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.


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.


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 094: Tuesday 12 – Monday 18 October 2021

The last of the preserves production. Good garden jobs. Utility Room revamp & Loft prep.

Empty Loft
Empty Loft

We were woken before sunrise on Tuesday morning by loud screeches coming from two birds. No idea what – one was possibly a Jay, or perhaps it was Buzzard vs Owl?

Task No. 1 for the morning was to film my piece to camera for the ELR KM Database relaunch video. The things I do to get projects over the line. Thank heavens for Philip Gyford and both his acting experience and filming kit. The first time I’ve worn mascara since I don’t know when.

Me - the work version
Me – the work version

Job done, we strolled down to the Abbey and back over the field, chatting with Chris about Gigaclear / Fastershire fiasco en route.

Just enough time to tackle Task No. 2: Turning the last pick of the wild plums Allotment Garden Damson Jam. Both this recipe, using 1.2kg damsons, and the One Pot of Jam from Your Microwave recipe, using 550g fruit, produced 3½ pots. How does that work?

Damson Jam: rolling boil
Damson Jam: rolling boil

Early afternoon, as I was getting stuck into work, dad arrived and he and Phil took the two boxes of surplus flooring back to Simply Stunning for a refund. Smashing service from start to finish from Simply Stunning.

Work done for the week, I had a busy day in the garden on Friday – the lovely weather continues. Tidied up the tomato plants behind the greenhouse, picked up the worthwhile windfall apples from the fallen apple tree (what do you do with 4 bucketloads of small apples?) and lopped off the smaller branches, wheelbarrowing them to the bonfire and getting that going in the afternoon.

Apples from the fallen tree
Damson Jam: rolling boil

Further lopping down on the lower path, tidying up wild plum bushes and blackberry runners. We also relocated the apple racks and washing machine in the Utility Room ahead of Handyman Sam coming tomorrow.

It was a cool afternoon and evening so we lit the wood stove and luxuriated in our lounge admiring the new flooring – the downstairs space is transformed – as Thea and Joe were coming up in the evening for a Mexican feast. Lots of chat and a late night. Smashing.

I had signed up for Saturday’s GVWC Challenge Walk (17 miles around Peterchurch) but after all of Friday’s excitements I was shattered and sent my regrets late on Friday. Sod’s law meant Saturday was a glorious day, and after a leisurely start my energy levels were back to normal.

Still, a good day to be in as Handyman Sam was with us for part 1 of the Utility Room Revamp. Aka removing the remains of the boiler cupboard and all the boxing around the pipe work. He returns next Saturday to finish off, and he’s also going to extend the washing machine plumbing so that we can relocate it into the alcove. Score!

Utility Room cupboard removal - at the half way point
Utility Room cupboard removal – at the half way point

I spent the day doing computer things and jobs in the garden. More tomato tidying, cleared the herb bed and dug over the earth, planted out the Hergest Croft Herefordshire Russet apple tree.

Tidying up the herb bed in the Orchard
Tidying up the herb bed in the Orchard
Herefordshire Russet - Apple tree label
Herefordshire Russet – Apple tree label

More pruning on the lower path and lots of raking up of leaves from the swing slope. The bonfire was still smouldering, so, with the help of some of the dry leaves I revived that to burn more of the damp hedge trimmings that lingered around the edge.

Despite all Saturday’s activity, I didn’t sleep well, which is my excuse for sleeping in until 10am. Unheard of. And it was another lovely day of blue skies and sunshine. So rather than the Hereford Screwfix shop we’d planned (rat trap high on the list) we opted to walk the Bacton Square, chatting with Thea on the return stretch and picking a large bag of blackberries.

Orchard Shed Blackberries
Orchard Shed Blackberries

Dad and Jean had been due to come for Sunday lunch today, but nasty colds have postponed that plan. But an organic chicken won’t last forever, so we set to work on making Sunday lunch for two. A dry run for Christmas Dinner, but without the sprouts or bread sauce (sniff – two of my favourite items), and with the mutual grumps. A plateful each was followed by seconds, demolished in the sun warmed conservatory.

