Herefordshire Week 012: Monday 16 – Tuesday 24 March 2020

Another weird week – Sunday 15 March I’d dropped off Janette at the train station after a weekend here; Sunday 22 March was the day after I’d been to see see dad and Jean for probably the last time until we’re through all this.

And, yes, another Tuesday weeknotes. Not sure I’m going to continue them – it feels like a bit of a chore, and I’m not sure who’s reading them, and I’d rather spend my screentime emailing / video chatting with friends and family. Phil suggested picking four photos a week instead – so I’m going to do that from now on, and it’ll be a Tuesday morning publication 🙂

You know that bit at the end of 28 Days Later...?
You know that bit at the end of 28 Days Later…?

Last Monday, walking the Kerrys Gate – Cockyard – Quarrels Green lanes, I saw a lone vapour trail crossing the clear blue sky, and it reminded me of the scenes at the end of 28 Days Later, and of a deserted Central London at the start. And of the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption that kept me in HK rather than being at home to celebrate my 40th. And indeed, it looks like my 50th is going to be a similarly memorable non-event.

But it lifts the spirits to be outside with the clear blue skies overhead. The sun is shining and the birds are singing and busy building nests. We’ve had chaffinches and the red woodpecker establish themselves as nut feeder regulars, and there are greenfinches flashing between the hedgerows.

Mum’s Camellia

Saturday was supposed to be the Annual Birthdays Party, which has been held at Forty Acres since …. I don’t know when. “Ever since we’ve been here” in my memory. It’s when my mum and dad’s crowd gather to celebrate shared March birthdays with plenty of food and drink, and a pre-dinner trip to the pub for the Rugby fans (and beer and crisp fans). Some years we’ve had snow, others we’ve been sitting outside in the sunshine. This year would have been one of the latter.

This year is the first year we’ve not The Party, so I can’t post a photo of that.

Instead, here’s Mum’s Camellia. It was a gift from Ken and Gay, with the siting carefully selected, as always, by Annette and Michael. The beautiful pink flamboyant flowers are always on show.

As are the daffodils.

Forty Acres Daffs on Mothering Sunday
Forty Acres Daffs on Mothering Sunday

Celebrating Dad's Birthday and Jean's Mothers Day
Celebrating Dad’s Birthday and Jean’s Mothers Day

Saturday night I drove down to The Old Stables Fish & Chip shop in Ewyas Harold, ordered 2 large fish and chips and a pineapple fritter, then drove FAST over to dad and Jean’s for a one day late birthday celebration for my dad and a one day early Mother’s Day celebration with Jean.

Lots of people waiting outside the chippy, and weird to see both pubs shut on the other side of the road. Thinking about it I bet some Friday regulars at The Old Stables would normally while away their wait in one of the pubs 🙂

Even at the time I wasn’t 100% sure I should be visiting dad and Jean. Today, I’m glad for the clarity of last night’s lockdown announcement. It’ll help dad understand why they can’t come round – that’s hard. And I got quite upset yesterday at the thought that there is a chance that I may never get to see them again.

No 7 sheep and lamb
No 7 sheep and lamb

Yesterday morning’s walk turned out to be my last before the lockdown. A beautiful seven miles into Ewyas Harold via Abbey Dore – Cwm Hill – Old Trout Inn – Dulas, and back via Ewyas Harold Common.

Google Maps: Abbey Dore - Cwm Hill - Old Trout Inn - Dulas - Ewyas Harold - Ewyas Harold Common - Abbey Dore walk.
Google Maps: Abbey Dore – Cwm Hill – Old Trout Inn – Dulas – Ewyas Harold – Ewyas Harold Common – Abbey Dore walk.

Lots of lambs in the fields on Cwm Hill, and the wild daffodils still filling the churchyard of  St Michael & All Angels Church, Dulas.

Churchyard full of wild daffodils, Church of St Michael & All Angels, Dulas
Churchyard full of wild daffodils, Church of St Michael & All Angels, Dulas

She's a firestarter (Phil's photo)
She’s a firestarter (Phil’s photo)

A satisfying bonfire, getting rid of the fallen willow tree cuttings.

Whilst also baking (cremating) Delia Smith’s Last-Minute Christmas Mincemeat Cake – Happy Birthday Phil!

