Herefordshire Week 107: Tuesday 11 – Monday 17 January 2022

Frosty!

Two big walks: Symonds Yat Circular on Saturday was topped by a gloriously sunny Monday out walking in the Black Mountains. Life doesn’t get much better.

Stand by for superlatives.

Frosty Morning Sunrise, Thistly Field Oak
Frosty Morning Sunrise, Thistly Field Oak

We were treated to a gorgeous frosty morning on Wednesday. Pink and orange hued clouds as the sun rose into a blue sky. White front lawn, grass sparkling. Not a breath of air. The blue skies and sunshine stayed all day. And I was stuck inside working.

Beautiful morning
Beautiful morning

Thursday and Friday mornings provided repeat performances. Just magical, and on Friday morning I nipped out to Thistly Field for some photos.

Frosty Morning, Thistly Field Panorama
Frosty Morning, Thistly Field Panorama

After Friday’s beautiful start and a good catch up with VP the rest of the day got hit for six. I ticked off various tasks: topped up my MX-5 antifreeze (eBay delivered), planted some of CH’s lemon grass seeds, pruned the gooseberry bush and followed Monty Don‘s directions on propagating the cuttings, raked up leaves on the mower path and made holes in the frozen pond for the fish.

We needed calm telly come the evening. This Farming Life delivered.


Out with Hereford Excalibur / GVWC on Saturday for a winter’s day walk on Saturday – Symonds Yat Circular. Smashing!

6 hours, 12-ish miles on forest trails, two short sections of road, field footpaths, Offa’s Dyke Path, Wysis Way and the Peregrine Path. Route: Symonds Yat Car Park & Cafe (above Symonds Yat East) – Christchurch to Symonds Yat Trail – Bracelands – Staunton – Birchen Wood – Kymin – Suck Stone – Peregrine Path – Symonds Yat East riverside – Car Park.

GVWC: Symonds Yat Circular - Bronze Leaves
GVWC: Symonds Yat Circular – Bronze Leaves

And at the end, a lovely mug of tea at The Saracen’s Head, Symonds Yat East watching the Wye flow by.

Back home for another cup of tea, and a mince pie. Those Sainsbury’s bargain boxes are still going!


Plans to take the MX-5 for a spin to Skirrid for a walk on Sunday were stymied by a flat battery. Thank heavens for the ancient charger and good neighbours.

An anxious day. Even a lovely morning walk around the Bacton Square and clearing some of the ivy from the Solarium Shrub didn’t help.

Grey Valley from the lane to Kerrys Gate
Grey Valley from the lane to Kerrys Gate

Monday’s weather forecast was amazing; perfect walking weather. So I took the MX-5 out for a spin into the Vale of Ewyas for a fabulous walk in the Black Mountains – a lovely 11 mile loop from Llanthony Priory: up Cwm Bwchel to Bal-Bach, north along the Ffawyddog* ridge, down to Capel-y-ffin, contouring along an old track for a bit then up to Hatterrall Ridge and back south along the Offa’s Dyke Path to Llanthony.

All under glorious blue skies and sunshine. Hot up high but still frosty and frozen in the shade, woodsmoke and mountain ponies, it made me feel like I was trekking in Nepal…..

Llanthony Loop: Up Cwm Bwchel to the ridge - Looking back at Llanthony Priory
Llanthony Loop: Up Cwm Bwchel to the ridge – Looking back at Llanthony Priory
Llanthony Loop: Ffawyddog Ridge
Llanthony Loop: Ffawyddog Ridge – looking south
Llanthony Loop: Me on Ffawyddog Ridge
Llanthony Loop: Me on Ffawyddog Ridge
Llanthony Loop: Capel-y-ffin
Llanthony Loop: Capel-y-ffin
Llanthony Loop: Climb up to Hatterrall Ridge - Capel-y-ffin waymark stone
Llanthony Loop: Climb up to Hatterrall Ridge – Capel-y-ffin waymark stone
Llanthony Loop: Along Hatterrall Ridge - HELLO HEREFORDSHIRE!
Llanthony Loop: Along Hatterrall Ridge – HELLO HEREFORDSHIRE!
Llanthony Loop: Along Hatterrall Ridge
Llanthony Loop: Along Hatterrall Ridge
Llanthony Loop: down to Llanthony Priory - the Vale of Ewyas
Llanthony Loop: down to Llanthony Priory – the Vale of Ewyas
Llanthony Loop: down to Llanthony Priory
Llanthony Loop: down to Llanthony Priory

* (You would not believe how many tries it’s taken me to spell Ffawyddog correctly. And, well I never, it means Beech Grove)

Walk 4 in Kittiwake’s excellent Walking in the Black Mountains. Plenty of signposts and waymarks and clear trails made for a straightforward route.

