Herefordshire Week 125: Tuesday 17 – Monday 23 May 2022

City Slicking, part 2. Adieu, Bow Lane Wine Vaults. Birthday celebrations at The Angel Hotel postponed.

Forty Acres Front Lawn
Forty Acres Front Lawn

Our KMCA meeting continued on Tuesday, with a KMCA + KM MN Ops team dinner at Dishoom in Shoreditch and an al fresco nightcap back at the Dorsett City Hotel.


Most of Wednesday morning was taken up with the MN KM and ET teams. After a lovely lunch with J in Finsbury Circus the afternoon was spent on meeting follow up and catching up with LO folks.

After a full on three days Actually At Work, I was ready for Wine Wednesday – the first one In Person since December; attendees: Hazel, Catherine, FM, RG and me, so we had a full house. A good thing too, because as we were settling up at BLWV the manager came over to let us know that the business has been bought by a small pub chain from Kent, and it’s closing for a few weeks for a refurb and rebrand. The end of an era. WW started there in 2008.

Mirror, Bow Lane Wine Vaults
Mirror, Bow Lane Wine Vaults

After an excellent Pizza Express experience to compensate, it was south to CJ for the last night of my London visit.

Thursday began with another early wake up call, courtesy of the LHR flight path, so I was in the office by 7am and fading by lunchtime. A good day for a bit of catching up and admin, and a pre-train pint with Tom.

Delayed departure from PAD due to a trespasser on the line, but we pulled into HFD on time having made up 20 mins on the stretch from the new stop at Worcester Parkway.

So nice to be Home. I really enjoyed my week in London, reconnecting with colleagues and seeing friends – exhausting though it was (out of practice + early starts). But I was glad to be back home – and it does feel like “home” now.

Up early on Friday to drive Phil to the station for his trip back to the smoke. I underestimated the rush hour traffic – we’d allowed an hour and we made it to the station with only minutes to spare. Still, I made it to my physio appointment (assessment: the pain in my groin / inner thigh is down to super tight calves) and then on for a cup of tea with dad at the bungalow. Back into town for a Tour of Aldi and a Spin Around Sainsburys then home for a late lunch.

Shattered, so spent the rest of the afternoon in the conservatory reading, finishing off Tessa Hadley’s short stories (Bad Dreams) and starting on A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville (smashing).

DIY Friday TV Dinner was lentil soup plus Doctor Who and TOTP 1993.

I spent Saturday morning pottering in the garden – everything is so lush and green, and in flower.

Jean's Wisteria
Jean’s Wisteria

I had planned to mow and/or plant out the lettuces, but I didn’t have the oomph, so settled for digging up thistles, feeding the rhododendrons and camellias, transplanting the rosemary and filling up the birds’ peanuts and seeds.

Tom arrived mid afternoon, just in time for tea and hot cross buns. Then off to the bungalow for birthday tea and cake with dad and Jean before picking up Phil from the station. Butternut squash curry in the conservatory for dinner, after an aperitif of home made Damson G&T and crisps sat out on the lawn.

Leisurely morning on Sunday, reading in the conservatory, croissants and coffee out on the patio and then a stroll down to the Abbey, back via footpaths and Thistly Field, which provided ample opportunity to check out Stockley Coppice Status. The machinery was still in situ, and most of the one remaining row of fir trees up by the fence sported a sprayed pink stripe, as did the trunks of the felled trees. And on Monday, the pink striped ones were felled by chainsaw, so we now have a new view from the front of Forty Acres.

Front lawn. My stripes.
Stockley Coppice skyline – Original
Stockley Coppice skyline - interim
Stockley Coppice skyline – interim
Stockley Coppice skyline - New. Almost all gone
Stockley Coppice skyline – New. Almost all gone

Lunch al fresco, then waved off Tom and tackled the mowing….

The grass was green and lush – I knew it would be after all the recent sunshine and showers. Even leaving the front lawn as meadow, I filled up the ride on mower’s grass collector at least 8 times. The Honda mower just about managed the hedgerow edges but struggled with the verge and orchard, so I took the strimmer mower out for a spin – that did the job, until the strimmer cables came flying out.

It was meant to be belated Birthday Celebrations this weekend, but Jean has Covid so we’re postponing.

