I’ve just spent the past two weeks house sitting in Appleby, England. Between two wonderful purebred Spanish Water Dogs, snowstorms and getting locked out of the van, it was quite an adventure.
My First Impression of Hilton
Before I went to Appleby, I told a few people about my upcoming housesit. Many were shocked and for good reason. Appleby had just been flooded by Storm Ciara. Most of the businesses, including the local supermarket, were closed.
Thankfully, the house sit was actually in the tiny village of Hilton a couple miles uphill from Appleby. Hilton only has a couple dozen houses, most of which were built centuries ago. My house sit happened to be the one new house in the village, built only 30 years ago, which mainly meant that it had great insulation.
I arrived at night so didn’t see much of the countryside on the way to the house, but I could tell it was beautiful. I passed through Appleby where the water had resided and saw it was a quintessential English village. Hilton is the location of an old lead mine from the 19th century, although some of the churches in the area date back several centuries.
Beautiful Winter Weather
As my housesit was at the end of February, I was expecting some cold, wet weather. What I wasn’t expecting was to wake up one morning and look out the window to find everything white. It was one of the first days of my stay. It continued to snow every day for the next week, although it didn’t last as long as it did the first day. Still, there was snow on the surrounding hills when I left. It just couldn’t have been more beautiful.
Although it snowed (or rained a little) every day, it was also sunny for a few hours most days, long enough to take the dogs for a good walk. The house is next to a large Ministry of Defense firing range which often had the red flags flying, preventing me from accessing the trails during part of the days. As soon as the flags dropped, I was trudging up the trails, trying not to get too muddy in all the puddles and bogs. It certainly wasn’t easy with only a pair of sneakers.
Getting Locked Out of the Van
The reason I only had my running shoes and not hiking boots was that I couldn’t get into the van. Talk about an absolute nightmare! My hosts had generously offered to let me use any of their extensive tools in their sheds so I could work on the van conversion. On the first day of the house sit, I was moving everything out of the van so I could lay down the insulation. Somehow, between two of my trips to unload, the doors of the van (all but the driver’s door) locked and wouldn’t unlock no matter how much I tried.
I immediately resorted to Google, searching for possible causes and fixes. I checked the fuse, disassembled the door and checked the lock and wires, and even tried bypassing the door locks through the electrical system, all to no avail. I brought the van into the local garage who sent me to a Ford garage a few miles away. Neither knew what the problem was or how to fix it. I ordered a new central locking unit off eBay, but this didn’t resolve the problem either.
To make matters worse, I had secured the bulkhead back in place in the van, so there was nothing I could do to get to my stuff in the back. The van is specifically designed to prevent access or theft when the doors are locked (double-locked it’s called). So for the rest of the housesit, I only had the few bags I had brought in at the beginning, which didn’t include boots or several other essentials.
Our Hosts to the Rescue
When my hosts got back from their trip and heard my story, Jack immediately started tackling the problem. It couldn’t have been more fortuitous to discover that Jack’s profession (before he retired) was as a master electrician. Not only did he immediately find out what the problem was, he had the equipment to resolve it. It turns out the Ford van has two batteries (something three different garages didn’t know about even though they made references to failing electrical systems) and the secondary battery powered the locks, among other things.
Within minutes of diagnosing the problem, Jack had his jumpstarters out and less than a minute later I was into the back of the van! Thankfully, my possessions were far less saturated than I thought they would be. I’m still getting the insulation and vapor seal installed, and sometimes a lot of water condenses on the ceiling. As it was, only the bedding was a little damp and everything else was fine.
Unfortunately, no amount of charging could salvage the battery (it won’t hold a charge), and we’ll need to get a new one in short order. But my hosts’ help didn’t stop there. They offered to let me stay a bit longer so I could get the work done on the van which I had hoped to complete while they were gone. The next day, I was able to get all the insulation cut and ready to mount to the floor of the van. Now I just need a warm enough day to throw a coat of anti-rust paint down and I can have the floor of the van all ready to go.
Throughout my stay, my hosts were more than accommodating. They had a delicious roast and soup ready for me when I arrived, and then cooked more meals for me when they returned. They were also very pleased with my famous scalloped potatoes I got to cook for them. Best of all, I just had the most amazing conversations with my hosts every day. It was a real struggle to finally move on to my next destination…which happens to be a massive estate in Scotland looking after a Labrador puppy.
Join Trusted Housesitters Today
Trusted House Sitters is a website you can join in order to house sit for people who have animals they plan to leave behind while they take a vacation. Membership is $119 for a year, which gives you unlimited applications for house sits.
Along with Couchsurfing and Worldpackers, Trusted House Sitters makes up the Holy Trinity for unique and wonderful accommodations suitable for budget travelers. Each has its benefits. As much as I love meeting locals on Couchsurfing, or exchanging for my bed and board on Workaway, Trusted House Sitters just might be my favorite, and for a very simple reason.
You get to pet sit!
It might be something as simple as a single dog or cat. It might be a handful of either, or a combination of both. You might be looking after chickens, geese or donkeys. Some have snakes, others have fish. On the best ones, you get to look after horses! There is even a small handful just looking for people to water the plants. Basically there is one major requirement for using Trusted House Sitters, other than flexibility with location and schedules:
You have to love animals. I know I sure do!
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I believe that giving back in your travels is a huge plus, and I’ll always spend a few months out of every year doing volunteer jobs. Here are some more articles that cover volunteering, the pros and cons, and some of the experiences I’ve had.
- 5 Reasons Why Workaway Reviews Are Inaccurate and Could Be Improved
- My Workaway Experience in Brussels
- My Original Workaway Story for France
- My Workaway in France – A Story of Worst Case Scenario
- My Adventure with Zanzibara Campground via Workaway
- My First 3 Weeks Back in Europe, Helping on a Farm in Sweden
- My Five Weeks in Sjuntorp Could Have Been Better
- Hostel Workaways in Scotland: Mostly Great Volunteer Jobs
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.
- 5 Steps to Book Cheap Flights
- Hostels: To Book or Not to Book
- Is Workaway Worth it for the Traveler?
- Click here to claim your $25 credit with AirB&B
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