Herefordshire Week 039: Tuesday 22 – Monday 28 September 2020

A lovely late September sunny spell.

Greenhouse prep, and unpacking.

Our BJH belongings all arrived safe and sound this week and we are now once again surrounded by boxes, cleaning inches of Barbican dust off everything and channelling Marie Kondo

Montage: Removals (Part 1)
Montage: Removals (Part 1)

Dad and Jean came round Tuesday morning to cut down the 1979 Bramley Apple tree in the Orchard. Its trunk is showing signs of damage, and many of the branches are dead. Plus it was easy to rock to and fro, suggesting that the roots had rotted.

So, opportune to cut it down before it blows down, and it frees up the perfect spot for the greenhouse that dad and Jean are getting for me as a birthday / staying present.

Dad takes a breather
Dad takes a breather

One of those “getting things done” mornings that I love.

Meanwhile, back in EC2Y, Total Removals were hard at work packing all our stuff and loading up their vans ready to drive over here “tomorrow”, ie Wednesday.

Work in the afternoon.

Moved the double bed downstairs ready for pick up, and the cane sofa into the conservatory, making more room for boxes and furniture….

In the parallel COVID-19 world, the new Welsh rules appeared to put the kibosh on our Pembrokeshire weekend, but we decided to wait and see how they’re actually applied.

Wednesday was Removals Arrive Day. The day dawned damp, and then the rain arrived….

But by early afternoon the skies had cleared and by the time Total Removals Luton vans drew up on the drive, all was dry again.

With Phil and me helping, unloading our remaining BJH belongings was all done in a few hours.

A skeptical skinflint, I am a total convert to paying the extra for packing as well as removals. Everything arrived beautifully wrapped in two sizes of professional packing boxes – books in the smaller, everything else in the larger, and clothes in two larger ones taped together with a hanging rail. Far less crammed into each of the bigger boxes than I would have done made them easy to handle, and I guess reduces the risk of breakages. And consider Total Removals as highly recommended.

Removals (Part 1) - tick!
Removals (Part 1) – tick!

As Neil and his mate headed off to a well earned dinner at The Kilpeck Inn, I cleaned and Phil sorted out the TV room and by 8pm we were collapsed on the sofa with dinner, having celebrated the safe arrival of all our stuff with beer and crisps.

Whilst we are pretty much going to be able to recreate our Barbican lounge, for now the bookshelves are still stacked in the component uprights and shelves. The uprights are – literally – 1cm too tall to fit, which we knew but I was secretly hoping we might be able to bodge. But no. Luckily the Shelfstore website has a video showing how to adjust the height of an upright. Phil’s going to tackle that job.

Work on Thursday brought a temporary return to normality. Except my Zoom backdrop is now occupied by archive boxes.

We got stuck in to unpacking and sorting stuff on Friday.

But first I managed to fit in a bonfire to clear the three piles of hedge clippings, and handily the Hospice wanted to come a day early to pick up the cottage sideboard and gramophone. A bit more emotional than expected when Phil found a note from my mum in the gramophone encouraging guests to play the records….

Goodbye Gramophone
Goodbye Gramophone

And the couple who wanted the main bedroom divan came to collect that too.

We tackled the “kitchen” boxes first and worked through a myriad of deduplications, and set up the sideboard in the lounge and the dining table in the entrance hall in the afternoon.

The Evolve Home Energy consultant came in the afternoon. A bit of an anticlimax as he was focused on insulation – the cavity walls in the extension (already there) and loft (add another 200mm). We were hoping for something more comprehensive. Back to the drawing board.

Saturday we tackled the spare bedroom in advance of Hazel’s overnight stay on Thursday. Continued to have a very good clear out, channelling Marie Kondo …well, trying to. Having fun too.

UH - OH!
UH – OH!

Also, lots of washing – bedding  and other stuff that’ll go to the Hospice or friends.

Before we got stuck in, I caught up with Terry who’s going to start the BJH redecoration early October, and Phil and I moved the trundle / stowaway single beds out onto the drive ready for pick up.


  • More washing.
  • Repacked the stuff to go to the Hospice Donation Centre into the smaller “book” boxes on the basis they’ll fit better in the car and be easier to handle.
  • Finished sorting the spare bedroom. Sort of.
  • Got rid of the trundle / storabeds. That’s the last of the furniture. We’ve managed to find new homes for all the furniture the Hospice can’t take (older beds, mattresses) via Freegle.

