Herefordshire Week 107: Tuesday 11 – Monday 17 January 2022


Two big walks: Symonds Yat Circular on Saturday was topped by a gloriously sunny Monday out walking in the Black Mountains. Life doesn’t get much better.

Stand by for superlatives.

Frosty Morning Sunrise, Thistly Field Oak
Frosty Morning Sunrise, Thistly Field Oak

We were treated to a gorgeous frosty morning on Wednesday. Pink and orange hued clouds as the sun rose into a blue sky. White front lawn, grass sparkling. Not a breath of air. The blue skies and sunshine stayed all day. And I was stuck inside working.

Beautiful morning
Beautiful morning

Thursday and Friday mornings provided repeat performances. Just magical, and on Friday morning I nipped out to Thistly Field for some photos.

Frosty Morning, Thistly Field Panorama
Frosty Morning, Thistly Field Panorama

After Friday’s beautiful start and a good catch up with VP the rest of the day got hit for six. I ticked off various tasks: topped up my MX-5 antifreeze (eBay delivered), planted some of CH’s lemon grass seeds, pruned the gooseberry bush and followed Monty Don‘s directions on propagating the cuttings, raked up leaves on the mower path and made holes in the frozen pond for the fish.

We needed calm telly come the evening. This Farming Life delivered.

Out with Hereford Excalibur / GVWC on Saturday for a winter’s day walk on Saturday – Symonds Yat Circular. Smashing!

6 hours, 12-ish miles on forest trails, two short sections of road, field footpaths, Offa’s Dyke Path, Wysis Way and the Peregrine Path. Route: Symonds Yat Car Park & Cafe (above Symonds Yat East) – Christchurch to Symonds Yat Trail – Bracelands – Staunton – Birchen Wood – Kymin – Suck Stone – Peregrine Path – Symonds Yat East riverside – Car Park.

GVWC: Symonds Yat Circular - Bronze Leaves
GVWC: Symonds Yat Circular – Bronze Leaves

And at the end, a lovely mug of tea at The Saracen’s Head, Symonds Yat East watching the Wye flow by.

Back home for another cup of tea, and a mince pie. Those Sainsbury’s bargain boxes are still going!

Plans to take the MX-5 for a spin to Skirrid for a walk on Sunday were stymied by a flat battery. Thank heavens for the ancient charger and good neighbours.

An anxious day. Even a lovely morning walk around the Bacton Square and clearing some of the ivy from the Solarium Shrub didn’t help.

Grey Valley from the lane to Kerrys Gate
Grey Valley from the lane to Kerrys Gate

Monday’s weather forecast was amazing; perfect walking weather. So I took the MX-5 out for a spin into the Vale of Ewyas for a fabulous walk in the Black Mountains – a lovely 11 mile loop from Llanthony Priory: up Cwm Bwchel to Bal-Bach, north along the Ffawyddog* ridge, down to Capel-y-ffin, contouring along an old track for a bit then up to Hatterrall Ridge and back south along the Offa’s Dyke Path to Llanthony.

All under glorious blue skies and sunshine. Hot up high but still frosty and frozen in the shade, woodsmoke and mountain ponies, it made me feel like I was trekking in Nepal…..

Llanthony Loop: Up Cwm Bwchel to the ridge - Looking back at Llanthony Priory
Llanthony Loop: Up Cwm Bwchel to the ridge – Looking back at Llanthony Priory
Llanthony Loop: Ffawyddog Ridge
Llanthony Loop: Ffawyddog Ridge – looking south
Llanthony Loop: Me on Ffawyddog Ridge
Llanthony Loop: Me on Ffawyddog Ridge
Llanthony Loop: Capel-y-ffin
Llanthony Loop: Capel-y-ffin
Llanthony Loop: Climb up to Hatterrall Ridge - Capel-y-ffin waymark stone
Llanthony Loop: Climb up to Hatterrall Ridge – Capel-y-ffin waymark stone
Llanthony Loop: Along Hatterrall Ridge - HELLO HEREFORDSHIRE!
Llanthony Loop: Along Hatterrall Ridge – HELLO HEREFORDSHIRE!
Llanthony Loop: Along Hatterrall Ridge
Llanthony Loop: Along Hatterrall Ridge
Llanthony Loop: down to Llanthony Priory - the Vale of Ewyas
Llanthony Loop: down to Llanthony Priory – the Vale of Ewyas
Llanthony Loop: down to Llanthony Priory
Llanthony Loop: down to Llanthony Priory

