I booked the most quaint, quintessentially English cottage for house sitting in Devon. Let me tell you about it since there were many magical aspects.
In September, I had a five-day gap before a month-long housesit in North London. I debated where to spend that time. I consulted my 50-before-50 list to see if there was anything on there I could tick off.
London during COVID was highly stressful and I was keen to go somewhere calmer. Visiting the Jurassic coast was on the list so I started searching. As well as considering house sitting in Devon I was looking at Airbnbs in to see what was still bookable.
Meanwhile, I kept an eye on listings coming up on TrustedHousesitters. Although there weren’t as many as usual sits were still becoming available. People were still going on holiday. At that point, there were travel corridors with the likes of Germany and Greece.
Applying quickly for house sitting listings
When I’m actively searching for a new sit I’m almost obsessive. It takes a bit of effort but when there’s a bit of competition it’s worth it.
I keep the house sitting website open on a tab on my computer and refresh the page often. As soon as I see something I like, for the dates I want, I apply.
I’d basically decided that I was going to Devon for these five days. But I was open to Universal intervention and was interested to see what might come up.
There wasn’t long before my current sit was ending so I was on the verge of booking accommodation. But as I refreshed the page the listing came up.
The dates were the exact five days I needed and it was in Devon! The housesit was to look after a beautiful cat and the pictures of the cottage were idyllic.
Working out the logistics of house sitting in Devon
I applied and messaged the owner straight away. I gushed, explaining how perfect the whole situation was and how it was all meant to be. After pressing send I promptly panicked that the owner would think I was a complete weirdo.
Anyway, she came straight back to me and we chatted via inbox. The only thing that could have thwarted my plan was getting down to Devon in time.
Normally I leave my housesits before the owners return home. The last thing I’d want to do if I’ve been travelling is to get home and have to make small talk with a stranger. I keep that in mind and try to always leave the housesit ready and vacant for weary travellers to return.
However, things were a bit different this time. The petsit I was on was looking after two (very cute!) young kittens. Given their tendency to destroy anything in their path they couldn’t be left alone for too long. That meant timing my departure a bit more closely with the owners’ return.
Flexible house sitting hosts
In the end, it all worked out. I was sure it was going to. Even the email response came through at 11:11 so how could it not all be aligned?!
Setting off to Devon
This was another housesit that was booked only about a week before it started. So it wasn’t long before I was dashing off to the train station heading from one housesit to the next.
I had my fingers crossed as I text the existing owners. There had been some debate as to what time they’d be back home due to checkout times. I wasn’t sure I was going to be house sitting in Devon after all. The train ride was about four hours and the Devon owners didn’t want to leave too late in the afternoon.
I got on the tube in East London and then took the train from Waterloo. I felt myself relax as city turned to countryside and I looked forward to the next adventure.
Country living – house sitting in Devon
The housesitting listing mentioned that a car was needed. Sometimes if I really want a particular sit I’ll apply even if I don’t fit the criteria exactly. I’d done that here. I told the owner I was happy to shop before I arrived if she was happy for me to be there without a car. (Some owners wouldn’t be ok with that in case anything happened and the pet needed to go to the vet.)
I intended to hire a car for a day trip or two but only if I felt like it. The whole point of going to Devon was to spend time at the coast. But I’d done a lot of rushing around the week before. I suspected I was going to be happy enough walking down the lanes and sitting by the fire.
House sitting is based on trust
Obviously, the owner agreed it was all fine and came to collect me off the train. There was a large Tesco next to the station so I popped in there to do a shop.
It was absolutely pouring with rain when I came out. But despite the chaos of cars lined up outside I managed to find Jo and her husband. I threw my suitcase and shopping into the boot and jumped into the car to get out of the wet.
Jo and Jon were telling me about the house and their lovely cat Pickle. As we chatted generally, Jon asked me if I ever got scared.
I asked what he meant and he said “Well, you just got in the car with two complete strangers. Doesn’t that ever worry you?”
It was an interesting question actually. So much of housesitting is based on trust. But booking sits through a site and not directly via my own website, for example, helps. There’s an element of verification for both the pet owners and the sitters. There’s a helpline I can call if I’m worried about anything. And on top of those things, my spidey senses are pretty good.
