Herefordshire Week 068: Tuesday 13 – Monday 19 April 2021

Fab week. Magic weather + We went to Wales (Twice) + Staycation = Lovely Lockdown Birthday No. 2.

Briefnotes this week as the weather is still amazing and I don’t want to be inside any longer than necessary. One of those days (weeks) where I wonder why I’m still working.

Last Tuesday seems a long, long time ago now. Weeknotes are good for reminding me how much we actually do here. Dale and Marley (Morgan & Cuss) were here until early afternoon putting finishing touches to the bathrooms, which are now both looking LOVELY.

Bathroom Revamp: Day 6 - and we are DONE!
Bathroom Revamp: Day 6 – and we are DONE!

Usual routine for the rest of Tuesday – Thursday, aka work plus VWW on Weds although I didn’t make it to Family Zoom on Thursday due to a last minute go live, which left me a bit frazzled.

Still, from Friday onwards it was a lovely, lovely long weekend.

We drove ACROSS THE BORDER INTO WALES on Friday morning, heading for Abergavenny for a spot of shopping plus takeaway coffees from Bean & Bread – drunk out in the park as in Wales outdoor hospitality, ie cafes etc, doesn’t reopen until 26 April. We rounded off a good morning with a visit to their giant WAITROSE, to purchase a few tasty treats for my birthday weekend.

Back at base, gave the grass another mow – making up to the Solarium for the first time – and planted out lettuce and radish seedlings, including some lettuce in the old herb bed (where the chives still live), with one of the old double glazed windows resting on top as a cold frame.

Tacos for tea!

Dad and Jean came over on Saturday and we had a lovely lunch sat outside on the patio. They brought an array of presents including a gooseberry bush, which Jean mentioned was an excellent Albutt suggestion. And her last jar of 2020 Blackcurrant Jam….

Birthday lunch out on the patio
Birthday lunch out on the patio

Dad brought us a mealy worm bird feeder too, and that’s now on the pear tree. The robins have yet to discover it…. We are still receiving daily visits from a pair of pheasants (possibly two pairs…) and a pair of partridges. Greenfinches appear to be regular visitors, but I realised this week that we’ve not seen those feisty long-tailed tits for ages….

Sunday was lovely – leisurely breakfast, card and presents then spent the rest of the morning planting things in the garden including a conifer and lilac from the bungalow plus the gooseberry bush which is now planted next to the blackcurrant.

Phil has bought me a Japanese Quince, which I admire every time we walk past Wellfield. I’m still deciding where to plant it… You would have thought that with all the space here it would be an easy decision!

Lunch then time for the Bacton Square before we headed down to Abbey Dore for a bit of a joint birthday staycation. We’d booked a night at Abbey Dore Pod which we’ve watched being built on the farm next to the Abbey, where there used to be a tumbledown garage.

The Pod is FAB – perfect snug space for two inside….

Inside Abbey Dore Pod
Inside Abbey Dore Pod

… and a sunny patio perfect for a glass of wine while watching the sheep and lambs in the field on its doorstep.

Relaxing on the patio at Abbey Dore Pod
Relaxing on the patio at Abbey Dore Pod

Did I mention how cute the neighbours are?

Abbey Dore Pod - Our Neighbours
Abbey Dore Pod – The Cute Neighbours

Another lovely day on Monday: breakfast on the patio at the pod with the lambs looking on, then back into Wales and up Skirrid for lunch looking out across the Brecon Beacons.

Me at the top of Skirrid
Me at the top of Skirrid

Back home for an afternoon pottering in the garden and greenhouse. I’ve repotted my tomato seedlings – turns out I’ve got 11! – and had a go at putting bean poles up as my broad beans are on a real growth spurt. Peas are lagging a little, and squirrels seem to have discovered them – lots of digging holes along the row of unsurfaced seeds. Used last year’s apple tree prunings as poles, and could have done with a few more.

Veg patch and herb bed - now with added poles
Veg patch and herb bed – now with added poles

A sociable week ahead – it is so good to be able to meet people again. We’ve drinks with some of the neighbours on Saturday and are meeting up for a stroll with others after work this evening, making the most of this amazing weather!

TV: Loving Better Call Saul. Adult Life Skills film night on Saturday plus Line of Duty down at the pod. Started The People vs OJ Simpson on Monday. Think I enjoyed the BBC Four Storyville documentary more.

Podcasts: Mainly History Extra and on Monday The Essay proved a perfect accompaniment to pottering in the Orchard.

Photos: Herefordshire week 68 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-04-18.

Herefordshire Week 067: Tuesday 06 – Monday 12 April 2021

Bathroom revamping in progress!

Tuesday morning saw the start of Project Bathroom Revamps, with Morgan & Cuss working in the en suite to get the old sink out and to plumb in at new sink spot. Great work throughout the week, and by Friday the en suite was pretty much all done bar the repainting and finishing touches, and the main bathroom ready for work the following week.

Bathroom Refurb In Progress - End of Day 1
Bathroom Refurb In Progress – End of Day 1
Bathroom Revamp: Day 4
Bathroom Revamp: Day 4
Bathroom Revamp: Day 4
Bathroom Revamp: Day 4

On Monday, the heated mirror went into the en suite and the first coat of paint was applied, with the panelling and relocated en suite mirror going up in the main bathroom.

As Phil says, it feels like we’re at a swanky hotel, when we use the en suite at least….

Morgan & Cuss are excellent. Highly recommended if you’re in the Herefordshire area and need someone to handle plumbing or heating.

Walked over to Ewyas Harold to post of my old camera batteries that I’d sold on eBay (much easier than I’d expected) on Tuesday. A lovely morning so having gone Direct (Dore Abbey – Footpaths up and over EH Common – Recreation Ground – Village Shop & Post Office), I took the scenic route back: School Lane footpath back up onto the Common, down via the Deer Farm, into Abbey Dore, left onto the Dore River footpath to Riverdale and back via Kerrys Gate, meeting K&K en route.

Ate lunch in the conservatory as it snowed outside. A week of weird weather – cold when cloudy and lots of snow / hail showers, warm/hot when the sun is out. Classic April Showers really, just featuring snow and hail rather than rain.

Productive week at work. Next week is full of meetings, ie less productive but more informative.

A lot of evening Zooms – LED Trustees meeting on Tuesday evening. VWW on Wednesday, Family Zoom Thursday, postponed catch up with Pete & Ruth on Saturday.

On Saturday morning I did the Bacton Square again, primarily to dig up some wild garlic shoots to plant here. Met K&K again en route to Kerrys Gate and down by Bacton Stud the gate was open into the field with the old barn, so I took the chance to take some photos before it does finally collapse.

Old Barn, Bacton Stud
Old Barn, Bacton Stud

And on the “busy” stretch of road between Bacton and Abbey Dore, there were lots of lambs in the fields, and tractors out in the fields ploughing and planting.

Sheep and Lambs, Bacton
Sheep and Lambs, Bacton
Planting Potatoes: Red Tractor + Red Soil = Herefordshire Field
Planting Potatoes: Red Tractor + Red Soil = Herefordshire Field

From Abbey Dore I took a detour up into the deer field and listened to Dore Abbey’s Bell tolling for Prince Phillip who died on Friday. Opted for the footpath to Canns Hill for the final stretch.

Deer Field: Deer
Deer Field: Deer
Flag at Half Mast, and Bell Tollings for Prince Philip
Flag at Half Mast, and Bell Tollings for Prince Philip

On Sunday Phil and I headed out to find some of the footpaths between Kerrys Gate and Cockyard, but without success. Still, a nice walk and we chatted with D&D – working on their garden room’s new roof – before the final hill up from Quarrels Green.

Did various bits of gardening on Friday – hampered a bit by my still-sprained hand – getting particularly excited as the bean and pea shoots start to make an appearance. And I now have NINE tomato seedlings. I realised Jean’s chard still had the roots attached, so I transplanted these into the veg patch.

Veg Patch & Herb Bed, Orchard
Veg Patch & Herb Bed, Orchard

Everything is growing. It’s green and lovely. The primroses, cowslips and dandelions, and plenty of daffodils still, are blooming in various shades of yellow, and blossom is appearing on the trees.

