Herefordshire Week 012: Monday 16 – Tuesday 24 March 2020

Another weird week – Sunday 15 March I’d dropped off Janette at the train station after a weekend here; Sunday 22 March was the day after I’d been to see see dad and Jean for probably the last time until we’re through all this.

And, yes, another Tuesday weeknotes. Not sure I’m going to continue them – it feels like a bit of a chore, and I’m not sure who’s reading them, and I’d rather spend my screentime emailing / video chatting with friends and family. Phil suggested picking four photos a week instead – so I’m going to do that from now on, and it’ll be a Tuesday morning publication 🙂

You know that bit at the end of 28 Days Later...?
You know that bit at the end of 28 Days Later…?

Last Monday, walking the Kerrys Gate – Cockyard – Quarrels Green lanes, I saw a lone vapour trail crossing the clear blue sky, and it reminded me of the scenes at the end of 28 Days Later, and of a deserted Central London at the start. And of the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption that kept me in HK rather than being at home to celebrate my 40th. And indeed, it looks like my 50th is going to be a similarly memorable non-event.

But it lifts the spirits to be outside with the clear blue skies overhead. The sun is shining and the birds are singing and busy building nests. We’ve had chaffinches and the red woodpecker establish themselves as nut feeder regulars, and there are greenfinches flashing between the hedgerows.

Mum’s Camellia

Saturday was supposed to be the Annual Birthdays Party, which has been held at Forty Acres since …. I don’t know when. “Ever since we’ve been here” in my memory. It’s when my mum and dad’s crowd gather to celebrate shared March birthdays with plenty of food and drink, and a pre-dinner trip to the pub for the Rugby fans (and beer and crisp fans). Some years we’ve had snow, others we’ve been sitting outside in the sunshine. This year would have been one of the latter.

This year is the first year we’ve not The Party, so I can’t post a photo of that.

Instead, here’s Mum’s Camellia. It was a gift from Ken and Gay, with the siting carefully selected, as always, by Annette and Michael. The beautiful pink flamboyant flowers are always on show.

As are the daffodils.

Forty Acres Daffs on Mothering Sunday
Forty Acres Daffs on Mothering Sunday

Celebrating Dad's Birthday and Jean's Mothers Day
Celebrating Dad’s Birthday and Jean’s Mothers Day

Saturday night I drove down to The Old Stables Fish & Chip shop in Ewyas Harold, ordered 2 large fish and chips and a pineapple fritter, then drove FAST over to dad and Jean’s for a one day late birthday celebration for my dad and a one day early Mother’s Day celebration with Jean.

Lots of people waiting outside the chippy, and weird to see both pubs shut on the other side of the road. Thinking about it I bet some Friday regulars at The Old Stables would normally while away their wait in one of the pubs 🙂

Even at the time I wasn’t 100% sure I should be visiting dad and Jean. Today, I’m glad for the clarity of last night’s lockdown announcement. It’ll help dad understand why they can’t come round – that’s hard. And I got quite upset yesterday at the thought that there is a chance that I may never get to see them again.

No 7 sheep and lamb
No 7 sheep and lamb

Yesterday morning’s walk turned out to be my last before the lockdown. A beautiful seven miles into Ewyas Harold via Abbey Dore – Cwm Hill – Old Trout Inn – Dulas, and back via Ewyas Harold Common.

Google Maps: Abbey Dore - Cwm Hill - Old Trout Inn - Dulas - Ewyas Harold - Ewyas Harold Common - Abbey Dore walk.
Google Maps: Abbey Dore – Cwm Hill – Old Trout Inn – Dulas – Ewyas Harold – Ewyas Harold Common – Abbey Dore walk.

Lots of lambs in the fields on Cwm Hill, and the wild daffodils still filling the churchyard of  St Michael & All Angels Church, Dulas.

