Herefordshire Week 229: Tuesday 14 – Monday 20 May 2024

Super Sunny Scotland. Essex. Home.

Hazel, Catherine and me, Loch Morlich Circular
Hazel, Catherine and me, Loch Morlich Circular

Tuesday – To the East Coast for beach walks at Findhorn and Lossiemouth, an excellent lunch (plus pints) at The Captain’s Table, Findhorn Marina, and fab ice cream from Miele’s of Lossie.

Me, Hazel and Catherine, Findhorn Estuary
Me, Hazel and Catherine, Findhorn Estuary
Catherine and Hazel, East Beach, Lossiemouth
Catherine and Hazel, East Beach, Lossiemouth

Wednesday – Into the Cairngorms via The Watchers at Corgarff Viewpoint and the Snow Roads Route towards Aviemore. Into Glenmore Forest to do the Loch Morlich Circular in the morning and An Lochan Uaine / Green Loch Return in the afternoon.

The Watchers at Corgarff Viewpoint
The Watchers at Corgarff Viewpoint
Loch Morlich panorama
Loch Morlich panorama
An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch
An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch

Thursday – Another gorgeous sunny day. Morning in the Spa (swam 50 lengths) then out with daypacks and sandwiches to walk the Cambus o’May circular. Hip gyp meant I got the bus back from the CoM visitor centre but we reunited for pints at The Alexandra Hotel followed by ice creams from Shorty’s. And celebrated the end of our five fab days with prosecco and crisps al fresco.

Well, it’s not raining here today!
Well, it’s not raining here today!
Cambus o'May Circular: Bridge and the River Dee
Cambus o’May Circular: Bridge and the River Dee
Celebrating our Craigendarroch Minibreak
Celebrating our Craigendarroch Minibreak

Friday – Au revoir Craigendarroch and to Newcastle via Bamburgh. LNER train to London, making it from Kings Cross to Liverpool Street station in record speed to catch the train out to Wivenhoe by the skin of my teeth. Witham-ites are in COVID quarantine….

HGV at Craigendarroch, Ballater
HGV at Craigendarroch, Ballater
Bamburgh Beach Selfie
Bamburgh Beach Selfie

Up early on Saturday for the long drive home, with a stop off in WTM for a bit of a sit on the porch steps with P, at Rugby Moto services which was full of Bolton Wanderers fans – yes, I did need to look that up 🙂 – and in  Ross for supplies. Back home to find the grass lush and green and long, and loads of buttercups and daisies. Thankfully no dead birds.

Forty Acres front lawn panorama
Forty Acres front lawn panorama

Unpacked then took it easy…aka binged on the first half of Bridgerton season 3.

Caught up with a bit of admin on Sunday morning and moved things out of my office ahead of Project Panelling, which starts on Tuesday. Lunched out on the patio then fired up the ride on mower for the mega mow…. Started easily and I set off over the new drive and towards the orchard, and there it stalled and I couldn’t get it to start. Checked the petrol – all fine – so I put it on to charge and hauled the Honda Mower around The Edges etc ….And, you guessed it, when I returned to the ride on mower a couple of hours later I looked at the petrol tank again – AND IT WAS EMPTY! Idiot. Or “Bufflehead!!” as we say in these parts. Had to drive to The Forge for more petrol, then mowed (No 6 setting). Got round everywhere except The Solarium.

Mowing part II: view from the ride on mower
Mowing part II: view from the ride on mower

Richard came to strim on Monday morning. It was overcast so I decided to give the grass longer to dry out and to see how easily the wallpaper would come off in my office instead – very easily it turned out with a sponging of water.

Panelling Prep
Panelling Prep

The sun arrived in the early afternoon so I took the ride on mower for a spin to collect the dryer grass – 15 grass collector loads in all.

Mowing part II: the second 5 piles.... and more to come
Mowing part II: the second 5 piles…. and more to come

Then to Winchester to lend a hand moving the old conservatory sofa from the kitchen to the garden room and for some party planning followed by a delicious BBQ al fresco. A lovely evening.