Washing up done, I opted to spend the rest of the afternoon lounging on the sofa watching telly. Sometimes you just have to, even on an unseasonably warm mid-October day. Eventually I found room for the apple and blackberry crumble…

Busy day, Monday! We emptied the loft (unearthing lots of lost treasures as well as dead flies and mouse traps), went to the tip (waving goodbye to the loft’s carpet and cardboard collection) and made another batch of Apple Chutney (Penny’s Recipes Apple Chutney with Dates, Sultanas, Mustard & Coriander Seeds. Double quantity, reduced sugar. 14 jars, various sizes – from large to small). The cupboards are FULL.

Penny's Recipes Apple Chutney
Penny’s Recipes Apple Chutney

Also strained the 4 jars of Apple Cider (Scraps) Vinegar. One jar is clear but the other three are cloudy, and they are the ones where there was a layer of mould on the chopped apples… Let’s see what happens over the next stage. (Yes, it does look a bit like wee.)

Apple Cider Vinegar - Stage 2: Strained
Apple Cider Vinegar – Stage 2: Strained

In less good news, I found the dead mouse in the garage that was the cause of the nasty niffs we’d noticed on Saturday. And Phil found second corpse in the mouse trap that had mysteriously moved overnight…

Started season 2 of The Get Down while polishing off Sunday Lunch Leftovers, and then packed for MN. My first trip back to the (an) office since Feb 2020.

TV: Grand DesignsThe North WaterThe CeltsWho Do You Think You AreThe Get Down.

Podcasts: History Extra, The History of England Podcast – Guest episodes, The History of English Podcast, Bookclub.

Photos: Herefordshire week 94 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-10-17.


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).

Herefordshire Week 070: Tuesday 27 April – Monday 03 May 2021

Work work work.

Cuckoo! Bald headed robin. The first squirrel finds the bird feeders…..

This week and next week I’m working a full working week as we migrate and test one of our existing systems onto a new version a new server.  A shock to the system in some ways, but it’s nice to have time …. usually my 20 hour / 2.5 day working week is spent manically Getting Things Done. This week I’ve had time to think.

We’ve a bald headed robin visiting the bird feeders.

Bald Headed Robin
Bald Headed Robin

Not a healthy looking feathered fella / fella-ette, I thought it was leucistic initially, with a white head and lower body, but once we got a better look the poor thing has a  bald head. Googling suggests feather mites. There is another robin that feeds it, so another possibility is that it’s a baby and the head feathers are just a little late to come in. I hope so.

On Saturday morning I heard the first cuckoo of the year.

Frosty nights are back, and although some mornings are beautiful –


… it’s still quite cold without the sun. On Tuesday – a cold day with cloud and rain – we even lit the stove. MORE rain on Monday. Lots.

A good Bank Holiday weekend, albeit shorter than my usual.

Dad and Jean came over for coffee on Saturday morning and on Sunday morning we did the Bacton Square, picking two large bags of wild garlic at Bacton Stud and finishing up with a very sociable section in and around Abbey Dore with chats in the Abbey porch, at the Old School House, the end garden in Dore Hamlet and the Old Magistrates Court.

Leisurely afternoon – finished The Buried Giant (OK, but not amazing) and started Shaman’s Crossing (Assassins-meets-Native American Peoples post colonialisation), planted out some more lettuces, sowed some pea seeds in pots.  I think I’ve decided where to put the Japanese Quince…

Monday was cold and wet. Good weather for a morning of admin and treating ourselves to telly in the afternoon catching up with Sunday night’s LoD finale before stumbling upon any spoilers, and turning the wild garlic haul into Wild Garlic Pesto and Wild Garlic Pesto and Feta Tarte, based on Tamal Ray’s foraging recipes.

Wild Garlic Pesto and Feta Tarte
Wild Garlic Pesto and Feta Tarte

In this week’s articles of interest:

TV: Ozark gripped from the start, started Call My Agent for some light relief, a bit of Bridgerton on Sunday and Line of Duty (and back again to Call My Agent) on Monday.