In other news, because I don’t photograph everything:

  • Work went crazy-busy. I worked Friday. But there’s an amazing team spirit and I am glad that I’ve had a 2 month head start on getting to grips with working from home.
  • Hazel, Catherine and I will be having our first Virtual Wine Wednesday tomorrow, and I’m skyping dad and Jean this evening. My nephew and I will fit in some FaceTime Beers sometime this week too.

But I do put all my photos on Fickr.

Yes, this feels better.


Herefordshire Week 010: Monday 02 – Sunday 08 March 2020

Highlights: Spring. Borderlines Film Festival Bonanza. Taking the washing machine to the tip. LA trip deferred.

Telly: Snowfall, series 3; Dr Who, series 12; Noughts + Crosses, series 1.

Spring flowers

Monday started with GV gym and a bit of gardening, and glorious weather. At Last. Lots of yellow daffodils in the garden and roadside, sun above. Lunched in the Conservatory, and spent most of the afternoon in there reading (finished Lethal White by Robert Galbraith; started Giles Kristian’s Lancelot) and watching the buzzards play.

The evening featured the first of the week’s films: Parasite. The drive in featured the usual painfully slow progress from Belmont to Asda, but we then zipped along to The Courtyard, loitering just long enough to get to 6pm for the cheaper car parking charges (takes some getting used to, shelling out £3-5 each time we go into Hereford). Plenty of time for our pre-cinema dinner at Wildwood in The Old Market (which we’ve christened “Food Street”). Won’t be going back, and very glad we had a 50% voucher code for our two lacklustre burgers. Had a chat about how our first two months in Herefordshire had gone.

Lethal White - Robert Galbraith
Lethal White – Robert Galbraith

Enjoyed Parasite, but not sure what all the Oscar fuss was about, and it does indeed feel like a belated attempt to compensate for the lack of diversity in the nominations. That Oscar did deliver a full house in the main cinema / theatre though.

Headed out for a walk on Tuesday morning. Lots to ponder on my route. Grey skies overhead as I walked down to Abbey Dore, up Cwm Road and onto what Google Maps tells me is Tremorithic Road, and along towards Bacton before turning left and coming off the ridge, rewarded with smashing views of Skirrid and Hatterall’s Ridge before dropping down to The Old Trout Inn (as was) and Dulas Brook. The road into Ewyas Harold was busy (as always), so I opted to return to Abbey Dore via Ewyas Harold Common – VERY muddy still.

The day’s strolls didn’t end there, as after lunch (and John Lewis delivery – new bedding, a pizza cutter and noodle bowls), Phil persuaded me to try the footpaths past Cann’s Hill down to the post box at The Foxes / Wellfield. Lovely –  even though the road and the footpath run pretty much parallel, the views differ markedly and are much better off the road, even if the final section past Cherry Burton is through a very overgrown copse of thorny trees with low sprouting branches and rampantly spreading saplings. Should have taken my camera.

Tuesday afternoon, as always, saw the start of my work week which then continues over Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday brought the firmwide email saying due to Coronavirus / Covid-19 all non-essential business travel prior to 15 April has to be deferred, which means I won’t be going to LA at the end of the month after all. I’m still planning to go to London for the previous “week”, unless spending 3 hours on trains to London and back again becomes unnecessarily risky over the next couple weeks. Wine Wednesday is a big attraction!

Postponing the trip to the US meant I could revive Steffi’s planned visit too. Smashing….

… Unlike the Doctor Who season finale, watched on Thursday evening (having finished Snowfall over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday evenings). Yawn.

A busy Friday, starting with early morning admin buying train tickets from York to Hereford for part of the return leg after May’s St Andrews weekend. Hope LNER timetables play ball. Likewise Avanti for Seascale to London the Sunday before… getting slightly paranoid about that one.

Gym then back to clear more of the brambles in the aged shrub/tree that’s home to the everlasting sweet pea. Lovely and sunny outside after an early morning frost. Hedges and trees starting to go green. Snowdrops are fading, primroses and cowslips emerging. Still squelchy underfoot though, so I reckon we’ll be doing some road walks when Janette’s here next weekend. Our first Guest.