* (You would not believe how many tries it’s taken me to spell Ffawyddog correctly. And, well I never, it means Beech Grove)

Walk 4 in Kittiwake’s excellent Walking in the Black Mountains. Plenty of signposts and waymarks and clear trails made for a straightforward route.

Returned to find the hedges had been cut – we’ve been wondering when that’d happen – news from London and a massive moon.

Hello Moon
Hello Moon


Talking of Nepal, on Tuesday I received an email from Günter Seyfferth who runs the wonderful Mountains of Himalaya website ( asking if he could use some of my photos of the Jangla Bhanjyang and views from Seri to Dhaulagiri Himal taken on 2017’s Dolpo Trek as he is updating his page on the Dhaulagiri Himal.

OMG, YES!!!! If you’ve read any of my Nepal trek blogposts, you’ll know how much I rely on Günter’s website to identify mountains etc in my photos. What an honour.

Looking at the annotated copies he’s sent in return reminded me we crossed the Jangla Bhanjyang on my birthday….

Three Nepal-y things in one week – Val chat, Günter’s emails and Monday’s walk. Now I really want to go back to Nepal. Let’s hope….

Aconites are coming up / out, snowdrops are surfacing in all the usual spots and there are daffodil shoots down by the old garden railway.


And on the bird feeder, a long tailed tit or two put in an appearance, as did a starling, joining the usual array of blue tits, great tits and greater spotted woodpeckers on the peanuts and chaffinches, dunnocks, blackbirds and robins foraying beneath.

TV: Succession (finished season 3), This Farming Life, Toast of Tinseltown, Mare of Easttown.

Podcasts: History Extra, SheDunnit, and a lot of The Essay.

Photos: Herefordshire week 107 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-01-16.

A Rage for Rock Gardening – Nicola Shulman

A Rage for Rock Gardening - Nicola Shulman
A Rage for Rock Gardening – Nicola Shulman

A slim tome about a short-lived Edwardian plant collector with a passion for alpines that took him to the eastern Himalayas and north Burma. Reginald Farrer doesn’t sound like a particularly pleasant chap. “Of his time”.

The book was on The Guardian’s Top 10 books about the Himalayas. I’ve been working my way through the ones I bought last year, including The High Road to China by Kate Teltscher and  by Jan Morris’s wonderful Coronation Everest. For me, the Himalayan connection in A Rage for Rock Gardening is somewhat tenuous, not helped by the fact that I’ve not been to Gansu province in northwest China which is where Farrer did his mountainous plant hunting, presumably down in what is now Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

I would recommend the book to fans of garden history though as it covers the transition from gardens being formal to family, and Farrer and his contemporaries introduced many familiar flowering plants we know today including varieties of Viburnum, Magnolia and Peony, as well as the gorgeous Gentians that I know and love from my many treks in Nepal.

The writing style read “very posh” to me, as did the use of Mrs, Mr etc in the acknowledgements. And lo, when you look up Nicola Shulman, you realise why.

Publisher page: A Rage for Rock Gardening: The Story of Reginald Farrer, Gardener, Writer, and Plant Collector – Nicola Shulman

Herefordshire Week 106: Tuesday 04 – Monday 10 January 2022

We’re starting our third year in Herefordshire. Crikey.

A quiet week. Back to work.

Morning walk: Tremorithic backwards
Morning walk: Tremorithic backwards

Tuesday morning was a mix of admin on the computer and the Cockyard Circular backwards. Blue skies, green fields, sparkling water running off the roads. Lovely.

