Herefordshire Week 053: Tuesday 29 December 2020 – Monday 04 January 2021

We’ve been here a year!

And what a year 2020 turned out to be. A global pandemic – ongoing – wasn’t quite what we’d anticipated when we pulled up at the gates of Forty Acres on 02 January with key belongings packed into a Vauxhall Vivaro. A year ago our biggest concern was “would we meet people and make friends?” closely followed by “will the wifi be good enough for remote working?”.

COVID-19 has put both into perspective. In a strange way, lockdown made people extra friendly and chatty whether you crossed paths on a country lane or in a supermarket car park queue, and we have met lots of lovely folks.

And as for wifi, within 3 months of my starting as LW LO’s first permanent remote worker the whole office – the whole firm – was doing the same, with the result that colleagues are completely understanding about tech glitches.

Lockdown + Zoom also made it easier to stay in touch with friends everywhere and although I missed London and friends a lot at the start since the spring I’ve not missed London at all. I am however really looking forward to having people here to stay when that becomes a possibility.

So, what did this week bring?

On Tuesday we woke to light dusting of snow, and what would be a cold week.

A light dusting of snow, Grey Valley
A light dusting of snow, Grey Valley

A sunny day so we made the most of having warm fingers (and a clever idea from Phil) to manoeuvre back in the two large panes of glass that Storm Bella had blown out of the greenhouse. Encouraged, we made a start on replacing the metal clips with the much smarter bar capping (aka long strips of plastic formed in the same shape as the clips) which we finished up later in the week – well, all bar the roof glazing….

Indoors we completed a DIY double – replacing the fiddly loo roll holders with simple Ikea Bogrunds, and the chunky wooden curtain rail with a slimmer metal one so that the eyelet curtains now swish open and closed in a very satisfying manner.

Just after dark we headed down the road under clear skies and a big bright moon for socially distanced mulled wine and buffet nibbles with Joe and Thea, sat outside with logs burning in the BBQ. Smashing.

Best of all, Dad had his first COVID vaccine jab.

Wednesday was Admin Day, starting with sorting out the car insurance for another 12 months. Getting out of the Hastings Direct auto-renewal was a pain and a half. I shan’t use them again. In contrast doing the same for RAC cover was a breeze. A tale of two contrasting customer experiences.

Admin continued later in the day when my new camera arrived. Unfortunately it turned out to be the wrong model, the Sony DSC-HX90 rather than the all important Sony DSC-HX90V – where the V denotes the GPS feature. Park Cameras customer service has been excellent. No quibbles, super helpful and after asking me to open the box to double check the actual camera model, they organised a DPD collection / return and will be sending out a Sony DSC-HX90V in return.

However until my new camera does arrive, all photos are being taken on my iPhone 4 or iPad 2…

Broken camera :(
Broken camera 🙁

The cold spell continued into Thursday and we had a gorgeous frosty start to the last day of 2020. My iPad ran out of juice as we were out taking photos of the views from Thistly Field, so here’s Phil’s photo of the view west towards Wales:

Frosty sunrise over Abbey Dore
Frosty sunrise over Abbey Dore (photo by Phil Gyford)

It was a lovely sunny day and I spent most of the morning lopping brash in the quarry, and writing up my Portered treks – Tips for first timers blogpost in the afternoon.

As the final evening of 2020 commenced I had a NYE Vino Zoomo with Hazel followed by a phone call with dad and Jean to wish them Happy New Year.

Surprisingly we managed to stay up until midnight, helped by a few episodes of The Newsroom (a promising start, but failed to deliver the strong female characters promised by the initial premise), and chocolate. We’re still eating Christmas Day leftovers.

New Year’s Day brought cloud cover so I spent the morning reading and in the afternoon did a happy few hours lopping the loppable brash branches I’d set aside on Wednesday. Larger branches await dad plus chainsaw. Smaller stuff is bonfire-ready.

Stacked brash
Stacked brash

On Saturday morning we headed up to Ewyas Harold Common with Thea and Joe, armed with a thermos of coffee and some mince pies. Yes, totally Famous Five (if only we had a dog… )! We walked up via the deer farm footpath and on to the benches by the yew trees with views, and down via Dick’s Pitch. On the final stretch through Abbey Dore we met the folks from Wellfield heading in the other direction and so we got an intro to them which was lovely.

There were some icy patches on the roads and the dark grey clouds brought the odd sprinkle of rain/sleet up o the Common and which turned out to be the advance party for the hail / sleet / snow that arrived in the afternoon. I was happily lopping the brash when it suddenly started, and then kept on going. Not much settled though.

That wasn't there this morning!
That wasn’t there this morning!

(PS Saturday was our 1 year anniversary at Forty Acres.)

Saturday’s snow was a signal for Sunday that temperatures were moving back above freezing. Phil and I headed out under cloudy skies to Kerrys Gate then down to Riverdale and back along the river. Muddy.

More reading in the afternoon. Having finished Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng earlier this week I had moved on to War Lord, the last of Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom series featuring Uhtred of Bebbanburg, which I polished off today, just in time to return to the library on Monday.

Monday afternoon’s Big Shop and Library Click & Collect proved prescient (or rather, we’re now wearily familiar with the Prime Minister’s inability to take difficult decisions and the unofficial murmurs and hints that are used to “warm us up” to them) as national lockdown 3 was announced in the evening. Hoo-rah.

In bird watch news, I’ve been refilling the bird feeders daily with peanuts and seeds, and we’ve got great tits, blue tits, coal tits plus chaffinches, robins and a black bird. The “font” bird bath / water bowl has been frozen most mornings too, so I’ve been replenishing with warm water.

But most excitingly, since Tuesday morning when I first put out the fat balls we have had 3 long tailed tits visiting and they’ve been back pretty much every day. I’ve no idea where they are feeding usually, other than it’s not been with us. It’s lovely. If only I had a camera with a good enough zoom….

The deer have been back, the helicopters too, and the first daffodil shoots have surfaced.

TV: The Newsroom.

Podcasts: Mainly The History of England – we’re up to Henry III. He reigned for 56 years.

Photos: Herefordshire week 53 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes forw/e 2021-01-03.