Apple Blossom, Canns Hill
Apple Blossom, Canns Hill

I’ve repurposed some of the old ensuite – the sink basin is now home to Helen’s Mint (hopefully a more solid container than the plastic pots its broken through) and the pedestal is earmarked as a trough. The shower glass may reemerge as a cold frame, and we are planning to use the panels as shelves in the log shed.

A Greenfinch is visiting the bird feeders, and we’ve seen Yellowhammers hurtling along the hedgerows. Our pairs of pheasants and partridges haven’t become roadkill.

Good reading this week – finished of Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered (I always enjoy her novels, even when the theme doesn’t initially appeal) and Andrew Greig’s Summit Fever (which has rekindled my smouldering desire to return to the mountains of Pakistan and to trek to K2 Base Camp, and to spend more time in beautiful Baltistan).

View of Karimabad, the Karakorams and the Hunza valley, from Duikar viewpoint
View of Karimabad, the Karakorams and the Hunza valley, from Duikar viewpoint

My reading rate has dropped off since moving to Herefordshire. Two factors I think: (1) No long weekends at Walton on the Naze, where I did a lot of reading (no competing activities / jobs to do, and no internet); and (2) Lots of outside jobs to do here, especially in the garden. And possibly (3) general weariness and disinclination to read longer things, finding listening to podcasts less taxing (aka Pandemic Fatigue) and (4) a series of OK reads rather than page turners (Unsheltered and Summit Fever fall squarely in the latter).

Monday saw me drive to Mere for a day with Carl, and to collect two chain saws. Dark clouds and sleety rain on the drive there, glorious sunshine on the drive home. Road much, much busier. Caravans and motorhomes are back out. 12 April saw England start Step 2 of the Roadmap out of Lockdown.

Delighted to find another walker who’s an excel plan fan: Ridgeline — 115 — April, 12, 2021.

TV: Started Better Call Saul (so far, so good – we completed series 1 and started on series 2), more Glow and Line of Duty season 6 (and sorrow at the death of Sarah Hughes who wrote The Guardian Episode Recaps and much more).

Podcasts: Mainly Books and Authors for nighttime listens and The History of England on the drive to/from Mere, plus History ExtraThe Infinite Monkey Cage and The Essay.

Photos: Herefordshire week 67 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-04-11.

Herefordshire Week 066: Tuesday 30 March – Monday 05 April 2021

Socialising – plenty of it. Our first patio-side conservatory casualty. Happy Easter! Sunshine highs of > 20C, overnight lows of -1C, and hail (again).

Monday 29 March 2021: Part 2 in Step 1 of the Roadmap Out Of Lockdown, including the end of the ‘stay at home’ rule, and Return of Legit Socialising, Outside in Groups of up to 6.

And later in the week, Mark Drakeford confirmed that the border should reopen on 12 April. Welcome to Wales!

On Tuesday we welcomed our First Visitors for months… Jess, Mike and Flora. A gorgeous afternoon (I’d swopped my LW PM for AM), perfect for sitting on the patio chatting, a stroll to the Abbey and back followed by tea and fruit loaf. We’d taken the footpath route across Tan House Farm fields to the Abbey, encountering a loudly mooing cow and spotting people up on the tower roof – turned out to be the team that clears the gutters.

Dore Abbey
Dore Abbey

MORE Outside Socialising on Thursday evening: patio beers and crisps with Thea and Joe to celebrate the start of the long weekend. No Family Zoom due to competing social engagements all round.

A cold start to Good Friday, but the chill wind gave way to glorious sunshine albeit with a nip in the air when the breezes blew. Chatted with Carl, then bonfired all morning, until almost 2pm. The Brash is All Gone. Reading and pottering ensued, and in the soft sunshine of late afternoon, a deer in Thistly Field.

Project Garage got into gear in the week too – on Friday I got a quote for a concrete garage revamp (aka reroof and new door) and on Saturday morning we met with a local builder to discuss garage rebuild.

It’s funny how I veer from preferring one to the other, depending on how easy the engagement is. After round 1, I’m favouring the local builder (and Getting It done Properly) option. But we’ve not had that quote yet 🙂

Preparing for Project Garage

Dug some of the brash ash into the veg bed on Saturday morning, and mid-afternoon after walking the Bacton loop plus Thistly Field, I headed over to Dinedor for tea and cake with dad and Jean before driving into Hereford for a Tour of the Bungalow. The building work and fit out are almost all done, and it looks great. I have (Wren) kitchen envy. How did I become this person?

Then to Aldi and Sainsbury’s for a Big Shop. Both were relatively empty – not surprising given it was a sunny Easter Saturday evening.

A bit down in the dumps on Sunday and Monday. Sometimes the blues simply descend and my sprained hand hadn’t enjoyed shopping and driving. So, I turfed all the To Dos into the long grass and took things easy.

Phil and I headed out for a walk on Sunday morning, coinciding with K&K just past Canns Hill, so we got to chat all the way back to Kerrys Gate. Down to Bacton Stud, then rewalking the footpaths up to Fair Oak with the occasional close encounter with sheep and some lambs en route. Kites above.

Three Sheep sizing us up.....
Three Sheep sizing us up…..

A short stretch along Tremorithic Road to just past the farm, then onto footpaths again to skirt behind the Cefn Farms. (Hmmm – Cefn is Welsh for various things including back / rear and ridge.  Ridge feels more likely, given the location.) Footpaths across the fields to Cwm Hill, then roads all the way home.

Gate and Stile, on the footpaths to Tremorithic
Gate and Stile, on the footpaths to Tremorithic

Al fresco lunch out on the patio. Leisurely afternoon.

Monday’s highlight was a lazy afternoon TV marathon, prescribed by Phil, watching telly of my choice – so I went for The Irishman. All 3 hours 29 minutes of it.

We also cleared out the en suite ahead of Dale and team’s arrival tomorrow to start the Bathroom Revamps. And I made my first sale on eBay – finding a new home for my old camera batteries.

In flower news, the May Blossom is out, as are the bluebells and there seem to be loads more violets this year than I remember there being last year.

May Blossom
May Blossom

And I have FOUR tomato seedlings (out of 6).

FOUR tomato seedlings....
FOUR tomato seedlings….

TV: Finished off season 4 of The Crown, more Glow, The Irishman and Line of Duty season 6 (and thank heavens for The Guardian Episode Recaps).

Podcasts: History ExtraThe History of EnglandThe Infinite Monkey Cage and The Essay.

Photos: Herefordshire week 66 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-04-04.

Herefordshire Week 065: Tuesday 23 – Monday 29 March 2021

Hail! Jobs Done. Partridges and Wild Garlic (not together).

Spring is definitely here.

On the flower front, we’re at the yellow stage: daffodils, primroses, cowslips, dandelions, celandine; but the purply-blues are starting to make an appearance too – the first bluebells are flowering, joining the violet violets at the entrance to the orchard and we have periwinkles by the driveway.

Montage: Spring Flowers
Montage: Spring Flowers

Leaf buds are starting to appear on the fruit trees, some unfurling there and in the hedges too.

Montage: Spring Greens - Leaves and Buds
Montage: Spring Greens – Leaves and Buds

And as well as our Resident Pheasants, this week we had a Pair of Partridges appear under the Pear Tree:

Partridges by the Pear Tree
Partridges by the Pear Tree

Blackbirds, chaffinches, tits and robins all singing away lustily.

Tuesday morning I ticked off lots of little to dos which had been occupying space in my calendar and mind: Tied water butts to the greenhouse, fed camellia, reseeded lawn patches, hauled logs from slope to log store and last of the loppings to the bonfire. Phil and I also tried to work out our spec for the garage rebuild. Tricky.

Tasks continued on Friday morning, after another busy week at work and a miserable windy, rainy morning (and we’d sat outside in the sun on Thursday lunchtime): updated my Where Next page, FINALLY submitted our FIT meter readings to Scottish Power (successfully – which did somewhat surprise me), got my account balance update from Three (can never log into their website, so it always has to be done via chat), emailed the TRC ladies and other friends near and far, sorted out a date to see Carl, caught up with Robert, organised the next LED Trustee Call and sanded and painted the polyfilla’d wall plug holes. Tick Tick Tick!

