Herefordshire Week 209: Tuesday 26 December 2023 – Monday 01 January 2024

Boxing Day in WTM. Relaxing in WIV. Relaxing at 40A. Colds. A lot of reading.

Hello 2024. Hello snowdrops.


My weeknotes week kicked off with Boxing Day. We spent the morning with J&J doing a few odd jobs then drove over to Wivenhoe. Huge relief as the car pulled out of the drive free from any broken suspension related clunks and clanks.

A relaxing few days back in WIV spent strolling around the village / town, snoozing, and a surprising amount of successful reading of books rather than screens: Curtis Sittenfeld’s page turner Romantic Comedy and Benjamin Myers’ lovely The Perfect Golden Circle. The River Colne proved relatively sheltered from Storm Gerritt’s high winds on Wednesday and Thursday.

Wivenhoe Wander
Wivenhoe Wander

We dined on Christmas dinner leftovers (Phil), Co-op food bargains and Indian takeaway from Saffron with the Moorgate M&S cheese-related treats saved until my cold had fully cleared and my taste returned.

Boxing Day Bakery Bargains
Boxing Day Bakery Bargains

Tom came over on Thursday evening and we treated ourselves to a pint in the pub before dinner.

Beers at The Black Buoy
Beers at The Black Buoy

Drove back to Forty Acres on Friday. Easy drive, despite slow traffic on the M42 plus heavy rain there and on the M5. Stopped at Rugby Moto for a Pret lunch, loo and a leg stretch, and again in Ross for a Morrisons shop, including a pack of raspberry jam doughnuts to go with our “we’re home” cup of tea. It took just over 6 hours, including those two stops. So, say, 5 hours without them. Not Bad.

Settled on the sofa and read Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These in one go. RG’s recommendation, and quite the right time of the year to read it. I’m struggling to come up with how best to describe it. “Wonderful” doesn’t sit right; “great” is too banal.

Gs&Ts with Christmas cashews in the lounge, then cheese, biscuits and bits for tea watching the final few episodes of Only Murders in the Building.

Slow start to Saturday. Watched a fox (the fox?) jog across Kiln Field. Pottered around the grounds and picked up some of the wind blown twigs and small branches, and rebaited the rat trap. Phil made a couple of loaves then we strolled down to Hill Farm sheep, stopping for a nice chat with CG en route.

Rain arrived on Saturday afternoon and settled in for the rest of the weekend.  We booked a week in hopefully sunny Walton on the Naze, staying in a Beam bespoke 1 bedroom caravan back in our old stomping ground, Naze Marine Caravan Park. Read on the sofa until it was time to drive into Hereford via Dunelm (textile take back = big tick) and Lidl (no post Christmas bargains = boo) then on to dad and Jean’s for dinner – a lovely evening. Phil stayed at home with what turned out to be a worse version of The Cold I’d had over Christmas.

Sunday – NYE – saw Phil spend the day in bed as The Cold did its worst. I spent the day reading, finishing All The Light We Cannot See, and then watching telly programmes Phil didn’t want to see. So it was a very quiet New Year here at Forty Acres.

Phil was on the mend by Monday morning, and the skies were blue, so we headed out to walk the Bacton Square, which we haven’t done for a long time. Back home, fry up for lunch and an afternoon of reading and weeknotes.

Bacton Square scenes: Caspar
Bacton Square scenes: Caspar

The first snowdrops are out, in the usual sheltered spot. Daffodils are up – but not out – in their usual spots along the old garden railway line. Green shoots crunch underfoot beneath the bird feeders.

Phil replenished the bird feeders Friday evening and by Saturday morning the various tits, sparrows, dunnocks, chaffinches, nuthatch, red woodpecker and robin were back. And the rat.

Over the course of the rest of the week we saw blackbirds, a jay and a cock pheasant. Plus pigeons and magpies around and about.

TV: Top Boy (Series 3 if you watched the BBC original; season 1 for Netflix), Doctor Who (“2023” season 1 – aka Disney money – HELLO Ncuti Gatwa!!!!), Only Murders in the Building (finished season 1), Murder Is Easy, Men Up, Top of the Pops: 2023 Review of the Year, Reservation Dogs.

Podcasts (and BBC Sounds streams): Gone Mediaeval, Eras: Kylie Minogue, A History of Rock in 500 Songs (just right for the long drive back from Essex), History Extra.