I almost managed a paddle a day during our Scotland (and Northumberland) jaunt:

River Dee, Balmoral

A paddle in the River Dee, Balmoral Castle
A paddle in the River Dee, Balmoral Castle

North Sea, Findhorn

Findhorn Paddle
Findhorn Paddle

North Sea, Lossiemouth

Paddling, East Beach, Lossiemouth
Paddling, East Beach, Lossiemouth

Loch Morlich

Loch Morlich Paddle
Loch Morlich Paddle

An Lochan Uaine

Seated paddle in An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch
Seated paddle in An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch

North Sea, Bamburgh

Not really a proper paddle .... but close!
Not really a proper paddle …. but close!

Swallows zooming, a blackbird with no tail feathers, goldfinches nipping in and out of the hedges, a robin perched atop the tall pine / fir singing loudly every morning – the dawn chorus has woken me up every morning around 4.30am since I got back (I have managed to get back to sleep mind you).

Think I might had chopped the hind leg of a toad while Honda-mowing by the small pond, which is full of tiny water boatmen / beetles, a newt or two. And gunk. The large pond is lined with yellow flag irises, and cow parsley.

Big Pond
Big Pond

In better news, we have a resident rabbit – for the first time in years.

We have a resident rabbit
We have a resident rabbit

TV: Stacey Solomon Renovation Rescue, Digging for Britain, The One Show, Location Location LocationBridgerton (season 3, part 1), Doctor Who (Gotta love Ncuti Gatwa!!!)

Podcasts: Americast, When It Hits the Fan, History Extra, Shedunnit, The Rest is Entertainment, Gone Mediaeval, Empire.


Photos: Herefordshire week 229 on Flickr.

Phil: Pause continued.

Herefordshire Week 228: Tuesday 7 – Monday 13 May 2024

Essex hiatus. Up to Scotland.

Catherine, me and Hazel at Balmoral Castle
Catherine, me and Hazel at Balmoral Castle

Spent super sunny Tuesday to Saturday in Essex, catching the train into London on Saturday evening and heading down to H’s.

Morning coffee, Wivenhoe Riverside
Morning coffee, Wivenhoe Riverside

To LHR on Sunday morning to catch BA1308 to Aberdeen. CP met us at the airport and drove us to Ballater via a big Tescos for “essential supplies”. Settled into our luxury suite at the Craigendarroch then went down into Ballater for a stroll around the village before returning to our suite – suite! – and celebrating the start of our mini break with a large G&T. Dinner courtesy of the Keiller Brasserie.

Bridge over the River Dee, Ballater
Bridge over the River Dee, Ballater

Monday – Braemar, Balmoral & Ballater, and a swim in the pool to ease my hip / thigh muscles while C&H walked the seven bridges. Thai takeaway for tea – yum!

Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle

Lovely hearing curlews and cuckoos in WIV, and waking up to oyster catcher calls.

But this is the closest we got to red squirrels in Scotland….

Balmoral Castle: Beware Squirrels Crossing
Balmoral Castle: Beware Squirrels Crossing
The Specialty Shop, Braemar
The Specialty Shop, Braemar
The closest we came to a red squirrel .....
The closest we came to a red squirrel …..

Just don’t mention the Corgis…..

Felt animals taken to a whole new level ....
Felt animals taken to a whole new level ….

TV: Eurovision, Rob and Rylan’s Grand Tour, Digging for Britain.

Podcasts: Americast, When It Hits the Fan, History Extra, Shedunnit, The Rest is Entertainment, Gone Mediaeval, The Today Podcast.


Photos: Herefordshire week 228 on Flickr.

Phil: Pause continued.

Herefordshire Week 227: Tuesday 30 April – Monday 6 May 2024

More rain.

Is it really May already?

And then – at last – some sun, a birthday party and an impromptu trip to Essex.


Still feeling my Skomer strained thigh muscle on Tuesday, so started off PT Block 3 with upper body. Back home for weeknotes. Picked up Phil from Abergavenny early afternoon. Good to have him home. Over to Talgarth early evening for Talgarth Walking Festival Leader Briefing, and a glass of white wine. Wine not often in demand at Talgarth FC Club House….. no red at all. Heavy rain.

