The word on the street is that donkeys are stubborn! But after a recent day in the company of donkeys – we can tell you that it’s just NOT true! Like other animals, they can fill your heart with joy.
Donkeys are surprisingly affectionate – as Neil found out when Bonnie was very attracted to this handsome Aussie!
If you find yourself anywhere near Sidmouth in the English county of Devon, put a few hours aside to meet some donkeys. You to might be lucky enough to get a very personal encounter.
The Donkey Sanctuary was one of the most fascinating places we visited on “Village to Villa” – 1 year of pet and house sitting.
It all began in 1969 when Elisabeth Svendsen did something amazing. She founded a charity after seeing 7 small donkeys housed in appalling conditions.
Today it’s Britain’s richest charity with an annual turnover of 22 million pounds!
Their mission is to free donkeys from suffering and improve the quality of life for donkeys worldwide – mostly through promoting an understanding and support. They have made a profound difference to the lives of donkeys, here in England and in other countries.
The Sanctuary provides Donkeys for assisted therapy for children.
Anyone can “Adopt a Donkey” to guarantee its future well-being.
This awesome Bird of Prey is the BALD EAGLE… national animal of the USA. There are though to be around 150 thousand of them in North America, their native country. They’re seen near large bodies of water from the north of Mexico north to Alaska.
See our video of HOLDING this magnificent bird at the Hawkridge Bird of Prey Centre in England.
They swoop at speeds of more than 140 kph to catch a fish.
Then they eat with both hands.
Bald Eagles don’t start producing until there about 4 years old, but they will live for 20 years in the wild… twice that in captivity.
The eagles have a wingspan of 2 metres. Baldric, the male bird that we both held, weighs around 4 kg and I struggled to hold him on one arm! The females are even heavier. That doesn’t stop them flying at 48 kilometres per hour, even carrying a fish. Baldric started his training at around 6 months. It typically takes 2 months for the bird to trust you as a handler.
We were incredibly privileged to see Baldric up close and VERY personal, when we visited the Hawkridge Bird of Prey Centre near Exmouth in England. We were house sitting nearby near Ottery St Mary.
These highly trained aerial hunters have been closely associated with humans for thousands of years. Falconry was a way of life and provided food for families.
It went out of fashion for many years, but is now back as a sport practiced all over the world.
You can find the Hawkridge Birds of Prey Centre at Westdown Lane, Sandy Bay, Exmouth EX85BY.
The Cotswolds is an area that stretches across 5 counties in the South West of England. It’s known around the world as one of the prettiest areas, with its honeycomb stone architecture, green rolling hills and a fascinating back story.
We were based in the village of Minchenhampton – to take care of the Brown Family home and animals. But while we were there, we also became acquainted with the neighbours – including a 4 year old white bunny called Snowy!
We absolutely loved living in the Cotswolds.
Please keep visiting this site for many more stories about the Cotswolds and all of our house and pet sitting adventures, in 4 countries.
THANK YOU to the Brown family for entrusting us with their entertaining, precious pets. We will introduce Hobey and Bingo in another story.
During our time in Scotland, we met the 28th Laird of Craufurdland Castle near Kilmarnock. He kindly invited us to stay for a few days with his lovely family.
Such an extraordinary invitation comes along rarely… so of course our answer was “We would love to… thank you for asking”!
Guinness – the dog with 3 legs had a set of wheels.
He was able to go walking with his brother Scrumpy.
The 2 Setters are treasured members of the family. Guinness lost his back leg after being hit by a car… but this hero dog hasn’t let that stop him from enjoying his walks. Scrumpy keeps close watch over his brother and patiently waits
Everyone loves and admires Guinness for his fighting Scottish spirit!
He won our hearts during the few days we spent living like locals in a Scottish castle!
This family home near Kilmarnock, dates back to 1245!
Like most of the large estates in the UK- the family has had to diversify to keep the place viable. They’ve dedicated one half of the castle to B&B style accommodation. Guests enjoy luxury accommodation – surrounded by history.
There’s a large lake on the estate – filled with trout and tranquility. It’s the perfect male meditation and occasionally the day will produce supper!
The family backyard is 600 acres of Scottish countryside. And we were absolutely delighted to discover that humans are not the only guests having sleep overs at Craufurdland! Boarding dogs are allowed to run freely off lead – to have a good sniff in the woodlands and some take a dip in the lake.
Some months after our return to Australia, we were sad when we heard from the family, that Guinness was not able to keep up this exhausting effort to sustain his life on three legs.
Guinness – we will always remember how lucky we were to share a few days with you and your kind family.
Everything you need to know to have a fabulously authentic travel experience HOUSE SITTING & PET SITTING
We would like to share some valuable information and TOP TIPS about having an unforgettable time when you go house and pet sitting. We gathered this knowledge from our experiences and some of it we learned the hard way!