Photos: Herefordshire week 209 on Flickr.

Phil: f/e 2023-12-31.

Herefordshire Week 208: Tuesday 19 – Monday 25 December 2023

Countdown to Christmas, over to Essex, speedy side trip to London, a fab Christmas Dinner from Phil, and a Christmas cold (but not COVID).

Christmas at Battersea Power Station
Christmas at Battersea Power Station

Woke up late again on Tuesday, and a bit down in the dumps / listless. Gloomy inside and out. Did weeknotes and prepped the blogpost titles for 2024, 2025 and 2026 (I still love spreadsheets), watched a squirrel carrying a windfall apple across the front lawn (needed a lot of stopping, dropping,  rebiting and resuming), did a bit of packing and wrapping for Essex and enrolled onto a couple of short courses at Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College, got the log stove going and did more pre-handover LRB reading.

It’s a cliche, but doing some exercise brought back my oomph on Wednesday morning. We delivered the local Christmas cards early afternoon and when we got back I decided there was time before teatime to make mince pies.

Making mince pies
Making mince pies

Very tasty they were too! Last VWW of the year then tea and telly in the evening. En route I topped up the screen wash and the antifreeze / coolant in the car ahead of Friday’s drive to Essex.

Thursday was a windy day. The morning featured the last class at the gym for 2023, checking the tyre pressures on the Panda, applying WD40 to the irritating squeaky clutch (in vain), hair wash and clothes wash, cleaning the clogged filter coffee machine (fingers crossed). Packed and prepped in the afternoon then we walked down the lane for Christmas wine, crisps and catch up with TJL.

Up early on Friday – still gusty outdoors – for the drive to Essex. The motorway route got us there in about 4 1/2 hours, with a break at Rugby Moto services and a worrying, rhythmic clunk under the car as we crawled towards the Braintree roundabout …. gulp.

Late lunch at J&J’s, hello to Pippa the cat, the train to LST and tube down to Battersea Power Station to rendezvous with H for the David Hockey light projection, Christmas lights and cocktails and Dinner at Dishoom. No sore heads 🙂

David Hockney Christmas animation at Battersea Power Station
David Hockney Christmas animation at Battersea Power Station

Sleepless night Friday / Saturday worrying about the car. Chatted with P and decided to park the potential problem until after Christmas. Tube and train to Wivenhoe via Moorgate M&S for post-Christmas treats.

Lovely and sunny in Wivenhoe. I stocked up on overnight supplies from Co-op and treated myself to a Mincemeat Roll from the Norwegian Bakery stall on my way back for Christmas Eve Breakfast.

Lazy afternoon instead of the walk I felt I ought to be doing. Nice catch ups with Tom and dad. Then got the telly going and settled on the sofa upstairs: polished off Vigil season 2 (obvious whodunnit once I thought about it), followed by Imagine… Russell T Davies: The Doctor and Me (lovely).

Sundown in Wivenhoe
Sundown in Wivenhoe

Did a precautionary COVID test on Sunday morning, which came back negative, so I was OK to catch the train back to Witham (£9.20 for 20 mins). P met me at the station and we strolled into town for a coffee then back to base along the River Walk nipping into Morrisons to finish. Should have been wearing our Christmas Jumpers, or PJs, or Onesies….

My Christmas Cold got the better of me for the rest of the day, which I spent snoozing on / in bed while Phil did Christmas Dinner prep downstairs with periodic checkins and food and drink delivery to the invalid upstairs.

Monday. Christmas Day. Lovely to hear the church bells ring out at 9am. Leisurely breakfast in the lounge, present opening, family phone calls and emails. Christmas Dinner, a little after 1 o’clock, was a triumph over kitchen adversity on Phil’s part: turkey crown, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, roast carrots, sprouts, stuffing, bread sauce and cranberry sauce.

Ghosts Christmas special and grande finale for evening telly. I, for one, got a bit tearing saying farewell to the gang.

Three sheep materialised in Kiln Field. We three sheep of orient are?

TV: Fleishman is in Trouble, (finished off), Only Murders In The Building (alright but not amazing), Vigil (wrapped up series 2), Imagine … Russell T Davies: The Doctor and Me.