Churchyard full of wild daffodils, Church of St Michael & All Angels, Dulas
Churchyard full of wild daffodils, Church of St Michael & All Angels, Dulas

She's a firestarter (Phil's photo)
She’s a firestarter (Phil’s photo)

A satisfying bonfire, getting rid of the fallen willow tree cuttings.

Whilst also baking (cremating) Delia Smith’s Last-Minute Christmas Mincemeat Cake – Happy Birthday Phil!

In other news, because I don’t photograph everything:

  • Work went crazy-busy. I worked Friday. But there’s an amazing team spirit and I am glad that I’ve had a 2 month head start on getting to grips with working from home.
  • Hazel, Catherine and I will be having our first Virtual Wine Wednesday tomorrow, and I’m skyping dad and Jean this evening. My nephew and I will fit in some FaceTime Beers sometime this week too.

But I do put all my photos on Fickr.

Yes, this feels better.


Herefordshire Week 011: Monday 09 – Sunday 15 March 2020

So, yes, I’ve slipped by another day. I didn’t anticipate my Hereford weeknotes being Diary of a Country Lady during a Global Coronavirus Pandemic

Looking back over the past week just shows how quickly things have changed. And how unsettling that has been, and how uncertain things are ahead. With typical Brit Humour, Phil and I can say we’ve been pretty much self isolating since January, but the biggest challenge of moving to Herefordshire was always going to be “settling in, meeting people and making friends” – and  with social distancing now the norm, this isn’t going to be the 6-9 month trial I’d envisaged. So far we’ve had:

  • January: Unpacking and settling in
  • February: Floods
  • March: Coronavirus

Oh well. Better here than in London.

Monday morning started with the gym, then I did the Forty Acres – Cockyard – Kerrys Gate (no apostrophe) walk, i.e. the other way round from normal. Decided the views are better going in the “normal” direction. Also realised that Kerrys Gate isn’t The Gate of Kerry – the signposts don’t have the apostrophe. Down by Jury’s Farm there was a whole field of completely black sheep and lambs. Sadly my iPhone 4 photos are too blurry to include. You can see them on Flickr though. There’s a video too. Cue baas and bleats, and bouncing lambs.

First thing Tuesday I battled with technology to buy train tickets to travel back to London after the LED weekend in May. Something’s changed on all the TOC websites which means they don’t work for me (Chrome / Mac). OK in Safari though – just a pain to have to switch browser. Went out for another walk along the lanes to stomp out the frustration. Bacton this time. I can’t wait for the ground to dry out so that I can get out on footpaths and into the hills. If that’s allowed. I work Tuesday afternoons and the mornings are always a bit of a listless time. In London I had my silver surfer sessions, then an hour or so of admin before a friend came round for lunch. I was planning to talk to the team at the Pontrilas Community Cafe about offering something similar there.

So instead I fed Ken & Gay’s Camellia – it’s looking fabulous. Wrote up February in the Forty Acres Diary. Finished Lancelot (smashing).

Camellia – Looking fabulous

Awake early Wednesday, so did an early morning walk down to Riverdale and back, accompanied by a super sunrise and sheep and lambs out in the fields past Camp Wood. More signs of Spring!


I did the same on Thursday and walked back in heavy sleet. Got soaked.

We had a series of emails at work about getting set up for working from home – so in some ways I’m ahead of that game, albeit unintentionally. I’ve never had a problem concentrating wherever I am provided there’s peace and quiet, and working remotely from Herefordshire has been fine on that front. Plenty of calls in the calendar that provide social interaction. More of that ahead.

FaceTimed with Hazel and Catherine in Pizza Express on Wednesday evening. Might have to make that a regular event, albeit virtual evening but with actual wine and pizza (or alternative).

On Thursday evening we went to see The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain at The Courtyard. It’s set in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, with a slow storyline centred around shepherds and villagers looking after vast flocks of sheep and goats. Reminded me of being in Nimaling on our Ladakh trek.

