Herefordshire Week 164: Tuesday 14 – Monday 20 February 2023


First daffodils.

35 ½ more working days until I retire.

First daffodils
First daffodils

First up, a correction. The films we saw last week – Tár and The Empire of Light – were normal screenings; the Borderlines Film Festival doesn’t start until March 2023.

Tuesday saw a foggy start, and mist lingered until just before lunchtime. It cleared quickly once it started though, leaving us with blue skies and sunshine. A good morning – the hospice collected both the conservatory cane furniture set and Jean’s corner sofa units. What a relief. With the far end of the conservatory clear of furniture, I cleaned the floor of cobwebs and accumulated dead flies in readiness for Thursday’s DFS delivery. Then work.

Frosty again on Wednesday, but new camellias buds are flowering daily.

Thursday, the new sofas arrived at lunchtime! Great excitement. The delivery guys were lovely. We now have a two seater DFS Sofia sofa in the lounge. It’s a perfect fit for the space between the sideboard and the window, and just long enough for me to lie down on it for reading (OK, snoozing…):

One down ….
One down ….

…. and in the conservatory, a big Sofia corner sofa – plenty of space for stretching out, snoozing and socialising:

Phil enjoying the new corner sofa in the conservatory (and for scale....)
Phil enjoying the new corner sofa in the conservatory (and for scale….)

We drove to Stourbridge on Friday for lunch with D&G, plus a stroll around Kinver Edge and kitchen chat. A lovely day.

Groggy start to Saturday after a ropey night’s sleep – pretty sure I can chalk that up to the red wine I had with last night’s cheese and biscuits. A quick drive to EH to post an eBay sale then settled on the lounge sofa and made some progress through The Overstory.

In the afternoon I put together an apple and blackberry crumble for dinner, handily clearing 3 tubs from the freezer in the process, then backfilled the space with three marge tubs of crumble topping.

In the evening, K&N and Kala came for sausages & mash and crumble & custard, plus kitchen / office revamp chats.

Sunday was a beautiful day, and tempted us out to do some of the garden jobs starting with digging the old garden railway concrete and brick chunks out of the compost etc below mower turn. It had seemed like a good idea to put them there to build up the slope but instead they just made it ankle breakingly risky underfoot.

Next up, raking up the twigs by B’s walnut tree and then levering up the old concrete slabs by the small pond on which Nana H’s bench used to stand, plus the paving stones alongside them. Two semi tunnels indicated mole or vole activity, and walnut shells suggested squirrels.

Work in progress by the small pond
Work in progress by the small pond

Last part, which I’d not anticipated, was removing the plastic sheeting that has been the liner of the small pond when it had started off as a (too) big pond. Hopefully the snowdrops will spread this side of the hedge.  After lunch I wheelbarrowed two loads of compost from mower turn and spread it over the newly revealed compacted clay earth. Scattered some grass seed on top of the compost.

A few orchard / greenhouse jobs – decanting the long dead cherry tomato plant, draining the escaped water butt’s water onto my Herefordshire Russet sapling, digging over the veg patch and herb bed. The rhubarb is thriving.

Phil put up the two bird feeders dad and Jean bought us for Christmas and just before – one for fat balls, the other a large squirrel proof feeder. The small birds are guzzling the balls but still figuring out the other one (we’ve realised it’s better suited for seeds…). I wonder how long it will take the woodpeckers to find the fat balls and the older peanut feeder now relocated to the crab apple tree? (Since relocated back to its original spot)

We had squeezed in the Canns Hill – Wellfield – Thistly Hill walk before lunch, which was eaten outside, it was that sunny. Phil had baked two loaves this morning. What a treat.

Still a bit of light and it’s gone 6pm. An owl hoots.

And down by the old railway line, the first of the wild daffodils are out. Wonderful.

First daffodils
First daffodils

The buds on mum’s Camellia are bursting forth their magenta flowers.


Snowdrops are still going strong, aconites too.


A day out in the Brecon Beacons on Monday, meeting up with Sonia, Sara and Grace at Blaen y Glyn Uchaf car park to walk Fan y Big.

Strava Map & Elevation Graph: Fan y Big
Strava Map & Elevation Graph: Fan y Big

The forecast did not lie … we were up in the clouds all day and it was windy and wet, zero views ….. so we did it in an hour less than the guidebook estimated.

