Herefordshire Week 090: Tuesday 14 – Monday 20 September 2021

Weekend guest. Abergavenny Food Festival. Chutney. Walks wet and dry.

Hay Bluff - looking along the Beacons
Hay Bluff – looking along the Beacons

Caught up on house and money admin on Tuesday morning then eased back to work. No time for a walk or to pick any apples or plums. I managed the latter on Wednesday morning before work, and we had stewed plums, very tart, for pudding that evening. VWW and Family Zooms as usual.


I spent Friday morning gathering windfalls and easy-to-reach apples and conjuring up a jam-pan-ful of apple chutney (Cottage Smallholder recipe) and a smaller quantity of spicy plum chutney, stirring furiously for four hours, and bottling just before Janette arrived in the early afternoon.

Apple Chutney & Plum Chutney - Production Complete
Apple Chutney & Plum Chutney – Production Complete

It was a lovely afternoon so we had tea and chat out on the patio then walked to Kerrys Gate – Cockyard – Duffryn – Camp Crossroads and home for dinner.  We sat out on the patio enjoying a very civilised but slightly over indulgent bottle of rosé accompanied by crisps and canapés courtesy of Phil, then pizza à la Phil in the conservatory.

Saturday saw us drive to Abergavenny to spend the day at the Abergavenny Food Festival. Another gorgeous hot and sunny day, which was smashing for strolling around the streets visiting the various venues and checking out the stalls, samples and shows – but made for rather too many people doing the same thing in confined spaces. Fine if you could put COVID to the furthest recesses of your mind, but ……

Home for tea and biscuits, a bit of a potter around the grounds, then dinner feasting on various goodies we’d bought at the Festival, accompanied by music wafting up from the Army Camp which seemed to be hosting a fun fair.

A leisurely start on Sunday, with another hot and sunny day.

Al fresco breakfast
Al fresco breakfast

Having breakfasted al fresco, Janette and I were tempted back towards Abergavenny for the walk up Skirrid. We left 40A in blazing sunshine, emerged from the woods to see a haze of rain showers engulf Abergavenny and Sugar Loaf, and got to the ridge in light rain which swiftly developed into a downpour by the time we reached the trig point (no views!!) and stayed in situ for all the descent, easing off just as we got back to the car. Pah!

And by the time we got back to the cottage – no rain, blue skies. Double pah!! After a change of clothes and a shower – we were both sodden – and a late lunch, we were lured out again by the sunshine and blue skies. This time we were luckier and had a lovely stroll down to the Abbey and back.

Waved Janette off around 6pm, then weedkillered the drive before a relaxing evening with a bit of telly. Darkness slowly falling from 7pm these days.


Monday dawned with a gorgeous sunrise over Grey Valley.

Sunrise, Grey Valley
Sunrise, Grey Valley

… and after finishing Flickring my Pembrokeshire photos I drove over to Longtown and the Black Hill to walk the Cat’s Back Backwards: Road and bridleway into the Olchon Valley, up the valley onto Hatterrall Ridge and along to Hay Bluff, and the Red Dragon Trig Point, where I watched paragliders readying for the off. Back along Hatterall Ridge via the other Trig Point (England) and down the Cat’s Back.

Blue skies, cool, smashing views.

Olchon Valley
Olchon Valley
Hay Bluff Trig Point
Hay Bluff Trig Point
Cat's Back / Hatterrall Ridge Trig Point
Cat’s Back / Hatterrall Ridge Trig Point
Cat's Back Descent
Cat’s Back Descent

I was back home by mid afternoon, which gave me time to mow. We’ve “grass cutting swirls” on our front lawn. Need to get the grass collector fixed….


Quite a lot of conservatory casualties this week 🙁  Perhaps it’s something to do with the low angle of the light at this time of year, later in the mornings and earlier evenings, but we’ve had a lot of bonks on the windows with two fatalities. Phil’s put some post it notes up.

Flowers are in a pale purple phase: autumn crocus, cyclamen, chives.

Autumn Crocus
Autumn Crocus

And I’ve a second batch of strawberries appearing in the patio pots! The runners have set fine too.

Autumn Strawberries!
Autumn Strawberries!

