Herefordshire Week 021: Tuesday 19 – Monday 25 May 2020

No week 21 photos (yet) and only short notes this week as I need to get out into the garden strimming!


Tuesday’s twin highlights were a walk over EH Common with Phil, and a successful shop at Mailes – milk and chorizo and sundried tomato “pork” pie. So hot, I had to buy an ice cream maker from Argos once we got back home 🙂


On Friday, I took a couple of screenshots of The Guardian‘s COVID-19 graphs for reference:

Screenshot from The Guardian, 22 May 2020: New Coronavirus cases per day for the County of Herefordshire
Screenshot from The Guardian, 22 May 2020

 

Screenshot from The Guardian, 22 May 2020: Deaths from Covid-19 by week, 2020 - for the County of Herefordshire
Screenshot from The Guardian, 22 May 2020

Frustratingly, I can’t link to them as their Coronavirus UK map: the latest deaths and confirmed cases in each region page is updated each week, and the URL changes.

In other COVID-19-related news, it should have been the St Andrews Ladies Celebration this weekend, so we had a Virtual Get Together on Saturday afternoon instead.

And I’m still waiting for a whole slew of train ticket refunds – looking at you Avanti, Greater Anglia and Transport for Wales. GWR has left them all standing,


I spent most of the blustery bank holiday weekend working through my photos from last November’s trip, and getting them up onto Flickr and into this album – Nepal, November 2019 – Mera Peak, Amphu Lapsta, Island Peak. Still a week or so to do, but we have summited Mera Peak and crossed the Amphu Lapsta pass…

Sunrise over the Hongu Valley, Mera Peak panorama
Sunrise over the Hongu Valley, Mera Peak panorama

It’s identifying the mountains that takes the time, and even though it happens every time, I still don’t manage to make a note of the names en route. Thank heavens for Günter Seyfferth’s Die Berge des Himalaya (The mountains of Himalaya) website!

… All of which has made me wonder when I’ll be able to return. Kanchenjunga North & South, Val’s version, is top of my list.


Phil ticked off lots of To Dos too: my birthday photo is now framed and on the wall in my office, and we have a sign for Forty Acres, all done bar the varnishing.

Manaslu Team -2018-154 © Doug Beecroft
© Doug Beecroft’s photo from our Manaslu & Tsum trip, Nepal 2018

Monday was the promised scorcher, so after a leisurely morning featuring Flickr, writing to my MP and coffee and carrot cake on the patio, I did a long walk across Thistly Field, down the Army Camp Crossroads, to Duffryn Farm and Cockyard and back via Stone Street and Kerrys Gate. Everywhere is looking green and lush, and the sheep and lambs have been shorn.

I spent the early evening planting out the marigolds, larger lettuces and sunflowers in the herb bed, and put the pumpkins into 3 pots by the compost heap.

Marigolds, lettuces and sunflowers in the herb bed
Marigolds, lettuces and sunflowers in the herb bed

 

Pumpkins in pots
Pumpkins in pots

Down at the big pond, the yellow – and blue – flags are out, as are the “red” lilies (phew – I was worried my weed-clearing had finished them off). And there are loads and loads of slim blue dragonflies whizzing around, and – on close inspection – mating and laying their eggs in the water.

When I went down later in the afternoon to photograph the dragonflies, I spotted two larger ones anchored on separate flag leaves, one either end of the pond, emerging from their nymph skins. Amazing.

Dragonfly metamorphosis
Dragonfly metamorphosis
Dragonflies
Dragonflies

Photos from week 21 to follow – but I need to get back from Nepal first before uploading them, so as not to break the flow…

You’ll need to wait for that link to do anything.

Right: Stim-Time!


PS I keep forgetting to mention the birds hidden and hiding in the hedges and trees….. swallows (long tails) have joined the swifts – and bats come early evening! – flying over head. Blackbirds battling on the grass by the bird feeder, a woodpecker (or two?) coming to breakfast on peanuts around 8am every day. Plus blue tits, coal tits and great tits, thrushes, sparrows and chaffinches. One conservatory casualty, green.

Herefordshire Week 020: Tuesday 12 – Monday 18 May 2020

Three good walks this week. I’m failing miserably to manage my morning walks, but at least when I do go out I am taking longer walks. And it is beautiful.


