Herefordshire Week 229: Tuesday 14 – Monday 20 May 2024

Super Sunny Scotland. Essex. Home.

Hazel, Catherine and me, Loch Morlich Circular
Hazel, Catherine and me, Loch Morlich Circular

Tuesday – To the East Coast for beach walks at Findhorn and Lossiemouth, an excellent lunch (plus pints) at The Captain’s Table, Findhorn Marina, and fab ice cream from Miele’s of Lossie.

Me, Hazel and Catherine, Findhorn Estuary
Me, Hazel and Catherine, Findhorn Estuary
Catherine and Hazel, East Beach, Lossiemouth
Catherine and Hazel, East Beach, Lossiemouth

Wednesday – Into the Cairngorms via The Watchers at Corgarff Viewpoint and the Snow Roads Route towards Aviemore. Into Glenmore Forest to do the Loch Morlich Circular in the morning and An Lochan Uaine / Green Loch Return in the afternoon.

The Watchers at Corgarff Viewpoint
The Watchers at Corgarff Viewpoint
Loch Morlich panorama
Loch Morlich panorama
An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch
An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch

Thursday – Another gorgeous sunny day. Morning in the Spa (swam 50 lengths) then out with daypacks and sandwiches to walk the Cambus o’May circular. Hip gyp meant I got the bus back from the CoM visitor centre but we reunited for pints at The Alexandra Hotel followed by ice creams from Shorty’s. And celebrated the end of our five fab days with prosecco and crisps al fresco.

Well, it’s not raining here today!
Well, it’s not raining here today!
Cambus o'May Circular: Bridge and the River Dee
Cambus o’May Circular: Bridge and the River Dee
Celebrating our Craigendarroch Minibreak
Celebrating our Craigendarroch Minibreak

Friday – Au revoir Craigendarroch and to Newcastle via Bamburgh. LNER train to London, making it from Kings Cross to Liverpool Street station in record speed to catch the train out to Wivenhoe by the skin of my teeth. Witham-ites are in COVID quarantine….

HGV at Craigendarroch, Ballater
HGV at Craigendarroch, Ballater
Bamburgh Beach Selfie
Bamburgh Beach Selfie

Up early on Saturday for the long drive home, with a stop off in WTM for a bit of a sit on the porch steps with P, at Rugby Moto services which was full of Bolton Wanderers fans – yes, I did need to look that up 🙂 – and in  Ross for supplies. Back home to find the grass lush and green and long, and loads of buttercups and daisies. Thankfully no dead birds.

Forty Acres front lawn panorama
Forty Acres front lawn panorama

Unpacked then took it easy…aka binged on the first half of Bridgerton season 3.

Caught up with a bit of admin on Sunday morning and moved things out of my office ahead of Project Panelling, which starts on Tuesday. Lunched out on the patio then fired up the ride on mower for the mega mow…. Started easily and I set off over the new drive and towards the orchard, and there it stalled and I couldn’t get it to start. Checked the petrol – all fine – so I put it on to charge and hauled the Honda Mower around The Edges etc ….And, you guessed it, when I returned to the ride on mower a couple of hours later I looked at the petrol tank again – AND IT WAS EMPTY! Idiot. Or “Bufflehead!!” as we say in these parts. Had to drive to The Forge for more petrol, then mowed (No 6 setting). Got round everywhere except The Solarium.

Mowing part II: view from the ride on mower
Mowing part II: view from the ride on mower

Richard came to strim on Monday morning. It was overcast so I decided to give the grass longer to dry out and to see how easily the wallpaper would come off in my office instead – very easily it turned out with a sponging of water.

Panelling Prep
Panelling Prep

The sun arrived in the early afternoon so I took the ride on mower for a spin to collect the dryer grass – 15 grass collector loads in all.

Mowing part II: the second 5 piles.... and more to come
Mowing part II: the second 5 piles…. and more to come

Then to Winchester to lend a hand moving the old conservatory sofa from the kitchen to the garden room and for some party planning followed by a delicious BBQ al fresco. A lovely evening.


