Herefordshire Week 173: Tuesday 18 – Monday 24 April 2023

Almost a whole week in London: Global KM Meeting & Work Farewells; relaxing weekend with Cat and Hazel; R&M birthday celebrations with TJBR.


It was an early start on Tuesday – 5am – to get the 06.40 train to London for the long awaited Global KM Meeting Wednesday – Friday. The line is closed between Oxford and Didcot (Nuneham Viaduct is broken) so I had to take the Newport route, which is a faster journey but the TfW trains are tiddly and not conducive to working on a laptop, plus there’s the change at Newport. It all went OK though.

Lots of birthday greetings during the day, lovely presents from the other KMCAs and dinner at Ottolenghi Spitalfields complete with special guests and a cake and a candle! Very good food and so lovely to have a meal out with (best) work friends – I’m really going to miss them.

Office view
Office view

Hilton Canopy not quite up to the same standards as in December but handy location and easier than commuting in from zone 2.

Another busy work day Wednesday, making the most of the chance to meet people in person plus final prep for the global meeting and plenty of hugs and hellos as KMers started arriving.

Things got underway with dinner at Cinnamon Kitchen: lots of great food – the dishes just kept on coming! – and lots of lovely conversations with people I’ve worked with over the last (almost) 10 years.

A lovely evening but tiring and a late night.

Another early start on Thursday as I was leading the morning walk. Blue skies and sunshine showed off London at its best even if it was a little nippy in the shade.

Global KM Meeting, London Office 2023
Global KM Meeting, London Office 2023

The first full day flew by and before we knew it we were off under brollies to the Sky Garden for champagne and then to Hispania for dinner where the red wine kept on flowing. Another late night!

A long half day on Friday brought the KM Meeting to a close. It went really well – the first global team meeting since 2018 and the perfect opportunity to say farewell to folks.

Work done, I took the Tube down to Clapham to rendezvous with Cat at Hazel’s. The weekend started with tea and LW cake leftovers and lots of catching up, progressing on to Prosecco and Takeaway Thai.

Lie ins all round on Saturday, a leisurely breakfast then out for a day’s walking: Battersea Park, Chelsea Physic Garden and then Battersea Power Station. Lunch at Roti King in the arches and a mooch around the swanky shops inside the Power Station then back to Hazel’s via M&S to buy bits for tea.

Battersea Power Station
Battersea Power Station

Back at base for tea and cake, a spot of pruning in the back garden then a relaxing evening with wine, nibbles and the telly.

Rain arrived overnight. A relaxing morning watching the London Marathon, then farewell to Hazel, up to KX with Cat then over to St Pancras to meet TJBR for joint R&M birthday cocktails in the Booking Office. Lovely.

Tom and me at Birthday Cocktails, St Pancras
Tom and me at Birthday Cocktails, St Pancras

To Paddington to squeeze onto the 16.43 train to Newport and the equally busy 18.55 TfW service to Abergavenny.

Back home to open birthday cards and to admire my PG home made birthday cake and to catch up over a late dinner of simple lentil soup.

Monday featured rain and admin.

Not much progress to report on the windowsill seedlings front. Maybe it’s just been a bit too cold….

The cows have arrived in Thistly Field, and the orchids are just emerging on the front lawn.

Retirement Days Tracker: 9 working days to go (that’s 4 working weeks, with 1 day off)

TV: Looking, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, BBC coverage of the London MarathonSuccession.

Podcasts: Books and Authors, Anglo-Saxon England, This Union, The Ghost Kingdoms of England, Savor, Empire.

Photos: Herefordshire week 173 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-04-23.

Herefordshire Week 172: Tuesday 11 – Monday 17 April 2023

Sunshine & showers. Swallows. Birthday lunch. Damson jam and Damson chutney.

Pear Tree Blossom, in the orchard
Pear Tree Blossom, in the orchard

I’d hoped to fit in a bit of mowing on Tuesday morning, but the rain showers arrived earlier than forecast, so it was a morning catching up on photos, weeknotes and admin.

Usual work week – cold and wet on Wednesday but glorious sunshine on Thursday, so I finished up early (4.30pm) to fit in A Mow.