Herds head home, Nimaling
Herds head home, Nimaling

Friday morning I went to the gym, while Phil joined the Virtual Shepherdess, then pottered around getting things ship shape for our first guest – and quite likely our last for a while. Stopped off at Aldi en route to Hereford Train Station – no loo roll, but they did have a Rectangular Dolly Trolley which will be a perfect birthday present for dad!

Janette arrived on a 4 carriage GWR train in the early afternoon. From London to Ledbury she’d shared her carriage with a hen party, and while I was waiting there were a bunch of 30something chaps who were meeting up to get the train somewhere for a stag weekend. Plus lots of older ladies dressed in purple and red started arriving on different all en route to gathering at the Warners Hotel in Holme Lacy. While waiting I’d collected all the tickets for my upcoming train trips from the ticket machine – 11 sets, most of which I’ll not now be able to use.

Lovely sunny afternoon meant we were able to sit outside on the patio for tea and cake, and plenty of chat, before walking to Ewyas Harold via The Trout (as was) and old Dulas Church. The churchyard was covered with daffodils – beautiful. A drink in The Temple Inn, then ordered “fish and chips” from The Old Stables having phoned Phil first for the pre-arranged pick up.

Saturday was cloudier, but we had a lovely stroll around the lanes and a mooch around Dore Abbey followed by a leisurely lunch in the conservatory before driving cross country to Ross on Wye for the afternoon. A bit too cold and damp to be really enjoyable, but two highlights were the wood engraving shop, aka Crossfield Creations, and whiling away an hour and a half in the warm with an early meal at Leonards at 39. Then the last of our Borderlines Film Festival viewings – Bait at St Mary’s Hall (once we’d found it – we’d expected a traditional church hall – victorian or more modern incarnation, instead we found it in a Georgian Terrace house to the south side of the church). The screening came complete with an interval, and a table offering chocolate bars for 50p at the front of the room. 25p for the small Kit Kat. The Film Festival organisers must be thanking their lucky stars that their fortnight fell between The Floods and The Virus. Back at base, we got the log fire going and sat in the lounge with a supper of cheese, biscuits and wine.

Sunday morning started with brunch, and then a leisurely couple of hours in the lounge with the log stove on again. The rain eased off just before we had to leave, so Janette got a tour of the grounds.

Dropped off Janette at the train station, and called in at Aldi (max 4 of anything posters now up, and shelves surprisingly well stocked – but still no loo roll or bread flour!) and Sainsbury’s (ditto) before heading over to see dad and Jean for a few hours. That’s when we decided to postpone the Annual Birthday Parties Party, and came up with the Indian Takeaway Alternative. Not sure that even that will go ahead now…

As of Friday, P and I were still planning to go back to London at the end of the month for one of my supposedly monthly visits back to the London office, and for Phil to see his folks and to check on the Walton flat. As the Government’s pronouncements veered rapidly over the weekend / Monday from herd immunity to social distancing and isolation, that plan changed.

But some things don’t change – there are still lots of birds visiting the bird feeders and wolfing down the bird seed and peanuts. My bird spotter skills are somewhat lacking and so far I’ve failed to identify anything further than the blackbirds who tidy up the fallen bird seed (r)ejected by the over-excited blue tits, coal tits and great tits in their  over-enthusiastic eating acrobatics. I think we might have chaffinches, bullfinches and greenfinches – I certainly seen the latter perched on hedgerows around and about. Time to get out the Usbourne Spotter’s Guide to Birds.

Herefordshire Week 010: Monday 02 – Sunday 08 March 2020

Highlights: Spring. Borderlines Film Festival Bonanza. Taking the washing machine to the tip. LA trip deferred.

Telly: Snowfall, series 3; Dr Who, series 12; Noughts + Crosses, series 1.

Spring flowers

Monday started with GV gym and a bit of gardening, and glorious weather. At Last. Lots of yellow daffodils in the garden and roadside, sun above. Lunched in the Conservatory, and spent most of the afternoon in there reading (finished Lethal White by Robert Galbraith; started Giles Kristian’s Lancelot) and watching the buzzards play.