First of May on Wednesday. At least it didn’t rain all day. Gym in the morning; computed for most of the rest of the day, even though it was dry. Got sucked into the Saturday Walkers Club website and the walk maps and descriptions …. In the evening, LED Board Meeting Zoom followed by VWW and Scotland Planning.

The rain returned on Thursday morning, lifting to sit over the hills as low cloud, clammy and close. After the gym (for cardio and LBT) and lunch I got stuck into flickring Skomer photos, with a woefully slow internet. Lovely Phil from P&P Pest Control came round early afternoon to advise on getting rid of rats. Mid afternoon I had a catch up with Tom en route to A&As. Back home to make dinner – introduced Phil to the delights of leeks, butterbeans and creme fraiche.

Just look at my leeks!
Just look at my leeks!

Friday = another wet day. Gym, fungus gnat spraying, lunch (fresh bread by Phil), Hereford, Timothy & Birch for coffee and cake (another yum). Home to computer. Pizza for dinner.

Saturday, what is this blue sky I see? To Ewyas Harold to get the loppers, shears and 5 pairs of secateurs sharpened at the Golden Valley Repair Cafe (so many skills available there!) then GVWC recce with J from the Gym, with the mandatory testing of the ice cream options at Rowlestone Ice Cream Farm. Yum yum.

Strava Map & Stats: Return to Rowlestone
Strava Map & Stats: Return to Rowlestone

All under beautiful blue skies. But the recent rain had saturated all the fields again, and there’s a lot of tall meadow grass on that route. Wet and muddy. Wellies were a good move, but my thigh / hip muscle didn’t like the 6 miles… and that convinced me to back out of trying the 14 miles and 11 miles on Sunday and Monday in the Talgarth Walking Festival. Gutted.

Home for a late lunch, a bit of R&R then back to EH for B’s 90th Birthday Party Buffet. A really lovely evening!

Another beautiful sunny day on Sunday. Coffee and pain au raisin out on the patio then a bit of gardening – digging up the weedkillered carroty things in Nora’s Rose Garden – then over to WTM. Good to have time with SG, and very grateful to be able to see T in WIV.

A tour of Leeway (so exciting!) then back to WTM on Monday.


The garden is lush and green. Cow parsley and stichwort line the lanes – it’s the month of white wild flowers and green, green grass, hedges and trees.

Orchid count:

  • Front lawn = 76!
  • Orchard = 1 (phew!)

TV: Shōgun (finished), Shardlake (started; that’s a very Disney monastery! And what’s up with Barak’s 21st century hairstyle???), The Andromeda Strain (1971 is over 50 years ago… and the plot and pacing were vastly different).

Podcasts: Americast, Gone Mediaeval, The Today Podcast, A History of Rock in 500 Songs.


Photos: Herefordshire week 227 on Flickr.

Phil: Pause.

Herefordshire Week 209: Tuesday 26 December 2023 – Monday 01 January 2024

Boxing Day in WTM. Relaxing in WIV. Relaxing at 40A. Colds. A lot of reading.

Hello 2024. Hello snowdrops.

Snowdrops
Snowdrops

My weeknotes week kicked off with Boxing Day. We spent the morning with J&J doing a few odd jobs then drove over to Wivenhoe. Huge relief as the car pulled out of the drive free from any broken suspension related clunks and clanks.

A relaxing few days back in WIV spent strolling around the village / town, snoozing, and a surprising amount of successful reading of books rather than screens: Curtis Sittenfeld’s page turner Romantic Comedy and Benjamin Myers’ lovely The Perfect Golden Circle. The River Colne proved relatively sheltered from Storm Gerritt’s high winds on Wednesday and Thursday.

Wivenhoe Wander
Wivenhoe Wander

We dined on Christmas dinner leftovers (Phil), Co-op food bargains and Indian takeaway from Saffron with the Moorgate M&S cheese-related treats saved until my cold had fully cleared and my taste returned.