Having been amazed at the growth of London’s skyscrapers, I’d returned home to find equally astounding growth in the greenhouse with the lettuce seedlings (set 2) transformed into leafy baby lettuces, and set 1 practically fully grown. The broad beans are past the third string, and I have a rosy red strawberry, with plenty more on the way. In fact, the only things that hadn’t fared so well were the tomatoes. The three that were looking peaky before I left for London had disappeared completely. I suspect slugs.

What a difference a week makes
What a difference a week makes
What a difference a week makes
What a difference a week makes

So Monday morning brought more gardening – planting out the older lettuces, potting up the younger ones; transplanting the larger tomato seedling into a larger tub (I’m trying out greenhouse growing this year); planting out the sunflowers (some into the herb bed and others into an old tomato grow bag); clearing around the blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes, and installing the mosquito netting (Sue’s tip). After considering a few other options, I planted out Jean’s Dinedor gooseberry in the veg patch, which entailed moving the chard into the Coffin. Last job – unpacking the pop up netting I’d bought at Malvern RHS Spring Show and setting it up over the lettuces.

Planting out the larger lettuces
Planting out the larger lettuces
Mosquito Netting installed over the Blackcurrant bush
Mosquito Netting installed over the Blackcurrant bush
Sunflowers joining the rocket, herbs
Sunflowers joining the rocket, herbs

Late lunch then an afternoon catching up on Admin. So Much To Do.

TV: Doctor WhoTop of the Pops: 1993 Biggest HitsDerry Girls (final series – no spoilers!!!), Better Call Saul (final series – no spoilers for this one either!!!).

Podcasts: Lingthusiasm, History Extra, In Our Time.

Photos: Herefordshire week 125 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-05-22.

Herefordshire Week 124: Tuesday 10 – Monday 16 May 2022

Back to the smoke.

Tuesday morning = weeknotes then a stroll. A new variation on existing routes, which I’ve named “Fair Oak roads and footpaths”: Kerrys Gate – Black Bush – Bacton – roads to Fair Oak – footpaths back to Bacton Stud – Black Bush – Kerrys Gate. My battery ran out just as I came out of “Tremorithic Wood” (stunning bluebells!), so both Strava map and data are a little off.

Strava Map: Fair Oak roads and footpaths
Strava Map: Fair Oak roads and footpaths

Another walk on Tuesday evening, catching up with Val before she heads off to Peru. We’ve penciled in Nepal in November.

Lots of helicopter activity overhead all day and terrible internet connectivity all afternoon, which made work a misery.

So I headed over to Dinedor for the working day on Weds.

Another broken night’s sleep didn’t help – stress shoulders and neck in full effect when I woke up on Thursday. Thankfully my morning was almost meeting-free and wholly free from any internet problems, and everything went smoothly on the HFD-PAD train in the afternoon.

Once in London, I felt like a real out of towner grappling with the tube delays and closures but eventually I made it to work to drop off my work stuff. I’d surfaced at Moorgate via one of the new entrances/exits – the pedestrianised bit of Moorfields by London Wall where crowds of punters were drinking pints in the early evening sunshine. Almost as if the past two years haven’t happened.

Getting to CJ proved a little bit more complicated than expected, with the key bit of the Bank branch Northern Line being closed, but Waterloo & City line and SWT came to the rescue.

Sleeping under the Heathrow flight path means there’s no need for an alarm at Hazel’s, and after coffee on Friday morning I set off to walk to the British Museum for my first visit to the Stonehenge Exhibition. My favourite exhibit was the Maesmor mace-head from North Wales. Mesmerising.

Maesmor mace-head from North Wales
Maesmor mace-head from North Wales

Lunch and a lovely catch up with RLS, then out to Surrey Quays to check out Decathlon’s winter walking / climbing trouser before returning to KX to meet CH. Signal failure at Peterborough delayed her arrival somewhat, but it was no hardship sitting in the plaza soaking up the sunshine, watching the world go by and listening to Lingthusiasm.

Drinks and Deliveroo once we’d made it to CJ.

Leisurely start to Saturday, then train and tube to London Bridge, crossing the Thames and strolling and sightseeing our way to Canary Wharf along the Thames Path, North side. Gorgeous day – hot and sunny.

London Bridge to Canary Wharf
London Bridge to Canary Wharf

Late lunch at one of the new Marketplace food halls in Canary Wharf, a speedy shop at Waitrose then tube/train back to CJ for cheese, wine and Eurovision!