Phil helped out doing the edges with the Honda mower while I drove the ride on mower around the orchard, front lawn and always-the-most-lush grass that runs from the west side of the house, down past the small pond, along the line of the old garden railway and round to the quarry. I really need to find a shorter description for this bit of The Grounds.

I left the slope below the big pond as that’s covered in cowslips, as is the far end of the front lawn. I did my best to avoid cutting those, not 100% successful.

Doing the mowing allows me time to take in what’s happening in nature – the bluebells are coming out, no sign of the orchids yet, the fruit trees and bushes are coming into leaf and blossom. The snowdrops have gone and the daffodils are starting to fade. The orchard clematis has flowers. The sticks I used to mark the yew seedlings by the tree house have sprouted leaves….

The sticks I used to mark the yew seedlings have sprouted leaves….
The sticks I used to mark the yew seedlings have sprouted leaves….

Making the most of the warm, dry weather I dug up two of the self seeded holly seedlings from the slope down to Mower Turn and transplanted them into a pot. Once they’re a bit bigger, I’m planning to plant them in one of the gaps in the hedges.

Walking to/from the greenhouse takes me past the bird feeders. It must have been dinner time – the hustle and bustle, the flurry of wings, lots of cheeping and twittering, the braver blue tits and great tits eyeing me up as I approach deciding whether it’s safe to stay hanging off the peanut feeder.

Earlier in the week Phil had pointed out a robin that has managed to work out how to get into the seed feeder, and which takes some seeds to feed another robin that’s usually sat in the hedge.

Dad and Jean made a fleeting visit on Wednesday afternoon, to deliver my birthday presents: 1 x large water butt, 1 x pack of 7ft garden canes. Well done J Mart!

Rain returned on Friday. Pottered in the morning – I’d planned to read a bit as my library books are due back, but I was too restless so I leather conditioned my walking boots, sorted out clothes etc for next week’s trip to London, started these weeknotes.

Into Hereford in the afternoon for Phil to pick up his new bike, post servicing, and for me to do a sprint around the shops and library. We rendezvoused at Dough for coffee and cake. Why is it they the nice coffee shops / cafes close at 4pm?

Saturday was a lovely day. Birthday lunch in Ross on Wye with dad and Jean, back for coffee and a potter around the garden admiring the bluebells, cowslips and clematis. All under sunny skies.

Purple and green
Purple and green

Jean brought me a bunch of beautiful tulips and the deluxe After Eight Easter Egg – yum yum.

Sunday was cloudy all day, so a good time to make Damson jam. I did the BBC Good Food Damson Jam recipe, 2 1/2-ish all the quantities except for sugar where I tend to use a lot less. That used up two large bags of Forty Acres frozen damsons picked a couple of years back.

Damson Jam
Damson Jam

After wild garlic soup lunch, and still in the jam pan zone, I made Delia’s Spiced Damson Chutney doubling the quantities to use up the nine tubs of frozen damsons in the garage freezer, and two large tubs of chopped Forty Acres apples.

Only one bag and two large tubs of damsons and one large tub of apples left in the freezer.

Pizza for dinner. Chutney still simmering…. Eventually ready to spoon into jars around 9.30pm: 4 large, 2 medium, 9 small.

Montage: Delia's Spiced Damson Chutney
Montage: Delia’s Spiced Damson Chutney

Completed the Cockyard Circuit on Monday morning before the drizzle wafted in, listening to In Our Time and taking photos of flowers along the lane. I added on a couple of extensions once I’d got home: back down the hill to collect some horse manure and then a walk around the orchard to distribute the poo and the garden to photograph the flowers.

Distance: 6.08 miles
Time:1h 42m
Elevation Gain: 565 ft

Cockyard Circuit Flowers
Cockyard Circuit Flowers
Cockyard Circuit Flowers
Cockyard Circuit Flowers
Cockyard Circuit: Crop spraying, Stone Street
Cockyard Circuit: Crop spraying, Stone Street

I spent most of the afternoon lounging on the sofa, reading Shrines of Gaiety. Then packed for a week in London.

