Herefordshire Week 043: Tuesday 20 – Monday 26 October 2020

Packing up Walton; driving to Herefordshire; unpacking and finding a new homes for more stuff. So Much STUFF.

Plus lots and lots of washing.

Busy week!

Oh, and the mice are back.

So, yes, we managed to get everything done we needed to in Walton, and saw some of the neighbours to say goodbye.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent packing up our flat, getting rid of surplus stuff (mainly via Facebook – a relief to find someone who wanted the king size mattress I can tell you) and cleaning.

Packing Up Walton
Packing Up Walton

On Thursday morning we headed up to Hythe (Colchester) to pick up a hire van from the ever reliable and good value Enterprise, and loaded it up over the course of the afternoon. January’s van was largely filled with boxes, which were easy to stack. Furniture proved trickier, but Tetris-like we just about managed to fit everything in.

Stormy seas on Wednesday had made for an exhilarating walk to Frinton and back, and we had beautiful weather for loading up on Thursday and for most of the drive back on Friday – heavy rain just before our lunch stop, which was good timing.

Walton Waves
Walton Waves

We’d walked to the beach hut and back before setting off; it was one of those gorgeous sunny mornings the Sunshine Coast does so well, so we got to see Walton at its best.

Our drive started off well but somewhere around Banbury Apple Maps decided to take us north to Stratford upon Avon and then west via Worcester and Hereford. WHAT THE WHAT?!! That’s not a direct route at at the best of times (and driving through Hereford at rush hour would have taken ages) and all the more so for me as an inexperienced Vauxhall Vivaro van driver.

What I’d really like in a sat nav is the ability to specify which motorways I want to avoid (M25) and what else (town centres, and roundabouts, which proved a particular nightmare), and what I’d like (Major A roads). I particularly hate the fact that it’s really hard to tell which route the sat nav has got in store for you once you’re actually driving. I’m a “plan the route on a map, then follow it” person.

But we made it, and unpacked before it got dark. Then 10 minutes of fun and games locking the van – turned out we always had one door not quite closed, and we kept setting off the alarm as we tried to work out which one. Very, very hard to find out what the problem was and how the van should lock – no manual in the van and no customer support number to call.

After all that we slept really well on Friday/Saturday night….. although we did both wake up to the sound of a mouse meeting its end in the roof 🙂

Better than an alarm clock!

Handy too as we had early start so that we could return the van before the roads jammed up, and do a supermarket shop. All done by 10am.

The rest of the day was spent reassembling the beds and chairs, unpacking and sorting….

Unpacking our Walton stuff
Unpacking our Walton stuff

And by the end of the day the spare room and the lounge were starting to feel “done”.

In London news, Terry sent us final photos of our flat, now redecorated from top to bottom. It was a bit more than “just painting”: walls and ceilings were prepped and painted throughout and water stains sorted, wooden doors and window frames prepped and varnished, dints in plasterwork smoothed out, gaps in coving and skirting filled, wardrobe doors repainted, bathroom silicone redone, a broken wardrobe rail replaced, a kitchen cupboard repaired and curtains dry cleaned! We got regular progress photos plus the whole flat was dusted and mopped clean once done.

Now we just need Frank Harris to rent it out 🙂

Sunday was a bad day. We are both really fed up with spending all our spare time unpacking, and are resenting it. Even a walk up towards Kerrys Gate didn’t help. Sausage, chips and fried egg for tea did though, and the fact that we’d “done” the sewing area, got the spare room looking less like a junk shop, put the Muji shelves into the garage as an “outside pantry” and cleared away all the packing boxes.

And we found a drowned mouse in the dustbin that catches the rain water from the leaky garage roof. Phil disposed.

I did a third (fourth?) drive down to the hospice donation station in Ross on Monday morning, then rattled through a whole load of “jobs” that I’d had on my mental to do list: called a builder about insulating/boarding out the loft, checked our Landlord’s Insurance cover, paid Terry, found a home for a big bag of hotel toiletries (Hereford Food Bank – who also want our packing boxes and some smaller jars of apple chutney – triple win!!!), arranged to return the Dore Abbey Crockery (very impressed by the new Dore Abbey website), looked into getting an eye test and flu jab in Hereford, put painting and decorating boxes and greenhouse stuff into the shed, relocated empty jars (for future marmalade, chutney, pickles and preserves) into the “garage pantry”, deduplicated the spices and condiments and put spares out in the garage pantry too, refilled the bird seed and peanut feeders (the birds are busy as I type – although the new bird seed doesn’t seem to be as popular as its Aldi predecessor), cleared weed from the pond, dismantled the tomato canes and picked and washed the final crop, pruned back the chilli plants ahead of winter ….