Returned to find the hedges had been cut – we’ve been wondering when that’d happen – news from London and a massive moon.

Hello Moon
Hello Moon

WHAT A DAY.


Talking of Nepal, on Tuesday I received an email from Günter Seyfferth who runs the wonderful Mountains of Himalaya website (www.himalaya-info.org) asking if he could use some of my photos of the Jangla Bhanjyang and views from Seri to Dhaulagiri Himal taken on 2017’s Dolpo Trek as he is updating his page on the Dhaulagiri Himal.

OMG, YES!!!! If you’ve read any of my Nepal trek blogposts, you’ll know how much I rely on Günter’s website to identify mountains etc in my photos. What an honour.

Looking at the annotated copies he’s sent in return reminded me we crossed the Jangla Bhanjyang on my birthday….

Three Nepal-y things in one week – Val chat, Günter’s emails and Monday’s walk. Now I really want to go back to Nepal. Let’s hope….


Aconites are coming up / out, snowdrops are surfacing in all the usual spots and there are daffodil shoots down by the old garden railway.

Aconites
Aconites

And on the bird feeder, a long tailed tit or two put in an appearance, as did a starling, joining the usual array of blue tits, great tits and greater spotted woodpeckers on the peanuts and chaffinches, dunnocks, blackbirds and robins foraying beneath.


TV: Succession (finished season 3), This Farming Life, Toast of Tinseltown, Mare of Easttown.

Podcasts: History Extra, SheDunnit, and a lot of The Essay.


Photos: Herefordshire week 107 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-01-16.

Herefordshire Week 102: Tuesday 07 – Monday 13 December 2021

London. Essex Part 2. Home.

Featuring Wine Wednesday, a long weekend in Walton and a Loosemore Family Meal.

Work’s done for the year.

Morning!
Morning!

Tuesday was my first day in the London office since COVID kicked off. Strange and not so strange. The part that worried me most was the morning commute and after consultation with H I opted to get the train from CJ into Waterloo and to walk the rest of the way.

Up at 6.30am – a bit of a shock to the system – and who’d imagine I’d forget which platforms the Waterloo trains run from? The train was a bit busier than I’d imagined but not so different from Monday’s journey in from Essex, and I really enjoyed the walk along the South Bank and over the Wobbly Bridge as a technicolour sunrise took over the whole sky to the east.

Settled into my Hotelling Desk and thankfully the other person who’d booked in for the day was a no show. Got my new headphones working, tracked down my mug and picked up my parcel. These things are Important. Caught up with a few folks over coffee and, at the end of the day, wine. KMCA winter drinks rounded off my first day in the office since January 2020. Then it was the Northern Line back to Hazel’s for a cheeky Deliveroo dinner.

A tiring day. But good to be back in the office and being able to meet people in person again. And I discovered that the southbound Northern Line now has a branch line that goes to Battersea Power Station!


Another full day at work on Wednesday; same commute as yesterday.

Wrapped up at 5.50pm – having to pack everything up every evening and take it back to my locker required multiple journeys and took an age – and speed walked to Bow Lane Wine Vaults for Wine Wednesday. Another “first since January 2020”.

Found Catherine in an uncomfortably busy BLWV and with Boris announcing Plan B. As we loitered in vain for a table we decided on our own Plan B – to go straight to Pizza Express. Rachel materialised as we were texting Hazel (mysteriously late) and it was wonderful to find Virginie at the pretty empty Russia Row restaurant.

Prosecco and pizzas all round, and really special to hang out again.


Thursday was a long day.

I spent the morning in the office for my last “day” at work for 2021. I’m glad I managed to get to the London office at least once this year, and just in the nick of time (Hello again, Plan B). Unfortunately the plan to meet up with D for lunch was foiled by a Ping.

Early afternoon train to Witham to meet up with Phil at his folks for a cuppa and a mince pie, then drove east to the Essex Coast and a long weekend in a seafront AirBnB back in Walton on the Naze.

Walked to M&S and Aldi to pick up supplies – walking to the shops is now a novelty – and then settled in for an evening on the sofa, nice and snug and looking forward to waking up to sea views in the morning.


Friday’s breakfast came with a sea view, then a bracing stroll along the prom to Frinton. Lots of the beach huts showing signs of Lockdown TLC. A potter along Connaught Avenue culminated in The Hospice Bookshop, where Phil bought of a couple of books on puppies…

Lunch back at base then a lazy afternoon in PJs channel surfing on the bedroom TV.