After another leisurely start on Sunday and after breakfast/brunch we took the train/tube up into Bloomsbury to (re)visit the Stonehenge Exhibition. Coffee at The British Library, partly to sit somewhere dry for a bit (it was a rather wet day), then on to KX where we waved off CH. H headed home and I walked down to TRC to catch up with my lovely silver surfers. So glad they’re (almost) all still there.

I’m flexing my working pattern this week as Monday was day 1 of our in person KMCA meeting. A really good day, rounded off by rooftop bar cocktails, dinner at Ottolenghi and a night at the bling-tastic Dorsett Ciry Hotel.

High up on the 24th floor, I ogled at all the shiny new office blocks that have come free of their construction clothes since December’s visit.

Hello again, London. My, haven't you grown!
Hello again, London. My, haven’t you grown!

Meanwhile, back home, Phil’s chasing squirrels. And Stockley Coppice has been harvested.

TV: Ozark (The End), Better Call Saul (real time weekly viewing!), Eurovision, SAS: Who Dares Wins, Countryfile.

Podcasts: Lingthusiasm, History Extra.

Photos: Herefordshire week 124 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-05-15.

Herefordshire Week 123: Tuesday 03 – Monday 09 May 2022

Glorious garden and lush green lanes. A day out in Malvern. Ladakh visa progress. Restored hooks.

Purples and Blues: A montage of Orchids and Dead Nettle
Purples and Blues: A montage of Orchids and Dead Nettle

Up early with girded loins on Tuesday, all set to sort out my Indian Tourist Visa application. COVID-complicated, not the process’s fault, but all the online info is inconsistent / potentially out of date – as is Exodus’ guidance. Not reassuring.

The e-visa option isn’t available to UK citizens at present and the standard Tourist Visa application involves attending an appointment at the VFS centre in London. Handy when you live in Hereford. So I’m biting the bullet and paying an agency to do  it for me.

After spending far too long looking at Exodus’s two recommended visa agencies (in two different places – deliberate or oversight?), I opted for Travcour. Partly because I’ve used them in the past and partly because their website was less pushy/polished than the alternative and their online chat / email contact were both responsive.

Anyway, filled out the forms and posted everything off from Pontrilas Post Office, which entailed taking the MX-5 for a spin. It does need a wash….

Then work. Not long to our two day KM Consulting Meeting. I am looking forward to that, and all the other London plans.

Before starting work on Thursday morning (we’re now waking up  / getting up nice and early), I heard my first cuckoo of the year and watched a hot air balloon floating towards us from Hatterall Ridge.

Blackbird on the font
Blackbird on the font (not a cuckoo or an air balloon)

I spent most of Friday at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival with Jean. We had a fab day out and returned with lots of goodies including a seed bird feeder, bean cane ring thing, seeds, darning mushroom, Worcestershire honey. We saw Princess Anne, although only recognising her on the second occasion.

One highlight was coming upon a small stall where a lady – The Wheat Weaver – was patiently making corn dollies. Her display included what I now know are Hereford Lanterns. We have one hanging on our landing. I hadn’t realised there was a local connection.

Hereford Lanterns
Hereford Lanterns

In the evening, pizza à la Phil – the new dough + pizza stone is a crispy winner! – paired with Ozark. Just right.

(In the background: did a COVID test first thing; all clear.)

Busy day on Sunny Saturday. First up, washing the cars then a bit of Malvern-inspired pottering in the Orchard staking out the broad beans, which are going Jack and the Beanstalk bananas.

Broad beans staked
Broad beans staked

A late lunch, sat outside, then down to Abbey Dore Village Hall for the plant sale. It was bustling, inside and out. I splurged £3 on a variegated hosta, a baby lavender and two pots of geraniums – one large, one small. Relaxing with coffee and cake on an outside bench, Peter R spotted us and did various intros so I’ve more faces to go with names.

Down the lane for tapas al fresco at TJs that evening. Our contribution – apple crumble – meant we were a little late; chopping up two dishes of apples from the apple racks took longer than expected. Doesn’t it always? Still, it means that we have dish no. 2 providing pudding every night this week.

Lateish start on Sunday and a bit of admin triggered by an email and invoice from Travcour plus news of an appointment date. A relief to know that Tuesday’s post reached them – even if it felt weirdly scammy to get an email from the / a Director on a Sunday morning….

