Belated Birthday celebrations. Hereford for fun. Dore Abbey to Hay on Wye. Bluebells and orchids.
Drove back from Pembs on Tuesday morning, dropping Hazel off at Carmarthen en route. (That seems like a long time ago now.)
It was straight to work once I got back, so I opened cards and presents in the evening, and admired the repainted porch and utility room – all Phil’s hard work.
We were both a bit shattered after our respective weekends.
Dad and Jean came over on Thursday evening for belated birthday fish & chips (battered mushrooms in my case) and it was warm enough to sit in the conservatory until it got dark. Cake and candles rounded off a lovely evening.
Spent Friday catching up on admin and Flickring Pembrokeshire photos, with a late afternoon break for a speedy walk to Hill Farm and back with Phil, chatting with the ewes and lambs in the field en route. Yes, we do that.
On Saturday, Phil and I went into Hereford for fun. Yes – FUN! The first time since March 2020, or so it feels like. There were a few “jobs” – library (good haul of novels – much needed), bits and bobs to get, train tickets to collect, charity shop drop off to do, but the main event was lunch and coffee at Sensory & Rye. It was busy, which was good to see.
Tremorithic Footpaths on Sunday morning with Phil, then an afternoon in the greenhouse and orchard, planting out lettuce and sunflower seeds, potting up the tomato and lettuce seedlings, and planting out the sweet peas in the Coffin. I sowed a strip of rocket in the herb bed too. Keep your fingers crossed!
Fabulous day and fantastic walk, going through lush green fields full of lambs, bluebell woods and farmed forests, up over hills and sheep moorland on the border with Wales. Amazing views from Bonny Lands / Vagar Hill and Cusop Hill – seeing Hay Bluff from a completely new perspective.
All rounded off with tea and top notch cake from The Cosy Cafe in Hay on Wye – highly recommended for super customer service, as well as super cake!
Home for pizza by Phil – new dough recipe. Thumbs UP.
Spring has definitely arrived here in Herefordshire with bluebells and cowslips galore. The orchids have materialised on the front lawn and there’s blossom on the fruit trees. It’s lovely.
Plus the cows have arrived in Thistly Field. Mooooooo.
Being at a loose end on a Wednesday evening proved dangerous….. I booked the last place on Exodus’s Peaks of Ladakh.
Destination: Ladakh, Northern India
When: July 2022
What: A high altitude trek plus a couple of peaks, hopefully including Vatseri Peak (5,640m) and Dzo Jongo East (6,189m)
How: Exodus’s Peaks of Ladakh trip. (You’ll have to go look it up for yourselves – Exodus asked me to remove my links to their website.)
Why: Val Parkinson’s leading it and I’ve wanted to go back to Ladakh ever since our wonderful Autumn in Ladakh in 2016, organised by the other/usual-trek Val (Pitkethly) and Rimo Expeditions.
Day 7 of our Markha Valley Trek took us from Nimaling (4700m), over the Gongmaru La / Kongmaru La (5287m) and out via Chuskyumo (4089m) to Chokdo / Chogdo (3985m) [spelling and altitudes are from my blogpost for that trip] – and I’ve realised that some of my photos from the pass feature Dzo Jongo East (6,189m).
Dzo Jongo is the big lump, sort of in the just-left-of-centre / foreground; Kang Yatse on the right.
Out/back via Delhi, acclimatisation in Leh then ten-ish days trekking and climbing.
Train to London / Overnight flight to Delhi
Day in Delhi
Fly to Leh (3500m) / Orientation tour of Leh
Sightseeing in and around Leh (3500m) – Shey & Tikse
Acclimatisation in and around Leh (3500m) – Optional Jeep Ride to Khardung La (5,602m) & Acclimatisation walk Leh Valley
Drive to Stok; Trek to Mankarmo (4,350m)
Cross the Matho La (4,960m) to Gangpoche (4,440m)
Cross the Shang La (4,950m) to Shang Phu (4,373m)
Cross the Gyuncho La (4,718m) & second col (4,693m) to Chokdo village (on Markha Valley Trek), Chuskurmo (4,150m)
Cross the Gongmaru La (5,236m) to Nimaling (4,854m)
Trek to Dzo Jongo Base Camp; Ascend Vatseri Peak (5,640m) – optional
Rest & Acclimatisation Day
Climb Dzo Jongo East (6,189m)
Cross the Lalung La (5,320m) to Riyul Sumdo (4,500m)
Trek to Lato; Drive to Leh
Fly to Delhi.