I thought I glimpsed a swallow or similar on Saturday but wasn’t entirely sure, then on Sunday morning doing my stretches at the bedroom window I saw two swooping over the electricity wires, zooming along the lane and then looping back high over the yew tree.

Perhaps they balanced out the female chaffinch and blue tit that came to grief on the conservatory windows.

Looking out of the kitchen window on Saturday morning, Phil identified a yellowhammer. Thrushes and blackbirds busy on the front lawn. Goldfinches in the yew trees.

With a lot of standing still and looking hard, I’ve seen 1 tadpole, still surprisingly small, in the small pond.

Retirement Days Tracker: 14 days to go

Phil asked me on Monday if I’m still planning to publish my weeknotes on a Tuesday morning. Hmm. Not really thought about that. Hmmmm.

TV: Shetland, Looking, Succession.

Podcasts: The History of England, History Extra, The Last Soviet (I gave up with a couple of episodes left to go – the story was being stretched out far too thinly to be worth the far too many and far to frequent adverts), In Our Time.

Photos: Herefordshire week 172 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-04-16.

Herefordshire Week 171: Tuesday 04 – Monday 10 April 2023

Easter in Pembrokeshire.

Angle Circular: Cafe Môr
Angle Circular: Cafe Môr

Tuesday saw a frosty start after another cold night. Beautifully sunny though, so after weeknotes I headed out for a walk: Abbey Dore – Cwm Hill – Tremorithic Road – Fair Oak Farm – Bacton – Kerrys Gate. Gorgeous.

Hatterrall Ridge Panorama, Tremorithic Road
Hatterrall Ridge Panorama, Tremorithic Road

Usual work week, with VWW but no Family Zoom. Turned one of the bags of Wild Garlic into soup, riffing off Felicity Cloake’s How to make the perfect nettle soup.

Hazel arrived Thursday evening – good excuse for cheese and a glass of red wine before turning in for the night.

Up early on Friday for the drive to Pembrokeshire to spend Easter Weekend with Steffi in The New Van. Gorgeous day. The van’s lovely. We settled in on the New Decking for a late lunch and early afternoon van-warming…. which ended up lasting into the early evening.

Good Friday afternoon drinks on the decking at Steffi's new van, Newgale
Good Friday afternoon drinks on the decking at Steffi’s new van, Newgale

We eased into Saturday, walking to Newgale village to catch the 9.30am bus into St Davids. Coffee at the Really Wild Emporium, Oggies from Losh’s Pasties, and buying brownies/blondies for emergency rations from the Easter market at Oriel y Parc before setting off along the coast path to Solva.

A lovely sunny day and a lovely sunny walk. Spring flowers galore.

St Davids to Newgale: Bluebells
St Davids to Newgale: Bluebells

A stop in Solva for pot of tea in The Ship’s back beer garden then on to Newgale – where we polished off the brownies with a pot of tea back at the van.

St Davids to Newgale: Hazel and Steffi
St Davids to Newgale: Hazel and Steffi

Dinner was fish & chips from the Back Lane Chippy in H’west AKA the Coronation Chippy. Mushy pea fritter + chips + sweet ‘n’ sour sauce = Heaven.

Sunday was cloudier and brought more of a breeze. I drove us to Angle where we parked at West Angle Bay and set off on the Angle Circular. At Cafe Môr, The Old Point House, we tucked into a seaweed-themed second breakfast, then continued on towards Freshwater West and back to the car park for a cup of tea and a crumble slice from the Wavecrest Cafe. Yummy.

Angle Circular: Hazel and Steffi on the path
Angle Circular: Hazel and Steffi on the path

Then back to Steffi’s for the mandatory Maurice Sunday Feast – the Sunday Lunch (Dinner) that never disappoints!

The rain arrived.

We had pencilled in more walking on Monday, but the weather forecast was more rain so once I’d dropped H off at H’west and S at home, I continued the drive east getting home in time for lunch. And sunshine.

Phil had some sad bird news: he’d found two tiny green birds dead on the patio, and identified them as goldcrests. I’ve never seen them here.

