Herefordshire Week 216: Tuesday 13 – Monday 19 February 2024

Another wet week, with occasional sunshine.  Pancakes and fish & chips for Shrove Tuesday and Valentine’s Day. Two good walks and our Hobby Chainsaw Course.

Hobby Chainsaw Course: The First Cut
Hobby Chainsaw Course: The First Cut

Wet Tuesday – but a hare did lollop out through the drive gate before I set off to the gym. PT then home to spray the houseplants with hydrogen peroxide solution – repotting has brought the small flies back. Grrrr.

Admin and a flying visit from dad to take the corrugated coiled black pipe that’s been merging with the hedge between the conservatory and the crab apple tree. Lunch, then weeknotes 215 (late) and more admin – getting through the To Do list. Bailed out of pilates and did some more Nepal 2023 photos and notes – we got to Ghunsa.

Phil made six excellent pancakes for dinner. Thank you Delia!


Gym on a Wet Wednesday featured Valentine’s Day chat. I didn’t mention my special surprise EH Shop Chocs 🙂 Back to power through emails and admin before lunch, with an amuse bouche of planting some lettuce seeds into pots in the greenhouse and snipping back the ivy from the thin part of the hedge where I’ve planted the small holly.

More work on the Nepal 2023 trek photos and notes in the afternoon and a visit from Dad, Jean and  Annette who came over for a damp stroll around the garden looking at the snowdrops, aconites and camellia. And the fish.

At dusk, I watched a bat zooming around high above the hollow, occasionally disappearing into or behind the big yew tree that’s home to the swing.

Phil and I decided on fish and chips for our Valentine’s Day Dinner. Perfect.

Happy Valentine's Day Dinner
Happy Valentine’s Day Dinner

Computer admin first thing Thursday, to the gym for PT then back home to chop out the lower sections of ivy from the hawthorn tree the looms over the small pond and where the birds like to sit-for-the-view. Dad’s suggestion during yesterday’s tour.

After lunch I settled down to do more Nepal 2023 photos and I got us up to 4,400 m (14,435 ft) at the Jannu Viewpoint on our second acclimatisation day and back to cosy Khambachen before stopping to make veg chilli for dinner.

Me, Steffi and Sonia, Charlie's Angels at the Jannu Shrine
Me, Steffi and Sonia, Charlie’s Angels at the Jannu Shrine

To the gym again on Friday for aerobics, stretch and then coffee in the GV Cafe. Very sociable. Home to wheelbarrow yesterday’s ivy cuttings to the bonfire and to rake up a few leaves. Felt too pooped to do much in the afternoon, so adjourned to the telly room for a bit of vegging with Nolly on the telly.

On Saturday Phil and I headed over to Holme Lady for a one day Hobby Chainsaw User course run by Hereford, Ludlow and North Shropshire College. It was great – just what we needed to demystify the machine and to give us confidence in using it safely for the sort of wood chopping we need to do, which is cutting long branches / trunks into chunks we can use in the log stove.

We spent the morning taking our chainsaw apart and learning how to fix various easy things and how to sharpen the chain teeth, and then in the afternoon we headed outside to get in some practice at fuelling and oiling the chainsaw, starting it from cold and warm – and stopping it again, and finally cutting logs.

Hobby Chainsaw Course: Cleaning the oily sawdust gunk out of the insides
Hobby Chainsaw Course: Cleaning the oily sawdust gunk out of the insides

I feel much more confident now. We just need to get dad’s chainsaw looked at as we couldn’t start it, in spite of the morning’s maintenance, probably because it’s been sitting on a shelf in the garage unused for the past 3 years. Time to call Ron Smith!

Sunday was the GVWC’s Fownhope Circular & Social led by JP, with sandwiches, tea and cake in Fownhope Pavilion afterwards from B&Co.A good walk, albeit extremely muddy in places, and a super social. The rain stayed away and most people made it there and back in spite of the road to / through Fownhope being closed.

Talking of which…. I had an “interesting” alternative cross country route supplied by Google Maps. Clearly they still need to work on understanding that “on a country road a 60mph speed limit does not mean you can actually drive at 60mph” when it comes to their time estimates: 33 mins took me closer to 50 mins, and I didn’t even get lost. Potholes, flooded roads and narrow lanes kept my speed closer to 15mph a lot of the time.

Back home mid afternoon for a spot of sawing at the main ivy trunk with the pruning saw, washing my boots and gaiters then relaxing in the conservatory.