Settling into the cottage
After about 15-minutes we arrived at the cottage. It was every bit as lovely as the listing images portrayed. Jo and Jon were really friendly and helpful and showed me all the foibles of the old house.
They were so accommodating encouraging me to use everything they had to offer. They had a mountain bike in the garage that they said I could make use of if I wanted. Sometimes it’s hard to stay fit when constantly moving and without a set routine. So it’s was nice to have the bike and some hand weights at my disposal.
Pickle was a timid cat to start with and hid under the bed for a while. After I’d been shown around and we’d gone through the feeding routine I settled into my room. Jo and Jon sorted out the last of their things before leaving. As usual, I stayed out of the way so they could get organised.
My first evening
The rain didn’t stop so after Jo and Jon left I pottered about the house. I unpacked my toiletries and sat beside the bed and chatted to Pickle. She stayed under the bed but was purring away so at least we were making progress.
I heated up the leftover chilli that I’d kindly been left, along with some crusty, homemade bread. I sat in the kitchen marvelling at the aga and the huge flagstone floor stones while gazing out the window at the twinkly stars outside.
Enjoying simple pleasures
In the end, I didn’t venture too far from home during the week. I had a fair bit of client work to do so I got on with that in the day time. I did go out to Beer, on the coast, one day. But I didn’t see all the things I wanted to, to be able to tick off number 12 on the 50-before-50 bucket list. If I hadn’t been booked for another sit straight after, this housesitting in Devon would have been the perfect gateway for this bucket list item. I would have stayed for the weekend and seen a bit more of the coast.
As it was, I enjoyed walking around the garden and evening walks down the country lanes. I did find a loop to cycle that wasn’t too ridiculously hilly. I spent my evenings start gazing at the beautiful clear sky and meditating beside the wood-burning stove. My idea of bliss!
I did hire a car for a couple of days to go to Beer and I stocked up on a few things from the supermarket. I’m rubbish at shopping and working out how much food I need for a week. I didn’t do badly with the stuff I got at the train station but I did run out of a few things.
I also made sure I booked a car for the day I was leaving. Even though I’ve spent plenty of time in the country I still forget how spoilt I’ve been in London for convenience. Booking a taxi in deepest darkest Devon is something that needs to be planned and executed well in advance! Making my own way to the station was the easiest thing.
Heading back to London
After a few hours out and about I headed back to the house sit to collect my suitcase. As I rounded a corner not far from home, there were two flasks standing in the middle of the road. I pulled over and went to see what was going on. A Land Rover was parked askew and I saw my farmer neighbour a little way ahead.
Apparently, a delivery van had gone head into him as it hurtled around the tiny country lane. He’d lost all steering and was struggling to drive his vehicle. I made a detour squeezing past and going to collect some hazard cones he had in the garden.
After taking them back and checking my neighbour was ok I finally got onto the last leg of my journey. I returned the car to the hire place and they gave me a lift over to the station. I’d managed to miss the train I’d intended to get so I sat on the platform waiting for the next one. They run every hour back to London and luckily the weather was pleasant so the wait went fairly quickly.
Onto the next housesit
Back on the train, I relaxed into the journey. Going to London always feels like going home. Much as I’d loved the solitude of Devon, I was ready for the city hustle and bustle. Most of my housesit owners are happy to be flexible and luckily that was no different with my next sit. I’d warned them I’d be arriving a bit later than expected and they were fine with that. The old lady cat that was waiting for me was happy to chomp on the extra biscuits she’d been left and the house was fine until I got there.
Being invited back for a repeat house sit
Before I left Devon, Jo asked me to come back for another set of dates 6 weeks later. Normally I wouldn’t book a 5-day sit with a gap in between my other sits. Although I often manage to get the exact date I need, like with this one, it does make the logistics a bit less straightforward if I don’t.
However, I’d had such a lovely time in their home I said yes straight away. My return visit was just as lovely. Pickle remembered me and came out of her shell straight away. So that was my experience of house sitting in Devon. I can’t wait to be asked back again!