Tuesday morning, Phil and I strolled down to the Abbey and I decided to continue on over EH Common to see what Ewyas Harold Village Shop’s fresh bread offering looked like. Returned with a large granary loaf, TWO big bags of flour (white bread flour for Friday Night Pizza, and self raising) plus a pork and plum pork pie from Mailes Butchers. I’ll be back! Not least of all because they stock milk in 4pt bottles….

Feeling cheery, I took a new route back over the Common, turning off the road up to the Common just after Down House. VG.

First new footpath from Ewyas Harold
First new footpath from Ewyas Harold

On one of my periodic strolls around the grounds, in between mows, I spotted that we have yellow flags flowering in the small pond. Beautiful.

Yellow flags flowering in the small pond
Yellow flags flowering in the small pond

And I found a label on the box my birthday herbs came in, telling me what they are! And in other herb bed-related news, Phil made a really nice asparagus and broad bean pilau on Thursday night, with mint and thyme from the herb bed.  Two tweaks – we didn’t do the herb butter – it was MORE than buttery enough!! – just stirred them in at the end, and we used frozen beans.


Friday was busy and productive, with a trio of phone calls in the morning as I was planting out some of the dwarf green beans purchased from Sainsbury’s, and covered them in an assortment of plastic bags, as instructed by the packet.

I also transplanted the sunflowers and pumpkins into bigger pots made out of 4pt milk bottles / spare flower pots, and potted up the largest lettuce seedling to see how that goes…

Seedlings snapshot
Seedlings snapshot

… turned out fine, so on Monday I repotted some of the larger lettuce seedlings into a variety of pots.

Did a spot of reading, cleaned and stored the daffodil bulbs dug up when we’d installed the compost bin, and wrote Tom’s birthday card, which resulted in a lovely impromptu late afternoon walk: Canns Hill – Abbey Dore – Riverdale – Kerrys Gate. Started off as a stroll on the footpath from Canns Hill to Cherry Burton to our nearest postbox, and ended up as a magical hour and a half out on the local footpaths and country lanes. Peterchurch’s wonky spire, buzzards and the perennially intriguing Cockyard Tump all featured.

Dore Abbey, Abbey Dore
Dore Abbey, Abbey Dore
Buzzard, Riverdale footpath
Buzzard, Riverdale footpath
Cockyard Tump, from Kerrys Gate
Cockyard Tump, from Kerrys Gate

Frustrated by the fact that I can’t show the footpath sections on Google Maps, I edited the screenshot in Flickr to add them on.

Map of my late afternoon walk: Canns Hill - Abbey Dore - Riverdale - Kerrys Gate
Map of my late afternoon walk: Canns Hill – Abbey Dore – Riverdale – Kerrys Gate

Another irritation is the map pin labels – we are 12 miles from Hereford.


On Saturday, Phil and I did the Bacton square, picking some more wild garlic leaves en route, and on Monday I did another great late afternoon walk – Cockyard in reverse. I’d spent most of the day pottering in the garden, snipping away at new growth bramble and ivy. All very satisfying!

The hedgerow colours have shifted spectrum to whites [1, 2, 3, 4]and pinks [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] – there are even rogue sweet peas flowering down in Abbey Dore, and peonies at Black Bush. The blossom on the horse chestnut trees and apple trees is a white-and-pink combo. The frothy cow parsley that lines the lanes is a favourite.

Cow parsley lines the lanes
Cow parsley lines the lanes

Sunday early evening, I made a start on flickring photos from my 2019 Nepal trek. We are done with Dubai and are in Kathmandu.

Dancing Fountains, The Dubai Mall
Dancing Fountains, The Dubai Mall

Not sure there’ll be any trips this year…. we’d have been in Italy in a fortnight’s time, and I can’t see England’s failure to contain COVID-19 meaning Spain will want to us as tourists later this year. Half hoping there might be a chance of getting to Nepal in the early winter, but that’s doubtful – and I’m not sure I’ll want to spend N hours in the recycled air of an aeroplane before trekking somewhere remote for X weeks.

In related travel news, I got an acknowledgement of my BA refund request, and my train ticket refunds are very, very slowly materialising. I’d have been in Wasdale this weekend for the LED fundraising weekend, and the coming bank holiday weekend was due to be the St Andrews Celebration. Oh well.

There are worse places to be.

Here are the photos from week 20.


Oh yeah.. we had our first bird-meets-window casualty this week. Phil disposed…

And the scampering mice are back in the roof.

The joys of the countryside!

Herefordshire Week 019: Tuesday 05 – Monday 11 May 2020

Shopping. Composting. Strolling. Mowing.