Frosty Morning Daffodils
Frosty Morning Daffodils


In the afternoon, dad came over and he and Phil manhandled the old washing machine, and the broken plastic table, into the back of dad’s car to take to the tip, which involved the very satisfying smashing of one of the concrete stabilisers to lighten the load. At the tip, the man in charge of “our skip” wheeled out a lift trolley which made transferring the machine machine from the boot of dad’s car and into the skip much easier.

Back at base, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the lounge with the log fire on and Lancelot until Friday pizza which provided the perfect opportunity to christen the new pizza cutter.  The Big Sick provided the evening’s TV entertainment.

Friday Night Pizza ..... and our new pizza cutter!
Friday Night Pizza ….. and our new pizza cutter!

Saturday started with more reading, then the drive to Grosmont – under cold grey skies – for a mooch around Grosmont’s Spring Market held in the nave of St Nicholas church. Smashing – we came away with two pies but resisted coffee and cake….

A speedy drive into town for a very tasty (and consequently quickly demolish) quiche and salad lunch at The Courtyard meant we had time to kill before our second film of the week, so we popped into Waitrose and saw for ourselves shelves stripped bare of Coronavirus-related purchases, primarily loo roll, dettol wipes, paracetamol and own brand bread flour…. Sainsbury’s shelves provided similarly sparse when we did our weekly shop on our way home after the film with the added irritation of finding no lentils for love nor money. On the plus side, we remembered where to find the lever to open petrol cap, and filled up. Based on the two months so far, we’re using  a tank of petrol a month.

The film? The Lighthouse. Looks and sounds lovely, but I found the theme totally tedious: two men getting drunk, waggling willies / fighting. If I could have walked out (and had something else to occupy my time), I would have.

Back home we settled in the lounge and spent a snug couple of hours in front of the log stove with the wind howling outside, before adjourning next door for a supper of cheese and biscuits, with a glass of wine for me, and Nought & Crosses.

Rounded off the week with a leisurely Sunday, which was a day of sunshine, showers and rainbows. Satisfyingly managed to submit LED Trustee data to Just Giving (their Charities admin module is generally underwhelming, and this exercise proved no exception), then strolled down to Abbey Dore with Phil and got rained on on the return leg.  Checked mouse traps in roof (no mice, no peanut butter) and then read (snoozed) in the lounge soaking up the sun on one side and enjoying another log fire on the other. More Lancelot…. but mainly snoozing. I can see why cats do it.

To Dinedor for a late lunch with dad and Jean and Nic and Trish comprising lovely roast veg, a smashing cheese board and a little bit of both puddings – rhubarb crumble and tarte au citron – all accompanied by a glass or two of wine courtesy of Warwick and Nic. Stuffed to gills, Phil did the drive into Hereford for our third and final film of the week: Portrait Of A Lady On Fire. A more colourful, almost all female counterbalance to The Lighthouse, and far more enjoyable for me.

Big moon and clear skies for the drive back to 40A.

And that’s another week gone.

Borderlines Film Festival Cinema Tickets
Borderlines Film Festival Cinema Tickets

Herefordshire Week 008: Monday 17 – Sunday 23 February 2020

Drinks with “neighbours”, Storm Dennis flooding and mouse wars continued.

By Monday the weekend’s rainfall courtesy of Storm Dennis, on top of Storm Ciara’s the weekend before (and all the rain over the winter so far), was draining into the larger river systems, causing further flooding across South Wales and the West Midlands.

As you’ll have read last week, it was incredible watching things unfold on Monday morning. At 9am the River Wye at Hereford Old Bridge was at 6.09m, at 9.45am it was 6.10m. at 10.15am it reached its peak of 6.11m – the excellent Flood Information Service page for River Wye at Hereford Bridge was updating every 15 mins. That’s the highest the river has been in Hereford since records began.

Storm Dennis: River Level for the Wye at Hereford Bridge at 10.45am on Monday 17 February 2020: 6.11m
Storm Dennis: River Level for the Wye at Hereford Bridge at 10.45am on Monday 17 February 2020: 6.11m

We had emergency evacuations taking place in Hereford, a Severe Flood Warning was issued and by the end of the day the flooding was declared a Major Incident in Herefordshire.