Boxing Day Bakery Bargains
Boxing Day Bakery Bargains

Tom came over on Thursday evening and we treated ourselves to a pint in the pub before dinner.

Beers at The Black Buoy
Beers at The Black Buoy

Drove back to Forty Acres on Friday. Easy drive, despite slow traffic on the M42 plus heavy rain there and on the M5. Stopped at Rugby Moto for a Pret lunch, loo and a leg stretch, and again in Ross for a Morrisons shop, including a pack of raspberry jam doughnuts to go with our “we’re home” cup of tea. It took just over 6 hours, including those two stops. So, say, 5 hours without them. Not Bad.

Settled on the sofa and read Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These in one go. RG’s recommendation, and quite the right time of the year to read it. I’m struggling to come up with how best to describe it. “Wonderful” doesn’t sit right; “great” is too banal.

Gs&Ts with Christmas cashews in the lounge, then cheese, biscuits and bits for tea watching the final few episodes of Only Murders in the Building.

Slow start to Saturday. Watched a fox (the fox?) jog across Kiln Field. Pottered around the grounds and picked up some of the wind blown twigs and small branches, and rebaited the rat trap. Phil made a couple of loaves then we strolled down to Hill Farm sheep, stopping for a nice chat with CG en route.

Rain arrived on Saturday afternoon and settled in for the rest of the weekend.  We booked a week in hopefully sunny Walton on the Naze, staying in a Beam bespoke 1 bedroom caravan back in our old stomping ground, Naze Marine Caravan Park. Read on the sofa until it was time to drive into Hereford via Dunelm (textile take back = big tick) and Lidl (no post Christmas bargains = boo) then on to dad and Jean’s for dinner – a lovely evening. Phil stayed at home with what turned out to be a worse version of The Cold I’d had over Christmas.

Sunday – NYE – saw Phil spend the day in bed as The Cold did its worst. I spent the day reading, finishing All The Light We Cannot See, and then watching telly programmes Phil didn’t want to see. So it was a very quiet New Year here at Forty Acres.

Phil was on the mend by Monday morning, and the skies were blue, so we headed out to walk the Bacton Square, which we haven’t done for a long time. Back home, fry up for lunch and an afternoon of reading and weeknotes.

Bacton Square scenes: Caspar
Bacton Square scenes: Caspar

The first snowdrops are out, in the usual sheltered spot. Daffodils are up – but not out – in their usual spots along the old garden railway line. Green shoots crunch underfoot beneath the bird feeders.

Phil replenished the bird feeders Friday evening and by Saturday morning the various tits, sparrows, dunnocks, chaffinches, nuthatch, red woodpecker and robin were back. And the rat.

Over the course of the rest of the week we saw blackbirds, a jay and a cock pheasant. Plus pigeons and magpies around and about.


TV: Top Boy (Series 3 if you watched the BBC original; season 1 for Netflix), Doctor Who (“2023” season 1 – aka Disney money – HELLO Ncuti Gatwa!!!!), Only Murders in the Building (finished season 1), Murder Is Easy, Men Up, Top of the Pops: 2023 Review of the Year, Reservation Dogs.

Podcasts (and BBC Sounds streams): Gone Mediaeval, Eras: Kylie Minogue, A History of Rock in 500 Songs (just right for the long drive back from Essex), History Extra.


Photos: Herefordshire week 209 on Flickr.

Phil: f/e 2023-12-31.

Herefordshire Week 208: Tuesday 19 – Monday 25 December 2023

Countdown to Christmas, over to Essex, speedy side trip to London, a fab Christmas Dinner from Phil, and a Christmas cold (but not COVID).

Christmas at Battersea Power Station
Christmas at Battersea Power Station

Woke up late again on Tuesday, and a bit down in the dumps / listless. Gloomy inside and out. Did weeknotes and prepped the blogpost titles for 2024, 2025 and 2026 (I still love spreadsheets), watched a squirrel carrying a windfall apple across the front lawn (needed a lot of stopping, dropping,  rebiting and resuming), did a bit of packing and wrapping for Essex and enrolled onto a couple of short courses at Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College, got the log stove going and did more pre-handover LRB reading.

