Herefordshire Week 076: Tuesday 09 – Monday 14 June 2021

Guests! Glorious weather. Strimmer lesson and a close encounter with a buzzard. Backed out of the Lakes trip.

Me on the Cat's Back
Me on the Cat’s Back

Up early on Tuesday for the drive home from Solihull, taking the Worcester South / Malvern / Hereford route so that I could stop off in Hereford to do a big shop in Aldi and Sainsbury’s. Home in time for a mug or two of tea and the Cockyard Direct route before lunch. The bridge by Blackmoor Farm has been repaired.

Usual schedule for the rest of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (work, VWW and Family Zoom).

C and SL arrived for their long weekend at the Abbey Dore Pod on Thursday. Did a chunk of admin first thing Friday morning before heading down to meet them at the Pod. Explored the Abbey then took the footpath round the back of Abbey Dore Court, and along the River Dore to Riverdale and back home via Kerrys Gate. Tour of the grounds then lunch and chat for the rest of the afternoon.

Steffi arrived early on Saturday morning and we drove over to Skirrid. Surprisingly easy parking and fantastic views from the summit. On the drive home we stopped off at Rowlestone Court Farm Ice Cream Parlour – YUM – and later in the evening indulged in a feast of BBQ curated by Phil.

Skirrd panorama
Skirrd panorama

We did the Cat’s Back on Sunday – more superb views out over Herefordshire to the east and the beautiful Olchon Valley and majestic Hatterall Ridge to the west. After tea and brownies on the lawn we headed down to the Pod for dinner on the patio and farewells.

Olchon Valley and Hatterrall's Ridge from The Cat's Back, panoramic views - and Steffi
Olchon Valley and Hatterrall’s Ridge from The Cat’s Back, panoramic views – and Steffi

So good having friends to visit. As well as good company, they provide a reminder that we really do now live in a gorgeous part of the world.

Monday was a mixed day. Trying to book train tickets up to the Lakes next week failed at the mandatory seat reservation stage, and I wasn’t keen on driving the now rattling/creaking car there, around and back in the first place. The earliest I could book the car in at the garage was next Wednesday. After a lot of soul searching, to-ing and fro-ing and telephone calls (with my phone finally running out of credit midway through), I decided not to go. I’ve realised I need a bit of time off here to get on top of things and to have a bit of a break.

On the plus side, dad came over late morning and I had my first lesson with the big hand-held strimmer before mowing the “lawn” below the large pond and up on the solarium. As I was doing the area by Barney’s tree a big buzzard landed in the cut grass on the Solarium and we looked at one another for a while. Amazing.

After lunch, drove to Powells and dropped off the strimmer mower and picked up C’s chain saw (Bosch Electric). Got details of a guy who can do a 1 day chainsaw maintenance and basics lesson too…. Back at base, netted the cherry tree, cleared all the grass from inside the greenhouse and transplanted my tomato seedlings into growbags.

Tomato seedlings planted out - Batch 2
Tomato seedlings planted out – Batch 2

We also decided to postpone the garage revamp – too much uncertainty with the price and timescales largely due to scarcity of building materials. So I won’t be getting my Mazda MX-5 just yet….

In bird news, we’ve noticed a lot of juvenile birds out and about by the bird feeders – in particular a young blackbird which is a bit gormless but seems to survive. Still following dad for food!

Juvenile Blackbird
Juvenile Blackbird

Taking down the seed feeder has deterred the squirrels, but Phil’s seen at least three mice munching on the peanuts….

TV:  Ozark (finished off season 2), Hip Hop Evolution and Bo Burnham: Inside.

Podcasts: The History of England, History ExtraThe Essay and You Must Remember This.

Photos: Herefordshire week 76 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-06-13.

Herefordshire Week 075: Tuesday 01 – Monday 08 June 2021

Socialising. Mega Mow. Ledbury. Eating out, twice! Solihull and Temple Fields.

Forty Acres and the front lawn
Forty Acres and the front lawn

Before I get stuck in (catching up – it’s Friday of week 076 now):

  • It’s been 2 weeks + since Phil and I had our second jabs, so our COVID-19 vaccinations are fully  effective.
  • In Bird Feeder News, not only has not one but two squirrels discovered the seed feeder, but a MOUSE has become very adept at climbing the trunk of the Pear Tree, scurrying along a branch and dangling down to snaffle peanuts from the peanut feeder!! It has to be seen to be believed.