Celebrated three days of progress and a surprise late September sunny weekend with an afternoon stroll to Kerrys Gate – Bacton – Abbey Dore, picking blackberries along the hedges near home. Not found time to bottle them as Blackberry Gin. Next year.

We took a break from unpacking on Monday, driving over to Dinedor to see dad and Jean in the morning for admin, and returning via a guided tour of the Bungalow Building Site, General Dogsbody for bird seed, B&Q, Aldi / Sainsbury’s and Allensmore where we topped up the two petrol cans in anticipation of an end of September mow.

We also sorted out trains and van hire for our October visit to Walton where we’re planning to DIY on the removals front, and hopefully get rid of triplicate items locally….

Summoned the energy to sort out the stuff assigned to the utility room, and tackled some of the “final 20%” in the rooms we’d “done” already.

Weary. Didn’t sleep well.

TV: More Prodigal Son (silly, but OK), plus The Tunnel, season 2 (much better).

Herefordshire Week 038: Tuesday 15 – Monday 21 September 2020

Back home, and preparing for all our stuff to arrive from London next week….

A beautiful sunny week, gorgeous sunrises and a lush green landscape scattered with bright berry reds and purples. Definitely autumn though.

Montage: Autumn Berries
Montage: Autumn Berries Plus

We’re also preparing to rent out Walton, so Tuesday morning I adapted the Government’s handy model shorthold assured tenancy agreement to reflect our needs. Main gripe is that the model document doesn’t use automatic cross referencing or an inbuilt table of contents. Makes me appreciate the KM team work product all the more.

Found time to do the Riverdale walk though. In the orchard there the apples are, almost literally, being hoovered up from between the rows of trees, and the sheep are grazing in the fields closer to Abbey Dore.

VWW and Family Zoom resumed, as did work. All fine. Almost caught up with the To Dos that had accumulated in my inbox over 2 and a bit weeks off.

The mornings are starting later, which means that I was treated to a couple of stunning sunrises over Grey Valley wreathed in mist.

Sunrise over Grey Valley
Sunrise over Grey Valley

Friday morning was admin – LED Fundraising Weekend updates, with Facebook thankfully playing ball, getting insurance quotes and putting post it notes on the things we want to give to charity so as to have house room for Barbican + Walton belongings.

I foresee an autumn of winnowing and charity shop donations.

Frustratingly the British Heart Foundation shop in Hereford looked like it was doing furniture etc collections, only for them to phone just at the end of the promised 3 working days to say “Oh, no, as you can imagine, our warehouse is full”. That I could easily imagine, and had assumed that as their website said they were able to collect from our postcode, they were one of the few places that did have more space.

So it was fingers crossed for St Michael’s Hospice, which came up trumps – they’re collecting 2 big bits of furniture next weekend, and on Monday we took a car load of crockery, kitchenware and bedding to their Donation Station warehouse on one of Ross-on-Wye’s industrial estates.

Our local Facebook buy/sell group has proved a winner too, with the double bed finding a new home over the weekend, and friends and extended family are also taking “stuff”.

I spent Friday afternoon and Saturday visiting Rachel and Carl. A lovely day and a half, and I’m getting better at the route too. Although still room for improvement: I realised half way there that I’d left the “Avoid Motorways” option on on the satnav and my return drive took the scenic route through the centre of Monmouth and back via the country lanes by way of Rockfield and Garway.

One day I’ll stop at Tintern to visit the abbey ruins and for a stroll through the village.

Sunday saw a cool morning turn into another late September scorcher. Phil and I did the Bacton square, hedgerows now glowing with berries (my photos don’t really do them justice), and got back just in time for Dad and Jean’s arrival for lunch followed by a tour of the Post Its so that they could take any things they would like to keep.

The sheep is settling in to her new home outdoors:

Home "Sheep" Home

(This is probably as close as we’ll get to This Farming Life)

We also selected the spot in the orchard where the greenhouse will go – my birthday present from dad and Jean. Luckily the apple tree that’s in the perfect spot turns out to have a rotten trunk and roots. So that’s getting chopped down sometime before the greenhouse’s arrival.

And there was still enough time in the late afternoon / early evening for a lovely walk up to Kerry Gate and back along the river / Riverdale to Abbey Dore Court, picking blackberries.

Monday morning was spent packing “stuff” into boxes and then into the car.

After lunch, we took the first car load to the Hospice Donation Centre in Ross –  all very straightforward and efficient.

On to Hereford for an hour of admin, including a visit to the library to return my Walton reads and to pick up the next set of books I’d requested, including the last in Toby Clements’ Kingmaker/ Wars of the Roses quartet – very pleased to have got that at last.

