Herefordshire Week 011: Monday 09 – Sunday 15 March 2020

So, yes, I’ve slipped by another day. I didn’t anticipate my Hereford weeknotes being Diary of a Country Lady during a Global Coronavirus Pandemic

Looking back over the past week just shows how quickly things have changed. And how unsettling that has been, and how uncertain things are ahead. With typical Brit Humour, Phil and I can say we’ve been pretty much self isolating since January, but the biggest challenge of moving to Herefordshire was always going to be “settling in, meeting people and making friends” – and  with social distancing now the norm, this isn’t going to be the 6-9 month trial I’d envisaged. So far we’ve had:

  • January: Unpacking and settling in
  • February: Floods
  • March: Coronavirus

Oh well. Better here than in London.


Monday morning started with the gym, then I did the Forty Acres – Cockyard – Kerrys Gate (no apostrophe) walk, i.e. the other way round from normal. Decided the views are better going in the “normal” direction. Also realised that Kerrys Gate isn’t The Gate of Kerry – the signposts don’t have the apostrophe. Down by Jury’s Farm there was a whole field of completely black sheep and lambs. Sadly my iPhone 4 photos are too blurry to include. You can see them on Flickr though. There’s a video too. Cue baas and bleats, and bouncing lambs.

First thing Tuesday I battled with technology to buy train tickets to travel back to London after the LED weekend in May. Something’s changed on all the TOC websites which means they don’t work for me (Chrome / Mac). OK in Safari though – just a pain to have to switch browser. Went out for another walk along the lanes to stomp out the frustration. Bacton this time. I can’t wait for the ground to dry out so that I can get out on footpaths and into the hills. If that’s allowed. I work Tuesday afternoons and the mornings are always a bit of a listless time. In London I had my silver surfer sessions, then an hour or so of admin before a friend came round for lunch. I was planning to talk to the team at the Pontrilas Community Cafe about offering something similar there.

So instead I fed Ken & Gay’s Camellia – it’s looking fabulous. Wrote up February in the Forty Acres Diary. Finished Lancelot (smashing).

Camellia
Camellia – Looking fabulous

Awake early Wednesday, so did an early morning walk down to Riverdale and back, accompanied by a super sunrise and sheep and lambs out in the fields past Camp Wood. More signs of Spring!

Sunrise
Sunrise

I did the same on Thursday and walked back in heavy sleet. Got soaked.

We had a series of emails at work about getting set up for working from home – so in some ways I’m ahead of that game, albeit unintentionally. I’ve never had a problem concentrating wherever I am provided there’s peace and quiet, and working remotely from Herefordshire has been fine on that front. Plenty of calls in the calendar that provide social interaction. More of that ahead.

FaceTimed with Hazel and Catherine in Pizza Express on Wednesday evening. Might have to make that a regular event, albeit virtual evening but with actual wine and pizza (or alternative).

On Thursday evening we went to see The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain at The Courtyard. It’s set in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, with a slow storyline centred around shepherds and villagers looking after vast flocks of sheep and goats. Reminded me of being in Nimaling on our Ladakh trek.

Herds head home, Nimaling
Herds head home, Nimaling

Friday morning I went to the gym, while Phil joined the Virtual Shepherdess, then pottered around getting things ship shape for our first guest – and quite likely our last for a while. Stopped off at Aldi en route to Hereford Train Station – no loo roll, but they did have a Rectangular Dolly Trolley which will be a perfect birthday present for dad!

Janette arrived on a 4 carriage GWR train in the early afternoon. From London to Ledbury she’d shared her carriage with a hen party, and while I was waiting there were a bunch of 30something chaps who were meeting up to get the train somewhere for a stag weekend. Plus lots of older ladies dressed in purple and red started arriving on different all en route to gathering at the Warners Hotel in Holme Lacy. While waiting I’d collected all the tickets for my upcoming train trips from the ticket machine – 11 sets, most of which I’ll not now be able to use.

Lovely sunny afternoon meant we were able to sit outside on the patio for tea and cake, and plenty of chat, before walking to Ewyas Harold via The Trout (as was) and old Dulas Church. The churchyard was covered with daffodils – beautiful. A drink in The Temple Inn, then ordered “fish and chips” from The Old Stables having phoned Phil first for the pre-arranged pick up.

Saturday was cloudier, but we had a lovely stroll around the lanes and a mooch around Dore Abbey followed by a leisurely lunch in the conservatory before driving cross country to Ross on Wye for the afternoon. A bit too cold and damp to be really enjoyable, but two highlights were the wood engraving shop, aka Crossfield Creations, and whiling away an hour and a half in the warm with an early meal at Leonards at 39. Then the last of our Borderlines Film Festival viewings – Bait at St Mary’s Hall (once we’d found it – we’d expected a traditional church hall – victorian or more modern incarnation, instead we found it in a Georgian Terrace house to the south side of the church). The screening came complete with an interval, and a table offering chocolate bars for 50p at the front of the room. 25p for the small Kit Kat. The Film Festival organisers must be thanking their lucky stars that their fortnight fell between The Floods and The Virus. Back at base, we got the log fire going and sat in the lounge with a supper of cheese, biscuits and wine.

Sunday morning started with brunch, and then a leisurely couple of hours in the lounge with the log stove on again. The rain eased off just before we had to leave, so Janette got a tour of the grounds.

Dropped off Janette at the train station, and called in at Aldi (max 4 of anything posters now up, and shelves surprisingly well stocked – but still no loo roll or bread flour!) and Sainsbury’s (ditto) before heading over to see dad and Jean for a few hours. That’s when we decided to postpone the Annual Birthday Parties Party, and came up with the Indian Takeaway Alternative. Not sure that even that will go ahead now…

As of Friday, P and I were still planning to go back to London at the end of the month for one of my supposedly monthly visits back to the London office, and for Phil to see his folks and to check on the Walton flat. As the Government’s pronouncements veered rapidly over the weekend / Monday from herd immunity to social distancing and isolation, that plan changed.

But some things don’t change – there are still lots of birds visiting the bird feeders and wolfing down the bird seed and peanuts. My bird spotter skills are somewhat lacking and so far I’ve failed to identify anything further than the blackbirds who tidy up the fallen bird seed (r)ejected by the over-excited blue tits, coal tits and great tits in their  over-enthusiastic eating acrobatics. I think we might have chaffinches, bullfinches and greenfinches – I certainly seen the latter perched on hedgerows around and about. Time to get out the Usbourne Spotter’s Guide to Birds.