Herefordshire Week 074: Tuesday 25 – Monday 31 May 2021

A week off work; to Pembrokeshire for puffins. Summer’s here – AT LAST.


Looking back to this time last week, it’s hard to remember just how much rain we had in May given the past 7 days have, in the main, been hot and sunny.

Hazel and I did the Bacton footpaths route on Tuesday morning, a little muddy in places but not too bad. We found dad busy dismantling the garden railway when we returned – he came back during the week to finish off the job. The end of an era.

A leisurely afternoon, then packing three dining room chairs, the microwave, kettle, butternut squash curry and various other caravan supplies into the surprisingly spacious Nissan Note, and driving WEST, taking the A470 / A40 route north of the Brecon Beacons. Lovely.

Dinner at Mayhem then on to Newgale.


A fab five days at the van – Preseli Hills on Wednesday, Skomer on Thursday, rain and a brief foray out onto Newgale Beach on Friday, the coast path from Fresh West to Bosherton on Saturday and St David’s Headland on Sunday. K&D with us on Thursday and Sunday, and D&G Friday to Monday for the Everest Trek Get Together No 16.

Neolithic cairns (and bog) along the spine of the Preselis:

Along the tops of the Preseli Hills
Along the tops of the Preseli Hills

…. followed by a wonderful sunset and refreshments on the deck:

Sunset Gin, Newgale
Sunset Gin, Newgale

On Skomer, puffins galore plus swathes of bluebells, pink campion and sea campion. Rabbits and razorbills, oyster catchers and gulls, guillemots and kittiwakes – and, at The Garland Stone, basking seals and a glimpse of dolphins.

Puffins, Skomer
Puffins, Skomer

A super fried egg sandwich from Cafe Mor at Fresh West, and a paddle in the sea off Broad Haven South Beach. The Green Bridge of Wales, St Govan’s Chapel and seabirds on stacks galore in between. Sea Thrift and Spring Squill carpeting the clifftops.

Stacks and Seabirds, Freshwater West to Bosherton, around the Castlemartin Peninsula
Stacks and Seabirds, around the Castlemartin Peninsula from Freshwater West to Bosherton
Bluebells and Broad Haven South Freshwater West to Bosherton, around the Castlemartin Peninsula
Bluebells and Broad Haven South

Dolphins again, on a Hot Bank Holiday Sunday. This time in the Ramsey Island race, as we walked around St David’s Headland from Caerfai to St Justinian’s.

Rock Arch and Cliffs, St David's Headland
Rock Arch and Cliffs, St David’s Headland

And the mandatory Friday Night Curries and Slap Up Sunday Feast from Maurice.


Drove back Monday morning, dropping Hazel off at Carmarthen en route, and spent the afternoon on the patio recovering from Sunday evening’s over indulgences.

Good to be home. The front lawn is a mass of buttercups, and the grass has grown at least a foot!


TV: Not much, given I was away for most of the week. Motherland (series 3) and Have I Got News for You before and Ozark (starting season 2) after.

Podcasts: The History of England (late night /early morning listenings in the ‘van) and The History of English (on the drive back).


Photos: Herefordshire week 74 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-05-30.

Where next: Pembrokeshire

Trip No. 1 of 2021: Pembrokeshire

Destination: Pembrokeshire, in Far West Wales

When: May 2021

What: A few days with Hazel and Steffi with walks along the coast and our second attempt at an Everest Trek Get Together No 16 (our first attempt was last October, stymied by Storm Alex and COVID)

How: Driving there and back, probably taking the scenic A40 north of the Brecon Beacons

Why: For fresh air and friends. Right now the prospect of being able to spend a long weekend in Pembs with the Everest Trek Crowd at the end of May is a huge highlight.

Where next: 2020 – COVID-19 Update

Here’s a copy of the update I made to my Where Next? page today.


2020

2020 is going to be a rather different year as Phil and I are moving to Herefordshire in January to try out the country life (but not Country Life). I’m still aiming to get a few trips in, but living in Herefordshire opens up a whole new world of walking opportunities, and travelling further afield means getting to grips with regional flights or factoring in a 3 hour plus train journey to/from London.

Naturally, there are some travel plans – but the only one booked is a return to northern Spain with Steffi and Hazel to walk the El Anillo de Picos in the company of Alfonso who led last year’s week in the Picos. I’ve already got weekends in the Northern Lake District, Pembrokeshire and St Andrews booked into my diary, and Phil and I are off to Northern Italy for Michael and Katja’s wedding in June. That still leaves a chunk of time for a Big Trip, but what, where and when depends on what Phil and I decide come June on the Herefordshire front….. About which, read on….

COVID-19 Update – August 2020

Well, we made our move to Herefordshire at the right time! Although not the trial we’d anticipated, it’s certainly proving to be a better place to be this year than London would have been.

As lockdown has been easing I have made it to Pembrokeshire for a weekend with Steffi and Phil and I have had a week in Walton on the Naze. All other trips – foreign and domestic – are all now cancelled.

