Herefordshire Week 195: Tuesday 19 – Monday 25 September 2023

A wet and windy week alternating with Indian Summer sunshine. Lost passport (found, in the nick of time). Lost dog (owner eventually tracked down). A lovely couple of days with Clan Russell.


More weeknotes backlog first thing on Tuesday, then to Ewyas for my travel jabs (Typhoid top up and Japanese Encephalitis #1) and back for tea and catch up with a friend from down the road.

More computer-ing in the afternoon as the wind and rain blew around outside…. until:

Not a good night’s sleep.

(We ended up taking the young Old English Sheepdog Bearded Collie to the vets in Ewyas Harold. The lovely lady there read the microchip and offered to take over care of the dog while they tracked down the owners. Phew. It was a very well trained dog.)

Early alarm on Wednesday to get me to the Pontrilas Post Office as soon as it opened at 7.45 to get a replacement passport form and to get that filled in, photos certified etc etc with time to drive to Liverpool for my 3pm appointment. But first both Phil and I were checking “the places I might have left it” we’d thought of overnight: dressing gown pockets, outside freezer, toiletries drawer….

And lo and behold I found it, and some Euros (!), in my bag of spare-serviettes-for-trekking.


Appointment cancelled, I channeled the adrenalin into washing my big rucksack and going to the gym.The afternoon was spent mainly on the computer printing stuff for Italy and making a start on Post Pyrenees blog posts.

A wet and windy day.

Thursday: Pyrenees photos, LBT at the gym, Hereford Garden Centre for coffee and catch up with the KG Ladies, Aldi, late lunch, Post Pyrenees Blog Post, pouring 250ml ish Algofin into small pond, tea and kitkat, admin.

Another wet day.

Friday started with bathroom door DIY at dad’s then home via various purveyors of fine foods on the Large Pork Pie quest. Mailes delivered the goods.

And Lidl delivered these (now safely stashed in a cupboard for the next 2 and a bit months):

Yes, I did
Yes, I did

Just after lunch, Val phoned and we’re back on track for our Plan A trek (Kanchenjunga & Lumba Sumba) in Nepal in November, with Mingmi. PHEW. I thought I’d mucked it all up for everyone.

Lovely sunny afternoon. Perfect for ticking off a few niggly garden jobs: transported the cut ivy from the end of the orchard to the bonfire, cut some more ivy off the hawthron tree by the small pond and took that and the hauled out blanketweed to the bonfire too, plus a third wheelbarrow of grass, weeds etc that I’d pulled up out of the willow tree stump hump. Back in the orchard I took down the bean and pea sticks and planted out the last of May Plant Sale leek “seedlings” into the space.

Pizza and This Farming Life made for a lovely evening.

The sunshine continued on Saturday, just right for welcoming 4/5 of Clan Russell for a short stay. I spent the morning mainly prepping lunch and apple crumble.

A lovely afternoon walking with Ewyas Harold and back with R & P, E & M, with a pint and crisps at the half way mark aka The Temple Bar Inn.

Back at base, a relaxing late afternoon segued into dinner followed by more chatting in the conservatory. Lovely evening too.

The weather turned on Sunday but after a relaxed breakfast starting the second of Phil’s home made loaves R, P & I set out under heavy grey clouds to walk to Kerrys Gate and back. We’d have gone further but they needed to get to Bristol for a late lunch, and so Phil and I waved them off 11.30am-ish.

A lazy afternoon, as the wind gusted to 40+mph outside and, towards the end of the afternoon, the rain arrived. Good weather for reading more of All the Light We Cannot See (belated thank you to Helen W/D for lending me that).

The sunshine was back on Monday and so while Phil cycled the correct stage 14 of La Vuelta 2023 to take him to Larra-Belagua, where we’d started and finished La Ruta de las Golondrinas just over a fortnight ago, I headed out to do Tremorithic (Road version).

I was only 7 mins over completing the 7 1/2 miles in 2 hours. I’ll walk a little faster next time. Very, very happy to have completed the whole route without getting any pain in my hip or outer thigh. The gym classes are definitely helping.

On the way down from Cwm Hill I tried out Merlin app which identified Jackdaw, Rook, Blackbird, Robin and Jay.

Tremorithic (Road version): Merlin Birds
Tremorithic (Road version): Merlin Birds

The jackdaw is new to me (although I suspect we hear and see them all the time) and I didn’t “hear” the robin.

Prompted by chats with Val and emails with S&S, I put my red Gore-tex through the machine to rewaterpoof it, and reproofed / conditioned my leather boots – the boots had been drying out since last Monday’s wet walk from Llanthony Priory, and the Gore-tex had demonstrated it could do with a reproof then too.

Then to Winchester to help move stuff into their new porch, and back via Tescos. Nepal ’23 admin, Italy ’23 admin then dinner.

Swallows and house martins, rooks high up in the sky enjoying the high winds, buzzards mewing, owls hooting and screeching.

Butterflies – Red Admirals –  feasting on the rotting apples down in the ditch that the old garden railway used to encircle.

The squirrels are steadily returning from wherever they’ve been for their summer holidays.

No sign of the woodpeckers though.

TV: Drops of God (finished it. OK but not amazing), The Tragedy of Macbeth (beautiful production and great cast, but still A Shakespeare Play – I left Phil to it), Starstruck (series 3), This Farming Life (series 6), Sensationalists: The Bad Girls and Boys of British Art (parts 2 & 3).

Podcasts: History Extra, Anglo-Saxon England, The Forum.

Photos: Herefordshire week 195 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-09-24.

Herefordshire Week 194: Tuesday 12 – Monday 18 September 2023

London to Llanthony via David Hockney and Oxford St, and the Post Pyrenees catch up.

David Hockney at the Lightroom (Video, 6 sec)
David Hockney at the Lightroom (Video, 6 sec)

Steffi and I had the day in London on Tuesday. In the morning we went to the David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) exhibition / show at Lightroom in the Coal Drops Yard redevelopment north of Kings Cross. The first time I’d been there and it’s very chichi. You can tell Google, Meta et al are just the other side of the Regents Canal.

The show was amazing. I’m not that in to art, and wouldn’t have gone myself. I’m so glad Steffi wanted to go. We stayed on to watch the first half or so of the show again.

David Hockney at the Lightroom
David Hockney at the Lightroom

In the afternoon, shopping on Oxford Street (Uniqlo and John Lewis), walking to Covent Garden and (eventually) lucking out with a soft launch late lunch at Paro Indian (recommended!) followed by a tour of the outdoor kit shops of Southampton Street, with Ellis Brigham providing a long chat about all things Nepal and confirmation that I should stick with my La Sportiva boots purchased from Trekitt.

Greek takeaway for dinner (Steffi and I are making the most of being in Deliveroo-land). Plus a bottle of wine or two…

Steffi and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on Wednesday, while Hazel got going WFH, then the two of us hoisted our rucksacks and made our way to Paddington, had a lovely coffee with Tom then got our respective GWR trains home.

Mine, of course, was delayed by “signalling problems in the Oxford area” and terminated early at Great Malvern. Everyone – everyone – who got off the train there had lots of luggage. Yes, we had all chosen the direct train for A Reason. GWR seem not to care.

Finally rolled into Hereford on the West Midlands Train service, two hours later than I should have. Phil is a very patient taxi driver.

Home for tea and scones, a bit of unpacking, a chat with Sonia about Nepal 2023, dinner, bed.

Thursday saw me catching up on admin – Pyrenees IOUs and personal admin that had piled up while I’d been away. Got a lot done. Plus a flying visit into Hereford for our “updating our wills” etc meetings at Lambe Corner. Made a start on the weeknotes backlog too.

Back to the GV Gym on Friday for Aerobics and Stretch, then home to tackle the Garden Admin, aka collecting / clearing windfall apples, mowing – the strimmer mower and Hunting Honda had been returned, fixed, while I was away. A lot of grass to cut and clear, and today was the only dry day for a fortnight according to the weather forecast.

Caught up with Val about Nepal 2023 at lunchtime in between Honda mow and Countax mow.

Phil’s pizza for dinner!

Yum yum
Yum yum

Saturday morning dawned misty and stayed cloudy and cool, but dry so I got out and collected more windfalls from the orchard, the garden railway line and the lower path – plenty of cookers there, although the Egremont Russets still have a while to go.

Spent the rest of the morning on the computer on weeknotes and (eventually!) Live Chat with Charles at Qatar Airways finding out about costs for changing our flights for Nepal 2023 Plan B.

Made chutney and crumble in the afternoon, and had TJL over for beer / tea and crisps late afternoon. After a pint each, all Phil and I could cope with was lentil soup and telly. I should have trained harder in the Pyrenees 🙂

Owls late at night, and early (Sunday) morning.

Sunday’s highlight was lunch at The Temple Bar Inn with Dad and Jean, followed by a lazy telly afternoon that segued into a glass of wine, cheese and biscuits and evening telly.

Sonia and I met up at Llanthony Priory on Monday for some Nepal trek training, and to chat about the trip. Val’s broken knee cap had thrown things up into the air a bit and I’d made the executive decision that we’d postpone for 12 months, but a few sleeps later the three of us (me, Sonia & Steffi) have all definitely decided we want to stick with Plan A: Kanchenjunga & Lumba Sumba.

Our route from Llanthony was determined by the very wet weather (rain, heavy at times, cloud right down into the valley and little sign of lifting – in spite of what the weather forecast had suggested): Up to Bal Bach and back, then up the steep (northern) trail onto Hatterrall Ridge and south along the ridge past the trig point and down the gently sloping track that starts by an old stone wall.

The cloud and rain did clear occasionally to give gorgeous views of the Vale of Ewyas and east over Herefordshire, and a rainbow over the Cat’s Back. But most of the time we were huddled inside Goretex.

Rainbow over Herefordshire
Rainbow over Herefordshire

TV: Drops of God, Starstruck (series 3), Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction, This Farming Life (series 6).

Audiobook: The Bullet that Missed – Richard Osman.

Podcasts: History Extra.

Photos: Herefordshire week 194 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-09-17.

Herefordshire Week 193: Tuesday 05 – Monday 11 September 2023

In the Pyrenees with Alfonso and Manu, finishing up our cut down Carros de Foc, then driving west and completing the Ruta de las Golondrinas, Clásica version.

Team Mucho Gusto, and some sporting the exclusive Mucho Gusto T-Shirt
Team Mucho Gusto, and some sporting the exclusive Mucho Gusto T-Shirt

Just brief notes here; for the detail you’ll have to wait for the write up – aka Into the Pyrenees with Alfonso and Manu: Photos & Notes. (Next on the list!)

Tuesday saw us complete our mini Carros de Foc trek, walking down from Refugio Amitges (2380m) to Estany St. Maurici (1912m) via the Cascada de Ratera and retreading the trail back to the car park.

Alfonso's Outline for Trekking Carros de Foc
Alfonso’s Outline for Trekking Carros de Foc

Lunch back on the sunny terrace of the Restaurant Vall d’Àneu in Esterri d’Àneu then on to Vielha for a night at Hotel Eth Pomèr (Apples, how appropriate), beers and presentation of the Team Mucho Gusto T-Shirts (plus chutney and spare toothbrushes) at REFU Birreria and dinner at Woolloomooloo.

Wednesday was transit day, driving west-ish from Vielha to Refugio de Belagua via Ainsa (mediaeval city) and Jaca (lunch, mini Magnums and a mooch around Barrabés).

The Golondrinas huts are all accessible by road, and Belagua was buzzing. We had a fab evening – receiving our Golondrinas swag, taking in the views, enjoying our private en suite room. And bottom bunks!

Arriving at Refugio de Belagua
Arriving at Refugio de Belagua

We set off on La Ruta de las Golondrinas on Thursday morning: driving down to the car park at RincĂłn de Belagua and then walking through forest and fields and forest again to Refugio de Linza. Hot.

A day of Cathedral-like beech forests, sparkling dew on spider’s webs, bracken and gorse, a stiff, sweaty climb, a picnic in the woods – all accompanied by an impossible light bulb riddle.

Sparkling spider's web
Sparkling spider’s web

The Linza hut was the quietest we stayed in, there were only around 10 other people there. Very relaxing. We played Scrabble in Spanish sat at a shady picnic table before dinner.

Friday saw us cross the border into France on Ruta de las Golondrinas day 2, trekking from Refugio de Linza to Refuge de l’Abérouat. A long, hot day.

Highlights: morning shade, chamois and marmots, Collado de Petrechema, goats cheese selling berger in his ‘house of love’, another beech forest picnic, 7.2% beers!

Rach and Me at the Collado de Petrechema, looking down into France
Rach and Me at the Collado de Petrechema, looking down into France

Lowlight: 4km on toasty tarmac.

We stayed in France on Saturday as day 3 of La Ruta de las Golondrinas (which I suppose I ought to be calling La Route des Hirondelles given we’re in France) took us from Refuge de l’AbĂ©rouat to Refuge Jeandel.

The trail took us over pas de Azuns and pas del Osque – and Alfonso and Manu provided an optional extra for Rach and I, climbing up one of Les Tourelles. FAB.

Vulture viewing, on top of our peak in Les Tourelles
Vulture viewing, on top of our peak in Les Tourelles

The Jeandel refuge and the manmade ski resort of La Pierre Saint Martin were less so.

I did get a proposal from a passing berger mind you.

Sunday saw us return into Spain as day 4 of La Ruta de las Golondrinas brought us back to Refugio de Belagua, a day after La Vuelta had passed by. En route, Pic de Arlás (2044m), quiet meadows and close up vulture views, and a bit of zig zagging over the main road in the run up to elevenses.


Late lunch at the hut then Rach and I accompanied Alfonso and Manu back down to the car park to collect the van. It’s a very steep trail down through the forests – very glad of the presence of poles and the absence of backpack.

The evening thunderstorm in the valley reached us overnight. Lots of rain, and lightning. A suitably dramatic end to our Ruta de las Golondrinas.

Alfonso's Outline for Ruta de las Golondrinas
Alfonso’s Outline for Ruta de las Golondrinas

Monday was a day for farewells, and the end of this year’s adventures with Alfonso and Manu.

We drove back to Lourdes airport, flew back to London Stansted in the company of nuns, got the Stansted Express back to Liverpool Street, said au revoir to Rach and then headed down to Hotel Hazel for the night, and another Thai Takeaway for dinner.

Yum yum
Yum yum

TV: My Mum, Your Dad (out of the corner of my eye).

Audiobook: The Bullet that Missed – Richard Osman.

Photos: Herefordshire week 193 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-09-10.

Herefordshire Week 192: Tuesday 29 August – Monday 04 September 2023

Off Into the Pyrenees with Alfonso and Manu. Part 1: London, Lourdes and the easier half of the Carros de Foc.

Off to Lourdes
Off to Lourdes

Tuesday morning, R came to finish cutting the hedges and we had a look around the “Estate” for other jobs.

The Victoria Plum wedding tree that A&M got for us is laden – and last year the entire crop numbered 5. This year the weight of the plum crop has caused two of the older branches to snap. I should have checked in on it earlier.

The rest of my busy Tuesday morning featured home insurance renewal, picking all the plums I could reach, washing old bed headboards in case I could donate them at the tip, going to the tip and binning our old microwave, headboards (booo) and a box of foil, batteries and light bulbs.

And then the 13.18 HFD to PAD on the first leg of my journey Into the Pyrenees with Alfonso and Manu.

Rendezvoused with S at H’s, catching up over wine and nibbles in the back garden before ordering Takeout Thai for Tea – because in London you can, and in rural Herefordshire and Pembrokeshire you can’t.

We are at Hazel's......
We are at Hazel’s……

Compared kit and finalised packing…. then bed.