Just before lunch, Phil and I headed down the hill to rendezvous with Thea for a lunchtime walk, and got caught in hail all the way down. Nuts. Lovely walk though! Did a bit more phoning around in the afternoon trying to sort out replacements for the double glazing windows that have blown in the conservatory, and the soffits along the front of the house, where we’ve gaffer taped one end to stop birds getting in. Caught up with Simon, Susa and Jane before Friday Night Pizza.

Meanwhile, over in Walton, AJ’s team finished repainting the hut and (hopefully) sorting out the leaks at the front – we’d booked that in when we were moving out all our stuff last October. Who knows when we’ll be able to see it for ourselves. Although I do have a cunning plan…..

I started off Saturday with the Bacton Square, picking a big bag of wild garlic down at Bacton Stud (and a nice big bunch of binder twine a little further down the road), and taking receipt of surplus potatoes from Ivy Cottage. Moved the old trestle table top back down to the quarry and (Phil) fixed the vent in the greenhouse, then tackled nettles and ivy by the very-pruned-shrub.

Radish seedlings
Radish seedlings

A hydrangea, baby bay tree and arrowwood (Viburnum Bodnantense) arrived in the afternoon. The hydrangea has been planted by the very-pruned-shrub, and the bay tree repotted into a larger container ready to put into a terracotta pot by the front door for easy access, once it’s harden up a bit. Still pondering on where to plant the arrowwood

The clocks sprang forward overnight, making Sunday a slightly out-of-sorts day. Phil and I headed out in the drizzle to Do Bacton, then started the second half of his Christmas Cheese Selection for lunch.

Mid afternoon we walked over to Whitfield to stroll around the gardens and to admire the magnolias, coinciding with dad and Jean. Whitfield were open as part of the NGS Open Gardens Scheme, but I’m still not sure how that squares with the lockdown rules, even with social distancing (not exactly a challenge).

Gorgeous day Monday, spent in the garden: sorted water butt drainpipe, stands and stake; tidied away the greenhouse and water butt spare parts; cleared dead bramble from the shed roof; scrubbed down the “nice” patio garden table and chairs ready for guests; did a “Honda Mow” to get to the places the ride on mower won’t go (even managed to start it myself, once); raked the path around the slope to clear windblown wood debris and carted 3 wheelbarrow-loads to the bonfire; Phil hauled the last Western Power branch from the bottom of the slope to the bonfire; tied up the stake to Sophie’s Walnut Tree; secured the tarp over Nellie’s Bench with some of my collection of “picked up whilst out on walks” binder twine (how satisfying) and tipped the rain water off the train set tarp.

Water butt: drainpipe and stake redone
Water butt: drainpipe and stake redone

Lunch in there somewhere too, sat outside on the patio, and tea, crumpet and cookie at 5pm.

I did sustain two garden-related injuries – bumped my head hard on a big, low branch and sprained (I think) my left hand, with the back of my hand swelling up sufficiently to hide my middle knuckle and making it painful to open my fingers or to use my hand at all.

TV: More of season 4 of The Crown which is the first where I have memories of many of the events, (Thea’s tip) Escape to the Chateau as our new Friday Night Pizza Treat viewing and Destination Wedding as an OK-ish Saturday night film.

Podcasts: History ExtraDressed: The History of FashionThe Allusionist, The History of England, The Infinite Monkey Cage and In Our Time.

Photos: Herefordshire week 65 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-03-28.

2nd April – Just seen I failed to publish this on Tuesday. Horrors! And apologies to all my regular readers 🙂

Herefordshire Week 064: Tuesday 16 – Monday 22 March 2021

Phil’s birthday. Dad’s birthday. Jabs. Back to the Cat’s Back.

Got my first COVID vaccine jab on Tuesday morning. Phil drove me to the surgery in Ewyas Harold and it was all over and done with in 5 mins or so.

AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccination Docs
AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccination Docs

Timely – it’s been a year since Janette’s visit, which was all too swiftly followed by the first lockdown.

