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  • Carol Duval

Best-Laid Plans

Unplanned changes can have unexpected--and sometimes positive-- consequences.This was the case when we had to leave Markyate a day early and decided to stay in Brill where we did a pet sit back in 2015 ('Blown Away by Brill' in Trying Lives). The village was just the same with muddy walks around the windmill, gorgeous sunset, and locals hanging out at the Pointer, where we stayed the night. Like Brigadoon, no one ever leaves. The next day we had time to reconnect with one of our favourite towns, Cirencester. It's just the right size, has an interesting Roman history and an excellent park for walking.

Second hurdle: What to do about the aborted three-week Calne sit? We stayed three nights which was long enough to see Calne (pic 1) , but I started suffering from what turned out to be a six-week episode of some kind of bronchitis. Sleeping in a small bedroom in a small house with dog walking duties in the dead of winter was NOT something I could have managed for three weeks. So we spent three days at a conference 'resort' south of Swindon, which worked out well as it had a sauna and heated pool--great for my aching muscles and struggling respiratory system, and was close to nearby Dyrham Park (pics 2 and 3)

Then Elaine Drummond, our Chichester house exchange friend, came to the rescue offering her vacant flat where we'd stayed in 2018. So no pets to walk, separate sleeping quarters to deal with hacking coughs and two weeks to reconnect with Chichester with its cathedral and Arundel with its castle and lovingly maintained doorways and a bit further afield, Winchester.

A favourite village for more natural attractions of watery Bosham, perfect water bird habitat, where low tide reveals vast mud flats, high tide often floods low-lying houses but is great for boating.

We even managed to catch up in Petworth with Mike Rudge from our Singapore days, who happened to be in the UK.

The month ended back on track, apart from continuing health and now time-consuming and pricey car rental issues, with our dog sit in Offham, Kent. What a pretty little village, comfortable house, cute little dog and open fields with apple, pear and hop crops ready to appear. One of the best finds was an outfit called Spadeworks just down the street that is a plant nursery/cafe/farm shop and occupational therapy space for people with various disabilities. Gandalf was propped up in the corner of a barn outside the cafe.

The next village, West Malling, had some interesting historical and artistic connections as well as the best mussel restaurant around.

Other highlights were nearby Rochester with its cathedral and Dickens connections and the medieval manor, Ightham Mote where we enjoyed a nice walk with Scooter and lunch at a nearby pub. Great cider and friendly service, as we've come to expect in country pubs.

After this, it's on to Chepstow in Wales, a part of the UK that we always love returning to. Here's hoping our best-laid plans turn out to be just that.

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