I spent Tuesday morning catching up on admin after my sojourn in Pembs: Flickred the photos (is it possible to have too many of puffins?), wrote weeknotes for Herefordshire Week 74 and settled up various IOUs.

To add to the excitement, Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water arrived to start work on fixing our mains supply too – ie the fault the local water engineer had reported back in February. Sadly, this meant that the exciting “road closed for 3 days from 02 June” signs were theirs, rather than Balfour Beatty’s Herefordshire Highways Road Resurfacing Crew … so, we still live in the land of potholed roads.

LED Trustee Meeting in the evening followed by KMCA June Drinks over Zoom.

No VWW or Family Zoom this week as Phil and I headed over to Dinedor for a tasty BBQ on Weds evening and on Thursday, work done, Thea and Joe came for dinner, which lasted well into the night.

Feels like we’re getting back to a semblance of normal.

After a busy week at work, Friday was spent in the garden. The front lawn looked like a hay meadow after all that lovely sun and so plans for a big walk were set aside in favour of making the most of the dry weather for a big mow.

A good half day job to mow the orchard, front lawn and side lawn, using all the mowers (ride on, strimmer and Honda). It took all of Saturday afternoon on the ride on mower to collect all the cut grass and take it to the various composting locations. The slope down from the big pond, the solarium and the path around the trees remain untouched.

Pre-mow, the lawns were full of buttercups and clover, daisies and dandelions, carpet bugle and more. The early purple orchids were almost done.

Side lawn, filled with daisies
Side lawn before the chop, filled with daisies
Front lawn, before the chop
Front lawn, before the chop
Front lawn, after the chop
Front lawn, after the chop

Mushrooms had materialised by the conservatory and down by D&G’s rhododendron, which has revealed gorgeous deep red / magenta flowers. We foraged the mushrooms – St George’s Mushrooms we think, but we weren’t brave enough to eat them.

Mushrooms foraged from the front lawn
Mushrooms foraged from the front lawn

We did scoff a few of the super fruit scones Phil made though.

Waiting for the grass to dry off a bit first thing, I’d also tidied away the wooden planks from the garden railway and had a small bonfire for the worst bits of that and various tree trimmings.

Garden Railway removal
Garden Railway removal

And on Friday afternoon I excavated the four oak tree seedlings that have sprouted from acorns abandoned on the lawn by squirrels – not even buried!

Four Oak Trees-to-be, extracted from the front lawn and chive bed
Four Oak Trees-to-be, extracted from the front lawn and chive bed

We drove to Ledbury on Saturday morning, to see if the Repair Cafe could work any magic on Jean’s Kenwood Chef – I’d blown the motor trying to mix cake mix with the whisk. A picturesque town to potter around, and we felt brave enough to eat out for the first time in … over a year? The Malthouse provided a tasty brunch in a quiet courtyard surrounded by flowers. A good choice. And when I returned to collect Jean’s mixer from the Repair Cafe, it was good-ish news – it’s repairable, I just have to get a motor and they can do the rest. Back to eBay….

Dad and Jean popped over on Saturday afternoon, and their arrival provided a handy pause in the grass gathering and an opportunity for tea and more scones. They’d come to see the wisteria and for a tour of the other garden delights:

Jean’s wisteria is in full bloom and smells lovely.

Jean's wisteria in full bloom
Jean’s wisteria in full bloom

Down at the large pond, the irises and lilies are coming out – and I’d spotted some dragonfly larval shells, a lot more than last year.

Dragonfly larval shell
Dragonfly larval shell

Over in herb bed and veg patch the broad beans, sage, marjoram and thyme going strong, the peas are doing OK (but put to shame by the size of the broad bean plants and their flowers) and the lettuces look to be recovering from their nibbling.

Broad bean flowers and lettuces
Broad bean flowers

There are plenty of fruit on the cherry tree, apples and pears too, and taking a closer look at the four strawberry plants Jean gave me I realised they’re now sporting actual strawberries! I thought they were the flowers once the petals had dropped off….


