Herefordshire Week 008: Monday 17 – Sunday 23 February 2020

Drinks with “neighbours”, Storm Dennis flooding and mouse wars continued.


By Monday the weekend’s rainfall courtesy of Storm Dennis, on top of Storm Ciara’s the weekend before (and all the rain over the winter so far), was draining into the larger river systems, causing further flooding across South Wales and the West Midlands.

As you’ll have read last week, it was incredible watching things unfold on Monday morning. At 9am the River Wye at Hereford Old Bridge was at 6.09m, at 9.45am it was 6.10m. at 10.15am it reached its peak of 6.11m – the excellent Flood Information Service page for River Wye at Hereford Bridge was updating every 15 mins. That’s the highest the river has been in Hereford since records began.

Storm Dennis: River Level for the Wye at Hereford Bridge at 10.45am on Monday 17 February 2020: 6.11m
Storm Dennis: River Level for the Wye at Hereford Bridge at 10.45am on Monday 17 February 2020: 6.11m

We had emergency evacuations taking place in Hereford, a Severe Flood Warning was issued and by the end of the day the flooding was declared a Major Incident in Herefordshire.

Storm Dennis: Flood warnings for South West Herefordshire at 09.10am on Monday 17 February 2020
Storm Dennis: Flood warnings for South West Herefordshire at 09.10am on Monday 17 February 2020

Another statistic, from the wonderful Dave Throup – the Environment Agency manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire – who posted this on Twitter on Tuesday:

I can’t even imagine 700 tonnes of water / second.

Perversely it was blue skies here on Monday. Marshall & Co from Finney’s replaced the gutters along the side of the house that faces the road in the morning, and in the afternoon I did some mistletoe and spiky sapling removal in the orchard, and hauled hanks of weed out of the pond. Daffodils out, and some crocuses emerging under the pear tree.

All the rainfall did not prevent Phil and I hosting our first non-family social engagement at Forty Acres, and on Monday evening we had the the Kerry’s Gate ladies round for a glass of wine. Starting to meet and get to know people is helping me feel like we’ve moved to Herefordshire rather than merely being on an extended holiday.

This week was due to be one of my “work weeks”, getting the train there on Tuesday morning (Hereford – Paddington via Newport), and back again on Thursday evening. I’d been monitoring the Transport for Wales and GWR websites on Monday, and it looked like there would be a rail replacement service from Abergavenny to Newport. That line is often closed after bad weather. However, when I got up at 2.30am to check for any updates the GWR site showed all the morning’s London trains as cancelled and the Transport for Wales page had changed to tell travellers to take the Stagecoach South Wales bus to somewhere and then change onto a Newport Buses bus (1h48mins), and it wasn’t clear whether there was also a rail replacement bus as they’d provided on Monday.

So I stayed put.

(I feel like we are working our way through all the Country Life tests just to make sure we do really like it!!!)

Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday were busy with work. Lots of video conference calls, which I feel always tests the 4G wifi. Particularly when there’s a downpour. I’m still working later into the evening than I should.

Thursday evening, Phil and I celebrated the start of our weekend by driving into Ewyas Harold to get “fish and chips” from The Old Stables Chip Shop. Highly recommended. Large chips = giant portion, made with Wormbridge potatoes, and my battered mushrooms were medium-large mushrooms with an almost tempura-light batter. YUMMY.

First Forty Acres "Fish & Chips" from Ewyas Harold
First Forty Acres “Fish & Chips” from Ewyas Harold

Driving via Abbey Dore revealed even more pot holes, and some water still coming across the roads as the waterlogged higher ground and fields drain.

Friday, I drove into Hereford to do some food shopping including an impulse purchase of a 12.8kg bag of bird seed, and nipped into the train station to ask about Storm Dennis-related refunds and changing tickets. Then coffee at Dinedor, discovering that the roads via Hampton Bishop and Rotherwas were still closed – at Mordiford Bridge and the notoriously flood-prone stretch of road by the old railway bridge respectively. Put out a feeder full of bird seed in the afternoon, and once the blue tits, coal tits, great tits and robins discovered it, they were frequently fluttering visitors. As was, I spotted on Sunday, a mouse, foraging for fallen seeds beneath!

Birds at the bird feeders
Birds at the bird feeders

Yes, mouse wars….. after our first kill in the electronic mouse trap, we had less success, eventually realising that it wasn’t working when the “kill!” light started coming on when we had the trap out on a work surface. So, plan B: traditional trap, baited with peanut butter, laid in the kitchen where the mouse poo was located. But only on the condition that Phil dealt with any dead mice. So far, the mouse (mice?) is winning, managing to extract two lots of peanut butter without coming to any harm.

Saturday brought a lot of wind. Too windy for a walk even on the roads. So it was a day in the lounge with the LRB and the log stove on, plus a spot of travel planning – with Hazel in the morning sorting trains to Seascale for May’s LED fundraising weekend and looking ahead at options for getting up to Leuchars for our St Andrews Ladies Weekend there later in May, and sussing out trains to June’s wedding in the Valle d’Aosta with Phil in the afternoon, and doing a whole slew of Storm Dennis cancelled-travel-related online refund requests.

We drove over to the Golden Valley Community Cafe (aka the Health and Wellbeing Hub) in Pontrilas for lunch, and looked around the GV fitness Centre that opened there at the start of the year. That evening, I cooked up a “reduced winter veg pack” spin on Meera Sodha’s potato, chard and coconut curry for dinner to accompany the last two episodes of the second series of The Split. Gripping. Highly recommended. Weird to see sunny London again.

Sunday morning brought more rain splattering onto the windows driven by gusty winds, which we made the most of with the log stove and reading. Happily, the weather did improve as the morning wore on, and I managed to get outside to pick up broken twigs and small branches, and to prune the lower branches of one of the trees down towards Mower Turn, and do a bit more mistletoe removal. The first of the camellia buds are out, with a couple in bloom.

Camellia in bloom
Camellia in bloom

Dad and Jean popped in to deliver Jean’s old road bike (for me), carrot cakes (for us) and to help put up hooks and hosepipe holders. We don’t have a drill….

In the afternoon, Phil and I booked Aosta travel. The desire to get the train, and in particular the super scenic Bernina Express, was thwarted by the cost of tickets for the London to Zurich and Turin to London trains. So we are flying. We’ve also booked a night at the Premier Inn Gatwick for the 6am flight out, and two nights at the Hotel Torino Porta Susa in Turin. We’ll firm up Aosta accommodation once Phil’s talked to Michael and we can figure out what to do once we are there nearer the time. Not sure if we need to hire a car or not.

Admin done, I headed out to do the Cockyard walk, finding there was even more water damage to the road down by Blackmoor Farm. Tarmac peeling off in places.

Back at base, just enough daylight to attack the brambles in the bushes where dad and Jean have planted an everlasting sweet pea. Then tea and carrot cakes. Veggie bean chilli for dinner, watching the last of Good Omens and the first part of the Doctor Who Finale.

Looking back to Monday, I was hopeful that the respite from the rain would help start to dry things out, but the rest of the week saw more rain. Monsoon-like at times on Wednesday. Sleet on Thursday. Jan and I decided to abandon plans to do a recce walk for next Saturday’s Ramblers route around Peterchurch. It’s still squelchy underfoot here, and it’s raining heavily again this morning, with more rain to come …

 

But let’s end on a more positive note – the daffodils are glorious.

Train set daffodils in bloom
Train set daffodils in bloom

28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 008 photos on Flickr.