Takeaway Thai from the Pearl of Samui for dinner. Quite honestly the best Thai anywhere.


Saturday started with an amazing sunrise and the seafront flat really came into its own.

Sunrise - stage 1
Sunrise – stage 1
Sunrise - stage 2
Sunrise – stage 2

After breakfast we headed out for a mooch around Terry’s, a successful visit to Lilley’s Bakery and a stroll along the High Street checking for changes. Not so many.

Purchases dropped off at the flat, then back out to walk to Hipkins to check on the beach hut….

Beach hut reflections, Walton on the Naze
Beach hut reflections, Walton on the Naze

All good, so we continued up to the Naze Tower and on to the headland, and all the way along the estuary shore to Stone Point and Pye Sand – making the most of low tide. It’s a lovely wild stretch of strand, tucked between Hamford Water and the Walton Backwaters and Marshes.

Me, Stone Point & Pye Sand, Walton on the Naze
Me, Stone Point & Pye Sand, Walton on the Naze

Back via Hipkins / Hall Lane park with its (temporarily ?) relocated beach huts, Joy Otter Walk and the decommissioned Coastguard Station. Late lunch and a couple of hours reading before we headed round to see Margaret and Richard for tea and cake, and a glass of wine or two. Catching up on all the Walton news.


A glorious morning on Sunday with blue skies and sunshine, so breakfast done I set out for a quick spin around town checking out cafe / takeaway options ahead of the Wivenhoe arrivals. Luxuriating in T shirt weather in December I decided to stretch my legs a little further – over golden sands to the beach hut and along the front to the Naze Tower, then back via Old Hall Lane and Hall Lane to Foundry corner, the perennially muddy footpath to the Naze Marine Caravan Park and along the “sea wall” and more muddy footpath all the way to North Street. Smashing. No camera with me, of course.

With half an hour before Tom, B, Dad and Jean were due to arrive, I picked up Phil and we strolled south along the Prom, passing people eating ice creams and drinking coffee/tea al fresco at Mays, and returning to town along the upper path past Burnt Farm and the Seaview Caravan Park – ready to rendezvous with Dad and Jean, T & B.

Cloud cover caught up with us at the station rendezvous, so we picked up sandwiches and drinks at the lacklustre Potatoe Shack (yes, that’s the correct spelling) and lunched in the green kiosk near Ice Cream Central. A stroll along the sea front took us all the way to Hipkins where dad and Jean took a breather on a bench while T, B, Phil and I continued on to The Links Cafe for tea and cake. Then back to the station, where our guests headed back to WIV.

Walton Wander with Dad & Jean, T & B, and Phil
Walton Wander with Dad & Jean, T & B, and Phil

A leisurely afternoon featuring The Living Daylights, then the 6.30pm to Wivenhoe where T, J & B were waiting to take us all to the Wivenhoe House Hotel. Dad and Jean were staying there for the weekend and treated us all to a long overdue family meal. Very Christmassy, and  easy to forget Omicron, except for the masks.

Today’s the first time dad, me and Tom have been together for ages, stretching back pre-COVID.


Slow start to the day, Monday.

Winter sunrise, Walton on the Naze
Winter sunrise, Walton on the Naze

An orange and turquoise sunrise sky glimpsed through the bedroom window, and a couple of episodes of The Essay. Clouds arrived as the tide receded, and we decided we were missing home, had done all the things we really wanted to do in Walton, and that we’d drive back a day early.

So we did.

Another excellent lunch at the cafe in Ampthill Great Park, a quick shop in Ross on Wye, and home for an evening by the log stove.

Lovely.


And so ended Trip No. 6 of 2021: Essex

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

When: December 2021

What: A few days in Witham (P) and Work (M) followed by 5 days in an AirBnB in Walton including dinner with dad and Jean, T, J and B in Wivenhoe.

How: Driving there and back, and the train for WTM-LST.

Why: For a seaside mini-break, time with family and to wrap up the work year “in person” (aka in the office) for the first time since Jan 2020.


TV: At Hazel’s – Masterchef; In Walton – Money Heist season 2 (not as gripping as season 1), What We Do In the Shadows (series 3), The Living Daylights.

Podcasts: The Essay, Books and Authors, History of England.


Photos: Herefordshire week 102 on Flickr.

Phil: f/e 2021-12-13.


Just spotted this is my 800th blogpost.