A lovely day out with SP on Monday, walking in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. We met at the Blaen y Glyn Uchaf car park then walked up past the waterfalls to the ridges that skirt the edges of Gwaun Cerrig Llwydion (“bog of the grey rocks”, yes indeed) along and around to Fan y Big. Very windy once we were on the northern escarpments. Photos at The Diving Board, then down to the Taff Trail and back to the car park. Smashing weather for February, not many people and a pot of tea and a fruit scone at the Talybont Stores at the end.

To The Diving Board! Brecon Beacons Panorama
To The Diving Board! Brecon Beacons Panorama

The lovely snowdrops are starting to fade but the daffs by the bird feeders are now out, in addition to the ever growing number down by the old garden railway line. The camellia is in full bloom, purple crocuses are flowering as are the primroses on the willow tree stump. And – still very satisfyingly – the daffodils and tulips we planted on the verges are coming through.

In other news, I am SO BORED of turning off 100+ individual Legitimate Interest toggles. Tedious and sneaky. I only make the effort for sites I really want to use – and resent that. For all the others, it’s a back click and sayonara.

TV: The Newsreader (finished season 1, started and finished season 2), Nolly (meh), This Farming Life, Our Flag Means Death (more of season 2), One Day (loving it; it’s my era)

Podcasts: Mythical Creatures, Americast, The Today Podcast, History Extra, The History of England , Gone Mediaeval, Shedunnit, The Rest is Entertainment. <– yes, some of those were insomnia listens

Photos: Herefordshire week 216 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-02-18.

Herefordshire Week 215: Tuesday 06 – Monday 12 February 2024

Grosmont walk and a weekend in the Lake District. Very wet.

Late afternoon light and Lake District views, Bassenthwaite
Late afternoon light and Lake District views, Bassenthwaite

PT as usual first thing Tuesday, then over to Grosmont (and into Wales) to meet up with JB for a wet 6 mile walk over the Graig and along part of the Three Castles Walk. Thankfully not as wet or windy as forecast a day or so ago. Lots of lovely chat. Obviously I forgot to take my phone, so no Strava map or stats. Or photos.

Back home to make the most of the rain, catching up on computer stuff.

Caught up with LW on Wednesday morning (after gym) and spent the afternoon making a start on my Nepal photos and notes for Nepal, October/November 2023: Kangchenjunga & Lumba Sumba (without Val Pitkethly – injured!).

Thursday was wet, rain poured down overnight and we had a river flowing down the road at breakfast. Admin, Gym, Lunch, Hereford to see dad and Jean, Asda, home – rain lashing down – VWW.

Aerobics only at the gym on Friday morning then home to pack the car and to start the drive up to the Lake District, visiting Val (and NB) for the weekend.

A bit of a marathon drive up, taking around 7 hours with just two stops (emergency al fresco wee, and a tea and late lunch at Lancaster Services) all in driving rain. Very tense on the M6 with all the big wagons wanting to go faster than my relatively sedate Panda speed, and arrived in the dark. Good directions for the drive from Keswick were a godsend.

Arrived to find MS at the kitchen table together with Val and NB – lovely catching up and relaxing, then dining out on tasty Indian Street Food at Barua in Keswick.

Saturday began with bed tea (!) followed by breakfast and a visit to the Castle Inn Hotel’s  gym, sauna and steam room. £15 for a day pass proved a bit steep given the quality of the experience. The facilities are all fine but I wasn’t provided with a swipe card or a towel.

Lunch then out in Val’s car for a stroll around the boardwalks of Dubwath Silver Meadows Nature Reserve and then coffee and cake (sticky toffee ginger cake is highly recommended!) at Bassenthwaite Lake Station cafe followed by a scenic drive home. Snow still hanging onto the high hills.

Skiddaw from Bassenthwaite
Skiddaw from Bassenthwaite

Dinner and early to bed – fighting off a tension headache which I put down to yesterday’s long drive up.

A similar start on Sunday, then out for a stroll with NB through the woods we can see out of Val’s kitchen window and across fields (navigating past a bunch of loudly mooing, hungry bullocks loitering by the gate out of the last one) to the Lake District Wildlife Park then on the lane back to Val’s.

We said our farewells a little before midday then I drove home in 5 ½ hours, including a petrol stop in Keswick and a food and loo stop at the start of the A5 section just south of Chirk. Lovely weather for the most part and no big lorries.

