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*Hi, thanks for your interest. We’re full until the 23rd August when we have a vacancy for about a week*
If you are planning ahead, when our retrofit is complete in the spring of 2020, we may be looking for help installing the kitchen/doors/skirting boards/bathroom tiling etc so if you have skills and experience with these, do let us know. I will also be looking for more teaching/tutoring for my 15 year old who has GCSES IN 2020 and really needs a lot of help to pass them. He’s pretty bright, but very dyslexic and needs help to focus*️️️
I'd like to think that we're a friendly family of four and part of a rather special friendly canal community. We enjoy meeting new people and sharing experiences and knowledge on both sides. We have a very friendly dog, but sadly our ancient cat ran out of his nine lives at the age of 19, so we only have a dog now.
As you can see, we live in a rather idyllic spot by the canal, 45 mins from London and surrounded by lovely walks and interesting places to visit.
We have a very English cottage garden out the front and a large garden with a solar watered greenhouse, fruit trees, a small (and currently weedy!) veg and soft fruit patch and poultry and ducks out the back overlooking the countryside, with a raised terrace with a beautiful view of the canal, lock and dry dock. The "cocktail terrace" as we started calling it, is perfect for evening drinks in the sun, watching the world boat by and our cottage garden out the front is great for breakfast in the morning light by the canal (in fact I'm sitting there now ;-) We also have a rather indulgent hot tub looking out over the fields, a rustic fire pit, a couple of kayak and bikes that you can also use.
Specific tasks, subject to skills/interests and our focus at the time, may include the following. If you’re particularly interested in one thing though, do check what we’re doing at the moment, because we may not be doing all of this at once!
Weeding veg patch
Helping with chickens/duck care
Decluttering & organisation
Teenage sitting whilst I'm at work for the odd day or two during the holidays (this is minimal childcare btw. They are friendly, independent, and I just like to know that someone is about)
Helping eldest with revision by helping him make flash cards
Listing stuff on ebay (largely Lego)
Woodcutting with splitting axe
Permaculture DIY projects including Installing guttering on chicken run roof
Renovating Narnia Mural on caravan
Painting inside of shepherd's hut
Helping with reassembling Summer House from a secondhand kit & insulating it
Helping with installing electricity and water in Summer House
Helping youngest & I with French/Germán/Spanish/Greek
Welding functional and decorative balcony with rush/water design
painting and decorating
Second fix carpentry
installing second hand kitchen
We generally only host people over 21 simply because we've found that they usually have more life skills than younger people and are therefore more suited to our more independent work pattern. In our experience of hosting younger people, they often find it difficult to be on their own during the day whilst we are at work and/or have less experience so struggle with the fact that we do not have a lot of time to explain the details of every task. Our age criterion is therefore not just about our needs – but also about yours because it is important for us that you have a good time and feel happy here.
Experience in things like general DIY, plumbing, electrical, teaching (especially maths, but general patience is good :-) and gardening is always welcome, as are more arcane skills such as mosaicing, massage and permaculture :-) Our cottage isn't huge, so you'd have to be happy being part of the family during your stay and happy to muck in with day to day housework.
Accommodation is as stated below - in our clean and tidy four berth caravan with facilities in the main house. This is essentially a spacious bedroom, with a double bed one side and and sofa and mini library the other
We also occasionally host people in our shepherds hut or the house - but whatever it is, we agree it all beforehand so that you know where your staying.
There's lots of lovely walks outside the front door along the canal towpath, including around the nearby reservoirs ( a haven for water birds, complete with bird hide) and the local wildlife lake and cafe is just around the corner. As noted, bikes are also available for longer journeys and we also have two kayaks you can borrow if you fancy going along the canal.
We're 10 minutes cycle down the towpath from the pretty market town of Tring, with a regular farmers' market and other events. We're also 10 minutes cycle from Tring train station, with regular trains taking 45 minutes to London, making a day trips to the Big Smoke easy.
Although I am an experienced organic gardener, with a city & guilds in organic gardening, as I work four days a week, with two kids I rarely have the time to bring all my plans to fruition...which is where workawayers can help.
I always have various projects afoot as well as routine day to day tasks like poultry and garden care and I negotiate involvement of helpers, depending on skills and interests.
Everyday domestic tasks include cleaning and cooking etc. My partner normally does most of the cooking and as he is (a rather good!) vegetarian cook we usually eat vegetarian, but can also accommodate vegan diets - in fact we have enjoyed adding to our repertoire of vegan dishes.
If you're interested in sustainability, we have an extensive library of organic, permaculture and green building books and DVDs, which are welcome to access. I was involved in my local Transition town movement, I'm interested in the Extinction Rebellion movement and I used to be a Food Champion, which involves teaching others how to reduce food waste, both by storing and using food better, and composting. I have to confess that as a family we haven't honed that art yet, but at least we do recycle what we don't eat ;-)
I've also done my PDC in permaculture and a course in Peoplecare, as well as run Permaculture workshops focusing on Zone 00 and Life Design, if that's something you're interested in thinking about. I have to emphasise though that we are not a Permaculture Demonstration centre and that we are just ordinary people living ordinary lives. I sometimes describe us a permaculturish as we certainly aren't permaculture perfection (if such a thing even exists). In many ways I think permaculture is a journey, not an end point anyway...and we're on that journey.
