Herefordshire Week 031: Tuesday 28 July – Monday 03 August 2020

A return to the Sunshine Coast, which lived up to its name.

A week’s holiday – my first of the COVID-19 Year – in sunny Walton on the Naze.

Hipkins Beach
Hipkins Beach

(And yes, I know this one is a week late.)

After Monday’s mega drive from the Herefordshire Hinterlands to the Essex Coast, we took things easy on Tuesday. The LED Trustees Meeting in the early evening (mainly to decide what to do about the Fundraising Weekend in Sept) was preceded by an impromptu glass of wine with Margaret and Richard on their roof terrace. The start of what would prove to be a sociable week.

Wednesday took us to Witham and Wivenhoe – seeing Phil’s folks for take away afternoon tea from a local tea room in their front garden in the former, followed by a lovely evening on the waterfront with my brother in the latter, and featuring my first pub pint since February courtesy of The Black Buoy‘s takeaway service and a takeaway curry from a local Indian restaurant.


A scorcher on Thursday, so we set off for the beach hut and Hipkins Beach. I spent most of the day on a sun lounger out on the Prom, reading and starting to relax more fully. The only fly in the ointment was the discovery that Hipkins cafe isn’t opening this year. I don’t blame them – but it does mean no mega ice creams. On the plus side, it meant our bit of the beach was noticeably quieter.

No 20, Hipkins Beach
No 20, Hipkins Beach

Friday was another scorcher, so back to the beach hut for the day.

August arrived on Saturday, as did Catherine! We all headed up to the beach hut and Catherine and I settled into sun loungers on the Prom for a sunbathe and catch up. Lunch in the hut, a walk up around the Naze and along the beach / estuary opposite Felixstowe, back towards town for ice creams all round from the Colonnade Kiosk. YUM.

Sunday – you guessed it, back at Hipkins and the Hut.  Not so busy today. I celebrated with two sea swims on the morning. High tide was at midday, so you are swimming over sand rather than the slippery clay that’s underfoot at low tide. I would have swum (well, “dipped and floated” is more accurate) earlier in the week except I thought I’d taken my swimming costume back to London… But when I dug deeper into the bag of towels we’d brought back from the hut last autumn, there it was.

The Prom, Hipkins Beach
The Prom, Hipkins Beach

Tom, Jo and Rosa came over in the afternoon. Really nice to see them all in person. Tea at the beach hut first then a stroll up to the Naze as far as the John Weston Nature Reserve. Lots of large caterpillars, green with black stripes and a horn, munching on the thistles, which subsequent Googling revealed were those of the Privet Hawk Moth.

Privet Hawk-moth, The Naze
Privet Hawk-moth, The Naze

Back at the beach hut, a hawk hovered overhead.

Our Walton week was accompanied by the first season of Elena Ferrante‘s My Brilliant Friend. The hype had rather put me off reading the books and if NOW TV hadn’t had the TV adaptation I wouldn’t have sought it out.

But it is as amazing as everyone says.

We drove back on Monday, assisted by Apple Maps, taking the more leisurely cross country route avoiding all the motorways and major A Roads (looking at you M25 and A12). Although it was longer in hours (6) and miles (270-ish), it was much easier driving and featured several Shires:

  • Essex
  • Suffolk
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Hertfordshire
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Northamptonshire
  • Oxfordshire
  • Gloucestershire
  • Herefordshire

We stopped half way for a lunch break at Ampthill Great Park, a good find (easy parking, cafe and loos), and again in Ross on Wye for a speedy shop, dropping off supplies for the Dinedor Quarantiners before finally making it back to base.

A lovely sunny evening. Sat out on the patio with tea and one of the Walton Bakery cakes…. The bird feeders* refilled and the garden rewalked.

Dad and Jean had visited on Friday, thankfully. Dad mowed and Jean watered and resuscitated the chillis I’d left in the conservatory. A good soaking revived the tomatoes and plumped up the pumpkins.

* The woodpeckers had destroyed one side of the seed feeder trying to get at the bird seed that loiters below the feed hole. We effected a gaffer tape repair and the feeder is back in action, albeit as a one-sided affair.

All in all, a lovely week in WON. Could quite happily have spent another week there.

All the socialising left me feeling a bit out of practice 🙂 – but lovely to see so many people In Person. Zoom’s great, but it’s not the same as a one-to-one, face-to-face (socially distanced faces, of course) chat.

Being “On Holiday” seems to make it harder to remember that we’re still meant to be keeping 2m apart. There are plenty of signs up, but families still walk three or four abreast on the pavements.

PAVEMENTS! Not seen so many of those since February! —

At least Walton on the Naze isn’t getting the crowds that have been invading Bournemouth and Margate.

Photos from Herefordshire week 31. A bit of a misnomer really as they’re all taken in Essex….

Herefordshire Week 030: Tuesday 21 – Monday 27 July 2020

… will be with you next week.    Ta daaa!