I was back at work this week and it was unexpectedly busy, which was sort of OK but also a pain. I need to build up my work stamina again, and get my head back into the detail. VWW resumed on Wednesday and Family Zoom to round off the work week on Thursday.

We went to Abergavenny on Friday morning, primarily for a check up at the dentists. The first time in years and years for me. Not very exciting, but a good thing to have got done. Now I just have to claim the eye watering cost back from BUPA. We gave up trying to find an NHS dentist and are making use of the dental insurance I can get through work. It feels wrong.

Returned home to a late Christmas present of Lemon Grass seeds which was a delightful surprise. Thank you CH 🙂 Afternoon on the computer and catching up on email. Phil resumed Friday Night Pizza for dinner.

Those of you who know how strongly my love of mince pies and my love of bargains coincide at this time of year will be relieved to learn that I managed to buy FOUR boxes of reduced mince pies from Sainsbury’s on Saturday – 25p per box.

Saturday morning had started late and I’d nipped in to Sainsbury’s en route to “Winchester” to do some DIY with dad, making a firmer base for the car boot. Jean had an electric BMW for the day to test drive, which provided an excellent excuse for an afternoon’s jaunt to The Hop Pocket – my first experience of a “Shopping Village”.  Home to eBay and Freegle some stuff.

Tremorithic backwards on Sunday morning. Feeling unexpectedly low. Late lunch, then a bit of sorting out in the garage and sawing of oversize logs until CW phoned for a catch up. Once dark I headed inside for reading and eBaying (clarinet or horse brasses anyone?) before dinner and Succession, the latter having necessitated the revival of our NowTV subscription. We rewatched the last episode of season 2 before embarking on season 3.

Morning walk: Tremorithic backwards
Morning walk: Tremorithic backwards

I am hoping the past month or so of sleeping in is coming to a natural end as on Monday morning I was rising and shining around 7.30am. The days of a 6am start and a 4 mile walk before breakfast (aka my London routine) are long gone.

In spite of the low, low clouds and occasional spots of rain I had a busy morning doing jobs in the garden and garage, with the army camp providing gunfire soundtrack. My personal highlight was getting rid of a dead mouse, all on my own. Then progressed on to weedkillering around the house, digging over the compost heap, emptying the compost bin dalek and laying mesh underneath it in an attempt to deter the rats (joint job with Phil) and making a start on sorting out the garage.

Late lunch, cleaned some of the metal tools unearthed from the garage shelves and then settled down with a book finishing off Robin Hobb’s Renegade’s Magic. More Succession in the evening. Very annoying to discover we’d only got 1 day left to watch the whole series. Not impressed, Now TV.

The bulb shoots around the bird feeders are increasing in number and height. More snowdwops are out but there’s no sign of the aconites. Our inherited hellebores are blooming by the front door and there are lots of buds on the camellias old and new.

In less good news, the rat trap claimed a robin.

Telly: This Farming Life, The Tourist, Doctor Who (NYE Special), Toast of Tinseltown, Succession (season 3).

Podcasts: Lingthusiasm, The History of Japan, The History of England Guest Episodes and History Extra.

Photos: Herefordshire week 106 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-01-09.

Renegade’s Magic – Robin Hobb

Renegade's Magic - Robin Hobb
Renegade’s Magic – Robin Hobb

The third and final instalment of Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy takes Nevare into the magical world and mindset of the Specks as Soldier’s Boy takes control of their shared body, and then back to Gernia and out of the Great One’s body.

Everything wraps up fast and furiously at the end, and that left me wondering if there might have been another book in there, especially with the somewhat irritating ending. I cannot see that working out well for Amzil at all. She’s been a strangely thin character for me, and usually I find Robin Hobb’s women much more three dimensional. I’m also intrigued by the map in each book which shows far more places than are touched on throughout the trilogy.

Author page: Renegade’s Magic – Robin Hobb

Herefordshire Week 105: Tuesday 28 December 2021 – Monday 03 January 2022

A NYE Dinner Party up the lane = a really lovely way to round off our second year in Herefordshire.