Herefordshire Week 101: Tuesday 30 November – Monday 06 December 2021

Essex, part 1, and London.

Back in the Barbican (Briefly)
Back in the Barbican (Briefly)

After a hectic Monday, we took things a little easier on Tuesday morning with a lovely stroll down to the Abbey, the footpath around Abbey Dore Court and across the fields there and stopping off for a quick chat with T on the way back.

Back at base, we moved the leftover loft wood into the green shed and set the rat trap by the compost bin, discovering it had already claimed one victim, a mouse from the size of the skeleton….

Justin the tiler came round on Wednesday morning to take a look at the porch and the utility room / downstairs loo, where we want to replace the Lino with red quarry tiles. All good. VWW in the evening.


We had decided over the weekend to head to Essex / London a few days earlier than originally planned so I flexed my working pattern to work Friday so that we could drive to Essex on Thursday.

Thursday turned into a long day.

Up early to discover that a cold night had meant that the raindrops on the windscreen had frozen. The drive east was a dream, clear blue skies, not too much traffic, smashing lunch at the cafe in Ampthill Great Park.  First long run in the Panda, and once at P’s folks we made good use of the car driving over to Chelmsford and back.

So far, so good.

Things started to go awry with the WIV stage of the plan – I was due to drive there to spend the weekend with T and J and to work from theirs on Friday. J’s train journey out turned into a nightmare – first train cancelled due to trespassers on the line, second train broke down before Shenfield and they were marooned there for 3 hours. It all worked out in the end though, with me meeting J at Colchester and driving on to WIV. Late night though.

Worked from WIV on Friday, T arriving late afternoon and we treated ourselves to fish & chips for tea.


Saturday was a busy day – first job was to see what was in T’s boxes from the loft which had filled up most of the car. They contained some gems, including our “attick club” membership cards and several of my long forgotten school projects. I obviously had a stage where I was obsessed with Victorian fashion.

But most of the day was spent with P and his folks. Tom provided a taxi pick up service and back in WIV we tucked into a lovely lunch laid on by Jo. Morning rain had cleared to leave beautiful blue skies and another cold but sunny day. Just right for a potter along the riverfront and around old Wivenhoe and a mooch in the bookshop. After tea and cake to warm up, I drove J & J and P home, leaving the car there and catching to train back to WIV. A good day, but T, J and I were ready for a rest that evening.


Late start Sunday, then the short drive to the University of Essex to charge the car and to go for a stroll around the campus and into Hythe. We also checked out Wivenhoe House Hotel where dad and Jean are staying next weekend.

Wivenhoe / University of Essex Campus & Hythe
Wivenhoe / University of Essex Campus & Hythe

T and J headed home late afternoon and I pottered until it was time for the St Andrews Ladies Zoom. Always so lovely to catch up, and we all have our fingers crossed that it will be third time lucky for our weekend back in St Andrews next summer.


I caught the train into London on Monday morning. First up, a quick nip into work to activate my work locker and to leave most of my stuff there. All good. The first time I’d been into the London office since January 2020 – and Reception team still recognised me 🙂

Then up to the Barbican for a long overdue coffee with silver surfer Jean, followed by a wet walk to Regents Park and a nice catch up with Charles in the Regent’s Bar & Kitchen. As afternoon turned into evening I walked via Chelsea to Hazel’s. I clocked up 15 miles all told on foot today.

Barbican Lakes
Barbican Lakes

A relaxing evening at Hazel’s indulging in Masterchef and Made in Chelsea – and a bottle of wine with healthy dinner.


TV: at home – Tick, Tick… Boom! (we only managed about 10 minutes) and Hip Hop Evolution; in WIV – various YouTube videos featuring Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf and Doctor Who (finished series 13); in SW11 – Masterchef (US version) and Made in Chelsea.

Podcasts: The Essay, Lingthusiasm and SheDunnit.


Photos: Herefordshire week 101 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-12-05.

Where next: El Anillo de Picos, Northern Spain

Third time lucky?

Destination: The Picos de Europa, Northern Spain.

When: September 2022.

What: Steffi, Hazel, Rachel and I head to Northern Spain to walk El Anillo de Picos.

How: With Alfonso Gallego de Lerma who was our excellent guide / leader on Exodus’ Picos de Europa trip Hazel, Steffi and I did in July 2019.

Why: Our 2019 trip introduced us to the mountains of Northern Spain and 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: Eight days trekking with a spot of R&R on the coast at the end:

Day 1: Fly to Bilbao. Travel to Arenas de Calabres.
Days 2 to 9: Trek El Anillo de Picos.
Day 10: Day in Llanes.
Day 11: Travel to Bilbao. Fly to London

We’ve booked flights (EasyJet / vueling) and Alfonso will be booking hotels and the refugios.