Hereford was lovely in the hot September sun. The roads and the Old Town were quiet, and there was plenty of al fresco seating. Strange to think that the last time we were there together was pre-pandemic, and in the dark, cold and wet days of February and March. Ditto Ross on Wye.

Back home, a bit more sorting out, then time for a few more chapters of Where the Crawdads Sing sitting out on the front lawn. Early evening: lettuces watered, tomato plants trimmed, and blackberries picked from the hedges lining the sheep field opposite and speedily assembled into River Cottage Blackberry Whisky, as suggested by Sue. Now we just have to shake daily until the sugar dissolves, and wait 6 months…….

Blackberry Whisky
Blackberry Whisky

On the minus side, I think we’re both a bit stressed by this stage of “moving in” and all the COVID-19 uncertainty – no surprise with our shambling charlatan and his cowed-by-Cummings cronies “in charge”. Neither of us is sleeping well. The September influx of Daddy Long Legs doesn’t help either. Looking forward to this time next week, by when we should have Barbican stuff here and a long weekend of sorting out stuff behind us.

In the spaces between sorting out stuff, it is gorgeous being here.

TV: Undemanding crime – Prodigal Son (Mainly still watching because Michael Sheen is having so much fun. I’m sure there must have been a million outtakes where he succumbs to the Fffffff of Hannibal Lecter) and Strike: Lethal White. Plus Africa’s Great Civilisations, on Rachel’s recommendation. Frustrating that episodes 1 and 2 are no longer available for viewing.

Podcasts: Not so many – a few more History of England, the occasional Books and Authors.

And finally, for some further and other perspectives:

Herefordshire Week 037: Tuesday 08 – Monday 14 September 2020

A rather more relaxing week than Week 036.

Calm sea with sailboat, Hipkins Beach
Calm sea with sailboat, Hipkins Beach

We took Phil’s mum and dad to Dedham on Tuesday, as Janet fancied a swim in the river there. Turns out there is a super restaurant / cafe (The Boathouse) which also does boat hire, and we had a lovely stroll alongside the river to the Burnt Tree Swimming Spot. Large car park close by. Highly recommended. The village looked worth a potter around too, although we didn’t do that.

Not 100% R&R though – the Government’s guideline change introducing The Rule Of Six (Does Cummings’ clique include some Star Trek fans?) meant a series of email exchanges with Steffi working out options for our October Pembrokeshire Get Together. Plus lots of emailing and phoning sorting out things in London and Walton, ranging from booking EICRs for both flats to getting someone to fix the hut window.

But I did find time to make another batch of Apple Brandy Mincemeat.

Apple Brandy Mincemeat - Batch 2
Apple Brandy Mincemeat – Batch 2

Overall though, we did manage to spend a lot of time at the beach hut, relishing the peace and quiet, reading, snoozing, listening to podcasts.

We met Josh from AJ Property Maintenance there early on Wednesday, and by Friday the window was fixed and next year’s repaint was booked in.

We caught up with Margaret and Richard again on Thursday morning before heading down to the hut after lunch, and we spent the afternoon there on Friday having walked to Frinton in the morning for coffee and teacake courtesy of Bird & Bean, and another mooch around the St Helena Bookshop.

We spent all day Saturday at the beach hut.  A fab last day of our hols, and the end of an era as we’re going to be renting out the flat from early November. Moving everything out will entail a return visit in October to pack up and drive everything back to the cottage. We’re going to allow ourselves a few days for that. I’ve got plenty of unused holiday to take before the end of the year. We’re keeping the hut and planning to explore the myriad of Air B&B options now on offer in Walton.

Standley Road Sunset
Standley Road Sunset

Sunday started early for the Long Drive Back. We had three stops: Witham to drop off books and clothes at Phil’s parents, Ampthill Great Park (busy!) for an early lunch and Ross on Wye for food shopping. We were getting a 54 gun salute from the army camp as we pulled into the drive. Home.

After tea and biscuits sat out on the lawn (beautifully mown by dad, and looking lush), we took a Tour of The Estate before refilling the bird feeders, reestablishing the hose to water the veg patch / herb bed (the lettuce still going surprisingly strong), removing the rotten apples from the storage racks and unpacking. Chores done, we returned to sit out on the lawn with beer & crisps.

Back home
Back home

Dinner with telly, plus two new videos from Olive & Mabel – Intermission and Looking for Love 🙂

Monday was another gorgeous day, a beautiful misty morning followed by a long hot day. Perfect walking weather, but with removals arriving a week on Wednesday, the day had to be spent On Admin. Still, we cleared stuff out of the shed and made room for the nice outside table and chairs.  And I saw a yellow wagtail!