Podcasts: The History of England, The Memory Palace, The Rest is Entertainment, A History of Rock in 500 Songs (Phil’s choice on the drive over – Good one!), Hooked on Freddie, In Our Time , History Extra, Being Roman with Mary Beard, The Reunion (Band Aid 1984), The Wombles the the Rescue, Gone Mediaeval (chanced upon on a Cnut Quest) <— a lot of these were sleepless nights worrying about the car, and while resting to try to get rid of my cold quicker.

Photos: Herefordshire week 208 on Flickr, once I’ve tagged them 🙂

Phil: Fortnight-Notes to come…. Voilà! f/e 2023-12-31.

Herefordshire Week 187: Tuesday 25 – Monday 31 July 2023

Wivenhoe, Walton on the Naze, Brightlingsea.

Walton on the Naze - me and Phil on the pier
Walton on the Naze – me and Phil on the pier

On Tuesday it was off to Walton for the day. Rendezvoused at the station with Phil and Sue and we strolled into town taking in the new shops (a bookshop / coffee shop / project space in the old Indian restaurant!) and expanded businesses (The Good Taste cafe – my favourite – now extends round the corner into the former ladies fashion / dress shop). I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been away for a while, but Walton feels like a more thriving small town than it used to.

The pier revamp has resulted in the arcade machines taking over almost the whole of the inside space. There are a few (new) takeaways by the entrance and some of the old funfair rides have been set up towards the back and outside – not a bad set of changes really. The most surprising change is the inside climbing walls which were proving very popular.

Walton on the Naze - new "Walton Pier" carpet. Very Instagrammable
Walton on the Naze – new “Walton Pier” carpet. Very Instagrammable

We strolled all the way to the new end of the pier – the RNLI life boat dock and beyond is fenced off due to the condition of the pier.

Lovely views along the Sunshine Coast albeit with a few gunmetal grey clouds.

Walton on the Naze - from the pier
Walton on the Naze – from the pier

A short drive to the Naze for lunch at the Naze Tower which was when the heavy rain arrived. We sheltered first in the smart wooden gazebo then dashed over to the Tower and had a cup of tea sat at one of the first floor tables in the gallery space.

Once the skies cleared we walked on to the hut – finding everything in good condition.

Walton on the Naze - Back at the Beach Hut
Walton on the Naze – Back at the Beach Hut

Chairs outside for a spot of reading and a swim for Sue. Hardly anyone else about – and it’s school holidays.

5.30pm we said our farewells and set off on the drive to STN to drop off Sue, returning via Witham to drop off Phil then Wivenhoe for me.

Wednesday was a gorgeous sunny day. Ate a leisurely breakfast out by the river reading the LRB. Picked up Phil and Janet from the station and drove us all on to Brightlingsea for a dip in the Lido then on to the Beth Chatto Gardens for tea and cake.

Sempervivum grid, Beth Chatto Gardens
Sempervivum grid, Beth Chatto Gardens

After accompanying Janet back home, Phil returned to Wiv.

Thursday started cool, a good day for reading, then a stroll around Wivenhoe as the day brightened up followed by a spell sat by the river.

A bit of time on email looking into accommodation options for the Beacons Way days 3, 4 and 5.

Friday was meant to be The Sunny Day. Sadly not, but another good day for reading and a stroll – this time along the estuary to Arlesford Creek.

Wivenhoe Waterside Walk
Wivenhoe Waterside Walk

Successfully booked accommodation for both nights of the next stage of the Beacons Way.

And worked out how to get the code to embed Flickr photos into weeknotes on my iPad, which meant I was able to finalise and publish last week’s.

Saffron Indian takeaway for dinner,  because here we can.

What a treat .....
What a treat …..

Saturday featured reading inside and outside, a stroll up to the bookshop and the Coop and back via the Deli, and leftover curry.

Sunday saw more reading, a stroll along the riverside towards Colchester and back, then Sunday lunch at The Black Buoy.

Sunday Lunch at The Black Buoy, Wivenhoe
Sunday Lunch at The Black Buoy, Wivenhoe

Back at base, as the rain sort of set in, I indulged in an afternoon vegging in from of the telly finishing The Light in the Hall, and then watching, loving, the Wham! documentary on Netflix. Sniff. I still can’t quite believe George Michael is dead. And that Wham! were only around for 4 years. So many singable songs, the soundtrack of my teens.