Who knows what 2021 will bring? ‘More of the same’ would not come as a surprise.

Trip No. 1 of 2020: Relocating to Herefordshire

Destination: Abbey Dore, a hamlet half way between Hereford and Abergavenny.

When: January – June 2020, possibly long term. We’ll see how it goes.

What: Living in rural Herefordshire, with Phil. Working remotely for LW (I got the official approval this week).

How: With the cooperation of family, friends and work.

Why: I’ve spent a lot of my life in Herefordshire, whilst growing up in Solihull, studying at St Andrews and Chester, and working in London. We’ve had a holiday home there since I was tiny, which is where Phil and I will be based, and dad and Jean live half an hour’s drive away.

I did my first walking in the Black Mountains, up Skirrid and along Offa’s Dyke. I love the history of the Welsh Marches, and the fact that we have a Cistercian Abbey and a Saxon Motte and Bailey castle (remains of) within walking distance, and stone castles scattered across the landscape. Not to forget Bacton, Kilpeck, Craswall and Cwmyoy.

I’m ready to spend some time living in a green world rather than a grey one, with space to grow things and to make and store things. The preserving pan and sewing machine will be coming with us.

“But why leave London?” I hear you ask –

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” — Samuel Johnson

Well, I am somewhat tired of London. I love the fact that everything is on the doorstep, from shops to cinemas to museums, that I have family and friends within easy reach, that every Wednesday I can meet friends for wine and pizza, and that trains and flights offer a boundless choice of destinations near and far.

But I don’t love the noise, the early morning dustbin lorries and delivery vans announcing to all and sundry that they are reversing or turning left, the late night drunken revellers shouting and singing as they try to navigate the residential back streets of the Barbican, the police helicopters hovering over possible crime scenes in the middle of the night or monitoring protests and public gatherings during the day. The construction sites, providing relentless background noise of jackhammers and power tools at play, for new luxury developments in place of buildings with civic and social worth, signifying the Corporation of London’s distain for its residential communities and neighbours.

So. Watch this space.

Forty Acres sign post, Kerry's Gate
Forty Acres sign post, Kerry’s Gate

Trip No. 2 of 2020: El Anillo de Picos – POSTPONED July 2020

Destination: The Picos de Europa, Northern Spain.

When: August / September 2020.

What: Steffi, Hazel and I – plus Rache – return to Northern Spain to walk El Anillo de Picos.

How: In the wonderful company of Alfonso Gallego de Lerma who was our excellent guide/leader on Exodus’ Picos de Europa trip we did in July 2019.

Why: July’s trip whetted the appetite even though the bad weather restricted our routes and made the Grade 5 trip closer to the standard Grade 3 holiday than any of us would have wished.

This time we’ll get to spend a long week in the Picos de Europa proper, hiking in and around  the three massifs. We will be staying in refugios and carrying “everything” with us.  That shouldn’t be as dramatic as it sounds – we are used to carrying wet weather gear and warm layers, plus lunch and water, in our day packs and will only need a sheet sleeping bag for the refugios which will also provide all our meals. I for one am not renowned for my vast wardrobe when I’m walking …. Plus we will have clean clothes to enjoy once we’ve competed El Anillo.

Itinerary: Factoring in travel to/from London, our itinerary is:

Day 0: Travel to London
Day 1: Fly to Bilbao. Travel to Arenas de Calabres.
Days 2 to 8: Trekking through the Picos.
Day 9: Relax and swim…. Drive to Bilbao or Santander. Visit the city.
Day 10: Fly to London
Day 11: Travel back from London

Steffi has  booked flights and Alfonso is booking hotels and the refugios (turns out four clients is a good number, as is Alfonso’s price), so we are All Systems Go!

Everest Trek Get Together No 15

Another fab weekend in Pembrokeshire, with Steffi and Maurice, Hazel, Charles and Dave.

Summary: A gig in Tenby on Friday courtesy of Maurice and his band, and a wet walk along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path on Saturday doing a figure of eight from West Angle Bay. Sunday stroll around the Southwood Estate with blue sky views out over Newgale Beach, then another of Maurice’s Marvellous Sunday Lunches, with crumble by Carmen. Painful train journey home.

For photos, take a look at my Flickr Album: Everest Trek Get Together No 15. Read on for the detail.

Friday followed its usual pattern – train from Paddington, rendezvous with Dave at Newport, generous G&Ts on arrival at Mayhem followed by one of Steffi’s curry feasts. Then the evening diverged from the norm, as we headed over to Tenby to watch Maurice and his band in a gig at The Lifeboat Tavern. Brilliant!

A late night drive got us to Newgale, Steffi’s caravan, and bed.

No photos… I always fail to get any of the array of curries. Must be the aperitif.

Saturday‘s weather forecast offered 50% chance of light rain and moderate winds for our stroll around the headland from Angle to Freshwater West and cutting across the peninsula to East Angle Bay and back through the long, narrow village to West Angle Bay.

