Five go mad in Dorset
As the English summer enters its final days and temperatures reach into the 30’s over the bank holiday weekend we commence our final English pet sit of the year in the south west of the country.
We are in the Dorset countryside about an hour north of the coast where we are surrounded by fields of cows and sheep and crops of wheat and corn. Tractors pull carts loaded with hay and drive by us in the narrow country lanes. The hedges are filled with blackberries and the apple trees are loaded with fruit.
Our local town is Sturminster Newton, it is a small town with the usual selection of shops and cafes including a butcher and a deli. Our favourite store is the artisan baker who make excellent bread and this years must have baked item, a vegan sausage roll.
Within walking distance of the house that we are looking after we can buy local eggs at a farm stand with an honesty box. Here they also produce milk for Barbers 1833 Cheddar cheese, the Barber family started making cheddar in 1833 and are now the world’s oldest surviving cheddar makers.
The three amigos
We are looking after “Cat”, that’s his name, Islay the Whippet and little Star. There are also 23 sheep on the property and we have the onerous tasks of ensuring that they have sufficient drinking water and we counting them every few days ensuring that all 23 of them are still well and present.
Cat, islay and Star love being together and will often be seen sitting together on the sofa or on one of their beds. They will join us wherever we are in the house or garden whatever we are doing, be it reading, dining or watching TV. They love to be part of the action, the top tip is do not leave your bedroom door open at night otherwise you will be woken with three guest visitors through the night who like to get very close on the bed.
We always love taking dogs for a walk and it’s no exception the current two, they get very excited at the sight of their leads as we head for the front door of the house. We’ve walked Star and Islay along country lanes, through harvested fields, inside Milton Abbey, along the local Okeford Hill and we’ve stopped off at the local pub for a drink.
Islay, the Whippet, is very gentle, slightly nervous and a bit timid, that is until the post van arrives each morning. The owners have asked that we keep the dogs indoors until the post has been delivered to stop the dogs from chasing and biting the person who delivers the mail.
As soon as the red van arrives in the drive the dogs begin to bark, they then run to the side door, where the mail box is where they bark more. Once the mail has dropped through the letter box they run back to the front door to bark again at the van until it disappears along the drive way. They then return to their beds and fall asleep, job done!
The local area
Milton Abbey was once a very large family home and estate in the 1700’s and is now an independent school with an attached abbey. During the school holidays the tuck shop opens as a tea room and we can confirm that it’s well worth a visit for an afternoon tea.
In 1780 the owner of Milton Abbey decided that the village of Milton was spoiling his view and so he had a new village of 36 almost identical thatched roof cottages built nearby, being Milton Abbas and the old village was demolished. The Milton Abbas cottages were originally two semi-detached houses, some have since been converted into single detached homes following the removal of some internal walls. The village has a pub, a post office and a tea rooms and is a perfect place for dog walking followed by a drink on the terrace of the pub.
Lawrence of Arabia
T E Lawrence lived the final years of his life in a tiny four room cottage named Clouds Hill in Dorset. This was when he was stationed at nearby Bovington Camp with the Tank Corps, the tanks still train today just behind the property.
Clouds Hill is now owned by the National Trust and has been kept as Lawrence left it with the original fittings and furniture that he crafted for his own needs. Lawrence entertained lots of guests at the cottage and had no rigid rules, except no alcohol, over the doorway to the cottage there is a Greek inscription “ou phrontis” which roughly translates to “Don’t Worry”.
Lawrence aimed to retire in the cottage living off an income of a pound a day. In 1929 he purchased the cottage and in February 1935 he achieved his aim of retiring. In May 1935 he was involved in a motor cycle accident on the road outside the cottage, he died six days later at the age of 46.
Kingston Lacy is one of the National Trusts largest properties covering over 8,000 acres. It was the Bankes family home for over 400 years until it was bequeathed to the NT in 1981 so as to avoid inheritance tax.
The dining room has a table set for dinner with small plaques containing information on how a dinner party operated at the house, such as the “a la russe” serving method which involved courses being brought to the table sequentially, another explains how the cutlery was laid on the table and another how to indicate that a dish is finished.
Gold Hill in Shaftesbury is a very steep cobbled slope lined by chocolate box cottages. Here one of the UK’s favourite TV adverts was filmed in 1973 for Hovis bread. It was directed by Ridley Scott with the cameras being pulled up the slope on a special track by six men, in the meantime the young boy had to cycle and walk his bike up the hill.
The Jurassic Coast
The Dorset coast includes an amazing 95 miles of beaches which are World Heritage listed and are known as the Jurassic Coast. At Durdle Door a massive natural Portland stone arch overlooks the long beach with its chalk cliffs. There’s a steep pathway over the cliffs to the small village of Lulworth Cove with amazing views along the way.
Pret A Manger
There are several farm shops and cafes around the area including the Vegan cafe “Feed The Soul” where we tried their delicious vegan bounty bars and chocolate beetroot cake. Another great food stop is Gold Hill Organic farm selling local organic produce with the bonus of a really cute courtyard cafe serving excellent lunches and snacks.
There are some really good pubs in the area too, again we used the Sawday’s guide help us find the best ones. We had really good food at the Museum Inn in Blandford and the Fontmell in Fontmell Magna.
Winter is coming
After four months of travelling around England and France we have reached the end of our grand European summer pet sitting tour of 2019. All of our confirmed venues and dates have been successfully completed. We have returned 10 dogs, 2 cats, 2 chickens, 2 pigs, 23 sheep and 6 houses to their rightful owners and all in tip top condition.
Our owners trips included holidays to Greece, Majorca, Scotland, Spain and Portugal and now it is our turn to take a holiday as we head to the US for September. All we need to do is pack up everything in our two small suit cases, including the sun, which we are taking back to the southern hemisphere with us. Does anyone want to come along with us?