Herefordshire Week 162: Tuesday 31 January – Monday 06 February 2023

It’s official – I’m retiring.

A haircut. Manchester. Tremorithic. Fabulous sunsets. Olchon Valley / Cat’s Back Circuit.

Quite a week!

Hello Hawfinches!

Cat’s Back Circuit: Panorama - Cat’s Back, Olchon Valley and the southern stretches of Hatterrall Ridge, from the zig / zag turn on the path up to Hatterrall Ridge
Cat’s Back Circuit: Panorama – Cat’s Back, Olchon Valley and the southern stretches of Hatterrall Ridge, from the zig / zag turn on the path up to Hatterrall Ridge

Busy morning in Abergavenny on Tuesday: Dentist, posted eBay items, haircut (first since July 2021 – and that’s not a typo), then the train up to Manchester to spend my working week with the KM Ops team there, and to do all the comms around my departure.

Such a relief for my news to be public at work – and here too. Roll on June.

Train home Thursday evening – Transport for Wales not affected by the strikes.

Spent Friday morning on admin, including catching up with last week’s weeknotes, a chat with Val about Kanchenjunga later this year plus the usual random stuff that seems to crop up week to week.

Who knows where the day goes?

Made butternut squash curry for dinner.

Exciting start to Saturday, spotting large birds hopping around down by the rose garden (that’s a very loose description). They didn’t look quite like jays, but similarly colourful, so I got out the binoculars for a better look and scared them off…. but they returned and I had my camera the ready.

Hmmmm. They weren’t in the Usborne Spotter’s Guide to Birds which so far has helped us to identify everything we’ve seen in the garden …. so I paged through the RSPB Birds A to Z online guide and spotted them – Hawfinches!

My photos aren’t great, but it’s brilliant to have them here.


Then back to the mundane: made soup mainly to use up the brown lentils in the pantry cupboard and the carrots at risk of rotting in the fridge.

Gardened for a bit with Phil (not mundane!), raking up / collecting leaves, digging up and hauling a barrow load of compost to the orchard for relocating the rhubarb into the square planter dad and I made last year, and then relocating the gooseberry bush Jean has gifted us from Dinedor into the long planter. Will have to work out where to move the everlasting sweet peas to.

Scoffed soup – late lunch – then walked to Kilpeck – 1 hour 15mins, road route – to rendezvous with dad and Jean at the village hall for the Kilpeck Winter Fair. Returned with an excellent haul of goodies: chocolate brownies and biscotti, two jars of raspberry jam and a large jar of piccalilli. Strolled around the garden with dad and Jean, admiring the snowdrops, aconites and camellia, then inside for tea and cake – Phil had got the log stove going to welcome us home.

Now that I know what I’m looking for, I spotted a whole flock of hawfinches on Sunday morning, down by the log shed foraging for stuff that falls from the yew tree I guess.

Hawfinches galore!
Hawfinches galore!

Super sunny so we headed out to walk Tremorithic road route, returning for a late lunch. There are lambs at Black Bush Farm.

First lambs
First lambs

A couple of hours of gardening: dug up the nettles I’d spotted yesterday by the old railway track, tipped the last wheelbarrow of bonfire ash onto the slope, raked twigs and branches on the swing slope and wheel barrowed them to the quarry for bonfiring at a later date.

The superb sunset lured me out onto Canns Hill to take some photos of the pink skies over Hatterrall Ridge, Hay Bluff, Skirrid and Sugar Loaf. Glorious and gorgeous.

Fantastic sunset in the West - Hay Bluff from Canns Hill
Fantastic sunset in the West – Hay Bluff from Canns Hill

St Andrews Ladies catch up over zoom early evening, then telly and tea: The White Lotus, The Last of Us YouTube extras and then we joined 10 million others and watched the Happy Valley finale…..

Monday was another gorgeous sunny day so I drove over to Longtown and up to the Black Hill Picnic Spot / Car Park for a smashing walk in the Black Mountains: The Olchon Valley – Cat’s Back Circuit via Hatterrall Ridge and Hay Bluff.

I joined up and adapted a couple of routes: the road / footpaths down into the Olchon Valley then up onto Hatterrall Ridge (from last year’s HWF Olchon Circuit) and north along the Offa’s Dyke Path for a few miles (new). Up to Hay Bluff for Wye Valley Views and back via the Black Hill and the Cat’s Back (a favourite).

Cat’s Back Circuit: Hay Bluff views
Cat’s Back Circuit: Hay Bluff views
Coming down The Cat's Back
Coming down The Cat’s Back

Distance: 9.79 miles; elevation gain: 1,583 ft; active time 3h 18m; walk time 4h 18m.

A magic day.

TV: Narcos (started season 3, not sure I’ve got the guts for all the gore), Shaun the Sheep (needed some light relief after Narcos), The White Lotus, The Last of Us, Happy Valley (series 3 – The End).

Spotted a lot of casting crossover between Narcos (Pedro Pascal) – Lotus (Murray Bartlett) – Last (Pedro Pascal & Murray Bartlett). Plus Con O’Neill, Neil in Happy Valley and Israel in Our Flag Means Death, was originally cast as Bill in The Last of Us.  Pedro, Con and Bella Ramsey (The Last of Us) were all in Game of Thrones. What a small world!

Podcasts: History Extra, In Our Time, The History of England.

Photos: Herefordshire week 162 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-02-05.