Herefordshire Week 082: Tuesday 20 – Monday 26 July 2021

Holidays week two: Holiday-at-home.

Heatwave cont’d, and hailstones.

Too hot for walking, which had been something I’d planned to do this week. Instead, lots of reading including the wonderful, heartbreaking, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

Hamnet - Maggie O'Farrell
Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell

Too hot to be indoors of an evening too so dinners have been taken out on the patio with an LRB to hand. Breakfasts and lunches have been similarly al fresco, generally taken wherever we’ve been able to find a shady spot….


Broad beans and peas fresh from the orchard have started to feature in meals, including a nice brown rice, cherry tom and broad bean salad with a balsamic vinegar, olive oil and fresh mint dressing.

Broad Beans from the garden
Broad Beans from the garden

The buzzards are mewing more, enjoying the thermals. And the smaller birds have rediscovered the bird feeders. Phew. Phil and I tuned into our inner twitchers on Saturday morning, counting 8 young blue tits and catching a quartet of small birds contemplating the font / bird bath: a robin, a chaffinch, a blue tit and a bullfinch:

Birds at the font - robin, chaffinch, blue tit (?) and bullfinch
Birds at the font – robin, chaffinch, blue tit (?) and bullfinch

We did manage to walk to Ewyas Harold and back on Tuesday morning, indulging in ice lollies from the village shop before embarking on the return journey. I spotted a large eel in Dulas brook. Hmmm, unless it was a river lamprey – I don’t recall it having fins. It was still there, hiding in the sediment, on Monday’s walk.

We also made a couple of trips into Hereford. Wednesday’s objectives were to borrow some wooden flooring samples from Simply Stunning (we’re deciding between two Woodpecker oak flooring options: Harlech and Lynton), to return / collect library books, to have a look for new walking shoes/trainers and walking skirt, to buy a replacement bird seed feeder (Grrrr squirrel and/or woodpeckers!!!) and BBQ supplies – and to pay a visit to Steels Corner to take a look at the second hand Nissan Leaf and Mazda MX-5 that were listed on their website.

The Leaf had already sold but Thursday’s return visit to the Big City was to test drive the Mazda. Lovely, really lovely – to look at and to drive …. but …. not practical for the potholey roads I’m likely to be driving along 🙁 We’ve started looking at reviews of second hand Nissan Leaf EVs on YouTube though. For the local driving we do around here – Hereford and back, Abergavenny and back etc – the 80 mile range would be fine. And solar panels would help with the recharging at home.

Kerrys Gate Coffee on Friday morning then a mega mow in the afternoon, when it was a bit cooler. V pleased I managed to start the Honda mower on my own twice and only needed Gyford Power once. A personal best.

Pizza Fridays resumed.

Grey and overcast weekend, which was a shame as we had visitors on Saturday afternoon and a BBQ.  Decidedly down in dumps on Sunday, despite doing the Cockyard loop with Phil in the morning.

Several COVID cases in Abbey Dore – mainly via primary school kids.

Monday was beautiful, so I left Phil to take delivery of my new work laptop and the shortened curtains and headed out to do the Tremorithic Circuit.

Nettles frustrated the footpath route, so having stuck to the road I turned right at Fair Oak intending to see how long it takes to walk to Newton / St Margarets, and with half a mind to see if I could work out the road route to the Longtown road. But once the lane started to go decidedly downhill, I turned back. Determined to do a Long Walk I headed down Mill Lane and into Ewyas Harold via Dulas instead, coming back over the Common and Abbey footpath. Fab.

Late lunch in the shade of the log shed yew tree, with Dad and Jean arriving for tea and a biscuit after a funeral at the Abbey.

We were in the middle of putting up the new curtains (EXCELLENT!) when the promised thunderstorm materialised (and the forecast has featured them for days now, without any rain arriving) and treated us to a 15 minute thunderstorm featuring heavy rain and HAIL the size of mint imperials…..

Heavy rain and HAIL the size of mint imperials..... (Video, 36s)
Heavy rain and HAIL the size of mint imperials….. (Video, 36s)

And then the sun came back out.

TV:  Godless finale on Monday, then nada until Grand Designs Revisit on Friday. Enola Holmes as a bit of a pick me up on Sunday afternoon, and we started Unforgotten (albeit in the absence of season 1) in the evening.

Podcasts: History Extra 

Photos: Herefordshire week 82 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-07-25.

Herefordshire Week 081: Tuesday 13 – Monday 19 July 2021

Holidays continued.


River Colne Estuary Walk, Wivenhoe to Alresford Creek
River Colne Estuary Walk, Wivenhoe to Alresford Creek

Tuesday turned out to be sunnier than forecast, so we had a lazy day at Riverside reading and snoozing. Getting through a lot of LRBs ahead of visiting Witham on Thursday when read LRBs will be exchanged for read NYRBs.

Riverside, Wivenhoe
Riverside, Wivenhoe

An afternoon stroll around Wivenhoe with S, who spotted a muntjac deer on the meadowlands near Anglesea Road railway line.

The Wednesday plan had been to drive to the hut to make the most of the sunny day, except it wasn’t so we didn’t. More reading instead. Early evening, we strolled along the river out beyond the flood barrier, then back for a pint and an al fresco dinner out at The Black Buoy. Back for a bit of lazy telly – introduced S to the delights of Derry Girls.

Started Thursday with breakfast coffee with an LRB on the waterfront, then did Phil and I did first COVID-19 rapid lateral flow tests. Tricky getting to those tonsils….

First one
First one

Why? Because we then drove to Witham to spend the day with Phil’s folks where they treated us to a lovely take away lunch courtesy of the Tea Rooms, which we tucked into, plates on laps, in the front garden. Smashing. Top up shop at Morrisons then back to WIV leaving S to spend a few days at home. Back at base we resumed watching Godless. Liking the idea of a projector telly at 40A…..

Frinton Friday! We took the train to Frinton for morning coffee from the always excellent Bird & Bean (home of the famous Bacon Donut)….

Second breakfast
Second breakfast

… and a mooch around the shops – books from the Hospice Bookshop for Phil and half price charity shop champagne flutes for me (and in anticipation of Hazel and Catherine’s weekend visit – such demanding guests!).

A leisurely stroll along the Greensward to the hut and a late lunch up at the Naze Tower Cafe. Hardly a soul around at Hipkins Beach – but the cafe was doing good business. A super sunny day in the Sunshine Coast. We didn’t want to leave.

Happiness is Hipkins Beach on a super sunny Friday
Happiness is Hipkins Beach on a super sunny Friday

But Indian Takeaway and a gorgeous evening awaited us in Wivenhoe….

Riverside, Wivenhoe - River Colne at dusk
River Colne at dusk

Saturday and Sunday saw belated birthday celebrations with Hazel & Catherine. A sort of “Wine Weekend”. So hot!!! And so good to see them both in person again.

Birthday champagne celebrations
Birthday celebrations

A fab couple of days featuring pints at The Rose and Crown, crosswords, rigging up some shade for with a bit of washing line and a towel, champagne and pizza, a stroll along the estuary waterfront to Alresford Creek and back and slap up Sunday Roasts all round at The Black Buoy.

Sunday lunch at The Black Buoy, Wivenhoe
Sunday lunch at The Black Buoy, Wivenhoe

After a bit of toing and froing P and I decided to drive home on Monday. It was an easy drive – although the Nissan’s aircon only does hot, so we had the windows down – and we stopped at Ampthill Great Park for a cuppa, Rollright Stones near Chipping Norton for lunch and Ross for a speedy supermarket shop. Very pleased to see so many people still wearing masks, using hand sanitiser and social distancing, in spite of Monday being the fatuous and foolhardy “Freedom Day”.

Found 40A looking top notch. Watered the tomatoes, lettuces, broad beans and peas and the blackcurrant – stripped of fruit, and sadly not by TJBR, and hoovered up this year’s influx of ants in the lounge. We had had some flying ants the day before we left and I thought the ant powder would kill any later ones off too…. not so.

Finished off Godless before bed.

Still hot. Looking forward to a week’s holiday at home.

TV: Godless and Derry Girls.

Podcasts:  History Extra and Books & Authors.

Photos: Herefordshire week 81 on Flickr.

Phil: f/e 2021-07-19.

Herefordshire Week 080: Tuesday 06 – Monday 12 July 2021

Off we go to Wivenhoe!

Flexed my working pattern this week to work Tuesday morning instead of Thursday afternoon – partly to allow me more time to prep for hols and partly because Thursday was the first day in weeks that the weather forecast looked dry enough for a mow….

… which was interrupted by a visit from Welsh Water to check pressure after repairing the outside stop valve (rest assured, I had to look up that technical term). Pressure there is great, but the flow rate at the house is lower – so the v helpful WW man suggested we replace the pipe from the road to the house, and gave us some names to call. Another To Do added to our list – but well worth doing.

A bit later in the afternoon we had our home visit from the Simply Stunning flooring manager, who measured up and talked us through the options for replacing the downstairs carpet with wooden floor of some description.

Both super helpful guys.

In bird feeder news, the seeds and peanuts have been having plenty of visit from the greedy sparrow-lings and the bald headed robin is still with us. No sign of the jay. Good.

Feeding time for greedy sparrow-lings
Feeding time for greedy sparrow-lings

In the orchard, the fruit is starting to ripen – lots of apples and cherries – and the broad beans and pea pods are swelling. Lettuce is going well – at least, the ones that the slugs ? snails? birds? aren’t nibbling.


Friday saw the start of our holidays!

Good drive to Wivenhoe trying out a new route via M50 / M5 / A46 / Stow on the Wold and Chipping Norton – Chiltern heartlands – which proved a success. It’s a long way from the Welsh border to estuary Essex and the drive took up a lot of Friday. But so worth it – LOVELY to have some time with T, J and R at Riverside, starting with tea and cake with fizz and crisps following later and home made veggie Indian dinner – yum all round.

Cool though, and the cool and overcast theme continued on Saturday morning. We ventured out for a tour of The Plot and, a bit later, for a Tour de Wiv and up to the Co-Op. Lunch and then farewell to TJR. A leisurely afternoon reading indoors, then Godless in the top floor lounge.

Sunday promised sunshine so we decided to head over to Walton. Clouds and distant rain dominated the skies as we sat on the train from WIV to WON…. Uh oh. But the Sunshine Coast turned on the charm and not only did we find the beach hut looking good courtesy of AJ’s March repaint, but the sun came out and we had a lovely, lovely day sitting out on the prom, reading. Not many people around at all. Can’t all be watching The Football.

No 20, Hipkins Beach
No 20, Hipkins Beach

Back at base, dinner then out to pick up S from Stansted. Hardly another car on the road – everyone watching England v Italy in the (postponed) Euro 2020 final. Even we had the radio on, listening to the match and timed things perfectly to dash into the house to watch extra time and penalties right through to the bitter end, accompanied by cheese and biscuits and wine with S.

After indulging in a lazy Monday morning, I took the train to WON for my annual trim, bought a few things from Bartall’s and headed on up to the beach hut. Once again the gloomy weather forecast proved wrong and I had a smashing lunch up at the Naze Tower cafe, with a copy of the LRB. They have installed a coffee shed / van which offers a great range of sandwiches, coffee, cake and ice cream and a new wooden sheltered seating area, as well as the usual tables and chairs. Really lovely.

And a hot and sunny afternoon – the Sunshine Coast strikes again!

Phil arrived late afternoon, along with the clouds, and we headed over to M&R’s for a good catch up over Chinese takeaway. A real treat.

A good start to our holidays.

TV:  Ozark (season 3) at home,  Godless  and The Football (!!) in WIV.

Podcasts:  The History of England, You Must Remember This, History ExtraBooks & Authors and The Essay – Albania!

Photos: Herefordshire week 80 on Flickr.

Phil: f/e 2021-07-19.

Herefordshire Week 079: Tuesday 29 June – Monday 05 July 2021

Dinner out and weekend guests. Life almost feels normal again…

But So. Much. RAIN!

On the way down
On the way down [Skirrid] – Photo by Phil Gyford

Tuesday: Hereford shopping in the morning. Back to work in the afternoon (boo – but featuring a brief break to sort out shortening curtains with Ann H), and a lovely walk to Kerrys Gate with Phil after work, saying hello to the noisy sheep and lambs at Hill Farm and the calves who’d arrived in Thistly Field!

Work as usual on Wednesday and Thursday, and after an early Family Zoom on Thursday Phil and I strolled down to Yew Tree Cottage for dinner and catch up with T&J. A late night.

Friday: Tremorithic in the morning, with an extension onto the Common and back down to the Abbey via the footpaths and footpaths back to the road, and for the final stretch over Canns Hill. Lunch on the patio then a bit of gardening (weeding by the unknown bush and the lilac) until Rachel and Jon arrived around 4pm bearing a multitude of lovely gifts including homegrown spinach, wine and Cricketers Berry Blush Pink Gin. After tea and welsh cakes on the lawn, we had a tour of the grounds, then headed down to the Abbey and back over the fields – ready for a BBQ, indulging in some Berry Blush G&Ts by way of al fresco aperitif.

