Herefordshire Week 143: Tuesday 20 – Monday 26 September 2022

Weeknotes 140-143 will be published out of chronological order, mainly because for most of that time I was away in London and Spain, and I’m still playing catch up.

This one’s going to be short and sweet.

Still in Northern Spain on Tuesday and Wednesday, relaxing in Llanes and exploring the coast on our drive back to Bilbao. Flew home Wednesday night and stayed at Hazel’s along with S. A fab trip. I’ll do a post about it soon, but I need to write up my diary first….

A Beer in Bilbao - Homeward Bound
A Beer in Bilbao – Homeward Bound

Crash-landed back into work on Thursday, then got the evening train home.

Spent Fri frantically working through admin.

A GWVC-funded navigation course took up all of Sat & Sun… excellent training from Colin at Borderlands Outdoor in the lovely Forest of Dean. Phil took the opportunity to go to London to see friends and for an acting class.

Finally managed a much needed lie in on Monday and took things a little easier… although I did spend a few hours mowing the grass. Good to have got that out of the way.

It’s still very, very dry – lots of patches of dead grass and there a huge cracks in the clay all around The Grounds. I wonder what will happen when we do finally get some proper rain.

Also a bit concerned that I’ve not seen any goldfish in the pond; Phil mentioned the heron had been hanging around on the yew hedge….

TV: The Outlaws (finished off season 2 – vg), Grand Designs.

Podcasts: The History of England

Photos: Herefordshire week 143 on Flickr. (There aren’t any yet)

Phil: w/e 2022-09-25

Herefordshire Week 139: Tuesday 23 – Monday 29 August 2022

Lining up some work on the house. Bonfiring. iPhone woes. Bank Holiday Breakfast at Gwatkins.

Gwatkin Red Cow, Abbey Dore / Bacton
Gwatkin Red Cow, Abbey Dore / Bacton

Dropped Panda off with RW Williams first thing Tuesday for the rattle and daytime running lights to be investigated. Walked back, weeknotes, then work which continued as usual through Wednesday and Thursday.

Finished work at 6.30pm prompt on Thursday (plus 15 mins as V called)  for an early tea in anticipation of K&N coming round to look through the list of building jobs we’d like N to do – including sprucing up the garage (replace roof, clad the walls, improve the storage options inside), re-rendering the west wall and closing up the doorway between the lounge and the TV room. Having toured the house outside and inside we added a few more things to the list. All good things to Get Done.

As dusk fell, a louder than usual conservatory window “thump” turned out to be a tawny owl. Thankfully it recovered.

I dedicated most of Friday to bonfiring the hedge clippings and shrub loppings in the quarry. Small amounts, very carefully, to start with given how close the 5 piles of dry cuttings were to the fire, and how dry everything is still. We’ve had no rain since last weekend’s Saturday showers.

Bonfire ash pile
Bonfire ash pile

A late lunch, then cut down the berberis behind the garage in anticipation of that being rendered, hooked up some of the liberated wire to the wisteria trellis for the new shoots to wind around, potted up a couple of baby yew trees (currently they’re each just 1  sprig, but they must be hardy stock as they’ve emerged from the gravel around the bottom of the kitchen wall), cut the Boston Fern runners and potted them in compost in the hope of propagating a few more baby ferns.

Selected render and roof colours over tea and the last of the Welsh Cakes in the conservatory (sweltering).

FaceTime with S&S, with beer and crisps.

And then made dinner!

Shenmore Circular with the GVWC on Saturday, featuring a pint of bitter shandy at The Yew Tree in Preston on Wye during the lunchtime stop. Pizza al fresco, with a glass of wine, for dinner.

Bank Holiday Weekend pizza
Bank Holiday Weekend pizza

More walking on Sunday as Phil and I went for breakfast at Gwatkins Red Cow. Full English, meaty and veggie/ vegan versions. Reminded me of Walton on the Naze…

Breakfast is served!
Breakfast is served!

We took the Bacton Square route back – the stream at Bacton that runs down into the Dore is completely dry, and the sheep are sheltering in the large concrete drainage pipes down by Abbey Dore  Court. We spent the afternoon pottering, including bailing out the rainwater from the small pond in anticipation of sealing the crack that’s the cause of the leak, and swopping the picnic bench and Nana Helen’s bench, so that we can sit on the latter when watching the birds.