Listened to A Lot of Podcasts on the drives, and 250 miles each way meant the milometer ticked over the 70,000 mark.

Monday was gloriously sunny. I headed out to walk Cockyard backwards complete with neighbour-ish-ly chats on the way down and on the way back. Hadn’t slept well and the blue skies and fresh air cleared my head. Took the opportunity to check out the scalped verges on Stone Street – blimey.

Home for a quick mulch of the Coffin planter and to plant out one of the healthy holly seedlings in the thin bit of the hedge between the orchard and the front lawn. Lunch in the conservatory then a bit of LRB reading (and snoozing) in the sofa in there until dad and Jean’s arrived for a stroll around the snowdrops – and Camellia and Daffs – plus a spot of goldfish spotting.

The earliest snowdrops are just starting to fade, but more are still pushing up in garden, plus we’ve more flowers on the camellia and more daffodils have come out down by the old garden railway route.

With all the rain, the garden squelches underfoot, and driving the Panda (to get through flooded lanes) means I’ve churned up a deep rut in the patch of grass between the paved drive and the gravel drive.

Squirrels still trying their luck on the older bird feeder. But a young (?) jay usually gets a feed in first.

Jay on the peanut bird feeder
Jay on the peanut bird feeder

Lots more lovely bird song on the sunny days.

Flickr turned 20 on 10 February 2024. It’s the platform I’ve used to share / store my (curated) photos since September 2005, and this is the first picture:

Beach between Walton and Frinton
Beach between Walton and Frinton

I’d been using Fotopic since July 2001, but that became increasingly unreliable and ultimately went bust in 2011. Plus some of the London Crowd sort of knew the Flickr folks, so I started using Flickr and never looked back (except to download zip files of all my Fotopic photos, which I then uploaded to Flickr in February 2012 #fotopicfail).

TV:  Bodies, This Farming Life, Our Flag Means Death (started season 2), The Newsreader (started season 1), The Greatest Night in Pop (a better title would have been The We Are The World Documentary).

Podcasts: Books and AuthorsThe History of England, Food for Life by Tim Spector, The Today Podcast, In Our Time, The Rest is EntertainmentDesert Island DiscsMythical Creatures.

Photos: Herefordshire week 215 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-02-11.

Herefordshire Week 214: Tuesday 30 January 2024 – Monday 05 February 2024

Lots of local walking. Discovering Rowlestone Church. Repotting the house plants. Spring flowers are bringing colour to the garden.


PT then physio kicked started Tuesday, and I made the most of being in Ewyas Harold and did the Recce for Saturday’s GVWC route: Ewyas Harold & Rowlestone Circular. I went into autopilot after EH Castle and did a completely different route from the one I’d planned to get to Wigga Farm. Oh well!

On the plus side, I did meet a lovely lady (and lovely Collie dog) at one of the farms, and paid my first visit to Rowlestone Church, which is beautiful and shares history and stonemasons with the more famous Kilpeck Church.

Rowlestone Church: Chancel Arch carvings, Kilpeck School
Rowlestone Church: Chancel Arch carvings, Kilpeck School

Late lunch then outside to plant the bulbs we’d dug up from around the compost bin and to dig up some of the “carrot-like” weeds from under the pear tree.

Phil and I strolled up to Hill Farm and back before tea, then admin before returning to the GV Gym for pilates. I took the Zoe… lovely to drive. So calm and quiet – it feels like you’re gliding along.

In the evening we watched Renault Zoe beginner’s or new owners guide to using a help you with your new EV on YouTube and picked up lots of handy tips. I can see why Phil’s started driving differently – gotta make the most of that regen!

Took the Zoe to the gym again on Wednesday after a surprisingly cold night. Put some of the tips learned last night into practice (lock / unlock and interpreting the dashboard colours – very nice….) and back home Phil and I had a run through setting up charging from the porch plug socket and identified films to see in this year’s Borderlines Film Festival. Spent the afternoon in the greenhouse splitting and repotting coin plants and ferns.

Splitting and repotting some of the houseplants
Splitting and repotting some of the houseplants

Thursday was a lovely sunny day, which I started in the orchard clearing the trailer ready for dad to collect. To the gym for PT, speedy drive home for a shower then off out to Radway Bridge to meet SY for lunch (and coffee and cake) then back via Winchester to catch up with dad and Jean and to accompany dad and the trailer full of hedge trimmings to the tip. Also picked up the surplus dustbins – I’m sure I’ll find a use for them at 40A. Lidl finished off the Hereford trip and I drove home towards a technicolour sunset, lovely. Made dinner (always worth a mention as it’s not a common occurrence).