Spent 4 hours on the computer Sunday morning and feeling a bit grumpy / frazzled all afternoon. Even a good book – Kathleen Jamie’s Surfacing – didn’t perk me up. With hindsight I’m pretty sure it was an emotional pre-reaction to Monday’s trip to Solihull to inter R’s ashes.

So, Monday. I got stuck on the M5 for 40 mins by Droitwich but had plenty of time to get to A&M’s for a lovely lunch and chat beforehand. Really good to see them both.

The interment went fine – Temple Fields is a beautiful place with hay meadows all around and a river along one side. There are birds and butterflies galore and otters and badgers too.

Dinner and chat with C, J&I and mums J and M, and then a night at the Premier Inn – another first and another meal out. Drove back early Tuesday morning.

TV:  Ozark (more of season 2) and Moneyball.

Podcasts: The History of England, History ExtraThe Essay and You Must Remember This.

Photos: Herefordshire week 75 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-06-06.

Herefordshire Week 074: Tuesday 25 – Monday 31 May 2021

A week off work; to Pembrokeshire for puffins. Summer’s here – AT LAST.

Looking back to this time last week, it’s hard to remember just how much rain we had in May given the past 7 days have, in the main, been hot and sunny.

Hazel and I did the Bacton footpaths route on Tuesday morning, a little muddy in places but not too bad. We found dad busy dismantling the garden railway when we returned – he came back during the week to finish off the job. The end of an era.

A leisurely afternoon, then packing three dining room chairs, the microwave, kettle, butternut squash curry and various other caravan supplies into the surprisingly spacious Nissan Note, and driving WEST, taking the A470 / A40 route north of the Brecon Beacons. Lovely.

Dinner at Mayhem then on to Newgale.

A fab five days at the van – Preseli Hills on Wednesday, Skomer on Thursday, rain and a brief foray out onto Newgale Beach on Friday, the coast path from Fresh West to Bosherton on Saturday and St David’s Headland on Sunday. K&D with us on Thursday and Sunday, and D&G Friday to Monday for the Everest Trek Get Together No 16.

Neolithic cairns (and bog) along the spine of the Preselis:

Along the tops of the Preseli Hills
Along the tops of the Preseli Hills

…. followed by a wonderful sunset and refreshments on the deck:

Sunset Gin, Newgale
Sunset Gin, Newgale

On Skomer, puffins galore plus swathes of bluebells, pink campion and sea campion. Rabbits and razorbills, oyster catchers and gulls, guillemots and kittiwakes – and, at The Garland Stone, basking seals and a glimpse of dolphins.

Puffins, Skomer
Puffins, Skomer

A super fried egg sandwich from Cafe Mor at Fresh West, and a paddle in the sea off Broad Haven South Beach. The Green Bridge of Wales, St Govan’s Chapel and seabirds on stacks galore in between. Sea Thrift and Spring Squill carpeting the clifftops.

Stacks and Seabirds, Freshwater West to Bosherton, around the Castlemartin Peninsula
Stacks and Seabirds, around the Castlemartin Peninsula from Freshwater West to Bosherton
Bluebells and Broad Haven South Freshwater West to Bosherton, around the Castlemartin Peninsula
Bluebells and Broad Haven South

Dolphins again, on a Hot Bank Holiday Sunday. This time in the Ramsey Island race, as we walked around St David’s Headland from Caerfai to St Justinian’s.

Rock Arch and Cliffs, St David's Headland
Rock Arch and Cliffs, St David’s Headland

And the mandatory Friday Night Curries and Slap Up Sunday Feast from Maurice.

Drove back Monday morning, dropping Hazel off at Carmarthen en route, and spent the afternoon on the patio recovering from Sunday evening’s over indulgences.

Good to be home. The front lawn is a mass of buttercups, and the grass has grown at least a foot!

TV: Not much, given I was away for most of the week. Motherland (series 3) and Have I Got News for You before and Ozark (starting season 2) after.

Podcasts: The History of England (late night /early morning listenings in the ‘van) and The History of English (on the drive back).

Photos: Herefordshire week 74 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-05-30.