Bank Holiday Monday was breezy sunny/cloudy day. I shelved my plans for a walk in the Black Mountains and finished Flickring my Ladakh photos instead.

In the afternoon we walked down to the Abbey and back, calling in at T&Js for tea and biscuits, and then I had a go at getting my Apple stuff accessible on my donated Samsung Galaxy phone. Not entirely successful. Why am I bothering? Well, my inherited iPhone SE is kaput – the battery has expanded and forced open the case. I’ve an iStore appointment booked for Friday….

In contrast to last year’s glut, this year’s apple harvest is tiny. We’ve hardly any on the two trees between the ponds. This is about half the likely crop:

Not so many apples this year....
Not so many apples this year….

There are no apples, none at all, on the trees down on the lower path – home to the big Bramley and the Egremont Russett, where we had so many windfalls this time 2 years ago. No greengages there either, and a paltry plum (damson) crop.

Things look a bit better in the orchard: the Worcester Pearmain and the Discovery have a fair crop, but all small. The dwarf Bramley is laden, and the Laxton Superb has about the same amount of apples as last year. The Golden Delicious is having a quiet year though – hardly any apples there, which is a relief…..

So, I can’t see that the apple racks will be overflowing this year. Good job we’ve not yet used up all the frozen apples, and the chutney supplies are still plentiful.

TV: Ted Lasso (finished off season 2 – Oooh NATE!!!), Borgen (Season 3, Netflix reboot).

Audiobook: Alice Roberts reading her book Tamed: Ten Species that Changed Our World (excellent).

Podcasts: History Extra, World Book Club, Books and Authors, The Essay.

Photos: Herefordshire week 139 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-08-28.

Herefordshire Week 138: Tuesday 16 – Monday 22 August 2022

Intruder cows.  Tractor run. Belated birthday celebrations at The Angel and a day boat on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal.

A moored narrowboat on the MonBrec
A moored narrowboat on the MonBrec

Up early on Tuesday to drive Phil to HFD to catch the 06.43 to London. Back via Asda, Tescos and The Forge “cheap” (it’s all relative…) petrol. Topped up the bird feeders, watered the greenhouse tomatoes, lemongrass and strawberries, then wheelbarrowed most of the remaining piles of strimmed meadow over to the orchard compost heap. About 8 piles left, but I had to get to Kerrys Gate for 11am to walk Cockyard Circuit / Tig’s Tump with K.

Lovely walking and talking, and I encountered two young deer on the lane by Camp Wood en route to KG.

Met Ray just as we got back here and he came over in the afternoon to take the 3 bags of scythed grass and some thank you apple chutney.

As well as being a work day, Thursday brought major excitement when, at lunchtime, one of the neighbours stopped by to let me know that some of the local cows had got out of their field, through an electric fence, along the lane and ended up in our front garden this morning, and the man whose field they escaped and the farmer whose cows they are had come in to round them up and take them back to their field.

Exciting enough in itself, but I had been oblivious to the whole thing, which must all have taken place while I was at home, most likely working in my office. The one the looks out right over the front garden.

The farmer came round early evening to let me know himself and together we checked the orchard – where one cow had gone – and the front lawn – where the other had decided to explore (sadly, it turned out there were only two escapee intruders) to look for signs of any damage. Not surprisingly (seeing as I’d not noticed anything awry all morning) given the ground’s so hard you can’t even see where they’ve been.

In fact, the only thing I’ve noticed at all was some mud on the back of the Panda – I’d wondered where that had come from! The cows must have squeezed in between the car and the gatepost.

Breakfast in the conservatory and out on the patio was a gentle start to a sunny breezy Friday morning. A few jobs around the house, then out to walk Camp Crossroads – Duffryn – Quarrells Green, with the first leg spent on the phone with a friend’s son talking about City career opportunities and paths. The social chats continued – with A out on his new bike on the Duffryn leg and with D in her garden down in Grey Valley.

Back at base, I donned wellies and got to work on the last of the grass piles, and took the secateurs to work on the damson shoots that have materialised all round the grounds. Lunch, then sewed up the burn hole in my Picos sleeping bag and some of the torn sections of the mosquito net that kept the blackcurrants safe this year. Put the hose away, possibly prematurely.

ie pottered around until it was time to head into Hereford for a leisurely supermarket shop before picking up Phil from the station.