Up early on Friday so I had time to watch the birds over coffee and toast, and to marvel at the technicolour sunrise.

Technicolour Sunrise
Technicolour Sunrise

Gym, then home and a shower before P drove us, in the Zoe of course, to Gwatkins for a coffee, which expanded into scrambled eggs on toast and a lovely large pot of tea (me) / Americano (P). The restaurant / conservatory extension basically occupies the footprint of the old section of covered barn where the Bacton BBQ was set up and looks much smarter.

Gorgeous sunny day (even though the BBC Weather forecast insisted it was cloudy all day) so I spent the rest of the day pottering in the greenhouse, splitting and repotting three more ferns and using up a lot of Jean’s surplus pot supply and some rat-excavated compost from the compost heap. We now have 35 pots containing ferns of various sizes from single stalk to sprouting mass and windowsills in the kitchen, the utility room, the landing, the main bathroom and my office are now fully occupied.

I had a brief sojourn in the sunwarmed conservatory reading for an hour or so in between ferns two and three… ie until I remembered the one in the spare bedroom (aka fern 3). I also put two of the dustbins to good use as new homes for the black bags of rotting leaf mulch that I’d got piled up inside the greenhouse.

And it’s still light at 5.30pm.

Out with the GVWC on Saturday, leading 19 folk around the Ewyas Harold & Rowlestone Circular. I’d walked to Ewyas Harold Rec via the Common and got Hello’ed by one of the gym ladies as I crossed the (empty) football pitch.

Strava Map & Stats: GVWC: Ewyas Harold & Rowlestone Circular
Strava Map & Stats: GVWC: Ewyas Harold & Rowlestone Circular

Went very well in spite of the mizzle in the air and we adjourned to The Dog for drinks etc afterwards, snug in the main bar with the log stove on. P picked me up in the Zoe and drove us home for a late lunch followed by reading and snoozing until it was time to walk down to Kerrys Gate for a smashing dinner with K&B and K&N. We walked home under semi-starlight.

Not a good night’s sleep and a bit down in the dumps on Sunday after I’d finished reading Snow Country. My mood brightened a bit as the sun brightened up the day. Blitzed the third bag of oranges and chopped one of the apple rack shelves of apples and put them all into the freezer. Then read in the conservatory moving into the lounge as the day cooled. Breeeezy too.

Another good walk on Monday morning, “Forty Acres Footpaths”. I started out doing Duffryn but decided to divert onto the local footpaths and realised I might be able to make a four leaf clover (although it does look more like a figure of eight). Quite a sociable walk too.

Strava Map & Stats: Forty Acres Footpaths
Strava Map & Stats: Forty Acres Footpaths

Cleared some of the baby brambles from the verge before lunch and then in the afternoon P and I unpacked the new electric coffee grinder, put together the IKEA bamboo bathroom chair / towel rack, and P set up the new printer while I marked up a scan of the map to show Saturday’s walk and sent that round, and then finalised my LPAs.

I’m sure you’re all finding this fascinating…..

In the garden we have our first daffodils, spotted on 30 Jan but I reckon they came out while we were in London. There are carpets of snowdrops and a rug of aconites, and the rhubarb is returning.

Wild Daffs
Strava Map & Stats: Forty Acres Footpaths

There are hints of pink on mum’s camellia too…. And the first flower!

Camellia Flower
Camellia Flower

We are now seeing plenty of long tailed tits on the peanut feeder. They’re still outrageously cute.

TV:  This Is Us, The Winter King, Sound of Metal, Red Rocket, Bodies.

Podcasts: Gone Mediaeval, History Extra, Offstage: Inside the X Factor, The History of England,  In Our Time.

Photos: Herefordshire week 214 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-02-04.

Herefordshire Week 213: Tuesday 23 – Monday 29 January 2024

Hello ZOE!

Hello ZOE!
Hello ZOE!

Quite a week, what with a trip to London for our wedding anniversary, dinner with the old LW KM crowd, the MMRR (St Andrews) meet up and brunch with K&P as well.

And not one but two marmalade making marathons…..

Tuesday’s highlight was the delivery of our “new” (second hand, 1 previous owner) Renault ZOE EV.

