Before making a return house sitting visit to Ware in Hertfordshire, we had a few days in Maidstone and Bromley catch up with family and friends.
Our Old Stomping Ground
No matter how long we are away and how much it changes, we will always have an affinity with Maidstone because it is where we spent 20 years working and bringing up our family. Jonno has an even longer connection with the area having spent around 6 years there as a child.
Amongst the socialising and routine appointments we always try and fit in a bit of a walk to favourite haunts and this time was no different. We did a walk along the River Medway to the lock at Allington passing the many houseboats and their well established gardens. Coffee at the tiny little cafe at the lock gates was a must!
From Maidstone we took a short train journey to Bromley to catch up with two of our sons. Always something we really cherish. Whilst walking up the High Street to meet up with them we heard a voice say, “Going to say hello then?“. The voice had come from a fella selling vouchers to go paintballing from a temporary stand and after a brief hesitant moment I recognised the guy.
It was a fellow HelpXer, from Australia, who we had met in the Highlands of Scotland the year before. It absolutely blows me away that of all the places to choose from we ended up at the same location in June last year and then of all the locations they (and we) could move onto, the frequent change of locations of his paintballing stand, the day and time of our train that particular day – for all those circumstances to come together and him see our faces in a throng of shoppers on a busy Friday is mind blowing.
Whippet Welcome in Ware
It had been two years since our last visit to Ware. It was a particularly memorable first trip because it was shortly before our eldest son, Shaun, and his lovely wife, Katie’s, wedding. It was near enough to where they live to organise a trip to the outfitters for suits for the groomsmen. Happy memories. During this visit we were lucky enough to have a visit from Shaun for the day but Katie was living it up at a friend’s 30th birthday party so we missed her on this occasion. Next time?
Frustratingly, for some of our 2 week stay, my glamping friends, Becca, Deb and Lydia were only 30 minutes away at the usual venue for the annual “Glamp“. It is a pilgrimage that involves activities, hot tubbing, hammocks, good food and lots and lots of wine and cider. As photos of this year’s activities started to arrive the frustration heightened but being on standby for a visit from our youngest son meant it would be a last minute dash.
Unfortunately, I was a non-attender for 2019 …… I feel sad about this but maybe sadder that I missed out on a hat!
Housesitting in Ware
As before at this housesit , we would be looking after Saffy, the blue whippet, Miami, the cat with attitude, and of course the ducks on the pond. Since our last visit Saffy had delivered pups and one of them, Tasha, had stayed with the family. So blue whippet times 2.
Sadly Saffy had some problems with her back legs so was not quite as fast as we remembered but that didn’t stop her launching herself after the ball if she thought Tasha was going to get there first. Tasha was a bit jealous occasionally when she thought Saffy was getting more attention but it was never more than a few minutes of attention seeking and she is still quite young.
Our visit coincided with the mini heatwave and the hottest day on record and it was a matter of just trying to keep the dogs cool and the extensive vegetables, fruit and plants in pots alive. No walking that day just lots of loafing around for all of us and a mass watering exercise at dusk.
Over the two weeks, I have enjoyed keeping an eye on all the fruit and veg and using and preserving the daily abundance of produce. It has certainly helped us keep to our healthy eating lifestyle and I find it so satisfying to pick veg and fruit and then an hour or so later it is part of your meal.
Farce at Fanhams
Regular readers will know how we like to plan ahead and in good JWalking fashion we had arranged to meet up with our friends Jackie and Trevor, their daughter, Sarah, and their grand-daughter the lovely Lottie. We decided to meet for coffee at Fanhams Hall, a hotel/event venue not far from the house which was open to non-residents. On arrival it was evident that they were getting set up for a wedding but the bar area was open for us to get a coffee. This is where the “farce” comes in.
The fairly young female member of staff was obviously not happy with her lot. Trying to service the guests arriving for the wedding as well as small groups arriving for Sunday lunch. She reluctantly took our order and nearly shattered a glass of water that we had ordered as she slapped it down on the marble counter. Her face was like thunder. Hopefully the coffee preparations would go a little more smoothly!
A tray of coffees and one hot chocolate were brought over to our table but we were promptly told, “There are no clean spoons so do you want sugar?” Thankfully none of us needed sugar or a spoon and we were duly left to enjoy our drinks but unfortunately the whole ‘coffee at Fanhams’ experience was, by this point, totally beyond retrieval. Lottie was so good while we nattered away, happily playing with her little ballerina figures. So cute, but no photo I’m afraid. What was I doing? Probably just enjoying the moment and reeling from the exceptional hospitality.
The wander around their beautiful gardens was a more pleasant experience than the coffee one, especially with Lottie being so inquisitive about all the flowers. At least we left on a high. Luckily, Trevor and Jackie have a good sense of humour and we just laughed in astonishment – it’s one we won’t forget.
A “Dear Mr Fanham” email, as a matter of principal, has been sent and there have been sketchy responses ranging from offering us a complimentary lunch to forgetting to confirm the booking date and time. Almost a month on, I am waiting to hear from the General Manager who is on holiday! Would they be saying that if I was trying to contact them to book a wedding or function?
In contrast the pub, The Waterside Inn, in Ware that we went to for lunch could not have been more helpful and courteous. Moving tables around so our party of six would have enough space for the pushchair and a highchair. The food was reasonably priced and lots of it – and yes, they even had spoons. All too quickly it was time to say our goodbyes to our lovely friends.
After a few hours “home alone“, our four and two legged friends back at the homestead were pleased to see us return and we all enjoyed an extra long walk in the surrounding countryside. A return to Ware is pencilled in for June 2020 so look out girls – we will be back!
15/07 – 26/07/2019