The evening featured the first of the week’s films: Parasite. The drive in featured the usual painfully slow progress from Belmont to Asda, but we then zipped along to The Courtyard, loitering just long enough to get to 6pm for the cheaper car parking charges (takes some getting used to, shelling out £3-5 each time we go into Hereford). Plenty of time for our pre-cinema dinner at Wildwood in The Old Market (which we’ve christened “Food Street”). Won’t be going back, and very glad we had a 50% voucher code for our two lacklustre burgers. Had a chat about how our first two months in Herefordshire had gone.

Lethal White - Robert Galbraith
Lethal White – Robert Galbraith

Enjoyed Parasite, but not sure what all the Oscar fuss was about, and it does indeed feel like a belated attempt to compensate for the lack of diversity in the nominations. That Oscar did deliver a full house in the main cinema / theatre though.

Headed out for a walk on Tuesday morning. Lots to ponder on my route. Grey skies overhead as I walked down to Abbey Dore, up Cwm Road and onto what Google Maps tells me is Tremorithic Road, and along towards Bacton before turning left and coming off the ridge, rewarded with smashing views of Skirrid and Hatterall’s Ridge before dropping down to The Old Trout Inn (as was) and Dulas Brook. The road into Ewyas Harold was busy (as always), so I opted to return to Abbey Dore via Ewyas Harold Common – VERY muddy still.

The day’s strolls didn’t end there, as after lunch (and John Lewis delivery – new bedding, a pizza cutter and noodle bowls), Phil persuaded me to try the footpaths past Cann’s Hill down to the post box at The Foxes / Wellfield. Lovely –  even though the road and the footpath run pretty much parallel, the views differ markedly and are much better off the road, even if the final section past Cherry Burton is through a very overgrown copse of thorny trees with low sprouting branches and rampantly spreading saplings. Should have taken my camera.

Tuesday afternoon, as always, saw the start of my work week which then continues over Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday brought the firmwide email saying due to Coronavirus / Covid-19 all non-essential business travel prior to 15 April has to be deferred, which means I won’t be going to LA at the end of the month after all. I’m still planning to go to London for the previous “week”, unless spending 3 hours on trains to London and back again becomes unnecessarily risky over the next couple weeks. Wine Wednesday is a big attraction!

Postponing the trip to the US meant I could revive Steffi’s planned visit too. Smashing….

… Unlike the Doctor Who season finale, watched on Thursday evening (having finished Snowfall over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday evenings). Yawn.

A busy Friday, starting with early morning admin buying train tickets from York to Hereford for part of the return leg after May’s St Andrews weekend. Hope LNER timetables play ball. Likewise Avanti for Seascale to London the Sunday before… getting slightly paranoid about that one.

Gym then back to clear more of the brambles in the aged shrub/tree that’s home to the everlasting sweet pea. Lovely and sunny outside after an early morning frost. Hedges and trees starting to go green. Snowdrops are fading, primroses and cowslips emerging. Still squelchy underfoot though, so I reckon we’ll be doing some road walks when Janette’s here next weekend. Our first Guest.

Frosty Morning Daffodils
Frosty Morning Daffodils


In the afternoon, dad came over and he and Phil manhandled the old washing machine, and the broken plastic table, into the back of dad’s car to take to the tip, which involved the very satisfying smashing of one of the concrete stabilisers to lighten the load. At the tip, the man in charge of “our skip” wheeled out a lift trolley which made transferring the machine machine from the boot of dad’s car and into the skip much easier.

Back at base, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the lounge with the log fire on and Lancelot until Friday pizza which provided the perfect opportunity to christen the new pizza cutter.  The Big Sick provided the evening’s TV entertainment.

Friday Night Pizza ..... and our new pizza cutter!
Friday Night Pizza ….. and our new pizza cutter!