Home for bargains and Football Man (season 1, last 2 episodes). So nice.

Spent most of Saturday on the computer, on a roll ticking things off my to do list: email admin, financial admin, photo admin, family admin (ie final plans for Sunday and Monday).

It helped that it rained on and off during the morning. I did miss out on a sunny afternoon though.

Morning cross mowing the front lawn, and a lick and a promise for most of the rest of the grounds.

Meadow no more
Meadow no more

A brief pause in between Honda mowing and ride-on mower grass collecting when Ray called by to return our grass sacks – and while we were chatting by his tractor, the Golden Valley Tractor Run passed by. Phil took this video. It’s lovely.

Then off to Abergavenny, via Crickhowell to pick up T&J who’d been to visit some friends’ exhibition at the Tower Gallery. We treated ourselves to tea and cake at Latte-Da. Highly recommended. Next time I’ll try sitting in their secluded back garden.

Back in Abergavenny we rendezvoused with dad and Jean at The Angel Hotel for a Loosemore family celebration. Lovely.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny
The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

A smashing dinner and luxury night’s stay at The Angel on Sunday, and a leisurely breakfast on Monday, then back towards Crickhowell for a family day out on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal courtesy of a day boat from Beacon Park Boats; my CWF photography competition prize. Cool and a bit damp, but glorious to be amidst all that green. We pottered along as far as Gilwern, stopped for a coffee at the Towpath Inn, then motored back.

Bridge 106 over the MonBrec
Bridge 106 over the MonBrec

Back home via Abergavenny to drop off T&J, Wormelow for fabric samples and The Forge for milk.

I kept thinking it was a Sunday.

I was going to say that I’ve not seen the red woodpeckers for a couple of weeks now. Not even on the bird feeders…. but then, late on Saturday afternoon, I did see one, just one, on the bird feeder.

TV: Ted Lasso, Top of the Pops: The Story of 1997, 1998 & 1999 ,The Sandman, Better Call Saul (the bitter end).

Audiobook: Alice Roberts reading her book Tamed: Ten Species that Changed Our World (excellent).

Photos: Herefordshire week 138 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-08-22.

Herefordshire Week 137: Tuesday 09 – Monday 15 August 2022

MCR continued. Nepal firms up. Heatwave. Meadow cutting marathon and clearing the small pond.

As regular readers will know, I was in Manchester for work Monday-Wednesday this week and Tuesday and Wednesday continued to be(e) hotter and sunnier than ever before. A good trip.

Not such a good journey home – my 18:31 train was cancelled so it was a slow service to Wilmslow then a wait for the train to Cardiff.

Hello Wilmslow…
Hello Wilmslow…

I’ve no idea of the geography, and it turned out I was joining the 19.31 departure from Manchester. If I’d waited there I might have found a glass of wine for company! Oh well. Phil and I had a cheese and wine supper once I was home.

Not working a Thursday threw my week out completely.

Took the car for its MOT first thing, and heard back with the all clear a few hours later. A came over for tea and a hot cross bun and we chatted in the shady part of the garden until gone 1pm.

Caught up with Val early afternoon, and – Trek Siren – I am officially off on a 3 week trip to Naar Phu with Val in October / November. Naar (Nar) and Phu are small villages in Nepal, north and east of the Annapurnas, Manang side. Chulu East and Himlung Himal were also mentioned. I’ve booked flights with Qatar Airways.

I’ve christened this trip Val Pitkethly’s Naar Phu Explorer.


Spent the rest of the afternoon doing admin on the computer, including trying to sort out our LPG supply for the next 2 years. It’s just Too Hot outside.

Friday was hotter.

We were both awake around 5.30am so made an early start to the day. Handy, as we needed to walk back to Ewyas to pick up the Panda post MOT. We took the Dicks Pitch route – shady and speedy – and got to the garage in less than an hour.

Just don’t ask about locking the conservatory keys in the conservatory before we set out … Thank heavens (Thank dad) for the tub of spare keys.

Raked up the strimmer grass and relocated it to the dip by the hedge (freshly cut by Richard while I was in MN). Hot and sweaty work. Dug up a few weeds – easy to spot as they’re still green against the parched yellow grass.

Front lawn: Meadow Cutting Marathon
Front lawn: Meadow Cutting Marathon

In the afternoon, more admin – inside, but not cool. Did online check in for our flights to Bilbao for September’s Picos trip. That’s coming up fast!

