Herefordshire Week 007: Monday 10 – Sunday 16 February 2020

An eventful week, starting with Mouse Wars and ending with Storm Dennis. This morning [Monday] the River Wye at Hereford Bridge is the highest it’s ever been since records began. At 9am it was at 6.09m, at 9.45am it was 6.10m. at 10.15am it’s 6.11m.

Storm Dennis: River Level for the Wye at Hereford Bridge at 09.45am on Monday 17 February 2020
Storm Dennis: River Level for the Wye at Hereford Bridge at 09.45am on Monday 17 February 2020

Mouse Wars commenced on Monday, after we found a shredded crisp packet in the bin – despite plugging the gaps around the holes-for-pipes under the sink. The current status is Mouse 1: Mary & Phil 1. We zapped a mouse within hours of setting the trap on Monday, but since then we’ve come down each morning to find mouse poo and / or more shredded crisp packets under the sink. Clearly Mouse No. 2 is savvier than its predecessor. Perhaps it’s time to add more steel wool around the holes-for-pipes under the sink to keep it out. And relocate the trap into the roof.

After all that excitement, I spent most of the afternoon on follow up from the LED Trustees’ meeting. And cooked vegan shepherds pie for dinner(s).

It was colder overnight, and having got up early on Tuesday for a morning walk I encountered icy roads and snow flurries, which had turned Hatterall’s Ridge and the Black Mountains white. Beautiful. My old iPhone’s photos didn’t do it justice. But the dramatic chiaroscuro lighting over Garway Hill worked better:

Snow showers
Snow showers over Garway Hill

(As an aside, one of the email newsletters I subscribe to is Craig Mod’s Ridgeline. One landed in my inbox on Thursday, and this part paragraph jumped out at me:

On media-free strictness: A smartphone excels, above all, at teleportation. It takes you from where you are, and places you elsewhere. If not physically, certainly mentally. This is great when you’re where you don’t want to be — on a packed commute for example. You can listen to a podcast, read an article, and be far, far “away” from a squished train. The issue is when this teleportation superpower intrudes on moments when you want to be present.

Perhaps I should try doing my morning walks without the company of a podcast or two.)

Back to Tuesday, I spent a chunk of the morning transferring info from emails into my 2020 Picos Trip Prep spreadsheet. Alfonso had emailed to say that he’d made the refugio bookings online, and Steffi had sorted out the last of the hotels. IOU payments whizzed their way across the international bank networks. Over the weekend, confined indoors by Storm Dennis, I finished the job although I’ll need to fine tune the packing list given we’ll be carrying out stuff for the 8 days on trek.

The main event of my work week was learning that my trip to LA needed to be rescheduled. Long story. A time consuming pain to have to reorganise everything, but by Thursday evening I’d managed to get all concerned to acknowledge the new date – and thankfully the March weekend we’ve agreed doesn’t muck up any of my existing arrangements. And my all-important birthday weekend. I definitely don’t want a repeat of my 40th….

On Thursday, Storm Dennis’ leading edge arrived and it poured with rain for most of the day. The was a short dry spell mid morning which Dad and Colin had spotted so they came to chunk up the trunk of the fallen willow tree. The chunked “cheeses” are huge. Friday morning provided another dry spell and so Dad and Jean came over and between the four of us we rolled the “cheeses” over to the BBQ yew tree and stacked them there to dry out. To be fair, the “cheeses” were so heavy, it was mainly Phil and dad doing the heaving lifting, and rolling.

Fallen Willow Tree - Trunk Chunked
Fallen Willow Tree – Trunk Chunked

Job done, dad took us to The Temple Bar Inn for lunch in the bar. Not a huge success. I’d go for a pint but £7 for a cheese sandwich is a bit steep when the thickly sliced bread is dry and the not-very-exciting-cheddar cheese slices are thin.

Earlier on Friday morning I’d ticked off few more of the To Dos, the main one being to organise someone to come and replace the gutters overlooking the road. Having had the gutters cleaned, the week’s rain had proved that we still had a problem. Best get that done sooner rather than later, but not something I ever needed to know how to get sorted in the Barbican. A post on Rated People produced a response while I was still at my computer, and as I type [Monday] Marshall and team are on the job.

Phil and I have yet to get our heads around “nipping out in the car”, but maybe that’s a good thing. We tend to bundle up things to do in Hereford itself, and drive in on a Friday. This week’s visit was brief as the clouds overhead were full of rain. Not an afternoon for pottering around the city as planned. Instead, a tactical shop at Asda (not my favourite) and picking up the mattress topper we’d left for a service wash at The Laundry Basket last week. Slow traffic all the way from Belmont roundabout, and it was only just after lunch. People stocking up ahead of Storm Dennis?

Back at base I spent the rest of the afternoon snug in the lounge with the log stove on. A bit of reading, mainly finally getting around to setting up dad’s old Huawei tablet to use for a new Facebook account to use here. It’s the only thing I’ll use that tablet for – I don’t want it on any of my normal devices. It’s been helpful for checking updates about Storm Dennis’ work over the weekend, and into week 008.

So, Storm Dennis.

We are fine. Found a few leaky windows 🙂

Luckily we are high ground but for most of Saturday we had a stream running down the road outside our house. The ground is saturated, the ponds are full to bursting, and streams are surfacing in fields.

Storm Dennis: One day down, One to go
Storm Dennis: Streams resurfacing in the fields down in Grey Valley

It was worse lower down though – Ewyas Harold flooded, as did the main road at Pontrilas and the village itself. There was water flowing out of Abbey Dore Court’s former car park.

Storm Dennis: A465 Pontrilas
Storm Dennis: A465 Pontrilas, 8am on Saturday 15 February 2020

Saturday was definitely worse than Sunday. When Sunday afternoon brought a patch of blue sky we got out into the fresh air and walked down to Abbey Dore Court to see what the River Dore had done. En route we cleared a few drains. Down at the Dore, we found it had burst its banks and spread cappuccino coloured water over the fields and flood meadows nearby. The road outside Abbey Dore Court and on the stretch of road on towards the village hall had standing water and the drainage ditch that’s usually dry was carrying most of the water from the farm fields on the north to the flood meadows on the south.

Storm Dennis: River Dore, near Abbey Dore Court
Storm Dennis: River Dore, near Abbey Dore Court

There are more photos and videos on Flickr, tagged to Storm Dennis.

Well, it’s 10.45m, and the River Wye is still at 6.11m. Hopefully that’s the peak. It’s been steady at 6.11m since 10.15am according to the excellent Flood Information Service page for River Wye at Hereford Bridge.

Here are some photos of Old Hereford Bridge where the gauge is:

We have emergency evacuations taking place in Hereford, a Severe Flood Warning has been issued and the flooding’s been declared a Major Incident in Herefordshire. Amidst all the chaos, one highlight has been following Dave Throup’s Twitter updates. Dave’s the Environment Agency manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire. He appears to be a very calm man.



So, I might not make it to London on Tuesday for my February work-week… Depends on how much more rain we get and whether the train line to Newport reopens, or if I can reroute via Birmingham or direct to Paddington on my ticket – always assuming it’s possible to drive to Hereford station tomorrow morning…. Still, for now the sun is shining and the sheep are strolling around their field.

28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 007 photos on Flickr.