Storm Dennis: Flood warnings for South West Herefordshire at 09.10am on Monday 17 February 2020
Storm Dennis: Flood warnings for South West Herefordshire at 09.10am on Monday 17 February 2020

Another statistic, from the wonderful Dave Throup – the Environment Agency manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire – who posted this on Twitter on Tuesday:

I can’t even imagine 700 tonnes of water / second.

Perversely it was blue skies here on Monday. Marshall & Co from Finney’s replaced the gutters along the side of the house that faces the road in the morning, and in the afternoon I did some mistletoe and spiky sapling removal in the orchard, and hauled hanks of weed out of the pond. Daffodils out, and some crocuses emerging under the pear tree.

All the rainfall did not prevent Phil and I hosting our first non-family social engagement at Forty Acres, and on Monday evening we had the the Kerry’s Gate ladies round for a glass of wine. Starting to meet and get to know people is helping me feel like we’ve moved to Herefordshire rather than merely being on an extended holiday.

This week was due to be one of my “work weeks”, getting the train there on Tuesday morning (Hereford – Paddington via Newport), and back again on Thursday evening. I’d been monitoring the Transport for Wales and GWR websites on Monday, and it looked like there would be a rail replacement service from Abergavenny to Newport. That line is often closed after bad weather. However, when I got up at 2.30am to check for any updates the GWR site showed all the morning’s London trains as cancelled and the Transport for Wales page had changed to tell travellers to take the Stagecoach South Wales bus to somewhere and then change onto a Newport Buses bus (1h48mins), and it wasn’t clear whether there was also a rail replacement bus as they’d provided on Monday.

So I stayed put.

(I feel like we are working our way through all the Country Life tests just to make sure we do really like it!!!)

Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday were busy with work. Lots of video conference calls, which I feel always tests the 4G wifi. Particularly when there’s a downpour. I’m still working later into the evening than I should.

Thursday evening, Phil and I celebrated the start of our weekend by driving into Ewyas Harold to get “fish and chips” from The Old Stables Chip Shop. Highly recommended. Large chips = giant portion, made with Wormbridge potatoes, and my battered mushrooms were medium-large mushrooms with an almost tempura-light batter. YUMMY.

First Forty Acres "Fish & Chips" from Ewyas Harold
First Forty Acres “Fish & Chips” from Ewyas Harold

Driving via Abbey Dore revealed even more pot holes, and some water still coming across the roads as the waterlogged higher ground and fields drain.

Friday, I drove into Hereford to do some food shopping including an impulse purchase of a 12.8kg bag of bird seed, and nipped into the train station to ask about Storm Dennis-related refunds and changing tickets. Then coffee at Dinedor, discovering that the roads via Hampton Bishop and Rotherwas were still closed – at Mordiford Bridge and the notoriously flood-prone stretch of road by the old railway bridge respectively. Put out a feeder full of bird seed in the afternoon, and once the blue tits, coal tits, great tits and robins discovered it, they were frequently fluttering visitors. As was, I spotted on Sunday, a mouse, foraging for fallen seeds beneath!

Birds at the bird feeders
Birds at the bird feeders

Yes, mouse wars….. after our first kill in the electronic mouse trap, we had less success, eventually realising that it wasn’t working when the “kill!” light started coming on when we had the trap out on a work surface. So, plan B: traditional trap, baited with peanut butter, laid in the kitchen where the mouse poo was located. But only on the condition that Phil dealt with any dead mice. So far, the mouse (mice?) is winning, managing to extract two lots of peanut butter without coming to any harm.

Saturday brought a lot of wind. Too windy for a walk even on the roads. So it was a day in the lounge with the LRB and the log stove on, plus a spot of travel planning – with Hazel in the morning sorting trains to Seascale for May’s LED fundraising weekend and looking ahead at options for getting up to Leuchars for our St Andrews Ladies Weekend there later in May, and sussing out trains to June’s wedding in the Valle d’Aosta with Phil in the afternoon, and doing a whole slew of Storm Dennis cancelled-travel-related online refund requests.

We drove over to the Golden Valley Community Cafe (aka the Health and Wellbeing Hub) in Pontrilas for lunch, and looked around the GV fitness Centre that opened there at the start of the year. That evening, I cooked up a “reduced winter veg pack” spin on Meera Sodha’s potato, chard and coconut curry for dinner to accompany the last two episodes of the second series of The Split. Gripping. Highly recommended. Weird to see sunny London again.