In the evening (still hot, but not quite so sweltering), our first visit to Winchester as “guests” since dad and Jean moved. A lovely BBQ.

The extreme heatwave continued on Saturday (mid-30s), so another early start.

Ray called round a bit after 7.30am and said he could clear our cut grass later in the day, so I got to work with the strimmer mower, hacking down the tougher grass and tall flowers that have grown on the slope down to the pond. Hot hard work. My blisters have blisters. Well, not quite but not far off.

Three quarters of the way through the strimmer stopped working and neither of us could work out why. So we decided that was a good reason to have our first independent outing with the Stihl strimmer. Phil did the honours while I moved the pond weed piles and weeded the drive.

We had a bit of a hiatus when he reached the end of the cable and we had to work out how to load it up with another 8 metres…. The instruction booklet, a YouTube video and a call to dad later and Phil was back in action.

Phil strimming
Phil strimming
Scythed grass and strimmed grass
Scythed grass and strimmed grass

We are so not having a meadow next year!

I revere Monty Don as much as the next person but he must have “help” when it comes cutting the meadow – which we don’t – and better options for making use of the cut grass.

Thank heavens for Ray who turned up a bit after midday and lifted piles of the scythed grass onto a rake/frame attachment on the back of his tractor and drove the grass up to his field.

Ray collecting the scythed grass
Ray collecting the scythed grass

A break for lunch – we’re eating / relaxing in the shade down by the log shed / willow tree stump – after which I decided to have a go at clearing the small pond. It’s bone dry and we figured this gives us the chance to find and fix the leak….. Even unsaturated the iris bed was too heavy, do I made do with cutting back the leaves, pulling off chunks of dried out pond bottom and clearing the weeds and ivy from the rim.

Sweated so much that when salty sweat dripped into my eyes it really stung!

In an unusual turn of events, I made dinner, and tried out the Damson Gin. Tasty!

Sunday – still hot.

Phil and I finished clearing the iris bed out of the small pond, and swept out the remaining debris. There’s a crack running from near the centre towards the railway power point, so we’re looking up ways to fix that. Liner or cement/putty?

Small pond - dry as a bone
Small pond – dry as a bone
Small pond - cleared
Small pond – cleared

Raked the strimmed grass into piles, then lunch. A few jobs / tidying up by the compost heap, a breather to allow the shade to reach the piles and then it was time to start wheelbarrowing the grass piles to the compost slope above the BBQ and the bigger one at the far end of the path.


Before dinner we sat outside the kitchen and watched the birds on the feeders and in the font for a while, once they’d decided we weren’t a threat.

At dusk, a bat got into the conservatory, but it managed to make its own escape through the doors.

A cooler start to Monday and – AT LAST – some rain.

A day for “indoors jobs”.

Put surplus picture frames into the roof, then did some computer admin. Tidied up recent Flickr titles, tags and descriptions, prepped tax return, caught up with Val, did some Picos prep (looked at my kitlist and  tried working out how much money to take).

7pm, thunder and heavier rain arrived.

In “heatwave and extreme weather warning” news, – it’s been > 30C most of the week, with – thankfully – rain / thunder arriving on Monday.

The trees are shedding leaves by the sack load.

Apples doing OK.

My office is still hot and the patio and the walls that side of the house are still radiating heat, but the rain is cooling things down.

It’s also been a week of massive moons and a mewing buzzard.

TV: For All Mankind, Ted Lasso.

Podcasts: History Extra, SheDunnit, Lingthusiasm, Great Lives.

Photos: Herefordshire week 137 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-08-14.

Herefordshire Week 136: Tuesday 02 – Monday 08 August 2022

Heatwave and scorched grass. Bacton BBQ, Kilpeck Circular and up to Manchester.

GVWC: Kilpeck Circular: Garway Hill panorama - Dave & Hugh on the path down
GVWC: Kilpeck Circular: Garway Hill panorama – Dave & Hugh on the path down

Tuesday began with a trip to Abergavenny for a filling (sort of) and a tour d’Aldi. Home for lunch then back to work. The new antenna providing a nice stable 30MB/s.

Weds was the usual day at work and a VWW with Rach. Thursday ditto with Family Zoom. It takes the first week back after a break for me to get my work ooomph back. My unpacking ooomph took longer to return.