Herefordshire Week 073: Tuesday 18 – Monday 24 May 2021

COVID Jab 2. IKEA. A lot more rain. Starting to see people. Holidays commence!

Walked over to Ewyas Harold for my second COVID vaccination jab on Tuesday morning. Took the direct route there, and returned via Dulas. Got very wet on the final stretch back from Abbey Dore. The rain came earlier than advertised and has stayed all week  No side effects at all from the jab.

COVID 19 Vaccination Jab 2
COVID 19 Vaccination Jab 2

Normal working pattern this week, with the upgrade / server migration finally completed overnight Wednesday / Thursday. Thankfully no presence from the UK required. Busy week, but managed to get things to positions where it’s OK to leave them untended for a week – and on Thursday evening it was a pleasure to activate my Out of Office just before starting Family Zoom, knowing that that signalled the start of a week’s holiday.

We drove to Bristol and back on Friday to go to the IKEA there. Foul weather meant we had to go M5 as the Severn Bridges were both closed due to high winds – 50mph gusts. Treated ourselves to a sandwich and crisp lunch from M&S – both slightly underwhelming – but M&S sultana scones made up for things – we scoffed two each once we’d got home.

On Saturday we headed over to Dinedor for coffee and lunch, and to see Judith, Mary, Colin and Finn, and Huw. M&C were on their way to Chepstow to start the Offa’s Dyke Path. Lovely day. Back home I had time to complete Cockyard in the long sunlight before we settled down for an evening of Eurovision. My top four: Malta, Italy, Ukraine, Iceland. Reckon Iceland would have come higher had they been able to perform in person.


Bacton backwards on Sunday morning, just beating the deluge that stayed for the rest of the day. Phil built IKEA things while I mixed lounging on the sofa watching telly and making scones for teatime.

I woke up on Monday with a big dose of the blues.

Hazel arrived Monday afternoon, and Phil and I made the most of the trip into Hereford with stops at the Donation Station, supermarket and petrol station before collecting Hazel from the station… only to find that signal failure at Colwall meant H was stuck in Great Malvern. So off we went…. eventually getting the the station after a sat nav tour of Great Malvern and its many tiny, twisting roads.

Later today (Tuesday) we’re off to Pembrokeshire to stay with Steffi for the week. D&G arrive Friday for the first Everest Trek Get Together of 2021. It’s 10 years this year since we met.

This week’s small birdwatch highlight: a gorgeous bullfinch tucking into the dandelion seed heads.

Beautiful Male Bullfinch with a rose pink breast
Beautiful Male Bullfinch with a rose pink breast

In between the rain, thrushes and blackbirds are busy extracting worms from the front lawn.

TV: Bit of a mish mash once we’d finished season one Mystery RoadI’m Thinking of Ending Things as our Friday night film (not what either of us expected), Eurovision on Saturday and my Sunday afternoon telly indulgence comprised The Dig (OK) and Medici season 1 episode 1 (“We’ve got a real version of GoT and we’re going to use it. And some of the GoT actors.”). On Monday we watched the last two instalments in Hip Hop Evolution.

Podcasts: Not much listening this week – mainly Tuesday morning’s walk and while doing my physio exercises – History Extra, In Our Time and SheDunnit.

Photos: Herefordshire week 73 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-05-23.

Herefordshire Week 072: Tuesday 11 – Monday 17 May 2021

Goldfinches on dandelion puffs. Blossom like confetti. A double rainbow.

FitBit and stats. Front gates repainted. Second jab booked.

Double Rainbow, with Birdsong (Video, 20s)
Double Rainbow, with Birdsong (Video, 20s)

I don’t know what “light rainshowers” look like in your part of the world, but they were more like monsoon downpours interspersed with blue skies and sunshine here for most of the working week. Things started to brighten up on Saturday, continued to improve during Sunday and Monday was A Scorcher.

Very glad we decided to delay our drive to Bristol IKEA until Friday, in the hope that the things we want to get are in stock.

Had my final physio phone consultation on Tuesday morning. Need to keep working on those glutes and to take more breaks when I’m working – turns out my gammy leg / dodgy hip was all down to Dead Butt Syndrome (and yes, that’s safe to Google!)