New Year's Eve Dinner Party
New Year’s Eve Dinner Party

Happy New Year! No Year Notes from me.

Another late start on Tuesday, read for a bit then headed down to T&Js for coffee and a mince pie. Continued on to do a litter pick on Bacton Backwards. Sunnier than expected – I had to take my coat off half way round and warm enough to sit in the conservatory for a late lunch.

Caught up with weeknotes, photos and computer admin until it got dark, then read in the lounge having first decanted and bottled the Damson Gin.

Damson Gin 2021: Bottling - Before
Damson Gin 2021: Bottling – Before
Damson Gin 2021: Bottling - After
Damson Gin 2021: Bottling – After

We watched Don’t Look Up with dinner (leftovers continued), then I read Robin Hobb in bed until 1am. The sign of a good book.

Late start to Wednesday, finding a much drier and brighter morning than forecast.

More Robin Hobb before and after lunch, with brief forays outside. One of which was to relocate the rat trap after spotting our furry friend by the BBQ, blending in with the EIGHT squirrels down there.

Dad and Jean arrived around 3.30pm, and after a leisurely tour of the grounds we cut into our Christmas cake and enjoyed a slice with a cup of tea. Dad brought his sander – we’re planning to re oil the wooden worktops in the kitchen.

Thursday – more Robin Hobb, with the log stove on once it got dark plus a bit of telly. Oh, and sorted out the car insurance for next year – we’ve gone with Admiral Multicar, fact fans!

Another amazingly mild day for the end of 2021. T-shirt weather.

Phil and I walked to Ewyas Harold Shop and back in the morning to buy stamps – deer field, EH Common and Recreation Ground there; School Lane, EH Common and Dore Abbey back.

Ewyas Harold Shop and back
Ewyas Harold Shop and back

After lunch I did a couple of jobs outside – dug the log stove ash into the veg patch and weedkillered the west side of the house – then more Robin Hobb.

Early evening we donned our glad rags and bow ties for K&N’s NYE dinner party. I just about survived wearing heels for the first time since…. I don’t know when. Long before COVID times. It was a fab evening and a late night – we walked back and got into bed around 1.30am.

We both paid for our overindulgence on Saturday. Still, a telly and sofa day every now and then is a good thing.

Back on form by Sunday, doing Tremorithic (road version) in the morning and getting back before the rain started. Still weirdly warm for Winter.

Tremorithic Walk (Road version)
Tremorithic Walk (Road version)

The last of the Christmas leftovers for lunch (Nigel Slater inspired bubble & squeak with green herb salsa) then got the log stove going and settled in for a lazy afternoon reading, snoozing (unsuccessfully), computing and curry making. After dinner, Phil read Tom Stuart’s weeknotes out to me.

Lovely long walk on Monday morning, then over to Dinedor and onwards to Solihull with dad and Jean to visit A&M. Really lovely to see them both.

Back to work on Tuesday afternoon. Time to gird the loins.

During the course of one week snowdrops have started surfacing by the old willow tree stump and in the clear patches by the coppiced hazel and the holly.


On the other side of the house we are crunching bulb shoots underfoot when we top up the bird feeders – daffodils in waiting and we still haven’t had a hard frost or really cold spell.

Buzzards have been circling on the thermals, and I spotted six of them in the Stone Street field, and a kite en route to Cockyard too.

Telly: Don’t Look Up, The Salisbury Poisonings, Worzel GummidgeWhat We Do In The Shadows (finished series 3), Crazy Rich Asians, Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard, Mr Holmes (abandoned), Pretty Little Liars (abandoned), Far From The Madding Crowd (abandoned), This Farming Life (started series 5 – success! Phil remembered. Hurrah!!!), Hip Hop Evolution (season 4).

Podcasts: Lingthusiasm, The History of Japan, Books and Authors, The Allusionist, History Extra, The History of England Guest Episodes.

Photos: Herefordshire week 105 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-01-02.