Sunday morning brought more rain splattering onto the windows driven by gusty winds, which we made the most of with the log stove and reading. Happily, the weather did improve as the morning wore on, and I managed to get outside to pick up broken twigs and small branches, and to prune the lower branches of one of the trees down towards Mower Turn, and do a bit more mistletoe removal. The first of the camellia buds are out, with a couple in bloom.

Camellia in bloom
Camellia in bloom

Dad and Jean popped in to deliver Jean’s old road bike (for me), carrot cakes (for us) and to help put up hooks and hosepipe holders. We don’t have a drill….

In the afternoon, Phil and I booked Aosta travel. The desire to get the train, and in particular the super scenic Bernina Express, was thwarted by the cost of tickets for the London to Zurich and Turin to London trains. So we are flying. We’ve also booked a night at the Premier Inn Gatwick for the 6am flight out, and two nights at the Hotel Torino Porta Susa in Turin. We’ll firm up Aosta accommodation once Phil’s talked to Michael and we can figure out what to do once we are there nearer the time. Not sure if we need to hire a car or not.

Admin done, I headed out to do the Cockyard walk, finding there was even more water damage to the road down by Blackmoor Farm. Tarmac peeling off in places.

Back at base, just enough daylight to attack the brambles in the bushes where dad and Jean have planted an everlasting sweet pea. Then tea and carrot cakes. Veggie bean chilli for dinner, watching the last of Good Omens and the first part of the Doctor Who Finale.

Looking back to Monday, I was hopeful that the respite from the rain would help start to dry things out, but the rest of the week saw more rain. Monsoon-like at times on Wednesday. Sleet on Thursday. Jan and I decided to abandon plans to do a recce walk for next Saturday’s Ramblers route around Peterchurch. It’s still squelchy underfoot here, and it’s raining heavily again this morning, with more rain to come …


But let’s end on a more positive note – the daffodils are glorious.

Train set daffodils in bloom
Train set daffodils in bloom

Herefordshire Week 007: Monday 10 – Sunday 16 February 2020

An eventful week, starting with Mouse Wars and ending with Storm Dennis. This morning [Monday] the River Wye at Hereford Bridge is the highest it’s ever been since records began. At 9am it was at 6.09m, at 9.45am it was 6.10m. at 10.15am it’s 6.11m.

Storm Dennis: River Level for the Wye at Hereford Bridge at 09.45am on Monday 17 February 2020
Storm Dennis: River Level for the Wye at Hereford Bridge at 09.45am on Monday 17 February 2020

Mouse Wars commenced on Monday, after we found a shredded crisp packet in the bin – despite plugging the gaps around the holes-for-pipes under the sink. The current status is Mouse 1: Mary & Phil 1. We zapped a mouse within hours of setting the trap on Monday, but since then we’ve come down each morning to find mouse poo and / or more shredded crisp packets under the sink. Clearly Mouse No. 2 is savvier than its predecessor. Perhaps it’s time to add more steel wool around the holes-for-pipes under the sink to keep it out. And relocate the trap into the roof.

After all that excitement, I spent most of the afternoon on follow up from the LED Trustees’ meeting. And cooked vegan shepherds pie for dinner(s).

It was colder overnight, and having got up early on Tuesday for a morning walk I encountered icy roads and snow flurries, which had turned Hatterall’s Ridge and the Black Mountains white. Beautiful. My old iPhone’s photos didn’t do it justice. But the dramatic chiaroscuro lighting over Garway Hill worked better:

Snow showers
Snow showers over Garway Hill

(As an aside, one of the email newsletters I subscribe to is Craig Mod’s Ridgeline. One landed in my inbox on Thursday, and this part paragraph jumped out at me:

On media-free strictness: A smartphone excels, above all, at teleportation. It takes you from where you are, and places you elsewhere. If not physically, certainly mentally. This is great when you’re where you don’t want to be — on a packed commute for example. You can listen to a podcast, read an article, and be far, far “away” from a squished train. The issue is when this teleportation superpower intrudes on moments when you want to be present.

Perhaps I should try doing my morning walks without the company of a podcast or two.)

