El Anillo de Picos: Travel Update

Yes, we’re still planning to go to Northern Spain at the end of August for 10 days walking hut to hut in the Picos de Europa, with Alfonso.

Having booked flights way back when, and sorted out hotels and refugio bookings, we put everything on hold once COVID-19 hit. But we were (are) all keeping our fingers crossed.

So, it was not EasyJet’s finest moment when they emailed yesterday to let us know that they’d cancelled our outbound flight.

After a flurry of emails, we’re now booked on the BA flight on the Saturday – a much earlier departure, and a lot more expensive, but at least we should be able to get there….

… although obviously the trip is entirely dependent on the Travel Corridor between England and Spain remaining open, and the summer’s lockdown easing not generating a second / third / fourth / nth wave of infection in either country.

Ya veremos.

Still trying to work out the safest way to travel to/from London.

Mary’s Microwave Grapefruit Marmalade

I’ve fine tuned this Grapefruit Marmalade recipe and use it periodically to top up supplies of the super zingy stuff. It’s very popular with certain family members.

Here’s my version:

Ingredients

3 medium-sized grapefruit, pink or yellow
1lb white sugar – you will need the same weight as the peeled weight of the grapefruits

Implements

Scales
Peeler
Kitchen scissors
Large microwave-proof bowl – 3 litres or bigger
Bowls / plates to put grapefruit on as you work through the recipe
Saucer / plate
Food processor, or chopping board and knife
Serving spoon / desert spoon – to stir the marmalade while it’s in the microwave and to spoon it into the jars. Check the spoon will go inside the jar, to minimise spillage!
3 jam jars – 300g / 350g ones, clean
Tea towel – to hold the jars while you’re filling them up
Damp kitchen cloth / sponge – to wipe the jars at the end

Method

  1. Put the saucer / plate into the fridge to cool.
  2. Peel the zest from the grapefruits.
  3. Snip the zest into thin strips (using the scissors).
  4. Remove white pith from the grapefruits.
  5. Weigh the three peeled grapefruits. Weigh out the same amount of white sugar.
  6. Chop the grapefruits – I do this in a food processor, 1 grapefruit at a time – removing any seeds as you go.
  7. Put chopped grapefruit, shredded zest and sugar into the microwave-proof bowl.
  8. Microwave on high for 20-40 minutes, uncovered, stirring every few minutes. How long it takes depends on how powerful your microwave is. I stir every 5-10 mins.
  9. While the marmalade is in microwave, sterilise the jars by pouring boiling water over them (lids too). I do this in the sink.
  10. Test whether marmalade has reached setting point – smear some onto the cold plate and let it cool. The setting point depends on whether you like your marmalade runny or rubbery.
  11. When marmalade is ready, spoon it into the jars, filling each one to about 1cm from the top. I use a tea towel to hold the jars as they will get hot.
  12. Wipe spilt marmalade from the outside/lips of the jars, then put the lids on and turn upside down for 5 minutes to seal and sterilise the lids. Then turn upright and let cool. <- That said, I am a bit slap dash, so I usually let the marmalade cool (put some kitchen towel over the tops to keep flies off if they’re around) and put the lids on once cooled.

I made some today, taking photos as I went. Here’s a montage of them.

Montage: Mary's Microwave Grapefruit Marmalade
Montage: Mary’s Microwave Grapefruit Marmalade

Herefordshire Week 027: Tuesday 30 June – Monday 06 July 2020

Ewyas Harold Shop. Asda Shop. Tesco Shop.

Nepal 2019 photobooks created and ordered.

Chainsaw lesson No. 1. Gardening.

And a good walk, in good company, up the Cats Back and along Hatterall Ridge to Hay Bluff.

Panorama, looking north from Hay Bluff
Panorama, looking north from Hay Bluff

Tuesday morning had been designated Big Shop day, but we had enough supplies to keep us going until Friday, so Phil and I walked over to Ewyas Harold to top up at the Shop (the world’s most expensive bananas, bread flour, eggs) and Mailes’ (quiche, milk). On the approach to the till, a doughnut fell into my bag too. There are two varieties on offer – St Mary’s and A. N. Other (Hay? Peterchurch?). Should have bought one of each! Next time.

The big shop was on Friday morning, making use of Asda’s Click & Collect. Frustratingly several “not availables” surfaced during the week, so, spotting Tesco’s was also now open from 7am, I went there en route to do the fruit and veg shopping, and to get the items Asda didn’t have. Not a fan of Tesco’s fruit and veg offering – limited and expensive. No queues to get in at either supermarket, once the initial early birds were allowed in.

