Herefordshire Week 081: Tuesday 13 – Monday 19 July 2021

Holidays continued.

Heatwave.

River Colne Estuary Walk, Wivenhoe to Alresford Creek
River Colne Estuary Walk, Wivenhoe to Alresford Creek

Tuesday turned out to be sunnier than forecast, so we had a lazy day at Riverside reading and snoozing. Getting through a lot of LRBs ahead of visiting Witham on Thursday when read LRBs will be exchanged for read NYRBs.

Riverside, Wivenhoe
Riverside, Wivenhoe

An afternoon stroll around Wivenhoe with S, who spotted a muntjac deer on the meadowlands near Anglesea Road railway line.

The Wednesday plan had been to drive to the hut to make the most of the sunny day, except it wasn’t so we didn’t. More reading instead. Early evening, we strolled along the river out beyond the flood barrier, then back for a pint and an al fresco dinner out at The Black Buoy. Back for a bit of lazy telly – introduced S to the delights of Derry Girls.

Started Thursday with breakfast coffee with an LRB on the waterfront, then did Phil and I did first COVID-19 rapid lateral flow tests. Tricky getting to those tonsils….

First one
First one

Why? Because we then drove to Witham to spend the day with Phil’s folks where they treated us to a lovely take away lunch courtesy of the Tea Rooms, which we tucked into, plates on laps, in the front garden. Smashing. Top up shop at Morrisons then back to WIV leaving S to spend a few days at home. Back at base we resumed watching Godless. Liking the idea of a projector telly at 40A…..

Frinton Friday! We took the train to Frinton for morning coffee from the always excellent Bird & Bean (home of the famous Bacon Donut)….

Second breakfast
Second breakfast

… and a mooch around the shops – books from the Hospice Bookshop for Phil and half price charity shop champagne flutes for me (and in anticipation of Hazel and Catherine’s weekend visit – such demanding guests!).

A leisurely stroll along the Greensward to the hut and a late lunch up at the Naze Tower Cafe. Hardly a soul around at Hipkins Beach – but the cafe was doing good business. A super sunny day in the Sunshine Coast. We didn’t want to leave.

Happiness is Hipkins Beach on a super sunny Friday
Happiness is Hipkins Beach on a super sunny Friday

But Indian Takeaway and a gorgeous evening awaited us in Wivenhoe….

Riverside, Wivenhoe - River Colne at dusk
River Colne at dusk

Saturday and Sunday saw belated birthday celebrations with Hazel & Catherine. A sort of “Wine Weekend”. So hot!!! And so good to see them both in person again.

Birthday champagne celebrations
Birthday celebrations

A fab couple of days featuring pints at The Rose and Crown, crosswords, rigging up some shade for with a bit of washing line and a towel, champagne and pizza, a stroll along the estuary waterfront to Alresford Creek and back and slap up Sunday Roasts all round at The Black Buoy.

Sunday lunch at The Black Buoy, Wivenhoe
Sunday lunch at The Black Buoy, Wivenhoe

After a bit of toing and froing P and I decided to drive home on Monday. It was an easy drive – although the Nissan’s aircon only does hot, so we had the windows down – and we stopped at Ampthill Great Park for a cuppa, Rollright Stones near Chipping Norton for lunch and Ross for a speedy supermarket shop. Very pleased to see so many people still wearing masks, using hand sanitiser and social distancing, in spite of Monday being the fatuous and foolhardy “Freedom Day”.

Found 40A looking top notch. Watered the tomatoes, lettuces, broad beans and peas and the blackcurrant – stripped of fruit, and sadly not by TJBR, and hoovered up this year’s influx of ants in the lounge. We had had some flying ants the day before we left and I thought the ant powder would kill any later ones off too…. not so.

Finished off Godless before bed.

Still hot. Looking forward to a week’s holiday at home.


TV: Godless and Derry Girls.

Podcasts:  History Extra and Books & Authors.


Photos: Herefordshire week 81 on Flickr.

Phil: f/e 2021-07-19.

Herefordshire Week 080: Tuesday 06 – Monday 12 July 2021

Off we go to Wivenhoe!