Saturday started with more reading, then the drive to Grosmont – under cold grey skies – for a mooch around Grosmont’s Spring Market held in the nave of St Nicholas church. Smashing – we came away with two pies but resisted coffee and cake….

A speedy drive into town for a very tasty (and consequently quickly demolish) quiche and salad lunch at The Courtyard meant we had time to kill before our second film of the week, so we popped into Waitrose and saw for ourselves shelves stripped bare of Coronavirus-related purchases, primarily loo roll, dettol wipes, paracetamol and own brand bread flour…. Sainsbury’s shelves provided similarly sparse when we did our weekly shop on our way home after the film with the added irritation of finding no lentils for love nor money. On the plus side, we remembered where to find the lever to open petrol cap, and filled up. Based on the two months so far, we’re using  a tank of petrol a month.

The film? The Lighthouse. Looks and sounds lovely, but I found the theme totally tedious: two men getting drunk, waggling willies / fighting. If I could have walked out (and had something else to occupy my time), I would have.

Back home we settled in the lounge and spent a snug couple of hours in front of the log stove with the wind howling outside, before adjourning next door for a supper of cheese and biscuits, with a glass of wine for me, and Nought & Crosses.

Rounded off the week with a leisurely Sunday, which was a day of sunshine, showers and rainbows. Satisfyingly managed to submit LED Trustee data to Just Giving (their Charities admin module is generally underwhelming, and this exercise proved no exception), then strolled down to Abbey Dore with Phil and got rained on on the return leg.  Checked mouse traps in roof (no mice, no peanut butter) and then read (snoozed) in the lounge soaking up the sun on one side and enjoying another log fire on the other. More Lancelot…. but mainly snoozing. I can see why cats do it.

To Dinedor for a late lunch with dad and Jean and Nic and Trish comprising lovely roast veg, a smashing cheese board and a little bit of both puddings – rhubarb crumble and tarte au citron – all accompanied by a glass or two of wine courtesy of Warwick and Nic. Stuffed to gills, Phil did the drive into Hereford for our third and final film of the week: Portrait Of A Lady On Fire. A more colourful, almost all female counterbalance to The Lighthouse, and far more enjoyable for me.

Big moon and clear skies for the drive back to 40A.

And that’s another week gone.

Borderlines Film Festival Cinema Tickets
Borderlines Film Festival Cinema Tickets

Herefordshire Week 009: Monday 24 February – Sunday 01 March 2020

I’m going to try to keep my weeknotes short this week as it’s a beautiful day and I’d rather be outside.

Highlights: Little Nipper Mouse kill; GV Fitness Centre; Borderlines Film Festival; Sunshine.

Telly: Snowfall, series 3

I didn’t want to give away the first of this week’s highlights last week, but before I’d even started typing weeknotes, we’d had our first Mouse Kill with the Little Nipper trap in the kitchen. Phil “dealt” with the corpse….

Third time lucky (or unlucky, if you were the mouse). Since then, no poo! I set 2 traps in the roof yesterday. They’re still scampering around up there.

Weeknotes done, we motored over to Pontrilas and joined the gym aka GV Fitness Centre and fixed up a joint induction for Tuesday.

We’d spotted the Golden Valley Community Gym was being set up in one of Pontrilas’ light industrial units when we were here in the summer, and it’s since opened. I’d been wondering whether or not to join – I’ve never been a gym person, and I don’t like not knowing how to do things (like use gym equipment, and what sort of things to do) –  but with all the rain and icy roads I’ve not been doing my early morning walks, and even getting out during the day has been pretty much impossible the past couple of weeks. So, we joined.

So far, so good. It’s genuinely friendly and relaxed, and largely frequented by “mature” people (which I suspect is a category we might fall into based on DoB), at least it is in the off peak session, which is all day up until 5pm/6pm (I forget which). We’ve joined as “gym” users, rather than “class” users, but the classes are available on PAYG. So, perhaps I shall “pilates”.