Anyway, All Done for another month.

Oh, and Tuesday’s other highlight was getting notification emails for two of my many February flood / March onwards COVID-19 train ticket refunds. And spotting a third had already hit my bank balance without mention. That leaves five to go…


Made it to VWW on Wednesday and Family Zoom with dad and Jean on Thursday.


The rest of Friday was dedicated to creating the Nepal 2019 photobook in Blurb. I was spurred into action by their offer of 30% off plus free shipping, which is about as cheap as they get, and the offer ended Monday.

In the absence of one of Charles’ schematic maps, I had been planning to create a map with Excel’s 3D Map tool but I gave up on that. It seems more designed for displaying sales/quantities-tied-to-place data rather than trekking routes.

So, given I had all the data nicely organised in excel, I created an elevation graph instead. Yes, I LOVE SPREADSHEETS!

Mera Peak - Amphu Lapsta Pass - Island Peak: Elevation graph
Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Island Peak: Elevation graph

Ordered five photobooks with delivery to their respective recipients. Another “job” ticked off the To Do List.


Dad and Jean came over on Saturday morning, and I had my first lesson on the chain saw. Dad cut branches off the hazelnut tree that’s developed more of a lean since the branches on the other side were removed by Western Power, and also a couple of branches from the wild plum that were shading the red hazelnut bush. I had my lesson cutting up the plum branches. Chainsawed chunks are now drying out in the log shed, and the remnants dragged to the quarry for bonfiring, which will have to wait until it’s less windy. Hopefully next weekend as the pile is growing.

A greenfingered Kerrys Gater has put out a table of surplus aubergine, courgette, pepper, tomato and lavender plants, with a donations jar. I walked up on Saturday morning to get 1 x courgette to for me and 1 x pepper for Jean, and added a lavender on impulse. And then I walked back again as far as Hill Farm to collect horse manure 🙂

A gorgeous evening.

Golden Ale on a Golden Evening in the Golden Valley
Golden Ale on a Golden Evening in the Golden Valley

Spent the whole of Sunday gardening – mowed, strimmed, lopped and snipped. Very satisfying.


On Monday, with lockdown in Wales lifted, Steffi and Carmen made an early start from West Wales to cross the border for a day on the English side of the Brecon Beacons.

We headed over to Longtown, in the valley at the foot of Hatterall Ridge and climbed up via The Cats Back, continuing on to Hay Bluff before heading back via the Olchon Valley. Wonderful views and So Many Greens!

On The Cat's Back, looking back towards Longtown
On The Cat’s Back, looking back towards Longtown
Hay Bluff Trig Point
Hay Bluff Trig Point
Olchon Valley and Hatterall Ridge
Olchon Valley and Hatterall Ridge

We ended up walking 17 miles – a bit more than planned. We were all very grateful for Phil’s flapjack (plus a pot and a half of tea) when we got back, followed by butternut squash curry. Just right.


Photos from Herefordshire week 27. Monday’s walk has now materialised….

Herefordshire Week 025: Tuesday 16 – Monday 22 June 2020

Conservatory casualties. Muggy downpours = greenery galore. Father’s Day BBQ. Longer walks.


No photos for one of the week’s main events – on Tuesday morning I found two female blackbirds, dead on the patio. They’d flown head first into the conservatory windows, despite the yellow post it notes and hovering birds of prey transfers. I wondered if the change in the weather – to much more humid conditions, with sporadic heavy downpours, might be partly to blame. Later in the day, Phil spotted a male recovering on the patio. It died in the early evening. All a bit sad.

It doesn’t help that I’m too squeamish to deal with the dead, of any species.

I fled the scene, doing the shorter Cockyard – Duffryn Farm – Wellfield loop.


Work’s got even busier, and the signs of the stress and strain of working from home are starting to show in earnest. Having failed to make VWW and worked late Thursday as family Zoom had moved to Friday, I worked Friday morning to break the back of a couple of larger automation projects, and feel more on top of things as a result.

It helped that Friday morning was wet.

The very rainy few days haven't ended
The very rainy few days haven’t ended

On the plus side, the garden is very green after a very rainy few days, there’s lots of Loosemore Lettuce and the tomatoes (and chillies) are thriving in their ASDA growbag.

