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help exchange   Host 16819
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Help Exchange

All Year: Yes
Area (ha): Large garden
Persons: 2/3winter;3/4 summer
Category: Homestay
Host ID: 16819
Country: England

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Last Updated: April 8, 2015

*I am now booked until October* * I have an interesting opportunity available for hosting two or three people split between our Canal Cottage not far from London, and a house in Cardiff within walking distance of the vibrant centre of the Welsh Capital city, starting around the end of October. In the latter location, we need people to prepare, decorate and generally tidy up a house. We would take you between the two locations and supply food etc at both. We are likely to be about in Cardiff some, but possibly not all, of the time so are therefore seeking independent, responsible and reliable people, ideally with references and experience in painting and decorating. If you're interested and have any questions, please contact me ASAP as I usually book up fast*

I'm looking for help indoors and out in our Canal Cottage by the Grand Union Canal, set in an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty in the Chiltern countryside, within easy access of London. As you may realise, the Google map isn't very accurate - we're actually on the canal, not the road :-)

We are looking for mature, self motivated people who are happy to work independently,doing basic domestic tasks, helping in the garden, possibly with my two kids, if appropriate, and with specific DIY projects. Our cottage isn't huge, so you'd have to be happy being part of the family during your stay.

Accomodation is usually in our spare bedroom, complete with extensive library of gardening and green books, wifi, and a view over the rolling fields to the rear of the cottage. In negotiation with guests, we also sometimes host people on a sofa bed in a self contained room downstairs (so nobody will be walking through at night :-); the room has a cosy wood stove. In the summer, We have a nice caravan and we also have a large (12 person, 3 rooms, standing height...but usually only one person or a couple in at a time;-) dome tent as additional accomodation.

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. We are LGBT friendly.

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 is around the corner. A selection of bikes, including a tricycle, are also available for longer journeys.

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.

For fun at home, in the summer we have a Pedalo which we moor opposite the house and volunteers are welcome to take it out for a spin. We also have a wood fired hot tub, made from recycled materials and this has proved to be a big hit with both family and volunteers, with many happy evenings spent in it in the summer months, chatting under the stars, to the sound of nearby owls.

In the winter, we have a cosy wood stove, mulled wine and frosty mornings to enjoy...the canal and reservoirs look particularly beautiful in the snow and ice.

We have a pretty cottage garden to the front and a large rear garden in need of some taming to the rear. I garden both organically. Although I am an experienced organic gardener, as I work part time, with two kids I rarely have the time to bring all my plans to fruition.

I always have various projects afoot and I negotiate involvement of helpers, depending on skills and interests.Current garden missions include; renovating shed into proper work space, taking down old conservatory and recycling it into roofing for chicken run, building wood store/treehouse, planting of fruit trees and developing more water storage. House wise, there's new doors that need glazing and hanging, some Lego shelves that need building, and a few leaks to mend.Oh....and I'm hoping to build an extension (but will be employing builders...unless you're interested?;-)

In terms of day to day garden tasks, there's woodcutting, spring gardening, weeding and looking after thechickens.

Everyday domestic tasks include cleaning and cooking etc. I'm happy to supply food, but I struggle to cook it because I'm short of time, so people who don't mind cooking would be preferred. Although I'm an omnivore, I know that a vegetarian/vegan diet is lower carbon so I'm happy to eat Vegan/vegetarian if you don't mind the odd bit of meat for the kids about.

I have two kids and, depending on your skills and references, appreciate some help with them, especially getting out of the house in the mornings and feeding them/ helping with homework in the evenings. Childcare experience is always appreciated.

If you're interested in sustainability, I have an extensive library of organic, permaculture and green building books and DVDs, which resides in my guest bedroom and you are welcome to access. I'm involved in my local Transition town as the Local Food Coordinator and I'm a Food Champion, which involves teaching others how to reduce food waste, both by storing and using food better, and composting. I'm also very interested in permaculture and peoplecare, if that's something you're interested in thinking about.

I also have a passion, and some expertise in, energy retrofit. I'm a member of the Association of Environmentally Conscious Building and a local Energy Champion volunteer. My house, like many in the UK, is poor in terms of it's energy consumption, but I am gradually upgrading it with better insulation, draught proofing, photovoltaic panels and greater passive solar gain. I'm 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 ;-)

I used to be a liveaboard boater, based in London and then on the Grand Union Canal. I 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 currently particularly interested in people who would like to stay for a minium of three weeks with the agreement of a week's trial both ways.I'm not inflexible about this though, so just ask if you can't stay for that long.

Sustainable travel
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; I therefore prioritise potential helpers who are travelling by other means - both to my home and afterwards. There are a lot of options out there and useful resources for researching alternatives include:

Liftshare: (car sharing for the UK)
Transport Direct: (train and bus planner for the UK)
National Express: (bus travel around the UK & mainland Europe
Megabus: (cheap bus travel around the UK & mainland Europe)
The Man in Seat 61: (Train travel and connections around Europe)

If you are travelling from outside Europe, I do appreciate that the alternatives are a lot more limited and would still consider hosting you.

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