I almost managed a paddle a day during our Scotland (and Northumberland) jaunt:

River Dee, Balmoral

A paddle in the River Dee, Balmoral Castle
A paddle in the River Dee, Balmoral Castle

North Sea, Findhorn

Findhorn Paddle
Findhorn Paddle

North Sea, Lossiemouth

Paddling, East Beach, Lossiemouth
Paddling, East Beach, Lossiemouth

Loch Morlich

Loch Morlich Paddle
Loch Morlich Paddle

An Lochan Uaine

Seated paddle in An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch
Seated paddle in An Lochan Uaine / The Green Loch

North Sea, Bamburgh

Not really a proper paddle .... but close!
Not really a proper paddle …. but close!

Swallows zooming, a blackbird with no tail feathers, goldfinches nipping in and out of the hedges, a robin perched atop the tall pine / fir singing loudly every morning – the dawn chorus has woken me up every morning around 4.30am since I got back (I have managed to get back to sleep mind you).

Think I might had chopped the hind leg of a toad while Honda-mowing by the small pond, which is full of tiny water boatmen / beetles, a newt or two. And gunk. The large pond is lined with yellow flag irises, and cow parsley.

Big Pond
Big Pond

In better news, we have a resident rabbit – for the first time in years.

We have a resident rabbit
We have a resident rabbit

TV: Stacey Solomon Renovation Rescue, Digging for Britain, The One Show, Location Location LocationBridgerton (season 3, part 1), Doctor Who (Gotta love Ncuti Gatwa!!!)

Podcasts: Americast, When It Hits the Fan, History Extra, Shedunnit, The Rest is Entertainment, Gone Mediaeval, Empire.


Photos: Herefordshire week 229 on Flickr.

Phil: Pause continued.

Herefordshire Week 228: Tuesday 7 – Monday 13 May 2024

Essex hiatus. Up to Scotland.

Catherine, me and Hazel at Balmoral Castle
Catherine, me and Hazel at Balmoral Castle

Spent super sunny Tuesday to Saturday in Essex, catching the train into London on Saturday evening and heading down to H’s.

Morning coffee, Wivenhoe Riverside
Morning coffee, Wivenhoe Riverside

To LHR on Sunday morning to catch BA1308 to Aberdeen. CP met us at the airport and drove us to Ballater via a big Tescos for “essential supplies”. Settled into our luxury suite at the Craigendarroch then went down into Ballater for a stroll around the village before returning to our suite – suite! – and celebrating the start of our mini break with a large G&T. Dinner courtesy of the Keiller Brasserie.

Bridge over the River Dee, Ballater
Bridge over the River Dee, Ballater

Monday – Braemar, Balmoral & Ballater, and a swim in the pool to ease my hip / thigh muscles while C&H walked the seven bridges. Thai takeaway for tea – yum!

Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle

Lovely hearing curlews and cuckoos in WIV, and waking up to oyster catcher calls.

But this is the closest we got to red squirrels in Scotland….

Balmoral Castle: Beware Squirrels Crossing
Balmoral Castle: Beware Squirrels Crossing
The Specialty Shop, Braemar
The Specialty Shop, Braemar
The closest we came to a red squirrel .....
The closest we came to a red squirrel …..

Just don’t mention the Corgis…..

Felt animals taken to a whole new level ....
Felt animals taken to a whole new level ….

TV: Eurovision, Rob and Rylan’s Grand Tour, Digging for Britain.

Podcasts: Americast, When It Hits the Fan, History Extra, Shedunnit, The Rest is Entertainment, Gone Mediaeval, The Today Podcast.


Photos: Herefordshire week 228 on Flickr.

Phil: Pause continued.

Herefordshire Week 227: Tuesday 30 April – Monday 6 May 2024

More rain.

Is it really May already?

And then – at last – some sun, a birthday party and an impromptu trip to Essex.


Still feeling my Skomer strained thigh muscle on Tuesday, so started off PT Block 3 with upper body. Back home for weeknotes. Picked up Phil from Abergavenny early afternoon. Good to have him home. Over to Talgarth early evening for Talgarth Walking Festival Leader Briefing, and a glass of white wine. Wine not often in demand at Talgarth FC Club House….. no red at all. Heavy rain.

First of May on Wednesday. At least it didn’t rain all day. Gym in the morning; computed for most of the rest of the day, even though it was dry. Got sucked into the Saturday Walkers Club website and the walk maps and descriptions …. In the evening, LED Board Meeting Zoom followed by VWW and Scotland Planning.