Montage: Garden greenery
Montage: Garden greenery

On Saturday, I planted out some of the radish seedlings and the last of the junior lettuce. I had been protecting them in the conservatory during the deluges, but as it turned out, the veg patch radishes were doing much better in comparison. I’d been rather profligate in my radish seed sowing into the recycled seed trays, so I’d filled the rest of the spare space in the veg bed with the occupants of only one of the trays. Hmm. Good job I like radishes.

Lettuce and radish seedlings planted out into the Extension
Lettuce and radish seedlings planted out into the Extension

Elsewhere, apples, wild plums, hazelnuts and walnuts are burgeoning, elderflower berries are emerging and the pond lilies are looking lovely.


We have new neighbours in Thistly Field:

New neighbours: cows in Thistly Field
New neighbours: cows in Thistly Field

The Sheep Field is still vacant though.


On Sunday morning I did a longer walk, extending the usual Bacton Square: Kerrys Gate and Riverdale as usual, then turning off the B4347 and walking up past Bacton’s St Faith’s Church and on to the junction with Tremorithic Road – where there were magic views out over Hatterrall Ridge – before walking back towards the Common, dropping down into Abbey Dore on Cwm Road.

Signposts and post box at the Tremorithic Road / "Bacton Road" T junction
Signposts and post box at the Tremorithic Road / “Bacton Road” T junction

The extension pretty much doubles the route.

In the afternoon, we headed over to dad and Jean’s for another smashing BBQ. A Father’s Day FEAST:

BBQ with dad and Jean
BBQ with dad and Jean

I really want to get over to Longtown, to walk The Cat’s Back, but Monday proved a bit too breezy, and I’m a bit nervous about getting right up onto the border when Wales is still on a 5 mile lockdown, so I satisfied my wanderlust with a new, slightly random, route over to Ewyas Harold, up towards Rowlestone and a meander around Lower Maescoed before dropping back down into Dulas at The Old Trout Inn.

Monday marathon
Monday marathon

After taking the footpath round the back of Abbey Dore Court and across the field to Dore Abbey, I tried a different footpath up onto the Common from the abbey: not entirely successful as a field with cows, calves and a bull meant I deviated from the direct route – but I did discover that the farm on Cwm Hill is a deer farm. Which might explain the escapees we’ve seen roaming around…..

At the EH end of the Common, I managed to find the footpath back down to School Lane, and continued out the other side of the village along Prill Lane – Rabbit Lane – The Hill Road.

Rabbit Lane is a bit of a misnomer – it’s the sunken road we walked down as kids, and whilst it starts off with tarmac it swiftly turns to an overgrown track, then path, then stream bed before you reach a steep cobbled section that brings you out on The Hill Road. I acquired a handy stick for restraining nettles and bramble shoots. Slow going.

And I’ve just spotted that Google maps shows Rabbit Lane as a road…. HA!

At the top of The Hill Road I turned right onto The Wigga, right again at the junction with Lower House Road, and left onto Wern Ddu at Balls Cross. I love the blend of English and Welsh names as we get ever closer to the border. Ddu = Black. Maes = Field. Coed = Wood.

Left onto the Longtown road for a short spell, then right onto what Google has as “Old School Mid Mc”, which I think is likely to be Old School [Road?] Middle Maes-Coed. Anyway, it was the first side of the square to Lower Maescoed, The Common Road providing sides 2 and 3, with Lower Maescoed at their corner and side 3 returning me to the Longtown road, for a downhill run to The Old Trout Inn.

Over Dulas Brook, up Mill Lane, footpaths over the fields to Tremorithic Road, then Cwm Road down into Abbey Dore and the road route home.

6 hours on mainly roads = tired legs! But a great walk. The Cat’s Back, Hay Bluff and Hatterrall Ridge were almost within touching distance from Wern Ddu.

Hatterrall Ridge: The Cat's Back, Hay Bluff
Hatterrall Ridge: The Cat’s Back, Hay Bluff

I’ll be back.


TV: Sharp Objects, season 1 (VG) with a sprinkling of Staged for light relief, plus a touch of The Trip to Greece – I fear the theme has worn thin – plus episode 1 of The Luminaries … “hmm, we’ll see”.

Podcasts: The National Archives Podcast Series (which goes back to 2006, so that’ll keep me going for a while), and Wind of Change – excellent, especially if you remember the time and the tune.


Here are the photos from week 25….. although it’s too sunny to Flickr the 117 photos from yesterday’s walk, so you’ll have to wait for those. It’s time to paint the tree house.