Big thanks to We Are EV in Bristol who drove it over to us on the same day as Storm Jocelyn arrived. Just enough time for Phil to take it for a spin before lunch.

Spent the afternoon prepping eBay posts, reading and lolling on the sofa watching more of The Winter King.

Gym first thing Wednesday then back to gather the storm debris – only small branches and twigs, which I wheelbarrowed to the bonfire.

After a late lunch I got stuck into making grapefruit marmalade, producing only a measly 2 ½ jars….  Plus I had a few minutes thinking I’d broken the new microwave (in a similar fashion to breaking the old one) but thankfully it returned to life after 15 mins or so. I reckon it must have overheated. In the meantime I’d transferred the marmalade-in-the-making into my blue enamel Le Creuset pan which did the job beautifully.

Grapefruit Marmalade prep in progress
Grapefruit Marmalade prep in progress

More of The Mullet Winter King before tea and telly.

Thursday was the start of our London mini break. Drive to Abergavenny, TfW train to Newport, GWR train to Paddington. Caught up with RLS over a late lunch in an Iraqi cafe.

No. 205 bus to Angel Islington. Walk to the Hub by Premier Inn, Clerkenwell (what a mouthful). Check in and settle in.

Walk 3 mins to Farringdon, catch up with Tom. Walk with P to Spitalfields via Fortune St and the old Waitrose. Broadgate Circle heaving with after work drinkers.

Lovely dinner with LW KM colleagues at Ottolenghi. Walk back to the Hub via Barbican Tunnel and Smithfield.

Friday started in a more leisurely fashion with a 9am breakfast at the Hub. Walked under blue skies to KX to catch the Victoria Line to Walthamstow Central and then walked to the Williams Morris Gallery. North east London still provides surprises.

William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow
William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow

No. 55 bus from Walthamstow Central to Theobalds Road – E17, E10, E5, E8, E9, E2, E1, EC1, WC1 – and to the Brunswick Centre to watch The Holdovers at the Curzon Cinema.

We walked back to the hotel as dusk fell for a bit of a rest, then headed back out again at 7 o’clock to catch the No. 19 bus to Soho for dinner at Bocca di Lupo. Surrounded by the London Rich. We walked back to Clerkenwell.

Out for dinner at Bocca Di Lupo
Out for dinner at Bocca Di Lupo

Disappointing Saturday morning breakfast at Gail’s on Exmouth Market – no marmalade option to go on toast! Strawberry jam does not cut it, people! Good size cup of coffee mind you.

Walked to Moorgate M&S to buy tasty treats for lunch before catching the No. 344 to CJ chatting with a fellow Best Seats On The Bus Bagging couple for part of the journey. Then a lovely day at the MMRR Meet Up hosted by M featuring a multitude of tasty treats, a lot of wine, a walk around Clapham Common and H joining us for the evening session.

Lovely long lie in on Sunday morning before meeting up with P&K for brunch at Caravan Exmouth Market and then walking and talking as we made our way west through the back streets. At Oxford Circus P&K headed home and we carried on to Paddington. A short sit outside in a small park, then into the station to settle in on the train and starting our journey home to Herefordshire.

Early start Monday to be ready for our 7am Sainsbury’s delivery – the three bags of marmalade oranges were all present and correct! Hurrah! Let the marmalade making begin….

Did some admin (including finally getting confirmation that HMRC had received my self assessment payment. The one I’d set up  on 19 Jan…) then drove the cars to Ewyas Harold to drop off the Panda for a service etc, and I had my first drive of the Zoe on Our Roads on the way back. So far, so good.

I dedicated the rest of the day to My Monday Marmalade Making Marathon, resulting in 25 medium size jars made using the always reliable Denton Family Recipe.

Monday Marmalade Making Marathon - Preparing Batch 1, Set 2
Monday Marmalade Making Marathon – Preparing Batch 1, Set 2
Monday Marmalade Making Marathon - Batch 1, Big Al Pan Set - Seven Medium Jars
Monday Marmalade Making Marathon – Batch 1, Big Al Pan Set – Seven Medium Jars

In the garden, the snowdrops are coming out in droves and the aconites are multiplying down by the small pond.


TV:  This Is Us, The Winter King.

Podcasts: The Today Podcast, Political Thinking with Nick Robinson, Tweet of the Day, Anglo-Saxon England , Gone Mediaeval, The Rest is Entertainment, In Our Time.

Photos: Herefordshire week 213 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-01-28.