Monday was wet, a good day for driving home. Another good journey with a top up shop at Ross on Wye en route and tea and a Wivenhoe Norwegian Bakery sticky bun back home. Greenhouse looking good – thanks dad and Jean. First apples nearly ready for picking. Ponds full.

Admin, then dinner and telly.

TV: Halt and Catch Fire (finished season 1, started season 2), The Light In The Hall, Wham!

Podcasts: The Forum, The History of England.

Photos: Herefordshire week 187 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-07-31.

Herefordshire Week 186: Tuesday 18 – Monday 24 July 2023

Beacons Way Days 1 & 2. Gardening. Off to Essex. Day trip to London.

Me, Sara and Sonia at the Crug Mawr Trig Point
Me, Sara and Sonia at the Crug Mawr Trig Point

More Rain.

Rain returned Tuesday. A good day for admin, and then into Hereford for more admin-y type things. LED call in the evening, followed by my first post-retirement KMCA catch up.

On Wednesday and Thursday I walked the first two days of The Beacons Way with Sonia and Sara. Read the write up in my blogpost. Thankfully we had two days of good weather – and could see the downpours deluging everywhere else!

Beacons Way Day 1: Abergavenny to Llanthony, 22km / 13.5 miles, 850m / 2790ft ascent, via Skirrid / Ysgyryd Fawr (486m) and Hatterrall Hill (531m).

Strava Map & Graph: Beacons Way Day 1: Abergavenny to Llanthony
Strava Map & Graph: Beacons Way Day 1: Abergavenny to Llanthony

Beacons Way Day 2: Llanthony to Crickhowell, 19km / 12 miles, 890m / 2920ft ascent, via Bal Bach (520m), Crug Mawr (550m) and Crug Hywel / Table Mountain (451m).

Strava Map & Graph: Beacons Way Day 2: Llanthony to Crickhowell
Strava Map & Graph: Beacons Way Day 2: Llanthony to Crickhowell

Phil and I made the most of the third (and final) day of dry weather on Friday to do some garden jobs. Phil scythed (and encountered many toads large and small) and I:

  • Pulled up plum growth below the pond
  • Transplanted 4 baby yews I found near the quarry into pots
  • Cleared the fenced edge of the large pond of bindweed, dead cow parsley, ground elder, giant nettles etc etc etc
  • Cleared the ground elder under the yew tree by the hedgehog house
  • Swept the tree house deck (lots of yew leaves and seeds)
  • Pruned the coffin gooseberry and planted larger cuttings in pots
  • Picked peas (6 pods) and dwarf beans (4) and 2 strawberries and 4 sweet peas
  • Planted out the last of the leeks into long plastic planter. Rough and ready but better than the shallow tray there were in…

I also took some photos of the large fungi at far end of lawn – never seen those before.

Big fungi....
Big fungi….
Big fungi.... with kitchen scissors for scale
Big fungi…. with kitchen scissors for scale

Before dinner I spent an hour working out route options for day 3 & 4 of the Beacons Way. Most of the time was spent on trying to work out bus routes….

Rain returned with a vengeance on Saturday.

Good weather for another hour looking at days 3, 4 & 5 of the Beacons Way. Again, most of the time was spent on trying to work out bus routes…. until I found Transport for Wales’ super handy TrawsCymru Bus journey planner. I’d wasted a lot of time on Stagecoach’s website which only shows their services (which took me a while to realise).

Flickred my Beacons Way photos (and some older ones), prepped these weeknotes and wrote my blogpost covering Days 1 & 2 of the Beacons Way.

Then down the lane for early tea – F&C with TJL.

Up early on Sunday for the drive to Essex.

As we were eating our early breakfast, we were treated to a pair of hares in Kiln field…..

A Pair of Hares
A Pair of Hares

… and a green woodpecker adult showing its young where to find the best bugs on our verge and drive.

Green woodpeckers - adult and juvenile
Green woodpeckers – adult and juvenile

I went dad’s return route this time (M50 M5 M42 M6 A14 M11 A120 A12) and it was a million times less stressful than the M25, and faster / easier driving than our cross country route via Milton Keynes.

We got to Witham around 1.30pm and had a couple of hours there before I left Phil with his folks and continued on to Wivenhoe, which proved to be a more painful drive thanks to roadworks on the A12. And meeting a bus on Wivenhoe’s narrow, car-lined High Street.