Herefordshire Week 024: Tuesday 09 – Monday 15 June 2020

Birds. ASDA. Mowing. Walks.


Bird bonanza this week.

Janet sent Phil a BTO email with a video feature on Identifying Great Spotted Woodpecker and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The key fact, loitering several minutes in, is that Greater Spotted are blackbird/thrush size, Lesser Spotted are sparrow size. Which means our two are Great Spotted Woodpeckers, one adult and one juvenile. It would explain why one of them seems to be leading each time the two of them visit the bird feeder, and occasionally passes peanuts to the other:

Greater spotted woodpeckers on the pear tree
Greater spotted woodpeckers on the pear tree

The new bird feeder is a hit with the smaller birds, blue tits and coal tits in particular. The great tits are a bit too big to fit inside the wire, so they and the nuthatches make the most of the other peanut feeder – when the squirrels or woodpeckers aren’t around. How To Tell The Difference Between Great Tits, Blue Tits And Coal Tits

Nuthatch on the bird feeder
Nuthatch on the bird feeder
Coal tit on the bird feeder
Coal tit on the bird feeder

The more humid weather has brought house martins, whizzing around over the patio and somehow managing to land safely up under the eaves, hanging onto the brickwork like spider man. I still find it hard to remember how to tell the difference: swifts, swallows and martins.

House Martin
House Martin

A more successful social life this week – VWW, family Zoom (special guests, Jo and Rosa), Skype with Rach, phone call with Tom. And on Sunday we chatted with the folks down at Yew Tree Cottage, who were making a start on their extension. Al fresco coffee is planned.


I went to Asda first thing on Friday to do an interim shop (mainly fruit), and was in the small queue that formed before they opened at 7am. About 10 people in there, which was fine by me. More masks.

Dropped a few things off with dad and Jean on the way home, and stayed for a cup of tea. Asda had tomato grow bags – they are the new toilet roll / tinned tomatoes / yeast / bread flour in terms of scarcity – so I bought two, one for me and one for Jean.

I left Dinedor with a “squirrel proof” bird feeder and tree netting from dad, and from Jean gorgeous sweet peas plus two pots of parsley and one of coriander – grown from seed.

Coal tit - Our first visitor on the NEW bird feeder
Coal tit – Our first visitor on the NEW bird feeder
Conservatory crops: Coriander, Parsley and Radishes
Conservatory crops: Coriander, Parsley and Radishes

Called in a Lock’s Garage on the way home to buy some eggs and they had free mini cucumbers and mange tout. The former got pickled on Saturday and the later are livening up lunches and dinners.

Later on on Friday we netted the cherry tree and I planted out my two tomato plants in the grow bag together with two of the chillies. On Saturday I took a leaf out of Primitive Technology‘s book and on my way from Stone Street to Canns Hill I picked up binder twine and cut hedgerow withies and used them to stake out my tomato plants.

Tomatoes and chillies, relocated and staked
Tomatoes and chillies, relocated and staked

The weather took a turn for the worse this week – lots of rain on Wednesday and really quite cold on Thursday. That said, the weekend’s rain didn’t arrive as often / for as long as forecast, so I postponed “computer time” (I was going to do my Blurb book for Nepal) and went out walking the lanes instead.

Saturday morning I did Thistly field – Camp Crossroads – Duffryn Farm – Cockyard – Stone Street – Kerry Gate, and Phil and I did the Bacton square on Sunday morning (although we got caught in heavy rain at Riverdale).

Monday morning’s attempt to get off the roads and onto some footpaths was frustrated by wet meadows and nettle-crowded stiles and paths. Still, did a good three hours over to Dulas / The Trout (as was) via Canns Hill and Cwm Road, and on to Ewyas Harold via the nature reserve and the footpath into the recreation ground, back over the Common on another new route.

The good news from EH is that The Old Stables is open again, for telephone orders – YAAAY!


Telly: we finished The Tunnel series 1 and started Succession series 2 (still SO GOOD). All the better for one of Phil’s best Friday night pizzas yet:

Friday Night Pizza
Friday Night Pizza

Podcasts: World Book Club (BBC) and On The Record (The National Archives). Gone off The Boring Talks – too knowing / self indulgent / making something out of nothing.


Monday afternoon mowed in the sunshine. Good timing as overnight Mon/Tues we were both woken up by a heavy downpour. The grass will love it, and I am hoping my lettuce and tomatoes have survived!


And on Sunday, I got the past three weeks of photos onto Flickr.

Here are the photos from week 24.