Back to Tuesday, I spent a chunk of the morning transferring info from emails into my 2020 Picos Trip Prep spreadsheet. Alfonso had emailed to say that he’d made the refugio bookings online, and Steffi had sorted out the last of the hotels. IOU payments whizzed their way across the international bank networks. Over the weekend, confined indoors by Storm Dennis, I finished the job although I’ll need to fine tune the packing list given we’ll be carrying out stuff for the 8 days on trek.

The main event of my work week was learning that my trip to LA needed to be rescheduled. Long story. A time consuming pain to have to reorganise everything, but by Thursday evening I’d managed to get all concerned to acknowledge the new date – and thankfully the March weekend we’ve agreed doesn’t muck up any of my existing arrangements. And my all-important birthday weekend. I definitely don’t want a repeat of my 40th….

On Thursday, Storm Dennis’ leading edge arrived and it poured with rain for most of the day. The was a short dry spell mid morning which Dad and Colin had spotted so they came to chunk up the trunk of the fallen willow tree. The chunked “cheeses” are huge. Friday morning provided another dry spell and so Dad and Jean came over and between the four of us we rolled the “cheeses” over to the BBQ yew tree and stacked them there to dry out. To be fair, the “cheeses” were so heavy, it was mainly Phil and dad doing the heaving lifting, and rolling.

Fallen Willow Tree - Trunk Chunked
Fallen Willow Tree – Trunk Chunked

Job done, dad took us to The Temple Bar Inn for lunch in the bar. Not a huge success. I’d go for a pint but £7 for a cheese sandwich is a bit steep when the thickly sliced bread is dry and the not-very-exciting-cheddar cheese slices are thin.

Earlier on Friday morning I’d ticked off few more of the To Dos, the main one being to organise someone to come and replace the gutters overlooking the road. Having had the gutters cleaned, the week’s rain had proved that we still had a problem. Best get that done sooner rather than later, but not something I ever needed to know how to get sorted in the Barbican. A post on Rated People produced a response while I was still at my computer, and as I type [Monday] Marshall and team are on the job.

Phil and I have yet to get our heads around “nipping out in the car”, but maybe that’s a good thing. We tend to bundle up things to do in Hereford itself, and drive in on a Friday. This week’s visit was brief as the clouds overhead were full of rain. Not an afternoon for pottering around the city as planned. Instead, a tactical shop at Asda (not my favourite) and picking up the mattress topper we’d left for a service wash at The Laundry Basket last week. Slow traffic all the way from Belmont roundabout, and it was only just after lunch. People stocking up ahead of Storm Dennis?

Back at base I spent the rest of the afternoon snug in the lounge with the log stove on. A bit of reading, mainly finally getting around to setting up dad’s old Huawei tablet to use for a new Facebook account to use here. It’s the only thing I’ll use that tablet for – I don’t want it on any of my normal devices. It’s been helpful for checking updates about Storm Dennis’ work over the weekend, and into week 008.

So, Storm Dennis.

We are fine. Found a few leaky windows 🙂

Luckily we are high ground but for most of Saturday we had a stream running down the road outside our house. The ground is saturated, the ponds are full to bursting, and streams are surfacing in fields.

Storm Dennis: One day down, One to go
Storm Dennis: Streams resurfacing in the fields down in Grey Valley

It was worse lower down though – Ewyas Harold flooded, as did the main road at Pontrilas and the village itself. There was water flowing out of Abbey Dore Court’s former car park.

Storm Dennis: A465 Pontrilas
Storm Dennis: A465 Pontrilas, 8am on Saturday 15 February 2020

Saturday was definitely worse than Sunday. When Sunday afternoon brought a patch of blue sky we got out into the fresh air and walked down to Abbey Dore Court to see what the River Dore had done. En route we cleared a few drains. Down at the Dore, we found it had burst its banks and spread cappuccino coloured water over the fields and flood meadows nearby. The road outside Abbey Dore Court and on the stretch of road on towards the village hall had standing water and the drainage ditch that’s usually dry was carrying most of the water from the farm fields on the north to the flood meadows on the south.

Storm Dennis: River Dore, near Abbey Dore Court
Storm Dennis: River Dore, near Abbey Dore Court

There are more photos and videos on Flickr, tagged to Storm Dennis.

