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!

Christmas Week in Walton on the Naze

Home after our seven day sojourn by the sea, the highlight of which was a beautiful “blue skies and sunshine” 25th of December – what The Sunshine Coast does best, although not always at this time of year.

Happy Christmas from Walton on the Naze
Happy Christmas from Walton on the Naze

The week sped by, mainly because it was broken up into a series of “events”.

Settling in and Shopping

We arrived on Friday, early evening, only to find that The Tollgate fish and chip shop was closed for Christmas! So it was Plan B: Yates’s for F&C with mushy peas a la Aldi back at the flat. But first, a quick visit upstairs to wish Margaret and Richard Season’s Greetings and an early Happy Birthday for Richard.

Happy Christmas from Walton on the Naze
Happy Christmas from Walton on the Naze

Saturday started with our Christmas Food Shop at M&S and Aldi – 99% successful (and surprisingly easy – neither were as busy as I’d feared) with only the M&S Festive Vegan Roast unaccounted for. A tactical strike back at M&S on Sunday sorted that out and revealed that Sunday morning was Prime Christmas Food Shop time.

To Frinton for coffees at the Bird & Bean accompanied by a bacon donut for Phil (verdict: try it!) and the usual mooch along the shops of Connaught Avenue. Back to the flat for a late lunch and a leisurely afternoon. Sunday was similarly leisurely, after the Festive Roast foray. We ventured out early evening for a pint at The Victory, with beer spillage.

Gyford Guests

Monday was early Christmas Dinner with Janet, John and Sue – very successful roast ham, mashed potatoes, roast parsnips and carrots plus stuffing and pigs in blankets followed by Christmas Pud. The less successful aspect from our perspective was the lack of leftovers!!!

Sue stayed on to Christmas Eve, which started sunny and saw Sue go for a swim in our southern stretch of the North Sea. Very impressive. We celebrated with a late lunch in Frinton – back at the Bird & Bean, naturally – followed by more mooching then homes (various).

Christmas Day

Christmas Day provided a smashing sunrise, two strolls along the beach, beautiful blue skies and the option of a 10am swim from The Last Fisherman Cafe. We participated, as spectators. Phil had cooked on Monday, so I was doing Wednesday and spent a relaxed couple of hours preparing our Christmas Day dinner, assisted by a glass of white wine and some nibbles.

Christmas Morning by the Beach Huts, Hipkins Beach
Christmas Morning by the Beach Huts, Hipkins Beach

Our plates of M&S Vegan Festive Christmas Roast with gravy, roast potatoes, roast parsnips and carrots, Brussels sprouts, green beans, broccoli, stuffing (and a pair of pigs in blankets for Phil) didn’t last long. No room for any afters, although after a walk along the prom and back via Southcliffe we did manage a cup of tea and some small cakes… Just tidying up!

Kings Reach Christmas Dinner
Kings Reach Christmas Dinner

Afterwards

Boxing Day was wet and windy. A day to stay inside, and to finish Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims – and to wish I’d checked that I’d not read the other three novels I’d picked up at Barbican Library before bringing them to Walton. Read a few chapters of The Beckoning Silence, but not gripped. That evening we finished watching The Knick. Glad it got less graphically gory as the series wore on.

Today was overcast and mild. No great incentive to head outside, but we did manage a trip to the glass recycling bins, and on to the Yacht Club where we saw how the glass recycling bins get emptied. Thankful for Phil’s backlog of LRBs either side of lunch, during which we almost finished off all the leftovers…. There’s a tub left for tea once we get in. Plus plenty of cheese.

Next…

Five days to pack the ever expanding list of things we are taking with us to Herefordshire. That’s come around fast!

Christmas week in Walton on the Naze

We’re back from a lovely warm Christmas week in Walton.

We travelled down on Friday, got the heating on and put up the Christmas cards.

A Gyford Gathering was arranged for Saturday – we rendezvoused with Sue, Janet and John at Frinton train station followed by a mooch around the charity bookshops and a late lunch at The Hat & The Mouse. More mooching before Janet and John caught the train home and Sue, Phil and I walked back via Pole Barn Lane and the fully renovated Round House.