No VWW due to other commitments all round, mine being Go Live. Which was not a success. Still, while waiting to log on at 10.30pm for the start of our US time zone friendly upgrade/server switch schedule, I did get a text telling me I could book my second jab, which I duly did.

After a very late night on Weds/Thurs – we called off go live at 1.30am – I had an early Family Zoom on Thursday after an unexpectedly good day at work.

Surprisingly relaxed Friday after the stress of the failed and frustrating Go Live experience. Getting our first goldfinches out on the drive was an excellent start to the day.

Our first goldfinches
Our first goldfinches

Drove into Hereford with Phil in the morning, me to pick up reservations from the library and Phil to buy new walking shoes at Trekkit, and we topped up the car with petrol and filled up the big petrol can in anticipation on an afternoon’s mowing.

With all the rain, the grass has gone into overdrive but the ground is sodden – so it was a lick and a promise level mow – focusing on the “western lawns” and the orchard. Job done, I headed out to walk Duffryn Direct.

Everywhere is so, so green and lush. It’s gorgeous. The clematis over the log shed is in full bloom – beautiful – and we have buttercups galore on the front lawn alongside daisies and the early purple orchids. Blossom like confetti in the orchard and out in the lanes, green hedges are lined with white flowered verges – may blossom, cow parsley, dandelion puffs, greater stitchwort (oh for a less clunky name!).

Log shed clematis in bloom
Log shed clematis in bloom

Caught up with Carl in the evening. We’re interring Rach’s ashes at the start of June. It’s surprising the things that trigger thoughts of her – recently it’s been mugs of tea.

On Saturday I did Cockyard backwards, ie coming home via Kerrys Gate. Drizzle and damp to start with, the sun was out by the time I got home stopping to say hello to the sheep and lambs installed in Canns Hill field. Down in Grey Valley, chatty birds were balancing atop rape flowers – about the size of a great tit with a black head, white collar and rust red breast, their call is a whistle and gravelly clunk like two stones being tapped together. I thought they were stone chats, but the song doesn’t match.

View towards Vowchurch
View towards Vowchurch

Stunning double rainbow in the early evening.

Sunday I was up early (had a good run of getting ups this week) to walk to Riverdale and back, and after breakfast we headed out again to do Tremorithic on the roads.

Spent most of the afternoon reading – finished Shamen’s Crossing and started one of my library haul, the next Barbara Nadel – A Knife to the Heart – Ikmen’s retired, and Fatma’s died.

Monday was a very productive day. After completing the Bacton Square first thing, I planted out the Albert Schweitzer Rhododendron that D&G bought me on Monday, and then Phil and I got stuck into “dry weather jobs” – P laid bricks to create a solid area for the bins, and I did a bit of Honda mowing tidying up the places the ride on mower doesn’t reach and attempted a few overgrown areas that would have been better handled with the blue strimmer but we couldn’t get that to start.

Then I repainted the front gates, which meant washing all the green off them first. Very satisfying.

Front gates repainted
Front gates repainted

I did manage to lock myself in the garage mind you.

With plenty of walking, it’s been interesting seeing the stats on my new FitBit as I familiarise myself with it ahead of next month’s LW Spring Challenge. First though, the FitBit needed to upgrade to the latest software… it only took 3 days, finally completing on Friday by which time I’d practically given up on it. Technically it’s my ancient tech that’s to blame – neither my phone or iPad have a recent enough OS, so I’ve resorted to the old Huawei tablet of dad’s that I use for LED Facebook updates. Even synching to get the data in takes a good few minutes, during which I need to keep the page alive. Oh well.

I do like seeing the stats though, although my Tuesday-Thursday pattern is very different from my Friday-Monday one!

First week's FitBit stats on WalkingSpree
First week’s FitBit stats on WalkingSpree

TV: Finished season 1 of Call My Agent and season 3 of Better Call Saul and thoroughly enjoyed all three episodes of The Pursuit of Love. Started Mystery Road.

Podcasts: History Extra, In Our Time, The Essay, World Book Club, Books and Authors, You Must Remember This and SheDunnit. Running out of podcasts….

Photos: Herefordshire week 72 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-05-16.

Off to get that jab! Don’t forget your vaccination record card!