The rain returned on Thursday morning, lifting to sit over the hills as low cloud, clammy and close. After the gym (for cardio and LBT) and lunch I got stuck into flickring Skomer photos, with a woefully slow internet. Lovely Phil from P&P Pest Control came round early afternoon to advise on getting rid of rats. Mid afternoon I had a catch up with Tom en route to A&As. Back home to make dinner – introduced Phil to the delights of leeks, butterbeans and creme fraiche.

Just look at my leeks!
Just look at my leeks!

Friday = another wet day. Gym, fungus gnat spraying, lunch (fresh bread by Phil), Hereford, Timothy & Birch for coffee and cake (another yum). Home to computer. Pizza for dinner.

Saturday, what is this blue sky I see? To Ewyas Harold to get the loppers, shears and 5 pairs of secateurs sharpened at the Golden Valley Repair Cafe (so many skills available there!) then GVWC recce with J from the Gym, with the mandatory testing of the ice cream options at Rowlestone Ice Cream Farm. Yum yum.

Strava Map & Stats: Return to Rowlestone
Strava Map & Stats: Return to Rowlestone

All under beautiful blue skies. But the recent rain had saturated all the fields again, and there’s a lot of tall meadow grass on that route. Wet and muddy. Wellies were a good move, but my thigh / hip muscle didn’t like the 6 miles… and that convinced me to back out of trying the 14 miles and 11 miles on Sunday and Monday in the Talgarth Walking Festival. Gutted.

Home for a late lunch, a bit of R&R then back to EH for B’s 90th Birthday Party Buffet. A really lovely evening!

Another beautiful sunny day on Sunday. Coffee and pain au raisin out on the patio then a bit of gardening – digging up the weedkillered carroty things in Nora’s Rose Garden – then over to WTM. Good to have time with SG, and very grateful to be able to see T in WIV.

A tour of Leeway (so exciting!) then back to WTM on Monday.


The garden is lush and green. Cow parsley and stichwort line the lanes – it’s the month of white wild flowers and green, green grass, hedges and trees.

Orchid count:

  • Front lawn = 76!
  • Orchard = 1 (phew!)

TV: Shōgun (finished), Shardlake (started; that’s a very Disney monastery! And what’s up with Barak’s 21st century hairstyle???), The Andromeda Strain (1971 is over 50 years ago… and the plot and pacing were vastly different).

Podcasts: Americast, Gone Mediaeval, The Today Podcast, A History of Rock in 500 Songs.


Photos: Herefordshire week 227 on Flickr.

Phil: Pause.

Herefordshire Week 226: Tuesday 23 – Monday 29 April 2024

Skomer stay! Puffins! And Everest Trek Get Together No. 20!

(You’ll have to wait for Puffin Pics – need to get them off my camera) Updated: now with added puffins

Serious puffins, Skomer
Serious puffins, Skomer

A drizzly morning on Tuesday, just right for sitting at my computer doing weeknotes, photos and various bits of admin. The weather perked up in the afternoon, but I was lost to Nepal 2023 trek wrap up – printing out our final itinerary and doing the insert for my diary and the map, and highlighting the route on my copy of the Himalayan Map House map for Makalu and Kanchanjanga, purchased in KTM.

Nepal 2023: Kanchenjunga & Lumba Sumba trek - Map showing our route
Nepal 2023: Kanchenjunga & Lumba Sumba trek – Map showing our route

Zoom with the KMCA ladies, and FaceTime with Phil in Witham. Then packed for Pembs!

Busy morning on Wednesday – up early to plant out seedlings and pack the Panda before driving the Zoe to the gym for aerobics and callisthenics then speedily home for a shower and final Panda packing before setting off for Carmarthen to collect H…. only to realise I’d left the keys in the porch door. Thankfully realisation arrived as I was driving through EH, so I was able to return home and retrieve them. It did mean I was half a hour late picking up Hazel though.

Tasty cake and a couple of mugs of tea at S&Ms then on to Newgale via M&S for wine bags – so practical.

G&T on the deck in the lovely evening sunshine then inside for traditional Everest Trek Get Together curries.