A gorgeous day – hot and sunny – so after doing the Cockyard circuit, another late lunch was followed by a lovely afternoon sat on the lawn reading the LRB, listening to podcasts and – yes – snoozing.

The hedgerows and verges are in their beautiful green and white stage – cow parsley, greater stitchwort, may flowers and dandelion puffs.

Green and white: A montage of mayflower, pheasant's eye daffodil, dandelion puff, cow parsley.
Green and white: A montage of mayflower, pheasant’s eye daffodil, dandelion puff, cow parsley.

Dad and Jean called in en route to Compline at the Abbey to see the orchids and clematis in their short-lived glory.

Climbing Clematis
Climbing Clematis

Lots of buttercups glowing yellow on lawn, overpowering the cowslips which are fattening with seed.

Cloudier and cooler Monday. Just right for a trio of chats. In the morning, as I walked to Cockyard, a lovely catch up phone call with Blast from the Chester Past. Tea and cake with A in Cockyard then home for lunch. Admin in the afternoon with a break for stroll up to Kerrys Gate with T.

In the evening we joined a special screening online of a restored cut of I Know Where I’m Going. A different experience from other shared viewings, which tend more towards the Eurovision end of the spectrum. Also, WhatsApp has replaced Twitter as the backchannel. And I am still loathe to use WhatsApp.

In other news, the Utility Room repaint is 95% complete and Phil’s painstakingly restored the hooks to their original (ish) glory. They look fab.

Utility Room redecoration - hooks restored to their original glory
Utility Room redecoration – hooks restored to their original glory

Please note those horizontally-aligned screws!

My daily routine currently includes a morning stroll to the greenhouse to put out the baby plants, repeated in reverse every evening to put them back into bed.

They’re coming along very nicely. The first set of lettuce seeds I planted are looking more like lettuce, and most of the tomato seedlings are looking very healthy. The runt of the February sowing gets to stay inside the greenhouse 🙂

Montage: Greenhouse plants, and our visiting pheasant
Montage: Greenhouse plants, and our visiting pheasant

The second planting comprised more lettuce plus sunflowers, and they’re all going great guns. Last year’s strawberry plants (four, small) produced runners which are now in four small pots. Flowers and fruit already showing in all eight. Along the west side of the greenhouse the sage and gooseberry cuttings and oak tree saplings are various shades of green. Closer to the house the wild garlic is in flower. I think it likes its new home.

And we have a resident pheasant. Noisy chap, struts across the end of the lawn, around the orchard and visits the bird feeders for seed and nut droppings.

TV:  Severance (Apple TV – double meh), Ozark (final season, part 2….), Better Call Saul (real time weekly viewing!), I Know Where I’m Going, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Podcasts: History Extra, Great Lives, Lingthusiasm, Books and Authors, Bookclub.

Photos: Herefordshire week 123 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-05-08.

Herefordshire Week 122: Tuesday 26 April – Monday 02 May 2022

Still catching up. So these are pithy.

Bacton Square on Tuesday morning – down to Abbey Dore with Phil then on to Bacton for wild garlic, Kerrys Gate and home. It’s potato planting time.

Bacton Square: Planting potatoes
Bacton Square: Planting potatoes

No VWW or Family Zoom.

The Utility Room Repainting Project continues.

Friday morning – finished Flickring Pembs pics and writing last week’s weeknotes, then took old log shed roofing to the tip and called in at Dinedor for coffee and plants.

Returning home after a stroll up the lane with Phil in the late afternoon, we spotted a couple of swifts on the electricity lines. We’ve since seen them bombing around, hoovering up insects.

Spent Saturday in the garden.

Strava Map: A Morning’s Gardening
A Morning’s Gardening

I planted out some of Jean’s Dinedor plants (the rhubarb was looking a bit peaky), dug up thistles and snipped wild plum shoots out of the lawns and fixed the waterbutt downpipe, retrieving the two bits of pipe that had previously fallen into the butt. April has been so dry that I’ve used up that whole 100l, and I’ve not even done that much watering.

After lunch, mowing. Note to self – don’t try to push the Honda mower up the Quarry-Solarium slope. It rolled back and bashed me on my lower left leg. Owww. In other news, I’ve got the knack of starting the mower now.

Pizza for tea.