Morning Mist. Sheep. Shadows
Morning Mist. Sheep. Shadows

TV:  I Hate Suzie, interspersed with Strike: Lethal White and This Farming Life , plus Silicon Valley season 6. Not that wowed by the first – whilst I do really enjoy watching Billie Piper act, I just wasn’t that engaged with the Suzie Story. I have become a bit obsessed with Border Collies though …. Sorry Mabel. Sorry Olive.

Podcasts: More of David Crowther’s  The History of England. A lovely few listens to birdsong through the seasons, courtesy of Geoff Sample’s A Birdsong Garden on BBC Radio 3’s The Essay.

For other perspectives:

Herefordshire Week 036: Tuesday 01 – Monday 07 September 2020

September already!!

We are in Walton on the Naze for a couple of weeks, enjoying a holiday on the Sunshine Coast with intermittent interruptions for admin.

Major event: Haircut!

So, yes, Tuesday morning featured a haircut. Not just any haircut… my first haircut since 19 August 2019.

Yep, over a year ago.

I am calling this one my COVID-Chop.

Haricut: Before & After
Haircut: Before & After

Locks chopped we headed down to the beach hut. Spent the afternoon reading and enjoying the soft evening light. Quieter now that the summer holiday season has come to an end. Always a lovely time of year to be in Walton.

Evening light, Hipkins Beach
Evening light, Hipkins Beach

Wednesday we walked along the prom to Frinton for coffee and cake, sat outside the Bird & Bean. Took some books to St Helena’s Charity Bookshop. Good to see both of them open.

Back home, Phil and I transferred our individual To Do Lists out of our heads and onto paper. Digital paper. We both felt better for it, for different reasons.

Thursday/Friday saw us make our flying visit back to London to meet with the removals man and two potential redecorators, and to do various other bits of house move admin. Thankfully train commuters were much more compliant with the mask wearing mandate.

We booked the removals and they’re going to do all the packing too. All being well, our stuff should be coming over to Herefordshire at the end of the month. We just have to find house room for it.

Once we have quotes from the decorators we’ll book that in for as soon after as they can manage.

Admin involved a walk over to Cheapside, where Wonder Of Wonders, Bow Lane Wine Vaults was open!! Sadly, too rainy to venture back for an early evening drink, plus we both needed to spend the time packing up a few fragile things.

But we did have wine, crisps and Waitrose pizza for dinner.

Almost Wine Wednesday #2
Almost Wine Wednesday #2

And whilst in Waitrose I bumped into one of my super Silver Surfers, which was really, really lovely. I do miss them, and that volunteering element of my life. Now I know we’re in Herefordshire for the long run, I’m going to find a replacement.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday continued the London socialising theme, with Hazel coming to stay and Catherine driving over for the day on Sunday.

Phil, Hazel and I had the long awaited fish & chips from the Tollgate Fisheries on Saturday evening, with a G&T aperitif featuring ice, gin and tonic from BJH.

Catherine arrived early on Sunday, and the three of us walked to Frinton along the beach, moving on to footpaths to Great Holland and almost into Kirby Cross (in search of a pub, I do confess) before heading back across the fields to Frinton

In Frinton we sat outside The Lock & Barrel enjoying a Sunday lunchtime pint. Not sure I’ll ever be allowed back into Frinton after such a display of wantonness.

Frinton pint with Hazel and Catherine
Frinton pint with Hazel and Catherine

Lunch back at the flat, then ice creams and a short stroll before Catherine headed home. A great day. Wonderful weather and fab friends.

Phil escaped by heading back to London for the day to do a bit more preparation at the flat and to meet up with friends for lunch.

A leisurely morning on Monday, Hazel and I strolled up to the end of the Naze and back before she took the train back to London. Phil and I spent the afternoon at the hut.

Podcasts: I subscribed to some new “listens” earlier in the week, with The History of English podcast proving a particular favourite. I think it’s mainly because I am fascinated by the centuries between the departure of the Romans and the arrival of the Normans. The centuries of invasion (or, perhaps simply “immigration”?) by the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and others, and then the Vikings from various parts of Scandinavia that we don’t know much about.

TV: More of season 2 of My Brilliant Friend which covered the teenage years as Lenu and Lila’s lives really start to diverge and emotions and character emerge. Plus the next instalment in This Farming Life.

For other perspectives: