Herefordshire Week 055: Tuesday 12 – Monday 18 January 2021

More snowdrops! A buzzard in the Ash tree.

A visit from the local hedge cutter tractor, and Sooty’s Chimney Sweep Services.

Camera quest conclusion.

Ticked off lots of admin on Tuesday morning and still had time for a damp drizzly walk around the Cockyard loop. Helicopters busy overhead. They’ve been absent for a while.

Then work. January always gets busy as people want to follow up on all the brainwaves they had over Christmas, work-related New Year Resolutions and the objectives agreed in end of year reviews.

We had a Winter Wellbeing seminar in the week which I joined. It was given be a psychologist who’d originally trained as a doctor. She sees a lot of patients with depression and the session blended recent findings on how people are responding to COVID as well as things like SAD and depression.

Her top tip was to get out for a half hour walk in the daylight in the first 90 mins after you get up. Daylight = emotional boost, provides Vit D and going outside first thing sets your circadian rythyms for the day so you sleep better. The walking is good for you physically and emotionally too.

So, I am going to try to do that.

She also said looking or being outside in green space was good for you too. Even having a picture of the outdoors or a pot plant in your home / office has been proven to help.

Seeing a buzzard land on the ash tree I can see from my office window provided a happy distraction on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. It sat there for a while both days. It may have been eying up the small birds at the bird feeders… or maybe just their feed.

We have a lot of buzzards around here. There’s often one that lofts up from the trees on the slope when I go to the Quarry, and there have been quite a few mornings when I’ve seen one down on the grass by the small pond, presumably looking for insects, worms etc – mice too probably!  In the summer, they circle overhead enjoying the thermals. Lovely.

A series of sociable evenings courtesy of Zoom on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, for KMCA New Year drinks, VWW and Dad and Jean respectively. And Monday evening brought another lovely Zoom catch up.

VWW starts in 15 mins....
VWW starts in 15 mins….

We had our log stove chimney swept on Friday morning. Not something we ever needed in the Barbican!

A nice clean log stove and chimney
A nice clean log stove and chimney

Nipped into Hereford to click & collect a fresh batch of books from the library….

Next batch of books
Next batch of books

….  and somehow returned home with a haul of bargains from M&S Food too. How did that happen? No marmalade oranges for love nor money. I do hope they reach Herefordshire soon. I’ve only 1 jar left from last year.

Saturday = Admin a.m. and Bacton Backwards in the afternoon followed by stripping the leaves from the dried oregano I’d picked in my herb bed, chucked out some rotten apples (lesson for this year’s apples = don’t bother with the windfalls. Yes, as my dad had told me….), made tiffin and then dinner. I don’t make dinner often. I am a very lucky lady.

Delighted to read that a Nepalese team makes first successful winter ascent of K2.

Made the most of Sunday’s early morning sun by walking the Bacton Square before picking up Phil to continue on to complete the Cockyard Loop, which proved to be very sociable. Leisurely afternoon. We lit the stove and settled down to read (and snooze).

Reading included this article in The Guardian on Finding meaning in the life of a loved one who dies is part of grief. Good conclusion (writer Joanna Moorhead quotes grief expert David Kessler):

….people who have been in the deepest depths of despair have the broadest bandwidth when it comes to enjoying life: “When you’ve travelled through the deepest valleys, you surely appreciate the views from the highest hills.”

Monday morning saw a visit from Morgan & Cuss to take a look at options for better showers in the bathrooms and removing the cold water tank in the roof. Into Hereford in the afternoon for a top up shop and B&Q click & collect: paving slabs plus bags of sand and gravel for the floor of the greenhouse. Still have the roof bar capping to do….

It turned out to be third time lucky in my quest for a new GPS camera. I’d heard from Park Cameras that they didn’t have Sony Cyber-shot HX90V in stock after all, and had tried to order one in for me from their supplier but they’d not got any left either. Top Marks to Park Cameras for their customer service throughout though. I would buy from them again.

So on Friday morning I bought an ex-display model from London Camera Exchange, partly because it was reduced, and partly because they have a shop in Hereford and the team there have been helpful. It arrived on Monday morning, and looks fine – plus the spare batteries I’d already bought fit fine, both in the camera and in the recharging unit. Now we just have to hope for a trek to use them all on, although I am starting to think that may have to wait until 2022. Yes, really. In the meantime, stand by for better quality photos from week 56.

TV: Spiral, series 8 –  Adieu, les flics! At least I’ve got a few weeks still to enjoy The Guardian‘s Episode-By-Episode Recaps, which they’re doing as the shows are broadcast. We then tried out The Fall but found episode 1 really, really unpleasant, so we moved on to the second series of His Dark Materials – just right – interspersed with more of the second series of Staged. Plus Friday night treats, Grand Designs and This Farming Life and plenty of puppies and posties on TikTok.

Podcasts: The History of England, History Extra, The Infinite Monkey Cage, The Essay and Books & Authors.

Photos: Herefordshire week 55 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2021-01-17.

Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse

Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse
Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse

This series invents some early adventures for a young Sherlock Holmes, and also his elder brother Mycroft, each ably assisted by a male companion.

In The Empty Birdcage the brothers explore two different mysteries, Sherlock intrigued by the news reports of the Four Eleven Murders, Mycroft persuaded to help a friend in need….

Publisher page: Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse

Herefordshire Week 054: Tuesday 05 – Monday 11 January 2021

Another week of frosty starts, mince pies and mugs of tea.

And back to work.

Another frosty morning at Forty Acres
Another frosty morning at Forty Acres

Did the Kerrys Gate – Cockyard – Duffryn – Camp crossroads walk on Tuesday morning, and on the stretch from the crossroads I was kept company by three long tailed tits scooting along the hedgerows alongside me. Really lovely. And we seem to have lured a group of long tailed tits to our bird feeders on a long term basis (I don’t want to tempt fate and say “permanent”). So, thank you, fat balls!

Got through my first week back at work. I wasn’t looking forward to it to be honest – there was a chunk of “what’s the point” after R’s death, as in “I could be doing better things with this time”. Anyway, it was OK. I’ve really kind colleagues, which really helps.

As did the first VWW of the year on Wednesday evening, before belatedly catching on to the news coming out of the US Capitol. Incredible. Family Zoom also resumed in its regular Thursday slot.

Friday turned out to be a Day of Admin – clearly getting back to work has brought some further benefits in terms of summoning the ooomph to Tackle The To Do Lists. Got through a lot, even though it ate up most of the day. Our new Cast Iron Casserole  arrived from ProCook, which brightened up the afternoon.

We treated ourselves to a new cast iron, enamel casserole
We treated ourselves to a new cast iron, enamel casserole

Friday Night Pizza resumed too, and we took it easy with the new series of Grand Designs (jaw, meet floor) and the new second half of This Farming Life, which starts off in February – so we are in the calm before the COVID Storm.

Friday night is Pizza night!
Friday night is Pizza night!

Allowed myself to get freaked out by how high the infection rates are in Hereford on Saturday morning, thanks to turning on Facebook. Walking the Bacton Square and visiting Dore Abbey to read R’s Requiem there got things back into perspective.

In the afternoon we made the most of the occasional patch of blue sky to lop some more of the brash, with Phil lugging the more distant stacks closer to the Quarry, then adjourned to the lounge for a lazy late afternoon/early evening featuring the log fire, a bit of a snooze and roast chestnuts.

Chestnuts roasting on the log stove
Chestnuts roasting on the log stove

After a leisurely start to Sunday, Phil and I headed out for a walk – deciding on the 12km or so Tremorithic route. Hatterall’s Ridge was under cloud, but there’s still snow on the lower slopes.

Mist in the valleys south from Tremorithic Road
Mist in the valleys south from Tremorithic Road

A bit more lopping in the afternoon, then a replay of yesterday evening with the log fire, a bit of a snooze and the rest of the roast chestnuts.

A bit less brash
A bit less brash (now even less!)

The early spring flowers are starting to emerge – we’ve got bright yellow aconites and more snowdrops showing up, and the daffodil shoots growing taller. I spotted buds on the “smelly evergreen by the railway that I cut back hard last year” too.

Aconite flower!
Aconite flower!

Monday morning was a relatively balmy 4C, which was perfect for chainsawing up the bigger chunks of brash. Phil sorted out the outside log store and the stacked wood in the garage. Computed in the afternoon. More “admin”.

TV: Spiral, series 8 –  soooooo gooooood. I so don’t want this to be the last outing for les flics! (But it is). Plus Grand Designs and This Farming Life and the second series of Staged.

Podcasts: David Tennant Does a Podcast With…,  The History of England, History Extra.

Photos: Herefordshire week 54 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2021-01-10.


Herefordshire Week 053: Tuesday 29 December 2020 – Monday 04 January 2021

We’ve been here a year!

And what a year 2020 turned out to be. A global pandemic – ongoing – wasn’t quite what we’d anticipated when we pulled up at the gates of Forty Acres on 02 January with key belongings packed into a Vauxhall Vivaro. A year ago our biggest concern was “would we meet people and make friends?” closely followed by “will the wifi be good enough for remote working?”.

COVID-19 has put both into perspective. In a strange way, lockdown made people extra friendly and chatty whether you crossed paths on a country lane or in a supermarket car park queue, and we have met lots of lovely folks.

And as for wifi, within 3 months of my starting as LW LO’s first permanent remote worker the whole office – the whole firm – was doing the same, with the result that colleagues are completely understanding about tech glitches.

Lockdown + Zoom also made it easier to stay in touch with friends everywhere and although I missed London and friends a lot at the start since the spring I’ve not missed London at all. I am however really looking forward to having people here to stay when that becomes a possibility.

So, what did this week bring?

On Tuesday we woke to light dusting of snow, and what would be a cold week.

A light dusting of snow, Grey Valley
A light dusting of snow, Grey Valley

A sunny day so we made the most of having warm fingers (and a clever idea from Phil) to manoeuvre back in the two large panes of glass that Storm Bella had blown out of the greenhouse. Encouraged, we made a start on replacing the metal clips with the much smarter bar capping (aka long strips of plastic formed in the same shape as the clips) which we finished up later in the week – well, all bar the roof glazing….

Indoors we completed a DIY double – replacing the fiddly loo roll holders with simple Ikea Bogrunds, and the chunky wooden curtain rail with a slimmer metal one so that the eyelet curtains now swish open and closed in a very satisfying manner.

Just after dark we headed down the road under clear skies and a big bright moon for socially distanced mulled wine and buffet nibbles with Joe and Thea, sat outside with logs burning in the BBQ. Smashing.

Best of all, Dad had his first COVID vaccine jab.

Wednesday was Admin Day, starting with sorting out the car insurance for another 12 months. Getting out of the Hastings Direct auto-renewal was a pain and a half. I shan’t use them again. In contrast doing the same for RAC cover was a breeze. A tale of two contrasting customer experiences.

Admin continued later in the day when my new camera arrived. Unfortunately it turned out to be the wrong model, the Sony DSC-HX90 rather than the all important Sony DSC-HX90V – where the V denotes the GPS feature. Park Cameras customer service has been excellent. No quibbles, super helpful and after asking me to open the box to double check the actual camera model, they organised a DPD collection / return and will be sending out a Sony DSC-HX90V in return.

However until my new camera does arrive, all photos are being taken on my iPhone 4 or iPad 2…

Broken camera :(
Broken camera 🙁

The cold spell continued into Thursday and we had a gorgeous frosty start to the last day of 2020. My iPad ran out of juice as we were out taking photos of the views from Thistly Field, so here’s Phil’s photo of the view west towards Wales:

Frosty sunrise over Abbey Dore
Frosty sunrise over Abbey Dore (photo by Phil Gyford)

It was a lovely sunny day and I spent most of the morning lopping brash in the quarry, and writing up my Portered treks – Tips for first timers blogpost in the afternoon.

As the final evening of 2020 commenced I had a NYE Vino Zoomo with Hazel followed by a phone call with dad and Jean to wish them Happy New Year.

Surprisingly we managed to stay up until midnight, helped by a few episodes of The Newsroom (a promising start, but failed to deliver the strong female characters promised by the initial premise), and chocolate. We’re still eating Christmas Day leftovers.

New Year’s Day brought cloud cover so I spent the morning reading and in the afternoon did a happy few hours lopping the loppable brash branches I’d set aside on Wednesday. Larger branches await dad plus chainsaw. Smaller stuff is bonfire-ready.

Stacked brash
Stacked brash

On Saturday morning we headed up to Ewyas Harold Common with Thea and Joe, armed with a thermos of coffee and some mince pies. Yes, totally Famous Five (if only we had a dog… )! We walked up via the deer farm footpath and on to the benches by the yew trees with views, and down via Dick’s Pitch. On the final stretch through Abbey Dore we met the folks from Wellfield heading in the other direction and so we got an intro to them which was lovely.

There were some icy patches on the roads and the dark grey clouds brought the odd sprinkle of rain/sleet up o the Common and which turned out to be the advance party for the hail / sleet / snow that arrived in the afternoon. I was happily lopping the brash when it suddenly started, and then kept on going. Not much settled though.

That wasn't there this morning!
That wasn’t there this morning!

(PS Saturday was our 1 year anniversary at Forty Acres.)

Saturday’s snow was a signal for Sunday that temperatures were moving back above freezing. Phil and I headed out under cloudy skies to Kerrys Gate then down to Riverdale and back along the river. Muddy.

More reading in the afternoon. Having finished Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng earlier this week I had moved on to War Lord, the last of Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom series featuring Uhtred of Bebbanburg, which I polished off today, just in time to return to the library on Monday.

Monday afternoon’s Big Shop and Library Click & Collect proved prescient (or rather, we’re now wearily familiar with the Prime Minister’s inability to take difficult decisions and the unofficial murmurs and hints that are used to “warm us up” to them) as national lockdown 3 was announced in the evening. Hoo-rah.

In bird watch news, I’ve been refilling the bird feeders daily with peanuts and seeds, and we’ve got great tits, blue tits, coal tits plus chaffinches, robins and a black bird. The “font” bird bath / water bowl has been frozen most mornings too, so I’ve been replenishing with warm water.

But most excitingly, since Tuesday morning when I first put out the fat balls we have had 3 long tailed tits visiting and they’ve been back pretty much every day. I’ve no idea where they are feeding usually, other than it’s not been with us. It’s lovely. If only I had a camera with a good enough zoom….

The deer have been back, the helicopters too, and the first daffodil shoots have surfaced.

TV: The Newsroom.

Podcasts: Mainly The History of England – we’re up to Henry III. He reigned for 56 years.

Photos: Herefordshire week 53 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes forw/e 2021-01-03.

War Lord – Bernard Cornwell

War Lord - Bernard Cornwell
War Lord – Bernard Cornwell

We finally get to Brunanburh, and say farewell to Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

Very pleased to see my old university mate Thorfinn Skull-splitter, Earl of Orkney, making an appearance too 🙂

And I realise the reason I enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s books much more than Giles Kristian‘s is that they’re more about the people than the battles.

Author’s page: War Lord – Bernard Cornwell