House sitting offers many great lifestyle choices.
You can apply for long sits on tropical islands, offer to look after homes in remote off-grid locations, or focus your efforts on securing city centre apartment sits.
Assignments are offered in many countries around the world, and often you can have too much choice about where to head for next.
Last year Vanessa and I decided to return to the UK for a year or so, perhaps longer, after both spending many years in other parts of the world. We wanted to spend a bit more time closer to family, and to catch up with old friends. With some big family occasions coming up, this seemed like the ideal time to return “home”.
It’s been a pleasant surprise over the past few months to find that house sitting has enabled us to see our own home country through completely fresh eyes.
We’ve been doing lots of short sits, and have looked after bigger homes in the countryside, cottages in small villages, regular homes in towns, and even a lovely flat by the river in London.
Each assignment has been unique, and many of them have been in places neither Vanessa or I have visited before.
We’ve had a wonderful array of pets to look after, including, of course, lots of dogs and cats, but also horses, chickens, ducks, sheep, goats and fish.
We’ve felt like tourists in our own country, and have really enjoyed the sense of discovery that comes each time we move to our next location.
I can’t say I was too enthusiastic about spending a chilly winter in England. After all, that was one of the reasons I emigrated to Australia back in 2001.
But winter is just about over now, and it has been quite a mild one, although we have had to build a more substantial wardrobe of clothes than we usually carry in more tropical destinations.
With the weather improving as we move into spring we’ve decided it’s time to get out and about a bit more, and to really start to explore.
So while in North Yorkshire at the start of April we became members of the National Trust, which manages all sorts of properties and countryside all across the UK.
Annual membership is GBP £120 (approx. USD $160), but you can opt to pay monthly at no extra cost, so our first month’s membership comes in at £10.
Our first National Trust visit was to the spectacular Yorkshire Dales destination, Brimham Rocks. I had been here as a child, but couldn’t remember it at all. We were both greatly impressed.
There’s no entry fee to visit the rocks, but car parking is £6 for up to 4 hours. However, as NT members, all NT car parking is now included as part of our membership.
Before we left our Yorkshire house sit we visited Fountains Abbey and Studley Water Gardens, picked simply because it was close to our house sit. We were both greatly impressed again!
The ruined abbey is huge, bigger than any other I have seen in England. And the water gardens nearby are sculpted to perfection, and very tranquil. As members our entry and parking are covered. If we’d just turned up as non-members we would have had to pay £16 each.
At our next sit, in Chippenham, Wiltshire, we spent an afternoon visiting the little village of Laycock, and the scenic Laycock Abbey, just a couple of miles from our house sit location.
Laycock is very picturesque, and has been used as a location for quite a few movies. A couple of the Harry Potter movies feature scenes filmed here. Harry’s parents’ house can be seen in the village, and Laycock Abbey doubled as the interior of Hogwarts in the first two movies.
Our membership saved us £4 for the carpark, and £14.50 each for entry to the abbey.
The upstairs part of the abbey was used as a country home for many years, and one of the most famous occupants was William Henry Fox Talbot, who lived there in the 1800s.
He is known as inventor of one of the first photographic processes, and a picture taken of one of the latticed windows at the abbey is believed to be the first ever photograph taken using techniques that are still used today for non-digital photography.
We took a picture of the same window, and for a short while had the most recent copy of a picture of the view captured by Talbot all those years ago, in the first photo ever taken.
So we’re only just over 2 weeks into our first month of membership, and our monthly tenner has saved us £71 so far. Not a bad deal at all.
I suspect we’re going to squeeze a lot of value out of the National Trust over the coming summer!
If you’re traveling or sitting in the UK for any length of time I’d suggest you do the same!
We hope you enjoy this issue of the magazine.
Ian and Vanessa(currently house sitting in Egham, Surrey, England)
Picture: Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, England