Having stayed in The Old House as a guest last year, it was no surprise at how beautiful this place is!
But there were still lots of adventures and surprises ahead for me in the fortnight to come! That’s the joy of Housesitting really, the surprises!
I arrived by train to Moreton-in-marsh, and was picked up by Mr Dee and 1 of the 2 Dee daughters. After a great sleep in a new room that wasn’t available last year ( The Office), I spent Day 1 learning the ropes before the owners ( the Dees) left for their holidays early the next day.
Mrs Dee gave me a wonderful colour coded spreadsheet to help me know what’s what! This was not going to be like any other Housesit I’d done…as well as the pets……There was a huge , beautifully weeded and maintained garden; mostly self sufficient but the zucchinis needed watching and constantly picking before they got too big and so did the French beans!
Then, there were the constant flow of guests….The Old House has 2 double bedrooms with ensuites, the pink room and the yellow room, and these include a continental breakfast.
Then there’s the self catering room, called The Office, that’s at the back of the house, with a lovely new ensuite and a currently-being-built verandah between the room and the bathroom.
Next door to the Old House is The Cottage…a self catering home with room for 5 guests, with kitchen, dining room, lounge & 2 bathrooms.
There’s no way that I could have managed all this by myself, of course! But I didn’t have to, thanks to the presence of Mrs Dee’s (Bulgarian) aunt , Jana. She lives there with the Dees and does the cleaning and the washing of sheets and towels, making up of beds, and the continental breakfast usually, so she continued with those jobs. That left me to do ” front of house”, welcome the guests, explain the “rules” and facilities and generally answer questions. Jana is not confident with her English, so hence that being my job!! As I explained to our guests: Jana did all the work and I did all the talking!! I did, however, help with the hanging out of laundry, feeding & watering of the animals, shutting up the chooks at night, collecting eggs, picking beans, zucchinis and any other vegetables we needed and walked up to check on the horses each day. I was also the driver! The Dees generously gave me 1 of their cars to use and I took Jana to places she needed to go, did shopping and also used it for my personal use.
Jana and I turned out to be a very good team! We worked well together and had many laughs!! She learnt some new English words, albeit with an Australian pronunciation!! I learnt a few Bulgarian words and we taught each other much about our respective countries. We were very thankful for the constant intervention of Google Translate, which helped us sort out quite a lot!!
I got to eat a lot of Bulgarian food and I cooked a couple of my favourite dishes for her. But the thing that bonded us most, was becoming Chicken Grandparents together!! One of the hens was broody so Mr Dee sat her on a clutch of 7 eggs, in her special house by the back door. Jana watched over her and made sure she ate and drank and then 6 days after the Dees left, the chickens started to hatch! 3 black ones with little white top knots and 1 yellow chicken!! Yay!
We set about building a safe environment for them to grow up in! After shifting their house around a couple of times, we happened upon the perfect spot and then built walls and a chicken wire roof and made it as fox proof as possible! We also encouraged the hen in her parenting role, as she was doing a great job! They are bilingual chickens as they were spoken to often in both Bulgarian and in English. What fun!!
Of course, it wasn’t all work and no play! Jana had a day off each week , where I supervised the breakfast, and packed up afterwards. She visited Leamington Spa one day and went to 2 National Trust homes with her friend, Elaine, the other. Plus she had a couple of other half days of shopping in Moreton-in-marsh.
For myself, I went 4 times to Stratford-upon-Avon to see plays! 2 by Shakespeare and 2 by other playwrights, but all performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. What treats they were! The first time, I went in the afternoon, wandered around, then had dinner before seeing Miss Littlewood. The other 3 times, I left “home”about 6 pmish ( having welcomed the new guests!) and indulged in coffee and cake before seeing : Macbeth, The Duchess of Malfi and The Merry wives of Windsor. Wonderful, wonderful and what an opportunity! It’s only 20 mins drive to Stratford-upon-Avon, and the parking was only £2 each time!!!!
Were there any difficulties?? Not many really….1 lot of guests got under Jana’s skin for some reason so I needed to do a lot of placating, the garden started to get quite dry with all the glorious summer weather, but that was easily fixed with a hose or watering cans but generally things went along well. Except for the last Friday!! There was no water! No water for our home , no water for Hidcote Boyce ( our little village) , no water for the surrounding district! No water all day!! This news was received well by one room of guests but the others were a little put out!! Oh well! Our biggest concern , however, was flushing the toilets and Jana had 2 rooms to clean! There were spare sheets and towels so not being able to wash that day was survivable! So, we went and had morning tea with Jana’s friend Elaine, who lives at the top of the village. ( It’s a street really, Hidcote Boyce) Then I had a brainwave… Why don’t we cart water from the spring up near the horses, down to the house for toilet flushing and bathroom cleaning! So we did! We found a large bucket, 2 large watering cans and 1 small watering can, and we carted water. I convinced Jana that as she was doing the cleaning, I should walk up and down the street with the water receptacles! Once all was clean and sorted , we left a watering can in by each toilet, for flushing!! Just as I’d convinced myself that a quick wash would be fine before the theatre, the water came on about 5 pm! Praise God! So I could actually have a shower! Yay!
I had some lovely visitors whilst I was in Hidcote Boyce, too! Simon, Adrian, Tyler and an aunt and uncle of Adrian’s from Adelaide came and stayed for 3 nights next door in the Cottage. It was lovely to have them next door, and they enjoyed the use of our big garden, too! I was busy for some of the times so they explored a lot of the Cotswolds without me but we had a ploughman’s lunch together on the Saturday in Chipping Campden and a delicious Sunday roast at the nearby Ebrington Arms before they drove home. It was good to be able to pop in next door for a cuppa, a chat and even a meal!
As it seems to always happen, whilst the family were staying next door, I had 2 other visitors for the day also! My friend Geraldene, and her sister Erina, were staying near Heathrow airport for 3 days after a long cruise they’d been on, and before they flew home. So Lachlan organized some train tickets for them and they came to the Cotswolds for the day! We all had a lovely day, and the timing worked well with my Housesit chores. We had about 5 hours to spend, so we couldn’t see everything, but I showed them some of my favourite spots! Starting with morning tea in Moreton-in-marsh!
We drove through Stow on the Wold, Upper Slaughter, Lower Slaughter, before staying in Bourton on Water for lunch and a prolonged walk. We finished off with an icecream in Chipping Campden.
The ladies happily snapped away with their cameras and enjoyed the very scenic tour!
Then it was back to Moreton in Marsh for the ladies, to wait for their train, whilst I drove back to Hidcote Boyce, ready to welcome the next guests!!
Most days I was busy until 11am or 12 noon with jobs about the place, and I needed to be around to welcome guests from about 4 pmish; but often I’d take myself out on an excursion between those hours. ( Some days I stayed home and read, watched Netflix or slept!)
Nearby were 2 beautiful gardens open to the public….
One day, I went further afield to another mansion with beautiful gardens….
My favourite nearby town was Chipping Campden… beautiful buildings, historic buildings, interesting shops, a deli/cafe that sold great coffee, many pubs and eating places, a library staffed with 2 wonderful ladies and 2 huge churches….
The list could go on and on, but I should finish now, methinks!
I’ll leave you all with some photos of the village of Hidcote Boyce, a small village but with some wonderful homes, mostly beautifully restored, or currently being restored. There’s even 1 thatched cottage…with a post box in it’s wall, which is serviced 6 days a week by the postman! In case you haven’t guessed, I’ll state the obvious…..I loved my time at The Old House!