The 50% was not in our favour. We got a morning of very wet Welsh rain, and grey views out to sea as we walked this section of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.

Wet Walk from West Angle Bay
Wet Walk from West Angle Bay

The rain eased off as we headed back towards Angle through, looking across to Milford Haven with views of the refinery, tankers and Irish Ferries arriving into port. Walking along Angle’s medieval main street, the nineteenth-century Estate-built hotels and houses standing out somewhat, we were passed by a vintage car rally. A fine parade, although we became rather concerned when we realised they were also heading to the Wavecrest Cafe, down at West Angle Bay.

Fortune smiled on us, and we managed to get a corner table for five, and the ladies who run the cafe were super efficient. We were tucking into Welsh Cheddar and Leek Tart (me), Bacon & Brie Baguettes (H & S) and bowls of steaming Cawl (D&C) within 10 mins. Five stars for the Wavecrest Cafe, team and food. Highly recommended!

As blue skies put in a determined appearance above us, we headed out to do the other half of the Angle peninsula, 3.7 miles along the coast path and back via the Pele Tower House with its spiral staircase, arrow slit windows and views of the stone dove cote. Angle has an ancient history.

Information Board: East Angle Bay
Information Board: East Angle Bay

We made it back to the Wavecrest Cafe with 15 mins to spare for pots of tea, tasty cakes and a warm welcome back, even though they were shutting up at 4pm. A really impressive bunch of women run that place.

Home and dry by 5pm, we had time for more tea and the papers as the rain pelted down outside.

Wine, soup and Cardigan bread lasted until 9pm when sleep called.

Sunday dawned with clear skies and a colder breeze. A light breakfast then out to the beach and then up on the footpaths to and through Southwood Estate, as discovered by Gwyneth and Dave this summer. A smashing stroll from Pinch Hill to Maidenhall Car Park, then back along the coastal path above Newgale Beach. Great views out to Grassholm and Skomer.

Newgale Beach Panorama
Newgale Beach Panorama

A speedy drive back to Mayhem via Aldi, for another Marvellous Maurice Sunday Lunch, with Carmen’s Blackberry and Apple Crumble for afters.

Sunday lunch
Sunday lunch

Full rabbit to Newport, where our scheduled return to London was scuppered by GWR. Our train broke down at Cardiff, the weekend engineering works were overrunning, there were rolling stock chaos and staffing shortages. AKA loads of cancelled trains. We took the station staff’s advice and jumped on a train to Bristol Temple Meads, only to find the next London train was cancelled, so we had an hour to wait. We got into Paddington at 20.44. Delay Repay submitted this morning. Now we just need to give GWR twenty working days to process it….. I think they’ll be busy.

Everest Trek Get Together No 14

On a sedate train service heading towards Cardiff, after another lovely weekend in Pembs, this time combining the 14th Everest Trek Get Together with the start of Steffi’s birthday celebrations.

Friday featured generous G&Ts followed by curry and then the onward drive Newgale and the Van. Dave and Gwyneth had met us in Newport with the usual smooth station rendezvous and a drive West that was somewhat wetter than desired.

The damp theme resurfaced on Saturday this time accompanied by strong winds – the forecast had promised heavy rain and winds over the 50mph mark, and proved accurate. The morning was slightly less bad, and we ventured out along the road to the cafe/paper shop. Huge waves and steady rain kept almost everyone else inside. The return walk, into the wind, took 6 mins longer than the outbound leg. A day in the caravan seemed the sensible option, with D&G driving back to the Duke of Cambridge to watch Wales romp to victory in the Six Nation final. We celebrated that and Steffi’s birthday minus 3 days with ginger tiffin, tea and sparklers.

Steffi and I ventured out to watch sunset from the beach, catching a final shower en route but one that delivered a wonderful full rainbow over the caravan park. Beautiful sunset, the sea still strong.

Sunset after the storm, Newgale Beach
Sunset after the storm, Newgale Beach

Back in the van, present opening followed together with further toasts, of champagne this time, accompanied by crisps from the pub. We dined on Steffi’s special soup, Cardigan bread, hummus and carrot sticks, cheese and biscuits.

Then bed.

Leisured breakfast on Sunday. No rain and crystal clear skies out over St Brides Bay. A beautiful walk along the beach, busy with walkers and dogs. Lovely.

Sunday stroll on Newgale Beach
Sunday stroll on Newgale Beach

Back to Mayhem for continued celebrations with more champagne and a slap up Sunday lunch cooked by Maurice and Maria. Yes, we did visit the Aisles of Aldi en route. It’s tradition.

Sunday lunch bonanza!
Sunday lunch bonanza!

Hazel and I caught the 15.54 from Whitland, changed onto the GWR service at Swansea and are whiling away the journey back to London listening to podcasts / watching downloads. Currently at Cardiff where our naturally quiet carriage now has a lady putting the world to rights on a phone call…