Warming up / drying off was a good excuse for a cream tea in Tal y Bont. I’ve had fresher scones / warmer cafes but it did the job!

Tal y Bont cream tea
Tal y Bont cream tea

TV: The Last of Us, Babylon Berlin (season 4, Ein Tag wie Gold!).

Podcasts: History Extra, The Essay, The History of England.

Photos: Herefordshire week 164 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-02-19.

Herefordshire Week 163: Tuesday 07 – Monday 13 February 2023

Linking up the local footpaths. Back to the cinema with the Borderlines Film Festival 2023. Pyrénées planning – flights booked!

Tuesday turned out to be another gorgeous sunny morning after a cold night – the bird bath / font frozen all day. I decided it was time to link up the local footpaths (and log a walk for my Lowland Leader qualification). Turned out to be an almost 6 mile walk along lanes, footpaths and fields.

En route: startled a hare between Upper Jury Farm and Hill Farm and a fox coming back over Thistly Hill; frosty in the shade, bright and sunny out; detours along field edges to avoid mud and baby crops; overgrown and rickety stiles between Upper Jury Farm and Hill Farm – I’ll take the secateurs and gloves next time…

Strava Map and Elevation Graph: Linking Up the Local Footpaths

Route: Thistly Field – Lane to Old Grange Farm – Footpaths to corner by The Birches – Footpaths behind Oxpasture Coppice to Duffryn Farm – Footpaths to Jury Brook Cottage – Lane to Upper Jury Farm driveway – Driveway then footpaths to Hill Farm – Lane to Canns Hill – Footpath to Wellfield – Lane to The Ark – Footpaths back up to Thistly Field and home.

Distance: 5.71 miles
Time (Active): 1h 40m
Elev Gain: 493 ft

Back home to work for the usual Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday, Thursday week. Lots of lovely emails about my departure, and lots of Congrats! too. Forty working days to go….

VWW and Family Zoom.

A couple of hours admin on Friday morning, then into Hereford to see Tár at The Courtyard – our first post COVID time at the cinema and our first film in this year’s Borderlines Film Festival. Our last film together had been Bait, in the Borderlines Film Festival 2020, and I can still remember the Coronavirus Risk Assessment Announcement at the start of the film…. A foretaste of the time to come.

Home for a late pot of tea and Waitrose Genoa Fruit Cake, then upstairs to Flickr some more photos – almost up to date – and finally published last week’s weeknotes.

Dinner watching The White Lotus finished off the day.

Up early on Saturday to drive to Kerne Bridge for a morning out with the walking club. A bit of a grey day but a good route for future reference, up Coppett Hill and back round along the river and through the nature reserve woods to Goodrich and Kerne Bridge. I’d not realised Coppett Hill was the same place I’d been to on my navigation training – although I’m not sure I should admit to that. Medical rehydration outside The Inn on The Wye – a fancy mug of fancy tea (I’d give anything for a large pot of builders tea) – then home for a late lunch.

Headed back out for a quick prune of the oregano and checked up on the rhubarb – doing OK – then back inside to take the new feather duster for a comprehensive tour of the cobwebs before settling down for a few hours on the computer – finished flickring photos, made a start on these weeknotes, translated Alfonso’s outline for September’s Pyrenees Trek into a Pyrenees Prep spreadsheet and had a look at flights. Late August departure pushes the prices up but we had such a great time in the Picos I’m OK with that. And the only time I’ve been to the Pyrenees was interrailling with Tom way back when.

Our pizza plans went awry, so it was spanakopita and salad for dinner, and the last couple of episodes of season two of The White Lotus. We’d been inspired by Tár to christen a couple of Cat’s Dartington crystal wine glasses with a nice bottle of red wine.

A slow start Sunday before a day of chores – dusted and polished (don’t worry – not much, and it’s only an annual event (if that)), gave the landing orchids a good soak, and then the sideboard plants and other upstairs non-ferny plants. Watered the greenhouse lemongrass (but I think the December freeze killed that all off) and strawberries, gave my Herefordshire Russet Apple Tree a good soaking.