Sunday provided bright blue skies to lure us out for a stroll up along the front to Hipkins Beach and on around the Naze. Lots of energetic waves splashing along the waterfront. Hardly a soul in sight. Not so at Aldi and M&S Food Hall, which were the day’s other main destinations! Christmas food shopping accomplished with (relative) ease thanks to Aldi’s speedy checkout and M&S self service one. Sue still in shock at The Shops.

Splashing waves, Hipkins Beach
Splashing waves, Hipkins Beach

Monday was Christmas Eve, so a quiet day for us, Sue heading “home” after lunch.

Christmas Day dawned crisp and clear a little after 8am, which allowed for a couple of speedy trips to the seafront (and a clamber over the wooden flood barriers) for photos followed by breakfast and presents.

Christmas morning, Walton on the Naze
Christmas morning

It was too nice a morning to stay in, so Phil and I walked along the front and on the beach towards Frinton. Lots of other folk were out and about enjoying the morning too, most of them with dogs.

Christmas dinner for two was cooked without any trauma, accompanied by a glass of sauvignon blanc, some of Jo’s Nibbles and Phil’s Christmas Playlist.

Christmas dinner, Walton on the Naze
Christmas dinner

We had to have a breather between mains and pud – and even then we could only manage a mince pie each. The Christmas Pud will have to wait its turn. Much later on we squeezed in cheese and biscuits. And port.

The rest of the week flew by, and we were tempted to stay longer. Weatherwise it was warmer and cloudier, so less incentive to venture out although we did manage a muddy walk along the flood defences to Hipkins Beach and back on Boxing Day. Reading was the main replacement activity and I finally finished Lonesome Dove and polished off the two library books I took – Y is for Yesterday and A Sweet Obscurity – and still had time to catch up on articles I’d saved to Pocket plus a podcast or two.

Christmas Reading Completions
Christmas Reading Completions

Thursday was the exception with another Frinton train station rendezvous, this time with Tom and Jo. Coffee at Harry’s (nowhere else was open!) and a mooch around Great Danes was followed by a stroll along the prom back to Walton where we paused in The Victory for a pint and some crisps before a last of the leftovers lunch back at the flat.

Train home yesterday, with rail replacement from Ingatestone to Newbury Park. One day GreaterAnglia will finish the engineering works. One day…..

 

Walton weekend

Just home after our first visit of the year where we’ve not needed the night storage heaters on! Three lovely sunny-yet-misty days on the Sunshine Coast. Spring is on its way.

New mug

Ticked off some Residents Association admin on Fri and Sat, and we also masticked above the bedroom window in the hope that that will deter the rain…..

More enjoyably, I installed the Tooting Wilko pillowcases-as-cushion covers on the window seat. The finishing touch, it looks smashing. And Friday’s walk along the Prom to Frinton yielded a promising batch of books and a Cornishware style mug. Very satisfying.

Saturday’s stroll revealed lots of purple violets along the path along the cliff tops near Seacliffe Trailer Park, Walton’s hideaway home of the super posh caravans (“Trailer Park” really creates the wrong impression).

Saturday night saw our first meal at the superb Pearl of Samui since November. Too long!

Sunday was spent more leisurely, reading at home. It has been good reading too – Simon Armitage’s, Walking Away, PD James’ Death Comes To Pemberley and Donna Leon’s By Its Cover. We also finished off the two old packets of washing powder.

"Extra Power" Daz and "Square Deal" Surf - Which would you rather be?

With summer on the horizon, the old Tourist Info office is being converted into an ice cream kiosk and opens on 1st April. I still think it was crazy to relocate the tourist info all the way up to the Naze. Fine for drivers, but in the summer so many people come here by train – and may have no idea where “The Naze” is nor any inclination to go there. The station ticket office is closing too.

And relax!

Welcoming in the New Year in Walton on the Naze

Phil and I spent a lovely week in Walton to say farewell to 2016 and to welcome in 2017.

After finishing off the left overs …

Lots of leftovers!

… and fuelled by daily afternoon doses of Christmas cake and tea and plenty of reading, we fitted in a few walks to Frinton and back and up and around the Naze, spent evenings binging on film and TV – watching Rogue One in Colchester and Peaky Blinders and The Good Wife on other occasions – and finished up last night with a pint at The Victory followed by tasty (fish &) chips from the Tollgate Fisheries.

It wasn’t sunny every day, but it was very relaxing!

Sandcastle, East beach
Sandcastle, East beach