Drinks on the Deck
Drinks on the Deck

Up early on Thursday to get to Martin’s Haven for our 9am crossing to Skomer and the start of our two day stay. Fifteen of us in total, a mix of birders and tourists – we were definitely the latter, in spite of our basic bird knowledge.

Fresh off the boat, Skomer farm courtyard
Fresh off the boat, Skomer farm courtyard

After a brief briefing from the Visitor Officer we settled into our Manx Shearwater room for five and unloaded our food (and drink) into our designated cupboard and the fridge, then headed out for a stroll around the island. Sunshine and clouds, and a biting cold northerly wind.

A pair of razorbills, Skomer
A pair of razorbills, Skomer

Seals at Garland Stone, puffins, razorbills, fulmars and other gulls in the inlets, rabbits (and dead bird remains), bluebells and red campion lining the paths. We sheltered from the wind in the bird hide and spotted mallard ducks, Canada geese as well as the ubiquitous gulls (various varieties) and heard some pheasant squwarks. No short eared owls. Later on a lone buzzard spiralled on a rare thermal.

Rabbit, Skomer
Rabbit, Skomer

Very nice to be able to return to the farm / hostel for tea and cake, a late lunch, and finally chips n dips followed by chilli for dinner. I got the log stove going, warmed up the lounge / dining room nicely.

Decided against going out to watch / hear the Manx Shearwater crash land under the cover of darkness. Felt all a bit too The Birds for my comfort.

Weather was much worse on Friday – wet, albeit a bit warmer. Incentivised by Bird & Bug Bingo we donned waterproofs and photographed slugs, tadpoles, LBBs, coots, oystercatchers, etc etc etc. More time indoors, sheltering from the worst of the rain, the day visitors looking longingly in through the windows…. Bird Log at 8pm in the dining room / lounge revealed our amateur status – although G’s mating curlews and D’s Skomer vole sighting gained us some kudos.

Puffins in the rain, Skomer
Puffins in the rain, Skomer

Up early on Saturday to pack up for the 8.15am “out of the hostel” deadline, cloudy and raining again. Just enough time to walk to The Wick (NO PUFFINS!) and round to the Boat Landing. Repeated the “chain transfer” technique to get our bags down to the jetty, and helped the new arrivals get their much, much heavier bags up one length of “chain”. Then back to Martin’s Haven.

We relocated the car to Marloes Beach NT car park and decided to try our luck at the Runwayskiln in the hope of a morning coffee….. and delightedly discovered that they’re open from 9am! RESULT. Coffee turned into Coffee and Carrot Cake, which set us up for a stroll back towards Martin’s Haven via the Lagoons and their bird hide…. An Endurance Hike Event meant the coast path was busy with runners, but handily the headland is open and roomy. Back to Runwayskillin along the road, then a really, really lovely lunch.

Lunch, Runwayskiln
Lunch, Runwayskiln

Back at the van, showered and relaxed, celebrating a successful Skomer Stay with Prosecco and crisps as soon as the sun went over the yard arm.

Time for a stroll on the pebbles and a thin strip of beach on Sunday morning then back to Steffi’s (via Lidl) for the mandatory and much loved Maurice’s Marvellous Sunday Lunch.

Easy drive home with sunshine and showers. Having refilled the peanuts in the bird feeder (top priority), I got the log stove going (and kept it going since) – the house had got cold while I was away; with Phil staying in WTM I’d turned off the central heating.

Caught up with various things on Monday morning – including checking in on my Oakchurch courgette plants and Jean’s seedlings (all doing well) and bringing in the house plants (some doing not so well after the overnight low temperatures, AND the fungus gnats are still around) – then over to dad and Jean’s to help with some DIY in the lovely new garden room. Bought a whole kilo of mealworms from Gen Dogsbody – need to help those breeding birds as much as we can with through this rain and cold weather.

Dug up some of my leeks for leek, garlic, butterbean & crème fraiche dinner. A success!


More orchids out on the front lawn and leaves are out on all the trees. The waterfall clematis is covered in flowers and the cherry trees in EH at covered in blossom, our various apples trees too.


TV: The Gone (season 1).

Podcasts: The Rest is Entertainment, AmericastEmpire, Americast, When It Hits the Fan.


Photos: Herefordshire week 226 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-04-28.