Fly to London
But I have just mucked up my Tourist Visa Application. Let’s hope 4 months is enough time to sort it out.
Travel Insurance – I’ll probably go with the Campbell Irvine policy offered via Exodus as that will definitely cover this trip (winter sports / climbing + altitude) plus Picos and Nepal (hopefully) later in the year.
Travel money – I decide how much and in what form nearer the time.
Travel to/from London – keeping an eye out for Advance train fares….
Birthday Celebrations (not mine or Phil’s) and I’ve booked a trek….
Very cold overnights. Payback for the past couple of weeks of “summer”.
Dad called round on Tuesday morning with the first batch of surplus bricks, now neatly stacked in the quarry. Phil and I then did a three stop dash to spend the last of the free (COVID recovery) money on our Herefordshire Shop Local card – drawing blanks at our two stops in Ewyas Harold we ended up returning to Lock’s Garage for more Rowlestone Ice Cream.
No time to go out for my planned Bacton Square walk to check on the wild garlic, so planted sunflower seeds instead. So far, no sign of any seedlings.
Usual working week. No VWW – IPWWs began this week. We are alternating 🙂
Being at a loose end on a Wednesday evening proved dangerous…..
I booked the last place on Exodus’s Peaks of Ladakh Trek.
(You’ll have to go look it up for yourselves – Exodus asked me to remove my links to their website.)
Val Parkinson’s leading it and I’ve wanted to go back to Ladakh ever since our wonderful Autumn in Ladakh back in 2016, organised by the other/usual-trek Val (Pitkethly) and Rimo Expeditions.
Busy day Friday. The highlight was hosting the Kerrys Gate Ladies for an evening of Prosecco and nibbles to celebrate A Birthday. A lot of fun.
We’d been up early to take the Panda in for an official 8 year service, and for a less official “we bought this from a trader and we didn’t really know what to look for” health check.
Phil and I drove in convoy to Ponthir, deposited the car and log book with the very efficient front of house team, then headed in to Hereford in the MX5 for a whizz around M&S (party purchases) and to return a book to the library.
K came over mid morning with party supplies, narrowly missing dad and the second delivery from Dinedor – “concrete sets”.
After lunch I did the Bacton Square, then put up banners, blew up balloons and generally got into the party spirit.
Six bottled of prosecco / cava between 8 (including 2 non-drinkers) made for a quiet start to Saturday. Not a hangover – just that tiredness that comes from missing out on a deep sleep.
The Cockyard Circuit with K&K followed by a late lunchtime fry up from Phil sorted that out.
Phil and I did a new route for a Sunday morning walk: Abbey Dore – Deer Field – Ewyas Harold Common – Cott Farm – Dulas Court – Old Trout Inn – Mill Lane – Cwm Hill – Abbey Dore.
Plenty of blackthorn blossom out:
Lunch, then an afternoon of Ladakh Trek Prep. I spent a happy few hours sorting out kit hire from Expedition Kit Hire (who were the highly recommended source of hired kit for my Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Island Peak trip in 2019) and prepping my Trek Prep Spreadsheet – and a less happy few hours getting to grips with my application for an Indian Visa. The e-Tourist Visa we’d got last time isn’t available.
Monday, unusually, was a work day. New joiner onboarding. But we did get the ride on mower back, bearings repaired under warranty. Top job, Ron Smith!
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.
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.
Thursday and Friday mornings provided repeat performances. Just magical, and on Friday morning I nipped out to Thistly Field for some photos.
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.
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.
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…..
* (You would not believe how many tries it’s taken me to spell Ffawyddog correctly. And, well I never, it means Beech Grove)
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.
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.
Featuring Wine Wednesday, a long weekend in Walton and a Loosemore Family Meal.
Work’s done for the year.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.