Mouse Wars have entered the Garage Phase: Phil 1 : Mice 1.

Phil caught a mouse in the garage… but discovered something has eaten a hole in the plastic bin we keep the bird seed in….

Mouse Wars: Garage Edition
Mouse Wars: Garage Edition

TV: Grand DesignsThe North Water, Sex Education (series 3).

Podcasts / audiobooks: Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle.


Photos: Herefordshire week 90 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-09-19.

Underland – Robert Macfarlane

Underland - Robert Macfarlane
Underland – Robert Macfarlane

Underground places and spaces, people and history.

As I said in my weeknotes, I’d found I was reluctant to read Robert Macfarlane’s latest, taking it with me on holiday more out of a sense of “I ought to” rather than “I want to”. I’m not sure what was putting me off – perhaps the title and the theme, or the size, but as ever with Robert Macfarlane’s writing it drew me in from page 1.

Publisher page: Underland – Robert Macfarlane

Herefordshire Week 089: Tuesday 07 – Monday 13 September 2021

Pembrokeshire holiday part 2. Birthday BBQ. More apples.

Sunset, Newgale Beach
Sunset, Newgale Beach

I was up early again on Tuesday, set to be the hottest day of the year according to the forecast. And it was scorchio. I drove to St Davids and walked the coast path from Caerfai to Whitesands.

Arch and red sandstone rockfall
Arch and red sandstone rockfall
Porthlysgi
Porthlysgi
St David's Head, Whitesands Bay
St David’s Head, Whitesands Bay

Jewel-like flowers, blue, pinks, yellows and purples, heather and gorse stretching over the hillsides. Beautiful. And, in the rocky coves and sheltered inlets opposite Ramsey Island, I spotted first seals, and then seals and their pups, and then a dolphin in Ramsey Sound. Magic.

Two seals
Two seals
Seal pup
Seal pup

Butterflies too.

Solva to Newgale: Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

At Whitesands I treated myself to an ice cream  for the final slog along the roads back into St Davids. Back at the van for 4 o’clock tea, sat outside on the decking again, reading more of Underland – although images of pot holing and urban explorers in the catacombs of Paris were hard to conjure up given all the sun, blue skies and occasional very welcome breeze.

Very much wishing I’d brought my swimming costume….

Late afternoon stroll on the beach with P, then Southwood Estate again or Dog Shit Estate as I fear it should be renamed. By the time I got back to the beach the tide was almost in and there was the start of a good sunset, so I nipped back to the van to get Phil, the M&S G&Ts purchased on Saturday plus crisps and peanuts, and we sat on the pebbles watching a glorious sunset, first gold then technicolour pinks and purples.

Sunset, Newgale Beach
Sunset, Newgale Beach
Sunset, Newgale Beach
Sunset, Newgale Beach

Late dinner and another instalment of The Hunt for A Killer.


Wednesday morning began with a red sky warning. Phil and I surfaced around 8am and polished off the croissants with OJ and stove top coffee. Having concluded last night that I’d probably just walk south along the coast path until I felt like turning round, the timing and the revised weather forecast combined such that it made perfect sense to get the 9.10am Puffin Shuttle to St Bride’s Haven and to walk back from there.

So I did.

… and saw a seal bobbing in Mill Haven, and a large grey seal with her pup safe on the rocks of the next inlet to the north, steep sided and inaccessible.

I got rained on a bit just after the wooded section en route to lovely Little Haven, but dried off in Broad Haven with (disappointingly weak) posh coffee and a deluxe fruit, nut and choc bar.

Lovely walk, and one we’d not done for a good few years. I’d forgotten it takes you past the dragon islands (aka Stack Rocks) and the stone with the circular hole (aka Howney Stone).

Dragon Rocks (aka Stack Rocks)
Dragon Rocks (aka Stack Rocks)
Howney Stone
Howney Stone

I’d also forgotten how many ups and down there are from Nolton Haven back to Newgale. Mind you, the beach was looking massive – it must have been a low low tide.

Tidal Pools and Newgale Beach
Tidal Pools and Newgale Beach

I was ready for a shower and late lunch by the time I got back a little after 3pm. Then settled in for a lazy afternoon of iPad and reading. No sign of the afternoon thunderstorms that were in this morning’s forecast.