Falling down the Open Street Map rabbit hole…


It seems an age ago now, but last Tuesday, Phil and I walked over the Common to EH to post cards and top up milk supplies to tide us over to a Big Shop on Friday evening. Some of the cards were delivered on Wednesday – and, naturally, I’d only posted them second class…. No photos, but a lovely walk there and back.

Wednesday brought an early afternoon treat – Belated Birthday Box from Betty’s, sent by Sue! Who doesn’t want a couple of Fat Rascals turning up on their doorstep?!!!

Belated Birthday Betty's Box!
Belated Birthday Betty’s Box!

When we had a weekend in York a few years back – seems like another world – we were strolling around the city and saw the queue for the Betty’s there… 10am and it stretched all round the 2 sides of the shop …


A busy Bank Holiday on Friday.

I woke up early, to a magical misty morning. A preliminary trip to Thistly Field for photos of the dew decked dandelions and Grey Valley, then a walk along the lanes: Kerrys Gate – Riverdale – Footpath – Abbey Dore Court – Home. Then back down the hill to scoop up horse manure for the herb bed.

Misty morning, Grey Valley
Misty morning, Grey Valley
Misty morning, Grey Valley
Misty morning, Grey Valley
Dewy meadow, Riverdale
Dewy meadow, Riverdale
Morning! Sheep and birdsong, Riverdale (video, 11s)
Morning! Sheep and birdsong, Riverdale (video, 11s)

I spent the rest of the morning on the mower, and most of the early afternoon too. Splendidly satisfying. Stripes still need work….

Then Mission Shopping: this month’s tactical strike on Hereford Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Asda, then back via dad and Jean’s to drop off their essentials, and Lock’s Garage for eggs and – at last – bread flour!

Having managed to book a click & collect slot for 8pm-9pm… easily, it took most of the week for me to twig it was the VE Day Bank Holiday. That May Monday/VE 75th Anniversary Friday switcheroo caught me out. No complaints from me: Aldi, Sainsbury’s and Asda were as quiet as I’ve ever known them.


Our long awaited compost bin arrived on Wednesday, so we set that up on Saturday morning. Very satisfying!

We ARE The Good Life.

Compost pile meet compost bin
Compost pile meet compost bin

I spent most of the afternoon snoozing out on the lawn 🙂

I’m now putting the seedlings outside during the daytime but still keeping them in the conservatory overnight. This Guardian article was an interesting (and timely) read. Lots of fascinating science there.

Fingers crossed for lettuce and chillies, sunflowers and pumpkins, and marigolds.

Hardening off the seedlings
Hardening off the seedlings

Sunday was cold and very breezy. We turned on the fridge freezer, having moved all the tins / oats / nibbles etc into the kitchen cupboards. It’s been doubling up as our second larder and COVID-19 quarantine zone.

I planned to spend the rest of the day sorting through my photos from last November’s trip to Nepal and getting them up onto Flickr.

I’ve learned the hard way that the first step is always to prepare the data, polishing up my “Actual Itinerary” spreadsheet and getting the place names in English, and Nepali where possible, plus their altitude, to use for in descriptions and for tagging (I do love spreadsheets, remember). I then copy into a temporary tab where I add in some HTML columns, then copy and paste into my Photos & Notes blogpost as a basic draft.

You won’t see any new photos in my Flickr album yet though – my prep resulted in me falling headfirst in to the Open Street Map rabbit hole. The detail they have on their maps is extraordinary:


View Larger Map

So, as well as using the maps to finalise the place names (although I do have to rely more on Wikipedia and Google maps to get Nepali names)…

Nepal 2019 Trek Prep spreadsheet - Actual Itinerary tab (Screenshot)
Nepal 2019 Trek Prep spreadsheet – Actual Itinerary tab (Screenshot)

… I added a new tab into my trip spreadsheet to capture the longitude/latitude of (almost) all of the places we stopped at and many of those we passed through, and I’m going to have a go at creating a map in Excel following the instructions in this 4m video. I’ll use them to map my photos in Flickr too.

Nepal 2019 Trek Prep spreadsheet - Actual Itinerary - Map Data tab (Screenshot)
Nepal 2019 Trek Prep spreadsheet – Actual Itinerary – Map Data tab (Screenshot)

In the background, I had the BBC Radio 3 Sound Walk from Capel y Finn to Hay on Wye playing. Lovely, and  long – over 4 hours.