No after effects and the weather was nice, so I decided to walk back along the Dulas road. The tiny daffodils are out in Dulas Churchyard, and primroses, celandine and wild violets lined the lanes. Making the most of the good weather, I decided to walk the long way home, turning left onto Tremorithic Road at the end of Mill Lane, and walking home via Fair Oak, Bacton and Kerrys Gate. 8 miles, 784 ft ascent, 535 ft descent.

Wild violets
Wild violets

Thursday was Phil’s birthday. A lovely day – breakfast “Shepherdess”, cards and pressies, stroll down to the Abbey and back, bumping into Bob at Ray’s produced more cards. Balfour Beatty were filling in the larger potholes on the straight stretch down in Abbey Dore. Still plenty of lesser holes left mind you.

Birthday Cake at 4pm, featuring the Delia Smith Christmas Cake we didn’t manage to get to last December.

Big Boozy Birthday Cake (Very Mature)
Big Boozy Birthday Cake (Very Mature)

For dinner we treated ourselves to The Cinnamon Club Vegan Meal Kit from The Cinnamon Club restaurant. Not cheap, but delivered, chilled, in the morning and easy to “cook” plus plenty for 2 evening meals – although not of the Smoky Mumbai Manhattan cocktail…. Dinner totally tasted of Kerala.

Birthday Dinner courtesy of The Cinnamon Club
Birthday Dinner courtesy of The Cinnamon Club

I think our last meal out might have been a disappointing pre cinema burger at Wildwood back in Week 10.

Friday’s highlight was a return to Ewyas Harold for Phil to get his jab. Speedy work from our local GP Surgery.

Still taking great delighted in my Friday morning achievement: hemming the frayed cuffs on the blue ice breaker I inherited from Phil. Also been reading Michael Wood’s   very readable The Story of China.

(For Phil, I think the morning’s highlight was the delivery of six Crosstown Vegan Sourdough Doughnuts to add to yesterday’s Grassmere Gingerbread gift. Good friends.)

Saturday was Dad’s birthday – and he got his second jab that afternoon.

Phil was feeling a bit under par, so settled in front of the telly. How handy we recently got Netflix 🙂 That left me free to get some jobs done: removed the wall plugs from and polyfilla’d the small holes in the walls we’ve been living with since we changed all the loo roll holders about 6 months ago; hammered in strong stakes next to the greenhouse and reestablished the water butts. Watered the seeds – radishes and mixed salad are putting in an appearance, and indoors my Rocket Micro Greens have progressed to sprouting on Thursday to lanky seedlings on  Sunday.

Spring officially sprung on Sunday, and having been woken most of the week by the enthusiastic dawn chorus, I can confirm the days are getting longer. The blackbirds are the noisy ones, but I did spot two jays down by the railway track and on Monday Phil spotted two partridges. The squirrels are also back…

Buds on the pear and apple trees, leaves on hedges, and green green grass – meriting the first mow of 2021. Successfully started the ride on mower and completed the first “lap” of the year.

Decanted the Blackberry Whisky made last September.

Blackberry Whisky Decanted
Blackberry Whisky Decanted

Monday’s weather forecast looked promising so we set off to do The Cat’s Back and the Olchon Valley loop. After navigating the narrow country lanes, and potholes, to The Black Hill picnic car park, we had a magic few hours up on The Black Hill. Sunny, albeit with a cold wind on top, and views over Herefordshire to our east and along Hatterall’s Ridge and into the Brecon Beacons to the west.

The Cat's Back & Olchon Valley, with Phil
The Cat’s Back & Olchon Valley, with Phil

Late lunch sat outside on the patio, then spent a couple of hours dragging the last of Richard’s brash up to the bonfire, and making a start on lopping off the branches from the tree that’s fallen out of the hedge at Mower Turn, bringing the wild plum with it.

Dad and Jean delivered my early birthday present – a blackcurrant bush – now planted in the orchard.

TV: Bailed out of Stranger Things (too scary) and galloped through The Queen’s Gambit instead. Enjoyed The Ballad of Buster Scruggs as our Friday night film and started season 4 of The Crown.

Podcasts: Predominantly History Extra and The Essay plus Dressed: The History of Fashion (appropriately enough whilst hemming) and The Allusionist.

Photos: Herefordshire week 64 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-03-21.