Invigorated, and keen to make the most of a dry afternoon, I did the Kerry’s Gate – Bacton – Abbey Dore square, pausing to chat to two chaps putting a flow rate float into the River Dore at Bacton (usually they’d measure by hand, but the Dore is still flowing fast and furious), and to take a photo of an oak tree that was toppled, presumably by Storm Dennis, and some of the spring flowers that are starting to emerge. From a much sunnier March Monday, that walk seems longer than a week ago.

Sunny fields and spring flowers
Sunny fields and spring flowers

Tuesday was admin, then gym induction with Malcolm, and a short sampling of the cross trainer for me, then back for lunch and a busy afternoon “at work”. My New York office visit is going ahead, so I’ll be there for few days in April in between my birthday weekend and the first Pembrokeshire Get Together of the year. Let’s hope there are no excitably volcanoes after Easter.

Wednesday was a nightmare of a wifi day – I ended up driving to dad and Jean’s to work there for the afternoon. In lieu of Wine Wednesday, and because he was heading into town to drop off Jean at a dinner, Dad took me to his favourite Indian restaurant The Taste of Raj. Very tasty and it was lovely to spend a bit of time with dad too. Thursday 4G returned, healthier than ever. Who knows.

Fridays have become the day we drive into Hereford, to tick off things from the To Do list and for a weekly supermarket shop.  After a gym visit first thing, we headed into Hereford in the pouring rain. Horrid. A damp afternoon, but we got a lot done: new key blades at Newtown Motors, dropped off books at the Hospice Shop on Holmer Road, bought mouse-proof plastic bin for the Aldi Bird Feed in B&Q plus birthday wellies for dad, parked at Merton Meadows and went to Sensory & Rye for lunch. Should have gone for the Mushroom & Goatscheese Brioche or one of the vegan “bread” options rather than the No Huevos Rancheros. It was tasty, but too light to sustain me for an afternoon. Could have done with a Huevos version!

Picked up Phil’s prescription (surprisingly straight forwards, and The System worked), bought his birthday present at Trekkit, upgraded my library membership to full by providing proof of address, AND scored two chunky novels off my To Read List: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith and Lancelot by Giles Kristian.

Jobs done, we visited the Herefordshire Life Through A Lens photo exhibitions in Hereford Library & Museum and in Hereford Cathedral, scouting out the new sushi restaurant that’s opening up on the corner of Bridge Street and Gwynne Street – YAY!  And turns out there’s another sushi /Korean place on Widemarsh Street – double YAY! Back to the car, then tea and toasted tea cake in Waitrose before heading over to The Courtyard for our first visit, and the first of the films we’ve booked in the Borderlines Film Festival. The Courtyard is also one of the venues for Herefordshire Life Through A Lens, so we mooched around that set of black & white photos before heading down to The Studio to see the Cordillera of Dreams – a documentary about the Pinochet Regime in Santiago, rather than the Chilean Andes.  I also spotted they’ve a huge costume store / hire service… that’ll be handy for June’s wedding!

The rain had stopped by the time we came out and drove back via Tesco’s and Lock’s Garage in Allensmore (local eggs). One day we’ll have one of the giant Mr Whippy ice creams we see people emerging with pretty much every time we stop there.

The weekend weather forecast promised more rain, but instead we had sunshine, after occasional snow flurries earlier on Saturday. Too windy on Leap Year Saturday to go out (but we did lunch in the conservatory), but the perfect excuse to get stuck into Lethal White. No complaints there. Polished off the Epilogue this morning [Monday]. Smashing. I set aside the non-fiction I’d been working my way through – The Secret Life of Trees. Reads a bit like a list of trees organised around taxonomic and evolutionary context. I craved some social or history detail.