Well, it’s 10.45m, and the River Wye is still at 6.11m. Hopefully that’s the peak. It’s been steady at 6.11m since 10.15am according to the excellent Flood Information Service page for River Wye at Hereford Bridge.

Here are some photos of Old Hereford Bridge where the gauge is:

We have emergency evacuations taking place in Hereford, a Severe Flood Warning has been issued and the flooding’s been declared a Major Incident in Herefordshire. Amidst all the chaos, one highlight has been following Dave Throup’s Twitter updates. Dave’s the Environment Agency manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire. He appears to be a very calm man.



So, I might not make it to London on Tuesday for my February work-week… Depends on how much more rain we get and whether the train line to Newport reopens, or if I can reroute via Birmingham or direct to Paddington on my ticket – always assuming it’s possible to drive to Hereford station tomorrow morning…. Still, for now the sun is shining and the sheep are strolling around their field.

Herefordshire Week 006: Monday 03 – Sunday 09 February 2020

A much more cheerful week this week, boosted by last Saturday’s day out with the Ramblers my mood continuing to improve as I ticked off more of the minor To Dos Monday and Friday, had a good work-week in Manchester and met all the local folks I’d hoped to bump into again on Saturday. In addition, we seem to have survived Storm Ciara unscathed, had our first Sunday lunch at The Temple Bar Inn under its new management, and successfully undertook Operation Free Mouse…. read on.

Monday was a quiet day at 40A as P had one of his periodic migraines, so I pottered around – did last week’s week notes, wrote January’s diary entry in the Forty Acres Diary (vol 13), cleared the ash out of the log stove (it now burns much better as the air vents are allowed to do their magic).

Heading out to the small pond to photograph the cheery yellow winter aconites for last week’s blogpost, I discovered the first daffodils were out down by the train set. Although it feels amazingly early for daffs to be blooming, the Forty Acres February Flowers are fabulous. Dad, mum and Jean have spent a lot of time over the years spreading snowdrops and daffodils, and putting in lots of plants. It’s lovely. Over the course of this week, more daffs have come into flower (Jean reckons they’d be the wild ones – they are smaller than the ones you’d buy from a supermarket) and the winter aconites have spread up amongst the snowdrops. In the rose garden there’s a pink cyclamen, and, amazingly, two roses in bloom, one of which has been there since the start of January. We should be getting primroses soon – we spotted some out when we’ve been out and about this week.

I also spent a lot of time leaning out of my office window with my camera, trying to catch the red woodpecker that has started shy, swooping visits to the bird feeder. I eventually managed one successful albeit slightly blurry headed shot. In the meantime, it was a joy watching blue tits, coal tits and robins feasting away in the peanuts. So I videoed them.

The elusive red woodpecker
The elusive red woodpecker

I stretched my legs and got some fresh air with a walk down to Dore Abbey, where I spied what I think might have been a bat roosting high up in one of the arched windows.

In the afternoon, I dug out the sage green paint from the garage and painted over the polyfilla-ed patches in the kitchen, then settled down to finished off Tales of the Country and started The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – an excellent popular science meets biography account of the short life Henrietta Lacks, outlived by her cervical cancer cells which have powered bio research worldwide since the 1950s

Tuesday featured another early morning drive to a station to catch the train for a Mary-work-week away; this week the combo was Abergavenny and Manchester. We are about half way between Abergavenny (AGV) and Hereford (HFD), and it’s a far easier drive to get to AGV station than it is HFD. AGV means no rush hour traffic jams and tail backs; no need to cross to the far side of the City/Town. It’s a beautiful route up along the Welsh Marches via Craven Arms and Shrewsbury. I was in MN to spend time with a new recruit in the KM team, training them up on the document automation platform we use. A hectic but productive trip. Nice staying in the Radisson, and blue, blue skies on Thursday.

