left my head reeling. But then I had a typed sheet of notes to refer back to. And I was all set to go as the live in home and dogsitter
Discovering new locations
South Oxfordshire has a meandering groove carved through it called the Thames and a lesser known river called the Thame. There were lots of small villages near us on our housesit adventure. We discovered farming communities, each with its own pub or two and footpaths connecting them one to the other. No fear of over-the-limit driving in this part of the world. On Boxing Day whole families could be seen setting out on foot, their hats and scarves brightening the barren fields. Everyone we passed welcomed us with a smiley “hello”. One couple even escorted me for two miles when I’d lost my bearings and I couldn’t get a phone signal to locate home. En route they imparted useful local knowledge. Since everyone knew everyone around here, this couple also happened to know my home owners too.
Top Tips for your Housesitting Adventure
Here is some helpful advice I discovered through this experience.
Key contacts in your new housesit neighbourhood
The homeowners had thought in advance to give me some useful information that proved vital. They offered the names of a couple in the village who knew Daisy well and to whom I could refer on any matter. Daisy suffered from separation anxiety and she definitely didn’t appreciate being left alone. Let’s face who wouldn’t at her ripe old age of 17 with deteriorating eyesight and hearing.
Latching onto me quickly, Daisy didn’t like it when I went out and would bark continuously. Even though she was a small dog that bark could be enough to upset the neighbours in this village where cottages rub shoulders with one another. However, when I needed to go out for longer than 2-3 hours, I knew I could ask for help in the village. This was such a relief and allowed me to not feel under house arrest. The remainder of the time I was advised by the owners to put the radio on and hope for the best! Daisy is a whoofer and that’s all there is to it.
Car mechanics and other vital services –
The contact in the village also proved invaluable in finding a car mechanic. As it happened, my car ‘passed away’ the day before I began the housesit. I then had to rent a car for two weeks until I could source a replacement. Daisy was happy to accompany me to source its replacement and then collect the new car. Even so I still needed the aforementioned mechanic to make an adjustment to my new car before it was drivable. I wouldn’t have known where to start without local insider information.
Check where are the speed cameras –
While on the subject of driving and discovering new locations, here’s another tip that might not occur to you but could save points on your driving licence. On the first day, I got a speeding fine driving through the village. Can you believe it? Because I was driving on unfamiliar roads and through villages, I clearly needed to adjust my urban driving. On the first day I was 6 mph over the limit. Very frustrating particularly when my licence was clean; please learn by my mistake and be extra alert.
It has been just over a year since I last house sat for Housesit Match. They are a small company which means there are not hundreds of housesits to choose from. However, from my housesit Oxford experience to running through the listings to indulge my dreams of long term housesitting in Spain I feel there is varied choice. Even so there are always plenty enough to appeal to me without having to wade through pages of properties. Therefore I don’t bother registering with other housesitting companies.
Housesitting Adventure – One way to discover new locations
I’ve found housesitting is a delightful way to discover new locations and become familiar with a new part of the country or a different part of the world. I love making new friends this way, by helping a family and a home in need. It ticks a lot of boxes for me. Professionally I coach homeowners with Feng Shui and decluttering to get their house in order and correspondingly restructure their life. This means that I am used to discovering new locations. I find it easy to familiarise myself with a wide variety of homes very quickly. I love properties and exploring how they work and what joys they have to offer.
Our pets and homes, are among our best friends and we should mindfully pay attention to their needs. We need to treat them with the respect they deserve for all they give us.
To start your long-term travel journey join a housesitting network like HouseSitMatch.com
As a housesitter you’ll benefit from a vast range of housesitting assignments in a range of countries across the world.