Herefordshire Week 166: Tuesday 28 February – Monday 06 March 2023

Borderlines Film Festival films and Crickhowell Walking Festival walks.

Strava Elevation Graph: High Hills, Leaning Towers & Bloody Revenge
Strava Elevation Graph: High Hills, Leaning Towers & Bloody Revenge

Rain arrived briefly on Tuesday as did the blues. Drove to KG to deliver plant pots and to EH to post last eBay sale. Home to emails and making soup. Canns Hill – Wellfield – Thistly Hill walk with Phil before lunch, and then work.

The Mary Loosemore Retirement-ometer cheered me up.

No VWW. Family Zoom.

Friday morning, Phil and I sorted flights to Italy for a September wedding, I checked the Brecon Beacons weather forecast for the upcoming walks with the Crickhowell Walking Festival.

Into Hereford early afternoon for more bird seed and the library, then onto the train to Malvern for the first of this year’s Borderlines Film Festival films: Corsage.

Malvern doesn’t get any easier to navigate – not even finding the customer entrance to Waitrose – but at least we found this good coffee shop: Abbey Road Coffee.

Coffee and Blueberry Bakewell
Coffee and Blueberry Bakewell

Saturday, Sunday and Monday were my first trio of walks in this year’s Crickhowell Walking Festival. AND more Borderlines Films!

On Saturday I drove to Pantygelli and into the Mynydd Du Forest to start the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir & Waterfalls Walk from Blaen y Cwm Car Park.

A steep woodland ascent from the car park and brought us out onto open moorland and more up to Blacksmith Anvil on the Chwarel y Fan – Rhos Dirion ridge, then a steep descent to Capel-y-ffin in the Vale of Ewyas.

A visit to the chapel, then an easy walk up the gently rising valley to the west of Darren Lwyd – road giving way to track giving way to trail and with plenty of waterfalls en route (well, in theory – it’s been a lot drier than normal so only two were flowing).

Grwyne Fawr Reservoir & Waterfalls Walk
Grwyne Fawr Reservoir & Waterfalls Walk

We emerged onto one of the bluffs between Twmpa and Rhiw y Fan with a view over the Wye Valley.

Heading west along the escarpment brought us to the trig point at Rhos Dirion and a little further on we turned south on the trail down into the Grwyne Fawr valley and the Reservoir, returning on along the old railway track from the reservoir to the car park.

Time: 6 ½ hours
Distance: 12 ½ miles
Ascent: 2180 ft

A fast drive home to pick up Phil, and on to Hereford for Godland at The Courtyard. Grim!

Sunday took me to Pengenffordd, and back to Dinas Castle and the Dragon’s Back, going up it this time which was hard work.

A North West Passage: The Dragons Back from Dinas Castle
A North West Passage: The Dragons Back from Dinas Castle

Once up on the tops (albeit into cloud) it was easier going on the escarpment trail above Cwm y Nant and Mynydd Bychan, past the trig point at Rhos Dirion and up Twmpa / Lord Hereford’s Knob where the cloud kindly lifted to provide Wye Valley views.

Lunch in the shelter of the Rhiw Wen descent and down on to easy paths at the foot of the escarpment, returning to Pengenffordd for a pint or pot of tea at the pub – a lovely warm welcome at the Dinas Castle Inn, Pengenffordd.

One to do again in better weather.

Time: 6 hours
Distance: 11 ½ miles
Ascent: 2140 ft

Thankfully I had time for a pot of tea and a hot cross bun, and a shower, before driving to Bromyard for this evening’s Borderlines film, Emily, which I really enjoyed.

Monday’s walk was the most strenuous of the three, taking in 14 miles of “High Hills, Leaning Towers & Bloody Revenge”.

A steep ascent up from Llanthony Priory onto Hatterrall Ridge, then turning south to walk along the Offa’s Dyke Path with Herefordshire and England on our left, Monmouthshire and Wales on our right. Surprisingly clear views given the cloud.

We left the Offa’s Dyke to drop back into the Vale of Ewyas along the spine of Hatterrall Hill.

High Hills, Leaning Towers & Bloody Revenge: Church of St Martin, Cwmyoy
High Hills, Leaning Towers & Bloody Revenge: Church of St Martin, Cwmyoy

Lunch at the wonky church in Cwmyoy, then across the valley floor and up through woods and a short stretch of road between stone walled fields to the Twyn y Gaer Iron Age Fort – scene of many a bracken battle in my childhood.

From the fort we headed north west along the ridge, climbing steadily toward the Revenge Stone and beyond to the Bee Hive Cairn at Gant Wen and on towards Bal Bach, turning right at the pile of stones / crossroads at the foot of Bal Bach and dropping back down to Llanthony alongside the Cwm Bwchel on a section of the Beacons Way.