Friday morning was spent doing jobs, which meant I didn’t venture out into Ewyas Harold to hook up with the walking group. Another time. Instead, Phil and I headed out in the car to tick off a whole list of Hereford tasks (as an aside, we still find it weird to think about doing shorter journeys by car). We filled up with petrol at the marvellous Lock’s Garage in Allensmore (after a slight delay while we tracked down the lever to open the petrol cap!), bought the week’s veg, and came away with a free lettuce, kohlrabi and artichoke (fab!); took the back roads to Rotherwas and M3 Auto to get our passenger side headlight bulb replaced (top notch service from the team there) then drove through Hereford to drop off two boxes of bric-a-brac at the St Michael’s Hospice Holmer Road warehouse/shop; bobbed into B&Q to buy steel wool, expanding foam, a door hook and a large back of rock salt; sought out a new duvet cover in Dunelm, but came away with a new 1 pt glass jug (Pancake Day ahoy); left our guest bed mattress topped at The Laundry Basket launderette at the Asda junction for a service wash; toured Tesco for a small weekly shop (having bought most of the fruit and veg at Allensmore). Then home for lunch!

I spent some of Friday afternoon reboiling the rest of my marmalade in the microwave with some extra sugar, and it’s now slightly darker, set nicely and takes up only 13 jars, partly because I filled the jars up fuller, partly because the 2 x 10 mins in the microwave boiled off some extra liquid. Very satisfying.

Marmalade Setting Sorted
Marmalade Setting Sorted

I also spent an hour or so raking more fallen leaves and twigs out of the small pond and then raking up the last of the fallen willow tree’s leaves and long whiplike branch ends (they don’t really feel like “twigs”) and wheel barrowing them down to Mower Turn. Dad and Colin are planning to fix up a day to chainsaw up the trunk and remaining, larger branches. Final job of the day was to squirt the expanding foam into the broken bit of the garage room. I made a bit more of a mess than I meant to…..

Storm Ciara was scheduled to arrive overnight Saturday, staying throughout Sunday and petering out Monday. So, keen to make the most of the calm before the storm, on Saturday morning P and I set out for the Kerry’s Gate – Bacton – Abbey Dore walk – and met five people en route. The most sociable we’ve been (able to be) since we arrived. The Kerry’s Gate trio were accompanied by four lovely dogs too. We swopped numbers and suggested wine, getting an enthusiastic response. The blues had lifted last weekend, and this definitely banished them further away 🙂 So – big thumbs up for meeting people who live near by and are our age (ish).

On our return, we embarked on Operation Free Mouse. Background: we’ve been hearing the scamperings of mice in the roof since we got here and when I was in Manchester last week, Phil messaged to say he had encountered a mouse in the kitchen. And then on Friday morning Phil heard scratching in one of the speakers we’ve got plugged into the TV…. yup, the mouse had got in, but as we realised after a bit of shaking of the speakers and trying to lure it out with peanut butter, it couldn’t get out. URK!!!! Operation Free Mouse saw us put the speaker into the bath where Phil undid the speaker cover, and I stood by with a welly (excellent Whorton tip there) … caught the little fella / fella-ette and took s/he far, far away from the house to let s/he go!! We have stuffed steel wool into the gaps around the pipes under the sink which is where s/he appeared from but had a mere 24 hours mouse free…. Today [Monday], we found a shredded crisp packet in the bin under the sink – SIGH – which has prompted us to set the newly purchased electric shock mouse trap, chosen because you can empty the trap without looking at the Dead Thing. I’m too squeamish for snap traps.

Having mentally battened down the hatches on Saturday afternoon and evening (reading with the log stove on in the afternoon, audio conferencing in for the LED Trustees Meeting and watching the last of the first season of Succession – sooooo good! – with Pizza à la Phil – also sooooo good!), I got up in the middle of Saturday night / Sunday morning to take down the bird feeder on the still small pear tree and the willow’s wind chimes, and to check that the willow tree cuttings weren’t blowing out of the quarry/bonfire pit. All OK (or at least, it was at 4am). With the Amber Weather Warning, we were surprised to see the FloGas tanker materialise on Sunday morning, but glad to have the gas tank refilled. We’d got down to around 20%, having started the year at 50%.

We still managed to head out for Sunday lunch with dad and Jean, our first visit to The Temple Bar Inn under its new owners. Very friendly welcome from the extended Fulgoni family, and tasty food. After a massive lunch followed by coffee with dad and Jean back at base, Phil and I indulged in a lazy late afternoon / early evening reading by the log fire. The days are definitely getting longer – we only drew the curtains at 6 o’clock. The buzzards have been out more this week, and we’ve heard the mournful hoots of owls early evenings.

Forty Acres February Flowers