Chilli crop
Chilli crop

Being outside was lovely. It’s beautiful here at the moment especially when the sun comes out, which it did, lighting up the autumn leaves and their rich and wonderful colours. I’ll add some photos once I’ve put them on Flickr. <– Done:

Montage: Forty Acres Autumn Colours
Montage: Forty Acres Autumn Colours

Once the daylight went, I made a batch of Holly Jones’ Spiced Apple Chutney for the Food Bank Christmas parcels: 9 small jars.

We’re getting there… I shall be so glad when it’s all done. It feels like we’ve done nothing else for a month. We’re both ready to spend some time on other things.

I’m looking forward to getting out and about a bit more, weather permitting. There are plenty of footpaths we’ve not walked and although Wales is off limits for a while, the Black Mountains which we can see from the house are just – just – within England. The border, and a section of the Offa’s Dyke Path, go along the top of Hatterall’s Ridge that runs from Abergavenny to Hay on Wye. Next summer I’d like to walk it.

I envy friends who know their local hills already, so that heading out for a proper walk is less of an unknown (when did I lose my DIY walking – navigating mainly – confidence?) and having people to walk with.

Telly: Ghosts seasons 1 and 2. Easy viewing, which was just what we needed.

Podcasts: History Extra, The Essay.

Photos: Herefordshire week 43 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-10-25

Herefordshire Week 042: Tuesday 13 – Monday 19 October 2020

Blackberry gin, more boxes and a bonfire.

(I’m using my 2012 iPad to publish this week’s post, so you’ll have to wait a few days for the photos and links to materialise) <– Now done!

Felt a bit down on Tuesday morning – too much to do and all unpacking / flat renting related.

Never helps when it’s a sunny day and it felt like it’s been forever since I got out for a long walk and off the roads. So I took the morning off and went for a walk along the lanes to Cockyard and back. Beautiful morning, and felt a bit better by the time I got back, and even more so after ticking off a few jobs – including “making” blackberry gin stage 1: 300g blackberries, 100g caster sugar and 500ml gin. Stage 2 onwards is: Shake daily until the sugar has dissolved. Leave for 1 month In total. Strain / decant and drink! I think we can manage that….

Forty Acres Blackberry Gin: Stage 1
Forty Acres Blackberry Gin: Stage 1

A longer working week this week as I was running two half day team meetings over Zoom on Thursday and Friday. They went really well, but I was shattered by the end of Friday afternoon. That said, I did manage to stay for 2 hours at the Zoom social later that evening, and I’d only meant to stay an hour!

Glad I’ve got next week off, even if it is for more flat moving.

Thursday’s post brought an unexpected delivery – a belated Birthday parcel from Emma, with a whole host of lovely treats.

On Saturday we did the final bits of sorting out in the lounge, and went through the To Do Lists for WON, BJH and here. But most of the day was spent sorting out the boxes that have been taking up most of the room in my “office”, unearthing old photo albums from leaving school to turning 30. Some gems in there…. Three boxes-worth are now taking up a shelf in the TV room.

As well as photos, the boxes also held cards from key birthdays and other events, and postcards from dad and Jean’s holiday travels. Plus the souvenir pen “stolen” from the Lil Al’e Inn on the Extraterrestrial Hwy, Nevada.

"Stolen from ... Little A'le Inn" Pen - World Tour, US leg 1997
“Stolen from … Little A’le Inn” Pen – World Tour, US leg

I still have a couple of boxes of old papers to go through and to shred (it was so much easier when I could dump it all in the confidential recycling bins at work) and mouse proof plastic boxes of memories to go in the roof, once it’s had the insulation topped up and been boarded out.

We both celebrated getting through a bit more unpacking with Phil’s Pizza, the tail end of a bottle of red wine, and a film.

We decided to take the day off on Sunday, and this week’s Bacton Square was even more sociable than last week’s. We met lots of people we’d seen before, but had longer chats, which meant we found out more about the cider apple orchards and where the apples go, and how, and Ryeland sheep. We also fixed up an evening to catch up with the couple down the road.

Ryeland sheep
Ryeland sheep

When I mentioned the sheep to dad he told me that the Cistercian monks at Dore Abbey sent their wool via the Cistercian’s Monastery network all the way to Florence to be sold, where it was highly sought after because the wool is so fine. One of the ladies at Tan House a Farm had also mentioned that there’s an old document in France that recommends shearing sheep the Dore way.

