El Anillo de Picos: Postponed

We have abandoned our plan to go walking in the Picos mountains in Northern Spain at the end of August / start of September.

It was already looking complicated (trains / flights / hotels / masks etc and a day/night in Bilbao.. and that’s before we got to the relative safety of the mountains) and when the UK Government reintroduced quarantine on return from Spain overnight at the weekend, that was the final nail in the coffin.

Even if the Government were to lift quarantine by the time we were due go (which is unlikely), the risk of it being re-reintroduced while we were there felt greater.

Alfonso has been amazing, and gracious as always.

Our current thinking is to do the trip next year. Hasta el Año Que Viene.

Picos postponed: GOV.UK email
Picos postponed: GOV.UK email

Steffi’s now working through requesting all the refunds etc. EasyJet’s cancellation email for our return from Bilbao on 08 Sept arrived today. Now we are just waiting for BA to cancel the outbound flight. I hope they don’t continue to play hardball – at present they are only offering a voucher if you don’t want to take their flights to Spain.

On my To Do List: seeing if I can get a refund for my train tickets. Unlikely.

Oh well.

Herefordshire Week 030: Tuesday 21 – Monday 27 July 2020

… will be with you next week.    Ta daaa!

Sofa Song.

Pembrokeshire, and El Anillo postponed.

Hello Walton-on-the-Naze!

Tuesday morning I walked the Camp Crossroads – Cockyard – Kerrys Gate route and then settled down for my last week at work before my first holiday of 2020.

Golds and greens
Golds and greens

The working week ended in a rush making Thursday evening’s fish and chip supper with dad and Jean rather more manic than I’d wanted. Still, The Old Stables turned up trumps again, and we polished off three cod, two large chips and one battered mushrooms in a birthday and pre quarantine celebration. Plus one bottle of wine, which ousted the traditional pot of tea for three.

Friday to Sunday were spent with Steffi in Pembrokeshire.

The A40 from Hay provided a winning driving route, and I was there in about 2 1/2 hours. Reinvigorated by coffee and a slice of sourdough toast, Steffi drove us over to Bosherton Lakes where we strolled around the lily ponds and along to Barafundle and back before returning home for a takeaway Mexican treat.

A leisurely morning in the caravan on Saturday and a leg stretch south from Newgale  before setting off north to Solva in the afternoon. There and back was 14 miles mostly under grey skies with rain arriving towards the end.

Bramble gin, bread, cheese, toms and apples for dinner.

Sunday was sunnier, and we walked around St David’s headland, finishing off with  ice cream at Whitesands Beach aka Sussex-on-Sea.

A lovely long weekend.

Less lovely was the UK Government’s surprise announcement on Saturday night that it was reintroducing, immediately, 14 day quarantine for anyone returning from Spain.

So Picos is now postponed.

Having spent my weekend on the coast in the far west of the British mainland, on Monday Phil and I drove all the way east to Essex for a week in Walton on the Naze.

It was a long drive and the M25 and A12 were particularly tough – heavy traffic, with lots of lorries heading, presumably, to Felixstowe. The motorway pace itself isn’t a worry, but there are some drivers out there making manoeuvres that left no room for mistakes. No room for anything!

Anyway, we got there. And Phil made his first foray to the supermarket for a good few months, returning to stock the fridge full or treats for our week’s holiday in WON.

TV: I May Destroy You – do believe the rave reviews. I don’t think I’ve seen twenty-something life in London shown so truthfully on TV before.

After that, we went back in time to the early 1930s, with HBO’s remake of US Private Eye series Perry Mason, which we’ve powered through only to find they’ve yet to release the final pair of episodes – that’s our binge-watch blocked!

Podcasts: On sleepless nights, I often put on the earphones and listen  to a podcast or two, and on Wednesday BBC Radio 3’s The Essay featured Chris Wood‘s Sofa Song. A poignant piece about a seemingly mundane item of furniture. Lovely.

And for longer listens, I’ve embarked on the latest series from You Must Remember This exploring the life and work of Polly Platt.


…. All in good time. Work calls!

Herefordshire Week 029: Tuesday 14 – Monday 20 July 2020

A socially distanced, social whirl, of a week. Relatively.

Major event of the week that the couple from down the road come up for drinks on Friday evening, which saw us sitting outside chatting until 11pm.

Other social events took place over Zoom, and there was a visit to Dinedor / ‘Winchester’ / The Taste of Raj Indian takeaway. Details below.

I’ve been better at rolling out of bed at 6am for a morning walk this week. In return, I’ve had various views of Hatterall Ridge and The Cat’s Back, and a meeting with some cows:

Morning, Cows!
Morning, Cows!

My walks were soundtracked by accumulated podcasts from Shedunnit and The Infinite Monkey Cage.

Most of my working week has been accompanied by the gentle sound of the hay field being mown and then the hay being baled and gathered in. All with antique farm machinery.

Hay Baling Complete
Hay Baling Complete

My chilli plants seem to have had a growth spurt and acquired some small white flowers, and I picked my first radish crop on Wednesday lunchtime.

My First Radishes!
My First Radishes!

Small green tomatoes are materialising too. And I have a courgette!

My first (blurry) courgette
My first (blurry) courgette

Admin on Friday morning, then a Zoom with one of my London friends which lasted until lunchtime.

Friday afternoon featured a thorough cleaning of the inside of the Tree House, aka 40B, with the assorted toys getting a wash and de-cobweb in the dishwasher. I repainted the outside on Saturday morning, listening to more of The Infinite Monkey Cage. The Anthropocene Reviewed had accompanied Friday’s deep clean.

