As Katherine said in our last entry, we weren’t too keen on the idea of travelling or being ‘out in the open’ during winter. This was especially true after seeing what late autumn’s rainfall did to the site we were staying on in Truro: It was a miracle that we escaped the boggy mire at all!
So, imagine our glee when we were contacted by a lovely Welsh couple wanting someone to look after their cottage and pets right through winter! We’d had a couple other potential offers, but all in rather uninspiring locations in the suburbs. Anne and Mike’s cottage immediately grabbed our interest — out in the country north of Swansea, surrounded by gently rolling hills, and beautifully decorated by its rather skilful owners. After a phone call — during which we’d managed to understand about 20% of Mike’s marvellously thick Welsh accent! — both parties enthusiastically agreed it was going to work out.
So, we arrived in Wales after a much more pleasant drive than the one to Exmoor, and settled down for the night in the last caravan park we’d stay in for quite a while.
We met Anne and Mike the next day at their place, Lygos farm, after negotiating the somewhat intimidating access road, gunning Nettle across patches of slippery mud. We’d already spoken on the phone and emailed a few times, so we knew they were absolutely lovely, and we got on very well in person too, as we sat down to the first of a great many cups of tea (faces screwed up as Zoe the Jack Russell frantically jumped all over us and licked our faces). We were thrilled and touched when Mike made a delicious apple crumble for us after hearing how we’d missed having an oven!
We moved into the smaller cottage alongside the house for a few days (admittedly, we got a little homesick/agoraphobic the first night, and slept in Nettle!). Over that time, we were shown the ropes — the property is spring-fed, so Mike took us up the hill to the spring, and demonstrated cleaning the filter in case it gets blocked; I took a course in Tractors 101, correct chainsaw use and the mixing of two-stroke fuel, a quick driving lesson in their 4×4 which they generously offered for our use (to our great relief!), and other manly pursuits.
Over the few days, we spent some time getting to know Anne and Mike; they’re a couple who have rather inspiringly bootstrapped themselves, having come from council housing, taken over and single-handedly renovated their house, sold, then bought, renovated and sold another place before building up Lygos from rubble, just the two of them.
Mike noted with humour that from time to time, people have remarked on how lucky they are to live in a spot like this; he chuckled and observed that the harder they worked, the luckier they got!
Somehow in the middle of all that, they raised a family and are now grandparents; their children have left the UK, and now they’ve a daughter living a rather idyllic-sounding lifestyle on a large yacht in Malaysia and Thailand, and a son who’s had a career in the Navy working on nuclear submarines and has now retired in America.
They’d sought a house-sitter to look after Lygos while they went to visit their daughter in Malaysia, and travel with her through Thailand.
The house itself is a beautiful building of tastefully exposed stone walls, and pretty, organic-looking wooden beams, decorated with carefully-selected antiques and found objects, many of which Mike had found and restored from the bottom of a canal while he had done some dredging work. A staircase in its own cylindrical stone niche winds up from beside the generously-sized fireplace in the living-room, coming out onto a landing that looks over the study adjoining the living-room, and leading to the upstairs bedroom with a spectacular view out over the valley.
So, the time came when we wished each other well, and Anne and Mike headed off to Heathrow.
We’re living in a cottage in Wales for the winter!!