Queensland couple Neil McLean and Gai Reid journeyed to Europe to enjoy some authentic travel, ‘living like locals’. The result? They spent 300 days pet- and house-sitting their way across four countries, spending less than it would cost them to live at home. Plus they started a new business, Village to Villa! Here’s the next chapter in the fabulous account of their escapades…
[To read episode 21, click here]
The Cotswolds in the United Kingdom is a legendary region that has been on our ‘must see’ list for a long time. When we spotted a house-sit in the classic Cotswolds town of Nailsworth, our heart skipped a beat and our excitement level peaked.
The prospect of several weeks in a little enclave of gorgeous houses and two beautiful big Labradors and three cats to look after sent us into a spin! Purrrfect!
Gai and I booked this house and pet sit about six months out from the due date. In fact, we were still in Australia teeing up our tour of Europe. When we Skyped the ‘Brownes’ and they said an enthusiastic “Yes!” to us, we were so delighted.
We had a long time to anticipate this sit. When the time finally arrived, and we drove into Nailsworth, then a little way out of town to the actual address, we were bowled over again! It was just lovely.
The enclave, named Holcombe Glen, was once part of estate belonging to a large weaving firm. The homes were allocated by the owners and were rented to management and key staff. The mill, like many in the area, closed down decades ago and the homes were sold off. The honey coloured stone, so prolific throughout the Cotswolds, was featured heavily in the half dozen residences on the estate.
The Browne’s, which was on quite a large block, featured the main house, a huge grassed area and a cute purpose-built cabin as an office. Nearby, other homes shared a sweeping driveway. Next door on either side were more beautiful homes with friendly neighbours. One down from that was a gigantic block that had been extensively landscaped and developed as a haven for their grandchildren. We loved it too!
The family took us on a long walk with the two big black Labs. Surrounding the enclave was a large forest-like reserve that took in several private holdings we told we were welcome to walk on. Long trails with steep climbs that zig-zagged through the forest were punctuated by road crossings and various gates. It was like a private estate that had been put there for our benefit!
The bounding Labs — who loved nothing more than chasing a stick — were up for a walk twice a day. Bingo was the younger of the two and would leap effortlessly over the gate, while his older brother Hobie, preferred it to be opened for him to stroll through. Most times we went for a walk, the black cat, Treacle, would come too. She would tag along at a distance and do her own thing mostly. We’d never seen a cat do that before.
The two dogs seemed to have endless energy and pretty much led the way on the trails. For us, it was a way of keeping fit without doing traditional exercises. Keeping up with the dogs, morning and afternoon did the trick. Anyone who has had or knows anything about Labradors understands, they are totally motivated by food. Their priorities were walking/playing stick and eating.
Feeding time was pretty interesting with two ravenous dogs and three ‘come and go’ cats. The dogs were fed first. Two huge bowls were prepared with the pair of them eyeing us intensely, waiting impatiently for the moment you placed the bowls down on the floor. Drooling was par for the course! You could count the seconds on your fingers the time it took to literally wolf down the food.
Fortunately, the cats were pretty cruisy… Taking turns at cat bowls placed high on the window shelf in the kitchen. Why there? If it was left on the floor, the dogs would devour the cat food in a heartbeat!
We loved every moment of life in the Cotwolds. The neighbours quickly became friends after being notified that a couple of Aussies would be caring for the animals and the house while the Brownes were away. Sharing meals and drinks together at times became a regular thing. Next door’s dog, a beautiful border collie, and their mohair rabbit also became pals. It was one of our favourite times on the entire year’s journey.
What made this 800 square-mile (2,072 square-kilometre/80,000 hectare), slice of English beauty called the Cotswolds so special was that it ran through five counties — Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. Try saying that five times in a row!
It also encompasses some of the prettiest country in all of England. Rolling green hills, picture perfect little villages, and the hallmark yellow sandstone that is so well known throughout the region. Be sure to set aside plenty of time to explore when you visit, as there are lots of things to do.