Seeing as I had my wellies on I headed out onto the lane and lopped the wild plum shoots and saplings on our verge, hoping to give other plants room to grow. We get a lot of primroses on this bank and I’d love them to spread. Back inside The Grounds I lopped off some of the green bush’s ever vigorous new growth, pulled the dead (frozen) geraniums out of their pots, cleared the leaves from around the other pot plants by the porch and took everything to the quarry and got a small bonfire going. It’s due to rain this week.

Then realised I’d never cleared the pond weed I’d hauled out last weekend, so I carried a Big Hands armful to the bonfire ash slope. A flash of orange hinted that I’d scooped a (by now very dead) goldfish out too – uh oh. Phil went to check later and confirmed my fears, and disposed of the small body… My hero also redistributed the remaining piles of the pond weed and checked the greenhouse for any desiccated bodies of long dead small birds. None found. In some respects – ie encounters with birds and fish, particularly dead or dying ones – I am really not cut out for country living….

I did manage to return to the large pond though and cleared the grass and other old growth from around the edges. Looks much neater now.

4pm, chores done, time for tea and cake with the log stove on…. until Pyrénées planning resurfaced with a decision on flights, resulting in a Ryanair booking and the Where next: Into the Pyrénées blogpost.

Didn’t sleep well Sunday night – I blame The Last of Us – so Monday was a slow start before driving back into Hereford to see Empire of Light at The Courtyard. I loved it.

Lunch at Wagamamas. I’ve not had a Wagas for a long time and this was my first visit to the Hereford branch. The menu is very different from what I remember from CityPoint days. Yummy though.

A bit of shopping, then home. There’d been an accident or something on the A465 approaching Allensmore so I took the back roads. Lovely sunny late afternoon.

Back at base, tea and cake, computing – more work on the Pyrénées Prep spreadsheet and updating the Where Next page.

TV: The White Lotus, The Last of Us (that theme tune is SO Game of Thrones….).

Podcasts: History Extra, The Memory Palace, The History of England.

Photos: Herefordshire week 163 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-02-12.

Where Next: Into the Pyrénées

We enjoyed ourselves so much on last September’s El Anillo Extrem(e) with Alfonso & Manu that even before we’d come home we’d agreed with them that we would do a Pyrénées trekking trip in 2023.

Alfonso emailed an outline itinerary etc earlier this week and I’ve just booked flights – woo hoo!

We are doing two treks, with a travel / rest day in between:

  • Carros de Foc (Chariots of Fire) – 4 day trek in the Aigüestortes National Park in Catalonia. We’re doing a short version of the full route.
  • Ruta de las Golondrinas (The Route of the Swallows) – 5 day trek in Navarra and France. We’re doing the Golondrina Clásica, Variante A. Distance: 62km; Total elevation gain: 3500m.
  • On the travel / rest day the plan is to visit the old and new monasteries at San Juan de la Peña, which comes with a Pyrénées viewpoint.

We’re flying in/out of Lourdes (miracle water cure optional) after Hazel tracked down good flight arrival / departure times for Lourdes and Stansted, even if it is Ryanair…. we’ve paid for a 20kg checked bag each. I’m still waiting to spot the catch….

Once Alfonso’s confirmed which order we’ll do the treks in, I’ll add details.

Very Excited!

13 Feb Update: Steffi’s booked us a Luxury Loft in Lourdes for our first night, so we are all set! Let the spreadsheeting begin!

Herefordshire Week 162: Tuesday 31 January – Monday 06 February 2023

It’s official – I’m retiring.

A haircut. Manchester. Tremorithic. Fabulous sunsets. Olchon Valley / Cat’s Back Circuit.

Quite a week!

Hello Hawfinches!

Cat’s Back Circuit: Panorama - Cat’s Back, Olchon Valley and the southern stretches of Hatterrall Ridge, from the zig / zag turn on the path up to Hatterrall Ridge
Cat’s Back Circuit: Panorama – Cat’s Back, Olchon Valley and the southern stretches of Hatterrall Ridge, from the zig / zag turn on the path up to Hatterrall Ridge

Busy morning in Abergavenny on Tuesday: Dentist, posted eBay items, haircut (first since July 2021 – and that’s not a typo), then the train up to Manchester to spend my working week with the KM Ops team there, and to do all the comms around my departure.