I'm a keen wine, jam and chutney maker, as well as drying food, making fruit leathers, apple vinegar, fruit wine and all the rest. I'm also a good forager for wild foods and the odd bit of roadkill and yes, I can butcher. If any of these things are things that you would like to learn - or maybe things that you have expertise in yourself - let and know and they may well be available, depending on the time of year.
I also have a passion, and some expertise in, energy retrofit. I've been a member of the Association of Environmentally Conscious Building and a local Energy Champion volunteer. Our house, like many in the UK, is poor in terms of it's energy consumption,, which is why we are upgrading it with better insulation, draught proofing, photovoltaic panels and greater passive solar gain. I've been involved in our local Transition Town energy project, educating others about retrofit, and I'm happy to share this knowledge if you're interested - and I promise not to preach if you're not ;-)
Before we moved into the canalside cottage, I used to be a liveaboard boater, based in London and then on the Grand Union Canal. My partner lived on a boat in Wiltshire for 18 years. We still have liveaboard mates, so I still feel l'm part of that world (especially as it glides past my windows). I'm reasonably knowledgeable about narrowboats and canal history and have a particular interest in canal archeology and restoration. If you're interested in learning more about a liveaboard lifestyle or canal history, I'd love to fill you in. I also have a lot of books on the topic, which you are again, welcome to read.
If you're interested in staying with us, please give us an idea in your email of what particularly attracts you to our place, what relevant skills/experiences you have to offer and what skills/experiences you are looking to gain. It gives us a better sense of whether we can both have a really positive experience and seems to have worked well as a strategy thus far.
I am conscious that encouraging people to travel in an unsustainable fashion is inconsistent with my attempts to lower my own carbon footprint. As you may be aware, flying generates a lot of CO2; there are a lot of other options out there and useful resources for researching alternatives include:
The Man in Seat 61: (Train travel and connections around Europe)
Megabus: (cheap bus travel around the UK & mainland Europe)Transport Direct: (train and bus planner for the UK)
Liftshare: (car sharing for the UK)
National Express: (bus travel around the UK & mainland Europe
If you are travelling from outside Europe, I do appreciate that the alternatives are a lot more limited though !
Past experience has led us to require copies of photo I.D. (Passport, driving licence) prior to accepting guests. We will also check originals on arrival. We realise that not everyone may be comfortable with this; if you are one of these people, please do not apply as we do not make exceptions to this rule. Thanks for your understanding.
Babysitting / child care
Cooking / shopping
Help with Eco project
Help in the house
The canals are a special side of the UK that visitors rarely experience. Living in our canal side cottage you can learn about and enjoy the navigation heritage of England. My partner and I used to liveaboard narrowboats so we're both knowledgeable and passionate about the inland waterways and the history of the same - if you're interested, we have books and DVDs that you are welcome to borrow.
Tring, our nearby town is a very typical English country town, with two small markets a week, two museums and a lovely old church. We are also at the centre of a number of small villages, all of whom have fetes and fayres throughout the summer, many of which we attend and would be happy to give you lifts to.
It's hard to say exactly what might benefit you though - it really depends on what you looking for. I do try to find out what it is that you want to get out of your stay with us before you come - because then it's easier to ensure that you get it!
As noted help in the house is always necessary. We ask all helpers to carry out a daily routine, consisting of things like looking after the chickens/chicks, when we have them, collecting eggs, making bread, vacuuming, cleaning, emptying the dishwasher and cooking. In addition, we have a variety of other tasks, ranging from DIY and gardening to odd projects such as website design, racking off home made wine, harvesting produce from the garden and foraging in the local hedgerows.
In terms of the garden generally, we need help with day to day tasks such as woodcutting and weeding nettles, as well as specific future projects such as planting fruit trees, laying paths and edging and creating more water storage.
Winemaking,Plumbing, DIY and woodcutting skills are always appreciated.
I love learning languages and would appreciate the opportunity to practice my Greek, French and Spanish. I'd say that I can get by in French, but my Greek and Spanish are much more rudimentary...but I'm working on them!
English, French, ungrammatical bad Greek, learning Spanish
Accommodation is usually in our nice Narnia caravan or shepherds hut in the garden - all facilities are nearby inside.
We also have a smaller caravan currently in the car park adjacent to our house, that we use occasionally when we have more than one couple or person.
Again, we always talk to you about your preferences and are clear beforehand about what accommodation is available.
It is a non smoking household and we have a very friendly dog and a flock of chickens (in the garden) As noted, we generally cook vegetarian, but can accommodate vegans. We are LGBTQ+ friendly (I'd hope that everyone is, but just in case you wondered, we definitely are :-).
I'd like to think that we're a friendly family and part of a friendly local community. We enjoy meeting new people and sharing experiences and knowledge on both sides. As I'm currently pretty busy, I prefer to host people who are reasonably independent, don't mind a certain amount of chaos and have a good sense of humour!
I have no problem hosting non-native English speakers, but I should warn you that, despite my best efforts, I do tend to talk fast and I have limited time to practice English with you, so I'm probably a better host for intermediate speakers of English (unless you speak French or possibly Greek; in which case we'll probably get by).
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
5 inc help with household tasks 5 days a week
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