Thursday – cloud and rain ad hoc throughout the day, so a lazy day reading and listening to more of Boudica. And a quick nip to Morrisons to top up the supplies.

Dad emailed us while we were away to let us know that one of the apple trees in the orchard had fallen over.

There is such a thing as too many apples....
There is such a thing as too many apples….

Friday was our last full day in Pembs. Cloudy but warm. We drove to St Davids and walked the coast path from St Justinians to Porthclais, looking out for the seals and pups (and dolphins – but there were none) en route. Sadly, one less pup than on Monday – the one on the sloping rocks has gone. To compensate, there was a very determined pup at the west end of the Sound (Porthaflod?), who was very determined to reach the water.  I took a lot of photos of that one….

Determined seal pup, Porthaflod
Determined seal pup, Porthaflod

We treated ourselves to a great coffee and dark chocolate flapjack from the Porthclais Kiosk. Five stars.

Phil with coffee and flapjack, Porthclais
Phil with coffee and flapjack, Porthclais

Should have thought to time to walk to get the Celtic Coaster from St Davids to St Jusinian’s, as that 2 1/4 miles of tarmac is hard going compared to the footpaths. We saw it again at Porthclais.

Back at the van, we did an initial pack and hoover, then iPaded / read / audiobooked until early dinner – mushroom risotto – and another Grand Designs.


Up early on Saturday, breakfast, final pack / clean, then to Steffi and Maurice’s for another coffee and chat before heading back east to Herefordshire. Phil did Carmarthen home. No sheep on the road this time.

We arrived home to an invitation to a birthday BBQ down the lane, so we spent the late afternoon and early evening drinking beers, eating BBQ burgers and salads and chatting with various neighbours. Fab.


The birds are slowly remembering where to find the peanuts and bird seed, and enjoying the washing and drinking facilities. House Martins have been bombing around overhead, gobbling flying things. Large spiders have spawned squads of small spiders (cue Charlotte’s Web) and the autumn crocus and cyclamen have brought lilac hues into the garden.


Spent Sunday morning catching up on computer things – weeknotes, reading, Strava screenshots and photos. Phil’s worked out how to get the videos off my new Sony Cyber-Shot. I’m hoping that if I change the video format I’ll be able to transfer them alongside the .jpg photos via Image Capture.

Lunched outside, which is when I finally realised Richard had been and that more of the hedges had been trimmed.

Spent the afternoon continuing to flickr photos and to finalise weeknotes. Still got a lot of photos to work through…. I was almost as snap happy as on a trek.

Made a double batch of Anglo Indian Apple Chutney before dinner. Blitzed the apples and dates in the Magimix and cooked everything up in the jam pan, which  I think may produce a different texture compared to the usual chopping + microwave approach. We’ll see.

Anglo Indian Apple Chutney, in progress
Anglo Indian Apple Chutney, in progress

Went out for the day with dad and Jean on Monday, visiting Hergest Croft Gardens. Returned with a replacement apple tree / early Christmas present – a Herefordshire Russet. Now I just have to decide where to plant it.

Handyman Sam came round to view the work we want done to the utility room in the afternoon, and we got that booked in for October. Phil and I did a speedy Sainsbury’s + Aldi shop before dinner. No salt & vinegar crisps for love nor money.


TV: Grand DesignsThe Hunt for A Killer, The North Water, Sex Education (series 2).

Podcasts / audiobooks: History Extra, Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle.


Photos: Herefordshire week 89 on Flickr.

Phil: f/e 2021-09-12.

Herefordshire Week 088: Tuesday 31 August – Monday 06 September 2021

Apples, Sugar Loaf and our Pembrokeshire holiday part 1.

Newgale to Solva: The Pembrokeshire Coast
Newgale to Solva: The Pembrokeshire Coast

Quiet week at work. VWW and Family Zoom Wednesday and Thursday. Felt a bit sluggish – didn’t manage to get out for a walk at all, spending most of Tuesday morning doing last week’s photos and weeknotes. Gloomy weather made for similar spirits.

Dad and Jean came for morning coffee on Tuesday and we had a stroll around the grounds checking out the apples and plums, and on Thursday afternoon we had an unexpected visitor with Su calling round on her way to meet with friends who were spending a couple of nights Up On A Hill.