Sofa Song.

Pembrokeshire, and El Anillo postponed.

Hello Walton-on-the-Naze!

Tuesday morning I walked the Camp Crossroads – Cockyard – Kerrys Gate route and then settled down for my last week at work before my first holiday of 2020.

Golds and greens
Golds and greens

The working week ended in a rush making Thursday evening’s fish and chip supper with dad and Jean rather more manic than I’d wanted. Still, The Old Stables turned up trumps again, and we polished off three cod, two large chips and one battered mushrooms in a birthday and pre quarantine celebration. Plus one bottle of wine, which ousted the traditional pot of tea for three.

Friday to Sunday were spent with Steffi in Pembrokeshire.

St David’s Head: Caerfai to Whitesands
St David’s Head: Caerfai to Whitesands

The A40 from Hay provided a winning driving route, and I was there in about 2 1/2 hours. Reinvigorated by coffee and a slice of sourdough toast, Steffi drove us over to Bosherton Lakes where we strolled around the lily ponds and along to Barafundle, Stackpole and back before returning home for a takeaway Mexican treat.

A leisurely morning in the caravan on Saturday and a leg stretch south from Newgale  before setting off north to Solva in the afternoon. There and back was 14 miles mostly under grey skies with rain arriving towards the end.

Bramble gin, bread, cheese, toms and apples for dinner.

Sunday was sunnier, and we walked around St David’s Head, starting at Caerfai and finishing off with  ice cream at Whitesands Beach aka Sussex-on-Sea.

A lovely long weekend.

Less lovely was the UK Government’s surprise announcement on Saturday night that it was reintroducing, immediately, 14 day quarantine for anyone returning from Spain.

So Picos is now postponed.

Picos postponed: GOV.UK email
Picos postponed: GOV.UK email

Having spent my weekend on the coast in the far west of the British mainland, on Monday Phil and I drove all the way east to Essex for a week in Walton on the Naze.

It was a long drive and the M25 and A12 were particularly tough – heavy traffic, with lots of lorries heading, presumably, to Felixstowe. The motorway pace itself isn’t a worry, but there are some drivers out there making manoeuvres that left no room for mistakes. No room for anything!

Anyway, we got there. And Phil made his first foray to the supermarket for a good few months, returning to stock the fridge full or treats for our week’s holiday in WON.

TV: I May Destroy You – do believe the rave reviews. I don’t think I’ve seen twenty-something life in London shown so truthfully on TV before.

After that, we went back in time to the early 1930s, with HBO’s remake of US Private Eye series Perry Mason, which we’ve powered through only to find they’ve yet to release the final pair of episodes – that’s our binge-watch blocked!

Podcasts: On sleepless nights, I often put on the earphones and listen  to a podcast or two, and on Wednesday BBC Radio 3’s The Essay featured Chris Wood‘s Sofa Song. A poignant piece about a seemingly mundane item of furniture. Lovely.

And for longer listens, I’ve embarked on the latest series from You Must Remember This exploring the life and work of Polly Platt.


…. All in good time. Work calls!

10 August 2020 – Update: Here they are: Photos from Herefordshire week 30.

Herefordshire Week 029: Tuesday 14 – Monday 20 July 2020

A socially distanced, social whirl, of a week. Relatively.

Major event of the week that the couple from down the road come up for drinks on Friday evening, which saw us sitting outside chatting until 11pm.

Other social events took place over Zoom, and there was a visit to Dinedor / ‘Winchester’ / The Taste of Raj Indian takeaway. Details below.

I’ve been better at rolling out of bed at 6am for a morning walk this week. In return, I’ve had various views of Hatterall Ridge and The Cat’s Back, and a meeting with some cows:

Morning, Cows!
Morning, Cows!

My walks were soundtracked by accumulated podcasts from Shedunnit and The Infinite Monkey Cage.

Most of my working week has been accompanied by the gentle sound of the hay field being mown and then the hay being baled and gathered in. All with antique farm machinery.

Hay Baling Complete
Hay Baling Complete

My chilli plants seem to have had a growth spurt and acquired some small white flowers, and I picked my first radish crop on Wednesday lunchtime.

My First Radishes!
My First Radishes!

Small green tomatoes are materialising too. And I have a courgette!

My first (blurry) courgette
My first (blurry) courgette

Admin on Friday morning, then a Zoom with one of my London friends which lasted until lunchtime.

Friday afternoon featured a thorough cleaning of the inside of the Tree House, aka 40B, with the assorted toys getting a wash and de-cobweb in the dishwasher. I repainted the outside on Saturday morning, listening to more of The Infinite Monkey Cage. The Anthropocene Reviewed had accompanied Friday’s deep clean.