Flexed my working pattern this week to work Tuesday morning instead of Thursday afternoon – partly to allow me more time to prep for hols and partly because Thursday was the first day in weeks that the weather forecast looked dry enough for a mow….

… which was interrupted by a visit from Welsh Water to check pressure after repairing the outside stop valve (rest assured, I had to look up that technical term). Pressure there is great, but the flow rate at the house is lower – so the v helpful WW man suggested we replace the pipe from the road to the house, and gave us some names to call. Another To Do added to our list – but well worth doing.

A bit later in the afternoon we had our home visit from the Simply Stunning flooring manager, who measured up and talked us through the options for replacing the downstairs carpet with wooden floor of some description.

Both super helpful guys.


In bird feeder news, the seeds and peanuts have been having plenty of visit from the greedy sparrow-lings and the bald headed robin is still with us. No sign of the jay. Good.

Feeding time for greedy sparrow-lings
Feeding time for greedy sparrow-lings

In the orchard, the fruit is starting to ripen – lots of apples and cherries – and the broad beans and pea pods are swelling. Lettuce is going well – at least, the ones that the slugs ? snails? birds? aren’t nibbling.

Blackcurrants....
Blackcurrants….

Friday saw the start of our holidays!

Good drive to Wivenhoe trying out a new route via M50 / M5 / A46 / Stow on the Wold and Chipping Norton – Chiltern heartlands – which proved a success. It’s a long way from the Welsh border to estuary Essex and the drive took up a lot of Friday. But so worth it – LOVELY to have some time with T, J and R at Riverside, starting with tea and cake with fizz and crisps following later and home made veggie Indian dinner – yum all round.

Cool though, and the cool and overcast theme continued on Saturday morning. We ventured out for a tour of The Plot and, a bit later, for a Tour de Wiv and up to the Co-Op. Lunch and then farewell to TJR. A leisurely afternoon reading indoors, then Godless in the top floor lounge.

Sunday promised sunshine so we decided to head over to Walton. Clouds and distant rain dominated the skies as we sat on the train from WIV to WON…. Uh oh. But the Sunshine Coast turned on the charm and not only did we find the beach hut looking good courtesy of AJ’s March repaint, but the sun came out and we had a lovely, lovely day sitting out on the prom, reading. Not many people around at all. Can’t all be watching The Football.

No 20, Hipkins Beach
No 20, Hipkins Beach

Back at base, dinner then out to pick up S from Stansted. Hardly another car on the road – everyone watching England v Italy in the (postponed) Euro 2020 final. Even we had the radio on, listening to the match and timed things perfectly to dash into the house to watch extra time and penalties right through to the bitter end, accompanied by cheese and biscuits and wine with S.


After indulging in a lazy Monday morning, I took the train to WON for my annual trim, bought a few things from Bartall’s and headed on up to the beach hut. Once again the gloomy weather forecast proved wrong and I had a smashing lunch up at the Naze Tower cafe, with a copy of the LRB. They have installed a coffee shed / van which offers a great range of sandwiches, coffee, cake and ice cream and a new wooden sheltered seating area, as well as the usual tables and chairs. Really lovely.

And a hot and sunny afternoon – the Sunshine Coast strikes again!

Phil arrived late afternoon, along with the clouds, and we headed over to M&R’s for a good catch up over Chinese takeaway. A real treat.

A good start to our holidays.


TV:  Ozark (season 3) at home,  Godless  and The Football (!!) in WIV.

Podcasts:  The History of England, You Must Remember This, History ExtraBooks & Authors and The Essay – Albania!


Photos: Herefordshire week 80 on Flickr.

Phil: f/e 2021-07-19.

Where next: Wivenhoe & Walton, Essex

Trip No. 3 of 2021: Essex

Destination: WIV & WON, way over there on the East Coast

When: July 2021

What: A long week based in Wivenhoe courtesy of a house swap. Hoping to fit in a few day trips to Walton on the Naze and a day in WTM and to celebrate two years’ worth of birthdays with Hazel, Catherine and Rach

How: Driving there and back, and the train for WIV-WON

Why: For a low stress holiday by the seaside with family and friends

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!