Podcasts: History Extra, The History of England, Out of the Ordinary and Bookclub.

Photos: Herefordshire week 70 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-05-03 (Bank Holiday Edition).

Herefordshire Week 069: Tuesday 20 – Monday 26 April 2021

Socialising and Florence Nightingale-ing (not my forte). More sunshine. Some walks.

Looking south east
Looking south east

Tuesday morning was spent catching up on admin and doing weeknotes, which put paid to getting out and about outside. Still, we met up with T&J after work and did the Riverdale circuit. Lots of chat, and at Canns Hill we coincided with the Vowchurch farmer who’s building a holiday rental on the field at the top of Camp Wood – he told us he’d got planning approval, and also that the sheep we’d seen in that field earlier in the year were Badger Faced Welsh Mountain Sheep. A very apt name as they’d had twin black stripes running down their faces, like overemphasized eyebrows.

Busy week at work as we start an upgrade fortnight next week (which means I’m flexing my days to work a 5 day week next week. Urk). Managed a brief VWW and a longer Family Zoom where the main theme was Herefordshire Council’s approach to Council Tax on unoccupied second properties.

After Family Zoom I went for a walk around the garden, during which time Phil managed to slam into the patio windows between the snug and the conservatory and to fall backwards onto not one but two hefty coffee tables, knocking himself about a bit in the process. A bag of frozen sweetcorn and Bridgerton came to the rescue. Now he knows what the birds that headbutt the conservatory feel like.

Gorgeous day on Friday, which made the run into Hereford for shopping, library and Dinedor delivery all the less appealing, and the traffic jams are back which made the morning all the more torturous.

Perked up by pottering around the garden. Flowers are starting to appear on the clematis and the first of the orchids have surfaced on the lawn …

Spring colours: Green, blue, yellow, pink & purple - Orchids
Spring colours: Green, blue, yellow, pink & purple – Orchids

… and the wild flowers are beautiful – blues, yellows, pinks and purples.

Spring colours: Green, blue, yellow, pink & purple - Cowslips, Forget-Me-Nots & Lady's Smock
Spring colours: Green, blue, yellow, pink & purple – Cowslips, Forget-Me-Nots & Lady’s Smock

And Phil was well enough to make Friday Night Pizza. A Good Sign.

After a restless night cursing Herefordshire Council, I stomped off the grump with a long walk on Saturday morning and did the Bacton Footpaths route. Nettles not (yet) as prolific as I’d feared. Chilly breeze + strong sun = pink arms and face. But my hip held up, and it’s a long walk. I spotted the year’s first swallows at Bacton (which reminded me that I’ve not heard a cuckoo yet), butterflies were in busy along the hedgerows of Cwm Hill Road and I bumped into our Abbey Dore Pod hostess too.

Later on in the afternoon we had the Kerrys Gate neighbours over for drinks – quite a lot of drinks! Fab. Socialising to the Max (Six).

On Sunday the cool wind continued as did Phil’s recuperation, so I spent the morning pottering in the garden and inside, getting jobs done before next week’s work marathon. Did Duffryn backwards late afternoon, then read with a pot of tea and a hot cross bun.

Strawberry plants repotted
Strawberry plants repotted

Monday saw the start of my upgrade fortnight at work….. Keep your fingers crossed on that!

I like this quote from Joanna Lumley:

You can’t be happy all the time, but you should always try to make other people happy.

TV: More instalments in The People vs OJ Simpson; indulged in the first two episodes of Bridgerton on Friday following Phil’s close encounter with the double glazing, Line of Duty on Sunday. Gave up on Uncut Gems on Friday and m anaged 20 minutes of Scarface on Saturday before deciding it would be too gruesome, and switched to The People…. instead.

Podcasts: History Extra, In Our Time, The Life Scientific, Books and Authors, SheDunnit and The Essay.

Photos: Herefordshire week 69 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-04-25.