Such a relief for my news to be public at work – and here too. Roll on June.

Train home Thursday evening – Transport for Wales not affected by the strikes.

Spent Friday morning on admin, including catching up with last week’s weeknotes, a chat with Val about Kanchenjunga later this year plus the usual random stuff that seems to crop up week to week.

Who knows where the day goes?

Made butternut squash curry for dinner.

Exciting start to Saturday, spotting large birds hopping around down by the rose garden (that’s a very loose description). They didn’t look quite like jays, but similarly colourful, so I got out the binoculars for a better look and scared them off…. but they returned and I had my camera the ready.

Hmmmm. They weren’t in the Usborne Spotter’s Guide to Birds which so far has helped us to identify everything we’ve seen in the garden …. so I paged through the RSPB Birds A to Z online guide and spotted them – Hawfinches!

My photos aren’t great, but it’s brilliant to have them here.


Then back to the mundane: made soup mainly to use up the brown lentils in the pantry cupboard and the carrots at risk of rotting in the fridge.

Gardened for a bit with Phil (not mundane!), raking up / collecting leaves, digging up and hauling a barrow load of compost to the orchard for relocating the rhubarb into the square planter dad and I made last year, and then relocating the gooseberry bush Jean has gifted us from Dinedor into the long planter. Will have to work out where to move the everlasting sweet peas to.

Scoffed soup – late lunch – then walked to Kilpeck – 1 hour 15mins, road route – to rendezvous with dad and Jean at the village hall for the Kilpeck Winter Fair. Returned with an excellent haul of goodies: chocolate brownies and biscotti, two jars of raspberry jam and a large jar of piccalilli. Strolled around the garden with dad and Jean, admiring the snowdrops, aconites and camellia, then inside for tea and cake – Phil had got the log stove going to welcome us home.

Now that I know what I’m looking for, I spotted a whole flock of hawfinches on Sunday morning, down by the log shed foraging for stuff that falls from the yew tree I guess.

Hawfinches galore!
Hawfinches galore!

Super sunny so we headed out to walk Tremorithic road route, returning for a late lunch. There are lambs at Black Bush Farm.

First lambs
First lambs

A couple of hours of gardening: dug up the nettles I’d spotted yesterday by the old railway track, tipped the last wheelbarrow of bonfire ash onto the slope, raked twigs and branches on the swing slope and wheel barrowed them to the quarry for bonfiring at a later date.

The superb sunset lured me out onto Canns Hill to take some photos of the pink skies over Hatterrall Ridge, Hay Bluff, Skirrid and Sugar Loaf. Glorious and gorgeous.

Fantastic sunset in the West - Hay Bluff from Canns Hill
Fantastic sunset in the West – Hay Bluff from Canns Hill

St Andrews Ladies catch up over zoom early evening, then telly and tea: The White Lotus, The Last of Us YouTube extras and then we joined 10 million others and watched the Happy Valley finale…..

Monday was another gorgeous sunny day so I drove over to Longtown and up to the Black Hill Picnic Spot / Car Park for a smashing walk in the Black Mountains: The Olchon Valley – Cat’s Back Circuit via Hatterrall Ridge and Hay Bluff.

I joined up and adapted a couple of routes: the road / footpaths down into the Olchon Valley then up onto Hatterrall Ridge (from last year’s HWF Olchon Circuit) and north along the Offa’s Dyke Path for a few miles (new). Up to Hay Bluff for Wye Valley Views and back via the Black Hill and the Cat’s Back (a favourite).

Cat’s Back Circuit: Hay Bluff views
Cat’s Back Circuit: Hay Bluff views
Coming down The Cat's Back
Coming down The Cat’s Back

Distance: 9.79 miles; elevation gain: 1,583 ft; active time 3h 18m; walk time 4h 18m.

A magic day.

TV: Narcos (started season 3, not sure I’ve got the guts for all the gore), Shaun the Sheep (needed some light relief after Narcos), The White Lotus, The Last of Us, Happy Valley (series 3 – The End).

Spotted a lot of casting crossover between Narcos (Pedro Pascal) – Lotus (Murray Bartlett) – Last (Pedro Pascal & Murray Bartlett). Plus Con O’Neill, Neil in Happy Valley and Israel in Our Flag Means Death, was originally cast as Bill in The Last of Us.  Pedro, Con and Bella Ramsey (The Last of Us) were all in Game of Thrones. What a small world!