40B - Spick & Span, with a new coat of Preserver/Paint
40B – Spick & Span, with a new coat of Preserver/Paint

Mid afternoon Phil drove us over to dad and Jean’s, where we found them entertaining some of our Abbey Dore neighbours with tea and cake. Visitors waved off, dad drove us to ‘Winchester’ to view the transformed back garden and the pergola – a v smart addition.

En route, we stopped off at dad’s favourite, General Dogsbody, to stock up on a 25kg sack of peanuts for the birds. I can see why dad likes it.

Evening at Dinedor feasting on Indian & Chinese takeaway. What a treat.

Sunday was, appropriately, a day of rest.

Monday – Skirrid in the morning:

Skirrid Views - Panoramas (N&E, S&W) from the Trig Point
Skirrid Views – Panoramas (N&E, S&W) from the Trig Point

And a tour of Abergavenny’s backstreets trying to find my way back  onto the A465 towards Hereford.

Mowing in the afternoon:

Mowing: Stage 2
Mowing: Stage 2

Photos from Herefordshire week 29.

The cows are back in Thistly Field.

Herefordshire Week 028: Tuesday 07 – Monday 13 July 2020

Microwave marmalade. Potting up and pottering around. Bonfiring.

Holiday plans come to the fore.

A nice long walk on Tuesday morning before my working week began (2pm Tues, Weds & Thurs all day): Abbey Dore – Rive Dore footpath to Riverdale – Bacton – up to Tremorithic Road – along to Ewyas Harold Common – footpath down to Dore Abbey – footpath to Abbey Dore Court – Home.

Friday was busy doing lots of small jobs – emailing various friends, sorting out a card and present for my nephew, recreating our “vintage” sunflower placemats for Carmen, watching (tracking via email notifications) UPS delivering my Nepal 2019 photobook to everyone else before the Gloucester depot got mine to me!

In the orchard, picked the first of our morello cherries:

Morello cherries
Morello cherries

I like tangy, tart fruit, so these are in the fruit bowl. Disappearing rapidly.

The highlight of the morning was making grapefruit marmalade in the microwave.

Mary's Microwave Grapefruit Marmalade
Mary’s Microwave Grapefruit Marmalade

However, that highlight was outshone by my afternoon engagement, heading up to Kerrys Gate for a glass or two of Prosecco with some of the local ladies. Delighted to be invited; less delighted that I was driving to dad and Jean’s fish & chips for tea, which put paid to my partaking of the Prosecco!!

A lovely evening with dad and Jean, and bathed in the soft sunlight of early evening, Ewyas Harold was busy with both pubs open and doing a good socially distanced trade, as was The Old Stables. Drove back via a near deserted Aldi and Sainsbury’s – scored bread flour and assorted other essentials.

What wasn’t such a welcome event on Friday – I told you it was a busy day – is that EasyJet cancelled our flight out to Bilbao – Grrr. So lunchtime was spent frantically emailing between the group to work out what to do before all the alternatives – The Alternative being BA – sold out of seats. Very grateful to Steffi for handling all that. Duly blogged: El Anillo de Picos: Travel Update.

Saturday morning, on the computer, I realised that a rat-a-tat-tat coming from close by, outside around the roof somewhere, was small birds enjoying energetic baths in the guttering.

I was on the computer booking train tickets to/from London for August/September. Weird to be doing that again.

A lovely sunny day, so I didn’t linger indoors

The “sheep field” opposite got mown. Thistly Field remains empty.

Phil and I also decided to take the last week of July “off” as holiday. Possibly in Walton on the Naze. We’ll see.

Sunday was a scorcher, so having helped Phil mastic the edges of the rendered wall overlooking the hazelnut tree, we did the Bacton walk and then sat out on the patio for lunch.

Blackberry flowers, Bacton
Blackberry flowers, Bacton

Snoozed / read / pottered about potting up plants in the afternoon. Lovely. It felt like a proper holiday, relaxing. We agreed we needed to do that more.

The squirrels started feasting on the hazelnuts that morning, littering the ground with half eaten shells as dad had predicted. And the nuts aren’t even remotely ripe….


Neither are the apples. I tried one off the small tree in the orchard to check.

Ants reemerged and were duly Doffed.

Bonfired Monday morning – perfect timing as it started chucking it down at lunchtime, which sorted the embers out.

In the afternoon, we had our first conservatory casualty for a while 🙁

Reading pace has picked up to pre-Mantel levels. Raced through the first two of Lindsey Davis’ Flavia Albia series. Back in 1st Century AD Rome, solving crimes in the company of Falco and Helena’s adopted daughter. Excellent.

Telly: Babylon Berlin series 3 and Enlightened series 1 and most of series 2.

Podcasts: The Essay whilst bonfiring. History Extra – I particularly enjoyed their interview with Dr Emily Ward about Cnut and William the Conquerer and the 50 years between their two contrasting invasions. Some older material from The National Archives – you can tell podcasting has become A Thing since these talks were recorded.

Photos from Herefordshire week 28. Not many this week.

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….