The afternoon was a strange mixture of sunshine and occasional heavy showers, one of which featured hailstones. Phil and I sat out in the conservatory reading on the New Corner Sofa. A bit fidgety, I made Wavecrest-meets-Whitworths-inspired Brandy Apple Mincemeat crumble slices, and once I’d finished Barbara Kingsolver’s heavy-hitting Demon Copperhead, did (a version of) Meera Sodha’s New Potato, Chard & Coconut green curry for dinner – which we ate watching Succession, season 4, episode 3. Oh my!

In sprouting seed news, seedlings have emerged in the rocket and mixed lettuce trays.

Retirement Days Tracker: 16 ½ days to go

TV: Shetland, Succession.

Podcasts: Anglo-Saxon England, The History of England.

Photos: Herefordshire week 171 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-04-09.

Herefordshire Week 170: Tuesday 28 March – Monday 03 April 2023

Getting to grips with the greenhouse. The bird bonks begin. Phil finds a newt!

Tuesday was rainy. Good weather for computer admin in the morning – weeknotes and other stuff – then work.

Weds and Thurs were the usual work days, rainy, with a speedy drive in Hereford on Wednesday lunchtime to take Phil to the station, which left me home alone until Friday afternoon. I don’t really enjoy being on my own, anywhere. Still, I got to watch the first four episodes of House of the Dragon.


Admin first thing on (still rainy) Friday, then into Hereford for supermarkets, library, Philip Morris for leather boot conditioner, a mooch around Mountain Equipment, and an unexpected meet up with Phil.

Then to dad and Jean’s for Storage Box Project part 2 – fixing the hinge onto the lid and the box plus string to prevent over-opening and felt pads for cushioned close, then over to B&Q for storage box lid lip wood and castors, and Dunelm, where we ordered made to measure curtains for the dining room and lounge. Busy traffic, being a rainy Friday. Back home via Asda.

Part 2 of the Box Project Complete
Part 2 of the Box Project Complete

We woke to April and overcast skies on Saturday, so I spent the morning spreadsheeting retirement cashflows. To Bristol in the afternoon to pick up a bike for Phil, and later in the evening down to Yew Tree Cottage via The Old Stables in Ewyas Harold for fish and chips – a lovely evening,

Sunday was gorgeous day. I spent a magic morning in the orchard – bound up the small branch end on the Bramley Apple Tree that I broke on the first mow, sort-of-espaliered the blackcurrant bush, admired the violets, wild garlic and crazy rhubarb, and then got stuck in to sorting up out the greenhouse. My residual anxiety about finding the desiccated corpse of a small bird gradually abated as I relocated the dead lemongrass pots (they froze over winter), tidied up in the indoor pots of strawberries and set up 5 seed trays on the large base tray.

Preparing to sow this year's first seeds
Preparing to sow this year’s first seeds

Perusing my seed collection I settled on sowing stuff that needed to be indoors for a while, and so, eventually, the base tray and four sets of sown seeds ended up on the table by the main bathroom. (Since moved to the sunnier window ledge in my office.)

Sown seeds in trays indoors - get germinating!
Sown seeds in trays indoors – get germinating!

We have, left to right:

  • Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Marigolds
  • Dwarf French Beans – aka Dunlop Fresh Beans
  • Dwarf French Beans
  • Lemongrass
  • Tomatoes

There is another set of seeds on the kitchen windowsill – micro rocket – and a tray of sunflower seeds in the greenhouse. In anticipation of tomatoes, I moved the Walton Hut Chair over last year’s growbag, ready to provide a support structure for this year’s toms.

Greenhouse - Nice and tidy
Greenhouse – Nice and tidy

And once all that was done, it was time for a late lunch.

Flickered photos in the afternoon, pizza by the log stove (lit after a chilly afternoon in my office, and with the forecast promising -2C overnight.)

Monday was a gorgeous sunny day so after a bit of faffing first thing I headed out for a walk, doing the Bacton Square which I’ve not done for a long time. Cute lambs at Bacton Stud, and plenty of roadside wild garlic there too; I picked a bag full. Home via the Abbey, with a quick chat with R who looks after a couple of the gardens there too. Lots of wedding flowers in the Abbey. Even cuter lambs at Dorelands.