Definitely strenuous at quick a brisk pace!

Time: 7 hours
Distance: 14 miles
Ascent: 2895 ft

No film this evening; pizza and telly instead!

I’ve not mentioned birds for a while. At the bird feeders, we seem to have lost the nuthatch(es), but gained long tailed tits and sparrows to add to the blue tits, great tits, robins, chaffinches, dunnocks, blackbirds, thrushes, red woodpeckers and magpies. There are pigeons and the occasional jay on the pond side of the house, plus lots of greenfinches. Over the woods and valleys, buzzard and red kite glide and soar.

Squirrel count: the max single sighting is now up to 4. Grrr.

Retirement Days Tracker: 29 days to go

TV: The Last of Us,  Julia, Mystery Road: Origin.

Podcasts: Lingthusiasm,  The History of England, The Memory Palace.

Photos: Herefordshire week 166 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-03-05.

Herefordshire Week 165: Tuesday 21 – Monday 27 February 2023

Frogspawn. Auntie A. Reading (thank you, new lounge sofa!).

30 1/2 working days until I retire.

Tuesday morning was cloudy, with mist in Grey Valley and over Garway. Yesterday’s clouds had returned east with me. A good time for doing weeknotes and photos, catching up with photos from Fan y Big. Then work. Pancakes for tea! VWW on Wednesday.

Social whirl on Friday: in the morning, tea with T&L, a flying visit from Firefighter W; in the afternoon, dad, Jean and Auntie A came for tea and a tour of the gardens. Then dinner at The Temple in EH.

AND Phil made cookies.

AND I fixed the dodgy downpipe into the greenhouse water butt.

What a day!

Saturday morning, Phil drove us to Parc Bryn Bach Park to join in the birthday surprise / celebration of one of our neighbours. A nice lake to stroll around, lots of people hanging around enjoying the sunshine – we played the “are they waiting for X too?” game. Cold wind up there in The Heads of The Valleys, but the pussywillow catkins out; they’re amazing.

Pussywillow catkins, Bryn Bach Park
Pussywillow catkins, Bryn Bach Park

Home via Abergavenny Waitrose. Late lunch, log stove on, finished The Overstory, started Our Missing Hearts. G&T and 2 episodes of Euphoria. It’s not for me.

Tidied up the greenhouse on Sunday morning before we drove into Hereford for B&Q, Dunelm (curtains and cushion covers), lunch at De Koffie Pot and The Banshees of Inisherin at The Loft. I liked The Loft – independent cinema run by a couple, you hire a sofa and it’s a small space.

The film was OK – a bit tedious watching grumpy / angry / frustrated / depressed men fail to escape their fate. And how come, in late March / early April, on an island of the coast of Ireland, Siobhán only needs to wear a dress and an undone cardigan inside those cold thick stone built cottages? And she has two smart coats? And Pádraic can lift two full milk churns without any effort, one in each hand? A big milk churn holds 10 gallons, that’s around 50kg. EACH.

Home for tea and biscs and my book, and to complete cleaning the haul of surplus plastic pots generated by the greenhouse. They’re off to a good home in Kerrys Gate.

Overcast on Monday – but we’ve not had rain for weeks, so I’m hoping that will change. In the garden, more daffs are coming out and the first snowdrops are just starting to turn. Wild garlic shoots have just broken through the soil. The gooseberry bush in The Coffin has leaves, the blackcurrant has buds, the rose bush I pruned a while back has plenty of new leaves.

Phil spotted two clumps of frogspawn (toadspawn?) in the small pond. The first we’ve had / seen in either pond although we’ve come across frogs / toads in the garden and various wood piles.

A came over for tea in the morning. Read in the afternoon. A cold day. Early to bed.

I’ve created a Retirement Days Tracker spreadsheet. As at today’s date (21 Feb), I’ve 33 working days to go. When I publish these weeknotes (28 Feb), I’ll have 30 1/2 days to go…. I’m going to put that lower number into my weeknotes.

TV: The Last of Us, We Own This City (grim), Euphoria (nope), Julia (at last, something light. Hurrah for Sarah Lancashire, and TA for the recommendation)

Podcasts: History ExtraThe History of England, The Last Soviet.

Photos: Herefordshire week 165 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-02-26.

Our Missing Hearts – Celeste Ng

Our Missing Hearts - Celeste Ng
Our Missing Hearts – Celeste Ng

Books, like buses – I don’t finish one for months and then another comes along and gets read in less than 48 hours.

A distopian world only a few steps away from the one we live in. Echoes of Margaret Attwood and The Last of Us.

Words taken out of context running wild; the power of fear to control; librarians as heroes; the endurance of love. Folk tales and fairy tales.