In the non-photo world:

COVID-19 and Sunday’s announcement on the first steps in lifting lockdown? I’m not convinced. I’m looking ahead week to week, and wondering how an office environment will function if we have to keep 2 m apart. The offices I work in, when I’m there, are on floors 7-24 of an office block. Given that people who work on the 1st floor usually take the lift to get there, rather than the stairs, how on earth the building managers will manage 2m spacing in the lifts while getting hundreds of people up to all 24 floors, I don’t know. Not that I’m planning to go into the office, and I suspect lots of others will feel the same. As for the bigger picture, the global economy, I’m not going there; I can’t influence it. I do wonder what the government will look like over the coming years. And then I shrug.

We “splashed out” on our first subscription telly service – to Now TV – and are watching Westworld. Sci Fi. VERY gory at times. The warnings make me laugh – bad language, sex but hardly ever mention the violence. Just because the violence is directed at extremely lifelike androids doesn’t make it feel any less violent to me, and it’s also extremely ironic given one of the main themes of the show – when do androids achieve consciousness? Or perhaps the US have a higher tolerance of violence? I suspect so.


Hmm, that’s a bit of a double glum tone to end on when all is well. It’s sunny and the breeze is gentle, so Phil and I are going to walk down to the Abbey. Here are the photos from week 19.

Herefordshire Week 018: Tuesday 28 April – Monday 04 May 2020

This week featured foraging, pickles and preserves, a couple of longer walks on the lanes around and about 40A, and a good book.


On Tuesday morning, I did a “milk run” to the marvellous Locks Garage at Allensmore. They give away bags of fresh fruit and veg that’s passed its best before (I assume) date. We were the lucky recipient of a bag of celeriac and artichokes a couple of months back, and on Tuesday it was mini cucumbers and mange tout. I do like a bargain…

Over the weekend I made the free cucumbers into Sweet Cucumber Relish, (4 smallish jars, using 1/3 of the recipe) and Pickled Cucumbers (2 medium jars). I think they’ll go well with a BBQ.

I’m very pleased with the photogenic pickles and preserves produced!

Triptych: Sweet Cucumber Relish plus Spicy Pickled Cucumbers
Triptych: Sweet Cucumber Relish plus Spicy Pickled Cucumbers

Friday afternoon we had a Cock Pheasant visit the front lawn, and on Saturday evening Phil spotted a fox doing a very deliberate tour of the field across the road (which used to house the sheep). The photo doesn’t capture quite how fantastically good looking the fox was.

Cock Pheasant on the front lawn
Cock Pheasant on the front lawn
Fabulous Mr Fox
Fabulous Mr Fox

I did a long walk Saturday afternoon: Footpath to Wellfield – Camp Crossroads – Duffryn Farm – Cockyard – Blackmoor Farm – Kerrys Gate – Riverdale – River Dore Footpath to Abbey Dore Court – Home.

Sunny and smashing. I sighted my first swift of the season, and the hedges and trees were filled with birdsong, with the lanes similarly “full” (relatively) of other people out walking / cycling.

20 seconds of birdsong (video)
20 seconds of birdsong (video)

My iPhone can’t do justice to the many varied greens in our bit of the Golden Valley. Close ups of flowers are better. As is my ability to look up their names – the National Plant Monitoring Scheme Species Identification Guide (PDF) is super helpful as are Google and Wikipedia.


On Sunday afternoon, Phil and I did the Bacton route and picked some of the wild garlic that grows on the roadside about half way round, some of which I used in these Wild Garlic and Cheese Scones – very tasty and not at all char-grilled.

Wild Garlic and Cheese Scones
Wild Garlic and Cheese Scones

I used this recipe – but 1 egg rather than 2: Donal Skehan – Wild garlic and cheddar scones.

And yes, I DO love spreadsheets 🙂


The last of my food-themed photos is from Monday evening’s meal: a green risotto, featuring baby peas and broad beans (from the freezer/supermarket), fresh herbs (from my birthday present pack) and scissor shredded wild garlic.

I am not usually bothered about presentation, but I had some greenery left over, hence the garnish. One to remember!

Green risotto
Green risotto

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks in the company of Swiss traveller, Ella Maillart, and her friend and fellow traveller, ‘Christina‘, as they drive from Geneva to Kabul in Christina’s Ford car. The book focuses on their friendship as much as their travels, and has been made into a film, The Journey to Kafiristan.