Dobby-eared lamb at Dorelands Farm

A couple of orchard garden jobs then lunch. Cleaned my muddy leather boots and then P and I walked down to the Abbey and back. The morning’s cute lambs had moved!

More pottering in the garden, a catch up with Val (sadly even the extended route won’t get us to Makalu Base Camp this year, so that’ll be my objective for another trek), tea on the patio under blue skies, sunny and warm. Read in the conservatory until it was time for dinner and the week’s instalment of Succession.

The first bird bonks have begun. A woodpecker hit from the east on Friday (goner), a coal tit from the west on Monday (survived) and sometime in between a tiny wren, its body almost invisible on the patio.

Phil found a newt in the small pond on Sunday, and spotted two more later in the day – and counted 73 goldfish in the big pond. 73!! Orange ones and white ones.

Phil found a newt!
Phil found a newt!

In the garden, my Japanese Quince has gorgeous red flowers and the hydrangeas that Jean gifted us from Dinedor have both survived the winter.

Japanese quince, gorgeous red flowers
Japanese quince, gorgeous red flowers

The grass is growing – time to plan in some more mows – and the first bluebell is out.

First bluebell
First bluebell

Retirement Days Tracker: 19 days to go

TV: Billions, Shetland, House of the DragonSuccession.

Podcasts: History Extra, The AllusionistSheDunnit, In Our TimeThe History of EnglandAnglo-Saxon England.

Photos: Herefordshire week 170 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-04-02.

Herefordshire Week 169: Tuesday 21 – Monday 27 March 2023

7.30pm and it’s still light!! Summer’s on its way!

First mow of the year – both mowers started and I’ve done a “full mow”.

Cowslips emerging, primroses too and first grape hyacinths are out by the old railway track route.

AND – tadpoles!

Tuesday morning, I read another chunk of The Ink Black Heart then headed over to A’s for tea and bara brith. Back in the sunshine between the showers. Big news at the small pond – tadpoles have emerged from one batch of frogspawn!

If you squint at this photo, you should see some small black squiggles – those are the tadpoles….


Finished work ‘early’ on Tuesday – 5.30pm – so that we had time to drive down to Ross on Wye to meet dad and Jean, N&T for dad’s birthday dinner at No. 3. A real treat. Dad has been telling us how good No. 3 is for a while now, and it more than lived up to the hype.

Usual work week, although noticeably not as hectic as some. VWW but no Family Zoom. Instead, and with Phil’s help, I got my new iPad up and running.

Headed over to dad and Jean’s on Friday morning for Part 1 of the Rucksack Storage Box project. AKA dad and I are making a box to put at the end of the spare bed in my office and in which I’ll keep my rucksacks and on which visitors can put suitcases / bags when they stay.

Rucksack storage box - dad's plan
Rucksack storage box – dad’s plan

Once I finish work I won’t need two desks / two computer set ups, and I’m planning to reorganise the room to put a desk and computer in the alcove and moving the beds to be where the computer desks are now. The wardrobe will go, which means we’ll need to have replaced our bedroom furniture first, which has been on The List for a long time. But comes with Replace the Carpet upstairs… so not a small undertaking. is a boon.

Anyway, I had a lovely time with dad – first stop, B&Q for the MDF, which was cut to size instore by a very nice man, plus strengthening battens and a piano hinge. And compost, seeing as I was there.

Back at dad’s, we got the power tools out and glued and screwed the sides together, and prepped the base, by which time it was time for lunch and dad took Jean and I out to Radway Bridge. V tasty. Another 30mins more back in the garage workshop and the base was in. Part 2 will be attaching the hinge and the lid, and adding castors. Paint to be applied back here.

Rucksack storage box - all the sides are "done"
Rucksack storage box – all the sides are “done”

Caught up with L in the late afternoon / early evening. It’s been a long time.

A day in the garden, Saturday.

Cleared the ivy by the vastly reduced evergreen bush by the tree house (can you tell I don’t know what it is?), raked the bare earth to loosen it and spread grass seed there, raked up camellia flowers and picked up wind blown twigs. Then to The Forge to get fresh petrol for the ride on mower.