Slight Snow on Hatterall's Ridge
Slight Snow on Hatterall’s Ridge

A lovely sunny Sunday was me finish off week 9 with more Lethal White and a walk down to the Abbey with Phil, and on to complete the Bacton – Kerry’s Gate square in gorgeous sunshine. Picked daffodils from the garden when I got back – Happy St David’s Day:

Sunny fields and spring flowers - Do love a Daffodil
Sunny fields and spring flowers – Do love a Daffodil

Herefordshire Week 008: Monday 17 – Sunday 23 February 2020

Drinks with “neighbours”, Storm Dennis flooding and mouse wars continued.

By Monday the weekend’s rainfall courtesy of Storm Dennis, on top of Storm Ciara’s the weekend before (and all the rain over the winter so far), was draining into the larger river systems, causing further flooding across South Wales and the West Midlands.

As you’ll have read last week, it was incredible watching things unfold on Monday morning. At 9am the River Wye at Hereford Old Bridge was at 6.09m, at 9.45am it was 6.10m. at 10.15am it reached its peak of 6.11m – the excellent Flood Information Service page for River Wye at Hereford Bridge was updating every 15 mins. That’s the highest the river has been in Hereford since records began.

Storm Dennis: River Level for the Wye at Hereford Bridge at 10.45am on Monday 17 February 2020: 6.11m
Storm Dennis: River Level for the Wye at Hereford Bridge at 10.45am on Monday 17 February 2020: 6.11m

We had emergency evacuations taking place in Hereford, a Severe Flood Warning was issued and by the end of the day the flooding was declared a Major Incident in Herefordshire.

Storm Dennis: Flood warnings for South West Herefordshire at 09.10am on Monday 17 February 2020
Storm Dennis: Flood warnings for South West Herefordshire at 09.10am on Monday 17 February 2020

Another statistic, from the wonderful Dave Throup – the Environment Agency manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire – who posted this on Twitter on Tuesday:

I can’t even imagine 700 tonnes of water / second.

Perversely it was blue skies here on Monday. Marshall & Co from Finney’s replaced the gutters along the side of the house that faces the road in the morning, and in the afternoon I did some mistletoe and spiky sapling removal in the orchard, and hauled hanks of weed out of the pond. Daffodils out, and some crocuses emerging under the pear tree.

All the rainfall did not prevent Phil and I hosting our first non-family social engagement at Forty Acres, and on Monday evening we had the the Kerry’s Gate ladies round for a glass of wine. Starting to meet and get to know people is helping me feel like we’ve moved to Herefordshire rather than merely being on an extended holiday.

This week was due to be one of my “work weeks”, getting the train there on Tuesday morning (Hereford – Paddington via Newport), and back again on Thursday evening. I’d been monitoring the Transport for Wales and GWR websites on Monday, and it looked like there would be a rail replacement service from Abergavenny to Newport. That line is often closed after bad weather. However, when I got up at 2.30am to check for any updates the GWR site showed all the morning’s London trains as cancelled and the Transport for Wales page had changed to tell travellers to take the Stagecoach South Wales bus to somewhere and then change onto a Newport Buses bus (1h48mins), and it wasn’t clear whether there was also a rail replacement bus as they’d provided on Monday.

So I stayed put.

(I feel like we are working our way through all the Country Life tests just to make sure we do really like it!!!)

Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday were busy with work. Lots of video conference calls, which I feel always tests the 4G wifi. Particularly when there’s a downpour. I’m still working later into the evening than I should.

Thursday evening, Phil and I celebrated the start of our weekend by driving into Ewyas Harold to get “fish and chips” from The Old Stables Chip Shop. Highly recommended. Large chips = giant portion, made with Wormbridge potatoes, and my battered mushrooms were medium-large mushrooms with an almost tempura-light batter. YUMMY.

First Forty Acres "Fish & Chips" from Ewyas Harold
First Forty Acres “Fish & Chips” from Ewyas Harold

Driving via Abbey Dore revealed even more pot holes, and some water still coming across the roads as the waterlogged higher ground and fields drain.

