Herefordshire Week 026: Tuesday 23 – Monday 29 June 2020

Horridly hot and humid week, followed by a wet and windy weekend. But “good for the garden” (which has got even greener), and featuring a conservative conservatory lunch with dad and Jean.


It’s been WAY too hot and humid here this week. Thursday night was unbearable. Even after a 10pm stroll up to Kerrys Gate and back before bed, I ended up going to sit on one of the comfy chairs in the conservatory and slept there for for a couple of hours.

Hatterral Ridge and Hay Bluff, from Kerrys Gate
Hatterral Ridge and Hay Bluff, from Kerrys Gate

London would have been worse though.

Phil and I really don’t know how we’ll decide about whether “here” is the new “home” or not. Right now, we are loving it. But the past few months have all felt a bit unreal. That said, the only benefit of being back in London I can see is being able to see friends there. I’ll probably have to work from home some of the time, and our flat isn’t set up for that, and all the social/cultural things, even if they’re open, will be weird. I really can’t imagine going to the cinema, or going into a pub once winter comes. 2021 is going to be strange. Anyway, we’re here until the end of September, and enjoying ourselves – am I allowed to say that?


LED Trustee Meeting over Zoom on Tuesday, VWW with Hazel (v nice to catch up), Wine Zoom with Kirsten and Justine (and back to another 90 mins work afterwards; it was only a small glass of wine), Family Zoom on Friday. Socialising over the internet is still going strong.


We got an email about returning to the office this week – no dates and a clear message that it would be voluntary once the office does start to open up. It’s what seems to be the fairly standard phase 1, phase 2 approach, team/week 1 / team/week 2. The biggest hurdle is going to be the lifts. We’ve been allocated exclusive use of 2 of the 5 lifts on each side of the lift shaft, but with only 2 people allowed into a lift at any one time it’s going to take a while to get even 40% of our workforce to their desks – let alone “from”. All in all, I can’t see us returning to ‘normal’ anytime soon.


On Friday, out of the blue, I got an email from Ang Rita Sherpa, the current chairman of The Partners Nepal, asking if he could use some of my photos from Gokyo and Khumbu in a book he is working on about Climate Change in the Himalayas (A Case from Solukhumbu). The book is to raise awareness on Climate Change and its impact on the local environment and local livelihoods, and proceeds will go to The Partners Nepal’s projects in Solukhumbu.

Climate Change in the Himalayas
Climate Change in the Himalayas – The Partners Nepal

I would have said “yes” in any event, but I’m even more delighted to as Val knows the family well and we visited his mum for morning tea when we stayed in Khunde towards the end of 2016’s Off and On the Beaten Track in Solukhumbu.

Val and Ama Dooli, Khunde
Val and Ama Dooli, Khunde

Fresher weather arrived on Friday, so I got out for a walk along the lanes in the morning and spent the afternoon pottering in the garden – planted my radish trays into bigger pots, and sowed some more lettuce.

Radishes potted up, plus more lettuce seed planted
Radishes potted up, plus more lettuce seed planted

The herb bed and extension are jam packed – lush and green. Lovely. The sunflowers have suddenly had a growth spurt and the pumpkin plants have flowers and a couple of small yellow orbs have appeared… I’m getting quite obsessed.

A Proto-Pumpkin!
A Proto-Pumpkin!

(Also getting quite obsessed with Mabel and Olive. But I’m not alone there.)

At least Sunday’s rain showers meant I haven’t had to water the lettuce and radishes in the “herb bed” (and extension) this week. We are certainly not going to run out of salad.

We are certainly not going to run out of salad!
We are certainly not going to run out of salad!

Phil’s mum turned 80 this week. Sue found a local lady who runs a cake-making business and ordered a birthday cake – it looked amazing! We FaceTimed at lunch to find Janet sat outside in the garden for a socially distanced birthday picnic lunch with some local friends and neighbours. Clearly big birthday celebrations can cope with COVID, even if they’re a bit different 🙂


Saturday started off badly. I deleted my Facebook account a long time ago and I loathe it as a thing. But we use it to keep friends and supporters updated on LED (Light Education Development, aka Val’s charity) activity and donations, and I had some posts to do following Tuesday’s Trustees’ Meeting.

I spent two hours struggling to do anything on Facebook. Let alone post anything. I’m getting “too many redirects” when I try to log in from Chrome or Safari from my mac, and the same on Chrome on my work laptop. In IE I can log in but the page doesn’t load.

Phil found this work around, which includes a link to this blog post about the same issue.

The work around worked….

…. Only for me to discover that it looks like we can’t schedule posts any more. So I ended up publishing the series of posts I’ve planned to space out over a couple of weeks all in one go.

After that I couldn’t face trying to fathom out how to fix the problem permanently. I’d already spent time futilely searching for help on Facebook and there’s no support contact details. Obviously.

I HATE FACEBOOK!

So after a stomp around the garden, I settled down in the conservatory and finished Hilary Mantel’s 900+ page The Mirror & The Light, which I started in the middle of May.

The Mirror & The Light - Hilary Mantel


On Sunday, Dad and Jean came for lunch: quiche and salad, accompanied by the very nice bottle of white wine Annette and Michael gave us for Christmas / moving in back in January. It was lovely to see Dad and Jean, even if the patio dining plan was stymied by the heavy rainy showers that came sweeping across all day.

In between downpours we did manage to get out for a stroll around the grounds, and on Monday, after I’d done the Kerrys Gate – Cockyard – Camp Crossroads route and sent Ang Rita the photos in the morning, Phil and I staked up the dwarf apple tree and the growth-spurt sunflowers, and I took some photos of the pumpkin flower, the now-securely staked sunflowers and the red hazelnuts.