After a late lunch spent the afternoon bonfiring branches that the power people had chopped down to keep the overhead cables clear. Very satisfying. Still loads left…. we may get the wood chipper chomper out….

In between leaf flare ups I dug a bag load of shredded paper and some cardboard into the grass cutting heap at Mower Turn and picked apples from Egremont and its neighbour before arming myself with the step ladder, and Phil plus bucket, to pick some of the ripe apples on the upper branches of the tree over the herb bed in the orchard. We should have armed ourselves with hard hats as I got bonked on the head when one apple gave in to gravity, and Phil’s had to dodge lots more fallers. Lesson learned, we only put the picked apples, and not the fallers, into the apple rack.

Thankfully the new COVID tier regime hadn’t ended up putting the kybosh on our plan to travel to Walton to clear the flat there, even though Brum, London and Essex are subject to tighter lockdown than Herefordshire.

We spent most of Monday on various trains making our way to Walton via Birmingham, Euston and the Barbican where we popped in to check on how things were going with the BJH redecoration: it’s looking great. We saw the lettings agent too, and got that ball rolling …. and we even had time for coffee and cake sat outside Fix before heading over to Liverpool St.

Now we just have to hope that COVID doesn’t kill the City lettings market completely. I keep telling myself: normal people who rent in London move from time to time and they might fancy renting in the Barbican. It’s not only people who work in the City who want to live there. We’ll see.

Ben Jonson House Redecoration: Final pics from Terry
Ben Jonson House Redecoration: Final pics from Terry

A windy evening in Walton. Having prepared our plan of attack for Tuesday’s packing, Facebooking and hut relocating tasks, we settled in with books, beer and crisps.

Photos: Herefordshire week 42 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-10-18

Herefordshire Week 041: Tuesday 06 – Monday 12 October 2020

More unpacking and sorting all our Barbican Belongings – the bookshelves are populated and the Telly Room feels more homely. Plus the photo album stage – cue nostalgia and “Didn’t we look young?”

A visit from Western Power Tree Team, a splendidly sociable sunny Sunday stroll, and two failed attempts to bonfire the brash.

The week started with a magical return visit by the three deer, last seen in May.

A Visit from the Deer
A Visit from the Deer

After nibbling at the sprouting willow tree stump, they headed back towards the quarry and mower turn.

Work focused on final preparations for the KM Ops Team Meeting next week – slides packaged, and printed and posted by LO Logistics, seven secret Boxes of Delights ordered from Betty’s, although sadly the Gentleman’s Hamper was out of stock.

I had to drive over to Dinedor on Thursday to work from dad’s desk, as Western Power had notified us that the power would be turned off so that they could cut back the trees that encroach on the electricity cables on the Solarium’s downhill slope and beyond.

Phil messaged me once they’d done – he’s been a bit surprised by quite how big the piles of brash (getting technical) were. Me too! It’ll take quite a few bonfires to work through it all, plus lots of lopping. I made a start on Saturday afternoon, and Phil and I did a couple of hours more on Sunday afternoon, in glorious sunshine, cliched shafts of sunlight slanting through the silver birch, cherry and hawthorn.

Only fly in the ointment was that I failed to get the bonfire going.

I’ve just looked up the details of the trees on that slope. Dad bought them with his Long Service award, and the original planting comprised:

Lavelle Hawthorn
Pink Hawthorn
Acer Chappadocicum
London Plane
Horse Chestnut
Weeping Ash (3 types)
Copper Beech
Red Oak
Evergreen Oak
Handkerchief Tree

I’ve a horrible feeling I said it was OK to cut down one of the hawthorns.

Unpacking took up spare slots over the weekend – and having put the bookshelves up in the Telly Room we worked through our many, many boxes of books and other stuff that had sat on the shelves in the Barbican.

On Tuesday morning I tackled the upstairs bookshelf, which unearthed a few Family Treasures ….

Books: Treasures unearthed as I sort through the upstairs bookshelf at 40A
Books: Treasures unearthed as I sort through the upstairs bookshelf at 40A

I’d already decided to weed out my BJH book collection, which was fairly straightforward, although it’s hard to give away the ones with inscriptions from mum, so they’ve not all gone to St Michael’s Hospice.

On Saturday I fell into the old photo albums rabbit hole….

New Zealand 1996
New Zealand 1996

…. and it turns out that I went to 5300m back in 1994, visiting Tom when he was in Bolivia for 6 months.

Bolivia 1995
Bolivia 1995

Friday was rainy, so we treated ourselves to the first log fire of the year. Plus beer and crisps, seeing as it was 6 o’clock… which everyone knows is Beer & Crisp o’clock.