I really enjoyed the book, but it did trigger the travel bug somewhat. You can read more in my short review here: The Cruel Way – Ella K. Maillart.

The Cruel Way - Ella K. Maillart
The Cruel Way – Ella K. Maillart

And finally, more photos from my week are tagged with Herefordshire Week 018 on Flickr.


Oooh – forgot TELLY!

  • Baghdad Central – excellent Iraqi Police-and-US-Occupation Drama
  • Westworld – starting at season 1. We splashed out on a subscription to Now TV. Episodes 1 and 2 resulted in nightmares.
  • Homeland – The End!

Herefordshire Week 017: Tuesday 21 – Monday 27 April 2020

A good week. A long weekend of gardening galore in the strange summer weather, with a Zoom to celebrate my my niece’s 21st so that all could see presents opened, cake candles lit, and slices cut.

The garden is in full bloom – everything’s Gone Green, flowers are blooming, shrubs are flowering and trees are covered in blossom. Some – like the bird feeder pear tree – have even gone past that stage. Bees are busy.

Also managed more of my early morning walks.

Telly = Baghdad Central. VG! Finished Toby Clements’s Kingmaker: Divided Souls and started The Cruel Way, Ella Maillart‘s account of her journey from the Tirol to Kabul and Mandu in the company of ‘Christina’. Both also VG.


Friday featured an extended early morning walk, after the farm dog near Riverdale came racing out after me. Not keen on getting bitten, I continued on to complete the Bacton route. Later that morning, dad came over to build the raised bed in the Orchard. Phil had dug out the 140cm square last Monday.

The back story is that Dad and Jean couldn’t find a raised bed to buy us, but spotted a neighbour had wooden boards on their bonfire pile and salvaged the wood with their permission. Dad “made” a raised bed surround with it, and came over to build it for us. P and I kept clear while he was here. I still feel guilty that dad and Jean can’t enjoy Forty Acres in full bloom “due to the current unprecedented circumstances”.

While dad was DIY-ing, and before/after I did a spot of secateuring and lopping, clearing dead branches off the trees in the orchard, removing dead vines from the clematis that climbs into the yew tree above the log store, pulling up the sticky burr weeds that have gone into overdrive, and snipping the small saplings that sprout in the quarry. I also tied up Jean’s everlasting sweet pea, and checked her wisteria for frost damage. Some of the new growth has headed up into the branches of the ex-Christmas tree that’s next to it.

After an al fresco lunch, I opened the last of my birthday cards – lettuce and chive seeds from Helen (I fear my green fingers need quite a lot of work! But I have planted some out into a trio of recycled containers. I am encouraged by seeing seedlings emerge from earlier plantings) and presents – a fabulous handmade driftwood clock from the Abercrombies.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we forked beautiful rich compost from dad’s compost heap into the raised bed, and planted out my birthday herbs: mint, tarragon, sage and two small leafed mystery ones (one of which I now think is thyme). Well watered!

Phil waters the herb bed
Phil waters the herb bed

Phil and I ticked off a few of the bigger gardening jobs on Saturday and Sunday: replaced broken fence posts around the pond, which entailed clearing lots of the vegetation that had grown up alongside the ornamental fence; used the remaining three stakes plus a roll of wire mesh fencing to corral the compost heap in the orchard, and mowed.

Goodbye wildflower meadow.

I left the patch where the orchids are, and took the Honda for a spin on Sunday to tidy up the edges and hard-to-reach grass,

Orchard compost heap corraled
Orchard compost heap corraled
Cowslips, Dandelions & Daisies - white, puffs and yellows
Cowslips, Dandelions & Daisies – white, puffs and yellows
Orchids galore - lost count at 20...
Orchids galore – lost count at 20…

Still getting lots of birds on the bird feeders, and zipping around the garden, flying fearlessly between leafy-clad trees. I’ve tried learning how to recognise the bird song, seeing as we hear A Lot. Even with the help of The Guardian’s “Home Birds” article and RSPB audio files, I’m not sure I’m remembering many new ones.

THAT said, I do now recognise the “soft farting” of the long tailed tit, and on Monday I FINALLY saw one, and managed a quick snap, enlarged here so that we can see the noisy little bird in all its fluffy-headedness.

Long-tailed Tit - Enlarged

And we’ve been listening to a cuckoo calling all week.


Almost forgot – created a ‘Week Notes’ tag in Flickr, so that I can link to each week’s photos, like this: Herefordshire Week 017.