Wednesday was travel day: Breakfast – Northern Line to Moorgate – rendezvous with Rach in Liverpool Street – Stansted Express to Stansted – Ryanair self checkin and bag drop (somehow we each had 40+kg hold baggage allowance. Go figure) – Security (surprisingly civilised) – Non-priority boarding for our (slightly delayed) flight to Lourdes.

We landed at Aéroport Tarbes Lourdes Pyrénées in a downpour and high winds. Uh oh.

Got the last seat on the Airport Shuttle Bus from the airport to Lourdes station, then Hazel navigated us to our Luxury Loft Lourdes where we settled in, unpacked and then headed out for cocktails and dinner at the lovely Le Passage.

Cocktail Hour in Lourdes
Cocktail Hour in Lourdes

I’m only giving an outline for the rest of the week (and next week). For the detail, you’ll have to wait for the write up – aka Into the Pyrenees with Alfonso and Manu: Photos & Notes.

Thursday saw us meet Alfonso in Lourdes, drive to Vielha and rendezvous with Manu, convoy to Esterri d’Ă€neu to meet up with E and to have lunch on the terrace of the lovely Restaurant Vall d’Ă€neu, drive to Espot and into the AigĂĽestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park where we parked at Parking de Prat PierrĂł.

Then the short walk through forests and meadows to the Estany* de Sant Maurici and on to our first hut, Refugio Ernest Mallafrè – the most compact and bijou of our Carros de Foc mountain huts, and the one with the most challenging ascent / descent in / out of the platform bunks….

* Estany = Catalan for Lake, and the AigĂĽestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park is FULL of gorgeous lakes, many of them naturalised reservoirs.

Friday was the first full day trekking the Carros de Foc, from R. Ernest Mallafrè to Refugio J.M. Blanc. Forests and flowers, mountain streams and mirror lakes, over the Coll de Monestero, the stunning first sight of R. J.M. Blanc ….

Love at first sight: Refugio J.M. Blanc
Love at first sight: Refugio J.M. Blanc

… and a beer at a picnic table on the shores of Estany Tort de Peguera.

Two speedy dinner sittings. Noisy night in our dorm. Thankfully we were on bottom bunks.

Saturday was Carros de Foc day 2, trekking from R. J.M Blanc to Refugio Colomina via Estany Negre de Peguera, the Coll de SaburĂł and the Pas de l’Os, and Estany SaburĂł, Estany de Mar and Estany Colomina.

We arrived just before the weather turned. Later arrivals came in cold and drenched.

R. Colomina was my favourite hut on this trek. Others have the glamour, the views and the sundecks, Colomnia has the ambience and the team. It also has the essential guide book for those doing the Carros de Foc, Tina en la Carros de Foc:

Tina en la Carros de Foc - the only map the professionals use
Tina en la Carros de Foc – the only map the professionals use

Sunday, Carros de Foc day 3: R. Colomina to Refugio Estany Llong.

The wet day, but we made it over the Colladata de Dellui before the rain really set in, and reached the refugio in time for a late picnic lunch inside in the warm and dry having walked through some lovely landscapes: high valleys and mountain lakes, deep valleys and long lakes, forests, bilberries, juniper.

Team Mucho Gusto: Still happy even on a wet day
Team Mucho Gusto: Still happy even on a wet day

A hot and sunny afternoon tempted us outside and down into the Valle de Sant Nicolau and the AigĂĽestortes part of the Park for a cold water paddle, riddles and pooh sticks.

Monday, Carros de Foc day 4: R. Estany Llong – Refugio Amitges.

This was the day we diverged from the standard Carros de Foc route and instead followed Franco’s Road past Estany Llong and up to the PortarrĂł d’Espot, before dropping down towards Estany de Sant Maurici and contouring north round to El Mirador de L’Estany, lunching en route to Estany de les Obagues de Ratera and finally the long hot climb up to glamorous Refugio Amitges.

It was also the day of the 3min 30 sec dash over scree slopes and hidden gullies to the Lone Pine – that was Alfonso and Manu, obviously – from Mirador del PortarrĂł.

The race to the Lone Pine: Winners!
The race to the Lone Pine: Winners!