Author page: Our Missing Hearts – Celeste Ng

Herefordshire Week 164: Tuesday 14 – Monday 20 February 2023


First daffodils.

35 ½ more working days until I retire.

First daffodils
First daffodils

First up, a correction. The films we saw last week – Tár and The Empire of Light – were normal screenings; the Borderlines Film Festival doesn’t start until March 2023.

Tuesday saw a foggy start, and mist lingered until just before lunchtime. It cleared quickly once it started though, leaving us with blue skies and sunshine. A good morning – the hospice collected both the conservatory cane furniture set and Jean’s corner sofa units. What a relief. With the far end of the conservatory clear of furniture, I cleaned the floor of cobwebs and accumulated dead flies in readiness for Thursday’s DFS delivery. Then work.

Frosty again on Wednesday, but new camellias buds are flowering daily.

Thursday, the new sofas arrived at lunchtime! Great excitement. The delivery guys were lovely. We now have a two seater DFS Sofia sofa in the lounge. It’s a perfect fit for the space between the sideboard and the window, and just long enough for me to lie down on it for reading (OK, snoozing…):

One down ….
One down ….

…. and in the conservatory, a big Sofia corner sofa – plenty of space for stretching out, snoozing and socialising:

Phil enjoying the new corner sofa in the conservatory (and for scale....)
Phil enjoying the new corner sofa in the conservatory (and for scale….)

We drove to Stourbridge on Friday for lunch with D&G, plus a stroll around Kinver Edge and kitchen chat. A lovely day.

Groggy start to Saturday after a ropey night’s sleep – pretty sure I can chalk that up to the red wine I had with last night’s cheese and biscuits. A quick drive to EH to post an eBay sale then settled on the lounge sofa and made some progress through The Overstory.

In the afternoon I put together an apple and blackberry crumble for dinner, handily clearing 3 tubs from the freezer in the process, then backfilled the space with three marge tubs of crumble topping.

In the evening, K&N and Kala came for sausages & mash and crumble & custard, plus kitchen / office revamp chats.

Sunday was a beautiful day, and tempted us out to do some of the garden jobs starting with digging the old garden railway concrete and brick chunks out of the compost etc below mower turn. It had seemed like a good idea to put them there to build up the slope but instead they just made it ankle breakingly risky underfoot.

Next up, raking up the twigs by B’s walnut tree and then levering up the old concrete slabs by the small pond on which Nana H’s bench used to stand, plus the paving stones alongside them. Two semi tunnels indicated mole or vole activity, and walnut shells suggested squirrels.

Work in progress by the small pond
Work in progress by the small pond

Last part, which I’d not anticipated, was removing the plastic sheeting that has been the liner of the small pond when it had started off as a (too) big pond. Hopefully the snowdrops will spread this side of the hedge.  After lunch I wheelbarrowed two loads of compost from mower turn and spread it over the newly revealed compacted clay earth. Scattered some grass seed on top of the compost.

A few orchard / greenhouse jobs – decanting the long dead cherry tomato plant, draining the escaped water butt’s water onto my Herefordshire Russet sapling, digging over the veg patch and herb bed. The rhubarb is thriving.

Phil put up the two bird feeders dad and Jean bought us for Christmas and just before – one for fat balls, the other a large squirrel proof feeder. The small birds are guzzling the balls but still figuring out the other one (we’ve realised it’s better suited for seeds…). I wonder how long it will take the woodpeckers to find the fat balls and the older peanut feeder now relocated to the crab apple tree? (Since relocated back to its original spot)

We had squeezed in the Canns Hill – Wellfield – Thistly Hill walk before lunch, which was eaten outside, it was that sunny. Phil had baked two loaves this morning. What a treat.

Still a bit of light and it’s gone 6pm. An owl hoots.

And down by the old railway line, the first of the wild daffodils are out. Wonderful.

First daffodils
First daffodils

The buds on mum’s Camellia are bursting forth their magenta flowers.


Snowdrops are still going strong, aconites too.


A day out in the Brecon Beacons on Monday, meeting up with Sonia, Sara and Grace at Blaen y Glyn Uchaf car park to walk Fan y Big.

Strava Map & Elevation Graph: Fan y Big
Strava Map & Elevation Graph: Fan y Big

The forecast did not lie … we were up in the clouds all day and it was windy and wet, zero views ….. so we did it in an hour less than the guidebook estimated.

Warming up / drying off was a good excuse for a cream tea in Tal y Bont. I’ve had fresher scones / warmer cafes but it did the job!

Tal y Bont cream tea
Tal y Bont cream tea

TV: The Last of Us, Babylon Berlin (season 4, Ein Tag wie Gold!).

Podcasts: History Extra, The Essay, The History of England.

Photos: Herefordshire week 164 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-02-19.