After a late lunch, I took the Honda mower for a tour of the edges and tricky spots, and to use up some of last year’s petrol. The mower coped with that, however the “power” bit is erratic, so there was a lot of manual pushing and hauling. Quite a work out….

A quick tea and Kit Kat at 4 o’clock watching the birds on the bird feeders, then time to see if the ride on mower would start…. It did after more tries at turning the key than I’d previously given it. Not sure I’d set up the trickle charger correctly, but hopefully a couple of hours mowing recharged the battery. Lots of shuttle trips to / from Mower Turn – 7 loads of grass cuttings there, 1 in the orchard, 1 ½ from the solarium including a lot of leaves and some brown stripy feathers – signs of a battle between birds of prey?

It was lovely being outside, if a little chilly by the end. Touring The Estate meant I had time to see spring flowers transitioning from “white ones” to the “yellow and blues”, and leaves starting to appear on the trees, hedges and bushes. Cowslips are coming through below the big pond, primroses are on the willow tree stump and the corner verges, grape hyacinths blooming by the old railway route; there are leaves on the clematis, and leaf buds on the crab apple, pear, apple and cherry trees, and on the hazelnut trees too.


Pizza by Phil for tea as we watched all three episodes of Waco on Netflix. Not as good as the longer Storyville documentary series – Waco: Madman or Messiah – we’d watched a while ago. I really didn’t like the tone of the Netflix series – too much revelling in the drama in the opening sequence, and too much macho self justification / self glorification from most of the FBI and ATF men (and it was, tellingly, all men). They seem to have lost sight of the fact that the seige resulted in the deaths of over 80 people.

The clocks sprang forward overnight. I’d not slept well even after all Saturday’s exertion so it was a sluggish start to Sunday.

On the plus side, it was raining, which provided a good excuse to read and potter.  I spent a happy hour or so translating Val’s outline itinerary for this autumn’s Nepal trek into a spreadsheet and looking up the route on my map. It turns out that my Kanchenjunga paper map doesn’t go far enough west, so there was some online map searching too. Hopefully we’ll be trekking all the way over to the Makalu-Barun National Park, into the valleys the other side of Sherpani Col, which I saw from the west while we were trekking north through the Hongu Valley towards Amphu Lapsta in 2019. Which means I really should be calling the trek “Kangchenjunga to Makalu”. Cor!

Took advantage of lulls in the rain to get outside and to redistribute the piles of mown grass. Too lazy to bother with the windblown wood on the paths, but did have the energy to suggest bubble & squeak with a fried egg for lunch. Yum Yum. And finished off The Ink Black Heart.

Mid afternoon P drove us to Hereford to pick up his latest bike exercise machine, then back home to read on the sofa – starting the next in my Library Hardback Haul, Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead.

It was light until gone 7.30pm. Summer’s on its way!

On Monday, I drove down the Wye Valley to rendezvous with Sonia, Sara and Grace for another lovely day walking together. This time we made good use of having 2 cars and did a section of the Offa’s Dyke Path, from Monmouth to Brockweir.

Offa's Dyke: Monmouth to Brockweir
Offa’s Dyke: Monmouth to Brockweir

A beautiful day. It felt like the clocks having changed brought summer with it.

Late lunch in Brockweir’s Community Shop & Cafe – where I bumped into one of guys I’d walked and talked with during the CWF earlier on in the month.

Strava Map & Graph: Offa's Dyke: Monmouth to Brockweir
Strava Map & Graph: Offa’s Dyke: Monmouth to Brockweir
  • Distance: 10.68 miles
  • Time: 3h 50m
  • Elevation Gain: 1,527 ft

Spent a happy hour outside collecting the windblown twigs and branches between the paths to/from Mower Turn.

In the evening it was time to indulge in the long awaited return of Succession. We warmed up for season 4 by watching the last episode of season 3 as a refresher, and then watched the first episode of season 4.

Retirement Days Tracker: 21 ½ days to go

TV: The GoldThe Gold: The Inside StoryWaco: American Apocalypse, Succession.  We gave up on The Flight Attendant.

Podcasts: History Extra, The AllusionistSheDunnit, In Our Time.

Photos: Herefordshire week 169 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-03-26.