Tom and Jo supplied an ice lolly on arrival which improved things no end.

By 7pm I was sitting out by the river with a glass of wine.

Wivenhoe Wine Time
Wivenhoe Wine Time

Not bad.

Monday, train into London for the Persia exhibition at the British Museum (excellent) and a tour of the outdoor shops in search of a new pair of trekking boots (in vain).

Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece
Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece

TV: Halt and Catch Fire, The Light In The Hall.

Podcasts: The Forum.

Photos: Herefordshire week 186 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-07-23.

Herefordshire Week 154: Tuesday 06 – Monday 12 December 2022

Abbey Dore – London – Wivenhoe & Walton

Who needs London – Paris – New York??

Wivenhoe pano
Wivenhoe pano

We did return craving non-fancy food and our own bed after 7 days of the high life…….

Worked Tuesday morning so that we could catch the 15.18 train to Paddington. A much more civilised departure time than 06.43. We left the car at dad and Jean’s, together with pressies to be transported to Essex. Jean ran us to the station in her new electric car. Nice!

Elizabeth Line to Liverpool St, popped into work to drop off bags, nipped up to M&S for dinner contributions then caught the Northern Line down to Hazel’s where we feasted on chips ‘n’ dips followed by veggie Mexican wraps.

Up early to have enough time to commute and for a shower at work. My lovely fellow KMCAs arrived over the course of the day. Phil and I checked into the hotel late afternoon. KMCA dinner out at Som Saa with DF.

All day Thursday and Friday morning were spent on strategic stuff, planning next April’s Global KM Meeting and other Q1 & Q2 stuff. We returned to Ottolenghi Spitalfields for team dinner on Thursday evening. Had my review Friday afternoon, then caught the train out to WIV. Tom met me at the station and we had early pizza dinner then watched the Netherlands – Argentina match, which turned out to be a good one!

Leisurely start on Saturday. Crisp and cold in Wivenhoe with a dusting of snow in places, which made for a lovely morning walk along the Colne estuary, Alresford Creek to Thorrington. Bus back to WIV. Beautiful.

Sunny Saturday Walk with Tom: Wivenhoe - Alresford Creek - Thorrington: Looking back at Wivenhoe
Sunny Saturday Walk with Tom: Wivenhoe – Alresford Creek – Thorrington: Looking back at Wivenhoe
Sunny Saturday Walk with Tom: Wivenhoe - Alresford Creek - Thorrington: Old Quarry Pier and Crane, Alresford Creek
Sunny Saturday Walk with Tom: Wivenhoe – Alresford Creek – Thorrington: Old Quarry Pier and Crane, Alresford Creek

J & R arrived early afternoon; dad and Jean drove over from Hereford arriving at Wivenhoe House Hotel late afternoon, and the six of us gathered at T&J’s for a lovely COOK! dinner that evening.

Similarly slow start to Sunday, very frosty.

Very frosty start to Sunday, Wivenhoe
Very frosty start to Sunday, Wivenhoe

Late morning T & R, dad, Jean and I caught the train to WON. Cloudier there and a rain shower but we saw the sea, and ventured into Revved Up for teas/coffee and then headed up the High Street to the (busy!) Good Taste Cafe for comfort food lunch before getting the train back to WIV. B and Phil had arrived, so we commenced the Christmas Present exchange.

The Extended Loosemore Family gathered that evening at the Wivenhoe House Hotel for our Christmas Celebration 2022, and Phil and I stayed the night in the hotel.

We headed home on Monday, dad as driver and me as supplementary sat nav. Google Maps and the Sat Nav both agreed that we should drive back via Birmingham to avoid the snow down south. Easy drive, not too busy on the roads, snow disappeared once we left Essex. Very cloudy and cold though.

Drove back from dad and Jean’s via Asda for supplies. Back at base – thankfully no sign of any burst pipes! (We left the heating on so I should hope so) – we got the log stove going, opened Christmas cards, caught up on the local news from Bob The Post, unpacked, pottered and read. Lentil soup for dinner, watching the last two episodes of Industry – so good!

TV: Rev (wrapped up series 3), Industry (completed series 2), The Secret World of Christmas Chocolate, Men’s Football World Cup 2022 – Netherlands v Argentina.

Podcasts: History Extra, The Essay.

Photos: Herefordshire week 154 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-12-12.