It’s a cliche, but doing some exercise brought back my oomph on Wednesday morning. We delivered the local Christmas cards early afternoon and when we got back I decided there was time before teatime to make mince pies.

Making mince pies
Making mince pies

Very tasty they were too! Last VWW of the year then tea and telly in the evening. En route I topped up the screen wash and the antifreeze / coolant in the car ahead of Friday’s drive to Essex.

Thursday was a windy day. The morning featured the last class at the gym for 2023, checking the tyre pressures on the Panda, applying WD40 to the irritating squeaky clutch (in vain), hair wash and clothes wash, cleaning the clogged filter coffee machine (fingers crossed). Packed and prepped in the afternoon then we walked down the lane for Christmas wine, crisps and catch up with TJL.

Up early on Friday – still gusty outdoors – for the drive to Essex. The motorway route got us there in about 4 1/2 hours, with a break at Rugby Moto services and a worrying, rhythmic clunk under the car as we crawled towards the Braintree roundabout …. gulp.

Late lunch at J&J’s, hello to Pippa the cat, the train to LST and tube down to Battersea Power Station to rendezvous with H for the David Hockey light projection, Christmas lights and cocktails and Dinner at Dishoom. No sore heads 🙂

David Hockney Christmas animation at Battersea Power Station
David Hockney Christmas animation at Battersea Power Station

Sleepless night Friday / Saturday worrying about the car. Chatted with P and decided to park the potential problem until after Christmas. Tube and train to Wivenhoe via Moorgate M&S for post-Christmas treats.

Lovely and sunny in Wivenhoe. I stocked up on overnight supplies from Co-op and treated myself to a Mincemeat Roll from the Norwegian Bakery stall on my way back for Christmas Eve Breakfast.

Lazy afternoon instead of the walk I felt I ought to be doing. Nice catch ups with Tom and dad. Then got the telly going and settled on the sofa upstairs: polished off Vigil season 2 (obvious whodunnit once I thought about it), followed by Imagine… Russell T Davies: The Doctor and Me (lovely).

Sundown in Wivenhoe
Sundown in Wivenhoe

Did a precautionary COVID test on Sunday morning, which came back negative, so I was OK to catch the train back to Witham (£9.20 for 20 mins). P met me at the station and we strolled into town for a coffee then back to base along the River Walk nipping into Morrisons to finish. Should have been wearing our Christmas Jumpers, or PJs, or Onesies….

My Christmas Cold got the better of me for the rest of the day, which I spent snoozing on / in bed while Phil did Christmas Dinner prep downstairs with periodic checkins and food and drink delivery to the invalid upstairs.

Monday. Christmas Day. Lovely to hear the church bells ring out at 9am. Leisurely breakfast in the lounge, present opening, family phone calls and emails. Christmas Dinner, a little after 1 o’clock, was a triumph over kitchen adversity on Phil’s part: turkey crown, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, roast carrots, sprouts, stuffing, bread sauce and cranberry sauce.

Ghosts Christmas special and grande finale for evening telly. I, for one, got a bit tearing saying farewell to the gang.


Three sheep materialised in Kiln Field. We three sheep of orient are?


TV: Fleishman is in Trouble, (finished off), Only Murders In The Building (alright but not amazing), Vigil (wrapped up series 2), Imagine … Russell T Davies: The Doctor and Me.

Podcasts: The History of England, The Memory Palace, The Rest is Entertainment, A History of Rock in 500 Songs (Phil’s choice on the drive over – Good one!), Hooked on Freddie, In Our Time , History Extra, Being Roman with Mary Beard, The Reunion (Band Aid 1984), The Wombles the the Rescue, Gone Mediaeval (chanced upon on a Cnut Quest) <— a lot of these were sleepless nights worrying about the car, and while resting to try to get rid of my cold quicker.


Photos: Herefordshire week 208 on Flickr, once I’ve tagged them 🙂

Phil: Fortnight-Notes to come…. Voilà! f/e 2023-12-31.