A good long walk Friday morning, after coffee in the conservatory – our summer (and late spring / early Autumn) lounge. It’s warm enough even on cloudy days. The walk took me to Kerrys Gate, Black Bush to check out the results of the road closure (“tree removal and bridge repairs”), on to Bacton and up to Tremorithic. Low cloud slumped along the top of Hatterall Ridge. Coming down Cwm Hill, I saw the three fields there are up for sale. I wonder why. Through Abbey Dore, turning left to take the footpath along the river to Riverdale, back up to Kerrys Gate and home for lunch. I mapped the route using Strava on B’s old phone and my Fitbit – Distance: 9.84 miles; Elevation Gain: 999 ft; Time: 2h 37m.

Phil and I spent the afternoon picking apples and wild plums, mainly in the orchard where the Golden Delicious apple tree and the wild plum are prolific producers this year. The Worcester Pearmain has a small crop of its beautiful crimson red apples, but the Discovery has hardly any, and the young dwarf Bramley none at all.

Given we’d had the two apple trees down by the (ex) railway track pruned at the start of this year, we weren’t expecting much of a crop from them this year, and although the Laxton’s Superb has hardly any, we did get a half bucketful from the other one (not named on dad’s Tree Map). The wasps had munched a lot already.

Orchard Harvest 2021: First crop of apples and wild plums
Orchard Harvest 2021: First crop of apples and wild plums

Once picked, we washed the apples and left the good ones to dry before settling them carefully in the apple racks, hoping to avoid too many bad apples this year. The ones with bruises, bites or burrowings, and any windfalls or fallers we’d collected, I chopped and either froze ready for crumbles and chutneys or stewed and froze for puddings. No room in the freezers for any more! We shall have to eat up some of the other contents as the Golden Delicious has a lot more fruit left on its branches and we haven’t even tackled the neighbouring apple tree (uh oh) in the orchard or any of the apple trees on the lower path. We did take a quick look, and picked a few apples off the Bramley. The Egremont Russet isn’t quite there yet, and there don’t seem to be that many apples on it.

Pizza for dinner, watching Nomadland.


Saturday was the start of our holiday week and the morning’s plan was Sugar Loaf with the GVWC, Phil coming along too. Whilst I’ve walked up Sugar Loaf from two different directions within recent memory, the GVWC route promised a third alternative, from Fro Car Park. The roads off the A465 signposted Bettws and Forest Coal Pit were easier than the steep single track up to the main Sugar Loaf car park, and we arrived at an empty car park at 9.45.

A much bigger group than on my previous pair of outings and slower pace, plus a small porky pie about the distance meant the 4 mile / 2 hour walk ended up being 5.5 mile / 3 hr 20 min. Normally not a problem, but a pain given we’d planned to have lunch at home to to drive to Pembs in the early-mid afternoon.

Still, I’m glad we went – it’s an easy route and we had much better weather than of late, with the morning cloud burning off to leave a sunny and hot day. Busy at the top, and the views were a bit hazy.

Phil on the summit ridge, Sugar Loaf
Phil on the summit ridge, Sugar Loaf

The return section through Parc Lodge woods was particularly lovely, as were the red berried rowan trees and hawthorn bushes amidst the green, green bracken.

Phil in Parc Lodge woods
Phil in Parc Lodge woods
Rowan trees, with red berries
Rowan trees, with red berries

A good route for future ref.

Back at base around 1.30pm, Phil rustled up lunch while I packed the car. Passing by on his tractor with a trailer of hay bales, Ray stopped for a chat. A fox took all bar one of their chickens this week.

Finally set off on the drive West, taking the usual Hay – Brecon – Llandovery route. All was going swimmingly until, just outside Sennybridge the traffic came to a standstill, and 6 or so cars ahead we could see why – a sheep trailer had overturned and the occupants had escaped – a flock of (unscathed) sheep were running hither and thither across the A40. We waited for a bit, but there didn’t seem much of a plan for corralling the creatures, so we turned tail and took the back roads to Sennybridge. Thank heavens for mobile maps.