In late 2015 we set off on a year-long, four-country journey. We started at home in Australia, then packed up everything and took a flight to Paris! We spent most of 2016 in France, UK and Italy. We traveled 30,000km by air and 36,000km by car. Along the way we picked up a lot of helpful tips for a smooth journey. If you’re new to house sitting or if you’ve tried it already, we hope you can take away some tips that will enhance your time at each of your many destinations.
TIP 1 – SELECTING THE REGION
As basic as it sounds, paying close attention to the locations you choose is critical. Also, the time of the year when you visit can make a big difference to your experience. A great question to ask yourself is – What will the weather be like when we go there?
We knew England would be cold for us, especially Scotland, so we applied only for sits during their summer. If you are used to cold climates, you may want to go to a warmer region and vice versa. Many sits may be booked months before the actual scheduled time, so do your homework on this one.
Another things to pay attention to is the time of the tourist season and as we discovered in Bordeaux – will there be any major events taking place nearby? We had to move our car by several blocks for the weekend.
Know the address of the property.
While this might sound like a no-brainer, we came extremely close to becoming seriously lost, not once, but twice!
Get very clear about where you are. Establish landmarks and have a back-up plan. Take a photo on your phone.
To read ALL 14 TIPS… . PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW
This is detailed and valuable guidance from a couple who travelled in 4 countries for 1 year – primarily house sitting and pet sitting.
As if that wasn’t enough – they also shot and are now writing “Village to Villa” LIVING LIKE LOCALS – a 13 episode TV series – NOW IN EDIT.
Just scroll down to the black strip and you will see how to become a FOLLOWER.
We’ll help you to create a killer profile and nail the perfect sit for you. THANK YOU we are grateful for your interest and support. Please feel free to share with others who might enjoy our adventure.
Near Sidmouth in the UK there is a what could be described as Heaven for Donkeys – a sanctuary for these amazing four legged creatures.
During our journey of living like locals…we’ve seen lots of animals close-up – but nothing prepared us for the experience of a donkey close encounter. Donkeys are widely misunderstood creatures with most people believing they are stubborn.
Donkeys are really smart, curious, affectionate and love being patted.
Getting set up for an interview, a couple of the more friendly donkeys definitely wanted to be in the action!
Neil had a very memorable DONKEY CLOSE ENCOUNTER with Bonnie, one of the favourites at the sanctuary. Here’s a video clip of that encounter!
AS one of Britain’s most generously-funded charities, The Donkey Sanctuary has arms spread world-wide to rescue and care for donkeys. There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, many of them in servitude…these lucky guys are definitely in Donkey Heaven.
There is a purpose for their life. They’re lucky here in here England – they enjoy the lovely green fields and go to lovely foster homes where someone lovingly cares for them. But donkeys abroad need to be a working animal for the family.
With around 500 formerly displaced animals housed at this facility, it allows you to get to know donkey breeds and understand their quirky personalities.
The Donkey Sanctuary supports donkey rescue in locations around the world.
Can 2 producers really shoot video for a 13 part TV series without a crew?
Neil McLean and Gai Reid are the only members of the camera crew for their 13 episode TV series “Village to Villa”. We developed our “TV production in a back pack” so we could travel for one year and shoot a TV series without a camera crew!
Having covered 4 countries – living like locals – we have now begun the huge editing phase. Luckily we have 2 awesome editors. Meet our crew.
Gai & Neil have worked in television production for most of our working lives. That’s a scary number of years!
Gai experienced a little bit of everything during her time spent working in regional television in NSW and Tasmania. Mostly she has worked in Brisbane networks as a writer and producer in factual programming.
Neil has worked mostly in news in regional and the networks of NSW and Victoria– as a reporter, reader and news director. We both know what it’s like to spend a week or longer on the road.
Normally when a TV crew travels to shoot a program – 4 people would check in 12 to 18 pieces of luggage, including cameras, tripod, lights, sound gear as well as crew suitcases. NOT for TV Production in a back pack.
Because of the nature of our project – we couldn’t take a traditional camera crew. So WE became the crew!
That meant we had to figure out another way to bring you what we knew would be engaging and inspirational stories.
We came up with PRODUCTION BACK PACK!
We streamlined down to the absolute minimum gear – we had to carry it where ever we went. It really was a production in a backpack. AND it enabled us to shoot a TV series without a crew.
Most importantly – we wanted to record authentic travel experiences that filled us with joy!
We wanted to be able to talk to strangers without intimidating them with a large camera on a tripod. They needed to feel comfortable in order to open up and tell us their stories. We wanted to make story gathering a pleasurable experience for everyone involved.
So when we set out on one of our many trips – we had a suit case each and ONE backpack of camera gear!
We used a Nikon digital SLR with external Rode mic; a Samsung Galaxy-K phone with external Rodes mic; occasionally a basic Samsung phone; a Sony Action Can and a seriess of mounts. Sometime we shot an interview with 2 different angles. We found a fantastic tripod that folds down to about the size of 2 fold up umbrellas. THAT’S IT! This is how we were able to shoot a TV series without a crew.
We wanted to be one of the early adopters of using a mobile phone camera to shoot a series – to show that it COULD be done.