Let’s hope COVID plays ball. Oh, thanks Omicron.

Herefordshire Week 092: Tuesday 29 September – Monday 04 October 2021

An On Off On Off week in Pembs with rainy days and dry sunny days alternating. Breezy throughout.

Sunday morning stroll, Newgale Beach
Sunday morning stroll, Newgale Beach

Back home…. a couple of significant new things:

New car!

Say Hello to our New Car
Say Hello to our New Car

Wooden Floors!

The wooden flooring is laid
The wooden flooring is laid

Heavy rain overnight so Tuesday was deemed as day to spend in the van, reading and chatting until cheese on toast lunch. The afternoon held dry spells and we managed the walk around the Southwood Estate picking blackberries and sloes. We stewed the former in anticipation of a crumble on Thursday and froze the latter ready to make sloe gin. Tasty Cashew Nut Curry Risotto for dinner with cheese and biscuits after.


Wednesday was the sunny day of the week so we drove over to Marloes and walked on up to Martin’s Haven and around the headland to Marloes Sands, returning via roads and field footpaths.

Pembrokeshire Coast: Marloes Circuit
Pembrokeshire Coast: Marloes Circuit

Lots of seals and pups in the bays along the way. Lots of photos.

Seal pup perseveres (video, 20s)
Seal pup perseveres (video, 20s)

Tea and welsh cakes back at base and bit of relaxing before Maurice arrived and drove us to Nolton Haven for dinner at The Haven Brasserie. My first evening meal out for a long long time.


Back to rain on Thursday – light windswept showers and heavier spells. Leisurely start then into Narberth. A damp and drizzly potter around time with our buzzer from Ultracomida in order to get a place at their tapas table.

Worth the wait for a tasty tapas lunch then tea with Maurice, Outlet & Lidl shopping in H’west and back to base for the evening.

Rain resumed. We tucked into cheese and biscuits followed by blackberry and apple crumble.


A wet start Friday cleared to leave a breezy sunshine-filled day and so it was off to St Davids to walk the Coast Path from Caerfai to White Sands.

A smashing day, blackberry picking, seal watching and with coffee and cake at Porthclais Kiosk.

Seal pup
Seal pup
Swimming seal, St Davids Peninsula
Swimming seal, St Davids Peninsula

Steffi took the footpath route back into St Davids which cut down the long road section at the end and brings you into St Davids via the Cathedral and Bishops Palace. Lovely.

By the end we were all glowing from a day of sunshine and fresh air.

Whitesands Bay
Whitesands Bay

Back to the van for tea and a welsh cake then wine and nibbles, Lidl Deluxe pizzas, crumble and creme fraiche.

October started well.


Rain returned in the evening and continued in and off overnight and into Saturday, heavy. Lazy morning featuring bed coffee and a late breakfast, sloe gin production, reading and listening to podcasts. And a fab sunset.

Sunset from the van, Newgale
Sunset from the van, Newgale

Early rain cleared on Sunday morning and another bright and breezy day lured us down onto the beach for a low tide stroll.

Then it was packing up and off to Mayhem for one of Maurice’s slap up Sunday lunches. Well up to the usual high standard, even if the gathering was significantly smaller than usual. we’d not managed our Everest Trek Get Together as D&G had decided not to come in light of the petrol shortages and weather forecast.

Sunday lunch - veggie version
Sunday lunch – veggie version

Easy drive home dropping Hazel off at Carmarthen train station en route, returning to find the downstairs walls and skirting painted by Phil and the grass collector bit of the mower fixed by dad and Phil.

Phil managed half of the box of Sunday lunch leftovers I was sent home with…..


Quite a momentous day, Monday:

    1. We collected our new car. It’s a Fiat Panda 4×4, to cater for the icy roads and occasional floods as well as potholes, narrow country lanes and Hereford parking. We did a part-Ex on the Nissan, which made me realise how attached I’d become to it. Sniff.

      Goodby old car.... Hello new car
      Goodbye old car…. Hello new car
    2. The wooden flooring was laid in the hall, dining room and lounge.

      New flooring in the lounge, dining area and entrance hall - before, during & after
      New flooring in the lounge, dining area and entrance hall – before, during & after

TV: Grand Designs, Maid.

Podcasts / audiobooks: History Extra, Great Lives, Books and Authors.


Photos: Herefordshire week 92 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-10-03.