Dianne and Mike decided to travel the world one housesit at a time. An Oxfordshire housesit was their first experience. As new home and pet owners themselves they felt fairly well prepare for their first housesitting experience, however, each new experience brings opportunities and challenge. Dianne is an accredited, professional travel agent since 1991, and Mike has been a professional broadcaster since 1988. Both have extensive travel credentials and have visited dozens of countries. This is an account of their very first housesit through an online network, they had chosen HouseSitMatch to get started.
Our First housesit helped us discover Oxfordshire
It was with a bit of trepidation that we the Travel Loafers boarded the train to Didcot from Paddington Station in London. Sure we had looked after houses and pets for our friends in the past. But this was our first official housesit, an Oxfordshire housesit secured through Housesit Match. So on this sunny Saturday morning we were off to a village in Oxfordshire.
Following quick introductions with Gillian at the train station, we were off in the English countryside heading to Dorchester-on-Thames. She gave us a quick tour of the village of about 1000 residents, pointing out local sights and landmarks.
‘Kate Bush lives near here and we once had tea’ she said. I was impressed. I wondered if Kate Bush took part in weekly jams sessions in one of the many pubs.
A few minutes later we arrived at a beautiful country home, which was to be our Oxfordshire housesit and our first! After spending the last few weeks in London, I noticed the sweet, fresh smell of greenery as soon as I stepped out of the Land Rover. After shaking hands with Jim, I squatted to say hello to Huds who also came out to greet us. Huds is a Labrador mix who’s tail wagged excitedly as he sized us up with his nose. His kisses told us he was happy to meet us.
Final preparations for the family trip were almost done. Bags were zipped up and a quick lunches eaten. While Gill ensured that each of the 3 children had everything they would need for their trip, Jim took us out back. He went through the routine of feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, watering the greenhouse and filling the bird feeders. These would be our daily chores.
Back at the housesit, K2 the cat made an appearance no doubt drawn by the activity in the kitchen.
‘Is he a hunter?’ I asked as I sat in a chair petting him. Jim looked at me deadpan. “Occasionally he yawns and a bird falls in his mouth”. K2 is a sixteen year old British Shorthair cat. He’s not in a hurry to go anywhere, and has all day to get there. We enjoyed his company.
In the driveway a few minutes later we waved off the family. They had set us up with a car which was very nice. We were probably a mile from the village and 8 miles from Oxford. With a car we could run into the city for groceries, and do a bit of sightseeing beyond the village. The car was also nice to have in case of a pet emergency.
At the Oxfordshire housesit – on our own with the pets
We sat down in the kitchen with Hudson, who was still sniffing us. Satisfied, he eventually made himself comfortable on his doggie bed. It was a little odd at first. Here we were, strangers in a strange house. We had spent all of an hour with them.
K2 disappeared. We wouldn’t see him again for a couple of days. We knew he was in the house somewhere, so we didn’t worry too much. He may have been hiding in a bedroom, which we considered off limits for ourselves. We knew he’d have to come out and eat at some point.
Top Tip for any Housesit
Gill had taken the time to prepare a package with emergency numbers, several local maps underlining sites worth seeing, instructions for various scenarios that might occur, the password for the wifi, and more useful tidbits. We were impressed with her thoughtfulness. Any question we might have had was answered in these pages.
We settled into a housesit routine of looking after the chickens and garden, then going for long walks at midday with Huds and staying home in the evenings.
K2 reappeared on the second night. He surprised us when he walked into our bedroom and made himself at home. Hopping on the bed, he checked us out before getting comfortable on our laundry on the floor.
We were intuitive to Hudson and he taught us his morning and evening routines. He was sure to let us know about snacktime too!
We took Hudson everywhere with us, and sat outside on nice evenings where K2 would join us. On days where we went for a bit of a drive, Huds came along. He really quite enjoyed the Uffington White Horse.
Oxfordshire – An area rich in history
We discovered many trails and hikes around Dorchester during our Oxfordshire housesit, as we soaked up its rich Roman history. The scenic village has been featured in several television programs including Midsomer Murders.
There’s a large community garden at the south end of the village next to a Roman archeological dig. We visited the impressive abbey and walked narrow side streets. We hiked to Days Lock on the Thames, a beautiful spot where long boats and pleasure boats congregate. We hiked up to The Wittenham Clumps and walked with a heard of cows. Surely these cows had the most incredible views in Oxfordshire. Hudson enjoyed our hikes.
We took short drives to neighboring villages. Abingdon-on-Thames with its charming bridge across the river. The Nag’s Head Pub is a major spot for boaters to trade stories. Clifton Hampden’s High Street was storybook charming. The Barley Mow Pub nestled next to a one- lane bridge across the Thames has been serving pints of ales since 1352! Little Wittenham was interesting with its ancient St-Peter’s church.
Every couple of days we’d send Gill a quick email from our Oxfordshire housesit with pictures of the pets to let her know all was well at home. About 10 days into our house sit, K2 started laying on the landing at the top of the stairs where he could keep an eye on the front door. He missed his people. Hudson showed no indication of loneliness. He enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed his. In his own way Huds helped us discover the many scenic sites and extensive history of Dorchester. We felt no real need to drive up to Oxford for some sightseeing until we were well into our stay.
The family returned late one night. They were happy to discover we had taken care of things and cleaned up. The next morning, Gill was kind enough to drop us off in Oxford where we were headed.
I realise every situation will be different, but thanks to Hudson, K2, Gill and Jim, the bar is set high.
As a postscript to this story, Gill contacted us a couple of weeks later with some very sad news. K2 had passed from kidney failure. He was laid to rest in the back yard.
See you on the road!
Dianne & Mike
To find your housesitting solution register with HouseSitMatch: