Herefordshire Week 076: Tuesday 09 – Monday 14 June 2021

Guests! Glorious weather. Strimmer lesson and a close encounter with a buzzard. Backed out of the Lakes trip.

Me on the Cat's Back
Me on the Cat’s Back

Up early on Tuesday for the drive home from Solihull, taking the Worcester South / Malvern / Hereford route so that I could stop off in Hereford to do a big shop in Aldi and Sainsbury’s. Home in time for a mug or two of tea and the Cockyard Direct route before lunch. The bridge by Blackmoor Farm has been repaired.

Usual schedule for the rest of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (work, VWW and Family Zoom).

C and SL arrived for their long weekend at the Abbey Dore Pod on Thursday. Did a chunk of admin first thing Friday morning before heading down to meet them at the Pod. Explored the Abbey then took the footpath round the back of Abbey Dore Court, and along the River Dore to Riverdale and back home via Kerrys Gate. Tour of the grounds then lunch and chat for the rest of the afternoon.

Steffi arrived early on Saturday morning and we drove over to Skirrid. Surprisingly easy parking and fantastic views from the summit. On the drive home we stopped off at Rowlestone Court Farm Ice Cream Parlour – YUM – and later in the evening indulged in a feast of BBQ curated by Phil.

Skirrd panorama
Skirrd panorama

We did the Cat’s Back on Sunday – more superb views out over Herefordshire to the east and the beautiful Olchon Valley and majestic Hatterall Ridge to the west. After tea and brownies on the lawn we headed down to the Pod for dinner on the patio and farewells.

Olchon Valley and Hatterrall's Ridge from The Cat's Back, panoramic views - and Steffi
Olchon Valley and Hatterrall’s Ridge from The Cat’s Back, panoramic views – and Steffi

So good having friends to visit. As well as good company, they provide a reminder that we really do now live in a gorgeous part of the world.

Monday was a mixed day. Trying to book train tickets up to the Lakes next week failed at the mandatory seat reservation stage, and I wasn’t keen on driving the now rattling/creaking car there, around and back in the first place. The earliest I could book the car in at the garage was next Wednesday. After a lot of soul searching, to-ing and fro-ing and telephone calls (with my phone finally running out of credit midway through), I decided not to go. I’ve realised I need a bit of time off here to get on top of things and to have a bit of a break.

On the plus side, dad came over late morning and I had my first lesson with the big hand-held strimmer before mowing the “lawn” below the large pond and up on the solarium. As I was doing the area by Barney’s tree a big buzzard landed in the cut grass on the Solarium and we looked at one another for a while. Amazing.

After lunch, drove to Powells and dropped off the strimmer mower and picked up C’s chain saw (Bosch Electric). Got details of a guy who can do a 1 day chainsaw maintenance and basics lesson too…. Back at base, netted the cherry tree, cleared all the grass from inside the greenhouse and transplanted my tomato seedlings into growbags.

Tomato seedlings planted out - Batch 2
Tomato seedlings planted out – Batch 2

We also decided to postpone the garage revamp – too much uncertainty with the price and timescales largely due to scarcity of building materials. So I won’t be getting my Mazda MX-5 just yet….

In bird news, we’ve noticed a lot of juvenile birds out and about by the bird feeders – in particular a young blackbird which is a bit gormless but seems to survive. Still following dad for food!

Juvenile Blackbird
Juvenile Blackbird

Taking down the seed feeder has deterred the squirrels, but Phil’s seen at least three mice munching on the peanuts….

TV:  Ozark (finished off season 2), Hip Hop Evolution and Bo Burnham: Inside.

Podcasts: The History of England, History ExtraThe Essay and You Must Remember This.

Photos: Herefordshire week 76 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-06-13.

Herefordshire Week 071: Tuesday 04 – Monday 10 May 2021

Work Work Work Work (a 4 day week). More visitors. Week in the Lakes with Val lined up for June.

The upgrade continues. We got to the bumpy stage mid-week but by the end of Friday I felt more on top of things. Exhausted. Now we just have to get through Wednesday night’s go live. One of the downsides of Tech being in LA….

Once I wrapped up the week on Friday, I took myself out for a walk doing the Kerrys Gate – Riverdale route. First though, I did a tour of the garden. Beautiful down by the bluebells, with birdsong in the air.

Birdsong and bluebells (video, 25 sec)
Birdsong and bluebells (video, 25 sec)

Loads of flowers  – the camellia and daffs are on their last legs, but cowslips and primroses are still going strong, as are the bluebells, violets, forget-me-nots and lady’s smock, and recently joined by carpet bugle. There’s blossom on all the fruit trees and wild strawberries have appeared down on the lower mower path and their domesticated brethren in the patio pots are starting to show buds. Out on the lawn the purple orchids are expanding their territory, with one brave flower emerging much closer to the conservatory than any of last year’s.

The clematis is out over the log shed too, and I finally planted out my birthday Japanese Quince, next to the other shrubs between the patio and the small pond.

Planted out my Japanese Quince birthday present from Phil
Planted out my Japanese Quince birthday present from Phil

My pea stick frame got blown down in the veg patch/herb bed (P and I did a temporary repair on Monday in between downpours), but I do have more shoots, and the mint has recovered. Plenty of rain this week. The water butts are full.

Zoomed with Emma on rainy Saturday morning (and had VWW and Family Zoom in the week) and drove into Hereford to do a big supermarket shop in the afternoon – wet and windy and weirdly warm (quite monsoon-ish) but surprisingly quiet in the supermarkets – and had fish & chips from EH for dinner.

We did the Cockyard walk on Sunday morning, bumping into K&K at Hill Farm. Didn’t manage to get my LW Spring Challenge Fitbit set up in time, and still struggling to get the app working Sunday and Monday. None of my mobile devices are new enough I fear. Shame.

Monday had been pencilled in for Pen y Fan with Steffi but during the week it turned out that it suited us both very nicely to postpone. So we did.

Which meant Phil and I got to see Dave and Gwyn for a late lunch as they had to be in Hereford late morning.

In travel news, I’m off up to the Lakes for a week walking with Val and Steffi at the end of June, and we’ve got visitors booked in for weekends in June and July, with C and SL staying in the Pod while they’re here. Nice.

COVID is wreaking havoc in Nepal: ‘A hopeless situation’: oxygen shortage fuels Nepal’s Covid crisis | Coronavirus | The Guardian

TV: Finished season 1 of Ozark, then a bit more Call My Agent before turning back to Better Call Saul (series 3 – not so gripped), tried out Jonny Vegas: Carry on Glamping (1 was enough), had another attempt at Song Exploder (won’t bother with another –  Chris Molanphy’s Hit Parade does it better) and polished off Bridgerton on Sunday afternoon (more please).

Podcasts: History Extra, In Our Time, The Infinite Monkey CageThe Essay and Bookclub.

Photos: Herefordshire week 71 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-05-09 (although he doesn’t mention that he’s done a lot of baking this week – two chunky boules of bread and a big batch of oat and raisin cookies).

Where next: Lake District

Trip No. 2 of 2021: Lake District

Destination: Lake District

When: June 2021

What: A week’s guided walking with Val and Steffi, based in Grasmere to start with and then Keswick outskirts

How: Driving there and back, probably taking the scenic A49 up through the Welsh Marches before joining the M6

Why: For fresh air and friends, and some English hills

June 2021: Trying to book train tickets up to the Lakes failed at the mandatory seat reservation stage, and I wasn’t keen on driving the now rattling/creaking car there, around and back in the first place. After a lot of soul searching, to-ing and fro-ing and telephone calls (with my phone finally running out of credit midway through), I decided not to go. I’ve realised I need a bit of time off here to get on top of things and to have a bit of a break.

Where next: Wivenhoe & Walton, Essex

Trip No. 3 of 2021: Essex

Destination: WIV & WON, way over there on the East Coast

When: July 2021

What: A long week based in Wivenhoe courtesy of a house swap. Hoping to fit in a few day trips to Walton on the Naze and a day in WTM and to celebrate two years’ worth of birthdays with Hazel, Catherine and Rach

How: Driving there and back, and the train for WIV-WON

Why: For a low stress holiday by the seaside with family and friends

Where next: 2021 – COVID-19 Update

Here’s a copy of my Where Next page that I made today (26 March 2021). The page displayed all the optimism (and desperation) of January 2021. My updated “Where’s Next” page has a little less of both….

None of these trips are going to happen.

I’ve written off any foreign travel this year, and definitely no big trip – even if we’re vaccinated I can’t imagine Nepal will be, and the prospect of sitting in an aeroplane for 7-10 hours with a transfer in India or Dubai does not appeal. With Europe heading into its Third Wave and post-BREXIT relations already soured, Italy and Spain are highly unlikely. That said, I’ll be happy if we get to the autumn and I’m proved wrong.

Plus we’ve really not explored around here yet, and I really want to see family and friends – right now the prospect of being able to spend a long weekend in Pembs with the Everest Trek Crowd at the end of May is a huge highlight.


I’m hoping to be able to do some of the 2020 trips that we had to postpone due to COVID-19, and to get to see more of the Marches and Wales.

I feel I got off lightly last year – 2020 was always going to be focused on relocating to Herefordshire and so I’d not made any Big Travel Plans. In fact the only trips in the diary were a return to northern Spain with Steffi and Hazel to walk the El Anillo de Picos in the company of Alfonso who led 2019’s week in the Picos plus a week or so in northern Italy for Michael and Katja’s wedding.

Trip No. 1 of 2021: Northern Italy (postponed from 2020)

Destination: Val d’Aosta, north of Turin

When: Summer 2021

What: City break + History + Mountains + Friends. Maybe taking advantage of Michael and Katja’s Aosta Wanderlust.

How: TBC – last year we ended up booking flights to/from Turin, but the idea of travelling there and back by train still appeals….

Why: For Michael and Katja’s wedding.

Trip No. 2 of 2021: El Anillo de Picos (postponed from 2020)

Destination: The Picos de Europa, Northern Spain.

When: August / September 2021.

What: Steffi, Hazel and I – plus Rache – return to Northern Spain to walk El Anillo de Picos.

How: In the wonderful company of Alfonso Gallego de Lerma who was our excellent guide/leader on Exodus’ Picos de Europa trip we did in July 2019.

Why: July 2019’s trip whetted the appetite even though the bad weather restricted our routes and made the Grade 5 trip closer to the standard Grade 3 holiday than any of us would have wished.

This time we’ll get to spend a long week in the Picos de Europa proper, hiking in and around  the three massifs. We will be staying in refugios and carrying “everything” with us.  That shouldn’t be as dramatic as it sounds – we are used to carrying wet weather gear and warm layers, plus lunch and water, in our day packs and will only need a sheet sleeping bag for the refugios which will also provide all our meals. I for one am not renowned for my vast wardrobe when I’m walking …. Plus we will have clean clothes to enjoy once we’ve competed El Anillo.

Itinerary: Factoring in travel to/from London, our itinerary is:

  • Day 0: Travel to London
  • Day 1: Fly to Bilbao. Travel to Arenas de Calabres.
  • Days 2 to 8: Trekking through the Picos.
  • Day 9: Relax and swim…. Drive to Bilbao or Santander. Visit the city.
  • Day 10: Fly to London
  • Day 11: Travel back from London

Trip No. 3 of 2021: Kanchenjunga Base Camp and Beyond …

Destination: Kanchenjunga, Eastern Nepal.

When: November 2021 TBC

What: Trekking to one/both of the Kanchenjunga base camps and out again. Route TBC. All Nepal side. Val ran through some options when we met at Steffi’s in 2020. With hindsight, getting everyone to Pembs then was a rare event! Options are:

  • North & South Basecamps (~5100m & ~4780m) – 25/26 days
  • North Basecamp & Lumba Sumba (~4700m) – 23 days
  • North Basecamp there and back via the Milke Danda & Tumlingtar – 21/22 days

How: Trekking with the amazing Val Pitkethly and Chhering. Not sure who else!

Why: More high mountains, more remote communities and another section of the GHT.

Kanchenjunga Routes - Val's map
Kanchenjunga Routes – Val’s map