Podcasts: History Extra, In Our Time, The History of England.

Photos: Herefordshire week 162 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-02-05.

Herefordshire Week 161: Tuesday 24 – Monday 30 January 2023

A food and family themed week. The last mince pie. Dawn’s coming earlier evening’s coming later. Nice.

Sunday Lunch at Gwatkins Red Cow
Sunday Lunch at Gwatkins Red Cow

Another foggy and frosty start to the day Tuesday. To the Blue Elephant Cafe with T&L, and walking back to recce Saturday’s GVWC route. Freezing and foggy at the start, down to my T-shirt under blue skies and sunshine by the end.

Dore Abbey from the footpath down from Ewyas Harold Common
Dore Abbey from the footpath down from Ewyas Harold Common

It was sufficiently sunny to lunch in the conservatory. The bird bath / font, always in the shade, remained frozen.

Work in the afternoon, a prompt end at 5pm and over to The Kilpeck Inn for the night for our Wedding Anniversary. A spacious bedroom with a nice big bathroom, Outback Truckers on the telly to aid digestion after a tasty dinner.

Wednesday got off to a good start with a Kilpeck Inn breakfast, then back home for work. Got quite a few larger bits of work out of the way on Weds and Thurs, no VWW and a short Family Zoom.

Admin on Friday, did the shorter Cockyard walk via KG to post cards to use up the last of my old-style stamps, pottered and prepped for Tom’s weekend visit.

In the evening we walked down to KG for rescheduled Christmas-New Year drinks and had a lovely evening. Just a shame we had to leave at 10pm to weave our way home where Tom awaited having been dropped off earlier by dad. Cheese and biscuits, then bed.

Alarm-start on Saturday, to ensure Tom and I got to EH for my 10am GVWC walk. Cloudy and cool, but the week had warmed up and Tuesday’s frozen mud was now muddy mud. A larger turn out than the sign up forms had suggested, but I had a smashing morning. What a relief. Medical rehydration at The Temple until the last of the walkers headed off, leaving Tom and I to enjoy a late lunch – and another half of Butty Bach….

We walked back home over the Common and then relaxed in the lounge with the log fire on. Light supper, 10pm bed.

Bonfired Sunday while Tom had a lie in, then a short walk Canns Hill – Wellfield – Thistly Field before driving over to Gwatkins Red Cow for their much recommended Sunday Lunch. The rave reviews did not lie and we got to experience the bar area – smashing! We’ll be back….

Gwatkins Red Cow - The Bar
Gwatkins Red Cow – The Bar

Dropped Tom off at Abergavenny then home for a lazy late afternoon and evening – and the penultimate episode of Happy Valley……

To A’s for tea and catch up Monday morning, back for a late lunch, cleaned my boots (leather and trek) then gardening jobs – sprinkled the log fire ashes, pruned the deutzia, planted two of the baby oaks in the gap in the hedge between the yew trees, redistributed the accumulated ash from the bonfire.

Packed for Manchester, dinner and telly.

Lots of long tailed tits on the bird feeders this week. And a wagtail ventured to scavenge below the pear tree.

Two goldfinches in mum’s camellia.

Snowdrops, aconites and primulas – all out.


Daffodils in bud in a few sheltered spots along the lanes. Tulips coming through on the willow tree stump and on the verges at our junction. I don’t think they’re the ones Phil and I planted last December, but the previous ones, from Jean, planted this time last year.

On the kitchen project, we decided against signing on the dotted line with Wren. A bit too high pressure and we need more time to work out exactly what we want in terms of layout, types of unit and fridge / freezer / oven etc. We are currently at the “Maybe we’ll just change the doors worktops and flooring” stage. Watch this space!

TV:  Narcos (finished season 2), Happy Valley (series 3), Our Flag Means Death (finished season 1), Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World.

Podcasts: The History of England, Books and AuthorsHistory Extra.

Photos: Herefordshire week 161 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-01-29.

Bit late publishing this week (Friday 03 Feb) – busy morning in Abergavenny on Tuesday 31 Jan, and then straight up to Manchester for my working week. Read all about it next Tuesday!