And of late afternoon chanting on the shores of Estany dels Barbs – beautiful.

Too windy to enjoy the fabulous deck with views out over Estany de Sant Maurici and the valley below, and Saharan sand made the mountain views hazy. But we didn’t let that deny us beer and nibbles, or thirds of the best lentils of the whole trip. Vegetarians got a wide variety of veggie burgers on the Carros de Foc.

TV: Something at Hazel’s, possibly.

Podcasts: Forgotten! Anyway, I slept on the train to London.

Photos: Herefordshire week 192 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-09-03.

Into the Pyrenees with Alfonso & Manu: We’re back!

Time for a Post Pyrenees Blog Post!

Team Mucho Gusto had a fab time on both the Carros de Foc and La Ruta de las Golondrinas and the two routes took us to two very different parts of the Pyrenees.

Alfonso's Outline for Carros de Foc
Alfonso’s Outline for Carros de Foc
Alfonso's Outline for Ruta de las Golondrinas
Alfonso’s Outline for Ruta de las Golondrinas

Many, many memories – mostly highlights!

The gorgeous lakes everywhere in AigĂĽestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, home to the Carros de Foc, the beautiful Estany de Monestero mirroring the mountains above and around, the Grecian / Roman step dam down from Estany Negre de Peguera (it really did remind me of a square amphitheatre), our first sight of Refugio J M Blanc….

Love at first sight: Refugio J.M. Blanc
Love at first sight: Refugio J.M. Blanc

…..chanting with Esther on the shores of Estany dels Barbs, playing “Who Am I?” at Colomina (Pocohontas? No, Cleopatra) and hangman too (ornitorrinco!), Tina’s essential map of the Carros de Foc, the crazy 3 minute scree (and hidden gully) run the lone pine tree, fir trees and pines, bilberries and juniper berries, tripping over on disused, dead level railway track, crossing Collada de Dellui just before the downpour, Rachel’s emergency chocolate en route to Refugio Estany Llong, cold beers and the best lentils at Refugio Amitges, not quite having the weather to fully enjoy the Refugios’ various sun decks and terraces (but we tried), surviving top bunk ascents/descents (and snorers).

A lovely evening in Vielha, with our Mucho Gusto Team T-shirts.

Team Mucho Gusto, and some sporting the exclusive Mucho Gusto T-Shirt
Team Mucho Gusto, and some sporting the exclusive Mucho Gusto T-Shirt

Mini Magnums in Jaca and getting our Golondrinas swag (yes, I am that shallow) at Belagua.

Walking through the cathedral-like beech forest as we set off on La Ruta de las Golondrinas, Manu’s riddles – and solving them (eventually), Scrabble in Spanish (and, later, in English), watching the International Space Station silently pass overhead against a backdrop of stars, marmots and chamois, and choughs, views and climbers at Collado de Petrachema….

Rach and Me at the Collado de Petrachema, and the descent down into France
Rach and Me at the Collado de Petrachema, and the descent down into France

… the berger‘s maison d’amour (and also his tasty goats cheese and hanging chair), picnics in beech woods, 4km of toasty tarmac, arriving ahead of schedule at Refuge de l’AbĂ©rouat and celebrating with 7.2% cold beers and lots of snacks, Pas d’Azuns and Pas de l’Osque and optional extra Les Tourelles in between, the lonely berger of Arette-La Pierre St Martin, the ugly reality of a manmade ski resort sans snow, our morning ascent of Pic d’Arlas and the final return to the RincĂłn de Belagua

Although I preferred the Carros de Foc overall (and would love to do the remaining sections), Les Tourelles was my overall highlight – the buzz of getting there and back, the bearded vultures cruising past below and soaring overhead – and a fluffy front feather caught on the rock where one had landed, Alfonso and Manu doing their Professional Poses on the outcrop with sheer drops back down into the valley below.

Vulture viewing, on top of our peak in Les Tourelles
Vulture viewing, on top of our peak in Les Tourelles

Nothing we hadn’t done before 🙂

Thank you Alfonso, Esther and Manu, and here’s to another adventure in 2024!