Friday was due to be another hot day so I did the mowing first thing, sticking with the Honda mower and leaving the cuttings to mulch. Tidied up some fallen sticks, snipped the wild plum shoots on the slope to the BBQ and by the bird feeder.

Phil continued scything the front lawn – the long cut grass dries out very quickly as does the newly revealed “lawn” grass – and made a seat to sit on when sharpening his blade. (I’m endlessly surprised how swiftly scythe-speak descends into double entendre.)

Phil's Scything, Front Lawn
Phil’s Scything, Front Lawn

We spent the afternoon reading and resting ahead of the week’s major social event – Bacton BBQ. A super sociable evening with a couple of pints, veggie burgers and salad and a vast array of puddings. Caught up with the KG crowd – K&N were in charge of the coconut shy – PR and the Abbey Dore Ladies, S&M and T&J. Walked there and got a lift back. Magic.

Bacton Barbecue
Bacton Barbecue

Finally finished my unpacking (and putting away) on Saturday and did my Peaks of Ladakh trip notes and reading updates. Still got to tackle the photos mind you. At least there aren’t as many as there would usually be, Ha Ha.

Read outside in the shade down by the willow tree stump. It’s officially too hot.

Joined D and H on Sunday to recce the Kilpeck Circular ahead of next Saturday’s club walk. Walked from home to Kilpeck which added on an extra 5 miles or so. Strava says I did 17 ½ miles all in: Abbey Dore – Wormbridge – Kilpeck – Bagwyllydiart – Garway Hill – Kentchurch – Bagwyllydiart – Kilpeck.

GVWC: Kilpeck Circular - Strava Map
GVWC: Kilpeck Circular – Kilpeck Church Carvings Montage
GVWC: Kilpeck Circular - Kilpeck Church Carvings Montage
GVWC: Kilpeck Circular – Kilpeck Church Carvings Montage

Another scorcher so the post walk medical rehydration (aka 2 pints of bitter shandy plus two packets of s&v crisps) at the lovely Kilpeck Inn went down very swiftly.

Back home courtesy of Phil+Panda – and probably primed by the two pints – I hauled out some of the pond weed. That’ll go onto the compost heap next week. It’s too dry to bonfire and the hedge clippings and shrub loppings are piling up…..

In a change to my normal working pattern, I spent Monday-Wednesday in the Manchester office. Monday morning’s 8.30am TfW train from Abergavenny was a 2 carriage service, and was soon swamped by families off to Blackpool / elsewhere for their summer hols and lots of commuters. Me and the lady who sat next to me wore masks, everyone else opted for Omicron Roulette.

Weatherwise, the city of the worker bee was scorchio with blue skies.

Good day in the office – aircon! – and M&S mezze dinner in my room at The Edwardian with the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony from Brum on the box. It’s only now struck me that I’ve been in a lot of hotel rooms recently. All very, very different!

Watering the tomato plant in the greenhouse I spotted that there is an offspring?offshoot? completely unrelated? smaller tomato plant growing up between two of the paving slabs. I wonder how that happened.

The strawbs are at the “growing greenery” stage ready for next year and the lemongrass, inside and outside, has gone into overdrive. Smashing. The lettuce is on the wane – not that the slugs seemed to have got that memo.


Lots of apples on the trees. The dwarf Bramley in the orchard is laden but (thankfully) the Golden Delicious that produced so many small apples last year is taking it easy this year. Not so many wild plums.

I’m watering the big bay tree, lettuce, rhubarb and gooseberries most evenings with the hose pipe and using grey water for the hydrangeas, buddleia (yep, had to look up how to spell that), D&G’ rhododendron and my birthday Japanese Quince. I’ve topped up the pond a couple of times too. Hoping for rain soon but the forecast shows relentless sunny days and with the temperatures rising.

Everything is languid – from leaves to birds to us.

The grass is crispy, and that’s only partly due to hazelnut shells. Talking of which I thought the heatwave might have kept the squirrels at bay during the day – until I spotted two on the peanuts…

TV: For All Mankind (started season 3), Better Call SaulTed Lasso, (this starts off as “Football Man” as I can never remember the name of this show!) and the 2022 Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony.

Podcasts: History Extra

Photos: Herefordshire week 136 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-08-07.