Friday, I drove into Hereford to do some food shopping including an impulse purchase of a 12.8kg bag of bird seed, and nipped into the train station to ask about Storm Dennis-related refunds and changing tickets. Then coffee at Dinedor, discovering that the roads via Hampton Bishop and Rotherwas were still closed – at Mordiford Bridge and the notoriously flood-prone stretch of road by the old railway bridge respectively. Put out a feeder full of bird seed in the afternoon, and once the blue tits, coal tits, great tits and robins discovered it, they were frequently fluttering visitors. As was, I spotted on Sunday, a mouse, foraging for fallen seeds beneath!

Birds at the bird feeders
Birds at the bird feeders

Yes, mouse wars….. after our first kill in the electronic mouse trap, we had less success, eventually realising that it wasn’t working when the “kill!” light started coming on when we had the trap out on a work surface. So, plan B: traditional trap, baited with peanut butter, laid in the kitchen where the mouse poo was located. But only on the condition that Phil dealt with any dead mice. So far, the mouse (mice?) is winning, managing to extract two lots of peanut butter without coming to any harm.

Saturday brought a lot of wind. Too windy for a walk even on the roads. So it was a day in the lounge with the LRB and the log stove on, plus a spot of travel planning – with Hazel in the morning sorting trains to Seascale for May’s LED fundraising weekend and looking ahead at options for getting up to Leuchars for our St Andrews Ladies Weekend there later in May, and sussing out trains to June’s wedding in the Valle d’Aosta with Phil in the afternoon, and doing a whole slew of Storm Dennis cancelled-travel-related online refund requests.

We drove over to the Golden Valley Community Cafe (aka the Health and Wellbeing Hub) in Pontrilas for lunch, and looked around the GV fitness Centre that opened there at the start of the year. That evening, I cooked up a “reduced winter veg pack” spin on Meera Sodha’s potato, chard and coconut curry for dinner to accompany the last two episodes of the second series of The Split. Gripping. Highly recommended. Weird to see sunny London again.

Sunday morning brought more rain splattering onto the windows driven by gusty winds, which we made the most of with the log stove and reading. Happily, the weather did improve as the morning wore on, and I managed to get outside to pick up broken twigs and small branches, and to prune the lower branches of one of the trees down towards Mower Turn, and do a bit more mistletoe removal. The first of the camellia buds are out, with a couple in bloom.

Camellia in bloom
Camellia in bloom

Dad and Jean popped in to deliver Jean’s old road bike (for me), carrot cakes (for us) and to help put up hooks and hosepipe holders. We don’t have a drill….

In the afternoon, Phil and I booked Aosta travel. The desire to get the train, and in particular the super scenic Bernina Express, was thwarted by the cost of tickets for the London to Zurich and Turin to London trains. So we are flying. We’ve also booked a night at the Premier Inn Gatwick for the 6am flight out, and two nights at the Hotel Torino Porta Susa in Turin. We’ll firm up Aosta accommodation once Phil’s talked to Michael and we can figure out what to do once we are there nearer the time. Not sure if we need to hire a car or not.

Admin done, I headed out to do the Cockyard walk, finding there was even more water damage to the road down by Blackmoor Farm. Tarmac peeling off in places.

Back at base, just enough daylight to attack the brambles in the bushes where dad and Jean have planted an everlasting sweet pea. Then tea and carrot cakes. Veggie bean chilli for dinner, watching the last of Good Omens and the first part of the Doctor Who Finale.

Looking back to Monday, I was hopeful that the respite from the rain would help start to dry things out, but the rest of the week saw more rain. Monsoon-like at times on Wednesday. Sleet on Thursday. Jan and I decided to abandon plans to do a recce walk for next Saturday’s Ramblers route around Peterchurch. It’s still squelchy underfoot here, and it’s raining heavily again this morning, with more rain to come …


But let’s end on a more positive note – the daffodils are glorious.

Train set daffodils in bloom
Train set daffodils in bloom