40B - Spick & Span, with a new coat of Preserver/Paint
40B – Spick & Span, with a new coat of Preserver/Paint

Mid afternoon Phil drove us over to dad and Jean’s, where we found them entertaining some of our Abbey Dore neighbours with tea and cake. Visitors waved off, dad drove us to ‘Winchester’ to view the transformed back garden and the pergola – a v smart addition.

En route, we stopped off at dad’s favourite, General Dogsbody, to stock up on a 25kg sack of peanuts for the birds. I can see why dad likes it.

Evening at Dinedor feasting on Indian & Chinese takeaway. What a treat.

Sunday was, appropriately, a day of rest.

Monday – Skirrid in the morning:

Skirrid Views - Panoramas (N&E, S&W) from the Trig Point
Skirrid Views – Panoramas (N&E, S&W) from the Trig Point

And a tour of Abergavenny’s backstreets trying to find my way back  onto the A465 towards Hereford.

Mowing in the afternoon:

Mowing: Stage 2
Mowing: Stage 2

Photos from Herefordshire week 29.

The cows are back in Thistly Field.

Herefordshire Week 028: Tuesday 07 – Monday 13 July 2020

Microwave marmalade. Potting up and pottering around. Bonfiring.

Holiday plans come to the fore.

A nice long walk on Tuesday morning before my working week began (2pm Tues, Weds & Thurs all day): Abbey Dore – Rive Dore footpath to Riverdale – Bacton – up to Tremorithic Road – along to Ewyas Harold Common – footpath down to Dore Abbey – footpath to Abbey Dore Court – Home.

Friday was busy doing lots of small jobs – emailing various friends, sorting out a card and present for my nephew, recreating our “vintage” sunflower placemats for Carmen, watching (tracking via email notifications) UPS delivering my Nepal 2019 photobook to everyone else before the Gloucester depot got mine to me!

In the orchard, picked the first of our morello cherries:

Morello cherries
Morello cherries

I like tangy, tart fruit, so these are in the fruit bowl. Disappearing rapidly.

The highlight of the morning was making grapefruit marmalade in the microwave.

Mary's Microwave Grapefruit Marmalade
Mary’s Microwave Grapefruit Marmalade

However, that highlight was outshone by my afternoon engagement, heading up to Kerrys Gate for a glass or two of Prosecco with some of the local ladies. Delighted to be invited; less delighted that I was driving to dad and Jean’s fish & chips for tea, which put paid to my partaking of the Prosecco!!

A lovely evening with dad and Jean, and bathed in the soft sunlight of early evening, Ewyas Harold was busy with both pubs open and doing a good socially distanced trade, as was The Old Stables. Drove back via a near deserted Aldi and Sainsbury’s – scored bread flour and assorted other essentials.

What wasn’t such a welcome event on Friday – I told you it was a busy day – is that EasyJet cancelled our flight out to Bilbao – Grrr. So lunchtime was spent frantically emailing between the group to work out what to do before all the alternatives – The Alternative being BA – sold out of seats. Very grateful to Steffi for handling all that. Duly blogged: El Anillo de Picos: Travel Update.

Saturday morning, on the computer, I realised that a rat-a-tat-tat coming from close by, outside around the roof somewhere, was small birds enjoying energetic baths in the guttering.

I was on the computer booking train tickets to/from London for August/September. Weird to be doing that again.

A lovely sunny day, so I didn’t linger indoors

The “sheep field” opposite got mown. Thistly Field remains empty.

Phil and I also decided to take the last week of July “off” as holiday. Possibly in Walton on the Naze. We’ll see.

Sunday was a scorcher, so having helped Phil mastic the edges of the rendered wall overlooking the hazelnut tree, we did the Bacton walk and then sat out on the patio for lunch.

Blackberry flowers, Bacton
Blackberry flowers, Bacton

Snoozed / read / pottered about potting up plants in the afternoon. Lovely. It felt like a proper holiday, relaxing. We agreed we needed to do that more.

The squirrels started feasting on the hazelnuts that morning, littering the ground with half eaten shells as dad had predicted. And the nuts aren’t even remotely ripe….


Neither are the apples. I tried one off the small tree in the orchard to check.

Ants reemerged and were duly Doffed.

Bonfired Monday morning – perfect timing as it started chucking it down at lunchtime, which sorted the embers out.

In the afternoon, we had our first conservatory casualty for a while 🙁

Reading pace has picked up to pre-Mantel levels. Raced through the first two of Lindsey Davis’ Flavia Albia series. Back in 1st Century AD Rome, solving crimes in the company of Falco and Helena’s adopted daughter. Excellent.

Telly: Babylon Berlin series 3 and Enlightened series 1 and most of series 2.

Podcasts: The Essay whilst bonfiring. History Extra – I particularly enjoyed their interview with Dr Emily Ward about Cnut and William the Conquerer and the 50 years between their two contrasting invasions. Some older material from The National Archives – you can tell podcasting has become A Thing since these talks were recorded.

Photos from Herefordshire week 28. Not many this week.

El Anillo de Picos: Travel Update

Yes, we’re still planning to go to Northern Spain at the end of August for 10 days walking hut to hut in the Picos de Europa, with Alfonso.

Having booked flights way back when, and sorted out hotels and refugio bookings, we put everything on hold once COVID-19 hit. But we were (are) all keeping our fingers crossed.

So, it was not EasyJet’s finest moment when they emailed yesterday to let us know that they’d cancelled our outbound flight.

After a flurry of emails, we’re now booked on the BA flight on the Saturday – a much earlier departure, and a lot more expensive, but at least we should be able to get there….

… although obviously the trip is entirely dependent on the Travel Corridor between England and Spain remaining open, and the summer’s lockdown easing not generating a second / third / fourth / nth wave of infection in either country.

Ya veremos.

Still trying to work out the safest way to travel to/from London.