Shopped in Haverfordwest – flagging by then (7pm) – and arrived at the van around 8pm. Lovely and quiet and so, so good to be back by the sea. We both miss it. Unpacked and demolished a speedy posh pasta dinner, with M&S garlic bread plus wine and beer. Well, we are on holiday!


Sunday was a beautiful day, just right for the first proper day of our hols. A slow start, then a stroll on Newgale Beach, end to end. Low tide meant we got all the way to the rocks at the southern end. By the time we were back at the van the skies were clear and the sun was out in splendour. So hot I had to change into a lighter T shirt, and wished I’d brought my swimming costume….

Newgale Beach, low tide

Settled out in the deck, finishing off A Comedy of Terrors in print and The Children of Jocasta on audiobook (I’m a convert).

Late afternoon, once the heat had started to wane, I set off to walk the footpaths around the Southwood Estate, and back along the beach, the sun glinting on the gentle waves. Beautiful. I’d not taken my phone so no podcasts to distract me from the scenery, the flowers and the birds – I watched a hawk hovering, diving and being buffeted by a trio of small birds, presumably protecting their young. A little later, pairs of russet breasted birds periodically settled on the gorse and grasses, and I attempted a few photos in the hope that I could work out what they are.

Hovering Hawk
Hovering Hawk
Red breasted bird with white collar, on the coast path
Red breasted bird with white collar, on the coast path

[Having looked at the photos, I’m pretty sure the hovering bird was a kestrel and the russet-breasted birds were stonechats]

Back at base, I persuaded Phil to come back to the beach to see the sunset, and we sat on the stones watching the sun and the waves, the people and the birds, until the sun disappeared into the bank of hazy cloud that’d been hiding the coastline for most of the afternoon. Not quite a sunset, but lovely all the same.

September Sunset, Newgale Beach
September Sunset, Newgale Beach

Quiche and salad for tea, watching Grand Designs – a new series.


Up early on Monday at 7am (I’ve been sleeping in later at home in recent weeks, not sure why), left P sleeping and settled on the sofa with tea and muesli to start Underland. I’d found I was reluctant to read it, bringing it with me more out of a sense of “I ought to” rather than “I want to”. I’m not sure what was putting me off – perhaps the title and the theme, but as ever with Robert Macfarlane’s writing, it’s drawn me in from page 1.

It turned into another lovely day and, once P was up, we spent the day walking along the coast path to Solva and back.

Newgale to Solva: Panorama - Black Rock, Penrhyn Headland (south), Solva Harbour and Upper Solva
Newgale to Solva: Panorama – Black Rock, Penrhyn Headland (south), Solva Harbour and Upper Solva

Lunch was burger and chips, sat outside at The Cambrian Inn. Lovely.

Lunch at The Cambrian Inn - Spicy Veggie Burger, triple cooked chips and coleslaw
Lunch at The Cambrian Inn – Spicy Veggie Burger, triple cooked chips and coleslaw

Plus a Pint of Bitter Shandy – Heaven!

A Pint of Bitter Shandy - Heaven!
A Pint of Bitter Shandy – Heaven!

Hot and sunny. Blue skies above. A bit too hot on the return leg to be honest. I really should have brought my swimming costume!

Solva to Newgale: Dinas Fach, Newgale Beach beyond
Solva to Newgale: Dinas Fach, Newgale Beach beyond

Sat out on the deck listening to Manda Scott’s Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle. Dinner watching The Hunt for A Killer.

A smashing day.


TV: Sex Education (series 1),  Nomadland, Grand Designs and The Hunt for A Killer.

Podcasts / audiobooks: History Extra, The History of England (podcasts), The Children of Jocasta and Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle (audiobooks).


Photos: Herefordshire week 88 on Flickr.

Phil: f/e 2021-09-12

The Children of Jocasta – Natalie Haynes

The Children of Jocasta - Natalie Haynes
The Children of Jocasta – Natalie Haynes

Jocasta – wife of Oedipus and mother of Antigone – is one of the foci of Natalie Haynes’ retelling of more of the Greek Myths. Her daughter, Ismene, is the other.

My first audiobook, courtesy of Herefordshire Libraries’ Borrowbox service. I am a convert.

Author page: The Children of Jocasta – Natalie Haynes