Beer, crisps and a log fire
Beer, crisps and a log fire

Two good walks – feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve done a big walk though -Riverdale and round via the footpath (soaking my trainers in the Orchard) on Saturday morning, and Sunday was a gorgeous sunny October day, so we did Bacton backwards, which turned out to be very sociable with chats at Kerrys Gate and en route to Canns Hill as we were picking blackberries.

The autumn colours are gorgeous.

Autumn colours, Longwood
Autumn colours, Longwood

In the garden, lettuce, tomatoes and chillies are still going strong, and I’ve picked my pumpkins. We’ve lots of wild mushrooms too. Now I just need to work out what they are and if they’re safe to eat….

Monday: some admin and flickring, but the morning’s highlight was depositing the third car load of stuff at the St Michael’s Hospice Donation Station in Ross on Wye. In the afternoon managed a quick trip into Hereford to pick up my next batch of Click & Collect library books, and then it was back down the sorting mines – we’re both at the mutually grumpy / fed up with it stage.

Almost there though.

Almost there....
Almost there….

Podcasts: Taking a break from The History of England, I listened to Slow Burn season 4, mainly whilst doing the first lot of lopping, with a History Extra chaser on Sunday afternoon.

TV: The end of The Tunnel, BBC Four’s Soul America, and Mid90s as our free film for the month.

Photos: Herefordshire week 41 on Flickr.

Phil: Phil’s weeknotes for w/e 2020-10-11. How could I forget the BAT!

Herefordshire Week 040: Tuesday 29 September – Monday 05 October 2020

Unpacking and sorting, plus a wet and windy weekend in Pembrokeshire with walking worked around Storm Alex.

Sunset, from the caravan
Sunset, from the caravan

Tuesday morning was taken up with weeknotes, a walk in the sunshine down to Riverdale and back and a speedy mow as rain features heavily in the forecast for the next week or so. Unfortunately heavy dew made the mowing somewhat superficial in places. Better than nothing.

Weds = work with a lunchtime dash to the Hospice Warehouse in Ross. Thursday = work plus Elaine’s first day back which means my stint as caretaker team manager is coming to a close.

With Pembs still pencilled in for the weekend, albeit without Dave and Charles, Hazel arrived on the train from Paddington just after 10pm. I’d squeezed in a speedy ASDA shop en route, and we managed a bit of cheese and wine back at Forty Acres.

Friday was decidedly dark and rainy when we got up, but we managed to cram everything for Steffi into the car without needing to put Hazel on the roof rack. And to absorb the news that Trump has COVID 19. How fortuitous for a timely taking back of complete control of the press narrative in the run up to the election.

A good drive West, taking the A roads skirting the north of the Brecon Beacons again, and dry for most of the way. The rain caught up with us shortly after we’d arrived (but after we’d unloaded) and we spent the rest of the day inside. Val and Nicola materialised during the afternoon, and we feasted on the customary array of splendid curries before heading off to the van.

Sat was surprisingly dry, albeit windy, which allowed for a lovely walk along the coastal path from at Martin’s Haven to Dale and back. Seals and pups in lots of the more sheltered stony coves and even down at the beach where the boats leave for Skomer in normal times.

Seal, Mouse's Haven / Deadman's Bay
Seal, from the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Boozy evening back in the van and the rain arrived together with a superb sunset.

Storm Alex settled in overnight so Sunday was spent chilling out in the van. Leisurely breakfast, then chatting, reading, looking at Steffi’s photobook of last year’s trip to Nepal, Ten Thousand. Hazel headed off just before midday making the journey back to London with Mikes.

Getting Blown Away, Steffi's Van, Newgale
Getting Blown Away, Steffi’s Van, Newgale

An early night and another early start on Monday – Nicola and Val driving north, and I headed east getting home in time for lunch, finding Phil hard at work cutting the bookshelves down to size.

A good weekend – if only everyone could have come.

Spent Monday afternoon catching up on admin and watching the birds on the bird feeders. The woodpecker is back – just one, perhaps the juvenile, and there are flocks of fieldfares feasting on the berries in the yew trees. And contemplating sorting out of more removals stuff – clothes or office boxes??

Neither, as it turned out – we assembled the bookshelves instead.

TV:  The Tunnel, season 2 (excellent). The Tunnel, season 3 (ep1 – so far, so good!!!)

Podcasts: More of the History of England.

Photos: Herefordshire week 40 on Flickr.

Phil: Phil’s weeknotes for w/e 2020-10-04.

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).