Despite the dire weather forecast Saturday stayed mostly dry after heavy rain overnight and first thing, and we had a lovely day. Skirrid, summiting in the mist, then into Abergavenny for lunch at Bean & Bread (first meal inside of the COVID era) followed by a mooch around the shops, then back via Rowlestone Court Ice Cream Parlour – only 1 scoop this time – and Ty Gwyn Cider.

John, Mary and Rachel
Jon, Mary and Rachel – Photo by Phil Gyford

Back at base Rach and I strolled up to Kerrys Gate and back in the lovely evening sun while Phil made butternut squash curry. Dinner in the conservatory, the end of the football (England v Ukraine) and bed.

Sunday started with downpours, so we had a leisurely breakfast in the conservatory before making the most of the forecast dry spell to do the Bacton – Tremorithic – Abbey Dore road route, including a detour into St Faith’s Church in Bacton. Super walk.

St Faith’s Church, Bacton
St Faith’s Church, Bacton – Photo by Phil Gyford

Tidy up lunch, then farewell to our lovely guests. The downpours resumed. A bit of admin, then lentil soup and Ozark season 3 on the telly.

Monday was a (relatively) dry day, so I set out in the morning to walk Camp Crossroads – Duffryn – Cockyard – Kerrys Gate. Clocking up a nice lot of long walks this weekend. Noticed loads of the fields are planted to broad beans this year, and there is a new gate for the footpath near the Trig Point on Cockyard Tump.

Lunch then into Hereford with Phil to run various errands and to call in at the bungalow for tea and cake with dad and Jean, and to deliver crockery and wine glasses.

Friday turned out to be my top FitBit Tracker day so far:

FitBIt stats as at Sunday 04 July 2021
FitBIt stats as at Sunday 04 July 2021
  • 34,712 steps
  • 25.4 km / 15.3 miles
  • 3h 52mins activity

My heart rate is still a bit high. Always is….

TV: Better Call Saul (finishing off season 5 – bit of a wait now until the next and final season), The Mitchells vs The Machines, Ozark (started season 3).

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

Photos: Herefordshire week 79 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-07-04.

Herefordshire Week 078: Tuesday 22 – Monday 28 June 2021

A week’s holiday at home. Should have been the Lakes with Val and Steffi.

Good:  Walks: Llanthony Priory & Hatterrall Ridge; Kingstone – Cockyard – Wormbridge footpaths.

Bad: Friday pub lunch al fresco fiasco.

Ugly: Sparrowhawk vs Woodpecker.

Llanthony Priory & Hatterrall Ridge circular walk: Vale of Ewyas and the Brecon Beacons, bordered by Hatterrall Hill south and north
Llanthony Priory & Hatterrall Ridge circular walk: Vale of Ewyas and the Brecon Beacons, bordered by Hatterrall Hill south and north

On Tuesday morning we drove to Llanthony Priory and did walk no. 7 “Up To The Border” in Kittiwake Books’ Walking in the Black Mountains, which entailed taking an easy(ish) diagonal route up onto Hatterrall Hill South, waking north along the ridge and then dropping down steeply back into the Vale of Ewyas and returning to Llantony. Smashing walk and excellent route description and directions in the book, so I’ll be doing more of those.

Llanthony Priory & Hatterrall Ridge circular walk: me and the Vale of Ewyas
Llanthony Priory & Hatterrall Ridge circular walk: me and the Vale of Ewyas

Also very satisfying to be able to orient ourselves in the Herefordshire landscape courtesy of the two new Poo Barns between Kerrys Gate and Bacton.

Back home for a late lunch, then pottered in the garden wheelbarrowing old yew tree logs from up by the swings into the garage and adding to the stack of logs ready for winter use (!).  With time to spare once I’d filled up the garage store, I headed out to do the Riverdale circuit.

Richard had come in the morning to strim the wooded slope and to cut down the wild plum sapling in the orchard and the remains of the much larger wild plum at mower turn which had been brought down by the winds, ivy and / or an adjacent tree.

Wednesday started with a leisurely breakfast out on the patio at the start of a scorcher of a day. Drove to Kingstone and left the car at the garage there together with a description of the creaky noise it’s started to make on accelerating (but only after you’ve been driving for a bit) and the rattle (most likely exhaust related).

I walked back on footpaths to Cockyard (almost), then seeing as I had the OS Green Map (Pathfinder Sheet 1040 – Hereford (South): Kingstone & Fownhope) with me, I decided to find the footpaths from Duffryn Farm’s old cider orchard to the main road at Wormbridge.

The route provided glorious views out along the valley of the river Monnow towards Abergavenny – Skirrid and Sugar Loaf looked splendid – and also lots of hay meadows, corn fields and stinging nettles. Heavy-going, so I rewarded myself with a Mr Frostee ice lolly from The Forge Garage – 30p well spent – before heading back homewards along the lanes.

Still keen to make the most of having the map with me, just past Camp Crossroads I ventured back onto the footpaths and back into meadows, cornfields and nettles – only to be foiled at the last field by the COWS at Quarrells Green. I backtracked a bit and took the footpath out to the road at Grange Farm and thence home, with one final stretch of footpath from Wellfield up to Canns Hill.

A good morning’s walk.

Lunch on the patio, having hauled some weed out of the large pond and cleared grass/weeds from around the Japanese Quince (ditto for Rhododendron after lunch).

An afternoon in the garden ticking off various jobs: moving the bigger bits of wood Richard had liberated yesterday to the first stop wood store (aka the quarry) – took a while as the mower turn logs were swathed in ivy which I decided to remove – plus a large broken branch that I spotted suspended above mower turn. Very dry, old, hawthorn, which I dragged to the quarry and trimmed. Going to need a bit of a bonfire soon. Wheelbarrowed the pond weed to the BBQ Yew Tree dump and then recycled some of the garden railway planks into a grass suppressing ring around the base of the greenhouse. Toads galore.

In the evening VWW and the last of the Big Birthdays!

Thursday dawned cloudy, cool and wet, so we postponed our plans for a pub lunch. First though I walked back to Kingstone to pick up the car – creaking reduced and rattle resolved. That’ll do. Spent the rest of the day doing admin, pottering, reading, finished sorting out the last of the outside log store pile and garden railway planks.

Friday was meant to feature the Holiday Highlight: our first trip to The Temple Bar Inn in Ewyas Harold for a pint and a pub lunch. Not just the first since COVID, but the first ever since we moved here in Jan 2020. Having walked over the Common, brimming with excitement and anticipation, we sat ourselves at an outside table and merrily worked our way through a pint. So far so good. But everything came to a crashing halt at 1pm when I tried to order food. Only two small groups there and it was going to be 2.15/2.30pm before they could serve us anything from the bar food menu.

So, so disappointing.

It took us all of Friday and Saturday to find our holiday happiness again.

One plus point: chatting with one of our neighbours on the walk down into Abbey Dore on the way there.

Saturday was cloudy and we kicked back in the conservatory reading, plus pottering and a bit of computer admin. Dad and Jean called in for tea and hot cross buns in the afternoon, enjoyed outside on the patio. Delayed pizza and film in the evening – Ant-Man was suitably undemanding – with fresh patio strawberries and ice cream for pudding.

Similarly overcast on Sunday. After a slow start to the day we did the Bacton Square, with another excellent neighbourly chat at Cann’s Hill. Resumed reading in the afternoon – I’m working my way through the LRB backlog before we go East to Essex for our Wivenhoe holiday and swop LRBs for NYRBs – and made a cake. Domestic Goddess I am not, but the vintage Be-Ro “For All Home-baking” recipe book keeps things simple and, usually, successful.

Monday morning brought unexpected excitement: A loud “bang” on the conservatory window, followed by a lot of squawking and flurries of wings at the far end of the conservatory…. and then a frantic fight between a Greater Spotted Woodpecker and a Sparrowhawk.

The Sparrowhawk won.


Afternoon jaunt to Simply Stunning in Wormelow to check out wooden flooring…. Mending. Tiffin. Tea.

TV: Better Call Saul (finishing off season 4 and starting season 5), Motherland (more of series 3) and Ant-Man.

Podcasts: Bit of a mishmash this week. I tried out three new series picked up from The Guardian’s The best podcasts of 2021 so far
Call Me Mother (yes), Death at the Wing (no), The Missing (no) – and some old favourites: The History of England, History Extra, The Allusionist, Books and Authors, You Must Remember This , Shedunnit, The Anthropocene Reviewed and In Our Time.

Photos: Herefordshire week 78 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-06-27.