Rain arrived overnight, so I happily spent most of Sunday morning on admin – mainly reading through Waxwing Energy’s report and doing a blogpost and Facebook post for the LED Fundraising Weekend in May.

After lunch we headed to Dinedor / Bungalow for Phil to help dad with moving stuff and I did a food shop. We reconvened at the bungalow for tea and cake.

Bedraggled Robin
Bedraggled Robin

Monday was the Spring Bank Holiday, cloudy and cool (indoors at least), so I opted for a duvet day and sat in the lounge with the log stove on and finished reading Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith. Smashing all round.

TV:  Russian Doll (season 2 – meh), The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Severance (Apple TV – double meh).

Podcasts: History Extra, You Must Remember This.

Photos: Herefordshire week 122 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-05-01. <– comes with a Chuffles warning

Herefordshire Week 121: Tuesday 19 – Monday 25 April 2022

Belated Birthday celebrations. Hereford for fun. Dore Abbey to Hay on Wye. Bluebells and orchids.

Dore Abbey to Hay on Wye: Cusop Hill Panorama
Dore Abbey to Hay on Wye: Cusop Hill Panorama

Drove back from Pembs on Tuesday morning, dropping Hazel off at Carmarthen en route. (That seems like a long time ago now.)

It was straight to work once I got back, so I opened cards and presents in the evening, and admired the repainted porch and utility room – all Phil’s hard work.

We were both a bit shattered after our respective weekends.

Dad and Jean came over on Thursday evening for belated birthday fish & chips (battered mushrooms in my case) and it was warm enough to sit in the conservatory until it got dark. Cake and candles rounded off a lovely evening.

Spent Friday catching up on admin and Flickring Pembrokeshire photos, with a late afternoon break for a speedy walk to Hill Farm and back with Phil, chatting with the ewes and lambs in the field en route. Yes, we do that.

On Saturday, Phil and I went into Hereford for fun. Yes – FUN! The first time since March 2020, or so it feels like. There were a few “jobs” – library (good haul of novels – much needed), bits and bobs to get, train tickets to collect, charity shop drop off to do, but the main event was lunch and coffee at Sensory & Rye. It was busy, which was good to see.

Tremorithic Footpaths on Sunday morning with Phil, then an afternoon in the greenhouse and orchard, planting out lettuce and sunflower seeds, potting up the tomato and lettuce seedlings, and planting out the sweet peas in the Coffin. I sowed a strip of rocket in the herb bed too. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tremorithic footpaths with Phil: Bluebell woods
Tremorithic footpaths with Phil: Bluebell woods

Marathon walk on Monday, recce-ing a Herefordshire Walking Festival / GVWC route with Dave who had pieced together 18 miles of Herefordshire Trail, Three Rivers Ride and Cusop footpaths to get us from Dore Abbey to Hay on Wye: Abbey Dore – Bacton – St Margarets – Turnastone – Peterchurch – Hinton – Snodhill – Twyn Coed – Bonny Lands & Vagar Hill – Mynydd Brith – New House Wood – Cusop Hill – Cusop Dingle – Hay on Wye.

Strava Map: Dore Abbey to Hay on Wye
Strava Map: Dore Abbey to Hay on Wye

Fabulous day and fantastic walk, going through lush green fields full of lambs, bluebell woods and farmed forests, up over hills and sheep moorland on the border with Wales. Amazing views from Bonny Lands / Vagar Hill and Cusop Hill – seeing Hay Bluff from a completely new perspective.

Dore Abbey to Hay on Wye: St Margarets Church
Dore Abbey to Hay on Wye: St Margarets Church

All rounded off with tea and top notch cake from The Cosy Cafe in Hay on Wye – highly recommended for super customer service, as well as super cake!

Home for pizza by Phil – new dough recipe. Thumbs UP.

Spring has definitely arrived here in Herefordshire with bluebells and cowslips galore. The orchids have materialised on the front lawn and there’s blossom on the fruit trees. It’s lovely.

Orchid on the front lawn
Orchid on the front lawn
Cherry Tree Blossom
Cherry Tree Blossom

Plus the cows have arrived in Thistly Field. Mooooooo.


TV:  Peaky Blinders (finished off series 6 – what a finale!), Russian Doll, This Farming Life

Podcasts: The History of English, Lingthusiam, Books and Authors.

Photos: Herefordshire week 121 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-04-24.