Remarkable red hazelnuts
Remarkable red hazelnuts

My dad keeps reminding me that the squirrels will harvest the hazelnuts and walnuts the second they’re ripe and that all we will see is the leftover leaves and shells. We’ll see…..


Photos from Herefordshire week 26. No hanging about this week!

Herefordshire Week 022: Tuesday 26 May – Monday 01 June 2020

“Cor, what a scorcher!”

Another week of August weather. Too nice to sit at a computer working through photos from our final week in Nepal last November, so no week 22 photos yet.

Normal service will be resumed once the temperatures drop. And once I’ve done Nepal!


Tuesday morning, after we’d nipped out to Locks Garage for a fruit etc top up (and tomato plants) to tide us over until I did a bigger supermarket shop on Saturday evening, I took the strimmer out for a long overdue spin on the solarium. Very satisfying.

Solarium strimmed by a beginner strimmer
Solarium strimmed by a beginner strimmer

My working “week” is hectic. We’re seeing a lot more demand for KM support from the practice groups that don’t have a dedicated KM lawyer in place, and in those that do. It’s good to have evening commitments in place, to force me to stop. There will always be more to do at work.

As well as VWW and Family Zoom on Weds and Thurs, on Friday evening I sat on the patio with a beer and crisps catching up with a couple of London friends before Pizza à la Phil. This week, with spinach and jalapeños – TASTY!

Pizza à la Phil
Pizza à la Phil

It is GORGEOUS here at the moment, and despite the hot, dry weather, the grass is looking lush – and in need of a mow…. and gardening generally kept me busy on Friday and Saturday, and for some of Sunday. Not a chore – although Friday was a bit patchy in terms of focus and achievement (see below). I did spend a very satisfying Saturday, taking the big mower up to the solarium to pick up the grass cuttings, taking the Honda mower around the “edges” in the orchard, and pruning the wild plum at the bottom of the garden. Pottering around I noticed how much fruit is coming on the trees – apples, cherries and hazelnuts.

Apples
Apples

I am really enjoying growing things. My lettuces, sunflowers and pumpkins are already looking bigger! On Sunday, I planted the larger lettuces out in the herb bed, and on Monday, we had the first organic home grown lettuce with dinner.

Some salad seedlings, and the tomato plants
Some salad seedlings, and the tomato plants
With added lettuce
With added lettuce

Saturday morning started with great excitement, with a trio of early morning visitors…  three deer, down by the log shed. They then headed over the train tracks and reappeared down by the sweet pea. Pretty sure they use the “path” under the Yew tree to get to the road and up the other side. VERY exciting.

Deer
Deer

We also got back into our bird obsession, watching gangs of blue tits darting hither and thither, checking under leaves for bugs and seeds, with two wood peckers dominating the bird feeder devouring the peanuts (which hopefully means they’re not devouring chicks), their left overs providing nibbles for nut hatches below, as chaffinches, greenfinches and coal tits sunbathe near by. And on Monday afternoon, sat on the “love seat” by the big pond, I watched a chaffinch having a bathe / drink on a lily pad! Magical.

Blue tit in the hazelnut tree
Blue tit in the hazelnut tree

Sunday and Monday we had our first foray into making ice cream in the Le Glacier, following the “egg yolk custard” recipe. Leaving the yolks chilling in the fridge together with jersey milk, whipping cream, sugar and Lindt 85% dark chocolate, destined to become the ice cream machine’s christening batch, I – literally (ha ha) – whipped up my first ever batch of meringues, to use up the egg whites.

My first meringues
My first meringues

We did manage to relax a little in between all this activity. Breakfasting on the patio, reading in the shade, down by the big pond. I made good progress through the third Hilary Mantel / Thomas Cromwell hardback I got for my birthday.

Breakfast
Breakfast

We also got out for a stroll to Bacton on Sunday, and I did some longer walks – the Army Crossroads & Cockyard loop, and yesterday I ventured all the way to Vowchurch for the first time, returning via Gwatkins and Riverdale.

Vowchurch, and Hay Buff beyond
Vowchurch, and Hay Buff beyond

In non photo news, the big shop on Saturday evening went fine. I had hoped that Aldi and Sainsbury’s would be relatively quiet – especially if folks were making the most of the gorgeous weather to have a weekend BBQ. No one wearing a mask, and not as quiet as I would have liked, but not too bad. And I found bread flour on the shelves for the first time.

Telly: Having watched BBC Four’s Storyville series OJ: Made in America last week, it was good to change gear to The Crown season 3. Nice to have a theme tune that doesn’t go all Game of Thrones. Looking at you, Westworld.

I’m finding it difficult to shut down at the end of my working days, both mentally as well as laptop-wise, and I find it takes all of Friday not at work to feel less frazzled and to stop trying to do a million and one things a minute. This week was particularly difficult as I consciously and subconsciously fumed about Dominic Cummings’ and Boris Johnson’s absolute distain for all the difficult decisions and sacrifices everyone else has been making, and continue to make. I heard from a friend this week that her mother had died of COVID-19. My friend hadn’t been able to be there, and isn’t sure how best to travel – it would need to be by train – to be with her dad. Or even if she should.

I am still so angry about the behaviour of these two men.


Let’s close with a late afternoon shot of Skirrid, to calm me back down.

Skirrid
Skirrid

We should have been in Italy this week, for our friends’ wedding. But there are worse places to be…..


Update 14 June 2020

Here are the photos from week 22.

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.


Camellia
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.


28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 012 photos on Flickr.

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

28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 010 photos on Flickr.

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

28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 008 photos on Flickr.